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All the city's a stage

Fringe festival set to take over downtown and beyond

Mike Delamont: Mama’s Boy</p>

Mike Delamont: Mama’s Boy

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 9/7/2016 (1538 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

The 29th edition of the Winnipeg Fringe Theatre Festival.

Better? Maybe.

Bigger? Nope.

For years, the Winnipeg Fringe Theatre Festival has enjoyed a steady growth in the number of productions, the number of venues and in attendance, befitting the continent’s second biggest fringe festival after Edmonton.

In 2015, the festival featured a record 181 companies and 182 indoor shows in 32 different venues. Indoor attendance for the 2015 festival totalled 108,721, a sizable uptick from 104,884 in 2014. Daily attendance records were broken on seven out of 12 days, with 237 sellouts and $800,142 in box office revenue.

But as cultural events go, the festival seems to be a self-regulating entity. In 2016, the number of venues is reduced to 30, attributable in part to the loss of the Planetarium Auditorium and the Manitoba’s Museum’s Alloway Hall, both closed this year due to construction.

2 for Tea by James and Jamesy at Venue 16 (PTE Mainstage).</p></p>

2 for Tea by James and Jamesy at Venue 16 (PTE Mainstage).

The number of productions is down, too. Some 173 shows are listed in the program, available at Manitoba Liquor Mart outlets, but three of those have cancelled outright with another company changing shows from the originally scheduled production (see sidebar).

"We’ve had a few cancellations due to health issues and what have you," says fringe festival director Chuck McEwen, sighing. "Last year, we didn’t have any, and this year we have three."

Even so, it is foreseeable that the 2016 fringe might still break attendance records, maintaining its status as the jewel in the crown of Manitoba arts festivals. McEwen attributes its ongoing success to the fact that "it really is the most inclusive festival."

"People talk to each other while lining up for shows, talking about what shows they’ve seen. You can talk to the performers and talk about what you liked and maybe what you didn’t get," McEwen says.

It is also, notwithstanding the usual scandalous shows, a festival in which it’s easy to bring the kids, especially this year. The Manitoba Theatre for Young People, located at The Forks, is the new Kids’ Venue, a big, child-friendly improvement over the comparatively dank venue at the School of Contemporary Dancers on Main Street.

MTYP has washrooms, for one thing.

"By moving it to MTYP, there’s free parking for parents, there’s a bus drop-off zone, there’s other activities at The Forks, and we can better accommodate school groups," McEwen says.

There will still be a kids presence around the festival’s Market Square epicentre as well, with Kids Fringe taking it to the street — Arthur Street between McDermot and Bannatyne avenues — with an array of free, family-friendly activities from noon to 8 p.m. on each Saturday and Sunday of the festival.

Hot tickets at the 2016 fringe

Jonno</p>

Jonno

Jonno (Venue 6, Tom Hendry Warehouse) Winnipeg’s Echo Theatre presents playwright Alix Sobler’s "angry comedy" about "a famous radio personality and the women he assaults." The radio personality’s only friend, Mr. Donkey Long-Ears, implies a resemblance to the Jian Ghomeshi trial. That point will be discussed when Free Press columnist Jen Zoratti sits down with Sobler July 11 at noon, at the Winnipeg Free Press News Café "to discuss the ways in which famous men who assault women are protected by various institutions — including the ones they work for," Zoratti says.

Following the opening evening performance on July 14, Free Press reporter at large Melissa Martin will be a guest speaker at the Talk Back session at PEG Beer Co. (125 Pacific Ave.) starting at 7:30 p.m.

"We will be discussing my own experience with how gender and assault issues were navigated in the music industry and beyond," Martin says.

Mike Delamont</p>

Mike Delamont

Mike Delamont: Mama’s Boy (Venue 21, MTYP Mainstage). Delamont is the performer behind the perennial fringe favourite God Is a Scottish Drag Queen (the fourth instalment of which is also playing at Venue 21). This play is more personal for Delamont.

"It’s my own story of growing up with a single mother who struggled with an addiction to alcohol her whole life," Delamont says. Adding to the fear factor: Delamont sings.

"I was a classically trained baritone before I decided to become a Scottish drag queen, and this is the first show in seven years that I get a chance to sing in," he says. "I couldn’t be more excited... and terrified."

What makes it an especially hot ticket is that Delamont will only be performing the piece three times, July 16, 19 and 22.

One Man Dark Knight: A Batman Parody (Venue 1, John Hirsch Mainstage). Between performing fringe faves One Man Lord of the Rings andOne Man Star Wars at last year’s fringe, Charles Ross performed a preview of his take on Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy. Ross puts it on the front burner this year with a show that pointedly calls back Heath Ledger’s Joker query: "Why so serious?" 

randall.king@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @FreepKing

Randall King

Randall King
Reporter

In a way, Randall King was born into the entertainment beat.

Read full biography

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