Winnipeg Fringe Theatre Festival welcomed more people than ever on its 25th anniversary (Leif Norman)
The 25 Hour Fringe forced me to see some performers that I wouldn't necessarily have tried otherwise. That stretched my Fringe boundaries. Yay!
—Brian Carroll, Fringe Festival fan
They laughed, they cried, they stayed up for 25 hours. The 25th edition of the Winnipeg Fringe Theatre Festival wrapped up on July 29 with the highest attendance ever. The festival met its goal of selling more than 100,000 tickets. In all, 100,621were sold, up from 87,851 last year. Daily attendance records were also broken on 10 out of 12 days.
"We started with a bang and we ended with a bang. . . and some wind," says festival executive producer Chuck McEwen. The opening weekend saw record attendance due to the great weather and excitement about the 25th anniversary.
The storm that raged through Winnipeg on Sunday evening meant that the outdoor stage at Old Market Square had to be shut down early. "We were prepared, so there was no damage," McEwen said. "There were 40 performances after the storm, but there were no power outages, so we didn't lose a show," he confirmed.
The Harry S. Rintoul Memorial Award for Best New Manitoba Play, which was supposed to be awarded on the outdoor stage, was instead awarded indoors in the lobby of the John Hirsch Mainstage. The award was given to Scott Douglas for The Touring Test.
As for highlights, McEwen says "For me, the highlight is just seeing all the people -- to see Old Market Square teeming with people, and the sense of excitement you feel as you see them rushing to the next show. There's such a community and neighborhood feeling during the Fringe," he adds.
New to the festival this year was the 25 Hour Fringe which saw Fringe fanatics enjoying 25 straight hours of performances.
"The highlight of my fringe experience was the 25 Hour Fringe," enthuses fan Janet Shum. "It was incredible watching plays all through the night with fellow theater lovers. It was an experience I will not forget for the rest of my life. It was everything I was anticipating it to be and more. The performers, volunteers and Chuck McEwen stayed up all night to make this night happen for us."
Brian Carroll couldn't agree more. "I'm very glad to have attended 25 Hour Fringe. I got to spend 13 of those hours with some of the most enthusiastic theatre lovers I've met anywhere. The atmosphere was electric."
Carroll makes the treck annually from Ottawa take in as many productions as possible. "The 25 Hour Fringe forced me to see some performers that I wouldn't necessarily have tried otherwise. That stretched my Fringe boundaries. Yay!"