The Fringe Theatre Festival got started last night. I’ve seen five plays, I have tickets to five more, and I have a long list in my program book of more I’d be interested in seeing. Maybe I should have signed up to volunteer, and earned some free tickets, but I still don’t have unlimited energy and can’t always predict — and it looks like lots of the volunteer jobs are outdoors in the sun.
There are a couple of neat new things at this year’s festival, and one old thing I took advantage of for the first time today.
– At the beer tents, you can buy a glow-in-the-dark souvenir cup, put your name on it with a Sharpie, get a dollar off every beer, and have it rinsed out to carry it home. Also, it feels nicer to drink from than the flimsy biodegradable-plastic cups.
– There’s a same-day-discount booth now. Artists can choose to have some same-day tickets for their shows sold at half price. (It doesn’t work out to half the total cost, because you still pay the $2.50 facility surcharge.) Today there was a list of maybe 20 performances on sale, and I found something I was interested in that fit in the gap in my schedule.
– Also, because I came from another appointment I wasn’t travelling by bicycle today, so I used the voucher in the program for a free bus ride home. It turns out that they just hand you an ordinary bus ticket, so maybe I will go get a bus ticket on future nights even if I do have the bicycle. I have to say, it felt very weird to walk away and get on a bus; I kept feeling like I was forgetting my bike on site.
The shows I’ve seen so far:
More Power to Your Knitting, Nell – this was a one-woman show that the artist was promoting on Ravelry, inviting people to knit at the show. It was a sort of sketch framework about a woman hired to do a radio show motivating patriotic knitters during World War II, and mostly an excuse for the artist to sing authentic WWI and WWII songs about knitting. She has a great voice, and is also doing another show at Fringe about Edith Piaf. There were only about 3 of us in the opening-night audience who had brought our knitting, and she handed out knitting projects to a few more people who knew what to do with them (including the man in front of me). Then every now and then she would put us on the spot with questions in the play. I’m never very sure how funny or original to be in a situation like that; not that I’m naturally all that quick, but I always worry about stealing the show when it seems like my role is to be good-natured about being made fun of. I did get in one funny line that made the rest of the audience laugh.
Charlie: A Hockey Story – mostly a storytelling performance, this one was more moving than I’d expected. I really wish I could learn to do that kind of storytelling. I’m not really interested in the kind that’s like telling long jokes, or the kind that my internet/Irish-Week friend Yvonne Healy does which is like traditional recounting of legends – just, I have lots of memories that I like to recount, and I’d like to know how to recount them in a way that would have an audience on the edge of their seats for an hour. Anyway, he had us rapt with stories that I mostly already knew the public parts of because they were important to my father and I’ve read them – the stories of the Leafs in ’33 and ’34, the longest playoff game ever and the Eddie Shore – Ace Bailey collision, injury, and aftermath. The artist’s uncle was one of the players on that Leafs team. It made me want to write to my brothers to check my memory of our own very small personal connection to those stories (I think that it was Joe Primeau Jr and some other possibly famous guy who ran the Mississauga team, and I think that King Clancy once came to a game and maybe Dad got him to sign a hockey card or was just struck dumb with magic.) The story was also about the artist’s relationship with his father, and about Shakespearean imagery. I really liked it.
Fools for Love – one of the two actors in this clown show is Christine Lesiak, a friend-of-a-friend whom I think I have met at Folkfest and/or at a party. I don’t always like the kind of exaggerated physical comedy done by clowns, but these actors were fun to watch and good at what they did.
This is Still Not a Play – three modern dance pieces in a very small venue, local company Good Women Dance Collective. I didn’t get a program, so I missed the titles of the pieces and that might have added something. But I liked it. The first one played with cell phones and video-calling and the idea of being there and not-there. The second one was more lyrical and there was probably some symbolism that I missed. The third one was about mirrors and echoes.
Geography Club – twelve young actors in an adaptation of a 2003 young-adult novel about GLBT high school students. I haven’t read the novel. Turning a novel into a 1-hour show made for a lot of very short scenes, which I found a bit jarring. I could see it working better as a novel or a movie (which is apparently in the works). I enjoyed it though. I can’t decide what I think about the fact that the apparently-transgender character was just there, never identifying zir sexuality or gender identity or aspiring to romantic relationships like the other teenage characters. I wanted to hear more from/about that character because a kid who is always reading rather than making eye contact but who interjects thoughtful points in discussions seemed interesting.