Jeff Smith 2 p.m., Jan. 27
San Diego Fringe Festival
In 1947, Edinburgh, Scotland, held its first International Arts Festival: theater, opera, dance, classical music, and visual arts. The aim: "to provide a platform for the flowering of the human spirit" after World War II.
Performances took place in august locales: the Royal Lyceum Theatre, the King's Theatre, the Queen's Hall, even Edinburgh Castle among them.
Irked that the gathering was so, in the words of a rejected performer, "high buck," eight theater groups decided to stage more experimental works on the outskirts — on the "fringe" — of the ardently traditionalist festival.
Edinburgh was an obvious site for the fringe because a large audience would be in the city for the Big Event. Many may have been interested in less "high buck" offerings.
From the start, Fringe entrants were "un-juried." There was no selection committee. Any kind of performance was welcome. The organization found a venue for each and left them alone.
The comedy group Beyond the Fringe (Alan Bennett, Dudley Moore, Peter Cook, and Jonathan Miller) began at, and took its name from, the Fringe Festival of 1960.
Tom Stoppard's Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead premiered there in 1966.
Today the Edinburgh Fringe is the largest arts festival on the planet. In 2011, there were over 2500 shows in 258 venues, and over 40,000 performances - in the last three weeks of August.
From the beginning, and since the festival is unjuried, the quality has varied considerably. Former Fringe administrator Michael Dale writes in Sore Throats and Overdrafts, "no one can say what the quality will be like overall. it does not matter, actually, for that is not the point of the Fringe. The Fringe is a forum for ideas and achievement unique in the..whole world. Where else could all this be attempted, let alone work?"
All around the world, in fact. There are now over 20 festivals annually, and from July 1 to July 7, San Diego will have its first ever.
IT'S ABOUT TIME.
San Diego's a natural for such a celebration of the arts. It's Edinburgh's "sister city" and could become a magnet for tourists in search of the latest expressions in theater, dance, music, cabaret, cirque, comedy, and acts that defy classification altogether. In time it could rival Comic-Con.
"We're so excited for the future of this festival," says Kevin Charles Patterson, Executive Producer. "With having an arts platform like this in one of the country's leading travel destinations, we've got a lot of potential for fantastic Fringe-ness!"
The director of contactARTS, Patterson has produced local events and national tours. He studied several fringe festivals first hand: Edinburgh, San Francisco, Fresno, New Orleans, Orlando, among them, and attended conferences, including the World Fringe Congress in Scotland. In his travels he has also encouraged artists to come to San Diego.
Patterson has created a network of collaborators: Circle Circle dot dot, Actor's Alliance of San Diego, the East Village Association, and numerous local businesses.
The festival will showcase over 50 performers, from San Diego and around the world, in the following venues:
Tenth Avenue Theatre, 930 10th Avenue, downtown. New School of Architecture and Design, 1249 F Street, East Village. Space 4 Art, 325 15th Street, downtown. Searsucker Restaurant, 611 Fifth Avenue, midtown. Les Girls, 3201 Hancock Street, Midway area. Whistle Stop, 2236 Fern Street, South Park. Seaport Village, 849 Harbor Drive.
Next time: Fringe logistics.