Charm City Fringe, Inc. (CCF) which began in 2015 holds its Festival in Baltimore, Maryland. According to CCF, they provide a platform for theatrical artists to elevate their work and reach new audiences while eliminating obstacles and allowing theatre lovers to discover and explore new artists and works. CCF aims to connect and elevate the theatre community, engage existing audiences, attract non-traditional theatergoers, and reach out to communities not commonly represented. Their hopes are to make Baltimore a hub for theater and the performing arts and expand, strengthen, and enhance creative learning opportunities for Baltimore’s youth.
The festival has been moved to October this year and will be held in the Bromo Arts District to encourage a wider audience to attend still at a great price. It began with the idea that Baltimore has an ever-growing fringe theatre community. The Festival features fresh new shows, after-parties with live music and comedy, exclusive festival collaborations, and special deals around the city.
Also established in 2015 was the Fringe Academy: Opening Act education program for students grades 7-12 to teach a variety of theatrical skills from acting to running a box office and to encourage a lifetime relationship with theatre arts.
Charm City Fringe opens applications for its 8th annual theatre festival in Baltimore’s Bromo Arts District. Once again, application fees for Baltimore artists are waived in an effort to showcase more of our city’s burgeoning theatre scene. Please note for 2019, the festival will, for the first time, take place in October.
Artists of all genres, interests, and experience levels can apply, and The Fringe can not only be a springboard for workshopping ideas and artistic growth but taking their productions worldwide and establishing full theatre seasons. Applications remain open through May 5 and are adjudicated by a panel composed of Baltimore Arts stakeholders, including members of the Baltimore Rock Opera Society, Center Stage, Everyman Theatre, the Hippodrome, Theatre Project, and Morgan State. Those selected receive up to five performances, production support, marketing, and professional training
I had a chance to interview Zachary Michel, one of the founders of CCF and president and Production Committee, co-head. A musician, writer, and theatre aficionado, Zach is excited to bring a Fringe festival to Baltimore. Upon graduating from UMBC, Zach moved to DC for work with National Geographic, where he continued writing and acting in student films, Cap Fringe, and producing short films. Following his return to Maryland, Zach began work with Michael Brush, vice president and co-founder, on the Great American Web Series. It was during this time that Fringe grew from an idea into an organization. Zach is excited for fringe theatre to take hold in Baltimore as it has in other cities, as a citywide celebration and exploration of the performing arts.
Why did you get involved with Charm City Fringe?
Mike [Brush] and I started it all back in 2012. We had this kernel of an idea in 2011 while we were both looking for work – we saw our friends in theatre choosing DC over Baltimore and wanted to find out why. It turned out it was largely a lack of opportunity for new artists to find paid work in Baltimore. We wanted to help change that and saw Fringe theater as a great way to create an opportunity for artists and develop more of a launchpad for the industry to grow in Baltimore.
What aspects of other cities’ Fringe Festivals did you choose to use in Charm City and what is different about the Baltimore experience?
The former New Orleans Fringe was a big influence. One of their founders is a Baltimore native and had great insights about how they got started and why they did what they did. Cap Fringe, of course, also played a big part. My prior Fringe experiences were all through them. Each of those festivals provided insights as to how to cultivate quality performances and maintain the creative indie vibe. NO Fringe is more in scope with what we have here in Baltimore – similar cities and cultures and all – we’ve definitely developed slowly and used them as a guide as to how to effectively do that.
Everything else is Baltimore, to be honest. The artists define what we do and who we are – we’re here to serve them, really. That’s what’s great about the Fringe model. Each festival is distinct if you let it be. I think what Mike and I do best is allow that fun, exciting feeling of experiencing creative new art to shine through for the audience.
How has it been received by the theatre going public? By the press?
The press has been really supportive. It’s a trying time for arts journalism and we’re always wowed by the work that they do. The theatre-going public? Those in the know who come out love it. We have people regularly email us after each festival telling us how exciting it is to feel the community presence, how impressive the art is, and how surprised they are by their experience. (I’ve included a couple of quotes from audience members below.)
“Incredible! …it was incredibly inspiring and wonderfully artistic. So many awesome artists out there. Thanks!”
“It was raw and charming and entertaining and open-minded enough to be fully
“It really made me think! Mature writing/performances. I thought it would be more amateur. The venue was lovely…”
Our challenge is reminding new people how fun live shows are. We’ll take artists to popups., and audiences will be won over. Theatre isn’t on their radar. It’s not in your face from your TV or laptop. So that’s where we’re working to change things.
When is this year’s Fringe and how do people apply to perform? Are there any special criteria for applying?
October 10-20 and we’re accepting artists through May 5th. The criteria are really open – we look for artists who are pushing their limits and ready to present something fresh that audiences haven’t seen before. There’s more to it than that, of course, and artists can find out more on our application page!
We have applications for our event series too, Fringe After Dark, that open later this month. Fringe After Dark is where we present all the other types of events like dance parties, installations, performance art, popup markets, dog debates (really), short film…whatever you can dream up!
Do you have a theme for this year, how many shows are you planning to schedule and when should people start looking for dates and tickets?
We’re expecting about 25 productions plus 10 Fringe After Dark events. Early-bird passes will go on sale in August and tickets for the full program will go on sale in early September!
There’s no theme involved; we give artists full range to do what they like.