My first experience with any Fringe festival was the week I moved to Edmonton. I got off the train with some of my stuff on a cold grey Monday morning after Folkfest, even though everyone I’d met from Edmonton had encouraged me to arrive in time for the folk music festival. I didn’t want to wait a year to start experiencing the festive life of my new home, and fortunately I found out that there was some kind of theatre festival taking place the next weekend a few blocks from where I was living. My first blog posts about the Fringe (they were semi-private journal entries at the time; I wasn’t publishing this blog yet) mention seeing a show recommended by a friend from Montreal Fringe, encountering handbillers, talking to strangers in the beer tent, and eating my first green onion cake. But it probably took me until my second Fringe year to realize that one of the best things about the Fringe is that I don’t just pick the kinds of theatre experiences which sound safe and familiar. Something about the format, where it’s possible to see lots of shows in a weekend or three in a single evening, and where none of them cost more than $15 total, lowers the perceived risk of choosing what to see. My Fringe day wasn’t going to be wrecked if one of the performances wasn’t quite what I was looking for. And in fact, my day was going to be more fun if all the performances were different from each other.
So I started expanding the range of what I was willing to try. I didn’t think I liked one-person performances, but after seeing some brilliant multiple-character narratives and storytelling shows, I was hooked. I didn’t think I liked clowns or mimes, but after watching some world-class physical theatre and Canadian Pochinko-tradition clown stories I wanted to see more. I sought out dance shows, dramas, theatre of the absurd, musicals, and improvisational theatre. Like music and food and drink and poetry, I discovered that I liked a lot more things than I would have guessed, and I got better at figuring out how to describe what I like and don’t like. Eventually I fell into living the rest of the year with a Fringe mindset too. My Broadway vacation was Fringe-like in my enthusiastic immersion, but the shows were a lot more expensive and the street food wasn’t as interesting.
Having become more involved in the year-round Edmonton theatre scene in the last couple of years, taking class, volunteering backstage and front of house, and seeing a lot of shows from a lot of companies, my decisions of what to see at the Fringe now include consideration of a lot of shows where I recognise the names in the program book, as friends, favourite directors, or performers I’ve enjoyed watching in the past. This makes it even harder to decide what to see.
But here’s my first list. I expect to see more, and I’ve got a long backup wish list waiting for Fringe bucks, Daily Discounts, artist comps, and/or space in my calendar. These are the for-sures. They’re not in priority order. (I’m not linking any box-office pages; you can find those yourself.)
- Camel Camel
- Sonder – this is the one I’m producing
- Beware Beware
- Flora and Fawna’s Field Trip
- Zanna, Don’t!
- Dogfight – a Scona Alumni Theatre musical
- The Show
- Butt Kapinski
- The Middle of Everywhere – this is the new show from Wonderheads, the mask troupe out of Oregon who did Loon and Grimm & Fischer
- Harold of Galactus
- Little Monsters – written and directed by Kristen Finlay
- This is CANCER – I haven’t seen Bruce Horak’s show before but I’ve heard a lot about it
- Off Book the Musical – this Rapid Fire troupe is even better at the Fringe than in a regular Saturday show
- En anglais, s’il vous plait
- Ask Aggie – I saw Christine Lesiak’s show last year and liked it, and I’ve heard there’s new material in it
- Rocket Sugar Factory
- The Real Inspector Hound
- 3… 2…1…
- Real Time – scripted comedy by Matt Alden of Rapid Fire
- The Story of O’s
- Gordon’s Big Bald Head
- Bible Bill