Tuesday, August 27, 2013

After Dark, August 27, 2013

Why! Why! Why!
A final summer rant
by Gaëtan L. Charlebois

This will probably be my final article about Fringe this season (though we have people on the ground to cover shows in Victoria and Vancouver), and it will also be, Lord hopes!, my final Fringe rant. (Though that is less likely.)

Fringers - and I hope to fuck you know who you are - listen up. I am not just talking about show producers as I also have a few barbs aimed at Fringe Festival organizers. Now because I am a fairly gallant fellow, despite reports to the contrary, I will not name names. But so help me, next year I will be a year older and that much crankier so watch out (or pray for my death).

- Estelle Rosen, the brains in the CharPo team, and I have thought seriously of doing one thing next year. Christ! We nearly did it this year! When we publish a review, we are seriously considering putting a big, hideous graphic with "No photo available" beside the review. In this day and age - when doctors can burrow cameras in our assholes and every piece-o'-shit telephone has a camera - that companies still have no pics for their show or - almost worse! - insist on using kindergarden-scribble poster art as their sole graphic are intolerable. And here's something else you notice when you see there is no photo available: invariably the show is similarly shit. And when it isn't (ie: our reviewers loved it) CharPo is not predisposed to link to, tweet to, or draw eyes to that review because there is always the danger that readers will think WE are bush league because there is no pic with the review.
- Further... enough with the shit pictures (actors making "funny" faces, improper focus, hideous composition - an actor half-in the picture). You want to know how bad it is? We used to have a weekly feature called the album - a gallery of the best photos of the week or of an event (a particular Fringe fest). We had to stop doing it because I opened an image bank for one Fringe festival and it was like someone had shared their Facebook pics. Worse, that week I had to go out of that Fringe to find the Picture of the Week.

- Comments. Look, I know a bad review is a hard thing. (One critic said of one of my own plays that it would cure insomnia and the late - unmourned - Gina Mallet virtually closed one of my shows prematurely.) But not once did I ever think of writing an anonymous letter to one of them because there were always other reviews, elsewhere. When you mobilize your friends and family to come down on a reviewer in the comments...well, it's bush-league and, moreover, publishers like me like to protect our people too and we have long memories. One recent comment was from an actual Fringer - which shows a kind of dumb-bravery - and it was on Twitter - again, Gump-like valour. But the comment went after one negative review,  citing that three other reviewers liked the show, there had been a standing ovation and audience comments were also positive. So the question? Why the fuck do you care about ONE review? (Or, more like, why are you tweeting when you're obviously drunk?) 

- Now it's clear that the bad pics and awful PR are not just the fault of the Fringers. A good deal of that falls on the shoulders of festival organizers. I know seminars are given at some Fringes on how to do this stuff properly, and other organizers have tip sheets on what to do and what not to do. I am aware Fringes are not rich but why can some do this and others not? And it is some of the biggest ones who don't! (Or who do it half-arsed.) 

- Which brings us to festival websites. W...T...F!! There is one well-known for a) its utter disorganization and b) its fundamental mercantilism. No, I do not want a fucking coffee mug, I want to know which shows are in the fucking thing and why does it take me ten minutes to find THAT info!? (Lordie, lots of interobangs today...) Moreover, publishers need a direct URL to one company's info that we can link to at the end of the review. Secure links (https://fuckyoufringe.com/ident.client-zazu-2567890-secure-sales-redirect-279086aaaab) so you can sell fucking tickets and t-shirts are not fair to publishers and to the companies we, for the most part, want to promote. 

- Which of course brings us to a problem I can stew about all I want but will probably never change and I understand that, to a certain extent. Fringes, for me, are primarily for plays. For organizers, of course, it means bottom line. No one wants a Fringe to end or go bankrupt. However, from websites on, I have noticed an unpleasant trend towards focusing on events, panels, parties, after-hours, and - especially - beer tents. In some cases there is so much noise around those that plays get lost in the shuffle.

So there you have it! Fringe 2013! Comment below! (But remember, if you do it anonymously, I'll know it's because you recognize yourself.)

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