Frazzled fun at Fringe


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This year is the first year I’ve attended the Winnipeg Fringe Theatre Festival.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 18/07/2022 (257 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

This year is the first year I’ve attended the Winnipeg Fringe Theatre Festival.

As a lifelong Winnipegger, I feel a bit of embarrassment about this. The festival has existed for nearly as long as I have (35 years) and I had been meaning to maybe check it out one day, though never quite getting around to it.

This year, however, was the year. I reviewed five shows for the Free Press and was blown away by how great the experience was.

On the first night of the festival, I reviewed The Paladin (sci-fi action comedy) and Civilized (drama about Canada’s legacy of racism and mistreatment of Indigenous peoples). I went to both (one after the other at venue 23 at 188 Princess St.) alone because we didn’t have a babysitter.

The next day, I reviewed three more shows: Minoosh Doo-Kapeeshiw (kids venue), Journey to the Centre of the Earth (venue 8), and The Great & Powerful Tim: Magic Tonight (venue 7). This time, I brought my seven-year-old daughter with me.

I waffled a bit on whether I should bring her. What if she got bored or what if she wanted to go home and I didn’t have time to take her in between shows? Writing this now sounds silly, but I was really in my head about it.

I bought her advance tickets online, and figured even if she got bored, she could and would sit through the shows with me regardless.

That day started off a bit frazzled. We dashed out of the house after an online appointment, with just enough time to make it to the first show. Just before we left, I had a cluster of little issues (unrelated to the fringe) go sideways for me.

None were super dire, but the succession of things not turning out my way that morning seemed swift and overwhelming. You know those days, where everything that could go wrong seems to? Yeah, that was how things were shaping up.

We made it to the venue with just a few minutes to spare. I even found a good spot and paid extra (a whopping $18) for all day parking. When we got to the theatre the volunteers outside looked at us a bit puzzled.

“It’s closed,” they told us.

“Huh? We have a show at this venue. I just paid for parking…”

Turns out I’d read the program wrong in my haste to make it on time. We were at the wrong place for a show about to start elsewhere. (No wonder I got such a good parking spot.)

As we walked away big, fat tears start to roll down my cheeks. Any other day, this would have been an annoyance at most, but this day, it was the final straw. The last of a series of little things to go wrong that really put me over the edge… but I had a show to review and a kid who was excited to see it.

We raced to the proper venue and were met with the loveliest and most understanding volunteers. I don’t know if I looked as rumpled as I felt, but time was of the essence, and I trusted a quick departing glance in the rear-view mirror that there wasn’t mascara all over my face. The volunteers quickly gave us our pre-ordered tickets and ushered us inside.

Instantly, the magic of the performance washed over us.

I watched as my wide-eyed daughter’s grin and imagination grew. She was captivated by the sweet theatrical performance of Minoosh, the Métis kitty played by Charlene Van Buekenhout. The room filled with hearty belly laughs and rumblings from inquisitive children, including my daughter, whose voices only added to the show.

The blanket of unpleasantness that had started my day began to lift. Nothing had been solved, but I realized a few bad moments doesn’t have to ruin a whole day. I could dwell on the things that had gone wrong later. For now, I was enjoying the show and enjoying watching my daughter’s reaction to it even more.

We drove back downtown after the performance (and even got our parking spot that we’d paid for earlier). We wandered around the Exchange District between our two other venues, taking in the heartbeat of the festival and the people who were there.

I realized being there gave me the same feeling I get when I travel — a sort of thrilling excitement of trying something new, around a buzz of people. Only, the setting was familiar.

After a whole day of fringing, we stopped for ice cream before heading home. The experience was wonderful, and even the hectic start couldn’t ruin it.

I’m already trying to decide if I can fit more shows into our busy schedule before the festival wraps up. Even if we can’t manage to fit any more in, we’ll be back next year, and the year after that…

Twitter: @ShelleyACook

Shelley Cook

Shelley Cook
Columnist, Manager of Reader Bridge project

Shelley is a born and raised Winnipegger. She is a proud member of the Brokenhead Ojibway Nation.

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