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Fringe Fest by the numbers

<i>7 (x1) Samurai</i> was one of the top-selling shows at the 2011 Minnesota Fringe Festival.

7 (x1) Samurai was one of the top-selling shows at the 2011 Minnesota Fringe Festival.

After Sunday evening's encore performances, it was determined that a total of 48,350 tickets were issued for the 11-day Fringe Festival. That number is a minor drop from 2010's record-setting pace, where slightly more than 50,000 tickets were sold.

But that still puts this year ahead of any other year at the 18-year-old festival.

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If you dig averages, there were about 56 people in each audience. So when you factor in fewer performances between the two years, that actually comes out to a difference of less than two people per performance.

Fringe Executive Director Robin Gillette was "tired and happy" when reached Monday afternoon. 

"The numbers weren't where they were last year, but last year was a freakishly fantastic year. A repeat of that would have been nuts. I'm really delighted where the numbers ended up," she says.

Gillette was also pleased by the quality of shows. "I heard from a lot of people who were blown away by the overall quality. That's the luck of the draw, but it seems like all of the producers rose to the challenge. I heard from a couple of audience members who were disappointed that we didn't have any bad shows."

That certainly reflects my own experience. There were only a handful of shows I found to be truly disappointing.

Another luck of the draw that seemed to have worked well? The quality of the touring Fringe productions.

"A lot of the out-of-towners we had this year are ones who are very active on the Fringe circuit. It was fun to have them come here, and it was also a great way for the local artists to get information about the rest of the Fringe circuit," Gillette says.

Those touring shows marked some of my favorites of the festival, and for the general audience as well. The first show I caught, 7 (x1) Samurai, ended selling the second highest number of tickets (to, not surprisingly, Joseph Scrimshaw's latest). Several other touring productions also made an impact, ending up selling well or having multiple sell outs during their runs.

Beyond that, Gillette and the rest of the organization will also be looking at the numbers, comments from the audiences, and a survey of the producers. One question Gillette plans to add for the final group will look at the division this year of the festival into three size classes. "I'm profoundly curious to find out the results of that," she says.