Friday Photo: Fringe Edition

What It Is - Capital Fringe Festival 2014
The Mount Vernon home of the Capital Fringe Festival.

The Capital Fringe Festival is moving from its home on New York Avenue to a new location in the Trinidad neighborhood. It’s a win for Fringe, which currently occupies a tumbledown collection of old buildings soon to make way for development. It’s a loss for Northwest DC, which will see funky theater replaced by boring condos.

I have many fond memories of Fort Fringe. I was an event photographer for Fringe one year and spent many hours snapping at the Baldacchino Tent Bar. This outdoor bar was where everyone met before and after shows, where you could find friends, photogs and performers mingling together under a big tent.

It’s not too late to experience the gritty magic of the Capital Fringe Festival. Check it out July 10-27.

The $100 Startup – Chapter Three: Follow Your Passion… Maybe


Some books deserve a closer read. One of these is The $100 Startup by Chris Guillebeau.

I’m a writer. I’ve written screenplays, short stories and even several novels. Writing and (more recently) photography are my passions. I’ve followed my muse, as much as I could afford to.

But make a living at my passions? I had the dream of being a Hollywood screenwriter until I actually visited LA. And I’d love a book deal but the publishing world is in disarray these days. And the dream of being a professional photographer is undermined by countless photographers (including, at times, me) willing to work for free.

Besides, I really do like working on web sites. I love the immediacy and creativity of web publishing.

The idea that there must be some way to combine my writing, photography and web skills into some sort of coherent business is why I bought The $100 Startup.

In chapter three, Guillebeau addresses the artist within all of us, the countless people who have wanted to turn their hobbies into money-making operations.

The key is to find the overlap between your passion and the what people will pay for. He puts it in this somewhat clunky formula:

(Passion + skill) -> (problem + marketplace) = opportunity.

The best example comes from Guillebeau’s own life. I first started reading his blog during his quest to visit every country in the world. Did he get paid for this? No. He gets paid through related services, like his books and guides. As Guillebeau expains:

…you don’t get paid for your hobby itself; you get paid for helping other people pursue the hobby or something indirectly related to it.

Another example is Benny Lewis. He loved learning new languages and discovered that total immersion was key to picking up a new tongue. He learned seven languages in just two years. Pushed by his friends, he developed Speak from Day One (check out the insane video).

But how do you determine what the market will pay for? A tough question, but Guillebeau offers a checklist. You need a hobby that you’re passionate about. And have other people asked you for help with this hobby? Are they willing to pay for your expertise? These questions will be explored in greater detail in chapter six.

Remember, too, the admonition from chapter two that business success comes from helping people. So, how do you use your skills in a way that helps people?

art jamzThis chapter has a lot of relevance for artists and other creative types. Not everyone wants to turn their art into a business, however. It’s one thing to take photos that you enjoy; quite another to try to sell them at a farmer’s market. Guillebeau underestimates the difficulties people may have in exposing their art to the cruelties of the marketplace.

If you decide to turn your passion into a business, choose wisely and have a thick skin.

Local Examples

I have a couple of inspiring examples of my own, people I know in Washington who have turned their passion into businesses.

  • Jon Gann created the DC Shorts Film Festival, with a desire to put on a show. Now in its ninth year, it was named as “one of 25 festivals worth an entry fee” by Moviemaker Magazine. Jon created DC Shorts because he believed that filmmakers deserved to be treated better.
  • Everyone loves stories about ex-lawyers doing something other than law, like Philippa Hughes of the Pink Line Project, a local web site covering the arts.
  • Julianne Brienza has the occasionally impossible task of running the Capital Fringe Festival every year. This Montanan has successfully brought oddball theater to serious Washington.

Full disclosure: I’ve worked with all of these people and they’re all awesome.


Artists are at war with themselves. Creating art is making something imperfect, that’s not going to match the perfect vision in your head. On Writer’s Block is an excellent little book on overcoming this hurdle as is Do The Work.

Reading this chapter, I was reminded of Do What You Love and The Money Will Follow. Sounds like flippant advice in these dour economic times but the book’s message is that what you’re passionate about, you will do better than anyone else.

A nice companion to this chapter would be The Art of Possibility. It’s a beautiful little book about envisioning your future.

Friday Photo: Capital Fringe Festival

I can’t believe it’s been a year since the last Fringe Festival. Walking up to Fort Fringe on New York Avenue, everything looked exactly the same – the big white tent, picnic tables, a DJ playing tunes, performers hyping their shows. Only the bar selection had changed (they now have prosecco on tap).

The Capital Fringe Festival runs from July 7-24. It’s an opportunity to see crazy performances in intimate spaces, some of which include nudity and/or puppets. The bar aka Fort Fringe offers a front-row seat to this bohemian spectacle.

I was an official photographer for last year’s festival – here are my favorite pics to give you a sense of what you’re in for. And here are the shows that won in 2010 – many of these performers have new shows for this year.

Fall Fringe: What to See

scene from Romeo and Juliet: Choose Your Own Ending

Check out the article I wrote for Pink Line on what to see at Fall Fringe. What’s great about Fall Fringe (which ends Nov 21) is that it’s only the best stuff from the Capital Fringe Festival. I saw a lot of theater, good and bad, as one of the official photographers for the festival over the summer.

I loved Ridgefield Middle School Talent Nite (it’s brilliant and hilarious) but I have soft spot for accessible Shakespeare which is why Romeo and Juliet: Choose Your Own Ending was my favorite show of the festival.

Bonus: see a slideshow of photos from the show.

My Fringe Festival Picks – So Far

Romeo and Juliet, safely wed
Romeo and Juliet, safely wed

I’ve seen more theater in the past couple weeks than I have in ten years, thanks to being a photographer for the Capital Fringe Festival. My mission is to go and take pictures of the performances. While I’m focused on my job, it’s hard not to be moved, one way or another, by what I see. Sometimes, I’ve forgotten to hit the shutter because I’ve been laughing so hard.

These are the Fringe shows that I’ve really enjoyed.

Romeo and Juliet: Choose Your Own Ending
This got a great review in the Washington Post – and for good reason. The young cast performs their own version of this classic play with gusto. Plus, you can the tragedy into comedy. At various points during the performance, Romeo turns to the audience and asks what he should do. Should he pursue Juliet or Rosaline? There are eight possible endings to the play. The night I saw it, Romeo and Juliet ended up alive and married. One drawback: the venue for the play is a steamy one but you’ll probably forget the heat.

Ridgefield Middle School Talent Nite
A hilarious show, filled with delightfully gawky characters, performed by just two actors. They manage to capture all the torture and discomfort of perhaps the worst talent show you’ve ever seen. Like a true Fringe performance, the audience is drawn into the performance, clapping for the different talents and even singing and participating in the production.

(Snap)shots on a Greyhound Headed Home
I’m not a big fan of modern dance but this is a very sexy and intimate show, performed in one of Fringe’s smallest venues. It’s beautifully done and tells a sad and romantic story.

Capital Fringe Festival Preview

Fringe is fun. I went to the preview of the Capital Fringe Festival last week. I got to see sneak peeks of upcoming shows while enjoying my favorite beer (Bell’s Two-Hearted) all under the big tent of Fort Fringe. Singing Austrians, half-naked women, magic acts, rowdy bands – it was all there.

It’s hugely inspiring to be around so many fearless, creative people who have brought their visions to the stage. Plus, the festival is put on by my good friend Julianne Brienza, who I interviewed last year for the Pink Line Project.

The Capital Fringe Festival runs from June 8-25 across Washington. The shows are numerous and fast-paced so you’re bound to find something you’ll like. It’s not your typical theater experience.

Interview with Julianne Brienza, Executive Director of the Capital Fringe Festival

Julianne Brienza

Julianne Brienza

I’ve done another interview for the Pink Line Project, this time with Julianne Brienza, Executive Director of the Capital Fringe Festival.

I met Julianne several years ago, when Fringe was just starting out. It’s amazing and inspiring to see how far she’s come. Fringe is definitely something that way too serious DC needs. As she describes in the interview, Washington is very much a city on the rise in terms of the arts.