The Fringe Festival is just around the corner, in our town and maybe yours, too.  With hundreds of questionable shows to choose from, you may be asking yourself how best to select the productions on which you would like to gamble your money.  Some you might attend because someone’s friends–likely at gunpoint and under threat of Facebook defriending–gave them a bunch of stars. Some you’ll attend because your own friends are in them–friends who also have their own guns and Facebook friend lists. And then there are those  shows that look so truly horrible that it would be a shame to miss them.

As you make your choices, you may want to use this compendium from Fringe Experiences Past to remind yourself of the kinds of shows that are out there, and for which you may or may not want to hand over your Visa card and answer the credit or debit question– a question I personally have never really understood anyway.

The Fairy Tale Remake. There will likely be at least four or five of these in any given Fringe Festival.  Most will promise a sexy new twist on an old story.  There is a good possibility that the protagonist will take her top off, not to be sexy, but to make some sort of  point- especially if the story is about Red Riding Hood or Cinderella.  If ticket sales soar because people hear about the full frontal nudity, well then so be it.  But just know that it was done purely in the name of art. At least that’s what the programs will say.

The Abstract Dance Number.  This is the show wherein four or five dancers in nude body stockings writhe around on stage for an hour, possibly emitting shrieks and/or using a hose and/or a flamethrower to illustrate some left-leaning political message.  There may be speaking in this show, but rest assured it will be in another language.  Nobody will understand this show, which means that everybody will pretend that they do, and will give it five stars just to prove it.

The Abuse Confessional One-Person Show.  You are a monster if you give this show any fewer than five stars.  These types of shows generally do well at the Fringe. However: if you are the person considering doing this kind of show, please make sure that you’re the victim of the abuse, and not the perpetrator. If you are the perpetrator, however, you may want to smooth over some of the rough parts with some full frontal nudity.

The Show For Kids.  A show likely featuring large, scary puppets, singing and dancing, audience “participation,” and a series of ham-fisted morals that will get shoved down your throat at the rate of one every three to five minutes.  Get your tickets to this show early, because the line of parents who don’t know what the hell to do with their own children in the summertime will snake out the door and maybe wrap around the block.

The Show By That One Guy.  You know that guy.  He does a show every year and everybody’s kind of heard of him and so everybody goes to see what That One Guy has cooked up for this year.  You’ll be able to find this guy because his postcards are a lot bigger than everybody else’s, and everywhere you go, someone will ask you if you’ve seen the show by That One Guy yet.  If you don’t get into The Show For Kids, The Show By That One Guy will probably be the next target on your list.  You can generally give That One Guy five stars before you even get tickets to his show, because why fight it?

The Feminist Problem Show.  This is the show done by women, for women, and about women, wherein someone will set out to prove that women CAN be sexy AND funny, or that fat is beautiful, or that independence (read: being involuntarily single) is a wonderful thing, or that cats are deeply spiritual animals with a lot to teach about life and love and following your dreams no matter what the cost.  Someone will cry during this show, but chances are it will be the performers and not the audience members.  Full frontal nudity is also a possibility in this show, but again, remember it’s done to make an artistic point, and not to sell tickets (or so says the program).

The Minority Experience Show.  Wherein white people pay money to watch from a safe distance as other people portray diversity onstage.

The Show Someone Wrote Last Week. Rather than being a point of shame, the people behind The Show Someone Wrote Last Week are proud of their unpreparedness, and in fact use it as a selling point.  This one could go either way. It’s best to see this show as a palate cleanser after either The Feminist Problem Show or The Minority Experience Show.  The people responsible for this show are okay with getting two stars, because they didn’t go into it expecting anything, and that’s exactly what they delivered.

The Loud Guys Who Swear A Lot.  This is what it sounds like, and is generally a crowd-pleaser, in much the same way that the Oink Barn at the State Fair is how we  make up for six months of brutal winter. Give these guys five stars for helping us blow off some collective steam. The script doesn’t matter so much here.  At this point it’s just a relief to hear someone curse nonstop for an hour, because that’s what we’re all feeling by the time we reach the end of the Fringe, which is when you should see this show. Don’t make this your first show, in other words.

Certainly there are more kinds of shows out there, but these are the ones you’re most likely to encounter, year after year.  So good luck with your Fringe selections.  If you notice more kinds of shows out there, feel free to write in.