Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Fringers Solve Their Own Problems

I'm drawn to the self-help section of the library. Nerdy?


I also just really like to learn. I get a lot out of motivation out of the prospect that I can teach myself new things or more effective behaviors. That's why I like entrepreneur, author, and podcast guru Dean Dwyer. He's all about looking for unconventional answers to life's problems.

Recently I was doing a bit of extra reading around one of Dean's pivot points, "Solve Your Own Problems" (it's first in big, bold letters at the top of his website). Dean had made a personal breakthrough when, frustrated with not suddenly discovering his life passion, he began to look at problems he wanted to solve about himself. Only then was he able to take that knowledge and begin sharing it with others.

Dutifully, I sat down and thought, "What problems could I solve for myself?" I raised my pen, began my list, and then a revelation hit me: Unbeknownst to me, Chicago Fringe Festival's history had followed this very "solve your own problem" model.

Let me explain.

In 2004, I moved to Chicago with a flimsy dream about being an actor. Several awful jobs and many an improv gig later, I found myself not exactly frustrated, but not exactly bursting with success either. Things were going--I still acted--but I was also stuck with a smaller pool of opportunities than I wanted. And I certainly was not acting for a living. That's when I contacted my friend Natalie Sullivan about creating a new show, which eventually became our two-person comedy Hopelessly Devoted. That show went on to have two successful runs in Chicago and at the Capital Fringe Festival. Experiencing the Fringe in DC was the springboard to returning to Chicago with a vision. (In fact, Sarah Mikayla Brown had that same vision and had already incorporated the Fringe name. It was good to join forces. Great minds...) The rest is history, as Chicago Fringe now enters its 4th year.

Do you see what happened? I started with solving my own problem: creating more performance opportunities for myself, and ended in a place where I could share that knowledge with others: creating the Chicago Fringe Festival. Now more paid performance opportunities exist for others.

Of course, I still believe in the other noble goals behind the Fringe (returning healthy ticket sales directly to artists, serving under-represented communities, ensuring small artists get seen). And a Festival of this size was NEVER A SOLO ENDEAVOR--a lot of people are responsible for what you see today. But if it weren't for that impetus to solve my own problem, I would have never have sought to co-found Chicago Fringe.

In just over a month, we will select the 50 performing groups (historically out of 150) who will be the artists of the 2013 Chicago Fringe Festival. It can be overwhelming to think about all those shows happening at once. At the same time, it's exhilarating to consider how many of those artists submitted their application with the thought, "Today is the day I solve my own problem."

Peace and Fringe,

Vincent Lacey
Executive Director
Chicago Fringe Festival


  1. Eee!!! Go Vinnie go! Super pumped to see what happens this year, I'll be volunteering for sure. This post made me think of this quote, maybe it's too much...but just wanted to share it:

    “Hope and optimism are different. Optimism tends to be based on the notion that there's enough evidence out there to believe things are gonna be better, much more rational, deeply secular, whereas hope looks at the evidence and says, "It doesn't look good at all. Doesn't look good at all. Gonna go beyond the evidence to create new possibilities based on visions that become contagious to allow people to engage in heroic actions always against the odds, no guarantee whatsoever." That's hope. I'm a prisoner of hope, though. Gonna die a prisoner of hope.”

    ― Cornell West

  2. That's a super awesome quote, Kate! And one to certainly inspire hope if it ever gets sleepy on you. Cornell is one of the best at that!


    PS - So excited to have you around at Fringe 2013. I want to bestow on you a special volunteer/ambassador status. Food for thought?