Fringe Festivals, nonjuried festivals of live performances, held across North America and around the world, offer storytellers a unique opportunity to show off their work. Storytellers serious about honing their art and who are willing to take risks should consider Fringes potential venues for telling stories to adults. In addition, there are three reasons that storytellers looking to sharpen their craft and go further with their art should consider working in Fringe Festivals.
1. To get experience in self-producing. If you book your own shows for schools and libraries, you already do this. Fringe Festivals, for a reasonable investment, give you a crash course in producing a show in a theatre (or, depending on the festival, a garage turned into a theatre for a weekend). Being accepted into a Fringe doesnt mean you are the invited "talent" who will be treated like royalty. It means you have to work hard to get the audience to come to your show (and youll be competing against dozens if not hundreds of other acts). Nothing like an artistic free-for-all to give you a kick in the pants when in comes to marketing and promotion. You will need to create a short, memorable description of what you do that makes your show stand out-- a valuable tool you can use no matter where you perform.
2. To get practical experience working with adult audiences in festival settings. Every storyteller, even those that primarily work with children, can benefit from a run of performances in front of a group of theatregoing grown-ups. In addition to learning the ins and outs of playing to a crowd of adults, consider the impact of Festival experience on your marketing materials. Imagine a festival producer reviewing promotional kits from potential talent: she wants to know if each performer can engage an audience of 100, maybe 200, maybe 800 adults. Enthusiastic quotes from school teachers and a list of libraries dont answer that question. But quotes from media outlets like a newspaper or theatre blog, and a list of festivals across the continent? That indicates a very different kind of performer.
3. To expose new audiences to your work. Fringe audiences are generally professional adults who are interested in the performing arts who are willing to spend their discretionary income on the arts, and who seek out new genres and new forms of performance. Why wouldnt you want to perform for these people, in cities across North America? If theyve never heard of storytelling, who will be their ambassador to the art form? Why not you?
Fringe Festivals are typically unjuried, that is, they will accept any performer (usually selected by lottery). While that can mean that a Festivals offerings can be hit-or-miss, it also means that getting stage time in a Festival is not dependent on anyones decision except your own.
Tim Ereneta is an old school storyteller who brings to life forgotten fairy tales for contemporary audiences, in theatres, around campfires, and at Fringe Festivals.
http://www.timereneta.com . You can follow him on Twitter: @tereneta
(posted July 2009)