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Fringe Fest offers unorthodox theatre

By Liv Ingram, July 30 2015 —

When something is described as “fringe,” it usually means it’s outside the mainstream, unconventional or maybe even a bit weird. All of these accurately describe the Calgary Fringe Festival, which presents its tenth year of unorthodox theatre performances from July 31 – August 8.

Unlike other theatre festivals, fringe festivals have no selection committees. All submissions are accepted, giving artists unhindered freedom in their performances. Director Michele Gallant says giving artists complete freedom over their work leads to a more dynamic experience.

“Anything goes. There’s something for everybody,” Gallant says. “It could be musical comedy, drama, improv, puppetry, performance poetry, clowning, physical theatre. You name it, you’ll find it at Fringe.”

For nine days, theatre troupes from across Canada and as far away as Australia will present an eclectic mix of performances in various venues around Inglewood.

Improv shows include A Notorious Beer Garden, which combines freestyle rap with high-energy comedy, and North East: The Show, a sketch comedy about growing up and living in northeast Calgary.

The festival also features war stories like Berlin Waltz, a one-woman musical comedy set in the Cold War featuring a double agent, a pilgrim on a bicycle and a schadenfreude-fuelled teacher with a ukelele. There are also plays like Breaking Bange, the magic-filled true story of a clown who nearly dies while trying to be funny, and shows that have to be seen to be believed, such as Pretending Things are a Cock, an Australian stand-up show featuring “over 300 [fake] cocks.”

Festival artists are not selected by an organization. Instead, they earn their spot based on a lottery system, which Gallant says is essentially “pulling names out of a hat.” She says this type of approach makes performing accessible to artists of all levels.

“It doesn’t matter if you’re a first-timer or an experienced performer. You have just as equal an opportunity to get in,” Gallant says. “For me, Fringe Festival is synonymous with the word inclusivity. Anybody can participate.”

Patrons can purchase individual tickets, which range from $10–15, five-ticket passes for $55, 10-ticket passes for $105 or the Fringe Binger pass, which includes 20 tickets for $200. All show proceeds go directly to the artists. Gallant says artists earn an average of $3,000 during the festival.

She added that the best way to experience Fringe Fest is to check out any show that piques your interest and walk around Inglewood talking to other theatre-goers and artists.

“If you’ve never experienced a Fringe Festival, if you’ve never experienced an unrestricted indoor theatre performance, take a leap of faith and try it,” Gallant says. “You will be amazed with the level of talent that’s out there.”

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