By Julia Reidy
Four times a season, several seemingly disparate creative ideas come together harmoniously in one venue: classical chamber music, electronica DJ-ing, visual art, short film, performance art and essay. It’s an idea new to Atlanta, and it’s one of the most interesting evenings $15 can buy. Co-founded and run by Fia and Dana Durrett and José and Nikolle Reyes, Fringe has enjoyed almost two complete seasons of events and a heap of critical acclaim to go along with them. We talked to José Reyes about the inception of the arts series and what enthralled attendees can expect when they experience the fourth and final performance of Fringe’s second season this Saturday, May 9. For more information, visit FringeAtlanta.org, and to buy tickets click here.
Q: How did you guys come up with this idea? What made you want to do it in the first place?
A: Well, we met some friends — Fia and Dana Durrett — and they were telling us about their love of chamber music. We didn’t really know anything about chamber music, so we got to start learning more about it. As we learned more about it and traveled and listened to it in other places, we just realized that there’s something really awesome about hearing it in a small venue, but we were missing a whole younger group of people — essentially the iPod generation, which is basically anyone who is interested in technology and new stuff, or even older stuff, but in a way that would be more meaningful to them. We thought, “They [Fia and Dana] love chamber music. We don’t know anything about chamber music, but we do know about art and what we might do for a show and what that might look like.” It took about a year for all that to germinate into actually having a concert.
Q: I’m sure you guys all have other jobs, other pursuits. What made it something that was more than just an idea to kick around with your friends?
A: I think my wife and I, we’re the other half of Fringe, we’re both really interested in creating something new — creating culture, so to speak. We live here in Atlanta, there’s nothing like this, and we were kind of put together with two other people who could tie in the music part of it legitimately, and do it well. Having a law background, and my wife having a business background, and me having an art and branding background, it just made sense that we had these four people who were just kind of naturals at starting something. We just formed these four corners that kind of made sense. If we were all designers, that never would have happened.
Q: How have you been able to pull in such high-caliber performers? It sounds like you get basically whomever you approach to perform.
A: [Laughs] What’s interesting is that once we got into this, we realized very quickly that most creatives want to be involved in things that elevate what they do. It gives them an opportunity to kind of shine. Most classically trained musicians, they’re playing in orchestras, so it’s kind of like they’re playing on a football team. When you play chamber music, you’re playing tennis. It’s one-on-one or it’s four people together and everyone’s got to bring their A-game. The musicians afterwards are so pumped because they’ve never seen a packed house of 300 people coming in to see this and going nuts over it, and they’re just so excited because they get to play music that they actually do love and they get to have the control over it. Giving performers a lot of room to move and appreciating what they do, it just gets to the point where they feel appreciated and, I think, honored in the end. They just tell everyone they love it.
Q: Can you talk about the specific event that’s coming up next week? What do you have planned for this one?
A: On the 9th, we’re going to have the chamber music of Gabriel Faure, who is a French composer, and in the second half it’s going to be movements by Brahms, and they’re both going to be piano quartets. So we’ll have a piano, a violin, a cello and a viola. And it’s going to melt faces. Essentially turn the volume up to 11.
Q: On chamber music?
A: Yeah! We haven’t finally decided what the short films are going to be. The art gallery is going to be a painter called Melanie Ponchot; she does figurative painting.
I can describe this to you all day, but we just found that it’s too difficult to explain it. You get there and we’ve got lights in the trees and you’re outside and you can get a drink and walk around and we’ve got this kind of performance art that’s outside. We throw in these little Easter eggs to kind of mix things up, and then we change it from the first half to the second half so it’s a new experience when you come back outside. We’re thinking about all these little details and making sure that people are kind of being delighted all the way around.
Q: What would be the best outcome for you, for this one and for next season?
A: I think that as we approach the next season, our goal has always been to sell it out. If there’s enough traction in Atlanta to do this thing, maybe we’ll go to two nights instead of one night. What we’ve been excited to see in terms of the crowds, is 60 percent of our audience is 39 years old or younger. So we’re definitely making strides to get in a younger audience to experience it. It’s the best value for the dollar anywhere in Atlanta. Literally, an adult gets two hours to essentially go the coolest outdoor cocktail party/concert series that they’ve ever been to anywhere in the Southeast — not even in New York are they doing stuff like this. And they get this awesome program; we record all the performances, so as part of your ticket price, within 48 hours you can download the actual live concert. We try to make it as accessible as possible.
The last performance of this season's Fringe will take place May 9. Tickets are available here.