Fringe 2011: The new Fringe lottery

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The Minnesota Fringe Festival is trying something new for the lottery this year (at the Bryant Lake Bowl, 7pm on Monday, February 7th).

Instead of mini-lotteries for kids, teens, national, international and artists of color, and then a big ol’ general lottery as in recent years, the Fringe will simply break the artists down into three sizes – small, medium and large.

Small, medium and large venues, that is.

Applicants chose which category they wanted to be in, based on the size theater they wanted to fill. Small, medium and large application fees applied, of course. Each size will have its own waiting list.

Which seems like it’s going to be much more manageable, at least for the wait listers. In the past, if a slot opened up, in addition to deciding whether you still had enough time to pull your show together, you also had to decide if you could do your show in the space that had just opened up. The original folks pulled in the lottery got assigned to specific slots in specific theaters. If someone pulled out, the wait lister who got the call would have to consider – can I do my large ensemble dance show on that tiny postage stamp of a stage? how weird will it be to do my one-person show in the enormous cavern of an auditorium?

This way, if a smaller-scale show drops out, another smaller-scale one can take its place. Square peg, square hole.

But what about diversity, you say?

Well, some numbers/probability geek friends of mine like these sort of experiments and did their own shadow lottery one year, without categories, and the random selection of ping pong balls just kept coming up with an equally diverse selection of acts – kids, artists of color, teens, national, international, local – without any sub-groupings necessary.

Plus the Fringe has some new scholarships set up, aimed primarily at artists of color and Minnesota newbie Fringe producers – to help defray the costs of application and production fees, plus some additional marketing support – all to help lower the financial barriers for entering the Fringe and the ultimate production itself.

They’re still locking down the venues but, looking at last year’s festival and the category descriptions on this year’s Fringe application, it looks something like this…

There will be 2 or 3 large venues, defined as those having 250 seats or more. (That’d be something like the Rarig Proscenium (284 seats) or Rarig Thrust (259 seats) spaces last year – we’ll call that your basic Scrimshaw or Walking Shadow venue – big space for an act that can draw in big numbers)

There will be 3 or 4 small venues, defined as having 100 seats or less. (That’d be something like last year’s black box venues – the Bryant Lake Bowl (82 seats), Playwrights’ Center (73), Rarig X (70), or Ritz Studio (60) – where, frankly, I saw some of my favorite stuff last year, perfect for those fun little one person shows)

There will be 8 or 9 venues in the medium size category – where most of the shows, and I imagine most of the applications – live, with between 101 and 249 seats. On the more intimate end last year, that was places like Intermedia Arts and Gremlin (115 seats each. Slightly bigger last year were the Theatre Garage (136) and Jungle (148). Creeping still higher last year Mixed Blood (197) and the Rarig Arena (199, which always surprises me, it seems so intimate). Then in the 200 realm are the Southern (200), the Ritz mainstage (225), and TRP (236, which again, always surprises me).

So I’m guessing the big lottery pull for the night, and the bigger wait list, will be in the medium size category. And the large and small pulls will have less names and take less time. But I guess we won’t know til we get there.

There’s over 350 applications for about 160 slots.

2-plus Fringes worth of acts for only one Fringe schedule.

The elation, disappointment, and hovering in limbo all begin tonight.

And yes, I have a ping pong ball in that chicken-wire cage.

#285 – Urban Samurai Productions – “Lonesome, Wild & Blue: or, How To Date A Werewolf

I’ll be sweating it with the rest of you tonight.

Meanwhile, across town, they’re doing a cue to cue for the first night of tech on my show “Leave,” which opens this Friday.

I’m torn.

But I’ll be at the bowling alley, and rejoin my show tomorrow.

After all, I may be finding out about my next show tonight.

(I’m sure 350 of you can relate, right?)