Friday, June 21, 2013

Cincinnati Part One: The Fringe Festival

A fringe festival is a lot like summer camp.  Specifically (and strangely) church camp.  I don't know if you, dear reader, have ever been to church camp but if you have then you basically know what a fringe festival is like.  Just replace the spiritual classes and lessons with theatrical performances, songs around the campfire with socializing around the bar, and that feverish desire to replicate the spiritual high at home in your daily life (which eventually returns to your usual routine of being spiritual on Sunday) with an inspiration to create... anything! everything! (which eventually is overcome by the need to make ends meet and create on your one day off)  Unfortunately, like church camp, the fervor of devotion and participation just can't be maintained for too extended a time, and, much to the chagrin of the artist, the show must end.  We exchange email and twitter with plans to keep in touch, and hope that we can apply what we've learned to the next project so we can return again the following year.

We even have a camp photo!
And oh, the things we have learned!

1. If you do something significant, some people will hate you.  Some of those people will be critics.

We received one scathing review during our tenure at the festival (a first for Ben).  But in doing so, it gave us a chance to talk to the other artists, and we learned that we were in good company.  Everyone receives negative reviews at some point for one reason or another.  A show with both religious and LGBT themes is going to rankle some people.  For example on opening night, as the audience applauded loudly, there was one guy in the front row with his arms folded, actively not clapping.  One of Ben's favorite quotes is, "The only way to avoid criticism is to do nothing, say nothing, be nothing."  This show is definitely something.  Of course the show is still in it's early stages, it's not perfect and we want it to grow, and improve and criticism has been very helpful in that regard.  But it's a good reminder that no matter what, some people (however in the minority they may be) will not like the show.  In fact, some people will hate everything about it, and that's just the price of doing something worth doing.  As far as that one scathing review, we were kindly assured that this particular critic prefers musicals and began her career as a food critic, so Ben's show was perhaps doomed from the start as far as gaining her favor.

1.b. On the other hand, we had some wonderful experiences with audiences, heard amazing and personal stories sparked by seeing the show, and received positive and constructive comments and feedback from audience and artists alike.  Ben was even voted by the Fringe Staff to win the Producer's Pick of the Fringe!

We were reminded that the purpose of this show is to open a dialogue between the LGBT and Religious communities and promoting a spirit of love and understanding between these deeply hurting, miss-communicating groups of people.  The show focuses on gay Mormons, but that does not limit it to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.  This issue extends to peoples of all faiths who struggle with how homosexuality does or does not fit into their understanding of their religious doctrine.

One of my favorite stories is this: after the show one night a young woman approached Ben in tears because she had just come out of the closet and her very religious, Southern Baptist family, is currently mourning her.  A couple days later, she happened to be our server for breakfast (she was also our server a couple days before she came to see the show!) and she told us how she and her girlfriend had a discussion after the show about how she should return to church because she felt it's absence and really missed it; maybe not Southern Baptist, but some church.

How amazing that a night at the theatre could spark this conversation.  This is what we're doing this for; not just this show, but theatre in general!  Knowing that something we helped create had this impact is inspiring to keep going; to keep creating.

 Production Photo credits: Jason Bechtel

2. We've learned some tips about how to market the show/Ben/his future production company(?) and how to better use social media.

There were several seminars held throughout the festival and we were able to attend one about social media.  Kevin Thornton, a comedian, writer, and musician, led the seminar.  He was even a guest lecturer at UC Berkeley (and has been asked to speak again this year) "where he spoke about the successful use of his podcast and social media in connection with his national touring act."  He has been making a pretty decent living through these means and wanted to share his wisdom.

After that seminar we realized that there's a lot we're trying to figure out, and it's very exciting.  It's not super interesting to read about all the details here in this format, but the biggest thing we want to do is create a production company (really just consisting of Ben and me for now) through which Ben will produce plays he writes, and he has a couple already in mind.

3. We've learned that we don't have to wait for great theatre to be created, we can make it ourselves!

We made some wonderful friends while at the festival, all of whom are incredibly talented and were there with shows that they created themselves.  Some of them work professionally in their respective cities, and some travel the fringe-circuit, which is surprisingly large - there are fringe festivals everywhere!

Our two friends, Steph and Sara, from Liverpool, England, have their own company, Blue Dragonfly Productions, and produced our favorite show that we saw at the fringe, All the Rest is Junkmail.  They are childhood best friends who are writing and producing shows in UK and just made their American debut.

Another show we loved was Petunia and Chicken, produced by Animal Engine, a soon-to-be husband-and-wife team, Carrie and Karim, from NYC.

One artist, Tim Motley, had a Noir-esque magic/mentalism/murder mystery show titled Dirk Darrow: NCSSI is living in Melbourne, Australia, and spends a majority of the year traveling to various fringe festivals around the world.

The stories are endless, and each of them taught us that we don't have to wait for good theatre to come to us - we can create it ourselves!  That is some powerful knowledge and we intend to use it.

Each night after the shows, people would gather at the Know Theatre bar and eat, drink, and chat.  Then watch the "Fringe News" that was "Kind of Weird, like you."  We would cheer when it was announced that a show sold out that night, and laugh at the inside jokes.  Some nights there were other exciting activities such as Sci-Fi Prom, Segway night, Game Night, and Fringe Olympics.  

Sci Fi Prom

 Fringe Olympics: torch and sculpting contest
 Olympics: pizza eating contest
 Our team "Nice Guys Finish" and we did finish!  In a close second thanks to the amazing skittle-dropping skills of Karim!

 Segway Night

All that to say, we loved the Fringe and we took so much away with us.  There is incredible sense of community there that several people told us many other fringe festivals lack - at least to this degree.  It was a blast, and we can't wait to create something and return next year.

1 comment:

  1. That sounds absolutely amazing and inspiring. I love your analogy of church camp. Thanks for sharing the details!


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...