Gudgin launches world's biggest arts fest

EDINBURGH — The Edinburgh Festival Fringe may goose its media profile this summer if Al Gore hits the Scottish capital to tubthump for Current TV, as the cable network he founded with entrepreneur Joel Hyatt launches its debut Comedy Award.

While the former vice president and eco crusader’s visit is not yet confirmed, outgoing Fringe helmer Paul Gudgin launched the world’s biggest arts festival last week, outlining a program that for the first time will top 2,000 shows.

The winner of the Current TV Comedy Award will be commissioned to make three programs for the channel. Performers also will be competing for a new Edinburgh Intl. Festival Award, enabling the winner to step up from the free-for-all Fringe to the invitation-only EIF in 2008.

“The Edinburgh Fringe is still the place to come if you want to make your career as a performing artist,” says incoming helmer Jon Morgan, previously of Manchester’s Contact Theater. “As the Fringe has grown, audiences have grown as well, which shows there’s a hunger for the work the Fringe presents.”

Auds will have more than 30,000 scheduled performances to choose from this August, including Argentina’s Fuerzabruta troupe in the Fringe’s largest purpose-built venue, a black tent with a capacity of 1,200. A visual spectacular by the creators of De La Guarda, the show begins its European tour in Edinburgh after a hit run at London’s Roundhouse. Plans reportedly are afoot for a fall staging in Gotham with an American cast.

Other shows of interest include “Stonewall,” a stage adaptation by Rikki Beadle-Blair of his own 1995 screenplay about the birth of the gay-rights movement in Greenwich Village. Beadle-Blair paints a darkly humorous picture of events spiraling from the infamous police raid on the Gotham drag bar.

The crowd-pleasing song contest spoof, “Eurobeat Almost Eurovision,” will visit from Australia, while U.S. exports include “Spawn and Die!” by MTV’s Susan McIntosh; “Woody Sez,” a musical tribute to Woody Guthrie; and “Dai (enough),” the Culture Project’s monologue set in a Tel Aviv coffee bar moments before a suicide bombing.

“It’s not the scale of the event but the shows that never cease to amaze,” says Gudgin.

The Edinburgh Festival Fringe runs Aug. 5-27.

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