Beholder Entertainment co-founders Miles Kehoe, production manager, Ty Wesley, writer and recipient of the inaugural Nanaimo Aboriginal Centre artist sponsorship, and Sam Wharram, director (from left) present ‘Gender Sucks!’ at the upcoming 2020 Nanaimo Fringe Festival. (Photo courtesy Sam Wharram)

Beholder Entertainment co-founders Miles Kehoe, production manager, Ty Wesley, writer and recipient of the inaugural Nanaimo Aboriginal Centre artist sponsorship, and Sam Wharram, director (from left) present ‘Gender Sucks!’ at the upcoming 2020 Nanaimo Fringe Festival. (Photo courtesy Sam Wharram)

10th annual Nanaimo Fringe Festival to be held online due to COVID-19

Festival will feature six productions by local, regional and international artists

The coronavirus isn’t stopping the Nanaimo Fringe Festival from celebrating its 10th anniversary.

On June 18 organizers announced that the 10th edition of the annual theatre festival will be presented online via a live-streaming platform from Aug. 11 to 15. New Fringe general manager Bryony Dixon said making the move to cyberspace suits Fringe’s experimental nature.

“Fringe is about small venues, you’re just trying things out for the first time and it doesn’t necessarily have to be polished or anything like that,” she said. “So I think getting used to the idea of streaming from a bedroom might be a little strange but that’s why we really wanted to keep the live element.”

In the early days of the pandemic, Dixon said Nanaimo Fringe organizers were hopeful that small in-person performances could still happen. Dixon said it soon became obvious that “it wasn’t going to work out” and they were unsure if people would attend the festival even if it were to proceed. For guidance, they turned to the Canadian Association of Fringe Festivals, the national body to which they belong.

“We were involved in that bigger conversation around how the festivals work and … were having weekly check-ins with that group about how people are adjusting to everything,” Dixon said. “So it gave us ideas of things we could do instead.”

Dixon said the idea of drive-in shows came up but Nanaimo Fringe ultimately decided on the online option. However, as not all of this year’s artists were able to adapt their productions, the festival will feature six of the 11 selected performances.

This year’s performers are Willem Roelants and Beholder Entertainment from Nanaimo, Lasqueti Island’s Connor Runnings, Saanich-based Handmade Ivy Productions, Sarah M. Wilson of Victoria and Australian circus group A Good Catch. While pre-recorded performances are permitted, the artists are encouraged to do a live show from their homes. Local performers will also have the option to broadcast their act from a local venue and all productions have been guaranteed a spot in the 2021 Nanaimo Fringe Festival.

“We have to do it on a smaller scale but certainly we’re excited because it reflects the innovation of theatre and the experimentation of Fringe specifically,” Dixon said. “So that’s why we really wanted to do something instead of just cancelling, which some festivals are having to do.”

Details concerning the Nanaimo Fringe schedule and how to tune in will be announced at www.nanaimofringe.com.

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