When the Exotic Women take to the stage in their Fringe Festival production of "To Hell in a Handbag," (Sept. 17 at the Limbo Lounge of the Four Star Saloon in West Hollywood) their sets will be constructed of discarded lumber, their thrift shop costumes home tailored and their props will include a working TV set rescued from a garbage dumpster.
"It's amazing what people will throw away," says Malcolm Brooker, company member. "We gather things from anywhere we can find them."
A quick survey of participants in the Fringe Festival, running through Oct. 4, reveals similar resourcefulness. With entry fees ranging from $100-$250 (fees are waived for nonprofit groups and Fringe volunteer workers), and no access to the kind of city or corporate sponsorship enjoyed by the companion Los Angeles Festival, the nearly 500 group and individual entrants are scrambling for funding in many ways. From grant applications and fund-raising efforts to begging, borrowing, bartering and concocting, their strategies vary, but all are in the inventive, cooperative spirit of the grassroots Fringe.
The Inglewood Philharmonic Orchestra (Sept. 27 at the Airport Park Hotel in Inglewood) has set up a community advisory board to raise funds, while the California Youth Theater (Sept. 11, 13, 17, 18, 20, 24, 25, 27 at Fiesta Hall in Plummer Park in West Hollywood) will augment a small grant with revenue from program ads, ticket sales and solicitations.
However, artists Audri Phillips and Diane Hayden, who received a $500 grant for their performance art piece, "Melons on Melrose," (Sept. 27 on Melrose Blvd. between Poinsettia and Martel streets) found that city-sponsored liability insurance for the sidewalk event costs $506. "And," Phillips worries, "they'll charge us for street cleaning unless we pick up every single watermelon seed."
To avoid theater rental costs, other groups are heading for the streets, mobile-style. The Group of People have constructed a traveling stage out of an old beer truck, purchased as scrap for $100, and plan to roam the city this month (no schedule has been established), stopping for performances where crowds gather.
Several groups are taking advantage of the built-in Venice Beach carnival atmosphere. For example, with no lights or sets needed on the sand, actor/producer Pablo Marz expects costs to be minimal for his sci-fi epic, "Godmothrozilladan." (Sept. 19, 20, 26-27 on Venice Beach near the Pavillion).
Parking lots are the venue of choice for film maker Richard Newton, who will use the lot next to Al's Bar (315 S. Hewitt St.) downtown for his "Newton's Outdoor Walk-in Film House" (Sept. 18, 21). "I've never been involved with funding--I've learned to work with no money, using junk I find from wrecking yards," he says. "And I have friends in the film industry who know how and where to get used material."
A lot of participants have also relied upon the kindness and connections of friends for their productions. A representative for Afro-American Theater Group (Sept. 18-20 at L.A. County Patriotic Hall, 1816 S. Figueroa St.), says cheerfully, "We've had no financing--zero. But people are helping and it's working out. In the Fringe the only way to make it is to have friends."
Artist George Landry's friends have helped on a very practical level with his "Landlight," a mass of courts/sound installation at the Double Rocking G Gallery, 652 S. Mateo St., through Oct. 11. "This project was entirely self-funded," he says, "And I couldn't have done it without friends who cleaned, washed and sorted 3,000 pounds of crystal."
Some artists have relied on the kindness of strangers. Writer/producer Paul Morse says he expects to make good use of an unsolicited Visa card mailed to him by a major bank for his theatrical premiere of "Roughing It." (Newbridge School, 1619 S. Robertson Blvd., Sept. 11, 12, 18, 19, 25, 26)
Mindful of the strengths and numbers, some participants have united in groups to pull resources and reduce entry fees. Purple Stages, a Gay and Lesbian Theater Alliance collective, is producing 25 events this month, banking on the proceeds of "Flying Colors," its opening-night gala performance, for much of its funding.
An even larger group is Poetry Festival LA/'87, a union of dozens of area poets, which has elicited time, money, energy and services from interested friends, many in the entertainment community.
As for other financial efforts, on a sliding scale, Dancer Anthony Ladesma will sell dance post cards, dancer Florence Sinay will pay her student performers with free classes, the Pasadena Playhouse will give a theater-loving benefactor program credit, house seats and other benefits in exchange for a $10,000 contribution to its production of "Room Service", and in the quick-witted Groundlings (7307 Melrose Blvd.)--well, they'll merely shuffle their budget, chocking up their Fringe entry fee to "advertising."
All performers stand to benefit in concrete ways simply by joining forces under the Fringe umbrella. Many are included in radio and television interviews and public-service announcements, all are represented by the Fringe public relations agency and EZTV plays to videotape the Festival for a television documentary.
As executive director Aaron Paley says, "we're providing a voice for these artists, many of whom are little-known and have no other access to publicity. We hope this event will improve their visibility so during the year they'll have a better chance at funding."