Zombies, Shakespeare, puppets, a cappella and tango: audience members of every age and predilection will find something of interest in the 2012 Taipei Fringe Festival (臺北藝穗節), which opens Saturday afternoon with a parade starting from Taipei Cinema Park (電影公園廣場) at 4pm.
This year’s roster includes 120 acts that will put on 500 performances, up from 108 acts and 382 performances last year. There are 30 venues this year, a third of which were organized independently by performers.
Betsy Lan (藍貝芝), the curator of Taipei Fringe, says that the festival is as much a “treasure hunt” for audience members as it is a platform for incubating new talent.
“During festival time people go to places they don’t usually go to, experience art and see parts of Taipei that they normally don’t,” says Lan. “Oftentimes people not only chose shows based on artists, but also on venues.”
Some of the more offbeat venues included in this year’s festival include Treasure Hill (寶藏巖), the illegal veterans’ settlement turned artist village; old-school lounge Golden Dynasty Cabaret (金朝代大歌廳); and Ximending’s Burgary Hotel (寶格利時尚旅館).
Since becoming curator last year, Lan’s goal has been to give Taipei Fringe, which is sponsored by the government, more of a grassroots feeling. More than two-thirds of performers are taking part in the Taipei Fringe Festival for the first time this year.
“I think people have the impression that the festival would like to be more artist friendly,” says Lan. “We are always thinking about what we can do to engage artists more.”
A large variety of artists participate each year, ranging from amateurs to polished professional groups. Taipei Fringe holds a series of workshops each May to teach new performers everything they need to know in order to stage a show, from designing flyers and writing press releases to basic stage tech.
The open nature of the festival means that acts will inevitably vary widely in quality.
“It’s very likely that you will see some shows that are very, very bad, but you are also likely to see shows with a different kind of creativity,” says Lan.
Audience members are encouraged to fill out a survey and leave reviews on the festival’s Web site (www.taipeifringe.org). Their feedback factors into determining the winners of the Fringe Stars awards, which honors the best shows in the festival.
The festival’s “Critic Troupe,” made up of critics, artists and festival organizers, will also evaluate shows. Their reviews are posted immediately on Taipei Fringe’s Web site.
“It’s exciting because people will see whether or not critics like the show. If they get really good reviews, it usually helps with ticket sales and allows word of mouth to spread,” says Lan. “The festival is only 16 days, so there is a push to get known within a really short amount of time.”
Because of the scope of the festival, organizers have designed several events this year to help audience members select shows. These include “audience-performance speed dating” on Thursday. Several fortune-telling and divination methods, including tarot, face reading and crystal balls, will be used in a lighthearted attempt to help participants decide which acts they will enjoy the most.
The Fringe Opening Parade sets off from Taipei Cinema Park (電影公園廣場) at the intersection of Wuchang Street (武昌街) and Kangding Road (康定路) at 4pm and finishes at the Red House Theater, 10 Chengdu Rd, Taipei City (台北市成都路10號) at 7pm. “Spirits” will pop up and give short performances along the route.