Shows presented at this year’s Capital Fringe received some of the highest ratings in the history of our reporting.
Audiences got the chance to vote their favorites in the Capital Fringe Audience Awards survey and the winners were announced on closing night, July 28, 2019:
- Best Comedy: Codependent presented by J&em Productions
- Best Drama: Office of the Speaker by Nicole Cox
- Best Musical: Saucy Jack and the Space Vixens presented by up in your face theatre
- Best Dance: Little White Lies presented by Contradiction Dance Theatre
- Best Solo Performance: Acuña Acuna by Erick Acuña
- Best of Fringe: Acuña Acuna by Erick Acuna
(Originally posted July 26, 2019)
As Capital Fringe Festival 2019 entered its final week, DCTS caught up with Brienza to find out how this year’s Festival is going, and what’s to come.
The following questions and answers have been lightly edited for clarity.
How are you feeling after the last few weeks?
I’m tired right now. The last two days I haven’t gotten home till 1 a.m.
It’s actually going very well. I always like to wait before I pass judgment, to take some time for reconciling, but I think it’s okay. I think it’s gonna be great. Tickets sales are really far ahead of last year.
How did you handle the heatwave this last weekend?
We have a lot of tickets sold for this weekend (July 20-21st). Of the (2 shows for 1) packages, we’ve sold about 50. We’ve always had this “beat the heat” deals … whenever it’s really hot out. The last one was in 2012. One of the things I’ve seen that I feel encouraged about: Artists are getting together, one production telling [audiences] “This is what you should do with your buy-one-get one” packages to see another show.
We don’t have an outdoor venue. All of our venues are pretty well air-conditioned. Back in the day, that wasn’t necessarily the case.
Can you describe some of the growth for the festival since moving to the Wharf?
This is our second festival here. Last year we had a 10 % increase in our capacity to build. Really, that just has to do with Metro, buses, and the overall walkability in this neighborhood. You can get here any way possible.
[This year] Even as of our first week our sales were up 11% over last year. It seems to work out really good here for the artists.
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Were there any surprises from working at the Wharf?
Community groups here are really into it. They’re very accepting of wanting to help us connect Capital Fringe to different community groups that will help sell tickets or to people who are interested and embrace what you’re doing.
A lot of that is with the SWBID (Southwest Business Improvement District). Any neighborhood that has a BID just helps connect the dots for you.
This year we finally got on the Wharf. We’re doing Arcade at the Wharf. A lot of our button discounts are on the Wharf.
How are you going about reaching new audiences?
We’re a festival, and we’re also a self-producing festival, and so it’s not just the organization that is creating new audiences. It’s actually a very big grassroots efforts with all the 98 productions that are in the Festival. Last year, 40% of the artists participating had never done a show before. Not that they had not done a show with Capital Fringe, but that they had never done a show that year. That was great.
This year, 70% of our artists live in the DMV with 47% living in the District of Columbia. So all of those people bring folks to the Festival.
And then, we’re doing the Mike Daisey show (A People’s History) this year, which is kind of interesting, because in the first five to seven years of Fringe we had all those regional theater people who go to all the regional theater shows. But they sort of dwindled out of Fringe. Maybe it wasn’t what they thought they should be seeing. It’s interesting seeing some of those people come back, seeing the Mike Daisey show and looking over the guide. We check to see how people spend their time.
It’s gonna be really interesting to look at demographics stuff when the Festival is over to see how much is different from last year.
When you have touring artists, where do they stay?
For touring artists, we put up artists in people’s home. We’ve done that since our founding. The person who is putting up in their homes gets a pass to the Festival and they can go to all the shows. [For] some folks, because we don’t find enough people who want to put artists in their homes, we got a reduced rate at [one of the] Hyatt’s. A lot of them are staying there.
How are you going about doing outreach for shows the rest of the year?
In the first year’s Festival, we had curated things. We paid people to do shows. We’ve been presenting, in a real way, since 2009. It’s not the core of what we do, so it’s not something we talk about all the time.
We did start doing a curated series last year. With the Source festival being shut down. I really think that the jobs that are created, around a new play commission, for designers, director and actors, are really important for the community to have ladders up for people, to continue to grow within their community.
In prepping for this year’s Festival, we ended up doing Shakespeare’s Worst. And people love Shakespeare here. We totally got this bad review in the Post, where they were saying all this stuff, and I was like, “Dude, it’s sold out every night.”
I care about new plays, but I really care about the jobs for the designers, the design team and the actors. That for me is where the program is really special. The guy who is playing Lot in Shakespeare’s Worst. He just became Equity in the Spring. A sold-out show is a big deal for him. It’s a great experience.
The Fringe seems to attract a lot of younger performers. What do you think the festival means for up-and-coming artists?
I think it’s different for a lot of people. We have folks that are middle-aged that do the Festival. Maybe they’ve worked on a play, or they’ve written a play, and it’s their first opportunity to do it. That’s different from the experience for someone who is still in college, or maybe in high school. Because we do have folks in high school doing the Fringe Festival. I think, an overriding thing is the legitimacy. I think it gives people who are really not welcomed into established arts organizations in the city to do what they want to do. And to actually do a full show, rather than a staged reading, I think is legitimacy.
A lot of people do it and realize how hard it is. It is a crash course in production management.
Any plans with Fringe over the next few years?
I don’t really know, to be honest. There’s a lot going on with Fringe. I’m pretty sure the Festival is gonna take place in Southwest next year, just because the Southwest is awesome.
What is your favorite first question to ask someone when you get to know them?
There used to be this guy at Fringe who always asked people what high school they went to. I notice that I actually always ask people where they live. I’ve lived in every quadrant [of DC]except for Southeast. I always like to know where they live. Tells you a little bit about them.
All of that hype of DC being a “walkable city,” I always thought was a bit ridiculous, but no. Now I live in the Southwest, and now I feel that a little bit. I walk from where I live to Gallery Place every day and I can do that. It’s so cool to walk across the Mall every day.
Any vacation plans?
I am taking some time off, but I’m not going anywhere. I’m staying here in DC, which I’ve actually never done in the entire 17 years that I’ve lived here. So that’s going to be interesting
There is still time to catch the final week of shows at Capital Fringe 2019. And to vote for your favorite shows. Online voting closes closing day at 5pm. Winners from each category will be announced at Capital Fringe’s closing ceremony, Sunday, July 28, starting at 7pm at the Cherry venue, Westminter Presbyterian Church. All are welcome.