Sunday, May 30, 2004

Fringe Festival founders can give themselves a hand

Performance art

By Jackie Demaline
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Late last Sunday night, Jason Bruffy was back at Milton's, the Prospect Hill neighborhood bar where he and a bunch of friends had originally hatched the idea of a Cincinnati Fringe Festival a year and a half ago.

They had plenty to celebrate. The May 12-23 Fringe broke even and scored just under 2,000 in attendance, exactly what Bruffy had hoped for. For a first try, Bruffy says, he'll take it.

The 2004 Cincinnati Fringe Festival, by the numbers:

Attendance at ticketed events: 1,972

Best of Show: Time Outside My Body. Best attended and top Pick of the Fringe.

The multimedia performance work by Cincinnati performers Tara Guilfoil and Natalie Bolan, at 251 tickets, slipped into first with an extra performance, as Audience Choice in Pick of the Fringe.

No. 2 Ticket: Shopping and..., 239

Runners-up: Mokshayoho: Untitled, 147; Love Me - Love Me Not from Untold Stories, 135 and This Love Train Is Unstoppable...,134.

Top Venue: Rosenthal Center for Contemporary Arts. It can't be coincidence that the four best-attended events were in the nifty black box performing space in downtown Cincinnati's favorite new building. The seats were the best of the Fringe, too.

Good for Us: Three of the five top-selling shows were by Cincinnati artists and two of the three Pick of the Fringe were local.

Volunteers: 132

Most Frustrating Moment: Saturday night on Fountain Square when the band and light show had out-of-towners watching from hotel windows and coming up to Bruffy asking, "does this happen every weekend?"

He wasn't frustrated because the answer was no, he was frustrated because the band started packing up as the Reds crowd poured onto the scene in a party mood. The Fringe won't be losing the moment next year, he says firmly.

Most Satisfying Outcome: "Seeing a lot of artists at all the shows," says Bruffy. "My hope from the beginning was that people would see homemade spaces and realize that maybe you don't need millions of dollars worth of equipment."

Break even: $14,800.

The Fringe made it "with change," says Greg Davis, business manager of Cincinnati Shakespeare Festival, which sponsored the first Fringe, after payout to artists and costs including royalties and space rentals.

Ticket sales were augmented by merchandise, concessions and advertising income.

Bruffy good-naturedly says he's officially unemployed as of last Friday ("I'm available"), but he's not without projects. He's directing Another American for Know Tribe, opening June 11, and, significantly, he's incorporated the new Cincinnati Experimental Arts. He's now completing applications for not-for-profit status.

"It will be a little bigger platform to shout from," he grins. It's important, he adds, to keep the momentum going.

Bruffy promises other ideas in the works, "more collaborations," he hints.

"The Fringe is a short amount of time and a large number of people. Experimental Arts will be a small number of people and a large amount of time."

Fringe 2005: "Absolutely. Tara Guilfoil and (Columbus-based) BlueForms are already talking about what they're doing for next year."

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