For those of you who may not know, a Fringe Festival is an “indie theatre festival…about celebrating under-represented voices and those on the margins of the performing arts world. It’s a festival where anyone can put on any show, without having to pass through a jury – where theatre students can mount their first production outside of school, where emerging artists can get their big break, and where established artists can test out new work.
It’s a festival where audiences come for the adventure and the community as much as for the plays themselves.”
You do not have to know a lot about theatre or have a lot of money to spend on tickets in order to go to a Fringe show. That’s the beauty of it – Fringe festivals are accessible to everyone. Tickets for the Toronto Fringe range from $8 to $12 apiece, and you can literally wander up to a venue 10 minutes before a show and see something great and unexpected.
I have been involved with Fringe for many years as a volunteer and audience member, but this year I had my first opportunity to review Fringe shows and have them published on a popular Toronto theatre website – Mooney on Theatre! I was so excited! I imagined schmoozing with the stars, press tents with tons of free booze and platters towering with artfully arranged fruit and desserts, and possibly being bribed with suitcases full of money (or maybe just Canadian Tire money, since it’s a Fringe festival).
That was what I imagined, not what I expected. What I actually expected (and experienced) was a lot more humble – rushing from one venue to another in order not to miss my assigned shows, late nights at home banging out reviews on my computer, and editors asking me to “please change one more thing” at 3am.
Despite those realities, I thoroughly enjoyed my experience as a member of the press (which I have been told is now called “media” – I think I have watched this movie one too many times) – and I really hope I will get the chance to do it again in the near future!
On to my reviews!
I reviewed five shows with Mooney on Theatre this year. Here are my top three:
My personal number one favourite this year is for the record.
This show, by company the night kitchen, was was a one-of-a-kind immersive theatre experience that I will be thinking about for a long time. Interestingly, it did not take place in a theatre at all, but in Kops Records on Bloor Street. The store is roomy, yet the setup makes it feel intimate – a perfect setting for a live performance. This expertly-written story about the relationship between a mother and daughter is told with tons of humour lots of heart. And, of course, music plays a huge role in the story – as it does in our memories. Read my full review here (just click on the word “here”).
Performer and writer Adam Bailey is the gay son of an evangelical Christian minister. How to navigate these seemingly disparate realities? This coming-of-age story for the modern world is both uproarious and heartwarming. It also features some very clever and hilarious audience participation bits. I don’t want to give too much away, but if you’ve ever wanted the chance to drink out of a truly communal communion cup…well, maybe you haven’t. But trust me – this is a show that is impossible to forget. My full review can be found here.
And, my third place winner goes to… Best Picture.
This show, by company RibbitRePublic, manages to explain all 88 Best Picture winners at the Academy Awards (the “Oscars”) in a mere 60 minutes….with a cast of only three people. The actors cleverly distill the movies using famous lines, summing up of plots, and re-enactments of famous scenes. The entire show is hilarious and perfect for any film lover (or self-proclaimed know-it-all) like me. Read my full review here.
If you want to read my other reviews, or to view them all at once, click here:
These shows are ALL STILL PLAYING at the Toronto Fringe until July 10th! But if you can’t come this time around, I would encourage everyone to “Fringe” sometime soon! Besides Toronto, there are Fringe festivals in many cities across Ontario (Hamilton, London, Guelph, Windsor, and Ottawa), across Canada (Vancouver, Calgary, Winnipeg, Montreal, Halifax, and many more) and across the world (the Edinburgh Fringe being the biggest and most famous).
As I said before, you do not have to be a seasoned theatregoer or be carrying around briefcases full of money in order to attend a Fringe show. That’s the beauty of it – Fringe is accessible to everyone. The only requirement is to expect the unexpected!
See you there!
Photo of Fringe banner courtesy of the Toronto Fringe Festival.
Press tent photo: http://www.freyafarrington.com/2015/05/the-press-tent-manchester-blogger-meet.html
for the record photo provided by the company (the night kitchen)
Photo of Adam Bailey by Hugh Problyn
Best Picture photo by Richard Gilmore