Now in its 27th year, the Victoria Fringe Festival is one of the longest-running fringe festivals in Canada, and it just keeps getting better.
Each year, almost 30,000 spectators take in the wide range of shows, which offer drama, comedy, musicals, dance, improv and more for theatre goers of all ages. There are even shows specifically for kids.
This year, Fringe hosts Intrepid Theatre had 144 applications for the 50 available slots, 50 per cent of which are slated for shows from B.C. Of those 50, 10 are saved for local performers on a first-come-first-served basis.
“People started lining up at 1:30 p.m. The day before,” says Intrepid’s artistic director Janet Munsil. “It’s important for local companies to get into the fringe because they may not be able to afford a venue or be able to draw the crowd.”
Another 35 per cent of slots are for shows from North America and the other 15 per cent is for shows from over seas.
Shows are chosen at random, “literally pulled out of a hat,” says Munsil.
Some of this year’s highlights include a six-show production of local Paper Street Theatre’s An Improvised Quentin Tarantino, where a cast including Dave Morris (director), Missie Peters, Byron Kjeldsen, Chris Gabel, Christina Patterson, Monica Ogden, Nicole Olszewski, Scott Thompson and Steven Ray Orr will improvise a show in the style of Tarantino’s movies.
Ryuzanji Company from Tokyo, Japan (Hanafuda Denki) is back with a show performed in Kabuki style, while Miss Hiccup, also from Tokyo, will be back as well.
Tim Motley is back with another Dirk Darrow show while U.K’s performance poet Rob Gee returns as well.
“Audiences here are very supportive and open minded,” says Munsil. “They’re a very educated audience and they go because they appreicate live performance. They’re not attending like it’s a sporting event. There are a few rivalries to see who can see the most shows, but they do it because they love to fringe … and for bragging rights.”
Munsil says that about 25 per cent of the audience says they don’t go to any other theatre all year. “Fringe is their theatre fix. They love the community, they’re encouraged to have their own opinions and they’re open minded and believe in free speech.”
Fringe kicks off Tuesday, Aug. 20 with the Fringe Block Party in Centennial Square, followed by the preview, Wednesday, Aug. 21 at the same location. Saturday, Aug. 24 features the KidsFringe at Market Square with free fun for the whole family. Check out victoriafringe.com for more information.
FRINGING TIPS FROM JANET MUNSIL:
“The best way to find out what’s good is to talk to strangers in the lineup. You spend a lot of time in line at the fringe and it’s a great way to meet people, start great conversation and ask what they recommend and what they don’t recommend. There’s just no time to wait around for official reviews.”
Another tip that Munsil gives is to dress in layers. “You never know, there could be super hot weather or five sold out shows in a row before the show you want to see. And remember it’s hot during the day, but it can get cold at night. Pack like you’re going to a place that you’ve never been.” Another point to remember: most venues don’t have air conditioning.