“Don’t get me wrong,” Diana Brown, Executive Director of Atlanta’s Fringe Festival laughingly insists, “I’m a real hater.”
This statement from the same woman who soliloquizes the “ethereal, magic, and temporary” experience of live theatre, is referring to the kind of hate that comes only from the other side of love.
Fringe festivals nationwide gather actors from across the country to one city, packing as many shows and performers into as many time slots and venues as an operating budget for the arts will allow, providing a visibility for smaller theatres and artists, and at the same time granting to the city a level of accessibility to theatre usually reserved for cheaper thrills like the movies. The upcoming Atlanta Fringe Festival, running from May 9th through the 13th, boasts 27 shows from local and national artists, across five different venues.
An actor herself with Atlanta’s Twinhead Theatre, Brown has certainly earned her right to hate on a poor performance, or one that simply isn’t her cup of tea. When attending Minneapolis’s Fringe Festival in 2006, one of the inspirations for Atlanta’s, Brown saw shows that wow-ed her, as well as ones that were, well, fun to talk about anyway. Most important to Brown is for artists to share an equal opportunity to this exciting platform that does not necessarily preclude a risk of failure.
The selection process was done by lottery, and has been faulted by some for being a little too fair, according to Brown. Out of forty submissions sent via social networking sites, only 27 slots were available. Because this is the festival’s first year, the Fringe was given no real funding to speak of, and thus had no selection committee. Therefore Brown decided to do what she thought of as the fairest thing- drawing names from a hat.
Without any preferential treatment or pre-appointed slots for local theatres, save the one guaranteed for Twinhead- the theatre of most of the Fringe organizers, Brown along with other volunteer staff passed a hat full of names around a circle and let the lineup be decided by fate. Brown does say that her conscience had her throw in Twinhead’s name just to see if it would have been chosen, given the same odds as the others, which it was; but some in the Atlanta theatre community remain upset that local talent did not hold more sway.
“People are mad at me right now,” Brown says, who is still saddened that some of her close friends were not among the lucky 27. She quickly points out the “Bring-Your-Own-Venue” option detailed on the event site for those who did not make the cut, but it’s understandable that some wounds may still be a bit salty. First-time organizing is not for the faint of heart.
Sour grapes aside, the Fringe Fest line-up is pretty outstanding-looking, comprised of a diverse group of actors from across the country. From serial killers to Red Riding Hood to Shakespeare, the topics are fresh as some of the new bloods starring in them. Brown & co. have created playlists, categorizing the shows according to taste. For the freaks, there’s “Dark and Twisted,” an entire dance category for swan-lovers, and a Gaylist (duh), among others.
For those of you who must dip your toes in the pond before full immersion, the Fringe’s official opening party on May 9th in Decatur Marta Plaza will feature a three-minute preview to each show, as well as prizes and give-aways, the cream of which are tickets from Megabus, the official sponsor of the Fringe Festival as well as the bougier Greyhound of the young and/or the restless.
As far as her hard work is concerned, Brown just wants to prevent people’s heads from being so far up their own Netflix-addictions they can no longer remember the swish of an open curtain, or a monologue with natural pauses, unfrozen by buffering.
To those of you haters, Brown says, “Theatre is still cool. It’s still relevant. It’s adapting to try and keep it’s voice.”
The Atlanta Fringe Festival takes place from May 9th-13th at multiple venues. Visit atlantafringe.org for more info.