Reasons to Be Proud

fringe hit

cast & crew of 937 one of the atlantic fringe hit winners

photo by timothy richard

Since the 23rd annual Atlantic Fringe Festival closed on September 8, 2013 I have been thinking a bit about the important distinction between constructive criticism and negativity. For me, constructive criticism comes from a very real and deep love. I love the theatre in Halifax. I love the theatre community in Halifax and I honestly and ardently want the theatre in this city to consistently meet and then exceed its full potential because I know definitively that that is what the artists here are capable of.

In 2009 I wrote a rather scathing article that addressed my issues with the Atlantic Fringe Festival as it was before Thom Fitzgerald became the Executive Director. Upon re-reading the piece just four years later every single one of my concerns has not only been addressed, but improved upon so much that I think it would meet the standards of even the harshest and most skeptical critic. In 2009 I was told by an Anonymous commenter on the blog, inferring that I should not be actively (or publically) calling for change to the organization or infrastructure of the Fringe, “we are not Calgary, we are not Toronto, and despite the talent, we do not have the corporate sponsors and volunteers that those big cities have… but with blogs like this [calling for change] you can rest assured that there will be fewer people there next year.” We are not Calgary, we are not Toronto we are HALIFAX and since 2011 we have been proving every year with more gusto and confidence that we are more than capable of hosting a well-organized, professional, fun, enthusiastic Fringe Festival that the theatre community can stand behind proudly. According to Fitzgerald, “The size of our audience has dramatically increased since the new team came in. Now we have unprecedented interest. … This year the box office was $68,727, going directly into the hands of the artists. Atlantic Fringe has more than tripled the box office in just three years.” There is so much to celebrate.

There was no one more proud than I was when Thom Fitzgerald announced on the closing night of the Atlantic Fringe Festival that the Festival reports $68,727 in box office sales this year- an impressive 31% increase over 2012. Ticket attendance was 24% higher than last year, a new record attendance of 11,600. The Saturday September 7th box office of $10,396 was the first time the Atlantic Fringe exceeded ten thousand dollars in box office in a single day. The all-time box office record held by an individual show was shattered by Once More With Feeling which garnered sales of $9,000 and now stands as the all-time Atlantic Fringe Hit seen by 1,398 people during its seven performances. You can read about all the prizes that were given out at the Atlantic Fringe Closing Party here.

I am not one to rest on laurels here at TWISI, I like to push for us all to continue to strive forward and to keep honing and polishing our skills and our expertise and to keep improving with age, like a fine wine. But, today I just want to tell you how proud I am of the Nova Scotian theatre community.

Our theatre here is thriving. The independent theatre companies, especially those in Halifax, are growing by leaps and bounds every year, both in the professional calibre of their productions and also in their size and their budgets and their ability to produce work that is interesting, unique, ambitious and exciting on a regular basis. There is more integration and co-operation between theatre artists and theatre companies, which is breaking down walls and helping everyone to share resources and work together toward creating an environment that is inclusive and supportive. We are also becoming more eager to welcome national and international visiting artists into our community, which is especially important since we’re hosting the Magnetic North Festival next year. Since I moved back to Halifax in 2011 the growth of the theatre community has been staggering, outstanding, impressive and inspiring. The biggest change that I have seen first hand over the last three years is that right now the theatre artists that I see who live here are walking around shining with joy, with optimism and with pride nearly all the time. There is a shared sense of accomplishment that is palpable and so, so, so beautifully deserved.

I am ecstatic about the future of theatre in this city and this province. I am bursting with pride in all of you.

Congratulations on a Record-Smashing Fringe and I hope the Nova Scotian Theatre Renaissance continues to unfurl with even more success, growth and reasons for us all to be very, very proud of each other and of ourselves.

There has never been a better time for Nova Scotians to go to the theatre! 

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