PREVIEW: FRINGE FESTIVAL 2011

Celebrating 25 years of making theatre audiences laugh, cry and hope

Actor Charles Ross gets into character for his role in the Fringe Festival play Tara Firm and the Lunar War Chronicles.

Theatre nobodies will have a chance to show their work amid seasoned pros when Intrepid Theatre’s 25th annual Victoria Fringe festival opens next week.

One of the latter group, Victoria actor/playwright Charles Ross, credits the Fringe for launching his solo career. He premiered his first solo show, One-Man Star Wars, in front of Fringe audiences in 2002.

“I had no idea how it would go over,” he recalled. “When it started selling out, I knew I could take it places.”

The next year he brought it to Fringe festivals across North America, including Victoria, and because the festivals give 100 per cent of box office revenue to the artist, he was able to afford the upfront cost of an international tour, including an Off-Broadway run.

“For an artist starting out, there’s no equivalent. You have total artistic freedom and the audience decides what will float or sink,” Ross said. “If you want to try something totally outlandish, the Fringe is the place.”

The Fringe is uncensored and un-juried with shows selected by lottery. This year’s festival features 72 shows, including 27 by local companies, performed at 13 venues between Aug. 25 and Sept. 4.

Ross is back this season, sharing the stage in Tara Firm and the Lunar War Chronicles, a Victorian sci-fi piece set on the moon in 1918, where the heros must rely on steam-powered technology in a flying battle against lunar militarism to save the world.

Other familiar names in this year’s program include SNAFU’s Ingrid Hansen, who features a creepy collection of children’s toys in her solo show Little Orange Man. Atomic Vaudeville’s Wes Borg and Morgan Cranny try their best to make ends meet in Rerentless. And Natalie North, intrepid reporter with Black Press’ Saanich News, is part of a team producing BFA: The Musical! about a fine arts grad under parental pressure to go to law school.

Even with all the shows in this year’s Fringe, another 90 were left on the wait list.

Andrew Barrett, an ambitious young actor and producer and recent student in UVic’s theatre department, didn’t have his name drawn in the Fringe lottery, but managed to squeeze into the festival by finding his own venue on the lawn of Point Ellice House in Rock Bay. His show, The Tirades of Love, is about the ups and downs of relationships, told through dance rather than dialogue.

“Fringe is a way to get our work out there and have our faces seen,” he said. “It’s a deadline to work on. The show didn’t exist four months ago, it was created for the Fringe.”

Janet Munsil, who has produced the festival for 20 years, enjoys the reward of tracking the growth of artists who return year after year.

“Every year there’s sold-out hits that you can’t beg for a ticket to,” she said. “There’s lots of good stuff in the middle and, of course, a handful of duds. What’s important is everyone has an opportunity to do their work. They don’t need prior credentials, just an idea they want to put on stage.”

For the full schedule of events pick up a program in shops around the city or visit www.victoriafringe.com.

news@goldstreamgazette.com

How to Fringe

• Buy a Visa button for $5; required for all venues. Buttons are two-for-one on opening night Aug. 25. That money covers the cost of putting the festival on, while ticket revenue goes directly to the artist.

• Get your ticket. Half the tickets for each show are available in advance by phone at 250-590-6291 or online at ticketrocket.org ($2 surcharge applies for reserving).

• Arrive early. Venues open 10 minutes before show time and are general admission seating. Latecomers will be turned away. Lineups are common and performers take advantage of them as a place to promote their show.

• Come prepared. Many indoor Fringe venues heat up like saunas when they fill of people, while the outdoor venue is likely to get cold and attract misquotes at night. Dress appropriately. Also, there’s often limited bathroom facilities, sometimes only a Porta-Potty, and you won’t be readmitted if you leave during the show.

• Anything goes. The Fringe is designed to promote alternative theatre. Some are produced by established theatre companies, some aren’t. Come with an open mind, and don’t always believe what the reviewers say.

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