The misnomer here is “fringe” theatre. The fringe once described a
species of art that was explored outside the constraints and ambitions of the mainstream. The fringe artists and their audience were small in number because their exploration was so specialized.
The fringe during the last decade or so has become synonymous with
small or under produced. And “fringe festivals” have become largely venues for artists to showcase their work in order to catapult themselves into the mainstream. For instance “Urinetown,” originally a fringe festival production, never had any ambitions other than finding its Broadway audience.
I can’t speak to the ambitions of artists of Way Theatre but are they
seeking and serving an audience significantly different than the audience at A.R.T. or the Huntington? And by extension, is the Huntington seeking and serving a regional audience significantly different than Broadway?
The Huntington Theatre’s PR explains well its ambition and the nature of audience it seeks and serves, “The Huntington has received three Tony Award nominations for productions transferred to Broadway.” This ambition is of course counter to the notion that the regional theatre should be seeking and serving a particular local theatre community and specialized to Boston artists and audience.
Even our critics here in Boston are extremely loose with the term "fringe." And, speaking to Nick's point, last year Zeitgeist Stage won the Elliot Norton Award for best "Fringe" production for their black box presentation of David Hare's Stuff Happens. Not to take anything away from the production, but it is what is called to mind by Nick's observation.
Seth Godin, on his blog, recently made the following observation:
Should you make stuff aimed at people who usually buy your product?
Should you make stuff aimed at people who rarely do?
The DaVinci Code became the bestselling book of the decade because it got bought by people who don't buy books. On the other hand, plenty of successful authors (like Dave Eggers) only write books for people who buy lots of books.
The advantage of mass is that it's big. The advantage of the devoted is that they are paying attention and have a desire to spend.
Most times, it's not obvious which one to pick. But you need to
Of course, Godin is speaking of product and markets and not aesthetics and artistic choices. But it relates, I think, in some way, to Nick's comment.