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Your Guide to The Edmonton Fringe

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 for 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. 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 a program and get planning!
A little pre-planning goes a long way. Get your hands on a program 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 8, and you'll want to get them before they're gone. But, 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.  

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. TYA shows are a great way to introduce young ones to the magic of theatre. The whole family will love wondering the grounds, marveling at street performers and munching on mini doughnuts too.

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 "Fringe'o'saurus Rex", and promises to be bigger and better than ever.

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.

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 over 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.