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

 

 

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.

2.  Jersey Shoresical:  A Frickin’ Rock Opera

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.

3.  Virtual Solitare

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.

5.  The Legend of Julie Taymor

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.

7.  Hard Travelin’ with Woody

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.

8.  Happy Worst Day Ever

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.

9.  Destinations

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?

10.  No-fault:  A tale about the Big D in the Big Apple

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.

Honorable Mentions:

Winner Take All (A Rock Opera)Theater of the Arcade, As The Boat Approaches and Elysian Fields.

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.

It’s a lot like riding a bike.

We’re at halftime of the 2009 festival season.  The fringe is done (except for the Encores), and we’re waiting for NYMF to begin.  I saw a few fringe shows this year, and I’ve got a few NYMF shows on my radar as well.  But over the course of my entire life, I’ve probably seen a gross of festival shows.

To be honest, most of them haven’t been that good.  But that’s ok, you know why?  Most were by new writers, and that’s what festivals are for.

Over the last few years, however, festivals have faced unreasonable amounts of pressure to produce the next big hit.  I call it ‘The Urinetown Syndrome’ . . . and it’s unfortunate.

New writers need time to work on their skills in front of an audience, without worrying about whether people think they shows are ready to move Off-Broadway two weeks later, and without worrying about what the critics think.

So many fringe and festival shows are first-timers for authors.  Are we really surprised that most aren’t great?

I think first scripts for writers are exactly like the first time you got on a two-wheeer.  You’re trying super hard to balance everything, you can’t even think about where you’re headed, it takes you much longer to get anywhere, your style is wobbly, etc.

So, if you’re a writer, don’t beat yourself up if your first show, fringe or not, wasn’t fast-tracked to full production.  It was just your first script.  Be happy that you didn’t take a spill on your brand new Huffy and scrape up the side of your face (that happened to me . . . literally, when I was 10, and figuratively, with my first script).

The important thing to do is . . . wait for it . . . yes, get back on the bike and go for another ride.

I guarantee your second one will feel easier than the first, and the third will be easier than the second, and so on and so on.

Just keep wriding.

 

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

It took us four years and four writers to finally get the book right on Altar Boyz.  The guy who finally got hit the soul sensor on the head was Kevin Del Aguila, and I found him at The New York International Fringe Festival.

But how?  With over 200 shows to see in this year’s festival alone, how do you find the good stuff?

Fringe festivals can be the most cluttered environment for show shopping in the world.  It’s like panning for gold . . . in the Atlantic Ocean    . . . with a bottomless bucket.

The year I stumbled on Kevin’s play I remember picking up the Fringe Guide, and going through it like it was a Sky Mall catalog during a delay at LaGuardia.  I went through the guide show by show by show, circled what jumped out at me, then tried to find times to fit them all in.

Since most of the fringe shows are unknowns, the descriptions, titles, and so on are pretty dang important to catalog shoppers like me.  This year, I thought I’d repeat my exercise of going through the Fringe Guide and let you know the top 10 shows that stood out to me, and why.

Here we go:

1.  1-900-SELFPLEX

This list is in alpha order, which means I have to start with a show that begins with a number.  And so does the Fringe catalog.  This show stood out because of the infamous Chorus Line principle (ACL famously changed its name from Chorus Line to A Chorus Line in order to be listed first in the ABCs in the NY Times.  BTW, depending on the publication, one of my shows is either called THE Awesome 80s Prom or just Awesome 80s Prom).  When you’re listed first, people take more time and pay more attention: first borns, first wives, first “times”, everything.  I’m sure the authors of this show didn’t start the title of their show with a number for this reason, but it made me read the description with a lot more care than the show on page 47.  For more info, visit:  www.elixirproductions.org.

2.  666

Another numbered title jumped out at me, but not because of its digits.  It jumped out because of the quotes that the previous productions have received:  “Truly fabulous-disgustingly hysterical,” “Masterwork of black humor,” “Might beat the boys to hell by laughing yourself to death!”  Frankly, I don’t recognized all of the sources, but at this level, it doesn’t matter.  A minority of fringe shows have been seen before. If you can demonstrate that you’ve gotten your show up, AND that people publicly said they liked it in such a passionate way as some of the critics did for 666, then you will stand out.  Even if the show isn’t something I’d want to produce (666 is a wordless comedy about four death row convicts about to meet their final reward), I’m definitely intrigued by the artists.  The creators of Blue Man Group did stuff before Blue Man Group, if you know what I mean, and some of it was weirder than this.  For more info, visit:  www.666comedy.com.

3.  A CONTEMPORARY AMERICAN’S GUIDE TO A SUCCESSFUL MARRIAGE

The description for this show begins, “Set against the backdrop of the late 1950s and told in the style of the social guidance films of that era . . . ”  You know what’s cool about that? I know what that is! Sometimes Fringe shows can feel like going to a Shoney’s buffet . . . blindfolded.  The more you can frame the show with your description, the better, and this show did that perfectly.  I feel like I know what I am going to see.  Take that smart descript. of their inherently theatrical concept and add it to a very commercial subject that almost 50% of the population are interested in, and you’ve got my attention.  For more info, visit:  www.themarriageplay.com.

4.  ABRAHAM LINCOLN’S BIG GAY DANCE PARTY

I skipped over this one originally, because it sounded like the Producers took a page out of the obvious “How To Get Attention For Your Fringe Show” manual by using a wacko title to peak curiosity.  These producers also took another page out, however.  Right after the listing for Lincoln, there was a full page ad for the show, that stood out like, well, Abe Lincoln at a big gay dance party (he was a tall man, you know, and he wore a hat, had a big beard and freed the slaves).  That big ad certainly got my attention.  “What kind of fringe show has a budget for a full page,” I wondered.  More importantly, the ad also trumpeted the fact that Lincolnwon a Best Play award from the Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle, something I missed because I never even read the description in the listing, having been turned off by the title.  Now, I don’t know who the BAYTCC is, but any award makes any show sound better.  And the ad forced me to learn more.  I won’t be going to show, but I bet a lot of people will.   For more, info visit:  www.abrahamlincolnsbiggaydanceparty.com or www.thelongestdomainnameinhistory.com (sorry, guys, couldn’t resist).

5.  BABY WANTS CANDY THE IMPROVISED MUSICAL

If you’ve never seen an improvised musical, I recommend it.  And if I can’t see it from my favorite musical Improv Team, The Nuclear Family (which has shows coming up in LA, by the way), then Baby Wants Candy is next.  So putting my fascination with this genre aside, why did this show stand out?  Because Baby Wants Candy has been around the block.  They have a history, and a respected one.  Anyone that can keep producing entertainment year after year instead of trading it in for a real estate license has to be doing something right.  For more info, visit:  www.babywantscandy.com.

6.  HOW NOW DOW JONES

The Fringe is all about new stuff, right?  Wrong.  Here’s something that stands out just because it’s old!  How Now Dow Jones is a revised version of a 1968 (same year as Hair (see below), ironically!) musical comedy.  Could it be the next Chicago? Doubt it, but it does have some poignant relevancy, since it the stock market plays a big part in the plot.  And no one is thinking about the stock market these days, right?  For more info, visit:  www.hownowdowjones.com.

7.  PENUMBRA

It used to be that popular music was the same music heard on Broadway stages. Nowadays, it takes a while for the music of the day to appear in a play.  Hair is called the first rock musical by many, including this gal, and it didn’t open on Bway until 1968, almost 20 years after the birth of rock ‘n roll.  The next genre that will hit a Broadway stage?  Hip-hop.  And a harder hip-hop than Heights.  And I’ll tell you a little secret that’s just between you, me and the rest of the blogosphere . . . I want to be the Producer of the first hip-hop musical on Broadway (Yep, I was even crazy enough to inquire about the rights to 8 Mile (not available, fyi).  Watch this scene, wouldn’t you . . . (it’s a musical Rocky!)  That’s why Penumbra, a one man hip-hop musical by Fascious, got my attention.  This guy is on the right multi-track.  For more info, visit: www.fascious.com.

8.  TEAROOM TANGO

Tearoom opens the (bathroom) door on a world many people haven’t seen before.  This show-me-a-subculture tactic is a smart way to grab attention, especially when the subject is sex.  Add in nudity and “parental discretion” warnings, and anyone, I don’t care if they are straight, gay, or asexual, has to wonder what is going on during Tearoom.  For more info, visit:  www.mercuryplayerstheatre.com.

9.  TRUTH VALUES:  ONE GIRL’S ROMP THROUGH MIT’S MALE MATH MAZE

I like true stories.  This country likes true stories.  All thanks to what I call the “lean forward factor”.  Truth Values is a true story about an underdog, and this country also loves underdogs (partly because this country WAS an underdog). It’s about a woman pursuing her PhD at MIT.  It’s got a Good Will Hunting meets Legally Blonde type of feel, from what I can tell.  We’ll see what makes this one different.  For more info, visit:  www.unexpectedtheatre.org.

10.  VOTE

A musical about student council elections?  Since we don’t have an adaptation of Election (yet), this sounds like a commercially promising production to me.  Promising premise aside, Vote has also attracted some top-notch Broadway talent with Rachelle Rak teaching the dance steps, and a cast including Deidre Goodwin alongside everyone’s favorite reality show winner, Bailey Hanks.  Recognizable names help you stand out and lend credibility, on Broadway, off-Broadway and yes, at The Fringe.

So there’s my list of the top ten shows that stood out for me in this year’s 63 page Fringe Festival catalog (honorable mentions go to:  TerranovaAnd She Said, He Said, I Say YesMCrossings, and Sorority Queen in a Mobile Home).  I won’t see all of them, but there was something unique about the presentation of each one that that made them memorable.  

But memorable doesn’t always mean good.

See, the funny thing is that although it may seem like hard work to stand out amongst a field of over 200 shows, that’s actually the easy part.

Because once you get someone’s attention, you have to deliver.

It takes a courageous and confident kid to raise his hand higher than the others, but it takes a brilliant kid to have the right answer.

Good fringe, everybody!

 

_ _

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.

Advice from an expert: Vol. VIII. Founder of the Fringe (and Tony Nominator) tells how to get involved!

http://www.theproducersperspective.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/04/my_weblog/6a00e54ef2e21b883301156f9096c1970c.jpg When I think of summer in the city, I think of sweatin’ while waiting (and waiting) on a subway platform for a 1 train, that strange smell from sun-soaked garbage . . . and The Fringe Festival!

Today, on The Producer’s Perspective, I give you Elena Holy, the founder of The Fringe; that all-you-can-eat buffet for theater lovers!  Elena is going to share a few words with you on how The Fringe got started, and how you can polish your Producing skills by producing a show at the Fringe this summer!

Oh, and yes, it is true.  Elena was a Tony Nominator this year.  But don’t waste your time asking her why 9 to 5 wasn’t nominated.  She won’t answer.

I know, because I already tried.

Heeeeeeeeeere’s Elena!

– – – – –

As you may have heard,

the shows accepted to be a part of FringeNYC 2009 have been posted. This marks the end of a very busy, wonderful, excruciating adjudication process. But just because we’ve selected our shows, doesn’t mean that your opportunity to be a part of the largest multi-arts festival in North America has passed! 

I’m often asked what it took to start FringeNYC (and I’ve been quoted as answering “youth and ignorance”), but to keep FringeNYC growing, it takes a village – seriously. You see, FringeNYC continues to operate as a Great Inverted Pyramid:

75,000 Audience Members
..5,000 Artists
..1,500 Volunteers
..1,100 Performances
..1,000 Applications
…..200 Shows
…… 20 Venues
…….16 Days
…….15 Dollar Tickets

…….13 Years 

………2 Full-time Staff Members

 

If you’re curious as to how this is possible, you can get further information here (or watch me try to describe it here). Simply put, we couldn’t do this without our audience and our artists. But the third necessary (and beloved) component is definitely our volunteer staff (who do everything from writing for our newspaper to building sql databases to pulling industry comps to printing tickets). If you’d like to join the FringeNYC Volunteer Staff, the first step is to attend a NEWBIE MEETING.

If you don’t have the time to join the staff, you’re also welcome to be a short-term volunteer. And the best part is, volunteering at FringeNYC is “work a shift, see a show” – for each two hour shift you volunteer, you receive a voucher good for a ticket to any performance at FringeNYC. All you have to do is register here.

If, on the other hand, you can devote all the time in the world to FringeNYC from August 14th – 30th, we also have stipended staff positions available – and interviews are happening now!

And for those of you who are DIRECTORS or PRODUCERS, we have two new opportunities for more project-specific work this year. Read on!

DIRECTORS AND PRODUCERS NEEDED!

Have you ever wanted to direct or produce a show presented as a part of The New York International Fringe Festival (FringeNYC)? Have you wondered how to get in touch with the shows that need a Director or a Producer? And how do you know which projects you might be a good fit for?

Now is your chance to meet up with FringeNYC 2009 shows that are in search of a director or producer.

It’s FringeNYC’s DIRECTOR / ACR* SPEED DATES!

On Saturday, June 6th, representatives of FringeNYC shows will gather for our annual Town Meeting, and then those in search of a Director for their project will split off into a separate area, ready to meet you! FringeNYC’s Speed Dates are an opportunity to spend three minutes with representatives of dozens of shows, exchange information, and decide which projects are of interest to you. Then it’s up to you to set up a time to take it to the next step.

General information you should know:

FringeNYC is August 14th – 30th, 2009. Most of our shows are produced under the AEA Showcase Code plus the FringeNYC Side Letter. FringeNYC includes 200+ shows that are: Clown / Mask, Comedy, Dance, Drama, Spoken Word / Poetry, Improv / Sketch / Stand-up, Multi-media, Musical, Performance Art, Puppetry, Solo Shows, and every possible combination thereof!

*An ACR is an “Authorized Company Re
presentative”. Each FringeNYC show needs one – and they function as the show’s representative at the box office, often handle marketing, contracts, some management and producing. The ACRs job description will vary greatly by show – but if you’re looking for a project or want to gain actual producing experience, this is a great place for you!

If you are interested in attending, all you need to do is REGISTER for the event. PLEASE NOTE: Only those who have REGISTERED will be able to attend, due to limited capacity.

Here are the basics:

WHAT: FringeNYC’s Director / ACR Speed Dates

WHEN: Saturday, June 6th at 3pm

WHERE: Location will be announced to those who register.

REGISTRATION: To register, simply click the appropriate link below:

DIRECTOR SPEED DATE REGISTRATION ………………..

ACR SPEED DATE REGISTRATION

GENERAL INFORMATION: About FringeNYC is available at www.FringeNYC.org

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