JAN 2010

We are excited to announce the launch of a newly minted website from the United States Association of Fringe Festivals (USAFF): An alliance of US Fringes. One of these days, our schedules will allow us to attend (and maybe even host) one of the USAFF annual conferences. This last year’s conference was held in Orlando and hosted by the legendary Beth Marshall, the director of the Orlando International Fringe Theatre Festival.

Here’s our page on the new USAFF site:

Regular readers of this space know that we aren’t too fond of organizations attempting to define/control/police what a Fringe is. When we began this festival, the single best piece of advice we received was to match the festival to our city. That simple rule has helped keep us on track when approached with murky decisions with no clear, good answer.

Here’s how the USAFF defines a Fringe:

Very generally speaking, Fringes are…

  • Focused on the performing arts: Theater, dance, puppetry, spoken word and the like make up the Fringe core, but festivals often may include film and visual arts elements
  • Uncensored: No one gets too fussy about swears or nudity but squeaky-clean content isn’t marginal or discouraged, either
  • Easy to participate in: Ticket prices are low for audiences and production fees are low for artists. Show selection varies from festival to festival but is generally quite open to participation by the gamut of amateurs to professionals
  • Festivals: They last from just a few days to a few weeks and involve boatloads of people at multiple venues
  • Original: Fringes feature a huge array of original material—sometimes by design, but usually because that’s what Fringes naturally do well
  • Rapid-fire: Typically, tech is minimal and time is a factor at our festivals. Shows are often kept brief (Fringes most frequently have shows right around 60 minutes in length) and technical requirements kept simple (minor sets, streamlined cues, nothing elaborate)

Check out the site, courtesy of our industrious friends at MN Fringe Festival.



JAN 2010

Happy New Year, Fringers!

We have finally made it to the year of the inaugural Hollywood Fringe Festival – much has been done with much still ahead.

Here’s a quick update on our activities these days:

  • Participant registration is in full swing
  • We are actively seeking sponsors for our various endeavors
  • Venues are coming on-board to provide homes for projects and entertainment for all
  • Groundwork is laid for our great promotional push this Spring
  • Special event planning is afoot to entertain and inspire
  • Our support staff is actively working with artists 

This has been a team and community effort from the beginning and we’d like to thank all those who have helped us thus far; the finish line is coming into focus with every passing day.

Let this be the year of Fringe!

Ben Hill
Festival Director
The Hollywood Fringe Festival

Projects are coming in fast and furious to our website at www.HollywoodFringe.org. Registration officially closes April 1, but don’t wait until then to submit your project. Remember: To officially register with the festival, you must first secure a venue for your performances/events/exhibitions. This process can take a little time, so don’t wait until May 31,  create your project today!   It’s free, fun, and entirely online.

Interested in learning more about how the registration process works? Check out this handy article to get started.

The Fringe needs your financial support. The size of our cash reserves in June 2010 significantly impacts the scope of the Fringe itself. Marketing and promoting an event of this scale takes a lot of imagination and (when that runs out) money from generous, committed friends. Every little bit helps. If this event is something you care about and consider important for our community, please take a moment, dig deep into those recessionary pockets, and give what you can. Consider it a sound investment into the achievable dream of an artistic golden age. 

The Fringe is a 501c3 not-for-profit, so all contributions are tax deductible.

With the recent addition of the Musician’s Institute in Hollywood, we now have 10 high quality venues to host Fringe projects. We have filmed venue tours for almost all our venues to-date; if you’d like to learn more, you can visit our website and research ones that interest you. 

We are registering Fringe "hot spots" to serve participants and patrons during the June festival. To be a hot spot, you must be a Hollywood business (cafe, bar, restaurant, store) within the Fringe zone interested in hosting the occasional artist and/or providing discounts to Fringe-goers and participants. Contact us if you are interested in learning more.

Coming soon: Ground plans, more venues, and the unveiling of Fringe Central.

Volunteer registration is open: We need as much help as possible to lift this festival to its feet. The central Fringe organization and all its participating venues need assistance at the box office, in the booth, in the house, and on the street. Register today and you enter the distinguished pool of candidates powering the festival. Volunteer benefits vary from venue to venue.

Created a Fringe project and still haven’t booked a venue? Fear not, you are not alone. Most venues are booking projects starting this month. Make sure you have applied online to all venues that interest you and expect detailed financial offers soon. If you still haven’t found a home in early February, contact us at support.

Coming soon: Housing help for visiting artists


JAN 2010

We are proud to announce the latest venue to join the Fringe family: Musicians Institute (MI) in Hollywood, CA.

MI is a powerhouse in the world of contemporary music instruction. For those of us that live here, this is the place to witness dozens of musicians with guitars slung across their backs pouring in and out of their facility. It is a cool, cool place to learn music and I would direct those interested in taking the next step in their music career to their website.

Music will be an important part of the Fringe making their entry good news indeed. For those of us who have lived though the past several decades of contemporary music evolution, Los Angeles, Hollywood, and MI has been in the center of it all.

Are you an artist interested in performing at MI? The process is the same: Create a project on our website and apply to Musicians Institute as your venue of choice. They are providing two spaces for performance: The 50 seat “Green Room” and the 125 seat “The Passage”.

Things are rolling right along, thanks for keeping on top of your Fringe news.



JAN 2010

I was happy to sit with Lauren Liebowitz and discuss the Hollywood Fringe Festival for her radio talk show: “How to be comfortable in your own shoes.” We discussed everything from the state of the arts in schools to registering for the Fringe itself. Thanks to Lauren for the opportunity to sound the trumpets for the Fringe. Lauren is also one of the principal venue managers at the Paul G. Gleason Theatre, a Fringe venue this June.

You can check out the full broadcast to get the complete scoop.




DEC 2009

Modern business has gone very far leveraging technology to market, promote, and produce their firms and products. It stands to reason that the arts could easily do the same, even with comparatively fractional technology budgets .

Several organizers of your first Hollywood Fringe Festival happen to hail from technical backgrounds. It’s been fun applying these skills to our first love (the arts). Key to our strategy is this thing called “cloud computing”. Without getting too technical, all applications supporting the festival – accounting, project management, email, etc – are provided through a number of small, web-based services.

Making our strategy a reality took a lot of time, thought, and trials – so to save those of you seeking technical solutions some time, we have provided this little post with the hope it will help you streamline and modernize your arts organizations.




the website at www.HollywoodFringe.org that we use to book shows, match venues and projects, collect volunteers, and promote the festival is a custom-built system using Ruby on Rails, a popular website development framework. We have big plans to export this technology to other festivals as well as provide a year-round service for venues seeking interesting projects to book. The website took two full years to develop and a lot of love, thought, and time. We have a many plans for it so keep your eyes on coming developments. In the next few months alone, you can expect

  • A Fringe bulletin board
  • A significantly enhanced volunteer section
  • The ability to sell tickets directly form your project
  • Enhanced features to market your project on other social networking platforms

…ideas are always welcome, so feel free to email us with your thoughts.

We made the decision early that we would not reinvent the wheel in the area of ticketing – instead we partnered with the good people at OvationTix. Plans are afoot to develop a few customized integration features between the OvationTix and Fringe systems. Ideally, you will be able to run pre-sale reports without any hassle whatsoever.

We would be nowhere today without collaboration tools. As this is the first year, ideas come at a lightning speed. Plans require buy-in and assistance from our staff, advisers, board, and core company members. There are millions of to-do’s, deadlines, musings, and digital assets. Where to keep track of them?

This is the job of a project management tool, and ours is one of the best available. Meet Basecamp. This little program has been the key to the organizational success of many a project. Working collaboratively with others online, you can post messages, mark and organize tasks, collaborate on documents/lists, track milestones/dates, and keep track of files.

And most importantly: It reduces your meeting/conference call overhead. I personally hate big, regular meetings and basecamp renders them mostly unneeded; if you keep on top of basecamp and the emails it generates, everyone is in-the-know. Easy.

CRM is a big, ugly term. In a nutshell, it is a way of keeping track of everyone you know and meet that could help you. To do anything of worth, generally you need more than just you and your ideas, you need to leverage the many stake holders in your community interested in your cause. You want to keep track of conversations, email addresses, phone numbers, job titles – and ideally you want to share that information with your whole organization. So if the director of the NEA needs to talk to someone in your organization and you are on a beach in Nice, France – someone local can come up-to-speed quickly by researching the history of that relationship in your CRM system.

There are tons of solutions to fulfill this problem – many of them are expensive and clunky.

We went with Batchbook.com – about which I can’t say enough nice things. This is a very flexible and open system, and they have been known to give discounts to nonprofits. Using batchbook, you can keep track of contact information for humans and organizations, log communications, and create lists of contacts that have something in common. For example, we maintain our press list in batchbook. Thanks to its handy integration with other popular applications, when we want to send a press release, it is as simple as exporting our list of press to our email newsletter application. It take 3 minutes and the moving target of press contacts becomes much easier to manage.

If you are starting company ABC Theatre, and you are still sending emails from [email protected] – you may want to consider using your own domain name instead. Not using a custom domain name in your email address is an instant signifier of a non-professional organization. Good news is that it is free and relatively simple to create custom domain emails…so you can send emails from [email protected], for example.

The solution is Gmail – in our humble opinion, still the greatest online email client on the market. Our friends at Google have provided a service (no charge) to use their popular Gmail interface for any non-gmail domain to which you have the rights. Check out this link for more information, I think you will like it.

Along with email, users of Google’s service also have access to branded, dedicated, organizational calendars using the popular Gcal application. When you sign up for your email account (above) you will also be able to pass around a calendar you all can share. For those of you who work in the business world, you might be used to creating an event and sending invitations to members of your organization. Google’s calendar solution provides this service (free!).

And yes, we also use Google’s document service. For those users signing up for the above service – good news is that you, too, can have a custom space for your organization’s documents. For example, if I needed that press release we sent a few weeks back, it is sitting in docs.ABCTheatre.org waiting for me. Our budget worksheet is handles thought Google’s online spreadsheet application. As a personal hater of MS Office and its significant limitations when it comes to collaboration, this is a godsend.

We don’t host a “public wiki” – like wikipedia, but you’d be surprised how useful a private, organizational wiki can be. For example, say you are working on a big proposal to close down Wilshire Blvd. for your huge arts event. You want a lot of people involved in that proposal – your Exec Director, your Dev Director, your outreach guy, your Producing and Artistic Directors. How awful is passing around a word document for everyone to edit? I shudder at the thought. Changes are lost so very easily.

Your private wiki can help. Have your principal owner for the project create a new wiki page and take a stab at a first draft. They can then post on your project site (basecamp, for example) that they need all-hands to help bring the proposal home. Everyone can make their changes and additions on your wiki page. If your wiki tool is any good, all changes will be tracked…so you can see who changed what, and easily revert any unwanted amendments.

There are millions of wiki solutions out there, here’s our favorite: WikiSpaces.

Still sending your organizational emails to a bunch of contacts in your email program? You may want to check out some of the many email newsletter solutions out there waiting for you. Our favorite is Mailchimp. Using this program, you can manage lists, expose sign-up forms for your website, create beautiful, graphical emails, handle unsubscribes, and keep ahead of spam laws. You can even get a list of who has opened your newsletter and how many times they read it. There are about 10,000 features in this program, 9,986 you will never need. Still, it is very affordable, easy to use, and designed to give you a professional edge.

We take support very, very seriously at the Fringe. Key to grassroots community building is making sure people know where to go when they have a problem and ensuring they receive prompt guidance when they need it. There are scads of solutions out there, here’s our hands-down favorite: ZenDesk.

Using ZenDesk, you have a beautiful solution to email support. Support seekers can go to a url and fill our a form with their query, or simply send an email to an email address you specify (Zendesk will suck up that email and create a support ticket for them). You can run a myriad of reports and develop zillions of business rules if you want to get complex. At its simplest, it shows you what tickets are open, and gives you a chance to respond and close them.

As a fun aside, both Mailchimp and Zendesk talk to Batchbook. That’s something we call “convergence” in the tech world, and it’s a very good thing.

Quickbooks (a non-cloud application running on your computer) is the default tool for small business accounting. It’s good, don’t get me wrong – but sharing data with others in your organization and your accountant can be a pain.

Enter Xero. It’s all online (“in the cloud”) and very simple…even fun to use. Who thought accounting could be fun? It is simple enough for a layperson to use, but provides the business-class accounting framework your CPA needs to do your taxes. The folks behind Xero are just getting their act together for US service – we have been using it for a bit and loving it!

So there it is. There’s much more, for sure; this is a great start. Almost all of the services listed here are free or have free trials so give them a spin!