IndyFringe: From a first timer's eyes 

A low-key way to view the best of Indy theater

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I’ve seen fairies (or “fae” as I learned today) enchanting a crowd, adults walking the street with puppets in hand, confused couples perusing through an endless list of shows and realized Indy’s passion for live theatre. This was my first impression of Indy Fringe.

Though I lived just north Indy for most of my life, I hadn’t heard of the Fringe festival. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but was excited to see Indianapolis’ play-loving crowd in action. I grabbed my steno pad, sunscreen and a large bottle of water and was swept away into the Indy theater scene.

Mass Ave was a miasma of recurring activity. In the first part of the cycle, patrons streamed out of their respective theaters after viewing their show. They walked casually down the street, discussing the production’s highs and lows. I caught wisps of their conversations: “Was purple lighting a good choice?” and “I know the art director so for this play – we have got to see it!” and “That show destroyed me. I don’t know I can make it to the next one.”

Post-show they seemed to float down Mass Ave, only stopping to stopping to marvel at SubZero’s nitrogen ice cream magic or glance into Arts A Poppin. As their next show time grew closer, they began checked their cellphones more systematically. The iPhone “swipe” echoed against the warm brick buildings. Fringe attendees flipped through their festival guides to check and re-check where their next shows being were held. (“It’s at the Firefighter’s Union!” “No, no. That’s the one that starts at 6. This one is at ComedySportz.” “Ugh, stop arguing with me. It looks like that girl on the bench is listening to us.”)

Exactly half an hour before their performances began; the theater patrons led themselves to their next venue. They inched into the theater, chatting with other line members about the show. The doors closed and - voila – the cycle was complete.

I watched this cycle happen a few times and was impressed with the crowd’s organization. What also impressed me was the kindness the seasoned Fringe-goers paid to the newer attendees. I lost count of how many times I saw someone help a puzzled Fringer find his or her venue. When I explained to a volunteer that this was my first Fringe, they spent 20 minutes recommending performances to me. Hoosier hospitality is real people.

Fringe runs from August 13-23. 

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Kelsey Tharp

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