THE NEXT STAGE a festival of new works and remounts. Presented by the Fringe of Toronto at Factory Theatre (125 Bathurst). Runs through January 13. $12-$15, passes $48 and $88. 416-966-1062, www.nextstagefestival.com. Rating: NNNNN
Time to stop associating the Fringe of Toronto solely with shorts and hot weather. But you can still think beer tent.
As part of its 20th anniversary season, the festival launches The Next Stage, a mid-winter juried festival that offers return engagements for some Fringe shows (like 2007’s BASH’d and Conservatives In Love) and also gives local audiences a chance to see some new pieces.
“We wanted to begin another initiative, provide an additional performance and development opportunity for artists,” says Bridget MacIntosh, Fringe interim producer/executive director.
“Great pieces have come out of the summer Fringe, been acclaimed by audiences and critics but often didn’t have a further life because of lack of finances or venue. Basically, they couldn’t continue to develop.
“The Fringe saw a way to bridge that gap, something that (former head) Chuck McEwen began working on several years ago. We do infrastructure well – with helpful staff and funding that’s not available to smaller groups – and provide our services to the eight shows in The Next Stage.”
Unlike the summer Fringe, where companies are chosen by lottery, The Next Stage accepted scripts from troupes. The Fringe threw the net wide, including not just former Fringe shows but also works by companies or individuals who have produced in the Canadian Association of Fringe Festivals. There was no application fee, and the box office is split between companies and the Fringe.
The festival runs in both spaces at Factory Theatre, which happens to have a courtyard for a heated beer tent.
“The beer tent is iconic to the festival,” smiles MacIntosh. “It’s the best place to have a drink and talk with artists and other patrons. After all, so much of the Fringe is about word of mouth. We want to continue that tradition.”