Tuesday, April 9, 2013

After Dark, April 9, 2013

Fringe Rules
Things we can share after a quarter-century of Fringing
by Gaëtan Charlebois and the contributors of The Charlebois Post

This article started as a series of Tweets which got retweeted. Then I turned to the platoon of contributors at The Charlebois Post, who - among them - have seen over a thousand Fringe shows (yes, thousand) and have been going to the little Canadian festival that could for over a quarter-century. Here is a fly-over of things we have learned that apply to show-folk, reviewers, organizers and audience... Add your own Fringe Rules to the comments section!

If you list an email address for your show and you don't answer email, it's not likely press will try again. Include accurate performance dates, a precise blurb of the play. Write it "fun", yes, but don't go overboard silly. (Estelle Rosen)

If you are not starting your PR the moment you get accepted into a fest, you're doing it wrong.

Actively promote on and around the site immediately - never say the first couple of houses 'were small' - do ad swaps with other shows' programs - meet people - make personal connections. Don't be afraid of doing a real play. They are a nice break from all the one-person shows. (David C. Jones)

Follow up. Follow up. Follow up. (ER)

Keep everything simple and effective. It's harder than you might think, sometimes. (David Allan King)

It used to be at that old-media print alternative weeklies would pretty much only give their covers to productions with a lot of buzz so long as they had GREAT photos. If you had a shitty promo shot, you weren't gonna get the cover. In the age of new media, dynamic PR photos are still important, but unless you're landing the cover of NOW magazine, VOIR or The Georgia Straight, I don't think they're make-or-break like they used to be ... (Richard Burnett)

Make sure your picture is striking even if its size is reduced in print or online.

Get a clean interesting alive picture on a white background - it will get covers and they can build text around it on-line as well. (DCJ)

Props - sure. Set - no. (DCJ)

If you've gotten a poor review, do not spam - or get your friends and relatives to spam - websites. We know it's you...move on.


Don't overwhelm your festival shows with so many goddam special events that people end up skipping shows altogether. In some Fringes, audience members have to cross the events-venue to get from one show venue to another. If it's sweltering in the venues, a nice beer, free concert and a cool breeze does not compel one to another show.

One press conference is enough.

Move heaven and earth to cool your venues. Word gets out when a venue is unendurable.

Keep the number of shows smaller rather than larger. Two festivals in Canada now have a reputation for having over-extended.

If you are trying to see everything (or five a day, even) we assume they're being reviewed through the prism of exhaustion.

We don't only want to read about the shows everyone is talking about, that are always sold out, or that are from companies at the Fringe every year - find us the hidden gems, dammit!

Sometimes a show deserves more than a blurb. 

Keep your feet on the ground, not on the seats in front or around you. (ER)

No paper bag noises as you eat your chips - in fact don't eat during performance! (ER)

If you're going to drink from a can or bottle, don't put it on the floor - it will inevitably get knocked over and roll, and fall, and clang.

Leaving a show is okay, but not if you have to cross the playing space or open a door that floods the space with light.

There are two types of Fringers: those who see everything and remember very little, and those who see very few and remember only the very worst or the very best. Somewhere between the two is your way. We like to see a show a trusted-someone has adored as a palette-cleanser for the crap.


  1. Great advice. I would only add to everyone, performers and audience alike, FEEL SPECIAL! The fringe movement in Canada is unique. No other country in the world has a circuit of unjuried theatre festivals that lasts more than three months and allows performers to travel and present their work in multiple cities. Anyone can develop a show as they move from festival to festival. Something might start out a dog in Montreal, and end up a hit by Vancouver. A great show may start out great and get even better on the road. It is a remarkable system. And it is open to everyone. All the artist needs is an idea, and a bit of cash. (Far less cash than it would cost to do this any other way!)

    Some of the best performers I have seen anywhere, on any stage, have performed on the Canadian Fringe circuit: T J Dawe, Nicola Gunn, Chris Gibbs, Martin Dockery, Jem Rolls, I could list many more.

    This summer go to a fringe festival near you, and feel special!

  2. I've taken heat on Twitter for tweeting David C. Jones comment: "Don't be afraid of doing a real play. They are a nice break from all the one-person shows." Does this mean that "Krapp's Last Tape" is not a real play?

  3. LOL! I think anyone who has seen uncomfortable revelatory Fringe solo and Krapp can probably tell the difference.


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