If Edmonton is the festival city, the closing festival, the blow-out to end summer, is the Fringe. For hundreds of performing artists in Edmonton and across the country (and even the world), about half the year is spent leading up to Fringe. It is 10 magnificent, exhausting days of every type of performing arts you can imagine. Your friendly editors at Sound and Noise thought a glimpse of the journey to Fringe would be of interest. I’m pleased to oblige.
First, a few introductions are in order. My name is Kelsie, and I’m a dance artist here in Edmonton. This year, I’m producing a BYOV (Bring-Your-Own-Venue) at Phabrik Art and Design. Our show Resurrect Motifs will be a co-production between me (as the no/w/here dance project) and Orchesis Dance Society, a not for profit society dedicated to promoting community modern and jazz dance in Edmonton. I’m very exciting to be working with Orchesis Dance Society at the Fringe. I believe in the importance of community arts organizations – I started dancing in university because of Orchesis. While not everyone is able to be an artist full-time, organizations like Orchesis allow average, everyday people to hone their artistic skills and create.
For this first post, I thought I’d introduce you to the business of the Fringe – being a Fringe artist involves simultaneously being an entrepreneur, a sales agent, shameless self-promoter and an artist.
Most Fringe shows (and many independently produced dance and theatre shows I’ve been involved with) work on a share system. Whoever has put money into the production gets paid back as soon as you start making money. Then, whatever profits are left are split between the shareholders. Sometimes shares are allocated only to artists (as is the case with this production). Sometimes the producers will give themselves a share to pay for the work of organizing the show. This is why you often see one or two person shows at Fringe. If you’re an established solo artist who can bring in audiences and you’re splitting that money between yourself and your designer/stage manager, you can reasonably make money at Fringe. As a community arts production we’re more interested in involving as many talented artists as possible than paying the rent, so we have a huge production – over ten people are involved in our show.
There are a couple of factors working against me and all of the artists involved making money on this. First and foremost, we’re producing a BYOV. Bring-Your-Own-Venue shows are much more expensive to produce than a regular Fringe show. As a BYOV you pay the Fringe about $500.00 for their ticketing system and promotion, and of course the access to the brand and experience of being part of the Edmonton Fringe. With an ordinary Fringe show you pay a little more and have a venue and technicians available to you. When you’re working on a BYOV you have find your venue which will need to be rented, and find a technical director who will need to be paid for his or her time, and rent whatever equipment that’s needed to transform the space into a useable theatre space. That’s in addition to the usual costs of renting rehearsal space and printing promotional materials. BYOVs can easily cost a producer between $2000.00 and $3000.00. Making that back solely in ticket sales, particularly when those ticket prices are capped at $12.50, is a little daunting.
Second, we’re producing dance. Dance can be a difficult sell at the Edmonton Fringe. Audiences are used to seeing theatre and improv. The dance community in Edmonton is small but steadily growing. Jolene Baille’s amazing Fringe shows and the stellar recent work of local dance collective Good Women will make my job easier. Even so, I’m not expecting to sell out our venue. As long as I’m averaging around 25 people in the audience per show we should break even. Anything more than that and I’m ecstatic.
To make the break-even point a little more within reach, there are a couple of strategies. The first is fundraising. This year I’m holding a couple of fundraisers. The first are a modern dance class on Wednesday, June 20th at 6:30pm and a jazz dance class on Saturday June 23rd at 1:00pm (both classes are in the Drama Department in the Fine Arts Building and are $10.00!). I’m hoping to get a good turn out and raise enough money to pay for our rehearsal space rental.
I’ll let you know soon if we managed to raise any money from those classes and introduce you to the world of program advertising and sponsorship!
- Kelsie Acton