The 9th Annual Charm City Fringe, Baltimore’s premier independent theatre and performing arts festival, is slated to take place this coming October 2020. Due to the overwhelming burden facing performing artists who livelihoods are at stake during this global health crisis, Charm City Fringe decided to waive its production fee (a $300-$400 value) so that artists can apply to the festival without the financial strain. Placing a tremendous loss to the Fringe, the organization is looking for help from the Maryland community through any contribution within people’s means. Zachary Michel, Co-Founder of Charm City Fringe, recently chatted with Baltimore OUTloud with what the community can do to help.
“Artists, often doubling as hospitality workers, have been some of the hardest hit by the pandemic and the virtual economic halt,” Michel began. “It’s hard enough being socially isolated and fiscally impacted without taking away your means of expression. Art is an emotional outlet for everyone involved, from those creating to those enjoying it. We believe in the power of the arts to heal communities and are doing everything in our power to help artists to get back to creating so that we can reunite and recover. This is why we are waiving our production fee ($300-$400) for our 2020 Charm City Fringe festival, so that artists can continue creating without the looming burden of affordability.”
Michel added, “Following our announcement, we had an artist message us in tears over the gesture, telling us how she, ‘needed something to look forward to.’ Everyone really needs something to look forward to, and while we take care of ourselves now, we also want artists and theater companies to know that they have a home ready and waiting for them this October. We hope that artists from across the state will join us in rallying together to come back strong.”
Michel went on to explain how waiving this fee, allows for artists to have a place to perform. “Waiving this cost means artists will have a stage, box office, lights and sound, professionally led workshops, and marketing for their next work for just the cost of applying. We need to keep our $35 application fee to help pay for the application review process. However, the cost of productions before artists even begin rehearsing is over $10,000, with Charm City Fringe itself taking on these expenses. Our board has doubled down on their annual contributions and we have had 21 incredible supporters step up to donate for the first time. Fringe has reached 25% of its $6,000 goal and is calling on other arts lovers and theater goers to help save Baltimore’s Fringe Festival – a proving ground for fresh new and independent theater in Maryland – and spread the word to others.”
“Fringe Theatre is a valuable asset to every city where it exists,” Michel continued. “It’s likely you have even seen a show or enjoyed a performer who got their start on the Fringe stage. Phoebe Waller-Bridge launched her Emmy Award-winning Fleabag as a one-woman show at Edinburgh Fringe, the Broadway alt-comedy smash Urinetown! actually premiered at the New York International Fringe Festival (NYIFF), and Mindy Kaling, before finding fame on The Office, likewise found her footing producing at NYIFF.”
Michel continued, “Baltimore Fringe acts as this same springboard, giving aspiring actors and producers a platform from which to test new work. In its eight years, Charm City Fringe has had festival alumni tour their works globally (Siobhan O’Loughlin, Natural Novice and Broken Bone Bathtub), sell out runs internationally at Edinburgh (A Fool’s Paradise), and publish books (Ron Kipling Williams, Dreadlocks, Rock & Roll, and Human Rights and How Many Orgasms Does it Take to Stop Dropping Bombs?), to name a handful.”
“Charm City Fringe serves as more than simply a springboard for new work to find acclaim abroad, however. It serves as a gateway to find their voice and their audience in Baltimore.” Michel concluded, “Audiences routinely come away from the festival having discovered artists they hadn’t known existed and now ‘have to follow.’ It’s the joy of fringe: you may know not what you are going to find, and some is going to be off-the-wall weird, but some will be right in your sweet spot.”
- Since 2011, arts writer Frankie Kujawa has covered a wide scope of entertainment stories and celebrity interviews. From the late Carrie Fisher and LGBTQ icon George Takei to comedians Lily Tomlin and Kathy Griffin to performer Idina Menzel, Kujawa’s candid interview ability brings readers past the byline and into the heart of the story. His unbiased previews of Baltimore-Washington’s theatre scene have allowed readers an inside glimpse of today’s most popular local and national performances. A Baltimore-native, Kujawa is proud to call Charm City his home.
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