Talkin’ about talkin’ about a revolution

Well Vancouver, here we go again. There are now three days left until the opening night of Fringe ’08, so it’s time to start wading through this year’s line-up to see what jumps out. I gotta level with you, this is an annual prospect that I absolutely dread. It’s a mystifying process to me, not the least reason being that it’s a logistical nightmare trying to schedule maximum theatre into my already crammed schedule. And the unjuried nature of the Fringe means there’s no real guarantee of quality for my festival buck. In years past Fringing has always proven to be a bit of a crap shoot, and still all we’ve got to go on is three sentences in the official Fringe guide and a small promotional photo that, while well-considered I’m sure, can’t offer any real insight into the actual experience of the piece. We’re going to need more info, methinks.

Now, yes, there are a few resources already in place to facilitate efficient Fringing. Some touring shows get a bit of advance buzz, if you can source it out. The local papers run a few reviews. But I think it’s high time there was a better system of separating the wheat from the chaff, as it were. Perhaps some sort of convenient method of instant communication through which Fringers, both audience and artist, can have a discussion with each other about the work.

Indie theatre, I’m sorry, but it’s time to cozy up to the internet.

One of the advantages TV and film makers have over theatre makers is an enormous and immediate access to fan opinion. They can always track how their product is doing because they can filter through an endless amount of passionate commentary, both positive and negative, to gauge what their audience likes and dislikes. It would be a tremendous asset to our artists and to theatre as a whole if we could openly and honestly and publicly talk about how we felt about the work we see. I know it feels weird, and that we don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings. But if theatre is going to grow in popularity, it’s going to have to be talked about more, plain and simple. Don’t worry, the people that are serious about the work can take your honesty, and it’s more than likely that they crave it. If you have a strong opinion, don’t keep it to yourself.

Towards getting this revolution of discourse rolling, The Next Stage has teamed up with Plank Magazine to provide a forum for this conversation and, with the blessing of the Fringe administration, we’ve assembled a team of theatre lovers to blitz the opening weekend, with the ambition of offering our take on each and every entry in the Fest this year. The goal is to establish a 3rd-party guide of honest opinion to help everyone get the greatest experience possible from this 2 week immersion in independent theatre .

But the thing here is, we’re just opening the door. Over at Plank anyone is welcome to discuss their Fringe experience. Artist or audience or both, we know you’re passionate about this thing, and we’d love you to share. After all, it’s just opinion, we’re all entitled to one, and the more that theatre becomes a dialogue instead of a monologue, the healthier it becomes.

Click here to download the 2008 Fringe guide. Click here to read our reviews and to leave your own. And check out the Fringe video listings over there on the top of the sidebar, where a bunch of artists have already started talking to you about their work.

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