FRINGE is all about small productions. There are no huge stages, no million-dollar sets and no casts of dozens.
There are also no huge production crews to take care of things like costumes and props.
So when a Winnipeg troupe decided to bring the popular off-Broadway play Snoopy! The Musical, a show that requires costumes and production, to a Winnipeg Fringe Theatre Festival stage, the cast needed to learn how to multi-task.
In addition to playing Lucy, Alana Penner also worked on production, media outreach and obtaining props. For some of the cast, this was hard to get used to.
"I’m used to doing this multi-tasking. Other folks aren’t familiar with that experience," she says. "They have to come to terms with if they’re willing to be a part of this — it’s not just show up, rehearse, and leave. There’s other work to be done."
Penner says many of the cast have acted in big productions, including Annie, Oliver and Fiddler on the Roof. Some of those had casts of up to 30 people. Their version of Snoopy, by comparison, has seven.
"It’s a smaller-knit group. Our rehearsals are far more intense," she says.
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The fringe festival is also known for its one-person shows, and for those performers, multi-tasking is even more of a must. Patrick Kearns is the sole performer of Bits, a variety show he also wrote. As this is his first time on the fringe circuit, Kearns said he had to quickly learn how to do everything, from passing out handbills and advertising to lights and production.
"It’s absolutely terrifying. But it’s good to learn the lesson that you’re not going to die from it, even though it feels like that every time you go onstage," he says.
In that sort of environment, Kearns says he had to learn quickly.
"It can be pretty overwhelming when you’re wearing all the hats. You definitely learn to move faster," he says.
"I wouldn’t wish it on anyone... I guess (I did it) because other people said I ought to."
Kearns already completed his first fringe festival, in Montreal; Winnipeg is his second stop. He says Manitoba is a much friendlier town in which to handbill and approach people.
"It is radically different from Montreal... I almost felt like a panhandler, but here, people actually have approached me. It’s so wonderful," he says.
Winnipeggers haven’t been afraid to approach the box office for tickets, either. Attendance at opening day set a new Winnipeg fringe record, as 4,541 ticketed attendees were counted, breaking the old mark of 4,148, set in 2011.
Chuck McEwen, executive producer of Winnipeg fringe, says opening day can be a hard one to judge.
"It’s only a half-day, but it’s still a good record," McEwen says.
Out of the 68 Wednesday evening performances, three shows sold out. McEwen says the warm weather played a big role in attendance, not only for those shows, but also in how crowded Old Market Square was on Wednesday evening.