Indy Fringe looks to raise $100,000

Pauline Moffat

A downtown theater is hoping to avoid a final curtain call. The head of Indy Fringe says it needs to raise $100,000 over the next five months. Pauline Moffat said that money is needed to help make its Massachusetts Avenue theater ADA-compliant.

The theater is the latest outgrowth of the Indy Fringe Fest, which debuted nine years ago. The weeklong fest, which includes hour-long performances (involving plays, music, dance and comedy) initially drew 4,000 people. It now draws 20,000 over its 11-day run in mid-August with shows at eight venues on or near Mass Avenue.

Indy Fringe began leasing a building at 719 St. Clair St. four years ago so it could offer shows year-round. Last year, it bought the 1920s-era building with plans to update and expand the site.

As Moffat explained, "We are at capacity and we are not fully accessible to everyone. We need to provide that service to the community and our performers."

Pointing to the stairs in the front and back of the theater, Moffat said the building is inaccessible for people using a wheelchair or unable to climb stairs. She also noted there's no green room or back stage area for performers. The only ways to access the stage are through the front entrance or the staircase in back.

"It's a little embarrassing when they have to go out in the snow and come back up the stairs," she said.

The expansion calls for doubling the space by adding a second stage, greenroom, rehearsal area and restrooms along with an elevator. The ticket office and main (which will open to an outdoor space for concerts) moves to the back of the building, which is right off the Cultural Trail.

"We want to be able to say to people, 'come and use this space,'" Moffat said.

The price tag? $450,000. Moffat said all but $100,000 has been raised.

It's a project that's gained the attention of more than just Fringe patrons. Indy Fringe has played an increasingly big role on Mass Avenue.

Artist Brinton Farrand paints at the nearby Indy Art Bank, a co-op for local artists. He took part in his first Fringe last year by displaying his work at one of the venues.

"I was amazed at how many people came down and supported all the activities. It was not just one group of people but a wide range," said Farrand.

Elizabeth Garber, who owns The Best Chocolate in Town on Mass. Ave., said Fringe has brought a whole new audience to the area.

"People come and play on the Avenue. They don't just to a show and leave," she said. "They eat, have drinks, hang out and buy stuff."

Moffat said a study done by the Arts Council of Indianapolis found ten percent of those who come to Fringe Fest are new to Mass. Ave. and Fringe Fest-goers spend an average of $52.31 per evening out.

"It's a fun crowd and a diverse crowd," Garber said. "So when they make their way here we all get to benefit from it."

Moffat wouldn't speculate on what happens if Indy Fringe doesn't reach its $100,000 goal by year's end, but it's safe to say she's not the only one who hopes the shows on and on.

Read more about the Indy Fringe's efforts here.