Capital Fringe: There Should Be an App for That!

by John Stoltenberg

Every year in late June I get interested in gambling. Not on craps or slot machines but on fringe theater. Because the Capital Fringe Festival tickets go on sale and I can’t wait to pick the shows I want to take a chance on. (Last year I hit the theatrical equivalent of a jackpot: Who’s Your Baghdaddy?, which was so good I had to see it twice.)

Now Capital Fringe is on and as usual I’m feeling overwhelmed. So many shows to see, how to decide?

I do my homework. I go to Fort Fringe (festival headquarters) and pick up postcards. I study the festival booklet circling whatever looks interesting. I read everything I can find in print and online. I frequent the online festival calendar to see what’s on when. I click through to look at websites and Facebook pages for shows I’m considering. As soon as reviews start to appear, I begin rethinking my early choices. And, well, whew! How come there isn’t an app to help me with all that?

The Edinburgh Festival Fringe runs every August for three weeks in Scotland’s capital city. Last year it began offering festival goers a really useful app, available free in iTunes and Google Play. Look at some of the cool things it does:

From the menu screen you can tap Shows to get a complete listing, or for show times and details you can tap All Performances, which you can sort by any of 11 categories (including Comedy, Musicals and Operas, and Theater), and you can poke into any listing for more about the show…

Back at the menu you can tap Nearby Now to find what will be on at exactly what time near where you are (which the app “knows,” so it tells you how far away the venue is). You can also see what’s playing where by tapping Venues or by tapping on a map…

Once you find something you want to see, you can buy tickets with the app. You can also keep track of what you’ve booked on My Festival and follow the festival Twitter feed. The app evidently has a corporate sponsor, Virgin.

If a savvy corporation doing business in DC would underwrite development of an app for Capital Fringe, here’s my wish list for other functionalities: I’d want to see links to whatever each show is doing to promote itself online—its website, its Facebook page, photographs and videos, insider interviews with the artists, whatever. I’d want electronic reminders of the performances I bought tickets for. Once reviews start appearing, I’d want links to those too. And I’d love to see some Yelp!-like functionality such that anyone who’s seen a show they like could instantly say so—as a way of giving props to the shows’ creative teams and as a way of pointing festival goers to good bets. (I just saw The Mercy Seat by Neil LaBute, for instance, and—oh my!—thumbs up, five stars.) Odds are, an instant audience-feedback readout would be a win-win.

So, what do you think? Take this quick poll. Help me let Capital Fringe know whether there should be an app in its future!