Our students continued work with NOLA, Irreconcilable Differences and I Heart Hamas. Today was NOLA's first discussion panel with representatives from Greenpeace as well as authors. Several people stayed after the show to hear the discussion, which was mediated by NOLA star, Toby Manley. Earlier in the day, Fringe University held its University Professors meetup at Gryphon Venues, while some of the students who were delayed got the chance to see "How to Sell
We went back to Fringe Central for a seminar on how to get the right people into your performances. Generally, they meant promoters, producers, tour managers, and publishers. Mike Hall, from the BBC was present as well as the producer, Frodo McDaniel, Francesca Clark from Pleasance, and Louise Callow. They discussed with us how it is that promoters actually go about finding shows. They don't like flyers, and are specifically concerned with word-of-mouth with regard to their choices. They have a strict timeline and like to be contacted one or two months before the festival about what you're doing and why they should be interested. They insist on targeted communication, and will ignore blanket email blasts. They like to be contacted via twitter, but once again, in a targeted manner.
They reiterated the importance of a good image, but Mike from BBC insisted that BBC does not care about your flyer or branding.
An interesting section was the importance of your "cigarette pitch", a short, concise description of your work that would have someone interested by the time they finish their cigarette. This is important because a lot of the promoters frequent pubs as locations for scouting new work. They specifically mentioned Traverse Bar, Udderbelly, and Summerhall as locations to meet producers.
Today we had Structures of the Fringe Festival class. We discussed the specific aims of participants at the Fringe Festivl and got into the nuts and bolts of the festival schedule. Additionally, 2-for-1's at the Fringe began today and we talked about how the Fringe started 2-for-1's as a means by which to effectively jumpstart audience participation at the festival and allow for word-of-mouth promotions to begin amongst folk at the festival.
Ou first assignment was to seek out someone at each of the companies we were paired up with and talk to them a little bit about why they chose to bring a show to the festival, and what they hoped having done so would mean for their careers, long-term.
We were also assigned our major projects-- blogging our experience at the festival and networking with at least ten individuals. Xela and Rachel sent us off with some Fringe U business cards, and we all started focusing on what we'd learned.
We went to Summerhall, the Fringe's newest and largest venue, to have a discussion with some of the staff there about their roles in promoting, programming, and fulfilling the mission and vision of this new space. Rupert Thomson, our representative on programming, gave us a broad look at the science behind 'picking what's on'. He talked about how to specifically define Summerhall's direction in its first real year in operation, and how important the programme is in doing so. He stressed that although the identity of the space as still settling, this festival programme was the organization's best bet at asserting a thematic motif to their patrons.
Though Rupert continued to stress the importance of "having a way", Dani Rae, the arts industry expert, gave us her opinion on being flexible to your artist's needs. She assured us that it's not what you know, but who you know. She reminded us that taking your artist's livelihood seriously is the only way to get them to trust you with their product. She talked about how she had to give artists homework, because in a lot of cases, their lack of press was based solely on them not knowing how to initiate the process.
Anu Thomson, the Education contact, talked to us a bit about the mission of Summerhall as thought-provoking space and how important it was to keep channels of communication open within a creative space. She is hosting a series of educational and philosophical lectures for artists and reminded us to email her if we'd like to attend.
Finally, Mark the Building Manager, took us on a tour of the space and relayed to us several spooky stories about the history of the building and what strange leftovers could be seen from its former identity as the Royal (Dick) Veterinary School.
Xela led a discussion with Richard Demarco, CBE in the Red Lecture Theater of Summerhall, the Fringe's newest venue, owned by artist/economist Robert McDowell. Richard, having been to every Fringe since 1947, gave us invaluable insight into the motives of the festival. He reminded all of us that the festival was founded to help "heal the wounds of war" following WWII. Demarco went on to explain that his interest in Eastern European arts was rooted in his appreciation for arts motivated by suffering and by edge.
Xela went on to ask him about him founding the Traverse theater, and Richard explained that the entire operation was conceived, not as a theater or gallery, but as a meeting place for artistically-minded individuals and an aegis for the protection of Eastern European artists whose lives were endangered by their own work.
He explained his work with Tadeusz Kantor was motivated by his desire to save this man from certain death at the hands of the Gestapo, and that their production of The Waterhen meant the difference between critical acclaim and slaughter.
Demarco went on to denounce distinctions within the arts. "A photographer is just an artist who happens to use a camera," he said as he began to pick people out of the audience to have artistic dialogue with so as to affirm that the Fringe had deviated from its original purpose. He was concerned that it had become a circus more fixated on more and more and more arts rather than substantial, compulsive works.
Demarco has produced 8 Kantor shows and 3 shows by Joseph Beuys.
His final words of advice to the audience were to avoid limiting the scope of your artwork at all costs and that we should continuing to question why venues at the Fringe can't exist all year.
Meet the Media is bedlam! Between the two-hour queues, the crazy costumes, and the desperate excitement in the air, Fringe Central was the most packed we've seen it over the duration of the 4-hour event. Meet the Media is an opportunity for performers to veritably speed-date with representatives from media outlets. They get a couple of minutes to pitch their show to editors, who will in turn dispatch reviewers to shows they find newsworthy.
The event is described thusly on edfringe.com:
An event unlike any other and one of the most popular opportunities at the festival, this is a chance to meet media representatives and get a face-to-face chance to promote your show. Last year saw representation from such publications as The Scotsman and the New York Times. Strictly two representatives from each event only and bring hard copies of news releases, flyers etc.
The Gryphon Venues Press Launch was just as wild though! POINT Hotel's beautiful penthouse was the perfect view of Edinburgh Castle and the reaches of the city. The entertainment, the drinks, and the company all blended together to create a unique atmosphere and some incredible networking opportunities for some of our students who could steel their stomachs and approach some of the media present at the party.
At our Gryphon Venues Lecture Dr. Kekoa Kaluhikalani, Artistic Director, and Christina Poulton, Company Manager, walked us through the nuts and bolts of running a Fringe venue. We talked about the basics of thematic programming.
We discussed the importance of artist relations throughout the booking season and how and when to make special exceptions for an artist whose work you find valuable in fulfilling your venue's mission and furthering the goals of your programming plan.
We also discussed the history of the venue's policies as they relate to Rocket Venues.
Afterwards, Caitlin and Kathleen started work with I Heart Hamas, a socially-conscious one-woman show explaining the personal journey of Jennifer Jejeh to come to terms with her racial identity and her pilgrimage to her hometown, Ramallah.
The rest of the group got the opportunity to see her show in full later that night and were moved by her performance.
We started our day back at Fringe Central for a lecture outlining how best to utilize your time during your first outing to the Fringe. Christabel Anderson, head of Participant Services, gave us a brief history of the Edinburgh Fringe, beginning with the story of the first Fringe in 1947 and its purpose as a WWII relief center for global arts culture. She discussed the Fringe Society’s 1968 inception as well as the current state of affairs within the organization.
Louise Oliver, head of Participant Development, lectured us on the importance of the Fringe’s focus on the artistic maturation of the participants, and told us all about her job advising shows and theatre companies as to how to make sure the Fringe results in some benefit for the artists who come here, considering the financial burden inherent in the pilgrimage.
Andrew, the Fringe Society’s Media Manager, gave us some brief insight into his role, and how he effectively plays matchmaker with shows and press outlets to ensure relevancy, clarity, and equal opportunity coverage.
Mark, the Music Licensing Coordinator walked us through the nuts and bolts of copyright and licensing issues at the Fringe. Bridget, the director of Marketing and Sponsorship explained her role in marketing the Fringe as a whole as well as in managing the advert requests for the website and Fringe programme before moving on to explain Friends of the Fringe.
We learned a bunch about the festival in a little over an hour! It was kind of like a crash course in Fringe-ery.
Promotional Artwork for NOLA
Today, our students got their first opportunities to begin exploring marketing techniques at the Festival today! As a part of the Structures of the Fringe Festival class, students team up to assist individual shows by giving marketing advice, working as the show's street team, and assisting in some of the late-stage logistical work that can fall to the wayside. The company's get free, committed laborers and the students have an opportunity to meet tons of influential people, put their skills into practice, and in return for their service, are given venue passes which allow free entry into most shows and discounted amenities.
Lauren & Leah were teamed up with Irreconcilable Differences, an interactive play wherein the choice as to who lives or dies in a failing marriage is made by the audience.
Zach, Sam, and Hayley worked together to assist NOLA, a documentary-style, verbatim theater piece on the continuing effects of the BP Oil Spill on the city of New Orleans, produced by two-time Fringe-First Award Winners, the Suffolk-based Look Left Look Right Productions.
On August 1, so that we could more effectively market the show, we went to the Irish theater company, Refractive Lens', interactive play Irreconcilable Differences, which challenges the audience to make the difficult decision as to who should live or die after a couple whose lives are in the balance have aired out the entirety of their dirty laundry.
The show was great, and we got a chance to talk with the actors and the production team afterward and they were so grateful to have our help, that we barely got the opportunity to tell them how wonderful they were. Hopefully they get the opportunity to take a look at our blog and see this.
YOU WERE GREAT!
Afterwards, we headed tot he historic pub, The Last Drop, and had our fill of some tasty Scottish fare. The group got the chance to know each other over a couple pots of tea and some Mince and Tatties.
The day was capped off with a walking tour of the city so that the students could become better affiliated with the city at large.
Fringe Central is the go-to locale for seminars and coffee.
Fringe Central proved to be a wealth of information, coffee, and free WiFi! Zach, Sam, and Jacob Merinar (the first of our delayed students to arrive) attended the first seminar of our festival run, "How to Sell a Show", a definitive guide on how to best utilize the services offered by the Media Management sector of the Fringe Society. Panelists included Sheridan Humphries, independent PR for C Venues, Peter Shaw, Editor of Broadway Baby, Paul Levy, Editor of Fringe Review, and Valerie Potter, an independent press agent with loads of Fringe experience. The panel was mediated by the Fringe Society's Media Manager, Andrew.
The panel discussed candidly the madness of the Fringe as it relates to effectively publicizing your show. It can be easy to get lost in the mix when you're trying to be heard over 2,700 other shows, but the panel outlined numerous ways to get the most bang for your buck at the festival.
Some of the subjects included:
- Holistic Marketing
- Fringe's Meet the Media
- Flyering Do's and Don't's
- Writing a Press Release
- Social Media Integration
- Discussion surrounding Stuart Lee's Guardian article on Fringe venue politics.
All in all, the event offered practical insight into the world of marketing, and the panel fielded questions for about as long as they lectured. They were personable, professional, and eager to help each and every member of the audience.
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.