By Liz Nicholls, 12thnight.ca
We’ve long suspected it. And now it’s official. “The answer to the Great Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything” is … the Fringe.
The Answer is Fringe, the upcoming 42nd annual edition of Edmonton’s summer theatre extravaganza, is named in honour of Douglas Adams’ droll and trippy sci-fi adventure The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy. As toasted at the first Fringe Revue of the year Thursday night in the Westbury Theatre (with music by Lindsey Walker), the oldest and biggest Fringe of its kind on the continent is counting down to take-off. It’s preparing to take fringees on galactic journeys to the far corners of the theatre universe — which is to say destinations unknown — Aug. 17 to 27 in Old Strathcona and environs.
The Answer to the Great Question of dimensions is that the festival galaxy hasn’t expanded dramatically in size since last year’s Destination Fringe. But it has grown. Fringe director Murray Utas and Fringe Theatre executive director Megan Dart announced an international lineup of 180-plus shows (up from 160 in 2022) in 34-plus venues, eight of them programmed by lottery and 26 BYOVs acquired and outfitted by artists themselves. And the tally of artists from here, across the country, and eight countries around the world currently stands at 1,400.
KidsFringe, a free destination for little kids with their grownups is back, directed by Alyson Dicey of Girl Brain. So is the Fringe’s Youth Empowerment Program, which gives five young people the rare chance to be mentored as they explore theatre from every angle on and off the stage.
The imagery of this summer’s fringing is by designer Pete Nguyen, the CCO of Sea Change Brewing Co. This is also the Answer to your Great (Followup) Question about the official Fringe beer.
At Thursday’s launch, Dart and Utas, both in their hitchhikers’ jammies, also announced the lineup for Fringe Theatre’s 2023-2024 season. It starts with the holdovers from The Answer Is Fringe Aug. 30 to Sept. 2. The Fringe Revue of Dec. 8, an “original holiday special,” as Utas says, will be devised by four writers with an ensemble cast.
Small Matters Productions, specialists in expanding the clown repertoire into theatre, bring their production of The Spinsters, a dark comedy of grotesques devised and performed by Tara Travis and Christine Lesiak, Jan. 19 to 27. And Botticelli in the Fire, a provocative and epic conflagration of love, sex, art, and violent populism by the star Canadian playwright Jordan Tannahill, runs April 19 to 27, in a seven-actor production directed by Sarah Emslie. Tickets and subscriptions: fringetheatre.ca.
Meanwhile,, though, your summer hitchhiker explorations await. Tickets and passes for The Answer Is Fringe go on sale Aug. 9 at noon, at Fringe headquarter box office in the ATB Financial Arts Barn and online at fringetheatre.ca. And the fringehikers guide to the galaxy, i.e. the program, is on sale July 31. Stay tuned for further information: fringetheatre.ca.