By Liz Nicholls, 12thnight.ca
The Edmonton Fringe is back, live, this summer, for a big 41st edition, in a place where that really matters. And its name speaks volumes: Destination Fringe.
Yes, fellow travellers, as live theatre emerges from the most punishing and chaotic time it’s ever known, you have a festive destination this August (11 to 21). And after last year’s 40th birthday edition, Together We Fringe: A Fringe Event, creatively trimmed for safety to some 64 live shows in a dozen venues, our summer theatre extravaganza in 2022 is a destination that feels wide and unpredictable in advance. Just the way we like it.
While its dimensions aren’t as gargantuan as the 2019 Fringe, with its record-breaking 260 shows in 50-plus venues, Destination Fringe feels expansive, as Fringe director Murray Utas and Fringe Theatre executive director Megan Dart outlined it Thursday: 160 shows in some 27 venues, eight of them programmed by lottery and 19 BYOVs, acquired and outfitted by artists themselves.
The Fringe is a destination for kids: The Kids Fringe, on hold for a year, is back (and free), directed by Girl Brain’s Alyson Dicey. International groups, who couldn’t bring their shows to Edmonton for the last two summers, are in Destination YEG mode, restoring a missing dimension to the show lineup. And the Fringe will be a more expansive destination for Indigenous artists too. Instead of last year’s one venue (pêhonân) dedicated exclusively to Indigenous shows (and highly successful), Indigenous artists will perform across the Fringe — on its outdoor stages, its late-night cabarets, in roving performances leading audiences to the Indigenous Art Park, in short, “anywhere you Fringe,” as Dart says.
Fringe Revue has returned, too. At Wednesday night’s launch, live and on Fringe TV (one of the great successes of pandemical times), Utas and Dart outlined Fringe Theatre’s curated 2022-2023 season of productions, a destination for some of Edmonton’s most adventurous young indie artists.
Actor Emma Houghton turns playwright with her adaptation of Joyce Carol Oates 2003 ‘young adult fiction’ novel Freaky Green Eyes, “a coming-of-age crime drama” as she describes it, for the stage as a one-woman play. “The Great Pause empowered me to create my own work,” she told the audience Wednesday. The production runs in January at the Backstage Theatre.
André Moreno performed an excerpt from Botticelli in the Fire, Jordan Tannahill’s queer theatrical fantasia on the life and times of Renaissance painter Sandro Botticelli as he works on his masterpiece The Birth of Venus. The large-cast production runs in April, directed by Sarah Emslie and produced by Common Ground Art Society’s Mac Brock.
The Fringe Theatre curated season also includes Evandalism by MC RedCloud, the very engaging co-creator of Bear Grease, the hit Indigenous adaptation of the famous musical that sold out every performance at last summer’s Fringe and has toured across the border to full houses since then. His new play is spun from MC RedCloud’s own life; Utas directs. Dates to be announced.
But first, Destination Fringe. “It’s a fuller-scale festival this year,” as Dart puts it, simply. After two years of creative work-arounds and resourceful online adaptations — no theatre company has been more supple at improvising workarounds — our Fringe is again a destination for artists, audiences, and live experimenting by both. Our theatrical GPS is on course: straight on till August.
Tickets for Destination Fringe go on sale Aug. 3. Check out fringetheatre.ca for more information.