Bitching Over FringeNYC? Log on to FringeTALK, Sun., Jan. 9

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It all started four months ago. As some (or many or a few) of you know, I directed a production in the 2010 New York International Fringe Festival and it was a mixed experience by half. That is: half exhilarating, half perplexing, half energizing and half inspiring. Those are two too many halves, I realize. And, I should add, it wasn’t my first time at the rodeo: I also directed a play in the 2004 Fringe.

Last fall, at an appropriate time and place, I found myself deep in a dialogue with Elena K. Holy, the producing artistic director of the Fringe, in part because Elena and I have been friends forever (we go back to the first town hall, the one that organized the Fringe, in September of 1996), and partly because, even when we disagree about this or that aspect of Fringe, I know Elena is listening.

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Without giving too much away (she and I have a longstanding policy of keeping our talks private), I can disclose that Elena was feeling frustrated by some of the 2010 Fringe press coverage — both the tone and substance — and equally frustrated by misconceptions in the public sphere regarding what Fringe is, what Fringe does, when and where and how Fringe does it, with whom, and why. What she wanted, she said, was an opportunity to respond — to answer questions and, who knows, even to ask them. No, that wouldn’t mean argue, debate, rampage or capitulate, to be sure. It meant a direct reach-out to the almost unfathomably large Fringe constituency — that is, after 14 years, alumni along with all the contemporary and future applicants — in order to engage, enlighten, enliven and, as always, listen. How to make it happen?

My immediate impulse was to suggest she should do just that — engage, enlighten, enliven and listen, much as all the founders of the Fringe, of whom Elena is one, memorably did back in 1996. Trouble is, to be really inclusive, you’re asking to rent a convention center. If you figure there have been an average of 190 shows a year, after 14 Fringes, you’re potentially talking tens of thousands of people. And even if such a thing were remotely possible (and it isn’t), it would seem a shame to rent a theater or borrow a theater on an unbooked night and wind up limiting the conversation to whoever happened to be physically in New York who was interested and available. And why, I thought, must it be? I’m on board with the work Kathryn Jones is doing in terms of live-streaming theater, so why not gauge her interest?

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And it so became that the Clyde Fitch Report, in partnership with Better Left Unsaid TV, is presenting FringeTALK, an interactive, live-streamed Town Hall on the occasion of the 15th anniversary of the New York International Fringe Festival. It’s happening this Sun., Jan. 9, at 9pm, and you can watch from anywhere in the world, and even, I’m told, a few worlds beyond our own.

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At 9pm this Sunday, just visit www.ClydeFitch.com, www.FringeNYC.org or http://betterleftunsaid.tv/fringetalk/ in order to watch the conversation happen. And, more important, to participate in it through chat rooms, Facebook and the inevitable Twitter.

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Here’s the press release. Please send any questions to FringeTALK@gmail.com.

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We hope you can join us.

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Better Left Unsaid TV and The Clyde Fitch Report present
FringeTALK
an interactive live-streamed Town Hall
on the occasion of the
15th Anniversary of The New York International Fringe Festival (FringeNYC)
Sunday, January 9th at 9pm

In 2011, The New York International Fringe Festival (FringeNYC) celebrates its fifteenth anniversary. To mark the occasion, on Sunday, January 9, the first of many special events will be offered:

FringeTALK, a live-streamed town hall event during which anyone from anywhere in the world can ask anything about the festival via Twitter or Facebook and/or our built in chat room. To join the event, just log on to any of the following sites on January 9th at 9pm:

www.ClydeFitch.com
www.FringeNYC.org
http://betterleftunsaid.tv/fringetalk/

Co-produced by Better Left Unsaid TV and The Clyde Fitch Report, FringeTALK will be facilitated and moderated by Leonard Jacobs of The Clyde Fitch Report, who’ll pose questions submitted by viewers to Elena K. Holy, FringeNYC’s Producing Artistic Director. Questions may be submitted in advance of the event by sending an email to FringeTALK@gmail.com prior to the event. During the event questions will be taken in real-time via various social media using the hashtag #FringeTALK.

On September 10th, 1996, approximately one year before the first ever New York International Fringe Festival, its founders held an open public Town Meeting to discuss the idea with their community and peers. The event was attended by more than 300 people, and greatly impacted the course followed in creating FringeNYC. In fact, many of
the original volunteer staff members for FringeNYC were identified at that initial gathering, and the results were considered to be a mandate from the community regarding starting a fringe festival in New York. The event was so important to creating and defining the spirit of FringeNYC that a Town Meeting of all participants has been held in
each successive year.

According to Elena K. Holy, Fringe NYC Producing Artistic Director, “FringeNYC remains committed to being both accessible and transparent, and FringeTALK joins that commitment with 21st Century technology in an unprecedented virtual Town Hall, fitting of both an organization dedicated to INCITING art, CULTIVATING community and CREATING new American theatre and a constituency of alumni, audience, and staff that has grown tremendously over the past fifteen years. We would love to have an actual town hall meeting, but that, of course, would require Madison Square Garden!”

Better Left Unsaid TV — A cross between a play, an online video and a live streamed event, Better Left Unsaid is poised to break new ground in the way that it merges theater, technology and social media. Performed in front of a live audience, Better Left Unsaid will be shot with multiple cameras, mixed in real time, and streamed live to the
internet so that anyone, anywhere in the world can watch the show and interact with it. Better Left Unsaid is produced by Joey Brenneman, director of The Timing of a Day, (Best Ensemble, FringeNYC 2010) and actor, Kathryn Velvel Jones, producer of 35, the first scripted web series to stream live to the internet. . Playing January 21st – February 6th 2011 live on stage – and on a computer near you! Tickets available at http://betterleftunsaid.tv. Better Left Unsaid, by Joey Brenneman. 8 Lives, 8 Secrets. How Well do you know the people you love?

The Clyde Fitch Report (www.clydefitch.com) – Leonard Jacobs is a writer, editor, blogger and critic with roots in arts, entertainment and culture. He is founder and editor of The Clyde Fitch Report, a nationally recognized blog covering arts and politics; he is a former national editor at Back Stage and, before that, was founding editor of the website Theatermania.com. He currently contributes to a mix of digital and print publications, including the Huffington Post. Follow his Twitter feed @clydefitch.

The New York International Fringe Festival (FringeNYC) – the largest multi-arts festival in North America, will present the 15th Annual Festival from August 12th – 28th, 2011. Each year the festival presents programming by nearly 200 of the world’s best emerging theatre troupes and dance companies in 20 venues in downtown Manhattan. Attendance at last year’s festival topped 75,000 people, making it New York’s fifth largest cultural event (just behind New York International Auto Show, Tribeca Film Festival, New York City Marathon, and New York Comic Con). In November 2007, FringeNYC was honored by Mayor Michael Bloomberg with the Mayor’s Award for Arts & Culture “for its phenomenal leadership in showcasing the best and boldest theater and performance by both established and emerging artists. The New York International Fringe Festival is renowned for presenting work that reflects the excitement and energy of the contemporary theater world – locally, nationally and abroad.” Previous recipients of the award include Woody Allen, Celia Cruz, Stephen Sondheim, Wynton Marsalis, The Tribeca Film Festival, Mark Morris, The Public Theater, Chita Rivera, and Edward Albee. FringeNYC has been called “the scrappiest, most inclusive festival in the city” (New York Times) and “the premiere meeting ground for alternative artists” (The New Zurich Zeitung).