A Scavenger Hunt for Theatre
Written By: Aaron Jan
I do the Fringe because it’s an experiment.
I do the Fringe because it’s a chance for companies/theatre artists with little to no money to present their work at a heavily subsidized cost in a festival environment. Unlike independently producing, festivals provide an equal playing ground for companies to garner media and audience attention. It’s kind of like a scavenger hunt for theatre, where everyone’s super excited and optimistic for what they’re about to see. Independent companies can also bank on favourable reviews and turnout to pull audiences into their fall seasons and follow their work as they expand beyond the festival circuit. Simply put, it’s a summer party and a chance for an emerging artist to get their feet wet in a community they don’t belong to yet.
Fringes can also allow the theatre and audience community to come together for two weeks and be inspired by each other’s work. Finding an artist whose ideals align with yours can build future partnerships, audiences and working relationships. Some of my favourite companies in Toronto and Hamilton were people whose work I discovered at the Fringe (and would never have discovered elsewhere). I know Artistic Directors who cast their seasons and artists off of the Fringe rather than general auditions. The Fringe has an energy to it that no other theatre gathering has. It’s unjuried, which means plays run the gamut of being brilliant or…not.
For this reason, the very idea of participating on a Fringe is useful for a young artist. You get to understand who likes your work, who hates your work, who’s offended by your work and most importantly, who engages you in conversation after your work. At the Fringe, people from all walks of life go and see your show (if you market it correctly!) and you can find your demographic or (perhaps more importantly) find out who is not your demographic.
For an audience, the Fringe is a great opportunity to not only take a chance on new work, but also to see stuff that isn’t programmed by other theatres in the city. To use an analogy, it’s kind of like going to a buffet where the majority of dishes change every year. I mean, yeah I want to watch the guy who keeps winning awards every year (I see you, Michael Kras), but a part of me wants to see a movement show about sibling matricide (a real case from 2003! WHAT!), or an improvised magic card show from Brazil.
As an audience member, I Fringe because I want to see something new – a new story, a new diverse perspective, an experience that I don’t know and that can’t be provided by my current community. I encourage you to do the same! See that dance show that you think you may not understand! See that show where the entire cast is of a different skin colour than you!
And who knows! You may even learn something.
Aaron Jan is a Hamilton-born, Toronto based playwright and director. In 2012, Aaron became the youngest person to ever win Best of Hamilton Fringe with his play Drafts. Aaron is a core member of Filament Incubator, a collective devoted to producing 8 original plays in 8 months. His play, Swan will premiere in November 2016. Like Filament Incubator’s Facebook page at www.facebook.com/filamentincubator