Fringe Festival 2019 wrap-up

Filipinx shows and a variety of works dealing with mental illness received big buzz at this year's record-breaking Toronto Fringe


The 31st annual Toronto Fringe broke box office records.

The 12-day festival, which wrapped up on Sunday, July 14, sold $40,000 more in tickets than last year’s edition. It sold 68,000 tickets, up from last year’s 66,300. 

Among the hits was Boy Falls From The Sky: Jake Epstein Live At Supermarket, which was featured on NOW’s cover, got a 5N review and sold-out its run before opening day. Other buzzed-about shows included Death Ray Cabaret, Night Feed, The Huns and two Filipinx-themed shows, Through The Bamboo and Tita Jokes. All received critic’s picks ratings from NOW.

Speaking of reviews, NOW’s mid-fest list of picks (and a shorter list of shows to avoid) generated lots of discussion about whether to tell people not to see shows, something we do at other major festivals.

Accessibility was top of mind at this Fringe ticket purchases came with a note asking if buyers had special needs, and a call-out before each show asked if people needed more time to enter a theatre.

The use of the two Streetcar Crowsnest spaces brought the Fringe to the east end, but because there weren’t many other venues in the area, travelling there was a destination. If it’s used next year, perhaps more venues – both regular and site-specific – could be added in the neighbourhood, increasing spontaneous, walk-by interest and purchases. 

Another oddity of this Fringe was the incongruity between a show’s scope and its venue. Both Dandelion and Jay & Eytan seemed overwhelmed in the large Randolph Theatre. 

Night Feed, Fringe 2019

The exquisite Night Feed was one of several works dealing with mental illness and depression.

If there was a theme that ran through many of the 151 shows, it was mental illness and depression. It emerged in shows as diverse as Boy Falls From The Sky and Destiny, USA to Night Feed, Didn’t Hurt, Emotional Labour, The Break-Up Diet and The Weight Of It All.

Reviews of these shows and others can be found in our Fringe directory. Shows chosen for Best Of Fringe (July 19 to 28) can be found here.

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Here’s NOW’s annual list of the best of the fest. 

Destiny USA, Fringe 2019

Laura Anne Harris’s Destiny, USA was entertaining, timely and deeply moving.

OUTSTANDING NEW PLAYS OR MUSICALS (IN ALPHABETICAL ORDER)

After The Beep Boy Falls From The Sky: Jake Epstein Live At Supermarket The Break-Up Diet Destiny, USA Didn’t Hurt Drama 101, A New Musical Emotional Labour Horseface The Huns Night Feed Old-ish Three Men On A Bike Til Death: The Six Wives Of Henry VIII The Weight Of It All 

OUTSTANDING PRODUCTIONS

Boy Falls From The Sky Death Ray Cabaret Destiny, USA Drama 101 Horseface The Huns Night Feed Old-ish Tita Jokes The Weight Of It All

OUTSTANDING PERFORMANCES

Eric Andrews (Audience Of One) Jordan Armstrong and Kevin Matviw (Death Ray Cabaret) Laura Bailey (Clitoria: A Sex-Positive Superhero!) Gillian Bartolucci (The Weight Of It All) Madeleine Brown (News Play) Brittany Cope (Checkpoint 300) Trevor Copp (Searching For Marceau) Alex Dallas (Horseface) Jake Epstein (Boy Falls From The Sky) Charlotte Moore (Spend Your Kids’ Inheritance) Cathy Schenkelberg (Squeeze My Cans) Sara and Alene Shanazarian (Allegra & Serena Present: Twinsations) Tracey Erin Smith (The Big House) Tara Travis (Til Death)

OUTSTANDING ENSEMBLES

Be Kind, Rewind The December Man Drama 101 Mayhem At Miskatonic Night Feed Through The Bamboo Three Men On A Bike Tita Jokes Woke ’N Broke

OUTSTANDING DIRECTION 

Boy Falls From The Sky (Robert McQueen) Death Ray Cabaret (Shari Hollett) Drama 101 (Steven Gallagher) The Huns (Marie Farsi) Three Men On A Bike (Sue Miner) Til Death (Ryan Gladstone) The Weight Of It All (Carly Heffernan)

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