Don't let the curtain fall: Fringe festival hosts 'tears and beers' telethon to keep event running

With their fleet of minstrels, actors and acrobats unable to hit the streets of Edmonton this summer, the Edmonton International Fringe Festival is taking a different route. 

Annual 11-day theatre festival draws hundreds of performers to city every summer

A street performer at a previous festival. (Edmonton Fringe Festival)

With their fleet of minstrels, actors and acrobats unable to hit the streets of Edmonton this summer, the Edmonton International Fringe Festival is taking a different route. 

With the COVID-19 pandemic cancelling events for the first time in Fringe's 39-year history, organizers with the street festival are hosting a charity telethon to help curb their losses, create a nest egg for their performers and ensure the organizers can raise the curtain on another festival.

Wednesday's all day telethon will kickstart the festival's new Tears, Beers & Tickets You'll Never Use fundraiser.

"We need your help if we're going to make a comeback, Fringer," reads a statement from the festival.

"We need your help now so we can all get back to fringing to our fullest in 2021." 

Edmonton's Fringe festival, which takes place over 11 days in August, was expected to bring hundreds of artists to the city to perform in theatres, makeshift stages and in the streets.The festival was officially cancelled in April as concerns over the pandemic began derailing major summer events across the country. 

The Fringe telethon began on August 5, what would have been the festival's ticket sale day, a bustling annual event when avid Fringers line up around the block in the hopes of snagging a coveted festival passes and show tickets.

A $3-million loss

According to Fringe organizers, the cancellation of this year's festival has resulted in a $3-million loss to the organization and taken a financial toll on the artists who rely on summer festivals to make a living.

Organizers are hoping to fundraise $1 million during the ongoing campaign.

Some 30 per cent of every dollar raised will go toward the Edmonton Fringe Artist Endowment, a new fund that will provide support for Fringe artists and arts workers in the years ahead. 

The remaining proceeds will ensure Edmonton Fringe can maintain day-to-day operations and come back next year.

A record 147,358 tickets were purchased in Edmonton during last year's edition of the event, generating $1.4 million for participating artists.

"We are asking every Fringer to donate the amount you normally spend on your Fringe experience in support of our recovery and our future," reads the festival statement. 

"We know Edmonton loves to fringe, and gosh darnit, we want to fringe with you forever."

During the telethon, patrons of the festival are encouraged to make a monetary donation of any size but they can also contribute $10 for "a show they will never see" or pay $7 for "a beer they will never drink." 

Fringe Operators will be standing by at 780-448-9000  until 9 p.m. Wednesday to accept donations over the phone. Donations are also being accepted online. 

From 12 p.m. until  4 p.m., live performances by Fringe performers will be livestreamed from the Westbury Theatre on the festival website.

"Your gift will help us return to the Festival experience you know and love.

"It will get you back in a front row seat, eagerly anticipating the dim of the lights and rise of the curtain. It will help us get back to doing what we do best: planning the Edmonton Fringe Festival and being a home to art all year long."


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