If the FPA is primarily concerned with performance art, the question of genre is paramount: audiences, producers, performers, and scholars both now and in the future wish to know what kind of artwork they are likely to encounter. In 2010, the fringe programme used a twofold categorization system, first grouping into eight headings (page counts in parentheses indicate in rough terms the size of the category):
Dance and Physical Theatre (14)
Musicals and Opera (14)
plus categories of Events, Exhibitions, and Music that are lower priority.
At the current size of the Fringe in 2008-2009, a sample of 100 shows would reflect about 5% of all listings (2088 at the 2008 Fringe, slightly higher in 2009). However, such a number is arbitrary—it might increase or decrease in particular years. If a percentage (e.g., 5%) is used, then the logistical complexity of the process will inevitably increase, just as the Fringe has grown since its origins. It is better to think of a performance archive as reflecting artistic diversity through a cumulative series rather than a single annual cross-section, no matter how large. The archive selection process will make use of but not include exhibitions at year round venues such as art galleries (although we would include performances in those spaces). One hundred shows per year (plus “spirit of the Fringe” shoots) will be important to give future generations a sense of performance art as it evolves—for inspiration, understanding, and critique. This is a “high level acquisition” strategy that would necessarily involve more than one team of videographers.
Of these 100 shows, we recommend that 50% be selected randomly and 50% be selected purposively. The purposive selection would concentrate on the major venues and the number from each venue might be proportionate to the size of the venue, a characteristic that will shift from year to year (e.g., the 2008 selection might have looked something like Gilded Balloon (5), Traverse (2), Assembly (5), Underbelly (5), C Venues (6), Pleasance (5)). These would be selected by the principal venue managers (or at their discretion, press officers). A per venue limit might also be set. The remainder (out of 50) may be selected by alternative means such as prizes, reviews, or social/political relevance. Interviews in 2008 indicated that each press office (for the major venues, as well as the Fringe press office itself, which serves as de facto press office for the majority of smaller venues) is knowledgeable about a limited range of shows. There is no single source of authoritative information about the Fringe—as one would hope and expect.
For the “random 50,” genre is the first criterion for selection (in 2008, 32% were comedy, 29% theatre, 17% music, 10% musical/opera, 10% dance & physical theatre, children’s 4%, 4% events, and 3% exhibitions). Theatre and comedy will probably always constitute the majority of the Fringe offerings, though their relative share has changed over time (Shrum 1996), partly as a result of labeling practices. One further issue is whether or not to include performances that are not listed in the Fringe program (e.g., the Forest Fringe at Bristo Place). While final resolution of this issue depends on the future character and programming provided by the Fringe itself, it may be possible to include a small sample of such performances as part of the “environmental” shooting described above.