Thursday, June 26, 2008

The show was great and all but I cannot help but think I shelled out $10 to see a 90-minute Absynthe commercial on stage...

So, just like Etarran/CheeseLikeSubstance, I have neglected the readers but not the Blog itself. The reason for this is essentially quality control; I've been a little* angsty lately, and while I guess honesty and immediacy are a part of what makes Blogging unique as a form of pseudo-journalism (more than one exists? I hear the incredulous audience ask. Have you people never seen a copy of the Sun?) but I think that a reasonable limit exists. While I do sometimes write for cathartic purposes, I don't think those are ever my finest Blogging moments. Also, it's a bit of a cheat to update with what amounts to filler.

Crap. Did I just write that?


*also, did I say a little? I meant a lot, not that there is really any other kind of angsty.

I have made a point of seeing a few shows at the Ottawa Fringe Festival this year. Having been to the Edinburgh Fringe a couple of years ago has set me up for some dissapointment, but it's really only a matter of scale and content, the acts I have seen so far have been rather solid. My biggest criticism is with the marketing, really. Fringe Festival suggests a theatrical vector of the Pride Parade, where otherwise ordinary suit-wearing businessfolk get out the gimp suits and riding crops, PLUR pants and copies of Desert Solitaire or the Whole Earth Catalogue, putting on shows that give those of all deviancies a peek into how the other side lives. From what I have seen, both here and in Edinburgh is more of what one might and should call a “indie theatre festival”, although I admit that I did not sample even 1% of the available content in Edinbugh and there were some pretty kinked sounding acts in that huge guide of theirs. Forget strictly sexual matters, though: I want to see shows about issues I don't even know about, be they political, social, familial, whatever! What I see instead are shows that aren't all that far off the beaten trail, addressing issues that are already entering the mainstream. One show, A Leave of Absynthe, does portray characters on the fringe of society, but of 1888 society. I suppose it can be taken metaphorically, but the novelty and shock value of the characters is all but gone: loose women who drink? And smoke? Really? I guess you can call self-actualized female characters “fringe” if you live in a pre-feminist time or society, but they really ought to be the norm in entertainment by now!

What I'm trying to say is not that the performers lack vision or creativity, but that there seems to be some sort of problem with the marketing here. These performers are indie (it is always SO COOL to shake hands with the performers and tell them to their faces that you liked their show. Better still? When they compliment your Firefly-related T-shirt!), but not really on the fringe. Heck, the “mature” show I kinda feel like seeing sounds cool, but when you can call it the “bastard love child” of a bunch of mainstream things (in this case “Eminem, Cosmo, and The Wiggles”) can you really call it “fringe”? I think that changing the name of these festivals in general to “indie theatre” instead of “fringe”, along with an appropriate change to graphic design, etc. Would probably benefit everyone involved. For one, the comparatively vanilla folk like me who would like to have their minds opened a little will stop being dissapointed by good shows that just aren't edgy. For another, comparatively vanilla folk who might be intimidated by a “fringe” festival might be drawn to the idea of an “indie theatre festival” more, because it suggests shows like Greed and A Leave of Absynthe, whereas “Fringe Fest” suggests Puppetry of the Penis. Of course, should this kind of name change take place, there will be the need for a “real” fringe fest, where the truly funky and freaky folks will hang out and teach us all just a little more about the myriad experiences available to the human mind and body!

I can supply only one theory as to why “Fringe Festival” has seen continued use as a name, when the reality is otherwise. Supposing that shows have tended towards the mainstream from some original and far more kooky starting point (the need to eat trumping artistic integrity at work, more or less), changing the name of the show could be seen as hastening a move to a fully-mainstream body of work, I guess. Psychological reasons are as important as any, I suppose, but I think that the most valuable part of Fringe Fests as they are isn't specifically subject matter. Mainstream ideas in theatre are fine, it's getting to meet the actors and writers up close, the intimacy of smaller venues, the experience of theatre as it is meant to be, that's what I would hate to see vanish from the Fringe Fest. So I say again, why use an inaccurate marketing scheme when I can only see it leading to dissapointment, indifference, or aversion? Promote your strengths: “intimate theatre festival”, for example, keeps that cheeky double-entendre edge while emphasizing the positive. “Indie theatre festival” may be less provocative, but it conjures up very positive imagery, and riding on the shoulders of the popular indie music scene is what's known as “good advertizing”, or if you're really into military metaphors “effective use of terrain”.

Alternate name suggestions, Fringe show reviews, Complete and utter disagreement? All are welcome!


Coming Soon: Copyright Proposals (feat. The Return of the Guest Post)

No comments:

Some Rights Reserved

Creative Commons License
This work is licenced under a Creative Commons Licence.