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More Passion Than Profit, but the Fringe Needs a Few Bucks

By Rick Pender · April 1st, 2009 · Curtain Call

Two weeks ago I wrote with enthusiasm about the 2009 Cincinnati Fringe Festival, the sixth consecutive year for this vibrant burst of edgy theater, film and visual art. I called it “creative and distracting … in these troubled times” and asked, “Is it May yet?” The festival’s producer, Know Theatre of Cincinnati, plans to get things started on May 26 and continue the fun through June 6.

But last week, “these troubled times” took a swipe at the Fringe. I received an e-mail from Jeff Syroney, president of Know Theatre’s board of trustees, with some bad news: “As with so many other worthy organizations, the last few months have been especially difficult … Recently a key sponsor announced they would not be able to provide the $40,000 in support they had pledged.” Syroney and others are reaching out to friends to fill this gap.

But it need not just be Syroney’s personal acquaintances. If you have enjoyed Know’s productions throughout the year and reveled in the crazy quilt of theater and more that constitutes the Fringe, you should help ensure the festival’s viability. Know’s Web site (www.knowtheatre.com) has an online donation page.

It’s an easy way to make some kind of contribution — as little as $25 will help.

If you have the wherewithal for more, you can support a component of the festival and attach your name to a specific event, activity or service. You can underwrite the Fringe opening night event for $1,000, the Web site for $1,500, one of the bar series evenings at Know’s “Underground” space for $500 or fund a Fringe Web trailer with a gift of $250. For $200 you can be an associate box-office sponsor — they’re looking for 15 of those. Syroney says groups of friends are pooling dollars and jointly funding sponsorships. He even suggests someone can be a “bathroom sponsor,” if that’s an aspect you care about. Your ideas are welcome. For more information, call Know’s offices at 513-300-5669.

Our local festival has become a vital component of our arts scene, a low-risk incubator for performers and an annual shot of inspiration from outside Cincinnati. It’s also become an attraction that brings people to Over-the- Rhine, which has changed mightily (in a very positive way) since the first festival back in 2004. It would be a big loss if the Fringe were to become a casualty of our hard times.

The Cincinnati Fringe has momentum, but it’s fragile. If it stalls, the chances of getting it back are not good. Several festivals around the U.S. have folded, even before the economic downturn — even as our own has grown steadily stronger. But a Fringe is a thin operation, staffed by a ton of volunteers and a few paid organizers who do it more for love than money. It doesn’t cost a lot to put on a fringe festival, but it does cost something. Performers take away just half the ticket revenue from their four or five appearances, so no one is getting rich. This is more about passion than profit.

But it will be about loss if we don’t step up and help Know Theatre make ends meet. I urge you to think about what the Cincinnati Fringe Festival means to our city and to offer your support. I will do my part. How about you?

CONTACT RICK PENDER: rpender@citybeat.com



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