Actor and director Peter Michael Marino: ‘Taking a show to Edinburgh boosts my profile in New York’

Peter Michael Marino. Photo: JoopaShoots Peter Michael Marino. Photo: JoopaShoots

The New York-based actor and director is bringing a show to Edinburgh as part of the Free Fringe. He tells Nick Awde how his work at the festival boosts his audiences in New York…

Are you an Edinburgh veteran or first-timer?

I’ve done Edinburgh three times and I’m coming back for several reasons. Most importantly, my new show, Show Up, is about social anxiety and depression and it’s important to me that it will help others. And of course there’s also the chance to see so much work and meet other artists.

Paid-for or free?

I’m a big fan of the Laughing Horse Free Festival, so I keep returning to it. It feels the most ‘fringey’ to me and I feel more comfortable taking chances there than in the paid venues. This doesn’t mean the work is less important or less professional than shows in the ticketed ‘big four’. But for me, the sense of community in the Free Fest is something special. I like not knowing what my ticket sales are. I like meeting people at the door as they toss coins (or paper, please) into my hat. And I like saving money on the room.

Short run vs long run?

A long run seems the best way to take advantage of all the fringe has to offer. You get more time for word-of-mouth, to make show adjustments based on the response from an international audience. You’re giving the press more time to cover your show. And you have more time to experience other shows, networking and the Fringe Society professional programme. Long runs cost more due to housing and all that, but in the end it’s worth it.

Are Edinburgh audiences different to those in New York?

Yes, because they come from all over the world. Edinburgh is the only fringe that is a true global-scale trade show and marketplace. I also see more diverse and envelope-pushing work at the Edinburgh Fringe.

How do fringes compare with a ‘normal’ theatre run?

I did Stomp for five years Off-Broadway. Someone else did the marketing and PR. The dressing room was well appointed. The audience came on their own. At a fringe, you’re usually doing your own marketing and PR. Your dressing room is a water closet.

What do you gain professionally from the fringe?

A performer is best served when they have a goal in Edinburgh. Why are you spending tons of money there? What do you want to get out of the experience? One of the goals for my first show, Desperately Seeking the Exit, was to find UK producers. I found one and they transferred the show Off-West End for a month.

How does Edinburgh help for the next step back home?

Doing the fringe makes me a better producer and performer, which only improves my work when I am back in NYC. Quotes from international reviews certainly help, too. The cache of saying you did Edinburgh also gets folks’ attention. Every year I produce Solocom, a solo comedy festival in NYC, and I don’t think it would even exist if I hadn’t done Edinburgh.

Is Edinburgh worth the investment?

Yes. It’s a smart investment in my future as an artist, promoter, networker and producer. And like any investment, it comes with risks. The trick is to care so much about your work that it has the chance to pay off – often in ways you never expected.

What’s the most valuable thing to you about doing Edinburgh?

To grow as an artist. If that comes with rave reviews, transfers, press, seeing other shows and network opportunities, then great. But just knowing that I attempted to succeed and shared my work at the largest arts festival in the universe is enough.

Show Up is at Counting House, Edinburgh, from August 3-27