"IndyFringe has transformed Indy’s arts calendar, pushing its season into late August, ahead of Labor Day. This year saw more shows from a farther flung conglomeration of artists than ever before. There were also a few new wrinkles added, as the Fringe continues to define itself.
For one thing, it’s become clear that the Fringe is an all-year presence. The monthly series of FringeFridays performances has served to keep the festival in peoples’ minds to a welcome degree. It’s questionable whether the same can be said about the Preview nights that lead up to the festival itself. Few Fringe shows seem to shine in these three-minute cuttings. One wonders if the energy required to pull these productions together couldn‘t be better spent in other pursuits.
Like, for example, a more concerted attempt to make things happen on Massachusetts Avenue while the festival is underway. The fire juggler in front of Dean Johnson Gallery was diverting and the acoustic duo playing Led Zep’s “Kashmir” was eccentrically sensational, but it must be said that Mass. Ave. remains weirdly sedate during the festival’s run. As Matt Dillon used to say on Gunsmoke, “It’s quiet, too quiet.”
Which is odd because the energy found at all the venues was terrific. Not only were there more shows on offer this year, the variety and general quality was better than ever. And it was great discovering performers from Canada, the U.K., Italy and Israel, not to mention Tuscon, Chicago, Cincinnati, New York, Kentucky, Massachusetts and Hawaii. It must also be added that homegrown talent gave a stronger account of itself than ever before. The Fringe continues to be a showcase for Indy’s next generation of performance artists.
Better still was finding a number of shows filled with people during the festival’s opening weekend — adventurous souls willing to sample shows sight unseen.
For the second year, FringeNext did a fine job of providing student artists with a platform for their work at ComedySportz. Thanks to the good offices of Big Car and Primary Colours, the Visual Fringe continued to show promise, although it still seems in search of its niche within the larger festival context. How about reviving Installation Fest as part of the Fringe? That would provide a focus — and some interesting things to look at along the Avenue …
FringeFilm was this year’s most successful new venture. A fruitful collaboration between IndyFringe and the Indianapolis International Film Festival, Fringe Film presented a wide array of off-the-wall and cult-like cinema at the Sanctuary of the Earth House at Lockerbie Central UMC. Projecting some of these pieces on walls and buildings wherever Festival-goers roam might add an ambient dimension — some street multimedia would take the festival outdoors in a dramatic way.