Arts & Life, Theatre

Edmonton un-Fringed

The Edmonton International Fringe Festival is one of the biggest festivals of its kind in the world. For 10 days every summer, hundreds of performers take to the stage and thousands of theatregoers flock to the heart of Old Strathcona for a dose of completely unjuried, uncensored thespianism.

2012’s Village of the Fringe attracted record crowds – over 680,000 people, up from 576,000 in 2011 and 400,000 in 2010. But what do all those theatrically minded folks get up to for the other 355 days of the year? How and where do local festival organizers, actors and audience members get their fill of un-Fringed theatre?

“The festival is a big component… but it’s one of many pieces,” said Jill Roszell, executive director of Fringe Theatre Adventures (FTA), the company behind the Fringe. “The momentum for theatre in this city is continuous throughout the year.”

For the event’s organizers, preparations for next year’s festival get going as soon as the curtain drops on the current festival’s last show.

“It’s cumulative over the year and the planning is happening now,” said Roszell, adding that the post mortem from the 2012 festival is the first thing on the to-do list.

Applications to perform at next year’s festival are already open, with the lottery to take place later this month.

That said, the festival doesn’t kick into high gear until April 1, and in the meantime, the folks at FTA have got plenty going on to keep them busy.

“We also run shows at the Trans Alta Arts Barns throughout the year,” said Roszell, adding that the eight-show Arts at the Barns season started October 26 and will run through March next year.

“It’s programmed a little bit differently to the Fringe because it’s curated, there’s a selection process,” she said. “We want a variety of different performances – theatre, dance, music. It’s a presentation series, it’s not exclusively theatre.”

Local actor Jamie Cavanagh is a veteran Fringe performer, who’s been involved in several Fringe shows over the past five years.

“Performing, producing and directing at the Fringe provides me with the opportunity to really take ownership of my craft, show the public what makes me unique as a performer, and partake in the work that I find most interesting,” said Cavanagh, who was recruited by Edmonton’s Rapid Fire Theatre after winning the 2006 Nosebowl – Edmonton’s high school improv tournament.

At this year’s Fringe, you may have seen him in Quiet Thing Creative’s production of Sexual Perversity in Chicago by David Mamet, or alongside his Rapid Fire Theatre colleague’s in Olymprov.

But that’s not the half of it. Later this year, Cavanagh will perform in The Velveteen Rabbit at the Capitol Theatre, he’ll take on the role of Joe Puppet in Bite TV’s Felt Up, and get into character for a yet-to-be-named play for Shadow Theatre in April.

“I’ve been very fortunate for the last three years in that I have been able to support myself purely with acting and improv work,” said Cavanagh. “This year however, things slowed down a bit and I was working as a window washer for a couple of months.”

It may not be Broadway, but the curtain is up on Edmonton’s burgeoning theatre scene.

“”A lot of very cool, interesting, and high quality work gets done here,” said Cavanagh, adding that he always makes an effort to attend as many local performances as possible. “I, as an actor, am always looking to improve my skill.”

Roszell agrees that Edmonton theatre is thriving. Those hoping to jump on the bandwagon can search Theatre Alberta’s comprehensive listings for a show to see or even an opportunity to join a local troupe – on stage or behind the scenes (

“We have a very vibrant theatre scene here, which is a little bit of a surprise to other people in the country,” she said. “At one point we had the most theatres per capita in North America – I’m not sure if that is the case anymore but certainly that’s the momentum of the theatre scene here, it’s well supported and a very good nurturing ground for artists.”


Featured image taken by Marc-Julien Objois. Second image of Rapid Fire Theatre taken by Andrew Paul.

Kate Hamilton writes for the Spectator Tribune.

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