Last week, I was sitting at happy hour with my friend Philip. This is his first full summer in the Twin Cities, and he’s determined to make the most of it. “So what about Fringe? Have you been?” he asked me. “Oh sure, a bunch of times,” I replied. “It’s fine.”
Of course, I immediately had to backtrack. “No, I mean, it’s really great and you should definitely go. It’s just… well, I’ve gotten press passes for the past few years, and after a while it seems a little predictable. But you should totally go!”
Back when I got my first press pass in 2011, I swore I would never get this jaded. In the first flush of my relationship with Fringe, I was swept up by the momentum of endless novelty, and I was charmed by the opportunities that Fringe gave to small, experimental companies that ordinarily struggle to attract audiences. And as a new critic (and broke graduate student) exploring the local theater scene, I felt extremely privileged to be able to use my Ultra Pass to see as many shows as I wanted for free.
But a few years down the line, the frenetic energy around Fringe has started to feel less invigorating and more exhausting. I know the “types” by now – the Shakespearean mash-up, the darkly-funny solo confessional, the quirky musical, the Minnesota humor, the modern adaptation of a fairy tale/Greek myth/classic novel, the out-there piece of performance art. These days, it seems like I go to Fringe not for the thrill of discovering something utterly new, but to pass judgment on the latest attempt at a genre I’ve already seen.
In other words, the fiery blaze of my early relationship with Fringe has slowly faded to a dull glow. I meet up with Fringe after work, and instead of wanting to jump its bones, I’m pretty sure I can finish all its sentences. If, like me, you are struggling to keep the passion alive, here are seven tips to help rekindle your flame with Fringe.
- Set some boundaries. You and Fringe are two independent adults who don’t actually need to see each other every day. If Fringe starts to take over your life, this will breed resentment, which we all know is Public Enemy #1 of a good relationship. Instead, plan one or two special dates with Fringe that you can both look forward to. Dress up, have a couple of drinks, and get to know each other again.
- Remind yourself why you fell for Fringe in the first place. What did you love about Fringe when you first started going? Was it Fringe’s zany sense of humor or its deep, soulful interpretations of literature? Find a show that would’ve inspired you the first time round, and relive the excitement of your first date with Fringe.
- Experiment with new positions. You might think you know everything in Fringe’s bag of tricks, but there are 174 shows on the schedule: Fringe is basically a Kama Sutra of one-hour theater! Pick something that’s totally outside your wheelhouse, and go in with an open mind. If you’re good, giving, and game for Fringe, you may be surprised at how much you enjoy Fringe’s hidden and unusual talents.
- Bring in a third party. I know, it’s a big risk to invite someone inexperienced into your long-standing relationship. But by bringing a trusted friend into the mix, you can live vicariously through their desire for novelty and exploration, and you might even discover some new sides to the Fringe you thought you already knew. Make it a NSA (no-strings-attached) arrangement so you’re under no obligation to see theater with this person again if the first night doesn’t go so well.
- Communicate your feelings. Sometimes, you hear so many other people’s opinions of Fringe that you forget to tell it how much you care. Write a review of a show you loved, and picture the warm, fuzzy gift you are giving to the performers who put so much time and energy into your viewing pleasure. Or go ahead and tell Fringe how much it screwed up – but be gentle and constructive; Fringe has a sensitive soul and truly wants the best for you.
- Play to Fringe’s strengths. If you’re feeling particularly bitter, don’t pick a fight and don’t hold a grudge. Instead, let Fringe apologize for its mistakes: read some reviews online and go see a show that you can count on to be good.
- Manage your expectations. Putting any relationship under too much pressure inevitably leads to issues with performance. Accept that Fringe is not going to blow your mind every time. In fact, sometimes an evening at Fringe will be mediocre at best. But if you keep an open mind and a playful attitude, you’ll probably hit that sweet spot at least once.
Any other tips for keeping Fringe fresh? Add some more advice to the comments.