Tonight is the lottery for Minnesota’s 18th Fringe Festival. As most of you already know, this is the night when Fringe officials draw ping pong balls with numbers on them to determine who will and who will not be in the festival this summer. As a result, if you’re headed the the Bryant-Lake Bowl tonight for the event, expect a big turnout.

Minnesota theater audience just love to listen to the numbers get called out, and, because you also hear the names of companies that have applied, and the tentative titles for their projects, it also offers an early preview of what we can expect to see onstage this year. Many Fringe producers have discovered that a really outrageous play title can be excellent promotion for their show, which, after all, must compete with a hundred or so other shows for audiences. And so a percentage of the shows picked by the lottery will have tantalizing titles.

Things change every year with the Fringe. Venues change. Staffers change. The process changes. The Bedlam Theatre space in Cedar Riverside closed this past year, which had served as “Fringe Central,” where performers and producers and patrons met for drinks and dancing after shows. In preparation for tonight’s lottery, we asked Matthew Foster, communications director for the Fringe, what he can tell us about this coming year.

1. How many entries were there to the Fringe this year? How many slots do you have to fill?

We had just over 350 applications; I know we've already had a couple drop-outs, so I'm not certain what the exact numbers is headed into tomorrow. We're going to fill at least 160. I say "at least" because of your next question:

2. Are there any new venues that you know of for this year? Any old ones that won't be available this year?

We're not just ready yet to announce the 2011 venues. We're close but not ready. And it's always best to err on the side of caution.

3. I understand there has been a change to categorization this year; I recall it being that people must select the size of venue they are looking for. Could you explain the reasoning behind this?

Small/medium/large — the reasoning was to provide a better match between production and venue. We wanted producers to start thinking before they even applied about the logistics of the show, and venue is obviously a giant chunk of that thought. Additionally, the lottery now has three pools of producers who are aiming to create shows in the same types of spaces — so it should help achieve the goal of matching everyone to the right venue.

There are cases in previous years where a cast of, like, 20 would end up playing on a tiny stage or a one-person show would get intimidated by a house that was bigger than they imagined it would be. Situations like those don't serve the producers well at all because it's a disadvantage to performing their work.

4. What can we expect for the lottery tonight?

We can expect ping-pong balls. Lots and lots of ping-pong balls. And a good amount of camaraderie. It should go at a pretty good clip, since we've been doing this for so many years. We don't have any big musical numbers or surprise announcements planned. It'll be all very straightforward.

5. Do you have any idea where Fringe Central will be this year?

Like the venues, Fringe Central isn't settled yet. It's close, but the cake's still in the oven.

The Fringe Lottery will take place at Bryant-Lake Bowl at 7 p.m.