The seventh annual Cincy Fringe Festival finished last Saturday evening. And in a year when many arts organizations have suffered in attendance and revenue, the Fringe — operated by Know Theatre of Cincinnati — held its own.
Sales of multi-day passes were almost identical to 2009, while single ticket sales declined slightly. Overall attendance for Cincy Fringe 2010 was 6,500. Average per-show attendance was similar to last year.
At the closing party at Know Theatre’s Underground bar late on Saturday, three picks were announced. Fringe organizer Eric Vosmeier suggested that it’s not really about competition but rather to give Fringe artists (who eke out meager paychecks based on attendance) a bit of publicity to use as they travel on to other alternative theater showcases.
Based on voting by more than 400 festival-goers, the “Audience Pick of the Fringe” went to Serenity Fisher’s Sophie’s Dream, a romantic tale using Indie Rock-styled tunes produced by Tangled Leaves Theatre Collective from Cincinnati.
The other two picks were productions from the Twin Cities, a wellspring of Fringe-style theater. The Producers Pick was awarded to The Finkles’ Theater Show, the best-attended production of the festival, filling houses at Know Theatre for each of the five performances offered. The hilarious hour of music and overacting featured Ryan Lear and Rachel Petrie (St. Paul, Minn.) as a pair of aspiring theater performers with more zeal than talent.
The Critics Pick of the Fringe was Harold, a creepy tale about a vengeful scarecrow and a pair of scrappy but foolish brothers, presented largely by flashlight by Four Humors Theater (Minneapolis), back for their third consecutive Cincy Fringe.
This year’s Fringe skewed toward works from outside Cincinnati, but there was excellent work from local producers. Cyrano (pictured) offered an energetically staged and inventive condensation of a classic play featuring actors from Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park’s intern company. Of People and Not Things was a beautifully written and performed pair of interwoven monologues by Andrew Hungerford, who spends most of his time designing sets and lighting for theaters.
Aberrant Reflections on the Barbarism of You & I, a surreal work by Artemis Exchange about actors trapped onstage in a series of disjointed scenes, was a return engagement by the group that offered A Perfectly Marvelous Evening in 2009. Also returning for a second year was Infinite Number of Monkeys with Tantric Acting at the Holiday Inn, featuring actors George Alexander and Randy Lee Bailey in a satiric comedy that merged Bollywood and Broadway.
Two highlights from my final days of fringing: Blue Collar Diaries was a varied monologue about people from Michelle Myers Berg’s youth in St. Paul, Minn. She wrote and performed the piece, playing a varied array of characters. My own perfect Fringe 2010 finale came via Abigail and Shaun Bengson and their song-filled show, Ain’t That Good News?. The pair travels worldwide, meeting people and writing songs about the stories they hear. Some are funny or ribald, others are heart-wrenching. She sings with the passion of Janis Joplin; he plays guitar and odd instruments including a ukulele and an accordion. Together they made wonderful, memorable music.
The Fringe had a few new components this year. The nightly Bar Series added several programs, including the first annual “Fringe Prom” and the “22.5 Hour Play Project,” in which three small teams of people wrote, rehearsed and performed a new 10-minute play in less than one day. The festival also offered workshops for artists, one on how to get the most out of new play workshops and another about clowning.
“This year’s Festival was absolutely a success," Vosmeier says. "Once again the community created by the artists, staff, volunteers and patrons strengthened and grew. And once again we heard about people who used their vacations to see shows at the Fringe, artists who saved up for months to produce a show specifically for the Cincinnati Fringe, patrons who turned into bloggers and critics, volunteers who traveled from Indianapolis and San Diego to lend a hand.”
Many of these people were present at the Underground on Saturday night, and I talked with a bunch of them, people who say they love what the Fringe creates and re-creates every year. It keeps them coming back.
“These are the moments that can’t be quantified or shaped into goals,” Vosmeier said to the gathered throng. “These are the best moments of the festival. These are the reasons for the festival. Cincinnati Fringe Festival: for you, by you. Kinda weird. Like you.”
Check out reviews of all 29 shows at the 2010 CINCY FRINGE FESTIVAL here.