Interactions and exchanges : how ‘Frequent Fringers’ select shows at the Edmonton International Fringe Theatre Festival

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Eckford, Clarice
Festival Studies
Fringe Festivals
Social Exchange Theory
Word-of-Mouth Communication
Since 1982, the annual Edmonton Fringe Festival presents hundreds of non-juried theatrical productions by lottery application. Because theatregoing ‘Fringers’ have limited knowledge of the content of the productions on offer, the Fringe environment provides multiple resources to help them gather information about those shows. These include material and non-material promotional resources, such as show posters; social patterns of behavior, such as gathering in Festival beer tents; and, interactions between Fringers, and Fringers and artists. This thesis explores the impact of the Edmonton Fringe environment on Fringers’ decision-making processes as to which plays to attend. Through participant observation and interviews with twelve participants at the 2018 Edmonton Fringe Festival and drawing on theory related to festival studies, word-of-mouth communication, and social exchange theory, I observed that attendee-driven factors, such as word-of-mouth recommendations and a familiarity with artists, had the greatest impact on the participants’ decision-making processes.
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