RAINED ON: Performers coming to Winnipeg from Toronto will likely be praying for good weather after having several days of performances rained out at the Toronto fringe. Toronto's festival, which ran July 3-14, coincided with a massive storm that paralyzed the city on July 8.
Mike Delamont, creator of God Is a Scottish Drag Queen, was performing when the storm hit. He said the rain was completely unexpected.
"The day that it happened, (the forecast) said that it would be really humid with a chance of showers, and then around 4 o'clock, everything opened up," Delamont says.
He tried leaving the hotel to go to the subway, thinking the short walk wouldn't be that bad. But he said his clothes were soaked in seconds.
"Even my underwear and socks, I could wring them out," he said.
The storm meant several performances were cancelled, partly because people couldn't get to venues, and partly due to power outages. Delamont says he was lucky, as his show avoided the outages, but many others lost money to cancelled shows.
"That's a big chunk of change for folks on the road to lose, and people were pretty peeved, but there's not really much you can do," he says.
BREAK A LEG: Theatre performers never wish each other good luck, instead saying "break a leg," before a performance. But that wish unfortunately came true in Ottawa, forcing a show to recast in the middle of their fringe tour.
Antony Hall was struck by a car in Ottawa after the opening performance of Be a Man in the city, show producer Jon Paterson says.
"It was quite devastating, actually, because for about an hour or two we had no idea what was going to happen," Paterson says.
Hall ended up in the hospital with a broken leg, which meant he was be unable to perform in the show.
Paterson said the rest of Ottawa fringe came together to raise money for Hall and the show by putting on their own performances in Be a Man's time slot.
They also found a replacement, Geran Korhof, for Winnipeg Fringe.
Getting somebody to replace Hall was not easy, especially as the show focuses on personal stories, and Paterson said he made clear to Korhof that Hall was still an important part of the show.
"It is Antony's role, and it is his baby as it were, and as soon as Antony's available and ready to go, he's back in the show," Paterson says.
THE BIG LEAGUES: The Winnipeg fringe might be one of the bigger fringe festivals in Canada, but if you want to see how big a fest like this can get, you'll have to go to Scotland. The Edinburgh Fringe Festival is the largest arts festival in the world, with more than 2,500 shows.
Shelby Bond, star of Shelby Bond: People Pleaser, has three Edinburgh fringes under his belt, and is going back for more in August. Though the festival is larger than any other, Bond says its size makes attracting an audience a struggle.
"They say the average audience size for a show in Edinburgh is four people," he says.
"You gotta be out six or eight hours a day flyering just to get anybody in."
Despite the difficulties getting audiences, Bond says the experience is more intense and amazing than any other. He compares it to the parties in The Great Gatsby.
"There's just way too much to see. It's total visual and mental overload. I think you have to come home and sleep for a week afterwards," he says.
GIFT KEEPS ON GIVING: On July 18, Julie Mackey will perform Jake's Gift for the 625th time when her popular solo show opens at Prairie Theatre Exchange.
Since its debut in 2007, Jake's Gift has been staged at festivals and theatres in more than 185 communities across Canada, as well as visits to Washington state and Tiverton, Devon, U.K. It sold out its entire run at the fringe here in 2009 and the demand prompted both Manitoba Theatre Centre and Manitoba Theatre for Young People to bring it back the following year.
"What keeps me going is I still love telling the story, the beautiful heartfelt responses we receive from the audience and, most importantly these days, I feel a sense of urgency now that our World War II veterans are quickly leaving us," said Mackey, while awaiting her flight to Winnipeg the other day. "Two of my dear 90-year-old boyfriends have passed away in the last few months, and I promised them I'd keep telling their story as long as I could."
Jake's Gift follows a cantankerous Second World War veteran, Jake, who reluctantly returns to Juno Beach for the 60th anniversary of D-Day in Normandy. There he meets a precocious 10-year-old girl French girl, Isabelle, whose inquisitive nature and charm challenges the old veteran to confront some long-ignored ghosts.
Mackey, who lives in Vancouver, says her drama-comedy is being translated into French and she will perform it in French next year.
"The big hope/dream is that we will be in Normandy with Jake next June for the 70th anniversary of D-Day," she says.
Jake's Gift button packages will be on sale after the performances, with all the proceeds to be donated to the Winnipeg Poppy Trust Fund.