THE FRINGE: TORONTO'S THEATRE FESTIVAL featuring local, national and international companies. Opens Wednesday (June 30) and runs to July 11. $8 or less, $2 surcharge on advance tickets, discount passes. See opening day's Fringe listings, this page. St. Vladimir's (620 Spadina), Robert Gill (214 College), Artword (75 Portland), Factory Mainspace and Studio (125 Bathurst), Tarragon Mainspace and Extra Space (30 Bridgman), Royal St. George (120 Howland), Poor Alex (296 Brunswick), Helen Gardiner Phelan (79A St. George), Palmerston Library (560 Palmerston) and various bring-your-own-venues. 416-966-1062. wwwfringetoronto.com Rating: NNNNN
You remember - or maybe you're even living - those mid-teen years: you're hyperactive, just can't slow down, have energy to burn. Well, the same is true of the Fringe, which is entering its 16th year and still growing. The annual fest begins Wednesday (June 30) and runs for a dozen days. And speaking of running, you'd better get your track shoes on. This year's Fringe has grown to a whopping 128 productions and more than 900 performances. That includes shows in 10 regular venues - among them the KidsVenue, a great way to introduce young people to the fun of theatre - and 16 bring-your-own venue shows.
If you're an inveterate Fringer, forget about getting much sleep during the 12-day festival.
but you can't plan anything un- til you've gotten the Fringe program, available at selected Starbucks locations. The free program provides all the organizational material you need, including the brief descriptions of the shows, running times and venues. Running times are important if you plan to see several shows a day. Most productions are an hour or less, but worked into the master plan are a number of 90-minute shows. Check your scheduling so you don't plan to be at a second show while you're still watching the first.
Since programming can change, look for updates on the Fringe Web site ( www.fringetoronto.com ). The Harold newsletter, filled with gossip, interviews and other pertinent Fringe info, can be picked up at the venues and usually comes out daily once the festival's started.
word is that all the regular venues are air conditioned this year, but one person's comfortable theatre is another's sweatbox, even if the occasional puff of cool air comes your way. Given the way July can turn hot, be sure to carry water with you. If you're organizing a multi-show day, try to arrange it so the performances are in the same area, if not the same venue. You can aim for certain geographical pockets, seeing a spate of shows at the two Factory spaces and Artword in the Bathurst/King/Queen district, or an Annex grouping that lassoes the two Tarragon venues, the Royal St. George and the Poor Alex . Be sure to work a meal break into your schedule.
the sixth annual 24-hour play writing Contest begins Wednesday (June 30), 7 pm, at the Fringe Club (292 Brunswick). Contestants are given a list of four objects, locations or situations that they have to work into a scenario. They then have 24 hours to write a play and turn it in. A panel chooses three winners; the first-prize winner gets a cash award and a staged reading on the festival's final night.
fringe vet and former now cover boy T. J. Dawe is back with his latest monologue, The Curse Of The Trickster , "a fast, angry fugue about discomfort, irritation and a crippling case of Montezuma's Revenge." Dawe makes an appearance before the Fringe on Sunday (June 27), when Thirteenth Tiger Press launches the publication of a trio of his previous stage pieces at the Lava Lounge (507 College), 8 pm. Dawe reads from Tracks , A Canadian Bartender At Butlin's and Toothpaste And Cigars , the last co-written with Michael Rinaldi .
one of the festival's big hits a few years ago was The Drowsy Chaperone , which after the Fringe went on to larger productions at Theatre Passe Muraille and then, in the hands of Mirvish Productions, at the Winter Garden. Two of its performers, Lisa Lambert and Jonathan Crombie , return to the Fringe with a totally different work aimed at audiences aged three to 10. Ouch My Toe , subtitled A Swell Musical , is "a revue celebrating toe stubbing." Given the writer/performers, it'll probably be entertaining even if you're older. Look for it to be one of the hits at the KidsVenue this year.
members of the alumnae theatre and works developed at the company's New Ideas Festival are usually part of the Fringe. This year the company goes for a record, with five productions in the lotteried festival. Magda's Beauty Secrets and The View From Here were developed in New Ideas, while The American Dream , Ubu The King and Cyrano de Bergerac feature Alum vets.
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watch for now's fringe preview edition next week, with interviews, quips from the companies, artists to watch and critics' picks. And check out our daily online festival reports, including regularly updated show reviews, beginning June 30 at nowtoronto.com.