Adulthood is a bitch isn’t it? It used to be that I could basically live in the exchange district for the duration of fringe subsisting off india palace samosas and scotch eggs at the king’s head. I might have to work a retail shift or two during the festival but I could usually keep that minimal (or swap a shift for a day, or some night where not much I wanted to see was on.) Not so much now that I’m responsible and all. Actually, strictly speaking that’s not true. I do live in the exchange district, only now it’s because I’m here all day for grown up work, painfully close to Old Market Square but locked away from all the fun during the workday.
Despite the horror of wearing pants in the summertime and playing at being some sort of professional guy the Winnipeg Fringe Festival remains my favourite part of living in Winnipeg. The heady combination of the great theatre (drama, comedy, improv) and the infectious energy that spreads through the exchange revitalizes me every year. I simply don’t understand the large number of people I meet who have never been to a single play, nor even come down to watch a band and sample a food truck. As Winnipeggers we have a truly world class festival and in all honesty it should be twice the size.
Long time readers (hey you 3!) will know that I’ve actually been an amateur reviewer for the CBC in the past and have dabbled from time to time since then. As I know there are a few friends who expect it I’ll be continuing my annual tradition of posting short reviews of the shows I take in this year. That said, as my terrible writing so far will demonstrate, I am severely out of practice.
The festival has made a number of changes again. Some positive, some less so.
No more buddy pass: They combined the Frequent Fringer and the Buddy Pass into one pass and made it 12 shows for $94. Each pass can be used for multiple tix to the same show as the buddy pass was. Good call as it was a needless complication, even for people like me who simply used it as a giant size FF pass. At a savings of ~$26 it’s a steal of a deal.
New Venue @ U of W: The fringe is making strides to finally following through on that whole ‘second hub’ thing they’ve been going on about for a few years. With 2 UW stages, the WAG and PTE you at least have a cluster of things to visit. It will always feel disconnected from the festival proper though without the square experience.
All time record number of indoor shows: Enough said, if you can’t find something that interests you I think you’re a robot.
Fringe Shuttle no longer goes to Forks Stages: Not a deal breaker for me but definitely a hit to trying to pretend that those two stages are a satellite hub. According to the Free Press this was so that they could hit a more guaranteed schedule on the bus which would be helpful for people trying to schedule shows.
The Cabaret is in the program: So the super secret cabaret has gone mainsteam? Is there going to be a new super super secret cabaret? Seems kind of silly for a fun tradition. (Note: I admit this is jealousy as I likely won’t get to attend this year anyway)
A really significant number of repeat shows: Perhaps it’s just because they are performers I like but the number of performers returning with a show they’ve done quite recently is kind of depressing. At a quick glance: Ryan Gladstone, Penny Ashton, Peter n’ Chris, Bruce Horak, Chris Gibbs, and Keir Cutler are all doing repeats of shows that have been here in the past 5 years, most in the past 2. Add in a number of sequels or at least spiritual sequels, a couple longer term restagings or more mainsteam plays and this year feels like a bit of a ‘same old, same old.’ Don’t get me wrong I understand the method behind the madness. Perhaps you were a breakout hit like Peter and Chris and coming back with the same show but a much bigger BYOV stage makes sense after turning away a ton of folks the first time. Maybe your show got a great review but later in the festival and you only sold out your last couple performances. The temptation to come back and get guaranteed box office has to be great and given the finances for most fringe performers I don’t begrudge them that choice in the least. Yet for me as an audience member I feel a bit disappointed as I won’t be getting a new experience with old favourites. I do appreciate that most of them are in BYOVs at least meaning that they’re not taking a lottery spot from someone eager to show new work.
Personal Attack Plan:
I plan to try and mix it up a bit. See something random based on a recommendation or flyer every night or second night at least. With other commitments and work I definitely won’t be setting any new personal records for total shows seen but I still hope to cross the 15 show threshold.
Overheard in line (Day: -6): While waiting for someone after picking up my FF pass. “Is this guy funny at all?” –Older Lady to Tim Motley while holding a handbill with his photo (in character as Dirk Darrow) on it.
Leaflets/handbills rec’d: ZERO
Since I haven’t seen anything yet I’ll recommend Peter ‘n Chris and the Mystery of the Murder Motel, This is Cancer and Outside Joke Breaks all the rules. All are gifted performers at or near the top of their respective festival
Next up for me:
With softball and the Bomber game killing Wednesday/Thursday night I’m hoping to catch FRAZ vs. the Future Friday at lunch to kick off my fringing. Chase and Stacey’s Joyride may follow at 4:30 if I manage to drag my carcass in early enough Friday morning to escape from work early.
I also pre-bought tix to the final dnd improv show (i.e. the bloodfest) but have a bonus ticket if anyone wants to buy it off me and come with.