By JON KAPLAN
As part of its 20th anniversary in 2008, the Toronto Fringe is including a winter gig in addition to its summer fest in July.
The Next Stage Theatre Festival runs in the two Factory Theatre venues from January 2 to 13. Unlike the Fringe productions, which are chosen by lottery, the eight shows in Next Stage have been selected by jury.
Fifty-five companies applied for the festival's inaugural year. Yup, it seems the event with be an annual one, and the Fringe hopes eventually to expand to a third venue as well.
The chosen shows include productions that have played at the Fringe either locally or at other Canadian festivals. There's even one that premiered in SummerWorks.
Among the pieces are Brendan Gall's A Quiet Place; UnSpun Theatre's collectively created Don't Wake Me (that's the SummerWorks show); Ryan Gladstone, Katherine Sanders and Bruce Horak's Jesus Christ: The Lost Years and Bruce Gooch's Random Acts Of Love.
Two of the shows are hits from last summer -- An Inconvenient Musical, by the Rumoli Bros. and Wayle Miki, and the energetic gay rap opera Bash'd!, by Chris Craddock and Nathan Cuckow.
The final pair will be new to local Fringe audiences, though they've been successes elsewhere in the country. In Cathy Elliott's Moving Day, a frustrated 1969 housewife comes to an epiphany, while Jason Maghanoy's The Corner is loosely based on the story of a Filipino teen shot by police.
Sounds like Next Stage is a great chance to catch a piece you missed first time around, have a second look at a show that wowed you during the Fringe or check out an unfamiliar play that's been a hit outside Toronto.
And it's likely that an important aspect of the July Fringe won't shrivel up with the cold weather. Expect a heated beer tent in the newly renovated Factory courtyard.