oh my, where has the time gone? it's been nearly 2 weeks since i last posted, so what's been keeping me so busy?? Well duh! It's my favorite and craziest 11 days of the year, the Fringe Festival! It is definitely a hobby that I would classify under the larger heading of Theater-going as a hobby.
What is it? Fringe festivals have been around for a while and come from the UK mostly, but they have a big following in North America. this year the MN Fringe had 162 shows, each about an hour long, each performed about 5 times over the 11 days. every performer/theater group who wants to be in the festival gets entered in the Fringe Lottery in the spring and they are randomly selected. there is no jury process to decide who is the best (although sometimes i wish there was, just to get rid of some horrible shows).
How long have I been Fringing? (that's totally a verb, btw. it's also kind of a state of mind...) I believe i first went to some shows in 2005; at least i still have the buttons going back till then. each year i try to go to more shows than the previous year. last year set a very high goal: 19 shows. however, I've seen 18 already, and i'm going to at least 2 tomorrow, so i DID IT!
Why? well why not? it's fun! it's the cheapest way to see a huge range of theater in the shortest amount of time. it's crazy, and it creates a sense of community. This year i decided to volunteer so i'd legitimately earn my free admittance to shows (last year my friend Spencer volunteered a ton so i mooched of of his punch card). I had to buy a punch card too though. And now i feel like i have a right to mingle with the actors and other really involved people at Fringe Central (known the rest of the year as Bedlam Theater in the West Bank). i hung out with Spencer and his girlfriend there last saturday, and we got to talk to 2 of our favorite performers. last night, i hung out with Amanda K and some new people, and we had a great time at the retro dance party, even though it was pouring rain outside. these are ARTSY people, people. they don't care what you wear or how you dance (or how you smell). these are the kinds of people i want to hang out with, if i am forced to do so.
What do I need to know if I, too, wish to fringe? I'm glad you asked! Here's my "survival guide."
1. YOU MUST BUY AND WEAR YOUR BUTTON. it's cute. you can get discounts to shows throughout the year. it's how they make any money!
2. The box office opens 30 mins before the show starts. Buy a 5- or 10-punch card and share it with a friend to save on multiple shows. Go to the BO to redeem your punch for a ticket (or buy a single ticket). People in the rush line (volunteers and performers) get tickets starting 10 minutes before the show.
(used punch cards, trading cards i've collected from Rockstar Storytellers, and show programs so i can remember what i've seen!)
3. some shows are popular and sell out! you can reserve a seat for $1 by going online or calling the number. i'm not going to tell you how to do that.
4. you need some form of speedy transportation if you are going to see back-to-back shows which happen to be in different parts of the city. I recommend seeing a bunch of shows in one area on one day, then shows else where on another. the West Bank is were most of the action is; i've been parking my car at Bedlam the riding my bike (which i brought from home on Day 1 and left in the parking lot all week) to Rarig at the U of M where there are 4 stages, or Mixed Blood, Augsburg (2 stages), Southern, and Playwrights' Center. I saw two shows in Uptown (at Bryant Lake Bowl and Intermedia arts) and made it back just in time for my next shows.
5. Bring something to do! below shows the typical contents of my bookbag: simple knitting project; Book; fringe program; show postcards; bookbag with past buttons (one fell off in the car); ticket stubs; and my constantly revised schedule.
the only drawback to fringing is you never get enough sleep! but who needs it. next year i'm going to try to be a house manager and take the whole time off from work so i can stay up late every night and sleep late every morning!(me, volunteering on Friday, with super-fake-smile Spencer, Kristin, volunteer coordinator/performer Allegra, and Peter. i'm holding a hold puncher! most important tool of the trade.)