Sunday, August 19, 2012

The Sunday Read: Sarah Segal-Lazar - an update from The Island Fringe Festival

“Hello deadline, my old friend.”
Top 5 Songs from The Island Fringe Festival’s summer mix-tape
by Sarah Segal-Lazar
The Island Fringe Festival is less than a week away. Creating the IFF has been a lot like participating in a bicycle marathon across the Alps; you push with everything you’ve got to get up the hill and then find yourself zooming down, watching everything flash past. And then the next thing you know, it’s another uphill climb. Except that in the case of the IFF, that finish line is the deadline.
In the last article I wrote about the IFF, I alluded to my tendency to categorize my life by movie genres. “This week was a rom-com, last week was a Hallmark made-for-TV movie,” and so forth. But it’s now summer and sitting in front of a screen is hardly appealing. (I know this because I do, in fact, spend most of my day in front of a screen.) And so, in honour of summer and all of the beach bods romping around PEI, I’ve decided to honour the heat with an homage to the Top of the Charts. After all, what’s summer without a little pop radio? And the nominees for the IFF’s official theme song are:

Call Me Maybe (Carly Rae Jepsen)
Yes. I heard that groan. And let me just state, for the record, that this invasive, vapid, and, admittedly, highly addictive song is hardly my choice for Single of the Year. But it has a familiar ring (forgive the pun) when it comes to creating the IFF. I’m talking about the benefactors of the bacon, the champions of change, the diplomats of the dough. I’m talking about sponsors.
We’ve had some incredible companies take this leap with us. But for every interested sponsor, there’s a beach bag of others who never return phone calls. My favourite instance was back in June. I had emailed this particular company, which has a history of supporting the arts on PEI, several times. Finally, I decided to bite the bullet and call them. When I spoke with the head of the company, I asked if he’d gotten my emails. “Oh yeah,” he said, “I got your emails.” “Great! Would you be interested in sponsoring The Island Fringe Festival in its inaugural year?” “No,” he replied, “I don’t know that we would… I suppose I could have written you back to say that, though.” 
So while Carly Rae Jepsen may be great at putting out pop songs that make you want to ram your head through a window in an attempt to get them out of your head, she is really lousy at giving advice when it comes to creating a Fringe. None of this “Call Me Maybe” nonsense. Sell your Fringe like it’s the best thing to come to your town since indoor plumbing.  Pull on your cowboy boots and pull a Sadie Hawkins. Take the reins and call them. And keep calling until the cows come home. Okay, enough cowboy analogies. 
Have You Ever Seen the Rain? (CCR)
This summer? No, not really. The weather’s been incredible on PEI, with only a few rainy days since June. I’ve spent a huge amount of time on my computer, but that’s the beauty of summer on an island; when you’re finally done working, you can just pop over to the beach. (I can see the water from my window. Don’t hate me, landlocked, Canadian brethren!)
The lack of rain has been detrimental for the crops, though. And on the Island Fringe front, it’s felt like someone who has stock-piled all their sick days and cashed them in all at once. Sometime soon, Mother Nature’s going to run out and have to get back to work.
As a site-specific festival, we’ve matched our shows with unconventional spaces that fit their stories. Absolutely Nothing is both set in and will be staged in a coffee shop. Blow ‘til You Burst, a prequel to The Tempest, will happen on the shore. And Circle of Stone, a show about 19 Cornish women who were turned to stone, will come to life in Boulder Park. With 4 of our 6 daily shows happening outside, we’ve had to book two venues for every outdoor show: the main venue and the rain venue. I’m not a pessimist; I’m a realist. “Long as I remember, the rain been comin’ down,” to quote another CCR song.
No one’s going to stop the rain. So if you’re planning a site-specific Fringe and you’re dedicated (and nuts) enough to secure the perfect, outdoor space for each show, make sure you’ve got a back-up plan. And ponchos. Lots and lots of ponchos. 
Somewhere Out There (Our Lady Peace)
It’s happened to all of us. One day, you’re thick as thieves with someone and the next, they’ve disappeared. They stop answering emails, texts, phone calls. All that’s left is the archive of correspondence in your inbox. Confusing as it is in one’s personal life, it’s even more perplexing when it happens professionally.
The IFF is run on a lottery system. This means that your cousin Johnny from Kouchibouguac has an equal chance of being selected as William Shatner, were they both to apply. (And having seen Shatner’s one-man show on Broadway, I can honestly say that your cousin Johnny has a better chance of having a smash hit.) We have three lottery categories at the IFF: Local (PEI), Canadian, and International. We held the lotteries in May and were thrilled to have our lineup locked down. So when one of the shows went MIA for a month, we were a bit confused.
I am used to things going missing: Socks in the dryer, my cat, my sanity. But when a show goes missing, well, that’s kind of new territory for me. After not hearing back for a week, I figured that maybe they’d just missed my email. But after four weeks of trying to get in touch with them, I was losing hope. Finally, I called and left a message and sent one last email explaining that if we didn’t hear from them within the next couple of days, we’d have to move onto the next show on the waitlist. 
I’m going to let you in on a secret: There was no next show on the waitlist. Although we had received a lot of response in the International department, on PEI, where the Fringe is new, we had received just enough applications to automatically fill our four local slots.
The deadline came. And went. And still no word. It took us another two months, but we finally have a great theatre company from New York in that spot. Another rom-com ending for the IFF. The moral of this story is that a month is too long to wait, be it for a man, woman, or theatre company. (The IFF: Where tickets are never more than $10 and the dating advice is free!)
Mo Money Mo Problems (Notoroious B.I.G.)
Here’s a chance to exercise your brain:
If Jebediah has 4 apples and Ezekiel takes half of them, how many apples does Jebediah get to keep? Now, if Jebediah has 10 apples and Ezekiel takes half of them, how many is Jebediah left with? Here’s my point: although Jeb keeps more apples when Zeke takes his share of the 10, he also loses more to Zeke than he would had he only four apples to start out with. Welcome to the wonderful world of IndieGoGo.
For those who aren’t familiar with IndieGoGo, it’s a site that allows you to create an aesthetically pleasing online fundraising campaign and route the money donated to you, through them. People and companies world-wide have had huge success through IndieGoGo. I’m talking hundreds of thousands of dollars.
We started the Island Fringe as a way to bring grassroots theatre to PEI. As part of that, we wanted the community to be able to be sponsors of the Festival, even if they could only spare $10. We launched an IndieGoGo so that anyone, anywhere could log on and donate to the IFF. 
IndieGoGo takes a cut on what you make: 4% + a credit card fee if you reach your goal and 9% + a credit card fee if you don’t.  As our IndieGoGo deadline approached (you have a limited amount of time for your campaign) it became clear that we were not going to raise the $6000 we had hoped for. And here’s where Biggie’s words came into play. The more money we raised through IndieGoGo, the more we were losing. Financially, it made more sense to cut our losses at the $300 mark and start asking people to send in cheques, of which 100% would go to the IFF, than to raise $1000 through IndieGoGo and lose over a hundred dollars. But in an age where we’re accustomed to clicking buttons to “like” things, IndieGoGo does a great job of spreading the word about fundraisers. And although we didn’t reach our goal, it got us $650 (post-IndieGoGo taxation) closer to funding the Fringe!
Party Rock Anthem (LMFAO)
I chose this as our #5 track because, really, this is what all Fringes want: a successful, awesome, party-of-a-time. Plus, every day I am shuffling… to get things done. But in all earnestness, for all of the stress and franticness that comes with running a Fringe, it’s an incredible experience to take a step back with your team and go, “Wow. We did this. We made an internationally recognized festival!” So thank you so much to everyone who has supported the Island Fringe. We couldn’t have gotten here without you. 
Other tracks on the IFF mix-tape include: Lunacy Fringe (The Used), Timebomb (Beck), and Where Do We Go From Here (Buffy the Vampire Slayer)
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 IFF website at or send us an email at

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.

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