Guide to the 2016 Hollywood Fringe Festival

Last week, I attended my very first Hollywood Fringe show. Having previously attended only New York’s version of Fringe, I wasn’t sure quite what to expect.

hff16_buttonI showed up on Santa Monica Boulevard shortly before 9pm (many Fringe shows have non-traditional schedules with unconventional start times). As I looked for the line for the specific show I was seeing, I was pleasantly surprised to see a sight you don’t often find in Los Angeles—the entire block, which houses several Fringe venues, was buzzing with excitement about theater. Even at 9pm on a random Thursday night, dozens of people were milling about, lining up for the performance of their choice. I must say, the experience was quite infectious, and I’m excited to be heading back next weekend to catch a couple more shows.

I know the concept of Fringe can be a bit confusing/overwhelming, so here are some facts and tips to help you have a great experience.

What is the Fringe Festival?

As the website declares, “the Hollywood Fringe Festival is an annual, open-access, community-derived event celebrating freedom of expression and collaboration in the performing arts community.” Basically, this means that anyone can produce a show for the Fringe Festival—participation is completely open, and as a non-profit event, 100% of ticket sales go directly into the hands of the productions and venues. To put on a show, producers must pay a $250 registration fee (or $175 for shows that will offer free admission or have only one performance) , plus performance expenses and venue costs, which vary and can be negotiated.

When does it run?

Fringe is June 9-26 this year, although select shows may have encore performances into July.

Where is it?

Fringe takes place across over 30 venues, all located in Hollywood.

When are the performances?

As someone with a day job with sometimes lengthy hours, I have a special appreciation for the unique Fringe schedule. There are 286 shows in this year’s Fringe Festival, running times range from 15 minutes to around 2 hours, and performances begin as late as 11:55pm. With the help of the schedule on the website, you can easily plan out a night of a few back-to-back shows—just be aware of how close together the venues are. If you end up with time to kill between performances, check out Fringe Central, a social space featuring food trucks, a bar, and Fringe merchandise.

How much are tickets?

Cost varies by show, with prices capping around $20. However, many performances are either completely free or pay what you can, and a list of those can be found here. If you plan to frequent the Fringe this month, consider purchasing a $5 Fringe Button, which offers $1 off ticket purchases, $1 off drinks at the venues, and admission to special Fringe events. Plus, you literally get to wear your love for LA theater on your sleeve.

With 286 shows, how do I decide what to see?

That’s the hardest part—with so much theater, how do you prioritize? Luckily, the website enables you to search for shows by keyword—everything ranging from “comedy,” “ensemble,” “interactive,” “female,” “musical,” “one person show,” “world premiere,” and more. You can also search by date and venue if you’re trying to plan a block of a few shows in a row. There’s even a Fringe app to help you keep track of your schedule and look up information about shows on the go! The hashtag #hff16 can help you find out which shows people are buzzing about on social media, and, of course, there are always reviews. In fact, anyone who attends a Fringe show can write a review on the website, so if you see something you like, spread the word! I myself saw Occupation last week, and I’m seeing Shitty and Craftsman next week. Fringe has something for everyone!

If it’s a non-profit festival, how does it happen every year? 

Donations! If you attend the Fringe and like what you see, consider supporting the festival. It has been happening in Hollywood every year since 2010, and will hopefully continue to for many more to come.

What are you seeing at Fringe this year? What’s your favorite show you’ve ever seen at a Fringe Festival? Leave me a comment and let me know!


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