Random thoughts for your Edmonton Fringe adventure

Jacob Banigan, Chris Craddock, Mark Meer in Gordon’s Big Bald Head: The Play’s The Thing. Photo supplied.

By Liz Nicholls, 12thnight.ca

Hard to imagine now, but there was a time (I’m pretty sure) when this fair hinterland burg was Fringe-free, Strathcona had greasy spoons and parking spaces, and theatre companies didn’t have names like SquirrelSuit, Moose Bite, and Audacious Serendipity.

And now, heavens, it’s the night before the biggest opening night in town (the 36th annual edition of the Edmonton Fringe). Here, for your pre-Fringe diversion — and in the spirit of complete randomness that is never far from Edmonton’s summer theatre bash — is is a miscellany of fringe-y things I’ve found out in the course of getting ready for the big theatre bash. 

•There have been years when the Fringe had more venues than this edition’s 42 (sometimes more than 50). As Fringe director Murray Utas points out, in the roster this year — 11 official Fringe “theatres” programmed by lottery and 31 BYOVs arranged and outfitted by artists themselves — there’s more sharing. The French Quarter’s La Cité francophone, for example, has 14 shows running in its two venues, and there are seven more across the street at the Campus Saint-Jean Theatre. There’s a shuttle between the main Fringe site and the French Quarter. But think about making the latter a destination for an afternoon or evening of it. Big bonus: the Café Bicyclette.

•If you’re a Banigan, your summer destiny through the generations  is clear. I refer of course to the Fringe. April Banigan held off for 10 summers, but she’s back, to co-star with Kristi Hansen in the new Chris Craddock play The Superhero Who Loved Me. Other  Banigans have Fringe links with Craddock, the multi-talented actor/improviser/playwright, too.  The new generation of Banigan, 19-year-old Jezek Sanders, co-stars with Kael Wynn in Bash’d: A Gay Rap Opera by Craddock and Nathan Cuckow, the first Edmonton production of this high-voltage hip-hop small-town Romeo/Romeo tragedy since 2010.

And another Banigan, Jacob the improv star, returns to these shores from his adoptive home in Graz, Austria to star with Craddock and Mark Meer in Gordon’s Big Bald Head: The Play’s The Thing, in which that dazzlingly agile trio undertake to improvise their own version of any other show in the Fringe program, chosen at random.

•Amy DeFelice, who’s directing both the Plain Janes production of The Effect of Gamma Rays On Man In The Moon Marigolds and Trunk Theatre’s Ciara, reports with some bemusement that both her casts are entirely female — save one male rabbit. She says “he did a great audition.”

There’s an abracadabra side to every theatre director — ingenuity always tops budget on the stage — but Theatre Network artistic director Bradley Moss has a particular affinity for Magic. There’s a mentalist show, Jeff Newman’s Mind Games, in the Roxy Performance Series next season. And Moss is directing not one but two Ghostwriter Theatre magic shows at the Fringe: Orson Welles Last Magic Show by Ron Pearson and Ron Pearson’s Mystery Wonder Show. Moss says he’s specifically requested that the magic and illusions not be explained to him, so he can honestly tell people he has no idea how they’re done. Otherwise he’d be sure to spill the beans.

•In a Manichean coup de théâtre, the Fringe circuit’s star comedian Mike Delamont, whom you know as God (from his hit God Is A Scottish Drag Queen series), is back this Fringe as the Devil. 

•If you’re still paralyzed by indecision about the wealth of choices in the 220-show Fringe universe (and have secretly decided to stay put in the beer tent or spool out your dwindling affection for busking jugglers), it’s time to try the Fringe’s Randomizer. It’s on the website, fringetheatre.ca. And it’ll pick a show for you completely at random! 

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