5 Factors of Fringe

I started reflecting on my experience doing independent/fringe (in this case-read unpaid) projects, specifically Julius Caesar. Often these types of projects can be absolute disasters, but Julius Caesar was not. This was an ensemble experience for the history books(my history book, anyway)! I am generally wary of fringe theatre. I have all but stopped auditioning for unpaid shows. It takes a play that I love or a company I know to get me to take a chance. For this one I did it because it is Shakespeare. I only took the role, because of the 5 minute interaction I had with the director in the audition room. I had this feeling that she really knew what she was doing and that I would be safe in her hands.
Still, even if the director gives off a good vibe, you never know if they’ll show their crazy later on. You also have no idea who else will be cast and how they will approach the process. There are so many variables, so many things that can go wrong, that those of us who have seen them go wrong many times, stop taking the risk.
But Julius Caesar was different. Not perfect, but one of those experiences that reminds me of the incredible potential of ensemble creations.

Julius Caesar with Handwritten Productions
Julius Caesar with Handwritten Productions

The following factors are what I think made it great!

1. Commitment
It is special when there is an agreement among individuals to meet and create something which would otherwise be impossible. This especially astounds me when it is a group of strangers and no one is getting paid.
2. Talent
Perhaps this goes without saying. In addition to the traditional meaning of the word talent, I would add a curiosity and eagerness to explore. Talent without curiosity is dead. Curiosity without talent is lost.
3. Vision
I have been in plays with committed and talented actors, but without the light to guide them, confusion and/or chaos ensues. With vision, I count organization, clarity of thought as well as artistically mapping the course of the project.
4. Respect
Without respect, there is revolt. (Respect of time, of personal cost, of talent and individual contribution.) As mildly mannered as I am, I have revolted a couple times when I did not feel respected in a cast. Money or not, without respect it is easy to lose the passion with which you started. Without the passion, you can easily lose the drive and then the commitment follows quickly after.
5. Decisiveness
It’s all great having a bunch of wonderful ideas, but if you can’t ever settle on which one to use, the vision is diluted and the process and product suffer.

When all of these factors are at play, I believe beautiful art can be made.

Since writing this bog about Julius Caesar I also participated in the 8 Hour SIFF Film Challenge and the 48 Hour Film Project and I would say that the same rules apply. What about you? Would you add anything? Take anything away? What have been your experiences?

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