By Liz Nicholls, 12thnight.ca
A summer without Fringes? It’s a strange and defoliated calendar for us audiences — and a daunting one for theatre artists, already struggling to survive the shutting down of the performing arts industry.
Fringe veteran Jon Paterson, whose theatre skill set includes actor, playwright, director, stage manager, designer, technician, (and like every Fringe artist) producer, cast his gaze online. That’s where his bright idea, FringeLiveStream, happens Thursday, and every week of the Fringe festival season in North America, till October.
FringeLiveStream is a fringe-y festival of weekly live online performances. Like the Fringes of the circuit, they’re uncurated and uncensored — save for one performance per month reserved for an AUC (Artists From Underrepresented Communities) show. It launches this week at 7 p.m. on facebook.com/fringelivestream and FringeLiveStream.com. First up is #Magic, by and starring magician/mentalist Jeff Newman. All performances are pay-what-you-can, with 100 per cent of donations returned to the artist.
Edmonton audiences know the resourceful Paterson, a Grant MacEwan grad, from his collaborations, both on- and offstage, with such troupes as RibbitRePublic and Monster Theatre. He’s toured Fringes with storyteller Martin Dockery (Inescapable). He’s starred in Daniel MacIvor’s House, most recently in the National Arts Centre’s #CanadaPerforms series. He’s assembled programming for the Edmonton Fringe’s satellite site in the French Quarter. Lately Paterson has spent winters (the official Fringe off-season) as the technical director of the Astor Theatre in Liverpool, Nova Scotia. He knows how to be busy, witness his Fringe show Best Picture, a spoof of 87 Oscar winners in 60 minutes.
And then came the pandemic.
“We were looking for a cohesive umbrella for shows,” says Paterson. “CAFF (Canadian Association of Fringe Festivals) offered support; their only stipulation was the AUC component.” FringeLiveStream programming happens by online lottery, he says from his Mississauga pandemic retreat. “The first was at the time of the Orlando Fringe” for the June slots. The next is June 25 for July shows.
“Shows can provide their own technical programs,” he says, “or I can host a Zoom meeting and make it pretty on Facebook.” The shows stream live on the (Thursday) night, “and the artists can stream on Facebook for the next week if they want, and try for more donations.”
After #Magic, the June lineup includes Les Kurkendaal-Barrett (an American Fringe circuit regular) in Climbing My Family Tree on June 4, Joanne Roberts’ The Iceberg on June 11, Mohana Rajakumar’s Being Brown Is My Super Power on June 18, and Fireside Chat with autistic comedian Adam Schwartz on June 25.
FringeLiveStream “borrows its idea from #CanadaPerforms,” says Paterson of the series, which explores online performance and generates a little income for artists in the process. He thinks of the new venture as a modest contribution at a tough time. “Will I become a truck driver? The ‘what’s next’ is looming for all of us.”