Day 1 2013: How to schedule a Fringe Festival.

There is an underlying force that directs all things at the Fringe Fest. An unescapable maw that devours everything, and drives forward anything that gets in it’s way. It’s not the hungry crowds at the hot dog cart, the line ups at advance tickets for the five star shows, or the shredding power of the Cube’s curtain. It’s time… specifically the little bits of time that the festival is separated into.

The centre section of the festival’s program is a fold out collection of every production at every venue for the entire festival. On first glance, it looks like a medical readout, or an iTunes agreement; many many entries in very small writing. It represents an enormous amount of time. In fact, there is some sort of time warp physics at work here…

Think about it. That is the schedule for the entire festival for 12 days… for 32 venues… thats 384 days worth of time… over a years worth of performance will pass during this festival… it’s crazy. And that’s not even including the outdoor stage…

The only thing crazier, is the monumental task of compiling the thing! Not only does the festival need to schedule over 160 productions with over 1200 performances, they have to do it fairly.

The PHD mathematics department at the Winnipeg Fringe first takes all of the data from the shows and feeds it into the Tianhe-2 super-computer at the National Supercomputing Center in Guangzhou China, where the numbers are crunched, and the almost infinite number of scheduling possibilities are produced. Then a random number generator is attached to the collar of a raccoon that is let loose amidst 160 garbage cans, and the first one that the bandit rodent knocks over is then considered by the statistic gnomes and their eenie miney moe garden dance ritual.

The final result is then reviewed by the Fairness Monkey. If he disagrees that one production shouldn’t have all midnight shows throughout the festival, it goes back to the raccoon and the whole process is repeated, until the monkey agrees.

This procedure is only applied to the first 13 “proper” venues and not the BYOVs. Those poor bastards have to find their own racoon and monkey, which is particularly difficult at this time of year on the Canadian prairies….

I’m pretty sure this is how it works… they told me once how the schedule is constructed, but my eyes rolled into the back of my head and this is what I heard.

Once the main schedule is produced, it is up to each venue to assign their shows to a venue tech. Each venue is different on how they pick their shows. Some venues do a “I’ll pick one then you pick one” thing, others just rent their own raccoon for a day, and some are decided by feats of strength and obscure card games.

In Venue Two, I separate all of the shows into two fairly equal portions. I weigh how much tech is involved in the riders (which isn’t always accurate), how long each show is, where they come from etc. When I finish, there is two lists of five shows, with equal amount of TIME, tech, and origin. It’s a lot harder than it sounds (mainly due to the fact that one of our shows this year isn’t 60 minutes and is 90 minutes long, there are 7 shows in a day, over 12 days, with 10 productions. DOH!)

I then assign each list a number,1 or 2, and then my venue partner picks a number, and those are his shows. It just seems civilized, although it doesn’t always work out. TIME will tell if it did this year.

So if you are an artist wondering why you have a certain venue, or a technician wondering why the screaming mime is in your venue, or an audience member wondering why the show you want to see doesn’t play again until Monday… don’t blame the Fringe…

It’s the Monkey’s fault…. although I don’t entirely trust that raccoon either…


About JBJ

John lives in an abandoned toolshed behind a fake rubber vomit warehouse in Winnipeg Manitoba Canada with a squirrel named Peanut Hoarder, where he steals an internet signal from the Kung Fu school next door. He is a little "off". View all posts by JBJ

2 responses to “Day 1 2013: How to schedule a Fringe Festival.

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