Well it’s finally arrived… most of the companies have had their technical rehearsals, the vendors have started selling their wares, the outdoor stage has started their shows, and the staff at the Kings Head have that ghostly look of doom on their faces.
Venue Two has already had it’s first sell-out (I think maybe the first sell out of the Festival too) and the exchange district is crawling with clowns, dancers, patrons, and screaming mimes. In the words of the Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre’s Associate Artistic Director Robbie Paterson: “EXCITING!”
From here on out, it’s a marathon of performance, and I encourage everybody to see as much as they can see, and maybe take a chance on a show that you see a poster or handbill for, that you know nothing about, and go see it. Ignore the Toronto reviews for a while and try to get the flavour of the festival as it was intended, as a theatrical festival of events that lies on the Fringe of the mainstream.
A few new things this year. A new free Winnipeg Transit bus that travels around the Fringe venues, wristbands at the beer tent and patio, vendor’s alley is moved back beside the Royal Bank Building (Red River College) and Best of Fest has changed a bit. It’s no longer called Best of Fest, it’s called the Patron’s Pick, and instead of being both of the first shows on the last Sunday, it’s the first show of the last Saturday and Sunday.
It still works the same way (I think); if you sell the most tickets you’re in a P.P. show. Fringing fantastic.
Information about the changes are in the program and the website.
I’m reminded how much Fringe has changed over my tenure, and I’m taken back to my first Fringe in the eighties (not here) when I had a fresnel on a stand that was missing a leg, a ghetto blaster that ate cassette tapes, and a parking lot for a venue. My opening performance as a technician was a disaster as my tapes weren’t cued quite correctly, and I got a cue behind on my lighting cues (which was just me unplugging the fresnel) and my performer having to do her final scene without the light on… that made very little difference at noon on a Thursday….
I also remember that performer having to work extra hard to be heard over rush hour traffic and being so compelling, so genuine, that her audience hung on her every word amidst the diesel fumes, pigeon poop, and rookie technician. She was on fire. It showed me the power of performance to pull a crowd out of it’s actual surroundings and into a mystical world, even if it was only for a few moments. I hope the audiences get to experience some of that over the next week and a half…
I think this Fringe is going to start with a bang, with lots of interesting things to see, and if you see a show that’s on fire, tell all of your friends… then stop, drop and roll on to the next one, and jump into the blaze again.
And just as I type this there is a gaggle of fire trucks in front of Venue 3 with a confused evacuated audience, and Venue 6 is missing their performers… Fringing great…