OK, you theatre-and dance-goers -- and those who want to test the waters in those two performance areas -- time to put aside all other forms of entertainment and jump into the Fringe of Toronto, our city's largest performing arts festival. It runs from tonight (Wednesday, July 2) through July 13 at 29 venues around town.
This year's fest, a 20th anniversary event, features 148 productions -- actually, a few less, with some drop-outs in recent days (see below) -- that run the gamut from the tried and true to unknown scripts and performers who might just surprise you with their talent.
That's the thing about the Fringe: you often don't know what you'll see, given the lotteried choosing of productions. Assume that pieces by Dave Carley, Mark Brownell or Wallace Shawn (who all have works in this year's Fringe) are worth checking out, but it's those first-time presenters you've never heard of who might be the next Daniel MacIvor or Judith Thompson.
So take a chance on what you don't know -- most shows are an hour or less and will cost you no more than $10 -- and you might be turned on to a new type of entertainment.
Added this year is a dance component, which links the Fringe and the Dance Umbrella of Ontario, also celebrating its 20th anniversary. There are nine dance troupes who are part of the festival, drawn in a separate lottery. Having them as a predetermined part of the fest is a really good addition to the artistic mix.
The weather looks good for the next week, with temps in the mid-20s and little rain, but even so it's good to keep hydrated as you go from one venue to another or stand in the sun waiting for a venue to admit the audience. The only main venues without air-conditioning are the Theatre Passe Muraille Backspace and the Glen Morris Theatre, but Fringe organizers have been thoughtful enough not to schedule shows longer than an hour in those spaces.
Well, there's one exception. Fringe regular TJ Dawe's Totem Figures, a 90-minute piece, is at the Glen Morris. And for him, it's worth sitting in a hot venue.
I mentioned some no-shows at the fest. To date they are The Diaries Of Adam And Eve (scheduled at the Tarragon Mainspace) and The Picture Of Dorian Gray (at the Royal St. George's Auditorium). Other changes include Chris Gibbs's The Further Adventures Of Antoine Feval replacing Affidavit at the Helen Gardiner Phelan Playhouse and Sue Kent's Nan Loves Jerry replacing Offensive To Some at the Passe Muraille Backspace.
If you've already picked up a Fringe program -- available at the venues, Book City branches or in electronic form at fringetoronto.com -- you might want to write in these changes. There are others, added or cancelled performances for different productions, that you can find in the Fringe Harold, either online or in print form at the venues.
What to see? Use your instinct, read the reviews at nowtoronto.com/fringe -- we'll be posting regularly -- and listen to the buzz online. Fringe-goers know what they like, and they're always glad to share that information with others.