in my humble opinion

Fringe 2008 - The 4th Annual Ping Pong Ball Awards - series 2

The Hey, Where'd Everybody Go? Award

Don't get me wrong. There were a heck of a lot of applications this year for the 15th annual Minnesota Fringe Festival. 277 to be exact. For 150 slots. Almost twice what the festival could hold.

But the sublotteries surprised me a little this year. There were fewer of them this year, but that wasn't it. The lottery has some special mini-lotteries within the larger overall lottery, just to insure plenty of diversity of artists and content. This year, in addition to the usual sublottery for the 75 minute slots (since they're all concentrated in one venue for scheduling sanity, and there can only be so many in any one place), there were sublotteries for national artists, international artists, kids shows, teen shows, and artists of color.

Plenty of applicants for 75 minute, national, and teen fringe. But there'd been ten slots set aside for international acts and kids fringe, and 15 slots set aside for artists of color, and they didn't need to use them all. There were only nine applicants for kids fringe, so they all got in - yay. There were only twelve applicants for artists of color, so they all got in - yay. There were only two international applicants, so they... both got in - yay?

The kids were the big surprise for me. I don't think that's happened before. They normally have a bunch of applicants and some of them have even ended up waiting on the wait list. No such issues this year. And they only came up one short there, so it's probably a fluke this year.

It's exciting that the teen applicants were so plentiful, and a number of them got in through the regular general lottery after that, so the next generation of fringers is well-represented. We're in for some adventurous theater there, as always.

The artists of color and international trends aren't new. They may have even had more artists of color in that group this year compared to previous ones. More outreach will doubtless continue.

And it's really tough for international acts - the costs of travel, and the many hurdles of travel, for a Fringe show may just not make it worth it. Still, some of the most interesting stuff last year was from artists visiting from overseas. I'm glad we still keep getting a couple, but I wish it was more feasible for more of them. It'd be nice to see all ten slots and then some filled up some year. One can dream.

The upside to the unclaimed spots in the special lotteries was that it meant a dozen more open slots for the general lottery, so more artists had a chance locally and nationally to get in on a second try, and more of the teens had a shot of getting in. It all balances out eventually. I was thinking about cost the other day.

A veteran Fringer I chatted with at the after-lottery party was quite proud of himself because he joked that every year, if he was lucky in the lottery, he'd think, "Great! I'm in! Oh wait, now I have to make sure I have the money to pay for the application fee!" This year, he planned ahead and set the money aside a bit at a time. So he had the money ready. And he ended up so far down the wait list, there was no chance he'd slip in this year. So, hey, now he has an extra $400 sitting in his bank account to help him mount his next show. That silver lining keeps shining through.

So $400. If I was caught short this year but really wanted to be involved next year, that's 52 weeks to plan ahead. That's about $7.69 a week. Most people spend more than that on... well, pretty much anything in a given week. Make it an even $8 or $10 and it adds up quicker. Even if there are special venue things you want to put in for and there are added fees, they don't add up to *that* much. It's not nearly as out of reach as it might seem when you look at a $400 fee all in one lump. And of course, the benefits are ample.

Hmmm... Everyone always asks me if I've got a show in the Fringe. Maybe I should start setting some cash aside this week...

category: Ping Pong Ball Awards Wednesday, March 5, 2008 at 7:45 AM

© Matthew A Everett