By Liz Nicholls, 12thnight.ca
Tickets go on sale at noon today for Fringe ‘O’ Saurus Rex, the outsized 228-show 37th annual edition of our summer theatre extravaganza, the continent’s first and still biggest fringe festival (Aug; 16 to 26). And there’s more than one way to get your mitts on them.
You can order show tickets online (fringetheatre.ca). You can phone the Fringe box office (780-409-1910). Or you can show up live and in person at the central Fringe box office in the ATB Financial Arts Barn (10330 84 Ave.). TIX on the Square in Churchill Square downtown sells Fringe tickets too.
The sweetest deal for the die-hard Fringe binger is the Frequent Fringer Pass or Double Fringe Pass, $115 and $230 respectively for 10 or 20 tickets. It’s a reward for quick reflexes: there aren’t many, only 600, and they get snapped up in the blink of an eye.
Once the Fringe is underway, there are more avenues open for tickets, both in the purchasing and the pick-up. There are satellite box offices scattered through the site — including the new KidsFringe venue (Strathcona Community League, Stage 6) and La Cité francophone in the French Quarter. Or you can be more spontaneous: test your luck an hour before showtime at the door of a BYOV (bring your own venue), an indie venue acquired and outfitted by artists themselves instead of assigned by festival lottery.
A little more than half of the record 228 shows at this year’s Fringe happen in 28 BYOVs, most of them in Strathcona or environs — an assortment of bona fide theatres (the Varscona, the Roxy on Gateway, The Playhouse, L’UniThéâtre), and a fascinating assortment of venues that have other lives as school auditoriums and dance clubs, shops and churches, libraries, bars, auditoriums, cafes, studios, a hostel, a vintage cinema, a new comedy club (The Grindstone), a billiard club, CKUA headquarters across the river downtown.
Ah, and for the first time ever, an artist’s own front yard. Yes, Things are looking up at the Fringe. Literally. Heather D. Swain will be premiering her latest, From The Balcony, on her own balcony (Stage 34, “260 steps due west of the Fringe box office”). There’s a dollar discount for those “without neck brace.”
There are more shows than ever before, and three fewer BYOVs than last year. So there’s more clustering. The Sugar Swing Ballroom, for example, has two “theatres” (Stages 18 and 19) with 13 shows between them. On the three stages at Holy Trinity Anglican Church (Stages 14, 15, 16) you’ll find 20 shows. An excursion to the French Quarter’s La Cité francophone gives you a choice of 23 shows (there’s a free shuttle to get you there and back, and, bonus!, Café Bicyclette).
How much will you be shelling out to see a show? This hasn’t changed lately. Fringe artists set the price, to a $13 max, with a $3 topper going towards running the box office system. Ergo, the most you’ll be paying is $16.
Flip through the $10 153-page glossy program and you’ll see that most artists have gone for the max. Most but not all. The Empress of Blandings production of The Importance of Being Earnest, for example, is $10 (students and seniors, $7). Those Who Can’t Do, Teach – A Cabaret is $10. So are Walk, Mr. Boots, Thunderprov, Mel Malarkey Gets The Bum’s Rush, among others. The Fringe’s own always riotous Late-Night Cabaret at the Backstage Theatre is $12.
Who knows? If you have an empathetic look about you, you might even score a complementary ticket. Fringe groups can hold back up to a quarter of the tickets for their own whimsical, impromptu dispersal. And, on the day of a show, at this artist-driven festival, artists can discount their tickets. So you might snap up a reduced-price ticket at any Fringe box office (except TIX on the Square).
We can parse Fringe ticketing strategies till it’s time to sign your brain over to the robots in Kory Mathewson’s HumanMachine: Artificial Intelligence Improvisation. But that still leaves the eternal Fringe question. What to see in a 228-show universe? That’s where 12thnight.ca can help you. Check this site for suggestions, features, previews, and Fringe reviews by me, and special-guest reviewers.
Fringe ‘O’ Saurus Rex runs August 16 to 26: 1600-plus performances of 228 shows in 39 venues. Tickets and further info: fringetheatre.ca.