Magic and madcap mayhem. Those few words aptly describe that wonderful controlled chaos that makes the Edmonton International Fringe Festival a go-to destination from around the world.
When the 36th edition unwraps tomorrow night for an 11-day adventure, this year’s theme of A Midsummer Night’s Fringe promises elements of mystery, romance, bawdiness, laughter and possibly a tear or two.
Now working his fifth year as artistic director, Murray Utas has booked more than 220 unjuried productions for this labyrinthine festival that pulls in as many as 750,000 visitors in any given year – a logistical nightmare that for all intents goes off without a hitch every year.
Spread throughout Old Strathcona’s Whyte Ave. area, Utas believes this artist-driven festival has reached a geographic plateau.
“But we still have lots of space at shows for audiences to fill and I believe we have the market.”
He is particularly proud that all ticket prices go to artists. Budgeted at $3.5 million, the festival meets it financial obligations through government grants, corporate sponsors and Fringe fundraising.
“Each year is unique in its own way. We care about the event and we put our blood, sweat and tears into refining it.”
For the tech savvy, organizers have added a random generator to their website.
“Random shows pop up and it feeds you an idea of what’s out there and gives you the opportunity to take a chance.”
Organizers have also revamped the Kids Fringe, upped the level of programming and offered more diversity such as Cree hoop dancing, a strong woman, stiltwalking and the Rhythm Speaks band.
“We’ve also played with the idea of magic and Tessa Stamp has built a fairy garden.”
Whether you believe in magic or not, the Fringe is a way to escape into another world.
In closing, Utas said, “Magic can teach. Magic can be summer. Magic can be a gathering.”
There is never a shortage of St. Albert and area performers strutting their stuff at the festival. Below is a list:
• St. Albert musical theatre company Musicalmania, headed by composer Cindy Oxley, takes us back through history to Days of the Klondike.
• In a new work with Toy Guns Theatre, dancer Justin Kautz, an instructor at Focus Music for youth, explores Romeo and Juliet as an updated Shakespearean tragedy.
• St. Albert improv artist Joleen Ballendine directs Leegion, a Rapid Fire one-man horror show.
• St. Albert Children’s Theatre (SACT) alumna Kate Ryan has shelved her director’s hat in favour of starring in The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man in the Moon Marigolds, a powerful study of a widow and her two teenage daughters.
• Local playwright-directors Dylan Rosychuk and Jeff Punyi, along with actors Kieran Murphy and Lauren Boyd, throw a nightmarish party in The Sinner’s Club.
• Two of SACT’s most admired alumni, Jenna Dykes-Busby and Jenny McKillop, star in Myth of the Ostrich, a comedy about motherhood and miscommunication.
• Former St. Albert resident Braydon Dowler-Coltman and SACT alumnus Luc Tellier headline A Quiet Place, a two-hander about men locked in a room with no door.
• Once more dancer Justin Kautz straddles the stage in A One-Man Rocky Horror Experience, a cartoonish romp through the world of the cult classic.
• St. Albert playwright David Haas assembles a cast of characters in Crazy Train, a drama presenting an unusual case of child abuse, or is it bullying?
• Former St. Albert playwright-actor Owen Bishop examines the fallout of Cinderella’s magical night in Bruno Major and what it means to a horse and a dog temporarily turned into humans.
• Digging into an old Jewish folktale, Morinville actor Rory Turner stars in Onions and Garlic about an onion seller who does a good turn for a mysterious old woman.
• As part of the Varscona’s team of lawyer-actors, St. Albert’s Morgan McClelland joins The Charm Offensive, a comedy that kicks incivility to the curb.
• Matt Alden, one of SACT’s success stories in theatre and film, jumps into the fray with Die-Nasty in A Midsummer Night’s Fringe.
• Another SACT alumna, Madelaine Knight, collaborates with a trio of triple threats in The Apple Tree, a quirky, touching musical spin on Adam and Eve.
• Local Fringe regular Liz Allchin is cast in Bend in the Road, a comedy about the city expropriation of a duplex where the two halves dislike each other as much as they dislike the city.
• SACT actor Logan Stefura is stretching his acting muscles in A Royal Canadian Moose Birthday Party, a pack of stories for Canada’s 150th birthday.
• St. Albert’s T.J. Eggleston and Josh Languedoc once more host another edition of KidLibs, a fast-paced improv style show for kids by kids.
• Kieran Martin Murphy joins the fantastical journey of Kingfisher Days in a tale of a young girl who goes to visit a kindly old neighbour and finds a letter from a delightfully self-absorbed fairy.
• Urinetown The Musical gets a sidesplitting improvised send-up from Grindstone Theatre. Byron Martin, a former local improv teacher supplies the direction while St. Albert jazz drummer Thom Bennett of A/B Trio supplies the beat.
• Once again Byron Martin takes charge as both director and actor of The 11 O’Clock Number! The Improvised Musical.
• Matt Alden and Joleen Ballendine pair up for Off Book: The Improvised Musical where audiences offer suggestions and the cast invents sketches, songs and choreography.
• Brittany and Jennesse Graling, two incredible performers who were trained at Visionary College, appear in Princess & The City, a burlesque fairytale.
• Paul Kane High alumna Louise Casemore teams up with Vern Thiessen in her latest project, Gemini, a half love story, half cautionary tale.
• Connor Meek from SACT takes to the sky in Almost Heroes, a musical about a League of Semi-Superheroes that defends their small town against an evil nemesis.
• SACT set designer Marissa Kochanski keeps busy this summer in What Lies Before Us, an existential comedy about the birth of Canada.
• Former St. Albert actress Judy Stelk once more lends her talents to Vern’s Diary in Concert, a concert version about Vern, a Canadian prisoner of war held by the Luftwaffe.
• Also formerly of St. Albert, Cliff Kelly directs The Spark: A Hero Takes Charge, a buffoonish comedy about Mandy Martin, a mild-mannered electrical engineer granted super powers.
• Madelaine Knight spreads her wings in With Glowing Hearts: A Canadian Burlesque Revue revealing untold stories of trailblazers.
• St. Albert resident Abby Schwartz and SACT’s Matt Graham are part of a huge cast in Heathers: The Musical about a high school misfit that pushes her way into power.
• Local actress Karina Cox is in the comedic cast of The 25h Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, a musical about an eclectic bunch of misfits that disclose funny and touching stories about their lives.
• St. Albert resident Russ Farmer has co-produced Disenchanted, a musical comedy about a group of disenchanted princesses.
• Not one to go slow, playwright-director Braydon Dowler-Coltman tackles To Be Moved, a musical reflection on the cycle of love.
• Go For Broke brings out Improv Against Humanity: Yet Another Dumb Expansion, an onslaught of crass improv styles starring St. Albert improvisers Sean Bedard, Josh Languedoc and Ali Yusuf.
• In her third Fringe show, Joleen Ballendine is part of the cast of Missed Connections, an improvised comedy based on real Craiglist missed connections.
• Kieran Murphy resurfaces in The Musical, a rewrite of some favourite Broadway hits.
• One of the Fringe’s most popular vocalists, Nadine Veroba stars in Evil Dead: The Musical, a cult-hit horror about five college kids that spend a weekend in an abandoned cabin and unleash an evil terror.
• Luc Tellier directs Jenny McKillop and Rachel Bowron (SACT music director) in Legoland, a comedy about two home-schooled girls that assault their favourite pop icon.
• Former St. Albert actor Catherine Wenschlag directs The Sunset Syndrome, a poignant reflection on dementia.
• St. Albert actress Hayley Moorehouse zips through The Milkyway Express, a futuristic post-gender comedy about three queens from Earth and Mars who wake up dead on Venus-Hell.
A Midsummer Night’s Fringe
Edmonton International Fringe Festival
Aug. 17 to 27
Tickets: $7 to $13 Call ATB Financial Arts Barn 780-409-1910 or at www.fringetheatre.ca