The Performant New York Edition: Fringe 101, an essential lexicon


Well, the 16-day New York International Fringe Festival has just wrapped up, and frankly it’s all a bit of a blur. Figuring out to watch next as the festival wound down was a delicate task as fraught with mystery as when it began. Was it worthwhile to attend “A” if it meant losing the opportunity to see “B” altogether? Wasn’t that one show about scuba-diving sewer rats supposed to be off the hook? Did the show about demonic possession in Uruguay already close? Which critic reviews or citizen commentary could be trusted? Which program blurbs can be relied upon to really reveal the truth about their show?

It’s times like these when an official program guide lexicon would come in handy, so that Fringers might have an easier time determining what they’ll truly be in for when they had over their fistful of coin and storm the theatre gates.

So here, just in time for own very own San Francisco Fringe Festival, which celebrates its 20th year this September, is the first definitive Fringe Program Guide Glossary, which can be applied to any (Anglophone) Fringe Festival in the world. Since tastes vary, this glossary is in no way designed to en/discourage attendance for any show, just an attempt to translate some of the more common descriptors into recognizable audience-speak.

Bare Bones: We’ve never heard of kickstarter

Cheese: Neo-surrealists in the house

Classic: We don’t need the rights to present this work

Dark: At least one of the characters dies

If you don’t like fart jokes

Theatre Arts undergrads

Edgy: Guaranteed to offend at least one minority group

Erotic: For inexplicable reasons, won’t include nudity

At least half of the characters die

Audience participation required

Experimental: We decided not to bother writing a script

Fresh Take: You’ve seen this play 100 times before

Hilarious: If you like fart jokes

Inspirational: Overcoming the effects of an upper middle-class upbringing

Interactive: Don’t sit in the front row

Internationally-acclaimed: Also performed at the Winnipeg Fringe

Multi-media: If our projector breaks we’re screwed

New Translation:
We worked way harder on this show than you can imagine

Noir: Will be wearing great hats

Noirish: Couldn’t afford great hats

Poignant: There will be at least one monologue about innocence lost

Provocative: Will include violence and nudity

Quotes from famous people:
Assistant Director used to walk their dogs

Quotes from previous runs: We have had a chance to rehearse this

Reimagined: We don’t actually have the rights to present this work

Sensitive: Over-wrought

Wear layers

Riveting: The stage manager’s mother-in-law said so

Thought-provoking: Will include either violence or nudity

Uncompromising: Guaranteed to offend pretty much everyone

Unforgettable: No matter how hard you try

Universal: Fart jokes

Don’t sit in the front row

Wacky: A kazoo will definitely make an appearance at some point

With a twist: You can see it coming

World Premiere: We haven’t had a chance to rehearse this

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