Tag Archives: fringe

Fringe day 8: puppetry, drama, comedy

On the second Thursday, after my volunteer shift I saw three plays.  Around then I stopped being able to keep up with my goal of posting notes every morning about what I’d seen the night before, so I’m trying to catch up now.  Thursday’s three were all good and very different.

Who Killed Gertrude Crump is a murder-mystery, an Agatha Christie pastiche set in a country house isolated by a storm around the turn of the previous century.  Ryan Gladstone wrote and directed it.  The Fringe program lists the cast as “Tara Travis and puppets”.  Tara Travis introduces the story, as Agatha Christie, and narrates everything besides the dialogue.  She moves props, dresses the set, and operates about ten puppet characters, talking directly to the audience when the puppets aren’t talking.  Her style reminded me a bit of what Ronnie Burkett does in his shows, operating marionettes while being visible and delivering witty asides to the audience as himself, and a bit of the object theatre / found object puppetry that I saw in Sapientia at Canoe Festival.

I was a little restless at the beginning.  It was a little hard for me to see the puppets well enough to learn to distinguish them, sitting at the side in the Suzanne Thibaudeau Auditorium, and several of the characters had similar enough names that I had trouble remembering who was who.  The setup seemed predictable and not very compelling.  Then it occurred to me that I had all the same complaints about a lot of Christie’s work, and that this was actually a clever tribute. The plot then thickened, and I got to feel smart for remembering some clues and I got to enjoy missing others and getting surprised.  After it was over, the performer swore the audience members to secrecy about the plot outcome.

After supper at Cafe Bicyclette, the little bilingual-service cafe in La Cite Francophone, I went to 3…2…1, by Chris Craddock and Nathan Cuckow, starring Jamie Cavanagh and Chris W. Cook.   I loved it.  It was the most emotionally intense drama I saw at this year’s Fringe, building gradually from a scene of two young men in a garage hangout determined to get drunk and high, to the awful context and significant outcomes of their bender.  At first their excesses and rowdiness were just funny, familiar like Bob and Doug, Wayne and Garth, or Dante and Randal, with a leader (Jamie Cavanagh as Clinton) and a follower (Chris Cook as Kyle).  Their reminiscences and stories of their past youth include a third character, their friend Danny who has died, and in the flashback scenes each actor takes a turn as Danny, sometimes in quick succession, using blocking cues to show us who is speaking as Danny in a three-person conversation.  Each character has different redeeming qualities and vulnerabilities, so that we see them as more than loser-caricatures.  Clinton has some loosely-Christian spiritual convictions.  Kyle is proud of how his work at Subway involves supporting people who are trying to eat more healthily or lose weight.  Both of them come from imperfect families and are somewhat trapped in their lives.   The story gets more painful, and I was crying before the end.  Chris Cook is a great tagalong sidekick, and Jamie Cavanagh was perfectly cast in the role of Clinton, as a foulmouthed drunken jerk who turns out to be a complicated tormented tragic character at the same time.

Then I wiped my eyes, got in the car, and went to change my mood at Real Time, the comedy written by Matt Alden of Rapid Fire and directed by Alden and Katie Fournell.  Thanks to the kindness of a stranger in the refreshment tent, I was able to take a friend with me even though the show had been sold out.  Jessie McPhee and Joleen Ballandine, regular Rapid Fire improvisers and two thirds of the cast of last year’s Fringe hit Excuse me … this is the truth!,  play two mismatched young people (Jessie is Billy and Joleen is Jessica) who meet playing an online game, spend time together in person, and explore the possibilities of romance.  The actors also play other parts as needed (Billy’s British mother, Jessica’s marijuana-smoking grandfather, Jessica’s ex-boyfriend, etc, all of them funny and original).  The whole thing was just charming and funny and familiar, including the customs of on-line life of ten years ago.

Gordon’s Big Bald Head, Under the Mango Tree, Sonder closing

On the day of our show Sonder‘s closing, I woke up early and rushed around with a to-do list in my head.  I ended up photocopying more programs for the show at the Strathcona Library because I didn’t have time to do them at home, for example.   We ended up giving out almost all the programs and having a nearly-full house for the last show in our successful run.  It’s been a great experience producing a show in a lottery venue at the Edmonton Fringe, and I’ve loved working with all the other artists of The ? Collective.

I also managed to fit in to my day some quiet times and conversations, some naan and some knitting and some Diet Coke.  And I saw two shows.  (I had been hoping to see Holly Cinnamon’s This is the kind of animal that I am as well, but it didn’t fit with our post-closing schedule.)

I’d never before seen Gordon’s Big Bald Head, an improv show with Jacob Banigan, Mark Meer, and Chris Craddock, but in future years I will definitely put them on my priority list.  In this show, the improvisers use a semi-random process to select one other Fringe show from the program, read out the synopsis, and then spend an hour creating and playing their version of a show that could fit that synopsis.  The show chosen this time was You Can Use That, and the synopsis mentioned a stand-up comic selling his soul to the devil.  Their version had each of them playing several characters each in different parts to the same narrative, and not very much switching out who was playing each.  I was impressed at how tightly plotted their story turned out to be.  And I laughed a lot, because these three improvisers are all very funny and clever people.

My next show was Under the Mango Tree, a solo performance inspired by the creator Veenesh Dubois’ own family history, growing up in Fiji and waiting several years with her grandparents while her father worked in Canada.   The fictional story told on stage didn’t have such a happy resolution, but it was artistically satisfying.  The performer played several characters, a grandmother, father, aunt, and baby as well as the narrator at the ages of 10, 15, 16, and I think about 21.  Her base costume was a salwar kameez, with a red scarf that she wore in various ways to portray the grandmother, a teenager, a bride, and so on, and she also changed her hairstyle effectively.  I liked her child character’s stubborn free un-self-conscious body language.

 

Fringe Day Nine: four solos and a goofy pair

I spent much of Friday going to solo shows, since I hadn’t seen many yet this Fringe.

Tonya Jone Miller wrote and performed A Story of O’s, about being a phone sex operator.   (She’s from Portland Oregon, and the apostrophe in O’s is a legitimate American style choice.)  She alternated talking to the audience as herself, and “taking calls”, wearing a headset and giving us her responses to an imaginary caller.  That was made more visually interesting and more credible by her simulating some of the actions she was claiming to be doing on the call.  She didn’t really explain how her character got started in that work and why she stayed, but many of the calls included in the show were from clients with whom there was an ongoing relationship, and for whom she was clearly an important connection in their lives.  One may surmise that it was mutual.  Late in the show a new caller asks her to describe her actual body instead of the one she is pretending to have in the ad, and she disrobes to her underpants to talk about how she feels about her body.  This was powerful, along with what we could overhear from the call about the caller’s late wife.

Jack Fry, who did They Call Me Mister Fry last year about his first year of teaching in an inner-city school, wrote and performed Einstein, in which he’s telling the story of Albert Einstein’s life as the character of Einstein (and occasionally as his wife, lover, son, or colleague).   I hadn’t known how long it took him to prove his theory of relativity by using measurements taken during eclipses.   But I did not really like the character Einstein as portrayed in the show, partly because of his misogynist comments.

Next up was Daddy Issues, written and performed by Peter Aguero.  His delivery was perfect, a non-stop slam-poet hum that built on the unrelenting turmoil of growing up with a father who had survived childhood abuse and the Vietnam war.  The story of his relationship with his father did not have a tidy resolution, either a rapprochement or a dramatic cutting-out, but the terse credible acknowledgement that neither likes the other much.  I was on the edge of my seat with tears running down my face.  I admired Peter Aguero as a performer and as a person and I would definitely see him again if I had the chance.

Then I went back to the Cabaret space for Jessica Moss’s Polly Polly.  This was in some ways the least clear narrative of the day, and I’m not completely sure I understood all the details, but I didn’t mind because she convinced me that there was a logical framework, with the premise that a solitary woman with an uninteresting life suddenly begins hearing a narrator in her head, and she sets out to find her more exciting self.  I was impressed by the way that everything about her movement and posture conveyed character choices.  And I loved the scene about attending a yoga class as part of the attempt to find herself.

Later in the evening, I squeezed in to a sold-out performance of Scratch, the improv show of Arlen Konopaki and Kevin Gillese, both former Rapid Fire performers now working in the USA.  They meet up and perform at the Edmonton Fringe every year, and have a loyal following who love the high-speed, physically-active, frequently-sexual stories that they tell in a long-form improv format.  In the show that I saw, they collected audience suggestions of an important event in someone’s life (learning to surf), an object (a teleprompter), and a Disney movie and a war movie to mash up (Aladdin and 300).  This generated several story threads and many digressions and side characters not all of whom were human.  The Princess Theatre is probably a difficult venue for improv because it’s a long thin movie theatre with a small performance area, but the performers use headset mics and a couple of rehearsal boxes to good effect.

Stories and songs

After an early performance of Sonder at King Edward School, I saw four more shows yesterday, all of them with a focus on story.

Little Monsters, written and directed by Kristen Finlay at the Walterdale Theatre, is the subtle and familiar story of a mother who is determined to do the best for her child, and how that understandable conviction can lead to some imbalance and unhappiness.  It wasn’t quite the story that I was expecting and I liked it better for that.  Erin Foster-O’Riordan was very believable as the earnest mother, not overplaying or ridiculous.  Cory Christensen and Julie Sinclair as her husband and her best friend had smaller parts in the story, but each brought his or her own issues to the encounters, as we saw gradually.  Anne-Marie Szucs played the uncompromising preschool director with intimidatingly still body language.   The Fringe-style simple set and lighting cues created an office, a living space at home, a parent-viewing room at the preschool, and a park bench.   I loved the line about the expectant mother only feeling perfect until other people knew her secret and started giving her advice.

The one thing I didn’t enjoy about the experience of watching this play had nothing to do with what was unfolding on stage.  In choosing a seat near the action, I had unwittingly chosen one that squeaked with every small shift in movement, so my seat kept making noise and nearby patrons kept looking at me.  I wish someone would either fix that seat or discourage people from sitting in it.

Sundogs, by Michaela Jeffery, directed by Louise Large, is playing in the small proscenium space of the Telus Building.  Holly Cinnamon was compelling as a slightly-out-of-control woman living alone on a farm, first encountered wearing a white cotton nightgown and rubber boots.  Police officer Mike (Evan Hall, also in Letters to Laura) and book acquisitions editor Dan (Brendan Thompson, also in Kurt Man buyer and seller of souls) each visit her to discuss some disturbing events that happened recently, and as their visits occur we find out more about her life.  Something about the sequence of the various scenes did not fall into place for me until later in the story.  I can never decide whether that pleases me as the narrative catches me by surprise and suddenly makes a different kind of sense, or whether I feel foolish for not catching on earlier.  This play had the most convincing and horrifying example of the consequences of living surrounded by clutter and hoarded possessions that I have ever heard or read, and it made me think anxiously about the boxes I’ve moved to the edges of all my rooms to make space for actors to sleep this week.  I hope to be able to see Holly Cinnamon’s original solo performance This is the kind of animal that I am later in the week.

I had not seen Bruce Horak’s This is Cancer before, although it had played at Edmonton Fringe a few years ago.  It’s … disturbing but in an aesthetically satisfying way.  Bruce Horak plays the title role in costume and makeup that are both eye-catchingly sparkly and nastily damaged.  Dave Horak (director of Fatboy and Bombitty of Errors, actor in Kill Me Now, and Bruce’s brother) plays Cancer’s stage assistant.  There is some singing.  There is a very gentle poke at the cancer-fundraising industry.  There is a chance for a few audience members to insert obituaries for dead loved ones.  There are some other forms of audience interaction some easier than others.   As with most performances that have an actor personifying something horrible like Death or the Devil, I found myself torn between liking the personification and wanting him to have a bad outcome.  I wondered how the show would manage to reconcile those, and I was moved to tears by the way the ending put the narrative on the side of life and health.  Those whose cancer connection is more recent or ongoing might have found it a bit too facile for their truth, but for me it worked well enough to start breathing easily again.  There is a short question and answer period afterwards with the performers out of costume.

Going from This is Cancer to Off Book the Musical was a bit emotionally disruptive.  But the performance of Off Book was well worth the warm stickiness of a full house at C103.   Leif Ingebrigsten accompanied on piano as Matt Alden, Amy Shostak, Hunter Cardinal, Joleen Ballandine, Vince Forcier, and Kory Matheson created and performed an hour-long musical based on audience suggestions of “a wedding” and “a discount warehouse store”, using four rehearsal boxes as the only visible props.  The main characters’ problems were both compelling and amusing.  The mayor (Matt Alden) wants to marry Mary (Joleen Ballandine) as well as winning an election, but she’s been married four times before, avoided finalising any of the divorces, and considers herself unmarriable.  Side plots involve a discount warehouse going out of business (major improv points to Hunter Cardinal who tied up that loose thread of plot right at the end when I had almost forgotten it), and a little boy (Vince Forcier) asking his parents (Amy Shostak and Kory Matheson) how to respond to a proposal he’s received on the playground.  There was a little bit of dance, and songs created in a wide range of styles including rap.   Off Book also plays frequently at the Rapid Fire Theatre Saturday night CHiMPROV longform shows during the season, but if you like musical improv you should definitely try to catch a show at the Fringe.

Superheroes and amazing drums

Between my beer tent shift and getting ready for Sonder’s evening show, I fitted in two performances Sunday afternoon.

Harold of Galactus is a longform improv show with local improv stars Chris Craddock and Mark Meer.  (“Harold” is the name of a common thematic longform improv structure, and Galactus is a comic-book character).   In the show I saw, the performers asked an audience member for the name of a comic-book superhero, and a front-row fan said he’d once made up one called Mortar.  Chris and Mark then had a brief conversation on stage about comic-book tropes and how they might play out for a superhero called Mortar, and then created a series of scenes and stories about the character and how he’d be portrayed in the different eras of comics, from 1942 to near-contemporary.  This let the audience have the fun of noticing all the quirks of Golden Age comic stories (“Is Hitler a hero because he killed Hitler?  But he also killed the guy who killed Hitler!”) and the tropes of more recent comic-book storytelling  (a sidekick who is invincible but nervous, very few women except the occasional supervillain, a league of criminals, and so on), bouncing between eras and landing at a satisfying resolution just before the time was up.  I love watching improv partners who have played together for a long time, because they pick up on each other’s cues so smoothly they seem to be telepathic.  Later in the week I have tickets for Rocket Sugar Factory (Jacob Banigan and Jim Libby) and for Scratch (Arlen Konopaki and Kevin Gillese), so I will get to admire that some more.  Chris Craddock occasionally fell out of character to grin at what was happening, which did not distract me from the story and just added to the sense of the performers having fun that is a mark of good improv. Fun and clever.

Then I managed to slip out quickly, dodge crowds, and get from Strathcona Library to King Edward School in 15 minutes to see Godzilla vs. Led Zeppelin, an hour-long performance of taiko drumming from Fubuki Daiko, an ensemble of four amazing drummers from Winnipeg, Hiroshi Koshiyama, Bruce Robertson, Naomi Guilbert, and Giselle Mak.  They were as exciting to watch as they were to listen to, and the show I saw was sold out.

 

Sonder’s next show is today, Monday at 12:15 pm, and the next one after that is Wednesday at 11:30 pm, both at Venue #5, King Edward School.

 

 

 

 

 

Fringe Saturday

Ritchie Community League (Venue 36, 7727 98 Street) is a new BYOV.  They have five shows playing in their intimate auditorium with multilevel stage and licensed concession.  There is convenient parking,washrooms, level access, and cash ticket sales on site.   I started my day at the Ritchie Community League with Kurt Man: buyer and seller of souls, a new solo work by Brendan Thompson.  As the program description suggests, the story starts when Kurt Man, who has had a business buying and selling souls, takes early retirement and tries to find meaning in his life.  What made this quirky story interesting to watch was that it was told through the device of having other performers speaking lines while projected on a screen on stage.  The backgrounds of the video suggest scene changes and locations.  I recognised most of the video performers, but as the show didn’t have printed programs, I was distracted by trying to figure out who they were or what I’d seen them in before.  End credits moved too quickly for me to catch all of them, but they included Colin Matty, Ellen Chorley, Emma Houghton, Katie Hudson, Mark Vetsh, Holly Cinnamon, Eva Foote, Clinton Carew, and Mark Stubbing.

Letters to Laura is also new work, written by local actor Elisa Benzer (last seen in Honk!) and directed by Perry Gratton.  Benzer and Evan Hall (last seen in a small but essential part in Clybourne Park at the Citadel) perform in a gentle realistic contemporary story of people who meet, cautiously move toward romance, and awkwardly figure out whether their new relationship is sustainable long-distance.  I loved it that the story portrayed the use of electronic communication in a natural way rather than making fun of it.  Editing on the fly and accidentally sending an unplanned text message, not being prepared for the immediacy of a video call, the first escalation of hot messages in public and the awkward dance of backing off on that … all of that felt familiar and affectionate.   I liked the way both of them narrated some of the story directly to the audience, and I liked the parallels in the two viewpoints, especially as seen in Laura’s phone calls with her friend Beth and Marc’s phone calls with his mother.  The notes I took during the show also said “sex scene – pretty socks” which is not to imply that the rest of the view was unattractive at all, just that I also noticed that Marc had attractive patterned socks.

The Wonderheads‘ new show The Middle of Everywhere was, as expected, a wholehearted delight.  The troupe of Kate Braidwood and Andrew Phoenix also included Emily Windler (Poe and Mathews) for a three-character story in mask with light and sound effects.  A little bit of voiceover at the beginning and end provided extra enjoyment but would not have been necessary to follow the story.   A lot of the story was just a fun exploration in a variety of fantasy settings.  I loved figuring out each new setting from the minimal clues, and at one point I was moved to tears by having bought in so completely that I’d forgotten it wasn’t a real possibility.  The Wonderheads are based in Portland Oregon, and they trained at the Del Arte school of physical theatre in California.

The last show I saw last night was The Show, or The Show to End All Shows (I’m not quite sure of the title), a new original work.  It was lightweight and short and it made me laugh.  It reminded me of a sort of vaudeville of various talent performances, strung together by the loose plot of what happens when most of the performers don’t show up for a show.  The Producer and Director (Rumi Jeraj and Roman Anthony) along with one of the techs (either Berkley Abbott or Griffin Schell) do a funny routine of putting on clown costumes before concluding that none of them know how to clown, for example.  An Opera Singer (Aniqa Charania) and a Musician (Sam Banigan, whom I last saw in Exposure, a Cradle to Stage production at the Walterdale last year) do a very funny duet of Averil Lavigne’s Skater Boy.  The program said that most of the performers are local high school students, but Jake Tkaczyk (U of A BFA class of 2017) was a late addition as Actor, bringing a hilarious manic energy as well as pomposity and vanity to the role.  Rumi Jeraj’s song-and-dance routine at the end was a delightful surprise.  The Show plays at Old Strathcona Performing Arts Centre, the one that advertises its air conditioning.

 

———–

The Fringe continues until Sunday August 24th.  Sonder‘s next show is tonight, Sunday at 9 pm at King Edward School. 

Fringe Day Two: five more shows

Turns out that on a day I’m not volunteering and our show isn’t on, it’s easy to see five shows and still stop in at home for a snack and a shower partway through.

The first one I saw yesterday was Beware Beware, new work by David Walker, featuring Thomas Barnet and Sarah Feutl, all young local artists.  It was a fairly straightforward drama about two friends, each with some current trouble on his or her mind, meeting up for late-night drinks at a campfire site in the river valley.   Both characters were interesting to watch and credible troubled people.

Next was Flora and Fawna’s Field Trip at the Varscona, which was adorable.  Flora, Fawna, and their new friend Fleurette (Darrin Hagen, Trevor Schmidt, and Brian Dooley) play three little girls who have started a more inclusive alternative to Brownies and Guides.  The show is framed as the orientation meeting for the audience who are prospective members of the group, and the fun starts as the costumed cast members hand out materials to the audience in line outside the theatre.  There was a little bit of audience participation, and a lot of laughing and awww-ing.  The three cast members each plays a child with distinct quirks and awkwardnesses, and the interactions among the friends (“we don’t even exclude people for being too bossy” says Fawna (Trevor Schmidt) with a sidelong glance at her friend (Hagen)) were very funny.  Brian Dooley was particularly charming as a young Francophone glad to be included in her new neighbourhood even though she doesn’t quite understand what’s going on.  The uniforms of tunic, tights, beret, scarf, and badge sash were appropriately awkward.

Next up was Zanna, Don’t! by Three Form Theatre, a light musical by Tim Acito which played Off-Broadway about 10 years ago.  It’s full of pop culture references and uses all the familiar tropes of high school stories, in some kind of parallel alternate universe where same-sex relationships are the norm and heterophobia is a thing.  Music Director Mackenzie Reurink directed a small instrumental ensemble, and some of the singers were hard to hear or understand over the accompaniment.  Sarah Ormandy’s portrayal of bossy Candi was especially funny.  Mark Sinongco, who I last saw in Putnam County Spelling Bee, was the eponymous Zanna, and Adam Sanders (Full Monty) and Madeleine Knight were the scandalous opposite-sex couple.

Dogfight is another musical by a young local company, in this case Linette Smith’s Strathcona Alumni Theatre.  Chris Scott and Emmy Kate Whitehead play the leads. I’m going to see it again later in the week and I’ll have more to say about it then, but if you are interested in seeing it you should buy your tickets early, as the uncomfortable seating in Strathcona High School often sells out.

Last on my schedule for the day was Butt Kapinski, a solo show by Deanna Fleyscher from Los Angeles.  The performer takes the audience with her into creating a film-noir world, full of cliches played out in unexpected ways.  The performer, a hardboiled private eye, chooses audience members for the roles needed in the story, from murdered bodies to residents of various districts in the dark city, mostly cast cross-gender.   And now I guess I can finally say that I was on stage at the Fringe.  The show was cleverly crafted and satisfying, and I’d like to go back if I can find room in my schedule.

Parade, mosquitoes, camels, and opening night!

It’s the Fringe!  The site gradually filled up all day until there was a crowd of high-energy  costumed performers gathered outside Strathcona Market for the opening parade around the site, and more people watching along the short parade route and waiting in front of the outdoor stage.  Shows started after that.

Our show Sonder opened at 10pm in King Edward School, venue 5.  It’s so fun to start sharing our work with audiences, after working on it in quiet studios.  It’s a great venue and the technicians and front-of-house volunteers were great.  In the warm humid weather the mosquitoes descended with dusk, so waiting outside the venues was a frustration of swiping and slapping, and walking across the ballfield was an attempt to outrun them.  It looks like the weather will be a little cooler on the weekend so I hope that will discourage the bugs.

After a quick drink with the company, I then started my week of watching plays with Camel Camel, a wonderful piece of physical theatre from Meghan Frank and Janessa Johnsrude, both graduates and staff members of the Dell’Arte School of Physical Theatre in Blue Lake, California (I think the Wonderheads trained there too).  They were very funny and there were no slow spots.  I had actually missed some of the plot tying the scenes together until I read more about it on their website this morning, but I enjoyed it a lot even without.

Fringe as a way of life

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
  • Fugly
  • 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
  • Einstein
  • Scratch
  • Gordon’s Big Bald Head
  • Bible Bill
  • Fruitcake
Cast of Sonder, postcard style

Sonder and the Fringe

The Edmonton International Fringe Theatre Festival is my favourite festival.   And counting down to the Fringe is like counting down to Christmas.  When I was a child, I used to ask my parents, Don’t you wish Christmas was tomorrow? Mum would sigh and Dad would grumble in their grownup ways saying that they didn’t wish Christmas was tomorrow because they weren’t ready.  I would explain that if Christmas was tomorrow they would be ready!  They didn’t buy it.

Anyway, every year as soon as Folkfest is over I start getting excited about the Fringe.  I already have my program and some show tickets, and my volunteering schedule for the beer tent.  I drove by the grounds last night and saw the barricades on some of the roads.  I’m clicking Maybe on all the Facebook events and trying to figure out how many I can see.  I’m looking forward to the parade, the food stands (especially Rustixx pizza), the out-of-town visitors, the excitement … but at the same time I’m feeling like one of those grown-ups who has a to-do list that has to happen first.

One of the things on my personal to-do list is to get caught up writing about other performances I’ve seen, so I can start the season fresh.  That will appear here in the next few days.

The other things are about getting everything ready for the new show that I’m producing, Sonder, with our company The ? Collective (you can pronounce that however you want, but we usually say “the question mark collective” – our twitter handle is @theqmcollective).  A friend and I put together a lottery entry last fall and were lucky enough to get selected to perform in a Fringe lottery venue, King Edward School.  That’s Venue 5, the elementary school, the low white building closer to the Fringe grounds, as opposed to the Academy which is the older brick building across the street.  My friend, Jake Tkaczyk, took on the roles of director and creation facilitator, gathering a small group of Red Deer College students to explore themes of interconnectedness and meaningful moments in a collaborative creation process.  The title Sonder came from the tumblr blog Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows, in which the writer, John Koenig, coins many words for interesting concepts – in this case the realization that each random passer-by is living a life as vivid and complex as one’s own.  As the work slowly took shape, Collette Radau contributed as dramaturg, Alex Boldt responded with original music and soundscapes, and all of us told and listened to many stories.

What we’ve come up with uses the techniques of performance art, movement, recitation, and narrative scenes real and surreal to show a series of moments in different people’s lives, from the everyday to the magical, funny and poignant and sometimes disturbing.   We’re excited about showing our creation to the Fringe community, and we’re also excited about experiencing the Fringe from the inside.   I’m the only one who’s been involved with a show in the past (as stage manager for WaMo Productions’ God on God 2013, 3 stars in the VUE and the Journal).  Some of the company members will be attending their first Edmonton Fringe, and I’m almost as excited about showing them the festival that made me fall in love with theatre in the first place.

But as I said at the beginning, I’ve got a to-do list between me and opening night (Thursday Aug 14th at 10 pm by the way).  The rest of our company arrives in town today, and our tech rehearsal is this afternoon.  We have posters to hang, handbills to hand out, programs to print, buttons to sell, and a parade to entertain you in (Thursday Aug 14th, 7:30 pm, Fringe grounds). We have a blog, a website, a Facebook event and page, a twitter account, and an indiegogo campaign (running til the 21st).

And we have tickets at the box offices for all our performances, $11 adult, $9 student/senior.  We’d love to see you there!

  • Thurs Aug 14th, 10 pm (opening)
  • Sun Aug 17th, 9 pm
  • Mon Aug 18th, 12:15 pm
  • Wed Aug 20th, 11:30 pm
  • Thurs Aug 21st, 4:00 pm
  • Sat Aug 23rd, 6:45 pm (closing)
Sonder cast rehearses family scene.  Erin Pettifor as the mother comforts her children (Julia Van Dam, Evan Macleod).

Sonder cast rehearses family scene. Erin Pettifor as the mother comforts her children (Julia Van Dam, Evan Macleod).

Sonder cast creates funeral vignette.  Evan Macleod as Doug the deceased.  Mourners left to right: Julia Van Dam, Emily Cupples, Tyler Johnson, Brittany Martyshuk.

Sonder cast creates funeral vignette. Evan Macleod as Doug the deceased. Mourners left to right: Julia Van Dam, Emily Cupples, Tyler Johnson, Brittany Martyshuk.