Fringe theatre

From Academic Kids

Fringe theatre comprises a series of unjuried theatre festivals often called fringe festivals. These festivals, held in Edinburgh, Adelaide, Edmonton, Winnipeg and elsewhere permit artists to produce a wide variety of interesting works. Fringe theatre, in particular, is the term used to describe alternative theatre, or entertainment not of the mainstream. Such theatre is not limited to the reputable Fringe Festivals, and takes place all year round in places such as London, where fringe theatre is the equivalent of New York's off-Broadway theatre.

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History of fringe theatre

The principal and largest fringe theatre festival is the Edinburgh Fringe. It was started in 1947, and now boasts over a million tickets sold annually. The genesis for the festival was the Edinburgh International Festival; at this event, a number of theatre groups who were not official participants staged shows at venues located at the "fringe" of the main festival.

The second-largest fringe festival in the world is that of the Adelaide Fringe Festival. The Adelaide Fringe evolved in the early 1970s as a reaction against the establishment and the then 'mainstream' Adelaide Festival of Arts. Today the two events are inextricably linked and together create an atmosphere of electric excitement across the city. During Fringe and Festival time, Adelaide and its visiting community are swept up in a veritable frenzy of arts consumption. It is renowned for its fresh ideas, risk, imagination, spontaneity and fun, and is widely regarded as one of the best events of its kind in the world.

The largest fringe festival in North America is the Edmonton International Fringe Festival. Founded in 1982, it is the premiere stop on the Canadian fringe tour; a semi-official series of fringe theatre festivals that permit performers to travel east to west, from June to September.

Fringe festivals are becoming more common, with many major cities throughout the world now conducting their own Fringe Festivals of sorts.

Fringe theatre organization

The mechanics of a Fringe festival are fairly simple. The most important element in the administration that creates a Fringe festival as opposed to a "normal" arts festival is the unjuried nature of the performances.

All performers are welcome to apply, regardless of their professional or amateur status. No restrictions are made as to the nature, style or theme of the performance. (Some festivals have children's areas, with an appropriate content limitation.) Many festivals find too many applicants for the number of available spaces; in this case, applicants are chosen based on an unrelated criteria, such as order of application or a random draw. The one common limitation of a Fringe festival is a geographic one; applicants may be divided into groups to ensure a mix of local, national and international talent.

Fringe festivals typically have a common organizing group that handles ticketing, scheduling and some overall promotion (such as a program including all performers). Each production pays a set fee to this group, which usually includes their stage time as well as the organizational elements. Performers sometimes billet in the homes of local residents, further reducing their costs. face it theatre (http://www.faceittheatre.com) is an example of a new fringe group set up by penniless actors with a couple of Edinburgh festivals under their tightened belts who want to create their own unique performance language.

Elements of a typical fringe theatre production

Because of the unjuried nature, it is in some ways difficult to describe a "typical" Fringe performance or production. However, the limitations and opportunities that the Fringe festival format presents do tend to lead to some common features.

Shows are typically technically sparse; they are commonly presented in shared venues, often with shared technicians and limited technical time, so sets and other technical theatre elements are kept simple. Venues themselves are often adapted from other uses.

Casts tend to be smaller than professional theatre; since many of the performing groups are travelling, additional actors increase expenses. One-man shows are therefore quite common at Fringe festivals.

Fringe festival productions often showcase new scripts, especially ones on more obscure, edgy or unusual material. The lack of artistic vetting combined with relatively easy entry make risk-taking more feasible.

While most professional theatre shows are two or three acts long, taking two to three hours with intermissions, Fringe shows tend to be closer to one hour, single-act productions. The typically lowered ticket prices of a fringe theatre show permit audiences to attend multiple shows in a single evening.

Noted fringe festivals

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