Minnesota Fringe Festival

Minnesota Fringe Festival
Photo: fringefestival.org
The Minnesota Fringe Festival is an annual performing arts festival held in Minneapolis, Minnesota, United States. The festival takes place every summer, usually running over 11 days in the beginning of August. It is the largest unjuried performing arts festival in the United States and the third-largest fringe festival in North America.

The tradition of fringe festivals (unjuried performing arts festivals focused on experimental theater) originated from the Edinburgh Festival Fringe established in 1947 and began to spread across the United States starting in 1991. The first Minnesota Fringe Festival was held on June 23 – July 2, 1994 in six venues across the Cedar-Riverside neighborhood of Minneapolis. It presented 315 performances of 53 shows, attracting over 4,500 theatergoers.

Although the first festival was underpublicized and had a relatively low attendance, the organizers deemed it a success and decided to hold the festival annually. The present-day Minnesota Fringe Festival is the largest event of its kind in the United States with about 50,000 tickets sold each year. Like most fringe festivals, it is unjured. The performers and shows used to be selected on the a first-come, first-served basis, but since 2004 the festival has been using a lottery to select the participants.

Although early editions of the Minnesota Fringe Festival included visual art exhibitions and film screenings, the festival now showcases solely performing arts in five main categories: drama, comedy, musical, dance, and “something different”. The program features about 170 shows and 900 performances, five performances per show stretched over 11 days. Each show is about 60 minutes or less.

Performances take place in multiple venues around Minneapolis, with capacities ranging from 55 to 400. Some shows are held in theaters and other traditional venues, while others prefer unconventional performance spaces such as storefronts, coffee shops, art galleries, and even swimming pools.

Minnesota Fringe is a not-for-profit event. 65 percent of the box office revenue is given back to the performing companies that participate in the festival. The rest is used to cover part of the expenses. This is only a small portion of the festival budget, Minnesota Fringe is largely financed by sponsors and donations.

In 2020, the event was held online due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Minnesota Fringe Festival

Photo: Mathieu Lindquist




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