THE lineup is nearly set for the 25th annual Winnipeg Fringe Theatre Festival next summer.
At the annual indoor performer lottery held Tuesday night at the King's Head Pub, 110 lucky entrants had their numbers drawn and won entry into the festival scheduled for July 18-29. There was a record number of applicants, with 60 international companies vying for 22 spots, 118 national troupes competing for 33 places and 97 local groups wanting one of 55 slots.
About 70 people turned out for the lottery, hosted by fringe executive producer Chuck McEwen. Most in attendance were local performers anxious to see whether they were going to get an official spot in the annual downtown theatre party, or whether they would have to go the BYOV (bring your own venue) route. There were cheers when a Winnipeg company's number was drawn and loud groans when others realized they were slotted way down on the waiting list or were completely shut out.
McEwen questioned jubilant performers about the name of the show they intended to produce and the reply was invariably the same, TBA.
"That TBA is going to be a big hit," joked McEwen. "I guess no one wants to write (a play) until after the lottery."
The 2012 festival is expecting to host a record number of indoor shows, about 160 by the time all the BYOV entrants make their intentions known. The Canadian Association of Fringe Festivals selected 10 acts to play any of the festivals and all 10, including American Randy Rutherford, chose Winnipeg.
Fringe circuit idol TJ Dawe made a successful bid, as did New Yorker Susan Jeremy, Winnipeg's Drek Daa, Joseph Aragon's Kiss the Giraffe Productions, Squeezebox Mama's Deb Patterson and Fubuki Daiko Entertainment, which is moving to an indoor fringe stage for the first time. Plenty of familiar names were not called, including Jem Rolls, Gemma Wilcox, Keir Cutler, Rainer Hersh, Martin Dockery, Rob Gee, although don't be surprised if most or all go the DIY route.
McEwen also announced that the festival would expand one main venue to 12 by adding the Winnipeg Art Gallery's 300-seat Muriel Richardson Auditorium. He said during an interview that the festival is running out of viable options around the outdoor stage at Old Market Square. The additional stage on Memorial Boulevard creates a cluster of fringe venues in the area to go along with the two at Prairie Theatre Exchange and the University of Winnipeg's Asper Centre for Theatre and Film.
"It's a good space," says McEwen. "It's one of the last few we haven't been in. The WAG was very enthusiastic and gave us a good deal."
After the lottery, the festival kicked off its Retro Reading series, highlighting some of the most significant fringe plays. First up was Aftertaste by Kevin Klassen. It will be followed in the coming months by Rick Chafe's Zach and Speth, Mind of the Iguana by Brian Drader and Stephen McIntyre, Blade by Yvette Nolan and Eureka by Ron Jenkins.