The Atlantic Fringe Festival
A friend of mine in Toronto refers to the Fringe as “Theatre Christmas” and it is with that same giddy spirit that I will be heading to bed on this, the Night Before Fringe, the beginning of the most wonderful time of the year. The Atlantic Fringe Festival begins on August 29th, 2013, the largest it has ever been, with over fifty different shows in eleven venues throughout Halifax’s downtown and North End and I feel exceptionally fortunate and immensely excited to be able to see them all!
You may be wondering why I consider the Fringe to be the most exciting time of the year to go to the theatre. Perhaps the word “Fringe” conjures up for you images of shoddy production values and a lack of professional polish. While it is true that Fringe Festivals are not juried and therefore open to amateurs, emerging artists and professionals, that is part of what makes the Festival so exciting! Firstly, I love Fringe because it gives me the opportunity to see work by artists who may not have the financial means to produce their shows outside of a Festival setting, but who show incredible talent, proficiency and promise in their craft. These are artists who can continue to hone their skills and may eventually grow out of Fringe to establish a company, as 2b Theatre’s Anthony Black and Christian Barry did, that will become a cornerstone of Nova Scotia’s indigenous theatre industry. Secondly, I love Fringe because it allows more established companies to take larger risks with their work, to wiggle free of any oppressive mandates they may have, and to take a chance on a new work that may not be ideal for a larger house, but may be far more interesting. Thirdly, I love Fringe because it is the young Canadian playwright’s domain. There are still not enough Nova Scotian stories being told on the stage, and even fewer that maneuver their way through all the dramaturgical hoops to eventually find a place on a Mainstage or touring the rest of the country or the world. The Fringe is the birth place of so many seminal Canadian theatrical works and every year brings with it the hope that at least one will go on to be given life again in workshops and remounts of the future. Lastly, I love Fringe because it is one of the few times that Halifax audiences are treated to a wide array of work from visiting artists, many of whom have received accolades and had sold-out and hit shows elsewhere in the country and the world. Like the performers that come each August to Halifax’s International Busker Festival, who are professional street performers, there are many extraordinary theatre artists who make a career of touring their professional caliber shows to International Fringe Festivals. This truly brings theatre to the masses and makes world class theatre accessible to thousands of people who could not otherwise afford to attend productions at regional or other more “mainstream” theatres.
The challenge is, of course, how to decide which shows to pick? It’s a terrific question! So, here, just for you, are my TOP MUST SEE PICKS for Atlantic Fringe 2013.
- 1. What: 937. Who: Two Planks and a Passion Theatre. Why: I saw an early version of this piece, centered on a ship of Jewish refugees seeking asylum from the Nazis told through beautiful, simple and unexpected puppetry. It is haunting, tear jerking and important. Where: Neptune Studio Theatre.
- 2. What: Alone. Who: Kazan Co-Op. Why: From the company that brought Halifax audiences Daniel MacIvor’s Communion and I, Animal, I’m excited to see this new work by Sherry Lee Hunter. It is a departure for Kazan and the work of a veteran Nova Scotian theatre artist who teaches a lot but, in recent years, performs in the theatre rarely, so I am very excited to see Alone! Where: Museum of Natural History
- 3. What: Bill Wood Is Magic Who: Bill Wood. Why: Former Picnicface star Bill Wood did a similar hit magic and comedy show last year in the Fringe Festival and it truly is a magical experience. His wit and charm radiates pure joy and his magic confounds his audiences in wonder, amazement and a relishing of trickery. Where: Plan B
- 4. What: Universal Babble. Who: Lions Den Theatre. Why: I saw these two short David Ives plays as part of a larger series last Spring and was incredibly impressed with both of them. The Universal Language features a STELLAR performance from Colleen MacIsaac and Babels in Arms is the funniest thing I’ve ever seen Lions Den do. Together, they are great! Where: DanSpace
- 5. What: UnSex’d Who: Written by Daniel Judes and Jay Whitehead, directed by Richie Wilcox. Why: Coming from Lethbridge, Alberta but directed by Cape Breton’s own Richie Wilcox, this play about boy players in Shakespeare’s time is described as “one part All About Eve, one part Macbeth, ten parts TMZ and all parts wicked, nasty, fun.” Given my previous experience with Wilcox’s work, I would guess that this depiction is entirely accurate. .Where: The Bus Stop Theatre
Other Fringe Shows That I Think Are Worth The Gamble:
- Alien by Annie Valentina directed by Margaret Legere. After Valentina’s work in Touch and Legere’s work in The Good For Nothings this pairing is likely a match made in Heaven.
- B Side by Arlin Dixon. Performed by Dartmouth boy Matthew Gorman and produced by Cart/Horse Theatre in Toronto, I have seen some incredible work from this Artistic Team in the past.
- Bend by Ian Mullan. I have yet to go to an Ian Mullan show and not have a good time.
- Call Mr. Robeson by Tayo Aluko. Coming to us from England via Carnegie Hall, with rave reviews from The Guardian, BroadwayWorld, The Scotsman and tons more, this show looks like a sure-fire triumph!
- Go To Hell by Michael Best. With a cast of Matthew Lumley, Jim Fowler, Tara Doyle, Gordon White, Michael Best and Dawny Negus Jr. I am already sold.
- Phaedra’s Bed by Kim Parkhill. I thoroughly enjoyed Kim in last year’s Athena In Love and am looking forward to her and Garry Williams teaming up on a new project.
- Suicide Monologues by Jackie Kinley. Inspired by patient work and featuring a cast that includes Jeremy Webb and Keelin Jack, this is likely to be harrowing, heartfelt and poignant.
- Together We Are More by Mary Fay Coady and Alisa Galbreath. From Misery Loves (theatre) Company and directed by Rhys Bevan-John, from whence the brilliant Perfection of Man came from last Fringe, I am excited to see what the theatre gods have conjured up for us this year.
I will borrow this from my friend Derrick Chua, who has seen more Fringe theatre shows than anyone I know, and who each July posts a similar list of Fringe picks for Toronto Fringe on his Facebook page. “For the most part, I’ve chosen these shows because of the artists involved – artists whose work I know and admire. Many of these shows are brand new world premieres, so who knows what may actually happen when they get on stage. But there are a whole lot of hard-working talented artists who deserve your support, so I hope to see you at the Fringe seeing as many shows as you can! Absolutely feel free to forward this, use any part of it if you would like, anything to help promote the Fringe and the wonderful artists and shows involved. And feel free to add or send me info about any shows that YOU would recommend that aren’t here.”
I hope to see you at a play!