In its early years, the Edmonton International Theatre Fringe Festival took its inspiration from Edinburgh, the world’s largest fringe event. Through the decades, with the 42nd edition running Aug. 17-27, the Edmonton version has morphed into its own animal. As the uncertainty of COVID-19 recedes, this year's edition is shaping up to be one of the busiest ever.
Featuring performers of every stripe from across the world, the festival’s stock has jumped, with 186 indoor shows spotlighted during its 11-day run. By comparison, the 2022 event sported 168 shows. In addition, 21 outdoor artists are sprinkled throughout Edmonton’s Old Strathcona site.
“I love Edmonton in the summer because you can see a festival every week. There’s a real sense of community this year at the Fringe where everyone is in sync with each other. Fringe is about everyone coming together. I want to thank the visiting community for supporting us and taking chances with our shows. As for the artists, some are professionals, while others are just getting a start. But we do everything together,” said Murray Utas, Fringe artistic director.
Pick a genre and there’s likely a wide variety to select. The choice ranges anywhere from burlesque, cabaret, clown shows, comedy, drama, dance, and improv to magic, musical theatre, performance art and poetry, physical theatre, puppetry, satire and storytelling.
Expect to enjoy everything from murder mysteries, cultural narratives, horror tales and odd friendships to neurotic musings, relationship advice, war stories and the paranormal. For on-the-spot comedy and buffoonery, the festival has shown a sharp uptick of 17 improv shows. Another rising trend is the growth of flamboyant queer shows featuring star-studded guests.
And for the very young, Utas has programmed KidsFringe with workshops and acts that cover energetic concerts, puppetry shows, singing, clowning, dancing, outdoor yoga, traditional taekwondo, and learning Métis jigs.
This year more than 30 St. Albert-connected artists in 23 shows have immersed themselves in creating performances they hope audiences will enjoy. They are listed below.
Ticket prices range from $11.50 to $18 and are available at 780-409-1910, online at fringetheatre.ca or in person at Fringe Theatre Arts Barns Box Office, 10330-84 Ave.
St. Albert connected artists
• St. Albert businessman Jeff Halaby stars in Bathsheba and the Books, an adult comedy where the world’s most famous femme fatale is compiling 24 books of the Old Testament to show she’s more than a sex symbol. But her son, King Solomon, rushes the publication to pay off debts.
• Edward Medeiro brings his comedic chops to Sherlock Holmes and the Inane Investigation, a Victorian comedy that mashes together missing persons, ancient cults and the opium trade. And it’s all packaged in mind-blowing deductions, bizarre characters and unrequited love.
• In Theatre for Young Audiences, local soprano Melanie Gall performs Opera Mouse, a tale she developed about a puppet mouse who dreams of nothing else but singing onstage. But every time people see her, they scream and run away.
• Additionally, Gall performs a new work of the one-woman show, The American Songbook Experience. The musical theatre performance touches on Tin Pan Alley and Broadway hits from Gershwin, Porter and Berlin to the superstars of popular music.
• Former St. Albert Children’s Theatre (SACT) alumnus David Johnston, now living in Vancouver, returns to his stomping grounds with Let’s Talk About Your Death. In this one man show, the audience is requested to join death expert Dr. Elliott Morris for a frank talk show taping.
• St. Albert’s Isabelle Martinez stage manages Stir-Crazy, a drama about three women stuck in the basement of a man who claims he’s kidnapped them to protect them from a virus ravaging the world.
• Elizabeth Allison-Jorde and Sophie May Healey star in Tales from the Hospital, a chilling exploration of two patients and two staff members in an Alberta mental hospital in the 1960s.
• Josh Languedoc, a former SACT actor, directs Talk Treaty to Me, a comedy/drama where two friends and two puppets discuss past Indigenous treaties and the resulting effects.
• Kate Ryan, one of the original SACT young actors, directs My Catalogue of Sexual Anxieties, featuring three different women from three different countries singing about the same B.S. they deal with.
• In The Cabin on Bald Dune, St. Albert raised Jenny McKillop teams up with Kristi Hansen, to open a restaurant on Sable Island. But tensions rise and suspense heightens.
• Alex Dawkins, a formidable stage presence from St. Albert, stars in Charade. In this adaptation of the Audrey Hepburn whodunit, witness murder, intrigue, assassins and a few laughs.
• St. Albert resident composer Cindy Oxley in partnership with Molly LeBlanc created The Clover Report – A World War II Story About Heroic Girl Guides. The one-hour musical theatre production explores two girl guides and their troop’s war efforts, and how they intertwined with a Canadian war correspondent.
• St. Albert actor Doran Werner returns to the stage in Lizard Boy, a musical multi-media show that follows Trevor, a lizard-scaled young man who discovers extraordinary superhero powers.
• Film and stage actor Maureen Rooney plays a pivotal role in Morningside Road, a Celtic musical about personal truths. Rooney plays granny, a woman who shares stories of her life, but as dementia sets in, the stories change.
• Vocalist Carla Ayles, cellist Caitlin Laslop and percussionist Court Laslop are part of Glorious Justice, a rowdy, mythic 11-piece rock opera adventure. Humans forced under the cruel grip of evil overlords find power within themselves to fight for freedom and overthrow their draconian masters.
• Our own Christina O’Dell is part of The Marvelous Wonderettes – Caps and Gowns ’58. The foursome returns with Caps and Gowns first performed in 2019, a blend of infectious energy, smooth harmonies and nostalgic memories of youth and friendship.
• If Titanic is on your bucket list, check out Titanical the Musical, a one-hour spoof of the world-famous sinking ship with comedian Jeff Halaby to guide you through this screwball sendup.
• The Ladies of Jazz recreates the era of swinging cabaret music. The cast of four includes Paige Tirs, St. Albert’s tireless tap-dancing diva.
• Former St. Albert resident Miriam Ayles slips on her dancing shoes for Swing Showcase 2023. The 50-minute dance show features the Lindy Hop, tap, jazz, blues, a chorus line and more.
• Local actor-singers Trey Maruyama and Marshall Eglinski are part of the ensemble in What Was Is All, a folk-rock musical that centres around the living and the dead of a small town.
• St. Albert singer Crystal Hanson and guitarist Ralph Pretz pair up in Just a Girl. A Tri-Diva Tribute. In this cabaret, Hanson salutes the music of Pat Benatar, Madonna and Gwen Stefani.
• Pianist Spencer Kryzanowski co-directs Il Tabaro, an opera with music written by Giacomo Puccini. Set in Paris 1918, it is driven by passion, jealousy, forbidden love and murder.