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A City on the Fringe... Fringe Festival that is.

by Leah Paterson

All the world's a stage, but especially Edmonton in August. For eleven glorious days, Old Strathcona transforms into the Fringe grounds– a hub of street performers, beer gardens, outdoor vendors, and of course, live shows. I look forward to this festival all year, longing for that summer sweet spot where 17 hours of sunlight, theatre, and green onion cakes collide to make some serious magic. Never been to the festival? No problem. Fringe obsessed like me? We've got you covered too. We're a city on the Fringe, after all.

The inside scoop on indoor shows
Indoor shows are inside. There, aren’t you glad you read this blog? You’ll find musicals, improv, dramatic plays, stand up comedy, dance and cabaret style concerts—what more could you ask for?! Plus, 100% of the net ticket price goes directly to the artists which is totally unheard of. And with tickets capping out at about $13 (plus a small service fee), there’s no reason not to check out a show. I’ve seen people spend more on a Frappuccino.

Shopping, Buskers, and Beer Gardens—oh my!
The Fringe Grounds are the place to be, even if you don’t have a chance to see a play. There’s an array of artisan and food vendors, world class street performers, and of course, Edmonton's favourite snack, the green onion cake. Grab a bottle of special edition A Midsummer Night’s Fringe Big Rock Brewery Beer and settle in for an afternoon of people watching in the beer gardens, or head down with the whole family and check out the jugglers, acrobats, fire-breathers, and magicians all honouring the "pass the hat" tradition.

Pick-up and program and get planning!
A little pre-planning goes a long way. Get your hands on a program (available August 1) at the ATB Financial Arts Barns, or from select Indigo, Chapters, Coles, Safeway and Sobeys locations. Then bust out the spreadsheets, start colour-coding, and fringe like nobody’s watching. All tickets go on sale August 9, so you'll want to have your game plan ready. If you try to purchase tickets to a performance and learn it is sold out, don’t despair—sometimes additional seats are released at the last minute. Check again online or at any box office 24 hours prior to the performance to see if any tickets are available.

Stars in your eyes
Most artists know the glory of a good review, and the sting of a salty one. Try to look beyond the ‘stars’ and read the comments to get an idea of what a show is all about. Reviews are a great way to pick a play, but word-of-mouth can also help you find a show that you’ll love! Ask a friendly face in the ticket line, or strike up a conversation in the beer gardens—you could wind up with a new pal too.  

Late-night= great night
To be a real Fringe “Innie” you’ve got to check out the Late-Night Cabaret at least once over the eleven-day festival. Hang with artists, rock out to live music, see snippets from standout shows, and enjoy a drink (or two). Every show brings something different, so you can make this your nightly go-to. Late Night Cabaret happens every night at midnight in the Backstage Theatre located at the ATB Financial Arts Barns.  

And the theme?
Every year the Edmonton Fringe takes on a different theme, which has included greats like "From Fringe with Love", "The Village of the Fringed", and "Cirque du Fringe". This year the theme is not only a play on a Shakespearean classic, but also an ode to Edmonton's spectacular summers. A Midsummer Night's Fringe was chosen from hundreds of submissions, and you may even spot a fairy or two leading up to the festival. Magic, long summer days, and lots (and lots) of theatre... sounds perfect to me.

KidsFringe for the whole family
Why not start 'em young? Junior Fringers will love KidsFringe, with daily interactive performances, crafts, face painting, theatre for young audiences and more. In theme with A Midsummer Night’s Fringe, this year KidsFringe will feature a fairy garden and activity centre where you can try your hand at making your own magic.

On a budget? No problemo.
Fringing on a dime? I hear you. Never fear, there are tons of ways to hit this festival on a budget. Many shows offer cheaper tickets for students and seniors and most people don’t realize that the Fringe has a daily discount booth. Located just north of the ATB Financial Arts Barns, the Daily Discount Booth offers specially priced tickets to select shows scheduled for that day. You can also purchase Fringe passes that allow you to reserve up to two tickets to any performance. There two types of passes, and you'll have to hurry, they'll be scooped in a flash:

Frequent Fringer Pass - $115 for ten tickets
Double Fringer Pass - $230 for twenty tickets

Once you start Fringing you won't be able to stop. But I say, why resist? Give in to your freaky fringy side and join the 850,000 people who visited the festival grounds last year. Take the week off work. Bust out those spreadsheets. Fringe like you've never fringed before. For more info on the festival, head to www.fringetheatre.ca.