WHAT IS A FRINGE FESTIVAL?
Fringe Festivals, now booming across the world, began in 1947 in Edinburgh, Scotland as a means for independent artists to present work that might not otherwise be welcomed at mainstream festivals and theatres. (Learn more about the history of the Edinburgh Fringe here!) Heralded for being an avenue for artists to present their original work free from censorship or restraint, Fringes are truly renowned by fans for offering an immense variety of entertainment for all ages and tastes in an addictive, high-energy atmosphere.
Want to learn more about Fringe Festivals? Check out the Wikipedia entry!
…AND CINCY FRINGE?
Cincy Fringe is no different, just with a few of our own secret ingredients thrown into the recipe. Each year we present over 200 live performances from more than 40 local, national, and international groups and artists over 13 consecutive days in a dozen venues around the Over-the-Rhine (OTR) neighborhood of Cincinnati. These productions are selected for our Primary Lineup, the biggest programming component of the Festival, with help from a jury of 30+ local theatre professionals and educators. While jurying is a rarity among Fringes, we love how our curation process helps us thoughtfully select a lineup that’s rich with variety and representations.
Cincy Fringe also includes visual art projects, musical guests, street performance, free public classes, nightly after parties at Know Theatre (which serves as Fringe HQ) and more! It’s a HUGE event in the Cincinnati arts community, gathering thousands of patrons to create a breathtaking community of artists and advocates.
For more information about Cincy Fringe and all its components, well…just keep on reading!
CINCY FRINGE HISTORY
15ish years ago, on a stormy night at a local hillside tavern, theatre professionals Nick Rose and Jason Bruffy shared some drinks and contemplated the unfilled niches of Cincinnati’s rich theatre and arts scene. The desire for a Fringe Festival emerged and, with the assistance of Jeff Syroney, the very first Cincy Fringe was launched in 2004 as a component of Cincinnati Shakespeare Company’s Studio Series.
In 2006, Jason accepted the role as Artistic Director at Know Theatre of Cincinnati which, thanks to the generous support of the incomparable David C. Herriman, had just moved to a versatile performance space in the up-and-coming historic neighborhood of Over-The-Rhine. Cincy Fringe merged with Know Theatre, creating what was, at the time, the only regional theatre that also produced a Fringe Festival. Know’s unique home at 1120 Jackson Street, equipped with a full bar and lobby/cabaret stage, served as the ideal location for Fringe HQ and has since provided an unparalleled opportunity for the community to come together and celebrate.
In 2007, Jason brought in Eric Vosmeier to take the reins of Cincy Fringe and a new, Kinda weird. Like you! era began. During this period, the success of our Festival began attracting new, exciting talents — including international artists from as far away as Australia and Israel — and we debuted iconic new programming, like Fringe Next, which offers Primary Lineup slots to local high school-aged artists, and Fringe Development, which uses the critical mass of creativity at the festival to workshop new projects and offer free artist-led classes.
In 2011, Chris Wesselman joined Eric as the Festival’s Associate Producer. A former independent Fringe producer and familiar face on Cincinnati stages, Chris drew from his experiences to help bolster Cincy Fringe’s artist-centric approach, which helps ensure that we provide participants with a memorable, thoughtful, and valuable experience. In 2014, Eric departed Know Theatre, leaving the Festival in the hands of Chris, along with Know’s new Producing Artistic Director, Andrew Hungerford, and Associate Artistic Director, Tamara Winters.
In the past four years, the current administration has overseen major restructuring of the Festival’s framework alongside record numbers of applicants and attendees, all-the-while retaining the bold and imaginative flavors of Fringe that Cincy has come to cherish. As our Festival continues to evolve and explore new heights, invigoration continues with the addition of Fringe on the Streets, a free public performance initiative in partnership with Art on the Streets, the expansion of Visual Fringe to include even more local visual artists, and maybe even a few more surprises in store…
WHAT HAPPENS AT CINCY FRINGE?
With over 200 performances, projects, events, and installations, it can be hard to grasp everything that happens at the Festival. Here’s a breakdown of all the different opportunities provided for attendees:
The heart and soul of Cincy Fringe, these are the theatrical productions which apply to the Festival and are adjudicated by local theatre professionals in our effort to create as eclectic and balanced a lineup as possible. We generally select somewhere between 35-40 Primary Lineup shows.
Part of the Primary Lineup, Fringe Next shows receive special distinction because they are produced, written, directed, and performed entirely by local high school-aged artists. We’re always blown away by the burgeoning talents that come through this program and are delighted to have them join us every year. We generally select 3-4 Fringe Next productions to be included in the Primary Lineup.
Not only does Fringe Development include free, artist-led Master Classes for both fellow performers and the general public, we also select 1-2 projects each year to harness the critical mass of creativity at the Festival by workshopping a piece during Fringe with the help of other artists, culminating in the world premiere of the show.
Fringe always brings about productions and events that don’t really fit into the Primary Lineup for one reason or another. In this case, we’ll give it a Special Event designation and a limited run of 1-3 performances. Recurring Special Events include True Theatre’s storytelling event, trueFRINGE, and a performance from Cincinnati’s premiere improvisational comedy organization, OTRimprov.
Fringe isn’t just about celebrating live performance, it’s about all artistic endeavors! So, with that in mind, every year we put together a series of projects and galleries featuring some of Cincinnati’s best Visual Arts talent. From a mural on the side of Know Theatre, to galleries at Art Academy of Cincinnati featuring local talent, to roaming portrait studios…there’s no limit to the exciting and interesting Visual Fringe projects that we’ve presented over the years.
Fringe on the Streets
Debuted in 2017, Fringe on the Streets is a collaborative effort with Art on the Streets Cincinnati to support and encourage the world’s oldest forms of entertainment: Street Performance. Whether it’s a scheduled performance outside Fringe HQ or a random artist adding to the spirit of the Festival on a street corner blocks away, our goal is to activate as much of the public as possible with artistic endeavors.
Fringe Bar Series
Every single day of Cincy Fringe ends with an after party at Fringe HQ, collectively dubbed the Fringe Bar Series. Each Bar Series event kicks off with an installment of the Channel Fringe Hard-Hitting Action News Update — your infotaining source for all the Fringe news you need to know, co-hosted by Fringe/Know Producers Chris Wesselman and Andrew Hungerford. Every night also features a different theme and/or event like 60-Second Previews, Fringe Olympics, Pajama Jam, or Fringe-a-oke. Whether you like crazy and kooky parties or laid-back conversations, the Fringe Bar Series offers plenty of opportunities for artists, audience, volunteers, and staff to meet, mingle, have a drink (or two or ten), and enjoy themselves!
We’re everywhere online and can’t escape our past, so check out our feeds to see what things were like yesterday and yesteryear. We also make important announcements regarding deadlines and events via these platforms, so follow us wherever you can:
Cincy Fringe on Facebook!
Know Theatre, producers of Cincy Fringe, on Facebook!