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click to enlarge A conceptual design for Fringe on Wheels.
  • A conceptual design for Fringe on Wheels.

The IndyFringe Theatre Festival has been a highlight of the city's annual cultural calendar for the past eight years. But IndyFringe has been on a quest in recent years to become known as a year-round organization - through programming at its theater and soon, if all goes according to plan, via Fringe on Wheels.

Described as the love child of a food truck and traveling circus, the Fringe on Wheels will serve as a mobile mini-fringe festival anytime, anywhere, explains IndyFringe Executive Director Pauline Moffat: "What we want is a vehicle that is easy to fit in spaces where other people can't go. It's self-contained, a traveling billboard for us, and can accommodate enough performances to make it like a traveling circus."

The truck would serve as a mobile stage for performers of all types, explains Pat McCarney, the organization's technical director: "We're planning it so that it will take us a manner of minutes to get a stage and lighting set up. We want to appeal to all types of performers, from people who do stage work and plays to musicians to magicians and jugglers, circus performers, poets - even visual artists who want to teach classes."

The truck's easy set up would allow IndyFringe to serve many different communities. It could act as a home base when the organization takes street theatre and buskers downtown to Georgia Street (as it did during the 2012 Super Bowl), entertain crowds outside the Palladium at Carmel's Center for the Performing Arts, and take the flavor of the fringe to other local festivals around Indiana.

click to enlarge A sketch of IndyFringe's future traveling stage.
  • A sketch of IndyFringe's future traveling stage.

Moffat had the idea for the truck after seeing a similar fringe caravan used by the Adelaide Fringe Festival in Australia. After attending a meeting of the Indiana State Festivals Association, she could see there was high demand for artists at festivals throughout the state. She sees Fringe on Wheels as a cost-effective way to bring such performances to other communities.

IndyFringe will program artists for the truck, and several local artists have already pledged to develop performances for the Fringe on Wheels. The truck can also serve as a scouting tool, according to McCarney.

All Fringe on Wheels performances will be a fee-for-service arrangement, with IndyFringe paying the artists. The truck will also serve as an ambassador for the organization and can be used as a mobile ticket office.

IndyFringe is in the midst of a $10,000 fundraising campaign to purchase the truck, and would like to have it in operation by this summer. The current sketches of the truck are conceptual; the organization will sponsor a design competition to determine the final artwork for the outside of the vehicle. IndyFringe has also recruited IndyCar engineer Lee Dykstra as a volunteer to help ensure that the Fringe on Wheels is reliable and functional.

Moffat is excited about what Fringe on Wheels could bring to Indianapolis. "The truck is the beginning of what could become a busker's city," she says. "Pat coined a wonderful phrase: 'Every street deserves a festival.'"

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