Go Deeper

More Fringe? Whaaaa?

Posted September 27th, 2010

Well, not here. But a short jaunt south this week will take you to Fringe Wilmington, which opens on Wednesday night for its second year. They grow so fast at that age!

We kid because we love. Specifically, we love how the Wilmington Fringe, clustered around North Market Street, in downtown Wilmington, brings a spark to an urban core not normally known for it. And if you missed the Philly Fringe shows An Irreverent Journey from Eggbeaters to Vibrators, Etty, Journeys of the Wolf, The Real Housewives of South Philly, or Tongue & Groove, you’ve got a second chance in Wilmington.

“We’re really happy that Philly grabs up people, and we’re very lucky to be able to continue the momentum that the Phillly Fringe brings,” says Tina Betz, one of the co-founders of Fringe Wilmington. “We’re hoping that people are excited about what they’ve done in Philly [such] that they want to continue” in Wilmington.

But let’s not make this story all about us. Fringe Wilmington is pulling in performers—and audiences&mdash from across the Mid-Atlantic, while providing an local outlet for First State artists.

“We did a survey in last year’s festival,” says Tina, “and found that most people who attended came from out of town, from the larger metro areas. Being downtown and out and about after five was not foreign to them. People are attracted to where other people are. When there’s a critical mass of people there’s a natural draw.”

Access and price both appeal. For the car-less, SEPTA and Amtrak deliver audience members three blocks away from the southernmost venue, and Interstate 95 and Route 202 deliver drivers to a downtown where parking is easy and ample.

“We were surprised at the draw from out of state visitors,” says Rich Neumann, Tina’s fellow co-founder and co-director. “Our single largest ticket buyer last year was a couple from Charlottesville, Virginia. This year, we’ve gotten responses from as far as Lexington, Virginia.”

All visitors have to buy an admission button, which costs a mere five bucks. The shows? Also only five bucks, but if you want an all-access pass, it’ll set you back $25. A steal? Yes, thanks largely to an increase in sponsorship for Fringe Wilmington despite the poor economic climate. And there’s a big upshot for the performers.

“Last year we did a box office split,” Rich says. “This year, all the proceeds go directly to the artists. Artists love it because it’s so affordable in the first place.”

Perhaps the favorite event—for both artists and audiences—is the 48-Hour Filmmaking Competition, which has emerged as the centerpiece of Fringe Wilmington.

“It brings out a lot of [contestants]—people that might not normally attend the other performances, and we give them all-access passes as part of the participation. We show all entries on the big screen during the festival, and at the conclusion we show the top 10 films and have a fringe award ceremony. We give out gag trophies as well as cash prizes,” says Rich.

Last year, the final top-10 screening sold out a 300+ seat venue, and this year, $4,000 in prizes are up for grabs.

“We know that downtown Wilmington needed a different type of vibe,” Tina says, “something that would draw people who felt differently about being downtown at night, and we felt a fringe festival would help with that.”

Fringe Wilmington opens on Wednesday night, and runs through Sunday, October 3. Shows, times, and venues vary. Visit for details. All shows $5, or $25 for an all-access pass.

–Nicholas Gilewicz