Life on the Fringe: Saskatoon festival fumes with unique performance discoveries for all

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August 8, 2018 - 4:21pm

Saskatoon’s Broadway Avenue will house life on the fringe as independent performers from Saskatoon to Australia descend on the Paris of the Prairies for the 29th Fringe Theatre Festival.

For nearly three decades, live theatre acts, professional street performers, art, clothing, and food vendors have taken over the neighbourhood to showcase a wide array of eclectic and edgy acts.

What is Fringe exactly, you may ask? It is, in part, a theatre festival and artistic movement with roots in 1947 Edinburgh, England. It found its way to Canada in the early-1980s in Edmonton, and the country now hosts more fringe festivals than anywhere in the world. Each is a bustling cultural experience promising something new and entertaining for patrons young and old.

This year, the Saskatoon festival will showcase 33 unique plays in 231 performances. While this is, of course, the mainstay of the event, it is accompanied by Fringe After Dark — eight after hour shows that begin at 11 p.m. — It’s Not a Box theatre on the street, buskers, musicians, and other street performers to discover.

The event runs until Aug. 11, starting at 6 p.m. and running until 10:30 p.m. on weekdays, and noon until 10:30 p.m. on weekends. There are six venues hosting plays: Broadway Theatre, Kinsmen-Cosmo Hall, Grace Westminster Church (upper and lower), The Refinery and the Victoria School gym. Tickets can be purchased beforehand but rush tickets are on offer at each venue within the hour before the show starts. A long list of local, national and international talent also runs outside along the jam-packed corridor.

The hinge of the event is the fact each show is laced with artistic freedom. Those booked for the festival don’t come via a panel of white collared judges, rather, it is first-come-first-serve, or through a lottery. A third originate in Saskatoon, a third from across Canada, and a third stem from overseas. The shows tend to skew heavily from what one normally sees on stage, with performers taking risks or showing off a more risqué performance. Of course, the 2018 Fringe features an array of well-established acts and longtime favourites.

A LOOK AT THE PERFORMANCES

While the longtime top-rated talent is always a joy to embrace, witnessing the fresh faces and often hidden entertainers in one's backyard is a welcome treat at Fringe, and Saskatoon has no shortage of worthwhile curtain-raisers.

Write in the Kisser Productions Sextet 2: Six More Short Plays about Love, Sex, and Relationships will bring love, laughter and libido to the stage with four performers taking on 20 characters playing out two young people wanting to lose their virginity in a hotel room.  Phallic Graffiti, from ceiling fan theatre co, besides an intriguing title, will host a coming of age tale about teenage angst, friendship and crippling depression. Pack Animals, from Scantily Clad Theatre, will bring a dark sketch comedy to life with raunchy songs roasting the patriarchy. These shows are all recommended for mature audiences.

For a more tame, but equally edgy time, Nautilus! or how I learned to stop worrying and hate the Ocean from Buttered Ghost Theatre, is a pun-filled night, while Thr3atre Saskatoon’s Can I Get A … improv show will be a welcome treat for lovers of on the spot, audience-driven comedy.

From across the nation, Sex? But I’m A Canadian, from Richmond, B.C.’s HappySad Theatre, brings a steamy parody to the late Stuart McLean’s beloved radio show The Vinyl Café, and tells the tales subtlety laced with innuendo of the sex life of characters in the radio icons style.

Travis Bernhardt’s Unscripted is an improvised church service for a religion invented on the spot. Bernhardt was rated the Best Male Improvisor from VIIF in 2015. Calgary based Newman Mentalism’s Mind Games is a unique cabaret comedy magic show where Jeff Newman makes predictions and attempts to read the audience's mind.

MIDDLEhood is a jam-packed hour of mature comedic drama about the themes of motherhood, middle age and sex from Winnipeg’s Kimmy Zee. Para Dos will bring Argentinian tango to the Prairies with a mix of ballet. 

A Nightmare on East Hastings: A Comedy tells an autobiographical tale about how one mans life led him to manage a property in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside for two years when most only manage two months. With similar standup storytelling, Porn & Pinochet, has one man tell his story of a Chilean born, Canadian raised teenager, who suddenly finds himself back in Chile under dictator Augusto Pinochet.

From outside of Canada, Bad Habits, from twenty-time award-winning Portland, Oregon based A Little Bit Off promises hilarity centred around the comedic antics of two sisters of faith struggling to find the light. Australia’s John Bennet: Fire in the Meth Lab is a story about Bennet’s brother's bizarre drug dealing laced life peaked with exploding houses and jail time. The show is critically acclaimed around the globe.

This is just the tip of the iceberg of shows and more information can be found online.

If you were unable to attend this year or have missed the dates, be sure to check it out in 2019.

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