|Its been a long time coming. Edmontons Fringe Festival has grown in size and reputation over the years (the second largest internationally), showcasing new and up-and-coming talent since 1982. The Alberta capital has carried on the tradition of fringe since it was created in Edinburgh more than 50 years ago, giving theatre companies (of varying skill) a chance to find their first legs. Some were lucky to find themselves to be of exportable quality.
Calgary has a great selection of theatre festivals The High Performance Rodeo, playrites but hasnt seen a fringe since 2002. Loose Moose Theatre hosted a small Inglewood-based fringe that year (and one in 2001 as well), but due to various grumblings, went on permanent hiatus. Now a new group is spearheading a new fringe festival, taking place from August 11 to 20, with 37 theatre productions, 38 films and various street performers, including the High Strung troupe, wholl be bringing their comedic acts of acrobatic trickery. And some arts, crafts and food thrown in for good measure.
"The history of the fringe in Calgary is an interesting tale," says artistic director Jason Rothery. "It has to be looked at on an individual basis. In 2002, Loose Moose lost the Garry Theatre and I think felt displaced and disoriented it just didnt seem feasible."
This years group isnt affiliated in any way with past efforts. As well, input is coming from the Canadian Association of Fringe Festivals, which will provide a selection of guidelines, including a first-come first-serve selection of participants, and performers get all profits from the shows and total artistic control.
"Im really optimistic, particularly from my 2001 experience with the fringe," says Rothery. "I think the audience is there, especially given the response to other festivals, like the Lilac and the Edmonton Fringe Festival. I think Calgary audiences are willing to take risks. Whats exciting about this year is that were bringing back the festival component, to transcend the usual summer theatre festival we have our own international film festival, musicians and visual art installations.
"My concern is with having so much activity that people will know whats where and when. Well see if its too much. It can be overwhelming, but were putting together a good program with the shows and tips."
All of which should make 17th Avenue S.W. an uncensored theatrical carnival (a more enlightened cure for Red Mile longing?). The full lineup will be announced in early June, with tickets going on sale in July. For more information, visit www.calgaryfringe.ca.