So, Griffin and I both have votes in the Critics’ Picks, which either shows the increased respect for Internet media or is yet another sign of the coming Apocalypse…. your call.
Basically, we’re all expected to vote for three shows, listing in order our choices.
I’m not going to list my ballot here, which would be the transparent thing to do, of course, but it just seems somehow unfair because there were far more than three shows that worthy of a pick this year. So, I thought I would attempt to describe my thinking going in, and–after having made the picks–the reasoning does describe the actual choices.
Now, none of this is to say what shows should be at Fringe; one of the best things about Fringe is that there is a huge variety of shows based on different assumptions. What I’m giving here is just the rationale for my vote for best in festival. The truth is that I love having shows in Fringe that I would never vote for best in festival–we need that vareity, that challenge. Remember: don’t take the list below as a suggestion that certain shows shouldn’t be at the festival.
So, for what it’s worth, the standards…
- Quality. This goes without saying (or should).
- Technique / "Professionalism". While Fringe shows tend to be viewed as "non-professional", in the sense that they are non-union, the best shows at Fringe have performers with top technique and training. If you have a great show and so-so technique, it’s hard to justify a pick.
- Length. This sounds lame and subjective, but if your show is shorter than 45 minutes, you probably didn’t enough time to write a full show. (On the other hand 90 minutes is the upper bound, but no show went longer than that this year, so this wasn’t a factor.) At the same time, a show should only last as long as the writers have idea.
- Off-book. This is a personal standard. If you’re reading your performance, it’s not theatrical enough. Being tied to your script inhibits your interaction with the audience and with your material. Plenty of sixty minute shows are fully memorized; there’s no real reason not to be off-book.
- Theatrical Framework. Every show should have some unifying theme or narrative. A series of loosely tied vignettes or songs may be a fun show, but it is likely not going to be a pick. At the same time, a show should have a point, either an argument or some kind of perspective based on thematic cohesion.
- Production. The ideal Fringe show figures out how to use its environment to its advantage. Get assigned a bombed-out storefront: make it work. Get a classroom at the Art Academy: play it to your advantage.
- "Fringe-y". This is the hard-to-define characteristic. It could include any of the following: interdisplinary, experimental, interdisciplinary, stylistically challenging, taboo or adult subject matter, etc.
After writing these, I’m starting to go back and forth on publishing my vote. We’ll see….