10 Shows that stand out at this year’s Fringe Festival.

The thermometer hit 100 degrees last week, which can only mean one thing . . . it’s Fringe time, baby!

This post is a revival of a post I did last year about the 10 shows that grabbed my attention as I flipped through the Fringe Festival catalog of shows.

With over 200 shows in each year’s festival, the challenge facing all the writers and producers out there is getting their shows to stand out in a catalog that looks more cluttered than a NYC diner menu (does anyone ever order the Broiled Boston Scrod Filet at these places?). So how do you get a Producer’s and a Ticket Buyer’s attention with just a 100-word blurb?

Rather than just babble on about what I think makes a good blurb, I thought I would ‘show not tell’ by showing you which 10 shows stood out to me as I flipped through the catalog.

Here we go, in alpha order.

1. 23 Feet in 12 Minutes: The Death and Rebirth of New Orleans

Katrina is still on so many of our minds, especially in light of what that area of the country is now facing.  This docu-drama based on “interviews with over 60 Katrina survivors” sounds like it has the potential to educate and thrill, simultaneously. Most audiences only witnessed Katrina on TV.  This show could get them closer. And that’s intriguing.

2. Bunked

The beginning of the Bunked blurb starts like this . . . “Sponsored by LogoTV, Bunked . . . ”  They had me at Logo. I’m not sure of the depth of this “sponsorship,” but a Fringe level show garnering any kind of attention from a cable network will certainly get attention from an audience.  Plus it takes place at a camp.  I mean, come on, camps are just funny.  Meatballs, Wet Hot American Summer, Friday the 13th.  Oh.  Wait a minute.  www.bunkedthemusical.com

3. Dear Harvey

Got Milk?  Then you’ll probably get tickets to Dear Harvey.  There’s nothing wrong with allowing the popularity of another form of entertainment to help you find your audience, as long as what you’re doing is unique and presents the material in a new and interesting way. After Guitar Hero, there was Rock Band. After Coke, there was Pepsi.  And after Academy Award-winning Milk, comes Dear Harvey, which promises to tell you some stories that the movie couldn’t. www.diversionary.org

4. Faye Lane’s Beauty Shop Stories

Christopher Durang may have started the “put the title character in the title” trend with Sister Mary Ignatius Explains It All To You, but this show sounds like a fun addition to the canon (along with another show heading to NYC this fall).  In addition to the ‘teasing’ title (get it – beauty shop – tease), the blurb offers a great quote from NY Magazine and screams out IN CAPS, “BEDAZZLING TRUE STORIES! HILARIOUS SONGS!  FREE PRIZES!”  The free prize line is what got me.  People love free, but what people love even more is unique, and free prizes definitely make this show sound different from all the rest.

5. Have A Nice Life

The best marketers on the planet will tell you to lead with your strongest asset, or, in cliche-speak, always put your best foot forward.  Have A Nice Life certainly took that advice when composing their blurb. Rather than start with what their show is about (a musical group therapy session), the first sentence starts with, “Direct from a sold-out run at the Edinburgh Fringe . . . ”  It continues with quotes, but the words ‘sold-out’ combined with the reputable EF made me sit up in my chair and circle this show.  www.nicepeopletheatre.org.


Do you know who Terryl Daluz and Mann Alfonso are?  Me neither.  But they were given an NAACP Theatre Award for Best Playwright.  And that makes them important.  Awards, even if they’re not from organizations as esteemed as the NAACP, always attract audiences.  And where there is an audience, a Producer will soon follow.  If you’re a writer, try to win something while you wait for a production.  Enter the many playwrighting competitions online.  Doors will open faster for you with somebody’s, anybody’s, seal of approval. www.masksproductions.com

7. Mobius

“WARNING:  This play contains nudity.”  Need I say more?  Yes, lines like this will turn off a few folks (although probably not many Fringe festival attendees), but a Warning, or a Not For All Viewers disclaimer has a way of getting people . . . er . . . titillated . . . into buying a ticket.   www.mobiustheplay.com

8. Platinum

Chicago was a much maligned musical before it was revived on Broadway in 1996.  Since then, every Producer I know has combed through the catalogs of old shows, looking for the next musical that could be rediscovered and prove to be more valuable now than it was when it originally opened.  Platinum is a musical with a book co-written by Hollywood Squares and Academy Awards writer, Bruce Vilanch, and UnsungMusicalsCo., Inc. has revised it for this year’s Fringe.   www.platinumthemusical.com

9. A Separate Peace

People like what they know, and most people know A Separate Peace.  It has been screaming for a stage adaptation (I hear there’s a musical in the works). Add in a quote from the LA Times, and this show says, “Come down and say hello,” just l
ike an old friend you haven’t seen in awhile. www.aseparatepeace.info

10. The Swearing Jar

Did you ever have a swearing jar?  I bet someone around you did.  There’s something about this title that we can all understand, and that is inherently funny. And once again, a title does half the show’s marketing for them.  That makes me F***ing interested.  Ahh, darn it.  Here’s a quarter. www.thebridgetheatrecompany.com.

So there you have it. This year’s 10 stand-out shows (with honorable mentions to My Broken Brain, The Morning After/The Night Before and Veritas).

For tickets and info on all the shows in the Fringe, visit www.fringenyc.org today.

Now, it’s important to note, that these are the shows that stand out to me from a marketing perspective.  I have no idea whether they’ll be any good.  These are just the shows that have great potential to get butts in seats.

Then we’ll see what they can do with those butts.

(Hmmmm, this blog could be retitled, “The strangest sign off line in the history of blogs.”)


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Looking to learn how to get your show to stand out?  Here are two quick tips:

1 – Read Seth Godin’s book The Purple Cow, my bible to product development and marketing.

2 – Take my Get Your Show Off The Ground seminar, which I guarantee will give you a bunch of great takeaways on how to get your show to stand out at the Fringe, NYMF, and on Broadway!  Take the seminar today.

  • Hi Ken!
    Thanks for the shout out of Have a Nice Life which just popped up on my google alerts. Hope you’ll definitely make it out to see the show and make sure to introduce yourself afterwards!
    Nicole Paloux
    Co-Artistic Director
    Nice People Theatre Company

  • Jeanie says:

    Hi Ken,
    Thank you for doing this research – the list always overwhelms me and I wind up waiting for word of mouth. But sometimes, I miss out on a good show because the runs are so short. Can you do the same for NYMF and pick 5 shows that stand out for you? I had a bad track record last year – picked shows that sounded good but I wound up not liking them.

  • Particularly good blog, Ken! Always interesting to see things through the eye of a producer.
    P.S. Per your advice, I have been dutifully applying to as many contests as possible. My family musical, UNDERSTOOD BETSY, has now won 2 awards, and my current play, JINXED (about Amelia Earhart & close friend/superior pilot Jackie Cochran), is being done at the Carolinian Shakespeare Festival this summer–and has been sooooo close to being chosen for several other festivals. Getting ready to market more agressively now, using the credentials….
    And speaking of awards, congrats on the Leonidas A. Nikole Award! Just read about it in American Theatre magazine.
    Stacey Luftig

  • Hi Ken,
    Thanks for selecting Möbius as one of your top 10 standouts for the Fringe. We hope you have time to see the show, and that you’ll discover even more about what makes Möbius a standout this year. We really appreciate the mention. Thanks again, Ken!
    Michael Lopez
    Emmett Productions

  • Drew Cohn says:

    Great list! Can’t wait to see these shows. Might I also recommend RICHARD 3? Saw a preview earlier this summer and loved it (and I don’t usually care much for Shakespeare). It was a real adrenaline kick, one that I certainly didn’t anticipate. A great young, talented company.

  • Jason english says:

    Good pics. Want to add Getting Even With Shakedpeare. Saw it this past winter and I hadn’t laughed that hard in a long time. Not to mention sooo many good lookin shows.

  • And speaking of awards, congrats on the Leonidas A. Nikole Award! Just read about it in American Theatre magazine.

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