PHOTO: Command performance by 'Zambezi Express' for Prince Charles at Glastonbury
Festival of Contemporary Performing Arts.
What People Are Saying
I think I first met US promoter/publicist Calvin Wynter at the Edinburgh Fringe in 2007, when he was involved in opening the new Green Room Venue, but he had been going there since 2004.
Yesterday, he told me: “I went to school in Geneva for a year and I had no idea the Edinburgh Fringe existed. My parents were avid theatre-goers and we were travelling to Europe almost every summer, but they had no idea the Edinburgh Fringe existed. When I was made aware that Edinburgh was the place to go then, in 2004, I went over with five shows. All sold out, were critically-acclaimed and one won the Richard Pryor Award. The following year, Richard Pryor’s daughter went over with us with six other shows.
“Now we’ve taken 135 shows to Edinburgh and we’ve done 250 shows worldwide. We’ve been at 50 festivals worldwide and toured 120 cities.”
And now, through his company Inbrook (of which I am an alleged creative consultant) he is staging his very own Fringe Festival – the Brooklyn Fringe, running 12th-21st July next year in New York.
“It’s something I’ve been thinking of for about four years,” he told me yesterday.
“In the East Coast, there is no ‘open’ festival. Everything is either juried or curated. It’s either You spend your money but we’re going to tell you if you can get in or We’ll decide whether you get in and we’ll pay for it. But there is nothing on the East Coast that is You find a place, you register with us and you’re now part of the Festival.
“There is a New York Fringe which has been around for over a decade, but it’s juried and they take 2% of your box office gross for the next seven years. I think that’s absurd. If you participate in the New York Fringe, for the next seven years – simply because they provided a place which you paid for for maybe six performances – they then take 2% of your box office gross whether you play in Boise, Indiana or Brighton, England.”
“What will you do instead?” I asked.
“We won’t take a percentage when they’re not in our facilities under our Festival banner,” he told me.
“What,” I said, “if I have a wonderful success at the Brooklyn Fringe and decide to go with a promoter other than you?”
“I worked for 13 years on Wall Street,” said Calvin. “On Wall Street, we don’t have competitors. We have colleagues. We don’t worry about the size of the pie. We’ll all eat. I come from an entirely different mindset than what I’ve experienced in a lot of emerging entertainment areas, which seem to think that the world is small and that all of us are fierce competitors… It’s unecessary.
“If you go with another promoter, you are still going to tell someone Go to the Brooklyn Festival - and maybe they’ll go on to work with us afterwards. We’re thinking long term. The more the Brooklyn Fringe succeeds, the more our organisation gets a higher profile.
“At this stage, we’re looking for venues. By putting the word out that we’re looking for venues, we will also receive information about participants.”
“What if you don’t get enough venues to make it viable?” I asked.
A new Festival that is definitinely in Brooklyn not New York…
“There’s more than enough venues to make it viable,” Calvin told me. “Brooklyn is so vibrant. There’s a new stadium. The Nets basketball team have moved from New Jersey. A hockey team The Long Islanders are going to move in less that two years. Jay-Z did an intro concert there. The amount of construction is… Let’s put it this way, if Brooklyn were a free-standing city, it would be the fourth largest city in the United States right now, but it’s trending that, in the next few years, it will be the third largest.
“We have no fixed number of venues. The New York Fringe has stopped at around 200 venues. The more the merrier for us. We already have a number of shows that would like to work with us in Brooklyn under any circumstances.”
“So,” I said, “I can come to you and say I’ve got a venue above a bar in Brooklyn and I want to put on a show and then you would put me in the Festival programme?”
“If someone registers a show from that location, then you are now a Festival venue. As long as you do it within Brooklyn, it’s part of the Brooklyn Fringe.”
“And,” I asked, “it will be ‘open’ like the Edinburgh Fringe? You will co-ordinate but not put on any shows yourself?”
“We will put on shows,” said Calvin. “We are going to be ‘open’, juried, curated and ‘pay-what-you-can’.
“If you go see a show that is ‘free’, the reality is that the performer, producer or someone stands there with a bucket or a hat at the end., asking for money. What is that really? It’s pay-what-you-can.
“So we are going to be up-front and say that some shows are pay-what-you-can.”
“So,” I said, “I can come to you either with my own fixed-price show or pay-what-you-can show and venue or I can come to you and you’ll provide the venue and hire it out to me?”
“Yes,” said Calvin. “Or some other entrepreneur will set up a venue and put on a show. It’s every variable. On some shows, if it’s necessary for us to put our own money up and bring our own expertise to it, we’re gonna do that, bringing in the creatives, the crew, the marketing effort.”
“Are you getting any money from the local council?” I asked.
“This is the American Dream,” said Calvin. “You go out. You focus on being the best. And you are able to create something that serves the public need. It’s a team of performers and creatives that also – almost all of us – have backgrounds in the financial industry. We do it in such a way that it’s self-sufficient. We can’t depend on government. Arts funding has been cut throughout the United States. We are not dependent on public funding or donations or grants. As we see government and foundation funding evaporate… we just create a business model that works for all.”
“So your background is Wall Street?” I asked.
“I retired 12 years ago, when I was 40 years old. I don’t need the money. I want to be creative. I want to help artists to grow.
Calvin Wynter Jnr as a child with his father
“I was a performer as a child. Even when I was a baby, I was in a commercial for milk. But, when it came time for career selection, I ended up going to Wall Street and, just before I left Wall Street, I found out that I had – without my knowledge – been hiring actors, dancers, comedians. Every member of my staff was in not only one but the three major unions in the United States. Even in the case of members of staff from Britain, they were in British Equity.
“I had been unconsciously surrounding myself with performers. So it was natural when one said You should pursue this that I went, in less than 90 days, from taking three acting classes to being in one off-Broadway show, in rehearsals for another, doing indie films at the weekend and setting up a production company that would go on to be nominated for a Drama Desk Award in less than 18 months. I leased a theatre – the Gene Frankel Theatre – renovated it, started putting on productions.”
“You were an actor?” I asked.
“I was an actor, a singer and dancer. I’ve just got back from producing a show in Amsterdam, scouting theatres in Berlin for touring and being taken to Prague to consult on a musical that was in a 1,000 seat theatre.”
“So you are an actor, singer and dancer who turned producer, promoter and publicist?”
“In one instance,” said Calvin, “we were even involved in producing a show in a car. Two actors in the fronts seats, two audience members in the back. Whether it’s an elevator, a boiler room, a toilet or a 1,000 seat theater we want to see Art.”
“And a businessman,” I added.
“Brooklyn Fringe venue registration applications are due by Monday, 28 January 2013,” Calvin told me.
“And a salesman,” I added.
I am allegedly a UK consultant for the Inbrook entertainment company in New York. This means that Inbrook boss Calvin Wynter occasionally phones me up at odd hours from New York. Well, odd hours for him. I think he may never sleep.
Yesterday morning, he phoned me up to talk about two shows which Inbrook is promoting at the Edinburgh Fringe next month. One is an Israeli show; one includes in its title a reference to the Hamas organisation.
Repertory Theatre is being produced by The Elephant and the Mouse - the only Israeli production company at this year's Fringe.
Jennifer Jajeh's show is called I Heart Hamas: And Other Things I'm Afraid to Tell You.
This morning, Calvin phoned me from New York to tell me that "Jennifer Jajeh has received death threats and there are calls to boycott her show at the Edinburgh Fringe... and now I too am being threatened and called an anti-Semite."
Unconnected to these death threats, Calvin - who is incidentally a black American - earlier this morning received this e-mail:
From: Steve Malone <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Date: Thu, Jul 26, 2012 at 3:06 AM
Subject: Supporting suicide-bombing Jew-hating manaics
To: Calvin Wynter
You vile, antisemitic pieces of garbage should go rot in hell.
Fuck you, and fuck your piece of shit parents for creating you.
Bizarrely, this appears to come from www.insidehoops.com which describes itself as "the most popular independent pro basketball website in the world".
Calvin seems particularly bemused by being called an anti-Semite.
"For the record," he says, "my great grandmother was a Sephardic Jew from Syria. In essence I am being attacked because Inbrook is promoting both a Palestinian American Christian - Jennifer Jajeh - and two Israeli Jews - The Elephant and the Mouse."
He tells me he thinks what this exposes is "The ignorance of blind hate".
Yes indeed. And it is ironic, too, given that the email allegedly from Steve Malone is apparently opposed to terrorism.
My dictionary defines Terrorism as "The use of violence and intimidation in the pursuit of political aims".
The emphasis is mine.
The sender should also note that, in the subject heading of his e-mail, he has mis-spelt the word maniacs as "manaics". This is never a good start.
"Q Since 2002, me and my company, Inbrook, have brought 135 shows to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, and over this time have had many, many experiences with the beehive that is Edinburgh in August. But there is one phenomenon that still completely mystifies me.
Every summer over 500,000 people from all over the world arrive in town to present their theatrical wares, party, make connections, buy and sell, and we all stay in housing of some shape or form. This abode usually has a bed, a bath, some place to cook and sit, but it often does not provide for an equally basic need, namely easy, fast internet connection, aka broadband.
No, it’s not a luxury, but just as essential as eating and sleeping. For us performers, promoters, press people and punters it’s up there with “to be or not to be”.
Am I being dramatic? Well, yes, but the reality is that time after time I have to reject an amazing flat for the Fringe because, eg, the broadband gets cut off during August. Cost cannot be the reasoning behind this at an average price of £12 a month.
The world is wired, and we who follow the festival circuit need the global reach at all times.
Calvin Wynter managing director, www.Inbrook.com, New York
AA spokesman for the Fringe Society says: “Every year an increasing number of Fringe participants want access to the internet as a component of their accommodation requirements, and for those participants we would advise them to check with the landlord what is available in their chosen property before signing a contract.
“Of course, all Fringe participants can access the Fringe Society’s participant centre – Fringe Central – where they can have unlimited access to free wi-fi for the duration of the 2012 Fringe.”
Combined Artform is extremely excited to be able to offer such an excellent selection of and wide range of productions for the Best of Hollywood Fringe 2012.
We kick off this weekend in style at Theatre Asylum, with performances from Top of the Fringe winners Lost Moon Radio Episode #12 (I have never laughed so much – Bob Leggett, Loz Feliz Examiner), LA Weekly GO awarded The Secret of Sherlock Holmes, Sell out success Steep Tease and hotly tipped young company ‘The Working Company’ performance of The Lights Are Off (86% rating on bitter-lemons.com).
Back in 2008, Mike had a hit show with Sleepwalk With Me, about his experiences with his sleepwalking problem. It opened at Cal Wynter’s (Inbrook) Bleecker Street Theatre, and enjoyed a very successful run there. I attended the opening and knew right away that it would be a hit!
~The Laugh Button
I thought I would lose my mind. I literally left my house in midtown at 7 P.M., and by 9 P.M. was still in my car and not even near the theatre. At 7:15 I could already tell I was in trouble, so I called my buddy Cal Wynter who owns the theatre, and told him I might be late. He was like, “ Don’t worry, we’ll hold the curtain for you.”
"Calvin Wynter of Green Room (Inbrook) has a more radical solution. He thinks that all postering should be banned - thus reducing costs for promoters and the acts themselves, and stopping the annual defacing of the city."
"Always pro-active New York promoter Cal Wynter phoned me up to tell me Manos The Greek is going to offer to re-finance the ruined Greek economy."
"The finals were held at Cal Wynter’s Green Room at the Theaters at 45 Bleecker Street, where both Mike Birbiglia and Marc Maron have been running their shows. The great Judy Gold came and opened the show."
"Last year, Aristocrats director Paul Provenza's ***** chat show included South Park's Trey Parker and Matt Stone and the Simpsons' Harry Shearer among its famous, funny guests. This year, it only gets better."
Calvin Wynter Himself
"Calvin Wynter is a charming and handsome executive producer..."
Bartholomeus the Second enters, played by Calvin Wynter, a funny young man who agrees and disagrees, with a qualifying politeness of course, with everything Bartolmeus 1 says. It’s now two scholars against one playwright with everyone being cautiously polite as they attack each other in the most educated manner of European intellectuals.
~New York Theatre Wire
Buzzing new venue (Edinburgh Fringe)
"Even producer Calvin Wynter was happy, despite the fact that the entire cast of his production Zambezi Express was still in Zimbabwe, thanks to an airline strike."