The future of theater

This year’s Taipei Fringe Festival will see 109 groups test drive their more daring work

By Ian Bartholomew  /  Staff reporter

Fri, Aug 30, 2013 - Page 12

Following on from the Taipei Children’s Festival (台北兒童藝術節) and the Taipei Arts Festival (TAF, 台北藝術節), it is now the turn of the exuberant, experimental and often eccentric Taipei Fringe Festival (台北藝穗節) to shine. This year with 410 shows by 109 groups spread over 27 venues, the 6th Taipei Fringe Festival is bigger and better than ever before. The Taipei Times spoke with the festival’s curator Betsy Lan (藍貝芝) last week about what made the Fringe such an exciting event for anyone who loves theater.

“We are not like most arts festivals,” Lan said. “They have a budget and they go buy shows, but we are actually running a platform so that anyone who needs a stage can sign up for the fringe. We support them by providing the venue, and the artists themselves keep the box office take as revenue.”

Lan has been the curator of the Fringe for the last three years and believes that the overall quality of the Fringe shows has improved considerably over the years, as has the theater-going public’s understanding of what the Fringe is all about.

“Now, some established theater groups use the Fringe as a way of testing out more experimental material, or providing a platform for new directors,” Lan said, underlining the fact that Taipei Fringe now has a clear identity of its own and a specific role to play in Taiwan’s theatrical scene.

Taipei Fringe prides itself on working outside the usual network of performance venues, utilizing a wide variety of art spaces, cafes and shops. Lan said that a number of these venues are now taking a more active part in the activity. “They are experienced with the Fringe and some even invite groups to put on shows specifically designed for their venue,” Lan said.

Lan was brought in to make the Fringe more of an interactive experience for artists and the audience. “The original Edinburgh Fringe was created by artists, and we want to keep this spirit, and let the artists feel that Taipei Fringe belongs to the artists, not just [to] a government sponsored festival,” she said.

As a platform for new and experimental performance, Lan said that Taipei Fringe has already generated interest from the Hong Kong and Macao fringe festivals. “The Fringe has been a springboard for some groups to make it into mainstream theater,” she said. “Regional exchanges and collaborations are the next step.”

In terms of audience development, Lan said the introduction of Fringe-themed tours last year had proved very successful and would be continued.

“We started organizing Fringe-themed tours for the public last year and have gotten very positive feedback. Participants are loyal theater-goers as well as people who don’t know much about Fringe. The tours take them to Fringe venues and surrounding attractions,” Lan said.

They are integrated with the city infrastructure through the use of transport such as the YouBike system. “The tours have become our most popular event,” Lan said.

The festival kicks off with an opening parade tomorrow in which many of the artists participating in the Fringe get dressed up and parade through Ximending. Pre-parade performances and games start at 2pm, and the parade embarks at 4pm from the Taipei Cinema Park (台北市電影主題公園). Information about the vast array of performances is available at (English and Chinese).