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Fringe File, #22: REVIEW: Fringe Central

To Fringe artists, Fringe Central is the heart and hub of the Minnesota Fringe Festival. This designated gathering place sees artists and audiences mixing, swapping show suggestions, and generally relaxing after a long day of Fringing. It’s also one of the most dysfunctional parts of the festival.

There is no permanent Fringe Central. In 2014, Crooked Pint was Fringe Central. In 2015 and 2016, it was Republic. This year, it’s Grumpy’s. While some of Republic’s deficiencies have been addressed by the move, Grumpy’s has plenty of its own downsides.

The basic requirements for Fringe Central are these: appropriate capacity, staffing, and noise. Crooked Pint was famous for artists losing their voices trying to be heard on opening night. Republic infamously didn’t hire extra staff to manage the deluge of artists and audience members streaming in from the Seven Corners neighborhood – much less the second wave from the more outlying venues.

Grumpy’s has free late night parking and slightly shorter drink lines, but that’s where the benefits stop. The lines are long, the noise painfully loud, and a strange succession of late-night, hosted events keep taking place in the middle of the festival. One evening filled the “quiet room”, the main room, and the patio with the sound of an ear-splittingly loud ska band; seemingly every other night, a wedding or other event spills into the overcrowded space. Good luck getting food (or your tab) once the evening gets busy.

There is no “Write a Review” function on the Fringe website for Grumpy’s, but if there was, I would give it 1 star. If I were feeling vindictive, I would give it one of those reviews that would get deleted. It’s simply inadequate for anything close to the size of MN Fringe.


Amy Donahue