Greetings, all. I hope everyone in our great arts community is having a wonderful Summer. Everyone works so hard (for so little money) throughout the year, I hope you are all taking a break and soaking up some sun.
I want to touch base to let everyone know that plans for our Fringe Festival are rolling right along and we are all hard at work on this project.
It’s great news to hear that my home town’s Fringe is having a banner year. I am always excited when I see an arts company succeed. Renews my faith that the dedication of the few towards a greater culture and lifestyle is worth the blood, sweat, and tears. My love of Fringe Festivals (really, my love of all arts festivals) is that all the experimental artists out there get a chance to show their work to a ready audience.
We are at a juncture in Hollywood Fringeland where we’d like to start meeting face to face with all you producers, directors, and artists who think a Fringe Festival in Los Angeles is a good idea. We got ideas, we don’t have all the ideas. Got ideas? Well, go on and drop me a line at benhill (at) hollywoodfringe.org.
Also wanted to point you all to blog post by Need Theater’s Matt Wells…an interested round up of theatre related blogs. His company has a noble mission indeed: Expanding the role of theater in society.
A few issues we have been discussing at Fringe HQ have been scalability, focus, and diversity.
A wise person might point out that these three qualities rarely co-exist. Indeed, tis true…we have a working plan to make this work.
Our fringe festival in Hollywood won’t be one individual festival, it will be a “Festival of Festivals”™. The details have yet to be worked out, here is a glimmer into our minds (queue thoughtful background music)…
We will divide the festival into individual components: A new play festival, a comedy festival, a music festival, a 10-minute play festival. Then we add a catch-all festival…call it the “Fringe Experience” festival…that would collect all the interesting acts and projects that make fringes so much fun (Commedia, Burlesque, Mime, Performance Art, Figure Skating Rabbits). Each would operate under the banner of the Hollywood Fringe, each would operate under a different set of governing rules.
For example: The new play festival may allow for performances up to 90 minutes long. The Fringe Experience festival might cap out at 30 minutes.
We are all such great lovers of art, we would put all of these in the same pot on year one. As we are also sane, rational business folk, we are also concerned with biting off more than we can chew in our first year (perish the thought). As such, we will be introducing new festivals as time and success stalk us.
Thus the Fringe will be:
Diverse: Each festival would highlight a unique form of art
Scalable: We can add new festivals as the Fringe expands
Focussed: Each festival will focus like a laser on its own idiom
…a golden star to me for using the word idiom in a sentence.
Some thoughts to chew on, obviously we have yet to make our big announcement on the festivals to be included in Summer 2010. That must wait for another post.
Who said creating logos was easy?
I am very pleased to announce the introduction of the Hollywood Fringe logo. This is going to be gracing all our promotional materials, and I expect we will all become quite familiar with it in the coming months and years. Note that this looks a lot better on a white background.
Thanks to our resident designer Gavin Worth and the entire team for devoting so much time and energy into this.
Curious about the company behind Hollywood Fringe? Here’s a little history for all you buffs out there…
Hatchery Arts was founded by Ben Hill and Dave McKeever in January 2005 and later joined by a growing team of driven and like-minded artists and producers. They have a singular mission: Produce new and provocative works by undiscovered artists for benefit of the community.
Our inaugural production was The Hatchery Festival (www.HatcheryFestival.org) in Washington DC. The 2005 Festival featured Playing House, a new play by playwright Sarah Sander. This festival was well-attended by the theatre-community. Its mission to introduce new works was widely received as a critical injection of vigor into the community’s literary culture.
Building upon the success of its first year, Hatchery expanded its scope to a three week event. The new format included three new plays never before produced. The playwrights underwent an extensive dramaturgical workshop process to improve their works, and prepare them for production. Each playwright benefited from the process. The response was overwhelming and universally positive.
One of its productions, The Woodpecker by Samuel Brett Williams, is about to be produced at “The Cherry Lane Theatre” in New York City. Snow Falling Fast by Sarah Sander and The Disappearance of Janey Jones by Jennifer Fawcett were participating productions in the University of Iowa New Play Festival.
Also included in 2006 was a new program entitled PopTart, which provided selected playwrights the opportunity to collaborate on a sustained storyline over several installments spoofing American pop culture. Over ten emerging playwrights collaborated nightly to produce the following day’s installment. Actors from the workshop plays joined together to perform installments each evening to the festival crowd. This project provided its audience with a rare glimpse into the inner workings of the playwright’s creative process.
Hatchery worked intensively with the city of Washington DC, presenting works which benefited the cultural welfare of the community. In recognition of our efforts towards community betterment, we were awarded a grant from the DC Commission for the Arts and Humanities.
In 2006, the founders of the Hatchery Festival moved to Iowa City, IA to produce the “The Iowa City Commedia Project”; it’s mission to spread the theatrical tradition of Commedia Dell’Arte to a contemporary audience.
In a project spreading across two months, Hatchery partnered with the Iowa City Jazz Festival and the Iowa City Arts Festival, as well as several local businesses. Utilizing classical methods of bringing theatre to the uninitiated, they sought out non-traditional performance spaces in local neighborhoods. Community icons were used as inspiration for performance material. The improvisational nature of the performances encouraged the audience to join the actors on-stage to share their own experiences and individual points of view.
Seeking new and more expansive outlets of creativity, the producers moved to Hollywood, CA in order to continue their mission of producing innovative and experimental works for the public. Recognizing the obvious void in the local arts scene, efforts are now underway to produce the first annual Hollywood Fringe Festival.
This will be an expansive event uniting local and international artists in a celebration of theatrical works. ItÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s mission is to:
- Host an environment for bold and experimental theatre
- Vitalize the theatre industry in Los Angeles
- Promote and enrich the Hollywood neighborhood
- Champion underground art and artists
The Festival will open in the Summer of 2010.
In a recent conversation with Matt Wells of Need Theater, the topic of the uniting power of theatre emerged.
This has been a passion of mine since I began theatre decades ago. My love and respect for the art form grew from the diversity of talent required to launch a successful piece of theatre. Directors, Producers, Designers, Actors, Technicians, Stage Managers, etc, etc. Each job requiring an undeniably unique talent, each person required to work (sometimes painfully) close together.
It’s really a beautiful thing and a constant mystery how it works out. Those outside the theatre community have no idea what a miracle a single theatre production can be.
It drives me crazy, then, when I hear people get worked up about competition in theatre, as if we are playing a zero-sum game. It’s bewildering how short sighted this mindset is.
For my first professional theatre job (in an unnamed large theatre in the Mid-Atlantic region), I was constructing their first website. In a moment of inspiration, I suggested creating a page on the site dedicated to the theatre community in the city – sort of a “if you liked our show, then you will love these theatres, too”. My idealism was quickly squashed by the management – “Why on earth would we want to help other theatres?!?!” they quipped.
Here’s the reality of the situation: Theatre in the United States is in crisis. People have long since given up their local theatre trips for a jaunt to the Multiplex (digitally distributed media is cutting into that market, as well). The picture gets even bleaker when you focus on the younger generation, most of whom have never stepped foot in a playhouse.
It is in times of crisis that all theatre artists must band together, cast aside ego and ambition, and work as a community. Eternal optimist that I am, I believe that American Theatre has its greatest days on the horizon. We need to find that “key” that will unlock theatre in today’s generational imaginations.
Of course, I believe that Fringe is part of the answer. The Fringe we are planning here in Hollywood seeks to confront this problem directly. Using various ideas in our collective arsenal, we seek to band together disparate artists and artistic ideas in a grand celebration.
We will involve the community in the artistic process to provide an essence of ownership in the festival here. Our belief is that theatre is a communion between the artists and the community. Unlike previous theatre experiences, the audience/community will be intimately involved in the process. Perhaps they could even grow to appreciate the fascinating elements at work in a theatrical creation.
Building social and professional settings for artists to convene, discuss, and create is another goal. Speaking with travelers of past Fringe festivals, this element is sorely needed in the Fringe process. Our hope is that relationships sparked in the build-up and execution of the 2010 festival will lead to magical creations for festivals and playhouses down the road. I will be posting about some of our specific ideas in the near future.
As we are calling ourselves the most democratic arts festival on the planet, the concept of “The People” is very dear to our most cherished organizational values. Much of our effort will be devoted to inviting that sacred entity into the theatrical process.
What’s good for the people and the community is good for theatre itself.
All theatre benefits from an energized, educated, and involved audience.
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