70 Years of Fringe – By Ben Hill, Executive Director

Fringe. Seventy years filled with creativity, innovation and just a touch of madness to keep things interesting. Yours is a hallowed tradition, an institution, a great movement and force that’s needed more than ever.

We founded the Hollywood Fringe Festival in 2010, very much in the collaborative and open spirit of Edinburgh Festival Fringe. In the years since, I have witnessed firsthand the community mobilizing and enriching impact a festival of this sort has on a city.  

When we arrived in Los Angeles (and began three years of planning), the best advice we received was a from a Fringe Legend himself – John Clancy, a founder of FringeNYC and an EdFringe vet. He said this to me: your fringe needs to match your city. 

This little tidbit has informed much of what we have created. It’s all about how the Fringe compliments and impacts its community. Though Fringe is a global movement, its impact is seen and felt locally. So, what is the impact?

Fringe is a hatchery for new works and a incubator for emerging artists. Without the relatively low-cost/low-risk model provided at Fringe, the cost of developing new works would be out-of-reach for many. This is a huge boon to new art. Without the opportunity to effectively stage a work of the performing arts, it’s academic, theoretical, cerebral. The performing arts live in our collective experience; an environment that suffocates the new with financial limitations crushes hope for emerging new voices. 

Fringe is an audience force-multiplier. As individual producing groups carry their audiences into the festival, those patrons are pulled into the broader world of the performing arts. As a result, the commingling of audience between participants generates new audience for all. In this way, all participants benefit from the patron building capabilities of the Fringe. And patrons benefit through exposure to challenging new works that would otherwise be lost to them.

Fringe indoctrinates new arts patrons. Its shows tend to be inexpensive, culturally relevant and short. Each of these aspects appeals to the unseasoned arts-goer as well a city’s youth population. It is at Fringe that new audience members are built, strengthening and growing a city’s arts scene. This benefits all arts organizations year-round.

My life is forever transformed through my work on this festival and in the broader fringe community where I have found a home. 

Fringe: for a seventy-year-old, you still seem youthful, energetic and forever open to new forms just over the horizon. Happy birthday.


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