Fringe Time – how to make it easier

Well in Adelaide at least it is nearly time for the Festival and the Fringe. For the audience it is a matter of just organizing tickets and going to see the show. But for the artists it is a lot more involved. Not only do they need to write, rehearse and perform, but they need to organize the venue, do budgets and make sure that all the aspects that the audience does not see are all organized. If not the show could become a rather nasty disaster.

One area that to me seems to be not often thought about is the technical side. Having been involved with several Fringes and productions, it is often a blank look you get when you ask the companies about their technical requirements. This is not to say that all are behind in this aspect. The purpose of this article is to help those that might have left it a little late, or do not have the expertise in this department. We do want your show to be a success and also not to cheese of the venue that you are performing at.

First of all get as much technical info about the venue as soon as possible. The sort of information that you will find useful is floor plans, equipment lists and the contact details of the resident technician. This resident tech is going to become your next best friend. This is especially true if you live a long distance from the venue and therefore are not able to visit. The tech is going to know exactly what is possible in the venue. Keep asking questions as your show evolves. Remember you are likely to have a set lighting rig so you are not going to able to rig and focus the lights exactly as you would like them, you need to compromise without complaining.

To make things easy for techs you could send them a script, potential ideas and maybe if the production has been staged before some photos. There is always a possibility that they may be able to incorporate some ideas into the standard rig. All this info can make everybody’s jobs easier. Now if there is extra gear required you need to organize this in advance. Again pay attention to local knowledge, the venue tech may be able to lay their hands on what you need. This extra will need to be organized as soon as possible, as with many festivals there could be a shortage locally.

As with many Fringe venues there are going to be several shows each night back to back. So there will always be little time to set up and bump out. So you need to take this into consideration. My advice is always to try and keep it simple. Remember simple can be really effective and really is in keeping with the concept of Fringe festivals. If you are bringing in gear to playback audio and video make sure it is of professional quality. Do not expect to play music from your phone or iPod device. A CD would be much better, or even a computer file. And no I-Tunes is not professional playback software, it will give you headaches on production days. Most venues will have a CD player, or the tech might have his favourite software. It would be a good idea to go with what they are familiar with. In fact if you forward the tracks to them early they can have them already to play.

Now you arrive at the venue, and you got a truck load of scenery. Where are you going to store it? This is another consideration that you need to think about. Set and props can take up a lot of space backstage and also time to set up. So you need also to carefully think about what you need and don’t need.

If you are going into a “found Venue” and you are the only group using it, you need to make sure you have everything arranged well in advance, and have contingency plans in place. You will need to plan for ever eventuality technically. Here you will need to visit the site and measure, photograph and ask the owner/landlord a million questions. You then need to make sure you have plenty of time to get it all happening and also make sure you have enough people to make it happen. No point in pulling overnighters and half killing yourself, that is not what this is about.

You need to make sure that you comply with the local regions Occupational Health and Safety regulations. It would be a good idea to in fact investigate, and make phones calls to find out what you can and cannot do. No point in breaking the law and being shut down.

And last but not least, actually plan and budget for the technical staff costs. Too often this is left until the last minute when the tech asks how much am I going to get paid. Always plan to pay, none this “let’s get in a student, it will be good experience” You still need to give them something.

Well I hope that is some help.

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