Saturday, August 4, 2012

And They're Off!

And so it begins…

Today marks the opening day of the 2012 Edinburgh Fringe Festival. 

The truth of the matter, however, is that the Fringe started two days. While August 3rd remains the official opening day of the Fringe, it all comes to life earlier than that. On August 1st it's the performers, not the soon-to-be audience members, that descend upon the city. A sense of orchestrated chaos fills the streets as performers from all over the world rush around Edinburgh trying to find their rental flats, their performance spaces, and the nearest all night kebab stand (all extremely integral pieces of information for any Fringe participant). August 2nd is preview day, the last big game of pre-season, so to speak. For some, it's a final chance to polish and refine their pieces and to adjust as necessary to a new environment. But for others there is no preview night, as audience members and reviewers fill the house in an effort to beat the crows come mid festival. This is how August 2nd finds itself the unofficial first night of the Fringe. 

From a promoter/production company standpoint (that's the type of organization I intern with) it's been exhilarating to see the infusion of life and excitement that comes to Edinburgh the closer it gets to Festival time. 

It seems like overnight that venues have appeared all over the city. Anything that can hold people has become a performance space. And I literally mean anything. The Fringe hosts over 2200 different acts. Since there are not 2200 traditional theater spaces in Edinburgh (though, to their credit, there are quite a few) one of the best part of the Fringe is the use and creation of unconventional theater spaces.  The theater as a physical space is often treated as a very hallowed and sacred place, so it's particularly interesting to watch people turn parks, abandoned apartments, shops, restaurants, and any other previously unassuming and everyday spaces into arena that carries the same weight and maintains the same aura as any other theatrical auditorium. It's very much a reflection of the principle of the Fringe; if you want to and are able to perform there, than it's a theater space. 

But in all this glorious madness, with all this influx of new, global talent, a question has been raised; what about the other artists, the ones who are here all year round and are not a part of the festival? When the Fringe comes to town, what happens to them?

I've said it many a time but the Edinburgh Fringe Festival is a one of a kind event. And the Edinburgh Festival (something other than the fringe--Edinburgh Festival is an organization composed of the 12 festivals that take place in Edinburgh throughout the year) truly makes Edinburgh the festival capital of the world. The fringe provides a platform for people from all over the globe to come and perform and to share. Yet, some would argue, that that platform is created at the expense of local Edinburgh artists. The issue is, that when the Fringe comes to town, if you're an artist and you're not a part of it, you are essentially treated as if you don't matter. It's an issue the Fringe has to confront and adapt to on a yearly basis; the conflict between creating a global platform and the local people that run the risk of getting plastered over in the construction process. It's a very tricky balance; ultimately the purpose of the Fringe is to create a free forum of artistic expression. But it is still very much a controlled forum in the sense that if you don't sign up and inform the right people and reserve your space---well then you're not considered to be a part of the Fringe. And even though the Fringe takes place in Edinburgh, it is very clearly a global event, not just a Scottish one. So how you do it? How do you balance the needs of the local community with the mission statement of an international event?

I do believe that this year marks a step in the right direction. They're calling this Fringe the year of Creative Scotland. Creative Scotland is organization designed to foster and support the arts in Edinburgh. This year, they have partnered with the Fringe to create a whole series of events highlighting the talents of established, as well as up and coming Scottish artists. Now the Fringe doesn't promote these events more than any others, it just helps with the logistics of establishing and coordinating the events. This allows the Fringe to avoid favoritism while still providing a mechanism for fostering positive relationships with local artists. For the truth of the matter is, you can't create a successful international artistic environment if you don't first create a welcoming space for the community from which it all originated.  

On a complete sidenote, I love that as I write this I get to have the Olympics on in the background. It's so wonderfully exciting : ) If you have the time, you really ought to watch it. It doesn't matter the event, in fact, it's better the less you know about the sport. In the past few days I've discovered just how intense Olympic kayaking can be. I know we all have extremely, extremely busy lives. But it's the Olympics, it only happens once. I say once because you never really experience the Olympics the same way twice, each one is unique onto itself. Even just by tuning in for a few moments, you get to take part in something that will never happen again. That is pretty amazing. At least I think it is. 

1 comment:

  1. The challenge of balancing the established - including ritual, tradition and historical - with the new and all the change and innovation it brings is a common thematic problem in many fields, including the America political system.
    Thought provoking post.