Seven artists to watch at the Digital Toronto Fringe Festival

This is the second year in a row that the Toronto Fringe – the city’s most exciting theatre festival – has gone digital. But judging from the descriptions of the 65+ shows in this year’s lineup, everyone’s stepped up their technical game. Watching their works online will be a nice break from that twice-a-week office Zoom meeting. And the level of talent is incredibly high. Here are some notable artists to look for in the next couple of weeks. The Fringe runs July 21 to 31.

dTaborah Johnson, writer/actor/director, The Incredible Adventures Of That Nice Canajun Girl

The multi-talented Johnson is part of one of Toronto’s most accomplished entertainment families; her brother is actor and director Clark, while her sister is beloved musician Molly. dTaborah – or Tabby – meanwhile, sings and acts. She’ll do lots of both in her stock-taking show filled with song (everything from Black spirituals to jazz-inflected nursery rhymes), poetic readings (by everyone from T.S. Eliot to Dorothy Parker) and stories. More info here.

Yaw Attuah, writer/performer, One Of The Good Ones

One of the most pleasant surprises of Fringe 2018 was Attuah’s Rhymes With Wow, a sharply observed solo comedy about growing up in Fort Erie, Ontario and looking for love and friendship. His new show, One Of The Good Ones, challenges ideas about diversity, allyship and inclusion. With his magnetic stage presence and biting wit, get ready to say “Wow” once again. More info here.

Kenneth T. Williams, writer, Bannock Republic

The horrific revelations around Canada’s residential schools make Cree playwright Williams’s 90-minute show a must-see. Two Indigenous characters have different feelings around a school; one, a newly-elected Chief, wants to preserve it as a memorial, while the other wants to clean up the reserve’s finances and presumably get rid of it. The show is a sequel of sorts to Williams’s popular and much-produced Thunderstick. With Ed Roy directing, expect vibrant characters, solid acting and a poignant and funny examination of a timely topic. More info here.

Sam Roulston, writer/actor, Cringe

Best known as a member of Bad Dog Theatre’s stable of versatile improvisers (he’s a frequent performer at Theatresports), the affable, mischievous, UK-born Roulston is also a sketch regular in troupes like Champagne Boyfriend and DVG and is part of the faculty at Second City. His solo sketch comedy Cringe is inspired by epically embarrassing – that is, cringeworthy – moments he’s either witnessed or experienced himself. The show has the most memorable hashtag at the fest: #CringeAtTheFringe. More info here.

Christel Bartelse, co-host, But That’s Another Story

Bartelse’s name in a Fringe (All KIDding Aside, Prank) or Next Stage (The Surprise) show always guarantees lots of fun. This time the spontaneous, high-energy performer is teaming up with Briane Nasimok to co-host a full-length storytelling show. The two are are now veterans of the format, having co-hosted both in-person and virtual editions of the show during the pandemic. Guests at this special festival edition include frequent Fringers Chris Gibbs and Tracey Erin Smith as well as Shayna Jones and Whose Line Is It Anyway’s Colin Mochrie. More info here.

Selena Vyle, creator/performer/director, Broken Hearted Girl

In the past few years, Toronto comedy fans have fallen in love with drag queen extraordinaire Vyle, who’s emerged as an MVP in shows like the Canadian Comedy Award-winning show A Sketch Comedy Extravaganza Eleganza! So it’s fitting that Vyle’s latest show is all about love: the highs, the heartbreak, the fabulous outfits. Vyle tells her story in a series of music videos by Gei Ping Hohl (with original music by Kitty Creature and lyrics by Vyle), and judging from the trailers on the Fringe site, she’s more than earned that Beyoncé reference. More info here.

Mohammad Yaghoubi, writer/director, Dance Of Torn Papers

Iranian playwright Yaghoubi scored a big hit at the 2020 Next Stage Festival with his powerful drama Winter Of 88, about a Tehran family enduring attacks on their city. Now he revisits his award-winning Dance Of Torn Papers, debuting two new plays called Mother and Birthday Present. The pieces are about different forms of connection – a relevant topic during a pandemic – and can be watched in either English or Farsi. As a bonus, the writer/director promises viewers can have an immersive 360-degree experience when watching. More info here.


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