There seems to be a great vibe around the festival site this year. More smiles and less grumpy pants, more friendly faces and less scowls, more happy and less cursing. It’s very noticeable and is helping to propel this fringe into the history books as one of the best.
As much as I would like to say that it’s the shows that are making it greater, there are more or less the same number of excellent shows vs not so excellent shows, in fact, the critics are being extra harsh this year in comparison to previous festivals.
No, I think that there are other reasons why the teeming masses are skipping down the streets and into the venues.
One of those reasons is the exceptional weather we’re having this Fringe. Not too hot, not too cold. It makes for nice days and pleasant nights. There’s nothing worse than standing in line for a show in a gale.
Another is the separation between Folk and Fringe festivals. In many years past, the Winnipeg Folk Festival finishes just as the Winnipeg Fringe Festival starts, but this year there was almost a week between. This lets the patrons of the Folk Festival recover from their hang over and then attend Fringe shows. Last year the throngs at the outdoor music festival would be dragging their sorry butts back home, smelling of bug repellent, hemp residue and patchouli longing for their soft mattresses after sleeping on the ground for six days. The last thing they wanted to do was come see some plays in a closet while sitting on folding chairs. They would much rather sit in a Starbucks and stream Jersey Shore to their iPhones.
But I think the biggest reason that the crowds seem happier this year is because of the outdoor site. A shout out to the crews and the production department for improving the layout at the square. Moving the beer tent back to the parking lot from beside the cube, where it was the last two years, lets people see the outdoor performers (or not if they so choose) and is better suited to conversation. This move also improves general traffic flow in the area by allowing better access to food vendors and washrooms.
Even the Cube, that shiny failure of a stage, sounds better this year. The setup crew covered the concrete inside with packing blankets, nullifying the out of phase sound wave patterns and cement echo. A master stroke.
Since the outdoor portion of the Fringe is creating smiles on the faces of the masses, they come to the venues in a good mood, and the positive energy from the audiences, makes it up on the stage to fuel the performers, and it’s that vibe that I think I’m feeling.