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.

6. MASKS

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.

5 Things I learned about South American theater.

For those of you who follow me on Twitter, you know that I took a trip way south of the border last weekend to South America.  I stopped in Santiago, Chile and Buenos Aires, Argentina to see productions of My First Time.

One of the coolest things about getting to travel to see these productions (besides seeing how each culture tackles this sensitive subject – and yes, there was full-on nudity in the Buenos Aires version of My First Time), is that I’m able to learn a little bit about how each corner of the world tackles theater production.

There are a few things that every country has in common:

  • Producing theater is expensive.
  • It’s hard to get the young audiences to come to the theater.
  • Actors are exactly the same, no matter where you are.  🙂  (And I mean that in the best way possible, I really do).

Here are five things I learned that are more specific to South American theater.

1.  Shows start late.

They eat dinner later then we do in South America, and they sure as churros start their shows later, too.  Most shows start at 9 or 9:30 PM.  And on 2 show days?  Expect that second one to start between 11:30 PM and midnight!  Afternoon matinees are rare.

2.  I saw advertising before I saw my show.

My host and I sneaked into a theater that was showing a Vegas-style Argentinean revue (with more full-on nudity), and right before the show started, about 5 ads played on a giant screen on the stage . . . just like at a movie!  While I was assured this was not the norm at all the theaters, I did notice a lot of in-theater advertising (liquor promotions…etc.).  You don’t see any of that in our theaters . . . mostly due to the contracts the theater owners have with Playbill, which prevents advertising anything other than what is in Playbill’s pages.

3.  Don’t want to pay rent?  Pay a percentage.

Flat rents for the performance spaces in Chile are unheard of.  Instead of paying a base rent and a small percentage, Producers get the space for free and then pay the owners 40% of the box office and keep 60% for themselves.  In Argentina, you have a choice between a flat rent and a percentage (which most producers opt for) which was closer to 70/30.  These percentage deals are why so many “Off-Broadway” shows are able to be produced in Buenos Aires and in Santiago.

Perhaps our theaters here could provide this option rather than sit empty?

4.  Sponsors are everywhere.

This isn’t new. Sponsors are a key part of commercial theater production in every other city around the world, except New York City.  But you know what was new?  American companies were sponsoring these shows in South America!  I saw 7-Up sponsoring an Off-Broadway venue.  Citibank paid for the naming rights to one theater and was a sponsor of several other shows.  Hey guys in ties . . . uh . . . have you tried looking in your own backyard if you want to sponsor theater?

5.  Why do 8 shows?

The standard number of performances for a big show down yonder averages about 6. They don’t have the audiences for 8, so they don’t do 8.  Some do 5.  Some do 6.  They shake it up depending upon demand.  Funny, isn’t it?  A country that has had one of the most fragile economies in the world, knows more about supply and demand than we do.
In addition to learning a lot about the theater in South America, I managed to squeeze in some sightseeing as well.  Can anyone name the building in the pic in this blog that has musical historical significance?

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