Fringe theatre

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Performers at the 2013 Brighton Fringe Festival

Fringe theatre is theatre that is not of the mainstream[clarify]. The term comes from the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.[citation needed] In London, the Fringe is the term given to small scale theatres, many of them located above pubs, and the equivalent to New York's Off-Off-Broadway theatres.[citation needed]

In unjuried theatre festivals[clarify], the participating acts may be chosen by lottery, in contrast to juried festivals in which acts are selected based on their artistic qualities. Unjuried festivals (e.g., Edinburgh Festival Fringe and Adelaide Fringe Festival) permit artists to perform a wide variety of works.


The Edinburgh Festival Fringe was founded in 1947. One of the earliest[citation needed] fringe festivals in England, the Brighton Festival Fringe, was created in 1967. In the early 1970s, the Adelaide Fringe emerged as a reaction against the then "mainstream" Adelaide Festival of Arts; the two have since combined.

In 1982 the first fringe festival in North America[citation needed] was started in Edmonton, Alberta. It was then a theatre component of the larger Summerfest, but evolved to become a stand-alone event. The Edmonton International Fringe Festival, one of the largest annual arts events in Canada and still the largest fringe in North America by attendance.[citation needed] The oldest[citation needed] fringe festival in the United States is Orlando, FL, founded in 1992. There are more fringe festivals in North America than any other continent.[citation needed]

Fringe theatre festival organization[edit]

One distinction between fringe festivals and conventional arts festivals is the method used to choose participants. Typically, conventional festivals use a jury selection process, whereas many fringe festivals do not use a jury process in their selection criteria. There are exceptions to this; some fringe festivals (e.g., New York International Fringe Festival) do employ a jury-based selection process.

All performers are welcome to apply, regardless of their professional or amateur status. No restrictions are made as to the nature, style or theme of the performance, though some festivals have children's areas with appropriate content limitations. Many[which?] festivals find too many applicants for the number of available spaces; in this case, applicants are chosen based on an unrelated criteria, such as order of application or a random draw.

The number of performances varies among different fringe festivals. Larger festivals may have thousands of performances (e.g., Edinburgh shows more than 2,400 events).[1][not in citation given]

Fringe festivals typically have a common organising group that handles ticketing, scheduling and some overall promotion (such as a program including all performers). Each production pays a set fee to this group, which usually includes their stage time as well as the organizational elements. The organising group and/or the venues often rely on a large pool of volunteers.

Ticket pricing varies between festivals. In most UK fringe festivals, groups decide their own ticket prices, but other festivals sell tickets at fixed rates in one or two tiers, or in groups of 5 or 10.[citation needed]

Although it is unusual for the organising group to choose any winners of the festival, other organisations often make their own judgements of festival entries[citation needed] . Productions can be reviewed by newspapers or publications specific to the festival, and awards may be given by certain organisations. Awards or favourable reviews can increase the tickets sales of productions or lead to extra dates being added[original research?].

Elements of a typical fringe theatre production[edit]

The limitations and opportunities that the Fringe festival format presents lead to some common features.

Shows are not judged or juried. Depending on the popularity, some fringe festivals may use a lottery system to determine which shows are selected.

Shows are typically technically sparse. They are commonly presented in shared venues, often with shared technicians and limited technical time, so sets and other technical theatre elements are kept simple. Venues may be adapted from other uses.

Casts tend to be smaller than mainstream theatre; since many of the performing groups are traveling, and venues (and thus potential income) tend to be fairly small, expenses must usually be kept to a minimum. One-person shows are therefore quite common at Fringe festivals .[citation needed]

Fringe festival productions often showcase new scripts, especially ones on more obscure, edgy or unusual material. The lack of artistic vetting combined with relatively easy entry[citation needed] make risk-taking more feasible.

While most mainstream theatre shows are two or three acts long, taking two to three hours with intermissions, fringe shows tend to be closer to one hour, single-act productions. The typically lowered ticket prices of a fringe theatre show permit audiences to attend multiple shows in a single evening.[original research?]

Performers sometimes billet in the homes of local residents, further reducing their costs.[citation needed]

List of fringe festivals[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "The Times". Retrieved 2014-07-11. 

External links[edit]

Media related to Fringe Festivals at Wikimedia Commons