Numbers steady at 2013 Minnesota Fringe Festival

Fashion Risk or the Accidental Nudist.
Fashion Risk or the Accidental Nudist.
Photo courtesy Natalie Rae Wass
Nearly 50,000 tickets were issued for the just-completed Minnesota Fringe Festival. Those numbers are up from 2012, while the per-performance average remained close to the same number year over year.

Those tickets were used by more than 16,000 people, who had 896 performances at 16 venues to choose from in 2013. In 2012, there were 15 venues and fewer total performances. When it is all said and done, both years averaged about 56 attendees at each performance.

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Of course, not all shows are created equal, as I saw shows that were packed to the gills in the Rarig Thrust to one that just managed to get a double handful in the audience for a 10 p.m. performance.

The top piece, both in percent of the house sold and actual folks attending, was Transatlantic Love Affair's These Old Shoes. Presented at the Music Box Theatre, the show continued the hot streak by the innovative company, who has had several past hits at the festival.

The remaining top five by tickets sold were: Shelly Bachberg Presents: How Anne Frank and Helen Keller Freed the SlavesHickory Minimum Security Correctional Facility Presents: Hoosiers: The State AdaptationFour Humors' Lolita: A Three Man Show, and
Fashion Risk or the Accidental Nudist.

Apart from long, convoluted titles, these shows often came from artists with long Fringe track records and included topics (and titles) sure to grab the eye. Natalie Rae Wass's Accidental Nudist even drew the ire of a conservative watchdog group, which apparently didn't attend the show or even read a description (it's about growing up with nudist parents) before condemning it.

Wass's show sold out five of the six performances at the festival. Three pieces managed to sell out all of their performances. It was easy to predict that favorite Joseph Scrimshaw, who typically fills houses at the big Rarig stages, would pack houses at the tiny Rarig Xperimental for How to Swear Like a Minnesotan. Stuck in the Elevator with Patrick Stewart had an eye-catching, geek-centric title and strong word of mouth.

The last, They Called Her Captain, was an atypical hit: a solo show recounting a woman's experiences during World War II. It's also another sign that the Fringe can be a place for all types of performances and stories.

Final financial information isn't yet available, but the majority of the money goes back to the 1,100 artists who made the 2013 festival possible. Now, the creators have a chance to decompress, and to start thinking about 2014.

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