It’s in the Can, Man

1 09 2010

Pick of the Fringe is full of beans

Audiences exiting Fringe shows have been hearing something other than the regular post-play chatter: the sound of kidney beans

To bean or not to bean: that is the question.

dropping into tin cans. After wrestling with various systems for calculating the Pick of the Fringe awards—paper ballots, online voting, dart competitions—the folks at Intrepid Theatre settled on the bean-in-the-can strategy to figure out audience favourites at this year’s Fringe.

“We came up with a new system for a bunch of reasons,” says Victoria Fringe producer Janet Munsil. “People used to get their ballot with their visa button and by the time the end of the fest came around they’d lost or forgotten about it, so we didn’t really get a good cross-section of the audience voting—and then we had  to count all the ballots on the last night.”

While the online ballot idea may seem to be more logical than beans in a can, Munsil says they had huge problems when trying to make Pick of the Fringe high tech. “An online voting system one year lead to shocking ballot-stuffing by some companies,” she says. “We thought while we go high tech on other aspects of the Fringe, we’d go all ancient civ on the voting system and drop beans in cans. Then people can vote for any show they liked—one bean per show—not just pick one.”

Traditionally, there have been several Pick of the Fringe awards up for grabs in categories like favourite male and female performer, drama, comedy or physical theatre. While the new system is a simple “one-bean-per-show” system, Munsil says the categories are still in place and shows have to choose which one they’d like to be considered in. And while the winners will be determined by simply weighing the can—saving countless hours of ballot-counting—there’s also a formula in place to account for venue size, so a hugely popular show at a smaller venue won’t necessarily be outweighed by so-so shows in a bigger space. The awards will be handed out at 10 p.m. Sunday at the Victoria Event Centre (a.k.a. the Fringe Club). Admission is free with your visa button.

So, on your way out the door, be sure to give a bean for the shows you loved—after all, it’s easier than giving a real kidney.




2 responses

2 09 2010

The problem with the bean system is that some of the FOH managers at some of the venues are very aggressive with the can: they stand at the exit and patrons can’t go out without passing the bean can. There is pressure to put a bean in (why not? it costs you nothing).

In other venues, the bean tin sits off to the side somewhere (I walked right past it at certain shows without seeing it) or out at the front ticket tent, where it can easily be bypassed by Theatre goers.

I think the paper ballot system was preferable, because those who really wanted to vote would hang on to their ballots, and it would be a reflection of how strongly people felt about shows, rather than how aggressive each show’s FOH manager was.

Both paper ballots and beans, however, have the shortcoming that the competition is totally skewed by audience size, which may be a particular problem if two shows are selling out in venues with different capacities.

I think the best way, however, would be to have audience members take a ballot into each show, and give a 1 – 5 star rating, and drop it in a box on the way out. This would, unfortunately, possibly skew in favour of local companies who have more friends, family, and acquaintances coming to their shows, but it gives shows in smaller venues, or with smaller audiences in general a chance to be in the running for ‘pick of the fringe’. If you want to factor audience size in, well, that’s what the box office records are for, right?

2 09 2010

Okay… I missed the bit in the article about a formula to take venue size into account. But I think my point still applies.

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