The Five- SF Fringe Edition

Anthony R. Miller checks in reflecting on his experience at the 2014 Fringe Festival.

I was lucky enough to spend a few days at The Exit Theater and experience the 2014 San Francisco Fringe festival, it was an absolute blast. I saw tons of shows and had a million awesome conversations. Here are five takeaways.

Fringe-Binge

If you see just one or two shows at Fringe, you’re selling yourself short. There are 35 different productions to see and when else are you going to have them all in one building? In one day I got to see 4 shows in a row (But you could feasibly do up to 7.) Now before you say “Four shows? That’s like four hours of seeing plays!”, think to yourself; is it any different than watching four hours of Breaking bad on Netflix? (Authors note: While writing this, I am on my 3rd hour of Breaking Bad’s final season). You can bingewatch TV anytime, but it’s only once a year you can mainline Theatre. I did it, and you know what? It was freaking fun. I saw shows I loved, shows I hated and shows that were OK. But every show was different from the last, I walked away exhausted sure, but also inspired. Make a day of it, buy a multi-show pass, pick a show, any show, you’ll see something you like I promise. And if this is a little out of your price range…

Volunteer!

There is no better way to support your scene. The SF Fringe is a beast, three theaters all with a different show running simultaneously several times a day. It takes not just meticulous planning, but a crew of bad-asses to execute it. Make no mistake, these guys rock. Shows start on time, there is always someone to help you pick a show, and these are the people who make this event happen. Not everybody can afford to see a bunch of different plays, but as a volunteer, you can get into everything for free. Not to mention, by volunteering, you can be part of something awesome. For two weeks, everything awesome about the SF Indie Theatre scene is under one roof. Carve out a few days and help out, be part of it, it’s worth it.

The Hospitality Room

In between shows, hanging out in the Hospitality room was super fun. Stuart Bousel and his amazing staff of friendly volunteers are there to suggest shows, make you feel welcome and give you a seemingly endless supply of cucumber infused water. (Which may be my new favorite thing.) If you need something a little more sustainable than popcorn and water, check out the cafe for booze and all awesome snacks. The best part is that in either room, you can sit down and be surrounded a diverse mix of local and traveling actors, writers and performers. In one day, I spoke to Artistic directors of local Indie Theatre groups, a writer from New York, clowns, actors, every kind of theatrical artist you can think of. It is a show within itself. And seriously, the cucumber water.

All By Myself

This year, 22 out of 35 of the shows at the Fringe are Solo Shows. After doing a little asking around, I found out this was an all-time record. Every year the number grows, so who knows what the ratio will be next year. The main reason seems to be economic. Fortunately, these shows are all wildly different. From subjects like dating, to interpretations of the Jack the Ripper story, to battles with IRS, there is no shortage of fascinating, engaging and diverse stories to be told. That said, in order to make sure the fringe doesn’t become the San Francisco Solo-Show Festival, make sure you balance things out by seeing some of the amazing acting troupes performing here.

What kinds of people go there?

All kinds! The Fringe isn’t for just one type of Theatre-goer. It’s not even just for Theatre goers. I saw all sorts of folks milling about. This is bigger than a festival, it’s a cultural event. There’s not only Bay Area artists involved, acts from all over America are performing. For the cost of one ticket to the latest price gouging SHN touring musical, you can have an incredible experience, see something new and different and support art and artists. So next year, do yourself a favor; pause Netflix and spend a day at the EXIT. You’ll be part of something fun and different. Walter White will be waiting when you get home.

Anthony R. Miller is a Writer, Director, Producer and that jerk who won’t let you buy a glass of wine at concessions after showing up ten minutes late and demanding to be seated. His show, TERROR-RAMA opens October 17th at the Exit Theatre

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