By Liz Nicholls, 12thnight.ca
Are we there yet? Are we there yet? Destination Fringe, edition #41 of Edmonton’s game-changer city-definer of a summer theatre extravaganza, is within sight, live and unpredictable.
First, before the fringing begins Aug. 11, there’s a golden chance for meaningful audience participation. The third annual Edmonton Fringe Telethon happens live on Fringe TV Wednesday, noon to 8 (780-448-9000). It’s hosted by that nouveau-vaudevillian duo festival director Murray Utas and Edmonton Fringe Theatre executive director Megan Dart. And it’s your opportunity to help secure the future of our beloved August festivities.
There’ll be live music from performers like singer/songwriter/actor Kaeley Jade Wiebe. You’ll see sneak previews of Fringe shows, among them Andrés Moreno’s multi-media puppet show Doni!. And there’s celebratory news. On the eve of Destination Fringe, Aug. 10, starting at 6:30, we’re all invited to “a big ol’ dance party,” says Utas of the all-ages free street party at McIntyre Park. The Halluci Nation, Sudan Archives, Sampler Cafe, and tzadeka & the Murder Hornets take over the outdoor stage for the big community launch celebration (just like the olden days of the Fringe, and not seen for many many years). “There’s no other agenda…. Just come and move your body!”
The Fringe Telethon has a storied history in the last three tumultuous years. In 2020, when the unthinkable happened and the 39th annual Fringe became The Fringe That Never Was, the Telethon was a way for audiences to ensure that Edmonton’s best-ever invention would survive a crushing $3 million loss. For last year’s Together We Fringe, in which our the Fringe returned to live (and turned the big four-oh), the Fringe Telethon returned for a second edition.
And now, the third annual Telethon, live from Fringe headquarters at the ATB Financial Arts Barn Wednesday. Which is the very day you can start studying up and hatching your Destination Fringe plans for the 164-show roster of Fringe shows running Aug. 11 to 21 in some 27 venues (eight of them programmed by lottery, the remaining 19 BYOVs programmed by artists themselves).
Tickets go on sale Aug. 3 at noon (online at fringetheatre.ca, at 780-409-1910, and in person at the Fringe central box office (10330 84 Ave.). This year’s queue-busting innovation: e-tickets.
Show information will be online Wednesday (fringetheatre.ca). And the $12 Festival Guides are ready Wednesday for sale at the Fringe Grounds Cafe, the Old Strathcona Arts Emporium (10309 82 Ave.), Theatre Garage (3711 98 St.), Audreys Books downtown (10702 Jasper Ave.), Glass Bookshop (10242 106 St.), The Tesserae (6421 112 Ave.), and The Sherwood Park Bookworm (120 Wye Road).
True, Destination Fringe is not as massive in dimensions as the Fringe’s button-bursting 2019 edition (260-plus shows in 50-plus venues). But it’s still expansive and full of possibilities, more than doubled from last year’s cautious 64-show dozen-venue re-entry into the world of live performance. It’s an organic reasonable “re-growth” as Utas puts it. “How do we grow in a way that’s not too big for our resources? 2019 tipped off the rails a few times….”
“How big do we need to be?” That, for Utas, is a crucial Fringe question, along with “What is the experience we’re creating?” as the audience returns to fringing in this late-pandemic world. And growth will happen naturally in response.
The annual Fringe Telethon is a way to ensure it keeps happening. Tune in to Fringe TV, and call 780-448-9000. As Utas puts it, “can you imagine Edmonton without the Fringe?” None of us can.