FringeArts: Former student at helm of Fringe production

A former Temple student is the director of production for FringeArts.

Former Temple student Derek Hachkowski was the director of production for FringeArts. PATRICK CLARK | ASST. PHOTO EDITOR

Former Temple student Derek Hachkowski gets jobs because of his reputation, not his resume.

After attending Temple for three years, Hachkowski dropped out in 2001 because he already had a part-time job as a technical director at Ursinus College. He was so heavily involved with Philadelphia’s professional theater community that school became a distraction, he said.

Now, Hachkowski works as the director of production for FringeArts.

Hachkowski said he learned technical skills in college, but the biggest thing he picked up from Temple was networking.

“I’ve virtually never applied for a job because of networking,” he said.

Hachkowski added that he’s “not sure if he has ever hired someone from a resume.” He said usually someone is recommended to him and most of the people working for him are freelancers.

Hachkowski got his start with FringeArts while he was still a student. His first introduction to the company was when he and a friend went to see a Fringe Festival show. A little more than 10 years later, Hachkowski was laid off from a job in Center City.

At the same time, a permanent position at FringeArts was open and he was happy to take it.

Hachkowski was always encouraged by his parents to do something that he enjoys but is also monetarily rewarding. He’s been working in theater since he was 12 years old and started working in production during middle school.

“Theater has always been a part of my life,” he said.

For someone who has worked for “almost every professional theater in town,” as Hachkowski said, he’s “not a huge fan of commercial theater.”

He said he enjoys FringeArts because “you’ll never see something twice.”

“Every show is vastly different from the previous one,” he added.

In Hachkowski’s line of work, “keeping everyone happy” is a daily challenge, he said. His department handles the coordination of finances, schedules, staffing and equipment. He is the logistical component that matches an artist’s vision, needs and desires with the company’s resources.

He said it’s “a lot of work,” but he finds it fun and rewarding.

FringeArts started 20 years ago as the three week-long Fringe Festival, presenting theater, dance, music and visual art productions all over Philadelphia. By 2013, the founders and organizers of the festival realized there was a lasting hunger for innovative, artistic work and formed a permanent, year-round company.

“You have to keep innovating and shifting what you do to keep current. Art changes all the time,” Hachkowski said.

Hallie Martenson, the communication director of FringeArts, said that it is an “artistic, cultural and economic catalyst of Philadelphia.” This is partially because, as Hachkowski said, the company “presents stuff that no one else would” and is “totally the non-mainstream.”

Hachkowski added that he likes FringeArts because it’s “innovative, fresh and not recycled over and over.” However, he sometimes misses “creating from scratch.”

Melanie Leeds, FringeArts’ associate production manager, works with Hachkowski in the production department and says that she is the “people person” while he oversees the entire physical production. He uses his “technical knowledge and long term thinking” to make artistic goals more feasible.

Leeds added that the collaborative nature of theater “never seizes to amaze [her].”

“It takes a community of people,” she said. “Some people have master’s degrees and some people haven’t graduated and they’re doing the same work. You’re as good as the work you do in the theater.”

Brooke Storms can be reached at

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