This past August the Minnesota Fringe Festival broke a lot of personal records. 46,189 tickets were issued to an estimated 15,100 patrons to see 162 shows at 22 different venues. Executive director Robin Gillette says she thinks the festival doesn’t need to grow anymore than it has already, and so she’s focussing instead on getting more people into the festival from across the region. Up until now the festival has been dominated by artists from the Twin Cities.
“We’re heading to Wisconsin, Iowa and all over Minnesota,” said Gillette. “A huge number of people create performing arts in the Upper Midwest, and we want them to participate in our festival.”
Gillette said the Minnesota Fringe is also participating in the first organized tour for U.S.-based Fringes. Four Midwestern festivals–Kansas City Fringe Festival, Minnesota Fringe Festival, Indianapolis Theatre Fringe Festival and Chicago Fringe Festival–have created a circuit for artists who want to participate in all four festivals. Two companies will be picked from the Minneapolis Fringe to participate in the tour.
Gillette said the Fringe is also expanding its training and support to budding performance companies. Fringe and Springboard for the Arts are organizing an all-day conference for producers of small theater.
“The goal is to teach our producers how to make a show a reality,” Gillette said. “Fringe is a fantastic way for first-time producers to get their feet wet, but we want to make sure our participants walk away feeling like they’ve learned enough to do it again outside the framework of the festival.”
Fringe is introducing two new programs: “First Steps” for first-time Fringe producers and “Next Steps” for producers with more Fringe experience. First Steps includes a mentorship program with a more established production company and Next Steps provides support to companies as they look to produce shows outside of the Fringe.