As with other Fringe Festivals worldwide, our roots trace to the Fringe Festival in Edinburgh, Scotland that began in 1947 when the Edinburgh International Festival was launched. It was seen as a post-war initiative to re-unite Europe through culture, and was so successful that it inspired more performers than available space.
Well aware that there would be a good crowd and focused press interest, six Scottish companies and two English decided to turn up uninvited and fend for themselves. They camped out on the edges of the International Festival and performed all day long, attracting a lot of attention. The next year (1948) more companies showed up, and reporter Robert Kemp of the Evening News unknowingly coined the name that now describes one of the largest and most famous festivals in the world:
Round the fringe of the official Festival drama there seems to be a more private enterprise than before... I'm afraid some of us are not going to be often at home during the evenings.
Soon the Fringe Festival gained a large and loyal following, outstripping the mainstream festival.
The Fringe Festival concept migrated to Canada in the 1980s and today that country boasts Fringe Festivals from coast to coast - including the Edmonton Festival, the largest in North America, which annually draws more than half a million people. In the early 1990s, the Fringe concept was embraced in the United States, and today Fringe Festivals are annual events in cities including Philadelphia, Orlando, San Francisco, Minneapolis and Cincinnati. To date there are more than 20 active Fringe Festivals in North America.
How did Indianapolis get involved?
In 2001, Mayor Bart Peterson announced his Cultural Tourism Initiative, and appointed Keira Amstutz to oversee the project. Kathleen Robbins, a theatre transplant from New York City, organized a public meeting, "Theatre City Indianapolis 2012," where the Mayor met with a panel of experts (Brian Payne, Margot Eccles, Dante Ventresca, Rob MacPherson, Ann Stack, David Hoppe) and more than 250 Indianapolis citizens. The group, asked to imagine what theatre in Indy might look like in ten years, brainstormed more than two hours. A few weeks later the same panel met to review the results of the meeting, and the single best idea — the one that met the most needs expressed in the room — was the idea of an Indianapolis Theatre Fringe Festival. Some seed money was given by the Central Indiana Community Foundation to support research and travel for the project, and IndyFringe was born.
Now, with the support of CICF, The Arts Council of Indianapolis, Riley Area Development Corporation, Indianapolis Downtown, Inc., and a handful of wonderful volunteers, IndyFringe has become an annual summer event on Massachusetts Avenue and a year round theatre venue.
The mission of IndyFringe is to provide an accessible, affordable outlet that draws diverse elements of the community together and inspires creative experiences through the arts.