Go Deeper Happy Hour on the Fringe: 2020 Fringe Festival Wrap-Up

Happy Hour on the Fringe: 2020 Fringe Festival Wrap-Up

Posted February 3rd, 2021
On this episode of Happy Hour on the Fringe, Raina and Zach take a few breaths to reflect on their experiences organizing and patronizing Fringe Fest 2020. So sit back, squeeze some oat udders, and find out just what made this city-wide artistic showcase the most unique one of their careers (besides the obvious).

Raina Searles: Hello and welcome to Happy Hour on the Fringe. FringeArts is Philadelphia’s premiere presenter of contemporary performing arts. I’m Raina Searles, marketing manager here at Fringe.  

Zach Blackwood: And I’m Zach Blackwood, an artistic producer here at Fringe.

Raina: And today we invite you to pour one up and enjoy our conversation with some of the most imaginative people on this plane of existence. 

Zach: On today’s episode that’s just Raina and I, and we’re going to be taking a look back at the 2020 the Fringe Festival now that it’s wrapped up. With some hindsight, we want to take a look back at the process leading up to this year’s festival, the festival itself, and try to anticipate the future of Fringe festivals. 

Raina: We have spent the last few months talking with artists from our curated and independent lineups, asking about what’s been different for them. And so today one of the things that we want to address is how this year’s festival has been different for us as the FringeArts organization and, you know, Zach and I as the people working behind the scenes to help make it all happen. So Zach, this is still Happy Hour on the Fringe, so what are we drinking today?

Zach: You guys are gonna make fun of me…Today I’m drinking, like, this oat milk matcha latte infusion thing that I’ve been making at home, and it’s very very good. I got very very into coffee-making and tea-making over the last several months, while it’s been not okay to go to a cafe regularly, and this is my, like, newest Frankenstein green concoction. How about you Raina?

Raina: Oh, well first, I mean, should I make fun of you because you’re using oat milk or… 

Zach: I love oat milk don’t even…I’m not like lactose intolerant. I’m not a vegan I just love oat milk; I’m all about the oat.

Raina: On the contrary, I recently just let some fat-free milk slip away from me and go bad in my fridge because I wasn’t making enough milkshakes in my nutribullet. But today I’m having tea. It’s—I don’t know—I feel so I always sit by the window in my apartment, and it’s that weird phase where I could have the heat on, I could have the air conditioning on, I could have nothing on, but like the tea just makes me feel warm when, like, it’s a little bit colder outside and I’m right by the window. So I’m enjoying some tea. 

Zach: Having a post-Fringe Festival tea party,relaxing, you know, letting our spines unclench.

Raina: Yes, definitely feeling all the stresses that went into putting this together slip away. I think I’ve been not so offline as much as I thought I would be after the Fringe Festival. We also followed it up with Audi FEASTIVAL, our virtual dinner series, and, you know, then we had a late night snacks, kind of extended festival cabaret marathon.So we’re actually like, as of October 17th, we’ve now finished the full festival. 

Zach: Yeah yeah. Oh and it was, you know, every Fringe Festival asks a lot of us, as a staff, but this one in particular. I mean, it feels like we made several festivals, but I feel like before we get into all of that, the nuts and boltiness, let’s just reflect on, like okay we did it: big giant virtual, largely virtual, hybrid kind of in-person performance festival. It’s in the can. That’s amazing. But let’s reflect on some of our favorite experiences or moments. I think you should go first. We don’t have to pick like your most absolute favorite or anything like that, or what was, like, the thing that sticks out to you as being most acutely special or anything, that just, something that comes to mind. Maybe we’ll do a couple of them. I don’t know. Yeah I think we can even think about it through the lens of you know the out and about experiences and and ones that we experience digitally because we we did have a variety of shows this year and it’s it’s hard to compare some of the digital ones to some of the in-person ones because they’re totally different, but I will just say that, on the last weekend of the festival, one of my most special festival moments was that my friends and I decided to do a sleepover and go to five shows in one week, like two day 24 hour period where it started off with us going for walks. So we did part of Walk Around Philadelphia by JJ Tiziou. We did The Expansions presents Connecting the Distance, which was going to some locations in the North Philadelphia area and, like, scanning a QR code to experience a dance performance. And then, that evening, we did the drive around Laurel Hill Cemetery for The Way Out by Tangle Movement Arts, which was so exciting to see, you know, all these like different stops and we saw glassblowing. I don’t know that if we explicitly mentioned that in any of our marketing, but that showed glass blowing in it and it was amazing. And then we went home and we watched Incredible Dreamz presents Friendship Movie Club, at which we felt was very apt because we were having our own friendship movie club that night, and we really felt like we were at a sleepover with a bunch of people, playing all sorts of games and having a total blast. And then, the next day, we did Zoom Reality TV. And so, lots of fun over that whole weekend, and that also covered like a number of shows. But that was one of, like, my most favorite festival moments, because I think that’s one of the things about the festival for me is experiencing with with other people, and it was like one thing to like be in a Zoom room with like a bunch of people and, like, feel that energy, but even just having, like, one or two other people with me to experience something made it that much better.

Zach: Yeah, that’s great. I feel like you guys are going to make fun of me, because so many of my Fringe Festival moments are solo; I had a lot of, like, solo experiences this Fringe Festival, and I kind of expected that. I mean a lot of the shows themselves had some, kind of thought about being alone or being in a solitary state. But also I went to see TrailOff—or I went to do TrailOff—and I was on the South Columbus Trail, so it’s behind the Walmart. It’s crazy. And that’s where it starts. And it was just this moment where I’m like, I’ve got my headphones in, and I figured out exactly where I need to be to start the program, you know, and I click the little button, and the audio started, and the first character that you meet is a cat. And at that moment, that this cat is introducing themself, a real cat appears in front of me, and it’s like, “Oh my gosh, like, who is paying this little cat?” And what I found is that that piece itself, part of the reason it starts with the cat, is because there are so so many cats in that parking lot, and there is some chance of that happening to every person who might experience that story so…

Raina: Oh wow!

Zach: Get on down there, you know. TrailOff is still active, and it’s something that you can still do. Fringe Festival’s over. Fringe Festival’s never over. So that one was a good one. I really really enjoyed Alex Tatarsky’s Nothing To Show. I—you know me—I love clowns. I love love love clowns. That’s probably why I’m the person who works on our comedy festival as well: I am a clown. Anywho, I just love that piece so much, and I loved the experience of watching people kind of ambiently experience that work, people who are not planning to go see a sad clown show about nothing who just happened upon one, you know. And it was nice to just stand there and be completely silent as people walked up and asked, “What’s happening here?” Because they all figured it out, you know, like, there was documentation around, like, Alex had some great, kind of, text surrounding them; it was really helpful in just immediately framing the work. But people would walk up and say, “Oh I get it. I get it. Like, this is like what Looney Tunes is based on.” And I’m like, “Yeah, essentially. Like, yes.” And it was just so so powerful. And yeah, I really loved James Allister Sprang’s Aquifer of the Ducts. I found that the experiences I had both nights, while participating in that piece, were just profound, like bodily sensations that made me feel different and better, you know, during this period of stagnating and mostly bad feelings—no offense. So that was really great. Yeah, it just felt like I was releasing, like, ancestral trauma during that piece; just like things that I’ve been holding on to for a really really really long time just kind of went away for like a good 45 minutes. And then I felt them all again, but it was nice to be without them for a moment.

Raina: Yeah. And Zach, you did the intro for that piece, which I will say, like, you know James has such a smooth smooth voice, and so I was surprised when I first heard you but I was like, “Oh…Like, Zach you also have a really smooth voice.”

Zach: Stop this! No, I sound like Fran Drescher with, like, some kind of, like Fran Drescher but like she screamed really loud at a concert last night.

Raina: Wow, okay, I wasn’t getting that at all. I mean that’s usually how I feel about my own speaking engagements, but no. But this is why we build each other up.

Zach: Yeah, you’re right. You’re right. We’re learning to take compliments. We’re recognizing that, now, this is a much bigger deal than it was meant to be…Anyhow, so this Fringe Festival, like you said, it was cool; it was, like, very very new territory for all of us, like moving around in this digital sphere, you know, like I felt like we were in Silicon Valley, you know, in Old City, trying to figure out all these different ways to present work. Can we talk a little bit about how this year’s Fringe Festival felt different than in past years, moving into this, like, digital hybrid space, you know, what it felt like to experience big parts of Fringe Festival from your own house?

Raina: No, absolutely, like I am the first to tell people that, like, opening night of the festival I was watching a show on my laptop while folding laundry in my bedroom, and I did have that feeling of like, “This is different,” and, you know, whether it’s like choosing a show that you can just kind of watch anytime, which means that you can be doing whatever you’re doing in the background. You know, that was certainly one way to experience it, which I did steer away from after opening night. But you know, there were so many artists who were doing work to engage audiences in new ways and who encouraged you to have cameras on, sometimes even mics on, so that you could get that interactivity that you might get even if you’re just sitting in a theater with other people and not talking to anyone. But, like, you just feel a little bit more of that. One show, it was a #txtshow (on the internet) by Brian Feldman Projects, it’s actually a work that the performer has done live but then easily translated to being online because everyone just chats different lines that the performer then reads out as the script of the show. So suddenly like we’re all in on it, and we’re all a part of it, and we’re all crafting it, but like also no one knows what they’re doing—which isn’t that just 2020? And the script took all sorts of turns. And so I felt like there were moments where I was like I feel like I want to share this with people, like share this moment with people, but there were also moments where I felt like, “Wow, like, I don’t know anyone in here but, like, we’re all in on this joke and we’re all a part of this,” and I love that. And then you see people interacting in the chat, which was so great because we don’t normally get that kind of feedback as much anymore. And I’ve been like, outside of the Fringe Festival, I’ve been to some virtual play reading, some virtual performances and whatnot, and I think I’ve seen varying levels of engagement. And so being able to see so many people engaged, also like across shows, seeing some familiar faces as I went to shows. I’m a little bit biased because I can like see ticketing reports and know who’s going to shows, but, like, I think even for people who don’t work at Fringe, like maybe you did see people in  more than one show, where you’re like, “Oh, hey, it’s you again!” And that feeling of bumping into someone at the festival more than once. 

Zach: Yeah, that was really nice. I was ZJ-ing for a lot of this festival, kind of Zoom-jockeying, like admitting people in their rooms, kicking people out. No, I didn’t kick anybody out, swear to God. But it was just like a very funny kind of position to be in, because it is like the backstage of the internet. And there were, like, several times where what surprised me the most about this year was like the things that stayed the same. You know, and like there were moments when a show would be over, it would be time to like close the Zoom room, and two people, who are just like participants, would notice that each other was in the room and like start a conversation via chat and then just turn their cameras on and have, like, the equivalent of like lobby chat, like lobby talk, like, “Oh, I had no clue you were going to be here! Oh my gosh, how are your kids?”

Raina: Yeah. 

Zach: And just, like, having these conversations. And here I am, like the lemming, like behind the curtain, who’s just like, “Okay, I don’t want to, like, cut these people’s conversations short, but at the same time there’s something, like, deeply comforting about this.” Because this happens in the theater too; like, this happens in the FringeArts main stage theater as well, with two patrons are having a conversation, and you have to walk this line between like, okay, we’re going into overtime with this crew in like five minutes and, like, this is part of what their experience of seeing the show is. So it was really great that that felt different. And I guess also, like, the starkness of closing my laptop after; like, I finished the show, great, doing some emails, that’s done. And I’m in festival mode in my head, like, going going going going going, and then like the second I close my laptop, feeling this sense of, like, utter loneliness. Because it was such like flipping a switch instead of what happens usually is like I leave, okay, the show’s down in the theater, shut down the theater, go to my office, send some emails, close down my computer, go get on my bike and ride home or something; and that is like such a different cool down experience from, like, the deeply emotional and social experience, seeing a performance. That’s very nice. It feels like the after-care of that experience, and that was, like, deeply missing for me. So I definitely tried to make it a point to see more things with other people towards the end of the festival. I definitely got my partner involved and I was like, “Watch some stuff with me so that we could talk about it after,” because without that, you’re not even really, like, seeing the whole show. You don’t get to, like, gab with a friend after. Oh, I’ve completely reversed my position from the beginning of this podcast.

Raina: You’re no longer just all the solo experiences.

Zach: I’m a libra during libra season…oh no no, scorpio season begins right now. I don’t know. There’s no excuse for it. I’m just, I have multiple thoughts. I contain multitudes There we go.

Raina: You contain multitudes. Yeah, no, but I do think that that’s one of the things where, like, a lot of shows were designed to be for one person because they, you know, it’s something that we’ve all had to deal with, but it’s, like, unless you are living with family or a partner or roommates or, you know, whatever, there are people who are living alone but still want to go see all these shows. And so how can we design experiences where you don’t have to leave your, you know, quarantine safety bubble but you can still experience these social gatherings and I think, you know, you mentioned Being/With earlier, and I think that is such a great example of providing an intimate experience meant to be one-on-one but also still engaging with someone on a really deep level. But, you know, I also think about some of the audio experiences, like I went to TrailOff by myself and it, you know, it was very peaceful, I was like listening to this story, but I did want to talk about the story with someone who had no context for it at the end of the day. And then I went to the show Field Calls by Tenara Calem, and I ended up going with my partner, and, so like, the entire time we were walking, and we opted to listen on our own phones but like press play at the same time, so we’d be like, “Three, two, one, play,” so that we could then be in sync and, like still, then talk about it as we continue our walk through Powelton Village neighborhood. And, you know, they were totally different experiences in terms of the work, but it’s also this idea that, like, being able to talk with someone is really nice, but you have the option of doing it yourself and you have the option of, like, feeling as safe as you need to. And then ideally you can find someone who maybe does it either the same day, different day, and then you can kind of pick each other’s brain on what you thought about it.

Zach: Yeah…what a wild year.

Raina: Yeah, you know, and so one of the things that we always talk to our guest artists and community members about is, especially in our global pandemic series, is kind of where it all started. And really just like walking it all the way back to March because that, for Philly people, is like when everything went down. And so that, like, mid-March moment where we had just launched Fringe Festival registration, we were two weeks out from the launch of our second annual High Pressure Fire Service Festival, and we had had a successful Blue Heaven in February, that we were, like, still feeling really good about, and like, “Wow 2020 is going to be great,” and then pandemic.

Zach: Yeah, you know, I don’t want to say I’m psychic, but I just had a feeling that things had gone too well; I was waiting for another shoe to drop. I just have an anxiety disorder. Yeah, no, yeah, yeah the other shoe dropped, and you know we had to make shifts in our programming, and some of those things involved not being able to work with some international artists in the original capacity that we had planned. And as a result of that, also having to change some of the structure of Hand-to-Hand, our contemporary circus festival, and High Pressure Fire Service as well. In both of those festivals content, their constituent parts ultimately made their way into Fringe Festival in really kind of surprising and ambitious ways, so that was really exciting. But I think we knew that there was too much uncertainty around public health to continue with those programs until we could really figure out, you know, we learned a lot in the first three months of that, like, quarantine period about how to keep each other safe. But there was never a question in our mind about whether or not the Fringe Festival was going to happen. It had to happen, you know, like, whatever capacity it could. It would kind of rise to fit the container it was placed in. So it was in part of that, because it’s not our choice, right? Like, first of all, there’s other parts of Fringe Festival besides FringeArts, you know, there are all of these independent artists that are going to make work, you know, and might continue making work and releasing it in September, even if that’s just like a reflex at this point, you know. And there’s Free Fringe and there’s Burlesque-N-Beyond and there’s all these other things that happen in that time period. And I think we felt that it was important to just say, like, “Yeah, Fringe Festival’s happening. Anything that you make, whether it be digital, whether it be safely completed in person, we’re happy to be at home and a network for that. So yeah, that was always kind of, like, at the forefront of our minds, even though we kind of got thrown into a little tornado there, but you know it was everybody, right, and it was every industry. But yeah, it was very tough. It was very tough initially, and I don’t want to, like, I don’t want to downplay the grief I have about not being able to like connect with people in the way that we’ve been able to previously, but I do. Like, just in the end, I’m so surprised and humbled and impressed by the tenacity of Philadelphia’s arts community; like everybody is finding ways to continue connecting with people and imagining their futures together against the most psycho odds.

Raina: Yeah, no, I mean, I think that’s one thing that I appreciated early on is that it was not totally a question of, like, whether we’re doing the festival but how are we doing the festival. And, like, the first time that we set a meeting on our calendar for Fringe Festival, planning it was like, “Okay, so how are we doing this,” you know. Like, at that point we had to talk to artists and let them know what our plans were, and that was one of the big things that I know internally a lot of staff were pushing ourselves to do is that, you know, right now the art world is in a little bit of stasis, like, there’s a lot of switching to archival material, switching to virtual plays, and switching to this and that. And it was this question of like, “Okay what does the next iteration of that look like and how can we help propel that forward?” The Fringe Festival is normally like launch of the theatre season for the year in Philadelphia. You know, we have it in September, and then most theaters are starting their season in September or October. And, in this way, every week it started to look like we were extending another three weeks, and so having to accept that like, “This is the reality.” Where do we go from here, and how do we, then start to move forward, and, like, what resources are we able to provide to artists, knowing that, even though a lot of our revenue went out the window, like, people’s livelihoods went out the window? And so, like, what can we be doing during this time? And I will say, you know, a very scary moment for us was when we found out that the Edinburgh Festival was cancelled entirely. 

Zach: Yeah…

Raina: And we were all like, “What are we doing?”

Zach: Okay, this is the most wild thing: it ended up not being cancelled!

Raina: Do they still have it?!

Zach: Kind of. Oh god, we’re going to get in trouble. Yeah, like, it ended up happening kind of as an exchange in like a marketplace, where you could, like, go see works and figure out how you could, like, support those artists. 

Raina: Okay…okay! Yeah so that’s, you know, definitely more than nothing, which I think is admirable for pretty much any organization at this point, during this time. But yeah, I mean, it was that shock value of like, you know, and I think they canceled back in like April or something.

Zach: I think they had a different responsibility, to make sure that they weren’t going to drive any, like, potential travel, right? And also, people are planning by that point you know? Like a lot of artists have already, like, paid for their venue for the festival at that point, so giving, one, enough time that they could kind of make whatever changes were necessary. 

Raina: And I think that was one of the things that we saw very differently, in Philly, is that we had just opened registration; and normally we do see registration, you know, start to spike towards the end of the first month and then, you know, as we go into the rest of the registration period. And so we hadn’t even hit our spike yet, and then suddenly it, like, dropped off because everyone was like, “Wait a minute, what am I doing?” And so, you know, there was also a time where we were like, “Okay, the festival’s going to be small. We’re going to have 50 artists and, you know, that’s what we are going to start planning for.” And then, as we started to put more information out there, you know, the artist community, both in Philly and beyond, started to respond so positively and just, like, we had over a hundred shows in the festival this year, which is…you know, we normally have over a hundred, but normally there’s like a million and one experiences all over the city, and this year, there were a million and one experiences all on your computer, which was really really awesome to see come out of, you know, so many talented artists who had to adapt to this time.

Zach: Yeah, freaking superstars. Like, I’m just really and truly so happy to live in Philly. Like, it was amazing and, just, it’s hard to really appreciate that, in the moment especially, it moves in slow motion a little bit, you know. And now that it’s four weeks, like, this thing is like happening happening happening. But, like, to look back on the experiences that we had, you know, the capacity of our arts community is tremendous and so powerful, and they’re just like, yeah…Gosh, like, I’m getting misty. I’m getting emotional in so many ways. This has been one of my favorite Fringe Festivals, not because it all happened the exact way that I would want for it to, of course, but because it, just, it happened against all the odds; it was such, like, an underdog story. And that’s, I think, the thing we love the most here, in Philadelphia, is somebody coming from behind, and I think that our team absolutely did this year.

Raina: Yeah. And I think, you know, maybe, just to reflect a little bit on FringeArts internally, this has been such a tough year for any and all arts organizations in this city. And, you know, we’ve definitely been hit by that as well; and so it’s been really tough seeing our team change, over the past few months, and having to adapt that and having to adapt to, like, these new realities of working from home, and not being able to, you know, see all of your co-workers, and not being able to celebrate everyone’s work with us in the same way, and not being able to like, you know, also say goodbye at times. We have had some furloughs and we have had people leave the company. And it’s been tough because it’s not the same goodbye in any sense of the word, and it’s not the same ‘see you later’ in any sense of the word either.

Zach: Yeah, oh jeez. Yeah, I remember running into you in the office during festival and just being like, “That’s my friend!” I just get, like, so excited it’s, like, it’s really been this incredible team. And I think we’ve seen a lot of each other just, like, only from the top of our heads to, like, the top of our shoulders; that’s not the same thing, you know? It was different to feel, like, the buzz, the Fringe Festival buzz, you know, in my house instead of, like, in our cute little treehouse-looking office, so it was just different but I don’t know. I’m just so proud of our team. Like, oh gosh, nobody loves Philly as much as the people who work at front yards, because we will travel all over this freaking city to see art by people who live all over it, and to see it in, like, a new and exciting way, you know, like, I don’t know. It’s like, people keep talking about ‘staycations’ because of the quarantine, right? Like, be a tourist in your own city! And I feel like we encourage people to do that like every single September, like, by animating the whole city and asking people to travel over it, you know, traipse all over it. 

Raina: Yeah, I mean, that’s how I’ve gotten to know the city. Like, I can remember buildings where I’ve seen shows before. I remember streets because I walked down, or, I ran down them because I was running late to a show in a place that I’ve never been before, like, and I’m always late. I am possibly, like, the worst person to work in theater because I’m also the worst patron to go to the theater. I’m always late. I always want a discount. So I fully take ownership of that role in my life. But, no, I mean there’s definitely been so much change, and everyone has, like, risen to the occasion. I want to give a huge shout out to our Fringe Festival coordinator April Rose for, you know, being like the main person actually communicating with artists and, like, dealing with all of the questions, all of the changes, all of the new developments, all of the ‘can I even do this’, like, you know, fielding all of those requests and concerns, and then relaying those to the companies that were able to be responsive, and, you know, make sure that we’re serving the community as best as we can. Also a superstar. So maybe our last question for ourselves, and I think we’ve touched on this in a couple different ways, but like what kind of inspiration did you take from this year’s festival?

Zach: Yeah, so like, to move forward from here. Hmm…I don’t know. I think the one thing that is really really exciting about this year’s Fringe Festival is that was really accessible, and I mean that both in terms of, like, price point or participation of artists, participation of audience members, as well as in thinking in terms of accessibility measures that were added to some of these platforms that we used that made it more difficult for those people living with disabilities or any type of, you know, just a barrier that might prevent them from reaching the Fringe Festival; they had a much easier time accessing this Fringe Festival, I think. And the reach was so so interesting as well, thinking about how many people outside of Pennsylvania that got to experience the Fringe Festival this year. So I don’t know that I have, like, amazing insights that I can already drill down, that I’m going to take with me into next year, because I just don’t know what next year is going to look like yet. But that was really interesting to me. We had visitors to the Philadelphia Fringe Festival from all 50 states as well as 150 international ticket purchases, so that’s something that I’m thinking differently about is how are we going to, as we move forward with any digital content, acknowledge and kind of interface with what that means or what the capability is of that, to have a national conversation within this local festival, to shine a big national light on Philadelphia as a city? All of those things are deeply interesting to me.

Raina: Yeah, I think, for me, I think about, as you said, the reach of this festival, which is what we always imagine in terms of an in-person festival, is people coming from all different states and countries to the city of Philadelphia. And, you know, I think this year we managed to do that more than any other year, because the festival really could go to people instead and be right in their homes. And I also think about, you know, the innovation that I’ve seen of so many artists; like, they’re trained for the stage, they’re trained for, you know, the work that they do, which includes audience interaction, includes playfulness includes, “How could I incorporate the audience into the work?” And so I was so impressed by the number of artists who decided to continue to push those boundaries and continued to say, “Okay, how can I take Zoom and make it this, like, magical, immersive experience, and how can I put you in a setting that you go to and then my audio will dictate your experience? Or how can I, you know, be safe about that? And how can I make that something that’s enjoyable and feels new and feels like a break from computer screens?” Like, so I, as I think a lot of people felt, like, loved going to some of the in-person experiences because, even though I don’t want to be around other people and still want to be totally safe, I also work all day on a computer and then go to a show on a computer and then watch Netflix on my other screen and then, like, Facebook on my phone. So, you know, it was so nice to also get out of that space and incorporate nature into more works. We always have outdoor shows in the festival, but this year I feel like we saw a different level of that and we always have—or we’ve had for the past like five years, actually—a digital Fringe in the Fringe Festival that has gotten up to, like, 30 digital shows in like an average year, and then and that was one of the other reasons that we knew so many of our artists; were used to in-person experiences, and so when we said,”You should probably plan for digital,” we could only go based on the digital Fringe that we had done, which was, you know, 30 people at most. But I was so pleasantly surprised to see many artists taking on these new platforms, turning them into something totally else. I also have to give a shout out to Elephant Room: Dust from the Stars. I went on the Saturday night performance which, at that point, I think some of the earlier ones had less full houses, but the one on Saturday night had really, like, up to 400 people I think. 

Zach: Yeah.

Raina: Which was massive! There were like 17 pages of screens, of, like, faces, and I was like, “Oh my gosh!” But, like, also, it was so funny because what the artist did is they didn’t just say, “Turn off your camera. Turn off your mic.” Like, they opened the show with everyone, mics on, cameras…not mics on, but, like, cameras on, interacting with everyone. And then, in the process of getting everyone to turn it off, they acted as concierge, in character, where they were like, “Let me help you figure out how to work…Are you on an iPad?” And it was this moment of like, “Oh we’re just troubleshooting in the middle of it,” but it doesn’t feel like that awkward moment you get in meetings at work where you’re like, “I see this person doesn’t know how to work tech, you know.” It was more like, “Oh, this is fun, and we’re all watching this person navigate their technology, and it didn’t feel like that same kind of awkward. And, like, this is also so funny. Note about Elephant Room: when I was in the show, everyone had to turn off their camera and then, like, hide. Or I think it was like where you hide non-video participants or whatever. And so someone, I think, either joined late or accidentally turned their camera on or something. And so, in the middle of this, like, one moment, where there’s one of the performers on screen, someone’s video popped up and they were like, “Augh!” You know, I’m sure they were so embarrassed and had a terrible moment of fear and that, but  the actor was just like, “Oh, and Chelsea’s joining us!” And I was, like, I love that improvisation that you see in-person but, like, taken to a digital space and still made so creative and so inclusive and, like, just so much fun.

Zach: Yeah. Oh, we crushed. Everybody crushed. And just, like, yeah, we’re so lucky. We have the coolest job. Well, thank you, Raina!

Raina: Thank you, Zach!

Zach: For taking this time to chat and just kind of debrief. I feel like we do a lot of debriefing as a staff. I don’t want to make anybody think that we just, like, close the book on the Fringe Festival and never talk about it again.

Raina: I mean this is it, guys. This is the postmortem, so we’re just going to share this with staff, and that’ll be it. 

Zach: But no, it was really nice. And thank you all, to who are listening so much for joining us for this episode of Happy Hour on the Fringe. And make sure to follow us on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, and to download the FringeArts app. Stay tuned for upcoming FringeArts events like The Bearded Ladies’ Get Pegged Cabaret, which will be available for virtual audiences on November 13th. You can find out more about Get Pegged by visiting

Raina: Thanks, everyone!