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Arts and Entertainment

Meet the Minds Behind the Hollywood Fringe Festival

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The Hollywood Fringe Festival is upon us, with hundreds of shows going up from now until June 24. We wanted to get a little more information about the background of the festival, the creative forces behind it and what it means for Los Angeles, so we tracked down festival director Ben Hill and outreach director Meghan McCauley, and picked their brains.

What's new at the Fringe this year?

Meghan McCauley: Two big new programs are Student Fringe and Fringe Internships. Student Fringe is a two-day program, with free Fringe participant performances, workshops, and Q&As for Los Angeles area students.

Our internship program was born from the desire to be able to offer school credit to some of our high school and college age volunteers. We began the 2012 Hollywood Fringe Internship Program with six students aged 17 to 21, most of whom are college students from Los Angeles who are home for the summer.

Ben Hill: We also have a fabulous new venue called Fringe Central Station at 6314 Santa Monica Boulevard, which serves as the social and community hub of the festival. It hosts free programming in music, comedy, cabaret and theatre and the famous Bryan's Bar. We are also hosting a free Fringe Family program at FCS on Sunday afternoons during the festival.

Are there a lot of local artists performing?

BH: Oh yes. A large percentage of artists performing at the Fringe are Los Angeles based. There's a large contingent from LA's 99 theatre community, including many long-time performer/first-time producers.

MM: We are also hosting many national and international acts, who are absolutely part of the Fringe community whether they are Los Angeles residents or not. They are vital part of the LA arts community for the few weeks they're here.

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How many people are you expecting in the audience this year?
BH: It's hard to quantify at this early stage, but with over 250 shows selling at 150% the rate of last year, we expect audience numbers in the tens of thousands.

Does the festival have a theme?
BH: We avoid imposing arbitrary themes upon the festival. It's much more interesting to allow themes to organically rise from the artists themselves.

MM: I think that having some kind of theme would limit the open invitation to our participant's creative choices. If one could surmise any theme, it might be something like "anything goes" - we celebrate the oddities, the risks, and the brand new.

What do you hope the festival brings to the theater scene, both locally (in L.A.) and nationally/internationally?
MM: I think we share a common goal on the Hollywood Fringe staff that's really quite simple - it's the big message on our website: "See shows. Make Friends. Have Fun." We are working together to make an arts community that is shamelessly proud of itself and its city. We work to defeat the apprehension many people have about the non-curated nature of the Fringe. There are many who doubt the Festival because there isn't any guarantee that the work they see will be "good.”

Those who avoid the Fringe for this reason certainly come from an understandable place, but they're also missing the point a little bit. Glorious new things come from the unexpected. We want to support that.

BH: We also hope to project the image of Los Angeles as a town full of passionate, engaged and genuinely talented performing artists. LA sometimes gets painted as an "industry town," catering mostly to the TV/Film world. In reality, this town contains more talent and energy than any I've ever experienced. We want to spread that gospel.

What are you most excited about?
MM: The most exciting thing for me are the new educational outreach programs - Student Fringe and Fringe Internships. I think it fills a niche in arts education - it gives young people the idea and the tools to become their own artists and self-producers. We are showing them our world, in which you create your own opportunity to live your dream, and that is the most thrilling and most rewarding thing of all.