Every year some 20,000 people sample from an offering of more than four dozen independent shows and free community events around the city during the Victoria Fringe Theatre Festival. Intrepid Theatre’s annual convergence of mind- and genre-bending theatre has a devoted following on all fronts: audiences, volunteers, performers – and those people who take on all roles.
“People are happy to talk to each other and to hang out and make friends in a way that in your normal everyday life you wouldn’t get to, necessarily,” says Fringe devotee Rose Jang, who has experienced the festival from all angles and this year became the first to see it from inside the guest producer’s seat. “Getting to be the Fringe version of myself is something that I love.”
Jang has worked for festivals big and small in a variety of positions. The arts lover’s experience with the Victoria Fringe stretches back the better part of a decade, to her beginnings first as an audience member, then a volunteer and later as staff. Organizing the Fringe Block Party, FringeKids Fest and the Fringe Club under the mentorship of longtime Intrepid Theatre producer Janet Munsil is an opportunity for new arts administrators such as herself to break from mostly junior roles, Jang says, and learn in a safe environment – albeit a fairly intense one.
“We have over 50 shows this year,” Jang says. “It’s not physically possible to see more than about 40 every festival. Every year there’s someone who will try to figure out in the schedule, how to see the most possible. There’s a small group of about a half dozen who will go to as many as possible.”
Chris Gabel is one of those people. For the last several years, he has been engaged in what he calls “Super Fringing,” which generally lands him in the audience of more than 40 productions annually. Last year that number dipped to 27 because he was also acting in six performances (in the Pick of the Fringe An Improvised Quentin Tarantino with Paper Street Theatre).
“How did he do it?,” Jang says, giving kudos to his ability to still hand out show fliers and come out to the Fringe Club each night between performances. “That’s the real spirit of it: just participating, taking it all in.”
Check out the 28th iteration of the Victoria Fringe Theatre Festival Aug. 21-31. The festival has an additional venue this year, bringing the total number of stages (excluding "bring your own venues") to eight. They will host more than 50 shows and over 300 performances from around the globe. For info, see victoriafringe.com. Tickets can also be purchased through Ticket Rocket at 250-590-6291.
Events on the Fringe
Aug. 20: Fringe Block Party in Centennial Square from 1-10pm will feature about 20 different shows each doing a two-minute preview. Crafts for kids, food trucks, a beverage garden and more.
Aug. 23: FringeKids Fest children’s performers, face-painting, crafts and a cardboard castle for kids to paint. 11-4pm in Market Square. Free.
Nightly: Fringe Club, a place where reasonably priced alcohol meets all kinds of entertainment, with a dash of children’s activities for adults.
EDITOR'S NOTE - An earlier version of this story referenced a venue at Vic High that will no longer be happening during Fringe.