Goodbye, Fringe! Until Next Year!

It is 3 a.m. on Monday, August 26th. I am still in my party clothes, wide awake from the whirlwind that was the festival. Tonight we said goodbye to the festival with a blow-out closing night party. Champagne was poured, awards were given, teary goodbyes were said and a great night was had by all. As I sat at the FringeTERN table observing the participants congratulate themselves, I couldn’t help but be proud of the work we did to make this festival possible. It is not so often that interns are given as much responsibility as we were but, from making sure the schedule was airtight to ensuring every participant got their last paycheck, I truly do believe our contributions were vital to the success of the festival. It truly feels like without us, the show (quite literally) could not have gone on.

I am saddened that this internship is over. I have learned so much and have met so many interesting and intelligent people with whom I hope to remain in contact. I leave this festival with a better understanding of myself: with the understanding that a career in the theatre is what I want and the confidence that it is possible to pursue one’s passions while still being able to support oneself financially. I also walk away with a much better understanding of the inner-workings of a festival. Every single aspect and every single person involved is a vital and invaluable part of the festival. If one component fails, the entire festival will fail. Theatre is the most collaborative art form, and this festival is theatre at its finest; it is thousands of people coming together to collaborate and realize a common vision. These past few weeks, I’ve seen that vision become a reality and I am floored by the impact and effect it has had.

In my theatre classes, I learn about the problems of commercialized theatre. As many know, Broadway tickets are expensive. Because they are expensive, the majority of people who can afford to see these shows are upper-middle class, middle-aged men and women. And because a particular group of people are the primary ticket holders, the Broadway community continues to produce works that appeal to that audience. Though there is a lot of talent and heart put into commercialized theatre, this focus sometimes leads to a stifling of creativity and diversity in the arts and can cause what Peter Brook (a noted theatre theorist) refers to as ‘deadly theatre.’

Deadly theatre is a theatre of commerce, where the number one driving force of a production is to make money, rather than to create, innovate, educate, or enlighten – as theatre is intended to do. The New York International Fringe Festival is the largest multi-arts festival in North America that allows new artists with new and passionate voices to showcase their work in a non-commercial way. More than walking away with an understanding of myself or my future career, I am walking away with a greater understanding of the importance of private and public support for the arts. I want to continue to learn more about and contribute to the non-profit theatre world, because when money isn’t the driving factor – when passion, creativity and heart are – that is when the greatest art, as well as the greatest change, can be realized. I am grateful to have spent a summer immersed in the non-profit art world observing, first-hand, the importance of enlightening, educational and thought-provoking works of theatre. To see just how important FringeNYC is, watch Mayor Bloomberg give FringeNYC the Mayor’s Award for Arts and Culture.

And if I could give one piece of advice to a student interested in pursuing an internship or career in theatre – whether it be the non- or for-profit theatre world – it would be to go for it. In this world, there are a lot of people who will scoff at you, or judge you, or warn you that you won’t be able to support yourself – but I implore you to ignore them. It is true, there is not a lot of money to be had in the theatre world – whether it is commercialized or subsidized – but there is a lot of heart, and passion, and change. My mother has always said that if you follow your heart, everything else will fall into place and I now believe she is right.

As this is my last post, I’d like to thank the WOW community for making this internship possible. I have learned so much not only about myself and my field, but about all the amazing work my fellow WOW recipients have been up to this summer. It was an incredible summer, and here’s to another great year with the Brandeis community!

Let the Festivities Begin!

Things are really picking up here at FringeNYC; the festival has begun! About a month ago, we packed up FringeNYC’s year round midtown office and made the move down to FringeCENTRAL on the Lower East Side. We unpacked, cleaned, organized, cleaned and reshaped an old, dirty, unused Japanese karaoke bar (did I mention cleaned?) into the new FringeCENTRAL. Since we opened to the public, participants, volunteers and prospective audience members have been flocking to our 2nd Avenue location to see what’s on and where they can help.

A short while ago, each FringeTERN was delegated a project or task for once we got down to FringeCENTRAL. Some are working with the FringeJR shows (shows that are geared toward younger audiences), some are organizing FringeTEASERS (little teasers of fringe shows hosted at FringeCENTRAL to provide prospective audience members with a taste of some of the shows) and I, as well as one other FringeTERN, have been assigned to coordinate the volunteers. On any given year, FringeNYC gets about 2,000 volunteers that come in once the festival starts. One of the main tasks of volunteers is distributing will-call tickets, but volunteers can be doing anything from directing audience traffic to helping out at FringeCENTRAL. FringeNYC’s volunteer policy is “Work a Shift, See a Show at FringeNYC” (for free.) Since we’ve opened to the public, I have mostly been working as a concierge/volunteer coordinator to help audience members find shows they would like to see or to train prospective volunteers, input their information in our system and schedule their shifts.

When I started my internship with FringeNYC, I had no idea what the summer had in store. All I knew was that there is nothing in this world about which I am more passionate than theatre and I wanted to have an immersive experience in the theatre world. Theatre is one of the most collaborative art forms. You know the saying, “It takes a village to raise a child”? Well it takes the city of New York to mount a Broadway show. In the theatre, artists, creators, visionaries and benefactors come together to realize a production. And because there are so many great minds working together to realize a common vision, I have always found it difficult to find my place within the world of theatre. Did I want to be an actress? A director? A producer? A playwright? A stage manager? A designer? All of the above? None of the above? When I applied for an internship with FringeNYC, it was my hope and my goal that working with so many different theatre artists would help me find a singular pathway within the theatre to follow; that it would help me find a career path.

However, having spent so much time working for the festival and encountering inspiring people who have made a career out of a life in the theatre, I now understand that there is no “right” track or trajectory. The people I’ve met here at the fringe come from all different walks of life. In the fringe this year we have investment bankers, basketball players, and everything in between. All have made their way to the fringe because they have a story to share. They are storytellers and – because of that – they are theatremakers. I am so in awe of and inspired by the people I’ve met here. They truly are pieces of a whole and make this collaborative and expansive art form what it is.

You ask me to address the concrete skills I have built as a result of this internship and to address how they will be transferable to my future career. However, I have found that even though I may have gotten better at creating an Excel spreadsheet or using Volgistics (the volunteer coordinating website), what I have gained from this internship is a lot less tangible. I have gained a better sense of self – a better sense of my strengths and weaknesses, of my likes and dislikes – as well as a better appreciation for this ever-growing, ever-evolving art that is theatre. I haven’t necessarily progressed in my goals; I haven’t found a singular career path or focus in the theatre. I haven’t decided what I want to be when I ‘grow up’, but furthermore, I have come to the realization that I don’t have to. It is those who walk blindly into the woods that emerge with the greatest stories to tell.

– Sophie Greenspan ’15

 

 

 

 

The Beginnings of My Summer with FringeNYC

FringeNYC-Logo-SMALL-cmyk-2-1

The New York International Fringe Festival, or FringeNYC, is a festival that brings performances from fringe theatres (non-mainstream, off-off Broadway) throughout the world to New York City for a sixteen-day festival. In terms of it size, it works in what FringeNYC refers to as “the great inverted period” with: 75,000 audience members, 5,000 artists, 1,500 volunteers, 1,200 performances, 190 shows, 100 volunteer staff, 20 venues, 16 days and 2 full-time employees. It began in 1997 when a theatre company on the Lower East Side had received an invitation to perform at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, but realized that New York City – one of the greatest theatre hubs in the world – deserved a festival of its own.

Our favorite Bostonian, Mindy Kaling, got her start at the festival with a show called Matt & Ben!
Our favorite Bostonian, Mindy Kaling, got her start at the festival with a show called Matt & Ben!

Living in New York City during high school, I had always heard of the wonders of FringeNYC. Therefore, there was not much locating or researching to be done in finding my internship. I’ve always had a passion for fringe theatre; I find it has a rawness and a propensity towards pushing boundaries that is much more interesting than for-profit, Broadway theatre. Therefore, when looking for an internship this summer, I needn’t looked much further than the FringeNYC website to find that they were looking for administrative interns. Shortly after submitting a cover letter and resumé, the festival administrator – now my boss – contacted me for an interview and the rest is history.

As an administrative intern – or FringeTERN as FringeNYC likes to call us – my duties include most of the daily tasks needed to produce a festival. So far, I have helped with inputting data – such as show times and the technical and scheduling needs of participants – and have facilitated a marketing mixer with FringeNYC participants in which we discussed how best to market their shows. Right now, FringeNYC is in the midst of scheduling their festival. Much is involved in scheduling the festival; we as FringeTERNS must consider the conflicts of both the participants and the venues, as well as take care to make sure that the number of shows, show times and dates are fairly distributed between the approximately 190 participants.

In 2011, Brandeis’ Tympanium Euphorium produced the musical, Urinetown. Urinetown made its debut at FringeNYC is 1999!

FringeNYC has only two full-time staff: the Festival Administrator and the Producing Artistic Director. Volunteers do everything else. When I heard this, I was amazed. How was it that a festival of this magnitude could run so smoothly with only two full-time staff? However, since I have started working with FringeNYC, I have come to learn that it is because the two administrators – in addition to doing all they do – are so patient and helpful in training and educating the volunteers and FringeTERNS like myself on the inner-workings of the festival. There are fifteen of us FringeTERNS and on any given day – in addition to the two full time staff members – five or six other FringeTERNS could be in the office.  Since we’re all roughly the same age and share the same interests, having the other FringeTERNS in the office with me allows for a very comfortable working space in which we can all collaborate and help each other. Everyone is so supportive and hard working; I fully attribute the good times I’ve had at FringeNYC thus far to the people with whom I’ve been working.

Being an intern for FringeNYC is a dream come true. Every day I am surrounded by and learning from those who share my passion. It has been fascinating learning the hard work and planning that goes into making the fringe festival that so many will enjoy come August. Additionally, with the marketing mixer, I was fortunate enough to meet many participants and artists and hear what their shows are about and where their interests lie. This summer promises to be one filled with new experiences and new, innovative and exciting theatre. I am excited to continue my work with FringeNYC and I especially can’t wait for the festival itself to begin because – instead of just knowing blurbs, show times and show names – I can finally see all these performances FringeNYC has been working so hard to put up!

http://www.fringenyc.org/basic_page.php?ltr=num
If you’re going to be in NYC August 9-25, come check out FringeNYC! With just a little under 200 shows, there’s sure to be something for everyone!