Georgetown at the Fringe
The Edinburgh Fringe Festival is the largest ticketed event in the world, drawing over 3,000 shows and audiences approaching 2 million people to watch more than 50,000 individual performances. This year, a number of those shows involved Georgetown alumni. Alumna Emma Clark (SFS ’13) performed in The Accident Did Not Take Place, while Michael Donnay (COL ’16) stage managed Four Woke Baes and Velani Dibba (SFS ’17) directed and stage managed Apologies to the Bengali Lady. Sarah Frasco (COL ’15) also performed with her Chicago-based improv company in A Family Affair. The Georgetown Theatre Alliance was able to speak with Velani about her Fringe experience. Responses have been edited for length and clarity.
GTA: What project brought you to the festival?
Velani: I was the director and stage manager for Apologies to the Bengali Lady, a new play Anya Banerjee with dia theatrical.
GTA: What was your experience like being at the festival? Being in Edinburgh?
V: I love the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, our lean team of three people felt both supported and stable while we were there, primarily because of our venue and accommodations. Our venue was Greenside @ Nicolson Square, and they gave us tech support, helped us program our lights, storage space, in and out times, and marketing. We were initially wary because it was our first time bringing a show to the festival, but with Greenside the whole process was very straightforward.
We also chose to stay outside Edinburgh at Queen Margaret University, which is one train stop away from the city and I cannot speak well enough of. They have a discount for Fringe performers that was half what I pay for rent in NYC, and each of us got a private room, bathroom, gym access, and rehearsal space! Living outside the city meant that we had to get to know the transportation system really quickly, but I was glad for the opportunity to escape the bustle of Edinburgh once in a while.
GTA: Was this your first time at the festival?
V: This was my third time visiting the festival, but my first time bringing a show to the festival. I will always be surprised by the audiences at the Fringe. It’s incredibly heartening to see people who aren’t already affiliated with the theater industry watch experimental or in-progress shows with an open mind. We had so many people outside our expected audience demographic - such as local elderly couples - wander into our show simply because they saw a poster and were curious. I am also deeply appreciative that Scots from Edinburgh make up such a large part of the viewership; so many festivals are tolerated by locals while being produced by and attended by other foreigners, but a lot of Edinburgh locals I spoke to said they genuinely love the Fringe and see great shows every year.
GTA: What was challenging about doing the Fringe?
V: In honesty, the most challenging issue was transporting set pieces and props. It’s a rather boring problem, but the logistics of moving even a small table from the US to the UK, and then getting it into the city from where we were staying, when you’re a small team can be quite attention-consuming. Instead of bringing it with us, we bought a second-hand replacement table for the run of the show in Edinburgh, and then returned for a refund after the show.
GTA: Did you see anything really spectacular while you were there?
V: Yes! I underestimated the amount of time that pre-show mental preparation and post-show recoup would take, so this year I only saw a few shows, opting to use most of the time we weren’t working on the show for resting and exploring. However, The Crucible by The Scottish Ballet was one of the singularly most amazing productions I have ever seen, and it’s coming to DC in May 2020.
GTA: Thanks so much for taking the time to talk with us!