Winnipeg Fringe to present 4-day live-streamed Virtually Yours festival during pandemic

The Winnipeg Fringe Theatre Festival announced Tuesday it will host a virtual four day-long event in lieu of its annual 12-day festival in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.

National, local Fringe faves like Mike Delamont, HUNKS, Outside Joke take to virtual stage July 14-17

While outdoor and indoor Winnipeg Fringe Festival performances won't go ahead this year, fans will be able to tune in to a four-day live-streamed event called Virtually Yours, featuring Fringe performances on Facebook and YouTube. (Leif Norman/Winnipeg Fringe Festival)

Cue the social media reactions and hold your applause.

The Winnipeg Fringe Theatre Festival announced Tuesday it will host a virtual four-day event this month, after its annual 12-day-long event was cancelled in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The festival, called Virtually Yours, will run July 14-17, featuring local, national and international performers doing everything from puppet shows to memoirs to stand-up comedy.

The live streamed performances will run nightly on Facebook and YouTube, starting at 7 p.m. each night.

The list of performers includes some local Fringe Fest favourites, like the sketch comedy troupe HUNKS, improvised musical comedy company Outside Joke and longtime Fringers ImproVision (who marked their 20th Winnipeg Fringe last year).

Mike Delamont will perform God Is a Scottish Drag Queen: Pandemic Edition on July 15 as part of the Winnipeg Fringe Festival's Virtually Yours live stream. (Derek Ford Photography)

Fringe mainstay Mike Delamont is scheduled to return, with the "pandemic edition" of his incredibly popular God is a Scottish Drag Queen series.

Some past Fringe hits will also be back with abridged versions for the virtual festival, including New York's Coldharts with a virtual performance of their show Edgar Allan, the trippy shadow puppet show Space Hippo and Winnipeg stand-up comedian Anjali Sandhu's I'm Not Taylor Swift. Local playwright Joseph Aragon, meanwhile, will present Zero Context, a cabaret featuring songs from some of his past Fringe Festival hits.

The festival will also feature new works by performers such as Winnipeg journalist and playwright Frances Koncan (whose Women of the Fur Trade ran at the Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre earlier this year), Victoria's SNAFU Theatre (who have been popular at the festival with shows like Interstellar Elder and The Merkin Sisters) and Tymisha Harris, the performer behind the hit show Josephine.

A full list of performances and a schedule is available on the Winnipeg Fringe Festival's website.

The Fringe Festival, which is sponsored by the Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre, announced in April that it was cancelling this year's event due to the pandemic.

"We have not made this decision lightly, or without acknowledging the impact it will have on our artistic community — financially, emotionally and creatively," festival executive producer Chuck McEwen said in a statement at that time.

"With no certainty as to when social distancing practices, physical isolation measures and restrictions on public gatherings will be lifted, artists are unable to rehearse, performance venues are closed indefinitely, and we simply cannot plan a successful and safe Fringe Festival."

Public health orders in Manitoba currently limit attendance at indoor gatherings to a maximum of 50 people, or 100 people outside. The province has said details for theatres will be included in a future phase of its reopening plan, but that there will be "no large gatherings or events until at least September 2020."

The Winnipeg Fringe is part of a circuit of summer Fringe festivals across Canada and the U.S. Winnipeg's is the second-largest Fringe in North America.

Other festivals, including the Edmonton Fringe — the largest in North America — have also cancelled their festivals for this summer.

With files from Joff Schmidt


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