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Fringe Festival : THE FRINGE: MORE OF A MISS THAN A HIT : Music : Umbrella Sponsorship Fails to Help Unknowns

October 07, 1987|DANIEL CARIAGA | Times Music Writer and The monthlong Fringe Festival, a mammoth undertaking that in effect was the local component of the Los Angeles Festival, ended Sunday after presenting 450 events (roughly half were theatrical productions) by 500 artists at 210 sites. Was the Festival a hit or a miss? Eight critics who covered the Fringe answer that question. and

The turn-off began with the program book, a cluttered mishmash of small type, unfamiliar names and locations, apparently ambivalent crossover artists and vague promises.

Then, the press of other business--like the actual L.A. Festival itself--discouraged sampling the wares of the Fringe. We were elsewhere, and feeling no compulsion to go to Cerritos.

Consequently, and through no prior planning to ignore what few classical music concerts happened at the Fringe, most of those events went unreviewed by this department.

What were they like? Impossible to say, but one got fleeting impressions, from talking to some Fringe artists or reading advance stories on others.

Perusing the 48-page program booklet, one could see that offbeat locations and minor-league, or to use the current cliche, emerging artists were what these events offered. To the performers, such as singer Ann Gresham, pianists Sandra Tsing Loh and Michael Sellers and composer Crispin Barrymore--all of whom spoke to our staff with real optimism, before their concerts--the Fringe seemed to hold out a promise for joining the mainstream (pay your fee and get noticed).

Considering the undiscriminating way artists were assembled, the oddball places they appeared, plus reported poor attendance at some of these concerts, that clearly didn't happen. But the fact is, had these same events come our way separately, without the umbrella sponsorship, they would probably have been similarly ignored--by the public as well as the press. Too bad.

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