Winnipeg's biggest theatre party kicks off this Wednesday. But if you've never done Fringe, you may be wondering what the big deal is, and where to start. So here's SCENE's "Fringe 101" guide:
Isn't this festival all weird and "Fringe-y?"
The name goes back to the first Fringe festival in Edinburgh, where artists who couldn't get a spot in the city's big arts festival started their own festival on the "fringe" of the main event.
Not all of the shows are "fringe" in the sense of being experimental or "weird." There are plenty of more "mainstream" shows, including hit musicals, lovable kids shows, and classical theatre too.
So how does it work?
Artists apply for a spot, and the Fringe decides who gets in by literally drawing names out of a hat (or maybe it was a coffee can this year). The performers pay an entry fee, and the festival provides them with a space and times and publicity in the official Fringe program. The artists are responsible for everything else.
How do I find a show?
Aye, there's the rub. There are 150 shows at the festival.
The official Fringe program (buy it for $5 at the MTC box office, Liquor Marts, Safeway, or McNally Robinson) is the best place to start. It lists all 150 shows, tells you where the shows are, and gives you show times (performances start around noon and run until about midnight).
I personally think reviews are tremendously helpful and written by witty, handsome people. CBC's Review Crew will review each and every show at this very website by the end of the festival's opening weekend, plus I'll be doing reviews on Up To Speed on CBC Radio every afternoon. (Yes, there are other media outlets that do reviews too...but check here first.)
Okay, I've picked a show... now what do I do?
Buy a ticket. Be warned, this can be hard - popular shows sell out. You can buy advance tickets at the Fringe website or by phone, but each show can only sell half of its tickets in advance - so if they're gone, you'll need to line up at the door, which is the other ticket-buying option. (Bring cash - that's the only form of payment accepted at the door.) A ticket will cost you $10 or less.
I saw a show and loved it/hated it! Now what?
Tell the world! Leave a comment on the CBC Fringe website for other Fringers, and see what others thought of it. They might have recommendations for other shows, too.
CBC Review Crew