P.E.I.'s alternative theatre scene growing

Five years in, more and more theatre fans on P.E.I. are embracing alternative and independent theatre, and the Island Fringe Festival runs Aug. 4 - 7 this year.

Island Fringe Festival offers everything from ceilidhs to a spaceship in a church

A rehearsal for Nutshell, one of the eight shows this year at the Island Fringe Festival. (Island Fringe Festival)

The Island Fringe Festival is set to begin its fifth year, and is running from August 4 - 7 in Charlottetown.

The fringe festival is a celebration of alternative and independent theatre, both local and from other areas, and this year features eight productions, with shows daily.

The festival has seen substantial growth since it began, director Sarah Segal-Lazar told CBC Mainstreet's Karen Mair.

"We're getting a lot more people," Segal-Lazar confirmed. "I've seen a steady progress since year one of people knowing what the fringe is, and being excited at our info booths and stuff, saying things like, 'Oh yes! I would love a flyer, I do know about this, I'd love to attend,' as opposed to, in past years, we've had a lot more of 'Ah, I don't know what this is, sounds weird.'

Festival director Sarah Segal-Lazar and communications coordinator Patrick Jeffrey get a selfie outside CBC Tuesday after appearing on Mainstreet with Karen Mair. (Island Fringe Festival)
"So it's exciting to see people as excited as we are about the shows that are happening this week."

This year, they are bringing in productions from Quebec City, Toronto, Rhode Island, and even Mexico.

"It says something about the progress that we've made that a company from Mexico even knows that the P.E.I. fringe exists," said Segal-Lazar.

Some very different venues

As usual, the festival found some interesting spots to put on the shows, such as the Kirk of St. James Presbyterian Church, after having been everywhere from coffee shops to attics in the past.

"We're trying to get outside of this theatre-based theatre," explained Patrick Jeffrey, the festival's communications coordinator. "So we're moving into areas of town that wouldn't otherwise have shows actually happening in them."

The Kirk is the home for the play from Rhode Island, a one-man show called It's A Spaceship Now.

The Island Fringe Festival takes theatre outdoors to unusual places in and around Charlottetown. (Island Fringe Festival)
"We put it there because he needed space to fly a rocket ship over the audience," explained Segal-Lazar.

She also can't wait to see Hikari, from Mexico.

"Their show is something that Fringe audiences have never seen before," she said. "It's much more performance than theatre, and we're so excited. It happens after dark every night. Their show incorporates live music, dance and projections, and is all about the light and the dark."

Outdoor fun

There are also two different daily, outdoor, family friendly events, called Fringe in the Park.

They will feature everything from the Fringe Olympics to Art in the Open to a board game night to their own game show, Wheels and Deals.

All shows have first-come seating, and admission is by donation, which goes to the artists for production costs.

Plus, there's an overall $3 admission for the full festival, called a Patron Pin, to cover administration costs.

You can find all the details at their website,

With files from Mainstreet