Arts

As Ottawa Fringe turns 20, here are 3 must-see plays about millennial issues

Whether because of the sharing economy or social media, young people are living differently than their parents. These new Fringe plays reflect that reality.

Hilarious and introspective takes on the topics facing a generation

Matt Hertendy and Zoe Towne in their Ottawa Fringe Festival play, Rideshares & Rope Swings. (www.ottawafringe.com)

For all the hand-wringing about millennials, this year's Ottawa Fringe Festival offers both hilarious and introspective takes on the issues facing a generation.

A certain zeitgeist has descended upon the grounds. Maybe it's because the fest itself is a millennial — it turns 20 this year — but young people are using theatre to explore how their lives are being lived differently than their parents, whether because of the sharing economy, social media or societal expectations.

With that in mind, here are three Ottawa Fringe shows worth watching.

Matt Hertendy and Zoe Towne in Rideshares and Rope Swings. (Andrew Alexander)

Rideshares & Rope Swings

Ever taken UberPool? In Matt Hertendy's Rideshares & Rope Swings, Reid (Hertendy) and Genevieve (Zoe Towne) learn the potential pitfalls of ride-sharing when they find themselves lost together in the wilderness of Eastern Ontario.

A communications student at Carleton University, Hertendy tells CBC Arts that his classes about the sharing economy sparked his imagination. "One of the pillars of the sharing economy is trust," he says. "There's just such an inherent conflict in that that definitely influenced the piece."

Over the course of the show, the two characters must get to know each other — and themselves. Jokes Hertendy, "You can tell a lot about a person by what they order at an Onroute."

Rideshares & Rope Swings. Featuring Matt Hertendy and Zoe Towne. To June 26. Studio Léonard-Beaulne, Ottawa. ottawafringe.com/shows/rideshares-rope-swings

Tamlynn Bryson in her one-woman show, #Staystrong. (Drawing Board Productions)

#Staystrong

Tamlynn Bryson's #Staystrong is as much a call to (strong) arms as it is an ode to blogging. Bryson, who won the emerging artist award at last year's Ottawa Fringe, plays a social-media fitness guru in this one-woman show. Dedicated to self-improvement — and her 50,000 followers — an injury calls her entire identity into question, both online and IRL.

#Staystrong. Featuring Tamlynn Bryson. To June 26. Arts Court Theatre, Ottawa. ottawafringe.com/shows/staystrong

Ashley Rissler in Bride or Die. (Andrew Alexander)

Bride or Die

Playwright Ashley Rissler worked as a bridal consultant for years. "It was really eye-opening to see the passion and care that brides put into every single detail of an event that ultimately lasts for a day," says Rissler, reflecting on her time in the biz. "What really struck me is the theatricality that planning a wedding entails," she explains.

All that drama and dark comedy went into her play Bride or Die, a one-woman show exploring millennials' "skewed" attitudes about marriage.

"In one respect, feminism is more prevalent than ever, and many women don't feel the need to get married whether they are single or in a relationship. Nevertheless, the multi-billion-dollar wedding industry is flourishing more than ever. It seems that the media and popular culture have really influenced a set of expectations," says Rissler.

We've all heard of bridezillas, for example — or, as Rissler more politely puts it, "I think everyone knows someone who has lost their sense of reality through the planning process of a wedding."

And yet, could the millennials be the final generation to go HAM on wedding planning?

"I do believe that this is a generational phenomenon," Rissler says of the booming bridal business. "It'll be interesting to see if this culture still exists 50 years from now."

Bride or Die. Featuring Ashley Rissler. To June 26. Arts Court Theatre, Ottawa. ottawafringe.com/shows/bride-or-die

Ottawa Fringe Festival. To June 26. Various locations, Ottawa. www.ottawafringe.com

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