Our students have been continuing their individual mentorships with their organizations and are getting a little sentimental as the festival begins to wind down a bit, but opportunities continue to pop up to network with companies, presenters, and some venues as people become more at ease.
Yesterday, we watched the turnover of the Main Hall in Summerhall. As the cast of Detention! went about setting the stage for their physical comedy performance, we watched the group from Hong Kong as they meticulously checked their lights and sound, loaded their set in, and practiced some of the more difficult maneuvers to ensure safety. This gave the students the chance to see how quickly companies must restore the venue to its original state to ensure that venues can program as many acts as possible and so that companies can save money on rental fees.
Today, we attended the Fringe Guide to Running a Venue at Fringe Central where Christabel Anderson, Barry Church-Woods, and Malcolm Kennedy, Building Standards Surveyor for the city of Edinburgh gave us the rundown on how to start a venue on our own. They addressed costs, safety provisions, and licensing requirements as well as gave us the skinny on how big venues go about the process of expansion. We also talked about how to choose a space for your venue and the differences between creating a temporary or permanent space.
Afterward, we traveled to Summerhall for class and checked in regarding our company mentorships and then attended Music Hack Scotland in the Dissection Room. At this seminar/workshop, The Scottish Music Industry Association walks us through the biggest up-and-coming technologies in Music Production, and allows participants to toy with some of them. The array of musicians and software developers in the room presented a series of inspirational sessions with Matthew Herbert, FOUND, Yann, Seznec and other pioneers of music technology. This is open to anyone (including those not taking part in the full hack).
Today, we spent the morning with Caroline Newall, the Artistic Development Producer of the National Theatre of Scotland. She gave us the opportunity to learn a little bit about how the organization is funded as well as how it was conceived in the first place. She also gave us some insight into their "Theatre Without Walls" mission as well as let us have a stab at sticking to a matrix by which to fulfill the mission of the organization and doing a little bit of programming ourselves.
Caroline Newall explored the questions we ask about commissioning and programming a new season of work in a hands-on workshop that made it worth the early time slot. She was frank, and very invested in all of us learning something from her presentation. She entertained every idea our students submitted while interrogating them seriously and helping us to better understand her work.
Later that day, we engaged in mentor check-ins as a litmus test for how everyone was feeling in our living situation and with how much they'd learned at the festival thus far. This gave the students the opportunity to cater the experience to their personal needs.
Holly Payton, organizer of the World Fringe Congress and WorldFringe.com, prepared Fringe Festivals Around the World in collaboration with Dr. Xela Batchelder from Drexel University. This panel was designed to allow directors from Fringe Festivals in the US, Australia, the UK, South Africa and Italy to showcase some of the specifics regarding each of their festivals as a means by which to invite performers and patrons to their individual festival.
In attendance was Alexandra Kesman, Managing Director of Cincy Fringe in Cincinatti, Ohio, Davide Ambrogi, Artistic Director of Roma Fringe, Meghan McCauley, Outreach Director for Hollywood Fringe, Greg Clarke, Executive Festival Director of Adelaide Fringe (and representative for World Fringe Perth), Julian Caddy, Managing Director of Brighton Fringe, Sarah Jones, Festival Director of OxFringe in Oxford, and Tony Lankester, CEO of the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown, South Africa (and representative for Amsterdam and Prague). Additional representatives from St. Louis Fringe, Rochester Fringe, and Arte Brasil International Shakespeare Festival & Fringe were in the audience.
The panel discussed differences in visa laws, venue management, access, housing, and other issues.
Afterward, the group of us went to What Fringe Next?, a panel wherein performers who have been to several festivals at one time or another can share their experiences with performers who may be interested in touring their shows in the future. The panel consisted of Nick Brice, Ali-Pollard Mansergh, Tessa Waters, Mikelangelo, and Martin Dockerty and together they've attended festivals in Brighton, Edinburgh Oxford, Adelaide, Perth, Melbourne, Brisbane, Woodford, Indianapolis, Orlando, London, Toronto, Ottawa, Winnipeg, Saskatoon, Edmonton, Victoria, Vancouver, San Francisco, Phoenix, and New York.
They each discussed when they felt ready to begin a life touring their shows and what each festival specifically offered them in a Q&A session led by Dr. Xela Batchelder. Their combined experience was relayed frankly, with a focus on honesty and realism.
We got a chance to sit in on the Fringe Annual General Meeting. We got to see the names of last year's students in the minutes and add ours to this year's sign-in sheet. Afterward, we stayed for the annual agenda and a review of the society's annual accomplishments. There were seven items to get voted on at the event, and we learned a lot getting to see the questions people asked.
People were concerned that there had been a shift toward dramatic pieces becoming more prominent in the early-mid afternoon, such that it had become more difficult to get to cool pieces in the evenings. Some people stated that this has always been the case because it's a good slot for this type of theatre. It could potentially concern both performers and journalists because with this many performances back-to-back it will cause more time conflicts.
Afterwards, Fringe Central hosted the World Festival Network's World Fringe Fair, where representatives from around 50 Fringe Festivals set up tables where they offered valuable insight and free SWAG for our students. It was a great networking opportunity.
Additionally, Zach had his shift at Gryphon Venues today as well! :)
We sat down at the Traverse Theatre, the Premiere Venue for new writing in the UK with Ruth McEwan, Programme Coordinator, and Noelle O'Donaghue, Head of Traverse Learning, to discuss the history of the theater and the regard in which the Traverse is held as a theatrical destination.
The Traverse was founded in January 1963, not as a theater or gallery, but as a members-only meeting place for artists. Memberships weren't required to encourage exclusivity, but alternatively, as a means by which to effectively sidestep obscenity laws in the UK that would impose censorship on the organization. We got to hear some of the stories from the Traverse's founding including the stabbing of Colette O'Neil in the Traverse's first performance.
In 1988, the Traverse became a public theater, and in 1992 they moved into their new space on a 99-year lease from the Council. Their three missions are Artistic Excellence, Financial Sustainability, and Engagement. Ruth and Noelle discussed with us the nuts and bolts of the Traverse's year-round operations, divided into Spring Season, Festival Season, and Autumn Season. We discussed the festivals the Traverse participates in, including the Manipulates Puppetry Festival, the Traverse Writing Festival, and Traverse 50, a 50th anniversary initiative to break in 50 relatively unknown writers.
The Traverse Theater also conducts engagement programs with youth, universities, and prisons as well as co-producing works that exemplify the Traverse Mission.
Afterward, Tabitha McGrath, who works with Harrison/Parrott Ltd, and formerly worked with IMG Artists, and is a Gryphon Venues partner, lectured us on the Classical Music Industry. She's a classical music manager and was really accessible for some of our students with interests in music production, record labels, and management. She spoke to us about the practical aspects of applying for a job and manipulating your CV to make yourself a better candidate for the positions that you're most interested in. She spoke frankly about some of the struggles she faced in her application process as well as the things she continues to struggle with in her current position. However, her lecture ended on a positive note, as she revealed her 6-month ascent from Artist Administrator to Associate Artist Manager at her current workplace.
Once again, our students met up with their individual company liaisons to continue their marketing internships and to keep up our discussions with them. After having gotten to know us a little better, it was nice to see our students finding comfortable places under the wings of each of their individual organizations. Alan Flanagan at Irreconcilable Differences began to give more responsibility to Lauren and Leah. Francesca Moody from NOLA brought on one of our students to continue to help her arrange her postshow discussion panels at the Cow Cafe at Underbelly Cowgate, and Jennifer Jajeh from I Heart Hamas enlisted the help of Kathleen and Caitlin in managing her social media presence.
While several of the students attended Independent Theatre Council's Nuts & Bolts: The Essentials of Running a Performing Arts Company at Fringe Central. It was described thusly: For absolute beginners (and those who fancy a refresher course), ITC's legendary short course provides an overview of some fundamental topics that you should be aware of when setting up a performing arts company, however small. ITC’s legal expert Jackie Elliman will explain company formation, planning, contracts, intellectual property law and much more.
Those students interested in continuing their Fringe-u-cation in sunny South Australia went to the Adelaide Fringe Info Session where Greg Clarke, Adelaide Fringe Director and Chief Executive and his team gave an overview of the 2nd Largest Fringe in the world.
Our day started with Structures of the Fringe Festival at Summerhall. We checked in regarding our involvement with our company liasons. We continued to try and understand what draws companies her if not for financial gain, and it really began to seem as though our students were getting a better feel for what the festival has to offer as a long-term investment.
We are working towards a comprehensive understanding of the different aspects of the festival including the Fringe Society, Venues, and Companies and began to discuss briefly the other Fringes around the globe, and how they play into the grand scheme of things. Sam and Hayley were preparing for their shift shadowing the staff at Gryphon Venues later in the afternoon, so Lauren and Leah's debrief helped them to know what they should expect regarding the experience. They discussed their duties regarding the front-of-house staff and Rachel helped them to understand how this deviated from more "typical" front-of-house structures. They touched on the paperless aspect of the venue and how that weaved into their duties regarding Box Office reports.
We discussed the importance of box office reports, seeing as box office payouts aren't completed for some companies until October. Having a signed copy of the box office report is the only way to ensure continuity between the company and the venue. We got some insight into the importance of a Company Manager in a traditional theater setup.
Afterwards, we headed over to the Fringe Fair to take the opportunity to meet various professional organizations including: UK Actors Equity, Tick It (an audience services program that allows patrons to review their experiences at shows online), and E15 Acting School at University of Essex. There were opportunities for students to learn a bit about graduate school opportunities as well as to network with the other participants in the hub.
Our students continued work with their individual companies before c
Today was the last day of Martine Pelletier's Film Fringe Tour at Gryphon Venues. The students attended some really great work from Philadelphia and affiliated artists. Some of the exhibited films included a series of short films, Return to El Salvador, Runaway, The Prep School Negro, and Viette.
Check out FilmFringeTour.com for more info:
Our students spent the morning and early afternoon continuing work with Underbelly Cowgate and Gryphon Venues on NOLA as well as Irreconcilable Differences. They continued to engage in dialogues regarding why each company had chosen to come to the Fringe and what they wanted to glean from their experiences. The students got valuable insight as to why the Fringe Festival is such an important arts arena.
Mark Fisher, theater critic for The Guardian and author of The Edinburgh Fringe Survival Guide sat down with us afterward to discuss sat down with us to discuss what individual factors come into play to determine the difference between "success" and mediocrity at the Fringe. He gave us a couple of examples of shows that might effectively define what it means to be successful. He also invited us to his forum with Maureen Beatty, from The List at Summerhall, Guy Matheson, one of Britain's top solo performers, comedian Ian Fox, and the producer Teresa Burns.
In defining success we looked at some shows from Traverse Theater, the National Theatre of Scotland, Finn Anderson, the Pleasance Grand, and Underbelly, including Bullet Catch, Appointment with the Wicker Man, Streets: the Musical, PEEP, and Sexytime! We discussed the importance of press coverage, topical subject matter, danger/risk, and artistic distinction and how all of these factors come together in different quantities to define individual success for each organization, dependent on their goals.
Later that evening, some of our students continued to work with I Heart Hamas at Gryphon and PBH's Free Fringe presentation of Overexposed: A Slightly Awkward Peep Show at Finger's Piano Bar.
Fringe University hosted its USA University Student Meetup, which was a fun opportunity for students to network with other young arts professionals over bagels. Afterward, we had checkins with our mentors, where we have the opportunity to speak frankly about our time here thus far and what we want to get out of the program. It serves as a kind of litmus test to make sure everything's going okay with the program.
Lauren and Leah headed off to Gryphon to shadow the front-of-house staff for an afternoon. They got to see how quickly shows must turnover the venue and the box office report process that ensures copacetic relationships between companies and venues. Mostly, they got to hang out with the awesome staff at Gryphon and get a feel for the relations people have within the venue business. They got to speak frankly with Kekoa about how he feels about the Fringe thus far. All in all, they made excellent shadows. :)
Fringe U Interns '12
Zach Blackwood and Samantha Hesslein are juniors in Drexel's EAM program completing volunteer work to fulfill Drexel University's experiential learning requirements.