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Fringe puts on 1,100 performances of 200 shows

Fringe puts on 1,100 performances of 200 shows in 16 days. (Credit: New York International Fringe Festival)

culture

New York International Fringe Festival: Bradley Cooper and Mindy Kaling's debuts, more

107 Suffolk Street, New York, 10001
The New York International Fringe Festival, celebrating its 20th anniversary this year, brings music, dance and comedy to theaters across Manhattan Aug. 12 to 28.
 
The largest of its kind in the nation, FringeNYC has presented more than 3,000 performing groups from across the globe since its opening night in 1997. Annual attendance tops 75,000 people, producing artistic director and co-founder of Fringe Elena K. Holy said.
 
The multi-arts festival has been known to launch celebrities’ careers -- we’re looking at you, Mindy Kaling -- and many of its premiere productions have even gone on to off-Broadway and Broadway stages.
 
There’s more to Fringe than budding artists minutes from their big break, though. Here are nine of the festival’s secrets. 
The Edinburgh Festival Fringe is the largest arts

Credit: Newsday /Ari Mintz

Fringe comes to NYC: Who can afford to travel to Scotland?

The Edinburgh Festival Fringe is the largest arts festival in the world. It’s been around since 1947, bringing thousands of opera, dance, music and theater performers to hundreds of stages across the city. An Edinburgh performance would be career-making for anyone who’s anyone in the art world. The only problem? It’s in Scotland.

Holy, Aaron Beall, John Clancy and Jonathan Harris, while working with the Present Company, a non-profit Manhattan-based theater organization, dreamed of taking one of their productions to Edinburgh, Holy said.

“We were trying to get to Scotland for a few weeks and it was just too expensive, out of our budgets, and we couldn’t get off work to do it,” she said. “So, that’s when we decided to make one in NYC.”

It took two years for the group of co-founders to organize the first New York International Fringe Festival, which kicked off in 1997. It was the first – and last – time they had more than one year to plan the event, Holy said.

The musical “Urinetown” had a humble beginning before

Credit: New York International Fringe Festival

From rickety chairs to box props, it has changed a lot over the years

The musical “Urinetown” had a humble beginning before it premiered on Broadway in 2001. Its first production at Fringe in 1999 featured painted cardboard boxes as set props. The audience sat on folding chairs that were found around the venue.

“It was scrappy, to say the least,” Holy said.

Pictured: Elena Holy kicks off the 2015 festival with a Town Hall meeting.

Joan Rivers was one of Fringe’s top celebrity

Credit: Getty Images/Astrid Stawiarz

Joan Rivers attended annually until her death

Joan Rivers was one of Fringe’s top celebrity audience members. She attended at least one production every year between 2000 and 2014, Holy said.

“She really just loved coming,” she said. “That’s partly because she was such a New York City lover and resident. I think she also liked hanging out with our artists and attending their shows.” Rivers would sometimes attend musicals unannounced, head backstage to talk with the artists and stick around for more than one show, she added.

Other celebrities who have attended Fringe in the past include Molly Ringwald, George Lucas, Danny DeVito, Gabourey Sidibe, Andrew Rannels and Jason Alexander.

In 2002, Mindy Kaling and her friend Brenda

Credit: Newsday/Ari Mintz

Mindy Kaling premiered a play at Fringe that kick-started her career

In 2002, Mindy Kaling and her friend Brenda Withers, wrote, directed and starred in their production “Matt & Ben.” The play was a fictional story based off the lives of Matt Damon (played by Kaling) and Ben Affleck (played by Withers).

Kaling credits the success of her Fringe debut for kick-starting her professional career in her autobiography “Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?” Unable to land a writing or acting gig in New York City, Kaling and Withers decided to write the play and enter it in the New York International Fringe Festival, she wrote.

“Matt & Ben” sold out every show during its Fringe run. “This is when our lives started to change,” she wrote. After a review by the New Yorker called the show “goofy, funny and improbably believable,” Kaling was contacted by off-Broadway producers.

Joan Rivers premiered the self-titled comedy “Joan Rivers:

Credit: Getty Images/Chris Jackson

Rivers planned to premiere a play at Fringe

Joan Rivers premiered the self-titled comedy “Joan Rivers: A Work In Progress By a Life In Progress” in the Edinburgh Fringe in 2008. Three years before that, she planned on producing a play in FringeNYC first, Holy said.

In 2005, Rivers submitted an autobiographical play for consideration at Fringe. Naturally, her play was selected to premiere later that year, but she backed out before it could hit the stage, Holy said.

“She withdrew for a lot of reasons,” Holy said. “Mainly because she was one of the busiest people I have ever met. She ran an empire and was still an amazingly sweet and wonderful person.”

Rivers sent the Present Company flowers to apologize for her withdrawal, she added.

At age 23, a young Bradley Cooper took

Credit: New York International Fringe Festival

One of Bradley Cooper’s earliest stage performances

At age 23, a young Bradley Cooper took the stage during a Fringe performance of “Doughboys” in 1998, Holy said. The festival prominently lists Cooper as one of its celebrity alumni on its website. The actor’s recent Broadway stage credentials include “Three Days of Rain” and “The Elephant Man.”

Pictured: Cooper is photographed after performing in "Doughboys" at Fringe in 1998.

There’s a secret way to still score a

Credit: New York International Fringe Festival

If a show sells out, there’s still a chance to see it

There’s a secret way to still score a ticket to a production once it’s run is sold out -- and they will all sell out, Holy said.

Fringe reserves a final day of the festival each year to bring back the best selling show at each venue. So, if your favorite performance sells out before you score tickets, there’s a good chance you might be able to catch it again after August 28.

Latecomers are not allowed -- no exceptions (not

Credit: New York International Fringe Festival

Don’t bother showing up late

Latecomers are not allowed -- no exceptions (not even if you’re Mindy Kaling).

Fringe puts on 1,100 performances of 200 shows in 16 days. With a scheduled that packed, the performances are stacked with little time in between to run off schedule. So, no one is allowed to interrupt, pause or enter a show late, Holy said.  

Fringe gets nearly 800 applications from artists across

Credit: New York International Fringe Festival

How productions make it onto the program

Fringe gets nearly 800 applications from artists across the globe. It takes eight weeks, 70 adjudicators and nine final panel reviewers to choose which scripts make it into each year’s event.