Have you noticed your inbox filled with more Kickstarter requests lately? Have you seen more postcards on radiators at rehearsal studios in town? Has your Facebook been blowing up with event invitations that begin with the words, “I’m in a show!”
All of this could mean only one thing . . . It’s time to raise the curtain on the NYC Fringe Festival!
Starting this Friday and continuing for just over 2 weeks, 194 shows will open and close as a part of this awesome theatrical binge. It’s impossible to see them all, so how do you decide which ones to see?
Here’s how I do it.
Every year, in a very environmentally-unfriendly style, I print out (!) the entire program and leaf through it like an Ikea catalog . . . circling the shows that stand out based on a number of factors. To give you an idea of what is attractive to a Producer like me, I list the 10 Shows here, in no particular order. Remember, this list isn’t any kind of guarantee that anything is going to be great or not . . . it’s just a list of what stood out when I went catalog shopping (translation – this is a marketing exercise).
Ready? Here goes!
1. Yeast Nation
Quick. Name me the most successful show to come out of The Fringe. If you said anything but Urinetown, you lose. Well, the authors of U-town (Mark Hollmann & Greg Kotis) are back with Yeast Nation, a show that got some buzz when it was in Chi-town in ’09. They’ve risen to the top of the Fringe before, let’s see if Yeast can rise as well.
Is it a musical? Or a tanning-lotion flavored popsicle? Either way, the title made me laugh. Odds are that this one isn’t going to be playing The Palace next season, but the creators of this show knew that using something that’s a pop culture phenom as their source material is a certain way to get attention.
In the Fringe catalog, each show gets about 40 words describe their show. Virtual Solitaire used only 6. The rest of the description listed its three BEST PLAY awards, and 4 quotes including “Dazzling,” “Jaw-droppingly good,” and more. It’s obviously been a popular show. And we all know, the popular girl gets asked to the Fringe first.
4. Cow Play
What grabbed my attention about Cow Play? They placed an ad. Now, lots of shows placed ads in the program to help enhance that 40 word listing. But Cow Play was the one of the very few that took a full page ad. And because it was the only one, the ad was like a road block, making me stop in my show.jpgckin’ tracks and soak up its message.
Like Jersey Shoresical, the Author of Legend ripped its plot from right from the headlines. Obviously this is a subject that theater folk like me are super interested in, so I couldn’t help but want to dig deeper to learn what this show was all about. Knowing your audience and serving up something you know will pique their interest is a guaranteed way to some ticket sales.
6. Facebook Me
Did you ever wonder what it would be like to be a teenager growing up on Facebook? Facebook Me is exactly that . . . it’s a play that about growing up online . . . except it wasn’t written by a 30-year-old, or even a 25-year-old looking back. This play was written and stars teenage girls describing exactly what your online “status” really means. I’ve always been a fan of documentary theater, so this one jumped up at me like a Facebook message from my mom.
There have been a few attempts at a Woody Guthrie musical. But no one has gotten it quite right . . . yet. But somebody should, because the material is too good not to be a great musical. There’s potential here, and maybe Hard Travelin’ is the show to seize it.
Theater for young audiences is on the rise. It’s a much better babysitter than a television set, and it helps develop the audiences of tomorrow. But that’s not what got me about Worst Day. This show about 6th graders is presented by the Tony Award winning Cincinatti Playhouse in the Park. Put a brand like that behind a Fringe show, and I don’t care if it’s for young audiences or for fruit flies, I am interested in seeing what’s up.
Honestly, I skipped over this one at first because I thought the title was a little bland, but when I went back and read the descript., I was intrigued. It’s a about a band, on their 1985 reunion tour and all the drama that comes with it. It’s a musical with a musical story. It’s much easier for me to believe that this could work . . . and besides, doesn’t everyone want to know what life is like as a rock star?
We’ve had I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change and even Miss Abigail’s Guide to Dating, Mating & Marriage. It’s about time someone tackled the other side of the coin: divorce (that’s the big “D” in the title). There are a lot of folks out there that have been through the D word, and I’m sure they’d love to laugh about it. Someone is going to create a killer show about this used to be taboo topic. Like Menopause, I expect Divorce to come into its theatrical own soon enough.
What shows stand out to you at the Fringe this year? What are you going to see?
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.