We're just not going to play favorites when it comes to the tenth edition of the IndyFringe Festival. So instead of unfairly singling out two or three of its 64 shows for a preview, we're going to talk to IndyFringe head Pauline Moffat about the festival as a whole. And ask her the real tough questions: Why are tickets more expensive? Why does this show suck so hard? How did I get so old (the last question)? But we ask because we love, most of the time — and as evidence of our commitment to all the things the festival stands for ("total freedom of expression," as Moffat puts it), we're once again reviewing every single show at the fest for next week's issue. All we ask is that, if you're a deer, you avoid getting in the way of one of our reviewer's cars during opening weekend. It really put a wrench in the works last year. Your cooperation is appreciated.
NUVO: Why are tickets $15 now (instead of $10) — and who gets the extra $5?
Pauline Moffat: Over the past nine years, the only income to IndyFringe during the festival was the mandatory $5 backer button. We surveyed our audience, our volunteers and performers and the overwhelming response was get rid of backer buttons. IndyFringe relied on backer button monies to cover theater rental costs, but with more people seeing more shows, backer button sales were going down while the ticket sales were going up. The business model of 100 percent return to performers could no longer be sustained.
We decided to link IndyFringe income to ticket sales. Performers now get a 20 percent increase in their box office, which amounts to $12 per adult ticket, while IndyFringe receives $3 per adult ticket. This is the model many of the Canadian fringe festivals have adopted, and they lead the world in best practices for fringe festivals.
NUVO: Can a show really sell out before the box office even opens? And how will I know if it does!?
Moffat: This is the year of customer service for IndyFringe. 100 percent of the box office can be sold in advance. We surveyed our audiences and the overwhelming response was make the tickets available on-line and avoid the long lines for hot shows. Sold out shows will be clearly identified on performer show pages on indyfringe.org, TicketWeb and through social media. "Sold out" signs will be displayed at all box offices with recommendations for other available shows within walking distance.
NUVO: Is the Internet Cat Video Festival for real?
Moffat: Oddly enough, cat lovers love IndyFringe. We hosted years of sold out shows for Acro Cats (yes, performing cats!) and who could forget Purrlesque, a top selling burlesque show. The Athenaeum wanted to be part of the festival. Spay Neuter Services of Indiana wanted a community partnership They got together and found a way to make it work and we were on board.
NUVO: This show is so awful/strange/not my cup of tea. How'd it even get in Fringe?
Moffat: IndyFringe is an open access, live theatre festival. Anyone can enter. It's "first in — first served," un-juried and uncensored. What more can an actor or audience want than total freedom of expression? Buyer beware — all shows come with warnings, so it's all about choice. Read the program and listen to the buzz on Mass Ave. Be bold, be courageous — see something outside your comfort zone. That's half the fun of fringe.
NUVO: When's the trailhead/new theater going to be done?
Moffat: Indy Eleven Theater and The Trailhead are scheduled to open in early 2015. This new black box indoor/outdoor space will provide a new audience experience and an experimental theatre for emerging artists. We're at capacity in the 100-seat theater and the new ADA Trailhead caps off a fabulous 10 years serving a community of artists and audiences. Thanks for all the support.
NUVO: Is the 800 Bloc Theater a real theater? I've never heard of it. Sounds Soviet.
Moffat: We wanted to keep the festival contained to Mass Ave and partnered with Riley Area Development to showcase this empty retail space for the month of August. It might be a concrete box but magic has been worked at the 800 Bloc Theatre. It's as good a theatre as any on Mass Ave and the shows slotted there will work really well in the space. Position is everything — across the road from the Mass Ave Wine, The Best Chocolate in Town, R Bistro, Black Market and IndyReads — and next door to YATS and some great shopping at Pattern Store, HomeSpun and Crimson Tate. You may never leave.
NUVO: When you say family-friendly, whose family are you talking about here? I may be Amish.
Moffat: We rely on our performers to provide their own warning. And yes, we check them — particularly this year, as so many seem to come without warnings and many of our well-known local theater companies have chosen to go family-friendly. Read the warnings carefully — even family-friendly comes with age-appropriate or parental-guidance riders.
NUVO: I thought buskers were illegal? Like panhandlers. Abdul says they're harshing his mellow.
Moffat: Buskers make the world go round — they come from all walks of life and bring fun and entertainment with them. They share their art from on the world's oldest stage, the streets, the sidewalks, the parks and alleys of Mass Ave. Fringe has always pushed the boundaries and after nine years of street performances, we have partnered with IDI, DCE and IMPD to provide credentials to buskers and to explore the possibilities of Indianapolis adopting a policy which is favorable to this age old art. Panhandlers are welcome to audition!
NUVO: Has it really been 10 years? Jesus, I'm old/impressed by this August tradition.
Moffat: Ask some of the reviewers — some of the NUVO team participated in the 2002 public meetings (Theatre 2012) when the best single idea that met all the needs of the group was the idea of a fringe festival. A few NUVO editors have gone on to write fringe shows and perform in the fringe. Phil Van Hest is the perfect example of old. He burst on the scene in 2005; we even named a beer tent after him (Phil Van Hest Memorial Beer Tent). He loved us so much he moved from L.A. to Indianapolis, got hitched, has a kid and now has a full time job! What happened in those ten years? It's a reminder to keep providing opportunities for the next Phil and to keep the spirit of fringe alive in Indianapolis. Reminder: Phil is back to emcee the Opening Night party on Wednesday, August 13 at The Athenaeum. He just had to appear for the tenth anniversary!