The seventh annual Capital Fringe Festival continues to build on the success of previous years. This year, more shows (130 vs. 124) yielded more than 100 added performances (737 vs. 637). Audiences bought 2,000 more tickets (29,000 sold vs. last year’s 27,000), despite the uptick in single ticket prices ($17 vs. $15 plus service fees.) Price of the Fringe button remained steady at $5 if you bought it in advance, but moved to $7 once Fringe opened.
While we don’t know this year’s total revenue, Capital Fringe reports that the money they were able to return to artists was up over $30,000 ($209,616 vs. $179,068.) But hold on before you think Fringe producers walked away with gobs of cash. Those Fringe shows which were able to pack their houses, probably did very well. But those who didn’t? Probably broke even or lost money. The fee for participating in Capital Fringe can range from $500 – $800, plus marketing plus all those unexpected costs. Here’s how Apocalypse Picnic broke it down for City Paper.
David Tannous declares it The Year of the Playwright
But Fringe is not about the money. Or the numbers. It’s about being able to take artistic risks. It’s about the art. “Best ever.” seemed to be the common sentiment. Our writers found 71 shows which earned their highest scores. But for more specifics, we talked with inveterate DC area theatre goer David Tannous who last year received our own Gary Lee Maker Audience Award.
“I would call this The Year of the Playwright.” he said with great excitement. “The scripts this year were amazing. One more beautifully written than the next.” Some of them, he said, surpassed what he’s seen on main stages throughout the year. Here are a few he singled out: “Bareback Ink was one of the best plays of the Fringe. The single most compelling, and there were a lot competing for this one, was Joe Brack’s My Princess Bride. We Tiresias was outstanding for both the script and performances by Chris Stinson, Melissa Hmelnicky, and Steve Beall. Imagination Meltdown Adventure was a sparkling production with an amusing script. Mario Baldessari is a very witty writer. His script for The Every Fringe Show You Want to See in One Fringe Show Fringe Show was wonderful.
“In the category of zany but touching solo performances, Thomas is Titanic, a first time effort, is worthy of mention and makes me wonder what the performer will do the next time out.
“A lot of subjects dealt with had difficult and sometimes off-putting circumstances, but were handled with a compassion and psychological depth that made the experience memorable. Shock/Trauma certainly belongs in that category. Stopgap was a psychologically impressive investigation of an unusual set of relationships, and in a very different way, Raising Cane achieved similarly impressive results.
“The Outcasts of Poker Flat was one of the best pocket operas I’ve ever seen. Anywhere. Superhero Celebrity Rehab: The Musical was so good I’d say it’s ready for Off-Broadway.”
Other standouts: Me and the Devil Blues, The Webcam Play, In this Economy, R. U. X. (Rockwell’s Universal seXbots) and, for both the unusual and outstanding script by David Minton and the high quality of the acting from the young actors of Lumina Studio, Girls Who Think They’re Hot.
He is in total agreement with Peter Marks’ article in Sunday’s Washington Post, Fringe births talent; now D.C.’s theaters have to help raise it
“A number of plays I saw in this year’s Fringe”, Tannous concluded “are ready to go back on stage right this minute. Artistic directors and theatre schedulers, please take note.!”
Fringe Audiences vote
Fringe Audiences cast their votes in this year’s Theatermania poll:
Best comedy: R.U.X. (Rockwell’s Universal seXbots)
Best drama: We Tiresias
Best Musical Theatre: Superhero Celebrity Rehab: The Musical
Best Dance: Flight of Fancy ( A Steampunk Ballet )
Best of Festival: Where in the World? The Untold Story of Camilla Sanfancisco
The Capital Fringe Director’s Award went to Pointless Theatre Company’s Imagination Meltdown Adventure and Shoshinz’s A Day in the Life of Miss Hiccup.
Capital Fringe is also about connecting and communities. Lots of that happened around the Baldacchino tent. The Festival seemed very smooth running. If there were hitches, they were handled quickly by its dedicated staff, many held over from previous years, and a huge volunteer crew (294 this year vs 154 last year). In an interview with DCTS, Executive Director Julianne Brienza noted one incident which could have been calamitous – heavy rains were bringing the huge Baldaccino tent to near collapse. However, Fringe staff, volunteers and even passers-by lent a hand, and the tent was saved.
Among the smart decisions made by Capital Fringe organizers, picking the festival’s opening date was surely the most important. Had they opened in their usual slot, the first weekend in July, they would have been facing the massive power blackout brought on by the excessive heat and storms which began Sunday, July 1, and affected the DC area and most of the east coast.
Capital Fringe has one more year at its New York Avenue NW location. By 2014, they will be bringing this assemblage of artists, crew, and audiences to a new neighborhood. One thing for certain: the Baldacchino tent will be there and Fringe flags will continue to fly.