Sunday, June 10, 2012

The Sunday Read: Sarah Segal-Lazar on creating the Island Fringe in PEI

What to Expect When You’re Expecting (to Plan a Fringe)
5 Things to Know When Creating a Fringe Festival
by Sarah Segal-Lazar 
1) You are insane. And there is a very good chance that you have too much time on your hands. Either that, or you have masochistic tendencies. But if you have a career in the arts, then chances are that you’re already dealing with all things mentioned above. 

Allow me to clarify: creating The Island Fringe Festival has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. It’s given me the opportunity to team up with some incredible members of the arts community on PEI. It’s something that I’ve wanted to see on the Island for years. And in creating a site-specific Fringe Festival, it’s allowed me to help put up theatre in local, non-traditional spaces that I love. The frenetic energy that comes with planning a Fringe is just part of the Fringe package. 

2) Bring scissors.  You’re going to want to have them on hand to make modifications to your master plan along the way. In my case, I used them to hack apart a wedding dress.
Back in November, I had been asked by a director on PEI if I would be interested in creating a Fringe Festival for his theatre. I was elated. After having spent years wanting to create a Fringe on the Island, here was this incredible opportunity, falling into my lap. If my life was a series of films, which I often think it is, then this was the bubbly, rom-com portion. After months of planning, by February, I was ready to apply for official Fringe status with the Canadian Association of Fringe Festivals. 
On a rainy night in New York City (I can’t remember if it was actually raining, but I do know that it was very dark outside) I got an email from the director saying that the theatre was dropping the project. It wasn’t the type of thing which they were interested in producing at the moment. I felt as though I had been left at the altar. There I stood on W.13th St., in an absurdly poofy (metaphorical) wedding gown with nowhere to go. As I walked through Chelsea, tears mirroring the raindrops which may or may not have been falling from the sky, I realized that I had two options: I could either put the dress in the back of my closet and try to forget that it was there or I could take a pair scissors to it, throw on a pair of motorcycle boots, and hit the town. Having always been a sucker for renovation shows, I chose the latter. It turned out to be the best thing that could have happened.
3) Pick up some trashy literature. At the end of the day, you’re going to want to unplug yourself from the computer and read something which requires you to use your brain minimally. Suggestions include: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Harry Potter, and the 99¢ Harlequin paperbacks at Value Village.
4) Take a Gravol. Creating a Fringe is like travelling with a student driver: You GO-GO-GO! And then you STOP. And then you GO-GO-GO! And then you STOP. So, when you do have downtime, you're still waiting, on edge, for the next time you'll lurch forward to take care of whatever new task that has just popped up with a nauseating deadline. If you’re a big fan of stomach-turning amusement park rides, then you’ll love the excitement of planning a Fringe. (Please feel free to send me a note. I would like to hire you.)
Most importantly:
5) Plan your Fringe in a place you love. I’m going to end on a mushy note. If this year really has been a romantic-comedy, then this is the part where I end up with a great guy and the movie ends before anything else can go awry. But in all seriousness, the most important thing that you can do when planning a Fringe is create it for a place that you love.
I’m not from PEI, although I have spent most of my life trying to convince myself otherwise. I grew up in Montreal and spent all of my summers on the Island since the age of five, as well as many winters. It is a place that I care deeply for. It is a place that has supported me. Without my attachment to the Island and its community, it would be hard to justify the low or perhaps non-existent pay and never-ending to-do list that comes with starting a Fringe from scratch.
The goal of the Island Fringe is to build new opportunities for Island artists to create and perform original work. It also gives other Canadian and International theatre companies a chance to bring their shows to PEI and make connections with Island artists. There’s a whole lot happening on PEI behind the scenes. This August, we’re bringing it centre stage.
The Island Fringe Festival goes up from August 24th – 26th 2012 in Charlottetown, PEI. Come join us for our inaugural year! 
For more information, check out The Island Fringe Festival‘s website at or send us an email at  Support Festival
Sarah Segal-Lazar is the Festival Director of The Island Fringe Festival. In her not-so-spare time, she is also an actor, playwright, and singer-songwriter. Her play The Barely Wives Club was recently named a finalist for Red Bull Theatre’s 2012 Short New Plays Festival, Off-Broadway. An island-dweller through and through, she spends her time between Montreal, PEI, and New York.


  1. Cool insight into a tough process. Hope that you keep that humour all the way through.

  2. If anyone can do this well, it's Sarah Segal-Lazar!


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