Thursday, August 7, 2014

The EdFringe Experience

Wendi printing out our pre-purchased
tickets at Fringe Central
After seeing 37 shows in six days, my head is still spinning a wee bit.   EdFringe was every bit as crazy as I had expected -- but crazy in an orchestrated chaos way rather than an out of control way. After all, this annual festival has been taking place since 1947, so Festival organizers have had time to work out the kinks.

Our first stop was a ticket collection site near the hotel to print out the tickets we had purchased in advance.  It was the first preview day of the Festival, and things were quiet on the Royal Mile. That changed as the Festival proper got underway, with buskers in seemingly every nook and cranny and stages set up for scheduled performances.

Pop-up theater in Assembly Gardens
The Festival venues are spread out across Edinburgh, but all were walking distance from our hotel (hence the 15000+ daily steps on my FitBit!)   There are six established venues (each with multiple theaters) in addition to more than 300 pubs and clubs and pop-up spaces that host Festival events. The performance spaces vary significantly, but most are fairly intimate.  The Traverse, for instance, is a real theater with two spaces, the larger of which accommodates only 216 people.
Sign for the Demonstration Room
at Summerhall
The Summerhall venue was a veterinary school in the day, and the theaters there have names like Dissection Room and Anatomy Lecture Hall.  (These spaces were classrooms in their prior lives and still have wooden desks running across the front of the elevated rows from which we peered down at the performers.)  And the Assembly spaces range from classrooms to traditional performance space to a pop-up theater.  Each of these venues has cafes and bars--both indoors and outside--where you could hang out in-between shows.

Wendi with cast of Pioneer
The streets are filled with young people handing out flyers for shows.  (We even scored some free tickets during the preview days.)  Sometimes the perfomers themselves are out promoting their show.  (The cast of Pioneer was thrilled to hear that we had seen their show and enjoyed it.  And they were happy to answer our question about what happened to one of the characters.)

Some of the Underbelly Theaters
are on Cowgate  
Almost every stage is used for multiple shows, and the turn-around time between productions is quite short.  We generally joined the queue to get in no more than ten minutes before the scheduled start time (with shows running amazingly on time).  We'd line up, file in, the lights would dim, and the show would begin.  Sometimes when we entered the theater, the actors were already onstage just waiting to get started.  We often ended up in the front row (not always a good thing as some of the shows were pretty painful.  We only left two shows mid-performance, but there were a couple of others we would have left if a graceful exit had been possible.)

Needless to say, organization is key to making the most of the Festival experience.  Booking 24 shows in advance provided us with the backbone of our schedule while still permitting us to add on shows that got good reviews or sounded intriguing.  Of course we weren't able to see everything on our radar--and we made some missteps along the way--but overall I'm quite pleased with our choices.  And now on to some commentary about the shows....











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