Road to 2009 Fringe Festival starts with entry tips and a benefit

Hey, want to be in the 2009 Fringe Festival?

If so, today at noon marks your first chance to start the journey, as applications for the event will be available at the Fringe website then. The application, of course, is only the first step for entry in the festival. There’s a Jan. 30 deadline for finishing applications (and paying a $25 non-refundable fee).

Being among the first to apply doesn’t help your chances one iota, as the Fringe is non-juried. If there are more applications than spots (and there always are), a lottery will be held to determine the final 150 or so shows to participate in 2009. The 16th edition of the festival will run from  July 30 to Aug. 9.

You can give the Fringe a boost in another way next week. On Thursday, Nov. 20, the festival will hold a benefit, “Fringe for Fall,” at the Bedlam Theatre in Minneapolis, from 6 to 9 p.m.

All one-hour shows for 2009
As far as the festival itself goes, there is only one change in format for next year that organizers are ready to announce. “We’re eliminating the 75-minute shows,” says Matthew Foster, the Fringe’s communications director. “All shows are going to be an hour long. It should make everyone – audience, artists, staff – happier to have everyone on the same schedule grid.”

Those interested in applying – or just looking for an excuse to get out Friday night – can take in “Fringe Drinking” at Elsie’s Bowling Center, at 729 Marshall St. NE, in Minneapolis tonight. Starting at 6 p.m., Fringe staff will be there for an informal question-and-answer session about applying and producing for the festival.

And what sort of advice is there? Foster – who has produced several shows at the Fringe as a member of the Ministry of Cultural Warfare – has a few tips.

Immediacy, intimacy are key
“Fringe shows are all about the immediacy and intimacy between the audience and the artist,” Foster says. “To put it in slightly less academic terms, the shows that really find a groove at the festival are the kind that you could put on at your family reunion when your grandma says, ‘Hey, Josh! You do the theater. How’s about you show us one of your little plays?’ So you go off to the trunk of your car, grab whatever it is you need, and 10 minutes later, you’re performing.

That simplicity is important to help the individual participants sane during the festival.

 “If you’re applying to the Fringe, always remember that it’s such a rapid-fire event that a lot of giant set and costumes and blinking lights and sirens might only frazzle you. Fringe audiences bring imagination and forgiveness for tech, so just concentrate on giving the strongest performance of the best text you can.”

Foster cited a couple of examples from the 2008 festival to illustrate this point.

One banner, but what a banner
I think “Mortem Capiendum” by Four Humors from last year was a great example: They had one banner for their set but, man, what a banner. They paid attention to the font and the color and their costumes and their slang, and I totally believed I was watching early 20th-century hucksters. Same with Joseph Scrimshaw’s “An Inconvenient Squirrel.” Those guys were only wearing puffy tails and ears with no set, no elaborate nothing, but that’s all you needed to believe they were squirrels — the Fringe filled the rest in,” Foster says.

What: “Fringe for Fall” benefit, with food, silent auction, cash bar, entertainment
When: 6-9 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 20
Where: Bedlam Theatre, 1501 S. 6th St., Minneapolis
Tickets: $25
Phone: 612-872-1212

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