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At the rescue of the FRINGE Festival

by Huge

If there are two words that just don’t feel right together, it is Fringe and commercial.

As a veteran Fringer (I volunteered almost 10 years ago) my face made a tortured convulsive grin when I read the blasphemous title of Krokatao’s article on the Fringe Festival. What the hell is that? I said to myself.

And before reading anything I knew I had to reply and put that Krokatao where it belongs.

For those of you that just landed from Mars, the Fringe fest is a festival of independent (almost DYI) performance art. It’s mostly non-professional made, and features pieces that traditional theatres collectives wouldn’t approach within 10 feet. So it’s definitely not commercial, you won’t see the crowd that visits the Centaur Theatre at the Fringe; you are more likely to bump into a hippie that got lost on the way out from the Tam-Tams and landed without knowing it a Fringe show. If that is commercial, then I am a capitalist pig.

So I read that trash from Krokatao and I get to that part “absolutely anyone could perform (…) absolutely anything”: “No f*&#@ way”, I say, “these bums at that crappy web Montreal-Clubs.com site haven’t done their homework again and just made up some shit from thin air”. Like a real man, I look up the Fringe’s site and read what they are all about, and here is what I read to my dismay: “NON-JURIED. The festival is open to absolutely anyone to perform absolutely anything.” Wow, now that was a blow to my self-confidence, how can the Fringe accept just any crap, and most importantly how can that Krokatao be RIGHT?

I keep reading, and the whole Fringe story starts to look more and more suspicious: performing artists have to pay around 600$, anyone is accepted, pieces are selected randomly if there are too many and the artists get all the money except for a small fest fee (1$ at the door, which really is nothing). I also went to two shows this year, and they both charged 9$ = 8$ for the artists, and 1$ for the Fringe fest. 600/8 = 75, so they need to sell 75 tickets to make their dough back. Now, with 6 shows for the entire festival, assuming 20 people per show, that makes them 1280$, or 600$ of PURE PROFIT. Now, 40 people per show and they make A LOT MORE.

So, I, a quasi illiterate, could get my own show at the Fringe, and make 1000$ for it? And score tons of fame and veneration from crowds of fans? Wow, maybe there is something commercial about the Fringe.

Ok, I might be getting a little carried away here. 1000$ is nothing if you have to put in hundreds of hours of rehearsal and preparation. The Fringe fest really is a platform for independent and aspiring comedians to sharpen their teeth in.

But to be honest I didn’t see any point in the shows I saw this year either. And I paid almost 10$ for them; considering that I could have gotten a pack of smokes for that money, or see two student plays (that make some kind of a point at least) at McGill, I can’t stop but wonder. Shouldn’t an independent festival cost less, and maybe the beer sales could help to lower the fee for setting up a show.

Regardless, the Fringe is an amazing (maybe commercial) initiative, and I suggest as many people as possible to apply to next year’s edition and put up their own show.

And I just can’t wait 10 more years to see the Fringe be like the Jazz fest and it’s organisers sleep on big piles of cash with lots of ….


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