The Show Must Go On(line)?
Plans for Asheville’s 19th annual Fringe Festival in January 2021 are far from finalized, with possibilities ranging from an all-digital event to streamed performances by out-of-town artists, and locals having the option to be onstage in person. Whatever form it takes, the Asheville Fringe Society Board is committed to having a festival of some kind.
“While we are open to creative ideas for safe, in-person live shows, we foresee that much of the festival will be virtual,” says Jennifer Bennett, festival media director. “Not only do we have in mind the safety of the artists, audiences, staff and volunteers, but several of our venues have permanently closed.”
It’s a collective learning curve, but the fringe arts — with their DIY aesthetic, risk taking and quirky sensibilities — are known for adaptability. “There are some nonstop conversation threads among all the U.S. Association of Fringe Festivals, and right now it seems like everyone who hasn’t canceled for the year is taking different approaches to virtual festivals, including Zoom, YouTube, Facebook Live, Facebook Premiere, Vimeo and Streamyard,” Bennett says. “This network is full of smart, creative folks who are all learning from each other as quickly as possible.”
The festival includes performances from five to 60 minutes in length, plus installations and films. Depending on its length, a piece may be grouped with others, or scheduled as a Random Act of Fringe. The deadline for applying to the 2021 Festival is September 23. Since much of the festival will take place online, anyone who wants to apply now has a chance to perform without traveling. Although this format seems limiting, the audience is limitless. The organizers are open to new experiments in live or virtual performance, whether they be unconventional show formats, online platforms or unusual venues.
2020 has taught us that everything is subject to change. If you can roll with the changes, the Asheville Fringe Festival invites you to apply.
For more information or an application, visit AshevilleFringe.org.