Aug 22, 2013 Fringe Theatre Festival, Edmonton Alberta
Part Eight – Similarities between Fringe Theatre and Independent Publishing
Question: So, here we are at the Edmonton Fringe Theatre Festival, one of the most successful Fringe Theatre events in North America, in terms of theatre attendance and general festival participation. I think one can draw a lot of parallels between Fringe Theatre events and independent novel publishing. How about you starting off
Answer: Well, the first comparison that springs to mind is that word independent. As I understand it, in Fringe Theatre, some theatre people get together, pick a play (sometimes that means writing one), choose a cast, directors, technical support, and so forth, then apply for a stage at the Fringe event. It’s generally not an ongoing theatre company, but a group of artists collaborating for the length of the run. It’s small scale, like independent or self-publishing. The artists have a lot of control in both cases.
Question: It’s a little like Kati of Terra’s group of performers on Vultaire, in Kati of Terra Book 2.
Answer: Nice plug. Yeah, and similar to that situation, the performers take most of the financial risk and share the financial gains or losses. Which is true of independent publishing too.
Question: Though the Fringe Theatre association gets a cut, in a manner similar to how Amazon or Kobo gets a cut of the independent publisher’s revenue.
Answer: Well, in both cases those people provide a very useful service, so they deserve a reasonable cut of the revenue. They are providing the venue, whether stages or websites. But, the bulk of the revenues flow to the creative people, as I think they should. That tends not to be the case in big theatre or big publishing. For better or worse, a lot of non-creatives get the major cut of the money in those cases.
Question: Another similarity is the greater variety and volume of works that get produced and consumed under these models (Fringe theatre and independent publishing), compared to the more centralized systems (big theatre and big publishing). I note that the Edmonton Fringe has over 50 venues going, with at least 200 or so separate plays being produced. That’s a lot of theatre in 10 days. Similarly, independent e-book publishing has vastly increased the number and variety of books being published and consumed.
Answer: Yes, both of these innovations in cultural production and distribution have unleashed a lot of creativity. Human beings have an amazing level of creativity and they love to share it with each other.
Question: Not everyone thinks that’s a great thing.
Answer: Well, I don’t suppose many people who benefitted from the old system will prefer the new one. But change happens and I think it is an overall positive.
Question: What about the quality argument?
Answer: Both Fringe Theatre and independent publishing probably have a wider range of quality than the older models. But that also means a wider variety of themes and stories make it out to the public. In both cases it is the public who decides on “quality”, not tastemakers or gatekeepers. That seems more democratic to me.
Question: The four plays that we have seen seem like a good sample of what independent artists can do. They have all been good, often very thought provoking, funny and quite literary as it happens.
Answer: Yes, “Promise and Promiscuity” was a smart take-off on Jane Austen, “Charles Presents: Moby Alpha” was very funny satire of Moby Dick and SF, “Or,” was an amusing take on Restoration drama, and “Freud’s Last Session” was a thought-provoking intellectual discussion between Freud and C.S. Lewis. That’s a good couple days work for the Fringe.
Question: As is Kati 1 and Kati 2 a good couple year’s work for independent publishing.
Answer: Oh, you.