Despite the summer heat, don't get lazy when it comes to the Fringe of Toronto.
Though the 12-day fest starts Wednesday (July 6), it takes careful planning to get the most out of the city's biggest theatre fest.
How do you go about choosing wisely without coming apart at the Fringe? Read on.
Get with the program
Step one's getting hold of the Fringe bible, aka The Program. You can find copies at all Book City outlets, various theatres around town, TheatreBooks and Pizza Pizza locations. Of course, you can always drop by the Fringe office in person (344 Bloor West).
The free program provides all the organizational material you need, including 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.
Look for scheduling updates at www.fringetoronto.com. You can also check out updates in the Harold newsletter, which is filled with gossip, interviews and more. It can be picked up at the venues and usually comes out daily once the festival's going.
New and notable
For the first time in several years, the basic show price has risen from $8 to $10. It's still a good deal, so shut up. The cheapest way to Fringe remains various passes like the Frequent Fringer Pass and Buddy Pass . New this year - especially good for first-timers - is the convenient 5 Play Pass for $37. Redeemable at the door.
Also new this year, you can fax in your orders up to a day before a performance. The fax number is 416-966-5072 . Keep in mind that web orders are very popular, too. (Visit the website.)
If you're like us and try to squeeze in as much as possible, it's worth noting that this year the Fringe has scheduled 45 minutes (instead of half an hour) between shows at each venue. More time to grab a bite, go to the washroom or even make the trek from the northernmost venue (Tarragon) down to the southernmost (Artword). Thanks, Fringe!
Even though the fest's spirit is relaxed and informal, there are still some guidelines. Shows start on time - no latecomers. Water's the only beverage allowed. (Except if you're at a Bring-Your-Own-Venue site that serves drinks.) And all ticket sales are final. No on-the-spot dramatics, please, if you want a refund.
Book them now
Even a week before the 134-play fest begins, you know some tickets are gonna be hard to come by. Book early for T.J. Dawe's The Slip-Knot ; the Rumoli Brothers ' SARSical: The Musical (with a starry cast of Second City types including Doug Morency , Naomi Snieckus , Sandy Jobin-Bevans and Paul Bates ); the latest from Brit troupe Screwed & Clued ; and Pajama Men In Stop Not Going (their former name was Sabotage).
Check it out right NOW
Starting Wednesday (July 6), check out www.nowtoronto.com/fringe for NOW's non-stop online Fringe coverage. You'll find up-to-date reviews, interviews and last-minute changes to the fest schedule.