Ginette Mohr and Fish Face reeled us in, left. Blake William Turner and Spiral Dive took flight, right.
The Fringe gets bigger every year in terms of number of shows, the way it stretches across the west side of Toronto and in its financial return to artists.[rssbreak]
This year, the 21st annual fest, which closed Sunday (July 12), sold 60,000 tickets, with a box office over $450,000, all of which goes to the participating artists. That's up from last year, which itself was a record-breaker.
And that's despite a troubled economic climate. From its first day (July 1), the festival broke records for ticket sales.
But you know what we missed? A sense of innovation at the bring-your-own-venues (BYOVs). Sure, some of the 24 BYOV productions made thematic, narrative or atmospheric use of the space they chose, including The Silver Stage at the Bloor Cinema, The Indian Wants The Bronx at the Honest Ed's loading dock, Puck Bunny in a bathroom at the Miles Nadal JCC and The Intrepid Project at Intrepid Travel.
Over the past few years, regular performance spaces and cafés have been the sites for shows that could as easily have played in established Fringe venues.
We want more of the adventurousness of Upstart Crow, which presented Shakespeare as sports contest; the version of Shaw's Saint Joan in a U of T chapel; or either of Convergence Theatre's inventive productions, AutoShow and The Gladstone Variations.
Isn't the idea behind a BYOV show to mount a piece that wouldn't work or work as well in a conventional space?
It's almost as if some companies not chosen in the lottery turn around and submit their shows as BYOV productions. Nah... no one would do that. Would they?
If you missed some of the most popular Fringe shows, you have another chance. Seven of them - A Singularity Of Being, As You Puppet, Head First, Hipcheck - The Musical, My Mother's Lesbian Jewish-Wiccan Wedding, Politically Correct Bedtime Stories and Morro And Jasp Do Puberty - run in rep in Best Of The Fringe. New venue this year: Canadian Stage's Berkeley Street Theatre. Call 416-368-3110 for tickets.
Here's NOW's annual list of Fringe highlights. See all our Fringe reviews listed here.
OUTSTANDING NEW PLAYS
Moving Along; Spiral Dive; Fish Face; Nebraska; My Mother's Lesbian Jewish-Wiccan Wedding
Moving Along; Morro And Jasp Do Puberty; 36 Little Plays About Hopeless Girls; Dirty Girls; Like Father, Like Son? Sorry; Head First; Things Base & Weill; Spiral Dive; Lysistrata; Fish Face; Nebraska; My Mother's Lesbian Jewish-Wiccan Wedding
OUTSTANDING PRODUCTIONS FOR YOUNG AUDIENCES
Rock Time 2009; As You Puppet; Scaredy Kat
Precious Chong (Zdenka Now!); Jennifer Neales (Love And Human Extinction); Jennifer De Lucia (A Crack In The Ceiling); Chris Craddock (Moving Along); Bruce Hunter (Artifacts); Gemma Wilcox (Shadows In Bloom); Jeffrey Aarles (Candida); Ginette Mohr (Fish Face); Chelsea Manders (Naughty Little Children); Nicole Stamp (It's Just A Phase)
As You Puppet; Build A Bridge And Get Over It; A Singularity Of Being; Morro And Jasp Do Puberty; Dirty Girls; Spiral Dive; Lysistrata; I Will Not Hatch!; Nebraska; The Sicilian; Red Machine: Part 1; Head First; My Mother's Lesbian Jewish-Wiccan Wedding; Just East Of Broadway
Ed Roy (A Singularity Of Being); Aurora Stewart de Peña (36 Little Plays About Hopeless Girls); Maya Rabinovitch (I Will Not Hatch!); Adam Brazier (Nebraska); Jonathan Heppner (Dirty Girls)
Alina Grebenyuk (Fish Face); Thomas Ryder Payne, Rebecca Picherack, Gillian Gallow and Anna Treusch (Red Machine: Part 1); Joanna Yu (The Sicilian)