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Adelaide Fringe through the eyes of a New Yorker

March 29, 2019 Headline News No Comments Email Email

Darren Lee Cole, the Artistic Director at SoHo Playhouse in New York, reflects on a busy few weeks in South Australia scouting for talent at the Adelaide Fringe.

Adelaide Fringe is a great party that has become a major part of the global arts landscape and attracts quality acts from all over the world.

It is my second trip to Adelaide as the artistic director of SoHo Playhouse in New York City and my goal has been simple: discover new talent to showcase in New York.

The SoHo Playhouse in New York City has been running a Fringe Encore Series for 13 years to bring together a collection of the top fringe shows from around the world at the end of the season.

Originally devised to extend the season of New York Fringe acts, the Encore Series took on a truly international flavor in 2017 with Fringe performers from Brighton (England), Hollywood, Edinburgh, Winnipeg and Adelaide performing at the Playhouse in September and October.

Identifying these international acts and bringing them to New York is a huge challenge. When a director or producer travels to a fringe fest, the hardest thing is sorting out the massive amounts of performances and finding a true connection with the festival and the artists. It’s easy to get lost in the labyrinth of shows and waste time searching for acts that match your aesthetic and programming needs. And when you are scouting several festivals per year the whole thing can soon become a bit overwhelming.

Adelaide Fringe has solved this problem with their International Arts Marketplace, Honey Pot. HP invites delegates to come to South Australia and assist them in all aspects of interacting with artists ­— from seeing relevant shows to organizing one-on-one business meetings and panel discussions.

It also exposes the delegates, which numbered 242 from 25 countries this year, to experiences outside of the festival such as the amazing beaches, Adelaide Hills and nearby wine regions.

This is all with the goal to bridge the gap that too often exists between the artist and those presenting them.

The brainchild of festival director Heather Croall and led by the amazing Andy Beecroft, Honey Pot is quite simply the very best program of its kind in the world.

Personally I have found my travels to Adelaide very rewarding. I come from the rather crazy environment of producing theatre in New York City. Adelaide feels like going to your favorite Aunt’s house for a weekend. Relaxed. But with still a lot to do. Also, the market place here is great. Several shows I have produced recently have all come out of the fringe model. Hannah Gadsby’s Nanette, Phoebe Waller Bridge in Fleabag and Daniel Sloss: X to name a few in the last season.

Fringe festivals give me a unique opportunity to spot shows and talent in the early phases of development and, a forum with which to meet the artists and talk more intimately about their projects. Relationships are formed and collaborations made.

This year seems to have been a very special one at Adelaide Fringe. I’ve seen more than 50 shows and have been greatly super impressed with the quality and variety of talent on display. Adelaide has really put itself on the map along with Edinburgh as being the place where you are going to see the most international acts and the highest quality work. But there’s no beach in Edinburgh that you would want to go to. Before coming here I thought of Adelaide as this small town where there was a festival and not much else the rest of the year but my eyes have really been opened.

Adelaide Fringe highlights have been in a lot of different disciplines: Games by Henry Naylor (theatre), The Long Pigs (physical theatre/clowning), Mama (music/LGBTQ), Build A Rocket (solo show) Jon Bennet (comedy) and the amazing combination of Orpheus & Eurydice (story telling/spoken word).

Seeing great shows, making new friends and discovering the next big thing are all the ingredients that make Adelaide Fringe a must stop on anyone’s artistic journey through the world.

I will leave Australia on Sunday with some great memories, a Port Adelaide Power jersey and a bunch of acts to present in New York later in the year.

It’s a long trip and an expensive trip for me but the support here is really great. For anyone in my sort of business looking for an international perspective on things Adelaide has become a must stop, so I totally intend to come back.

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