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Festival Directors Talk About Benefits Of Fringe

San Diego plays host to international conference of Fringe Festivals

Photo caption: A panel on diversity at the Canadian Association of Fringe Festivals. Nov. 16...

Photo credit: Beth Accomando

A panel on diversity at the Canadian Association of Fringe Festivals. Nov. 16, 2017


Chuck McEwen, Producer Winnipeg Fringe Theatre Festival

Amy Blackmore, Executive and artistic director Mainline Theatre and Montreal Fringe Festival

Michael Marinaccio, Festival Producer Orlando Fringe

Mariah Horner, Director, Storefront Fringe Festival in Kingston, Ontario

Murray Utas, Artistic director Edmonton International Theatre Festival

Beth Accomando, KPBS arts reporter


San Diego International Fringe Festival just played host to the Canadian and United States Associations of Fringe Festivals. Festival directors from across North America attending the Canadian Association of Fringe Festivals (CAFF) called the worldwide arts movement unique and very important.

Jill Rozell, administrator CAFF, said the organization was established more than two decades ago to provide a support system for festivals that are part of an international arts movement launched 75 years ago in Edinburgh.

"Fringe is its own thing," Rozell explained. "There is a nuance in Fringe that is unique and specific so having a group of festival directors together to talk specifically about things about Fringe has been immensely beneficial and part of the reason we have a number of American festivals as part of the Canadian Association is because we have been around as long as we have and have been able to offer this support."

To be a part of Fringe, festivals need to sign on for the tenants that Edinburgh Festival Fringe laid out in 1947.

According to its website, "The Edinburgh Festival Fringe Society is the organization that underpins the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. The founding principle at the heart of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe is to be an open access festival that accommodates anyone with a desire to perform and a venue willing to host them. No single individual or committee determines who can or cannot perform at the Fringe."

That means all the satellite fringe festival are unjuried and uncensored.

Chuck McEwen, producer of the Winnipeg Theatre Fringe Festival, said that can be a scary thing for some people, but it also allows for more creativity and for artists to have more control. The structure of Fringe also makes it more accessible and affordable for audiences to see shows for $5, $10 or even free. And it creates a community.

"There are no strangers at Fringe. Everyone is part of a family," McEwen said. "People come from all over but you stand in a line at Fringe and within two minutes people ask you what play you have seen, what shows you have liked, what are you going to see next, and how long have you been Fringing?"

Festival directors point out that Fringe can bring economic benefits to cities by attracting artists and audiences from around the globe and by driving attendees to local businesses.

The conference attracted directors from brand new festivals, the Kingston Fringe is only a year old, as well as from ones such as Edmonton that just celebrated its 35th anniversary.

Mariah Horner of Kingston Fringe said, "I'm soaking things up like a sponge here, these people are like sages."

But Murray Utas of Edmonton Fringe added, "I learn from the new festivals, they have great ideas,"

CAFF ended on Friday and the United States Association of Fringe Festivals followed with its conference over the weekend. San Diego International Fringe Festival returns in the summer, June 21 to July 1.

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