In 2022, over 3,300 shows from 63 countries sold over 2.2 million tickets to 50,000 performances at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. Those are some big numbers (and Playbill was there to cover it all).
As the world's largest arts festival, the Fringe is held every summer in Edinburgh, Scotland for three weeks. The roster includes plays, musicals, varieties, stand-up, cabaret, and more from across the globe. This year's Fringe will be held August 4-28 and applications are now open for anyone who wants their show to play at Edinburgh.
Here's the lovely part: The Fringe's program is not curated and any-and-every theatre maker is invited to register. 59E59 Theaters, under Artistic Director Val Day and Managing Director Brian Beirne, recently hosted an information session for American theatre companies wishing to travel to this year's Fringe. Lyndsey Jackson, Deputy Chief Executive at Edinburgh Festival Fringe Society, was on hand to walk hopefuls through a few of the requirements for applications and share tips for having a successful Fringe experience.
Here are a few pointers from her talk:
We already said it: anyone! The festival's open access policy allows absolutely any show to participate in the program.
Hot tip: The final deadline for inclusion in the print program is April 5, 2023. Register by then and it's official, you're in the Fringe. But register early for a discount!
A wide range of show categories are available—including theatre, comedy, dance, physical theatre, circus, cabaret, children's shows, musicals, opera, music, spoken word, exhibitions, and events. Understand and be clear about what your show is for your listing so audiences can find you. Also, keep your show at an hour or under. Festival goers like to pack a lot into a day.
Hot tip: You'll be arranging your own show schedule with your venue. Historically, audiences tend to prefer plays during the day, and cabaret or comedy acts at nighttime.
You must have a venue to perform at. Applications will not be accepted without a confirmed venue contract. Cool thing is, almost any place can be a venue at Fringe: a phone booth, a bar, an actual theatre. You just have to have a place to perform your show before you arrive. Read more about finding a venue here.
Hot tip: Some venues are straight hire and some are box office splits. Box office payouts don't happen until September, so make sure you consider that when you budget. Oh, right. The budget...read on.
As Fringe does not curate the shows in the festival, neither do they fund them. All expenses must be covered by the participating show. That means you'll have to budget travel to Scotland, and room and board for all company members while in Edinburgh. Not to mention all production costs for the show, including any venue rentals. Check out budget tips here.
Theatre companies come to Fringe for a variety of reasons. Some are developing new work, some want the Fringe clout that will help get their work noticed at other festivals and venues, and some companies enjoy the networking. Whatever your reason for taking a show to Fringe, there are a thousand different ways to do it. Fringe Society is here to help.
Hot tip: The edfringe.com website is extensive and has all you need to know about necessary dates and fees, and provides guidance for everything from registration to fundraising. They also run Fringe Connect, a digital platform designed to build a Fringe artist community. Join for peer-to-peer advice and online social networking before you even get to Edinburgh.
So you made it to Fringe. Now where's the audience?
If your show is in the program, that's a great start. The largest percentage of the audience, over 35 percent, is local to Edinburgh. After that, Scotland, then the U.K., then London in particular, then international travelers make up the remaining attendees. International guests are actually the smallest group, at 7 percent. And they are last minute ticket-buyers. Because many audiences are built by word of mouth, a run shorter than two weeks isn't recommended. Give the audience some time to grow. And handing out flyers does actually work. Lots of theatres are beginning to use QR codes on posters and flyers, so that potential audience members can get a little more info than the program listing.
Hot tip: If you're there with a solo show, make a buddy at Fringe and flyer for each other.
Before you go...
Have your out-of-town tryout here at home. 59E59 gives American companies an opportunity every year to put shows on their feet before they pack them up for Scotland. Like Fringe, the East to Edinburgh festival is open access, but first come/first served to those with a Fringe confirmation. Rental packages are available for three to six performances and you take 100 percent of the box office. It's a great way to practice moving the set in and out of a space, working out performance kinks in front of an audience, and fundraising for the trip to Scotland. Plus, friends who won't be able to travel get a chance to see the show in the states. Registration for East to Edinburgh opens in February.
Final hot tip: If you're going to Fringe, be sure to let Playbill know about your show. Read Playbill's coverage of the 2022 Edinburgh Festival Fringe. We hope to see you there when Playbill Goes Fringe 2023!