Live From FringeNYC: On-Site with Great Off-Broadway Theatre

FringeNYC fanatics, young, old, and in-between, braved the hottest day of the summer this past Saturday to be part of the 20th Anniversary year of the New York International Fringe Festival. Some were repeat Fringe-goers who knew the drill and stocked up on passes. Others—especially the first-timers—were testing the waters (but ready to return for future performances). All, however, seemed eager to plunge into New York’s biggest annual theatre fest!

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Still Not; Photographer: Jay Zawacki; Pictured: Shelby Hightower, Harrison Bryan

Adding to 2016’s FringeNYC overall experience are its two FringeLOUNGES—one at the community space Downtown Art, the other at cultural space the Clemente. We at City Guide can confirm that the tented, cooled-off area of the Clemente lounge was a magnet for theatregoers, who were happy for a slight respite from the heat, as well as the chance to mingle and chat about what they had just seen...or were about to see. 

Keeping things moving, a number of FringeTERNS (who, like all Fringe staffers, are identifiable by their “Find Your FringeNYC” t-shirts) were on hand to help with check ins, reservation confirmations, ticket sales (for shows not already sold out), and directions. Other Fringe Ambassadors manned “New Mom’s Fringe Café,” a favorite spot to pick up a quick lunch or a sweet treat on the way into (or out of) performances.

City Guide managed to corner several theatregoers. Here are some of the responses:

1. Why did you pick this particular show?

[Becoming OCD]  “It looked like it’d be funny.”

[The Intriguing Engagement] “My godson’s in the show.”

[Off-Track] “Because of Michael Sciortino. I love him.”

[Brandy Before Dying] “I really like dramas. So this was a nice combination of drama and dark comedy… I especially like it when it’s British.It was very well done.”

[The Legend of Oni] “I’m wanting to see what other cultures have to say… what they bring to table… and I want to experience other forms of theatre.”

[Debriefing] “I usually go for shows with topics I’m interested in. This one fit the bill.”

[Curse of the Babywoman] “My boyfriend wrote it.”

2. Are you from out-of-town or local? Have you been to the Fringe before or is this your first time? 

“Local. I’ve been coming since the beginning. Happy 20th!”

“[I’m from] Kentucky. Never been to the Fringe before… but I’m in town for a while and came out to experience something new.”

“Local. This is my first time. And it’s my birthday! A great birthday treat!”

“I’m local, but this is the first year I’ve come out to the Fringe. I see it every year, but I’ve always been too late to participate. This year, a pamphlet for the Fringe came across my desk, and I said to myself, ‘You know what? You don’t have any excuse [to miss it].’ I was genuinely curious, and I have to say, I’m very glad I came out today.”

“Local. This is my third time coming to the Fringe.”

“This is our fourth year. It’s religious for us.”

“We’re from Jersey—is that out of town enough for you? We’re first-timers at the Fringe.”

“Local. First time at the Fringe. Though I’ve been on the fringe mentally many times before.”

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Iphigenia Among the Taurians; Photographer: Anais Koivisto; Pictured: Marissa Stewart, Meghann Garmany, Liz Leimkuhler, Case Watson, Cristina Ramos

3. PRE-SHOW: Any expectations going in to the show?

[Debriefing] “Oh, I never go into a Fringe show with expectations. It’s relatively new theatre… anything can happen.”

[The Intriguing Engagement, featuring this family’s kid] “We think our child will be the best actor in the show!”

[The Video Games] “It’s gonna be great. I mean, it always is.”

[Becoming OCD] “Hilarity...and air conditioning.”

4. POST-SHOW: What did you think?

[A Brandy Before Dying] “I liked it. I really did. I like the fact that it’s small… I always was attracted by this type of entertainment.”

[Becoming OCD] “Honestly, it was weird because I know him [Sid Ross]... and it was autobiographical... I knew a lot going in, but... it was really terrific.”

[#Blessed] “It made me cry.”

[Poops, I Did it Again] “It was a pretty awesome play.” 

[Off-Track] “I was riveted the entire time. I didn’t want it to end.”

4. Why should people come check out the Fringe?

“It’s new, cutting-edge, accessible entertainment.”

“I think it’s giving a lot of actors the opportunity to do their thing and get exposure that they wouldn’t normally get.”

“It’s a chance to foster new growth in art.”

“Overall there’s a lot of shows with different ideas and different concepts of what theatre should be. It would be amazing if people could invest the time and money, and make it an even bigger deal, ‘cause a lot of the shows and ideas presented here are awesome. It’s just fun… and not just for adults, for kids too.

“It’s inexpensive, first-time theatre… and you’ll see topics that aren’t necessarily mainstream.”

“There’s so many different varieties of new work, and incredible amounts of talent and energy congregated in one geographic area. It’s an amazing display of indie work from all across the country.”

“I think it’s a great thing when you’re highlighting new artists…we all have to come out and support them.”

“Affordable theatre in a smaller-scale venue. You can watch actors from other parts of New York, or other parts of the country, showcase their talent and express themselves through a form of art. What more could you want?”

“The variety... a lot of different kinds of shows. I think anybody can find something they’ll like at the Fringe.”

“The beauty of the Fringe is it champions theatre that confronts the issues rather than escapes them... One of the advantages of this type of theatre is that can teach us something about ourselves, make us think; make us question. That’s what theatre is supposed to do, and that’s what happens here. I wish all of New York [theatre] were like the Fringe.”


Out of the people polled, 63% are either returning or are making plans to return to the Fringe later in the week.

Of this group, there were three champion Fringe lovers: one had tickets to nine shows; another 17; and City Guide’s "Fringe Grand Master" clocked in at 22.

The person seeing nine productions bought a Fiver-Pass (5 shows/$85)

The 17-show individual has a Flex Pass (10 shows/$150) and plans to purchase the balance individually.

Finally, the fan with a 22-show count purchased both a Flex and a Fiver pass and is considering another Fiver, which eaves only two shows at full price.

Way to go, Grand Master!

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The Dance of Life; Photographer: James Jin; Pictured: Gwynedd Vetter-Drusch

The 20th Annual New York International Fringe Festival runs in venues throughout New York City from August 12th-28th. For more information, including detailed show guides and performance schedules, visit

About the Author

Matt Smith is a writer and theatre enthusiast based in New York. His work has appeared within a wide variety of theatrical publications, including,,, and For more information or further inquiry, including additional writing samples, please visit

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