August 19, 2019

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Fringe fest fans should lay plans

Repairs, renovations and program errors could throw guests for a loop

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 17/7/2018 (397 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

If you go down to the fringe, prepare for a big surprise.

Seriously. Whole blocks are under repair or renovation in the Exchange District, including chunks of McDermot and Bannatyne Avenues, as well as Princess Street. Coupled with an overall trending transition to more bicycle lanes, your chances of scoring a convenient parking spot in the epicentre of the fringe are more unlikely than ever.

That brings us to the top priority for fringe-goers attending the 31st edition of the venerable downtown theatre festival.

“No matter what you’re doing, plan ahead,” asserts festival executive director Chuck McEwen. “It’s not just finding parking, even getting down here at rush hour could be tough with all the restricted lane access and all the construction.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 17/7/2018 (397 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

If you go down to the fringe, prepare for a big surprise.

Seriously. Whole blocks are under repair or renovation in the Exchange District, including chunks of McDermot and Bannatyne Avenues, as well as Princess Street. Coupled with an overall trending transition to more bicycle lanes, your chances of scoring a convenient parking spot in the epicentre of the fringe are more unlikely than ever.

That brings us to the top priority for fringe-goers attending the 31st edition of the venerable downtown theatre festival.

"No matter what you’re doing, plan ahead," asserts festival executive director Chuck McEwen. "It’s not just finding parking, even getting down here at rush hour could be tough with all the restricted lane access and all the construction.

"Remember: latecomers aren’t admitted to fringe shows, so we’re encouraging everyone to plan extra time this year," he says. "Even if a street is open today, it might be closed tomorrow."

McEwen is enjoying his 11th year as the executive director of the fringe, and in that position has helped sustain the Winnipeg iteration as the second most well-attended fringe festival in Canada (after Edmonton) and one of the top fringes in North America. (Last year’s attendance totalled 104,908, just shy of the 2015 record-breaker of 105,000.)

Assuming you’ve made it to the festival with the $5 program (available at all Winnipeg Liquor Marts) in hand, here’s a few more tips from McEwen’s survival guide for 2018.

It’s the best year ever to ride your bike to the fringe.

"We’ve always had a space blocked off for bike parking over by Artspace in Old Market Square," McEwen says.

"We’re putting up a second bike-parking location accomodating between 100 to 150 bikes and it will be a supervised location, every day from 10 a.m. and 12:30 a.m., every day of the festival.

MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Construction in the East Exchange District has reduced the number of parking spots available for Fringe Festival venues which runs from July 18-29. 180717 - Tuesday, July 17, 2018.</p>

MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Construction in the East Exchange District has reduced the number of parking spots available for Fringe Festival venues which runs from July 18-29. 180717 - Tuesday, July 17, 2018.

"People still have to lock up the bikes but there will be somebody there to keep an eye on the area while people are out fringing," McEwen says. "Bikes are one of the most popular ways for fringers to get around."

The program’s not always right

You have to go online (winnipegfringe.com) to check for program updates and ensure proper planning. For example, Venue 29, the Centennial Concert Hall Sound Bites Lounge, is no longer accurate.

"Unfortunately, there was construction going on that changed the plan, so they moved it to the rehearsal hall, which is an even better location," McEwen says.

The rehearsal hall can be accessed via the backstage entrance on east side of the concert hall. The change actually accomodates an uptick in seating capacity, from 100 to 120.

Theatre preview

Click to Expand

Winnipeg Fringe Theatre Festival

July 18 to 29

In 29 venues across downtown Winnipeg

Tickets $10 to $12 at the door, at the Royal MTC box office, 174 Market Ave., or at winnipegfringe.com

Also, the website offers more up-to-the-minute information in its "program updates" section, including cancellation notices.

(For example, all performances of Unsettled: A Theatrical Seance Experience have been cancelled at Venue 5.)

"On the show listings page this year, we’ve got a drop-down menu with includes a few new things like a daily schedule and a two-for-12 performance list, which is very handy for people trying to save some money.

"Also, this is the second year of our ‘accessible shows’ page, which lists four ASL (American Sign Language) performances this year and there’s plays there suited for people with vision or hearing concerns, or who don’t speak English that well," McEwen says.

"Performers can say our show doesn’t have a lot of dialogue or it’s movement-based, so it’s good for people who don’t speak English that well."

Leif Norman photo</p><p>If you intend to attend fringe, having a solid plan for what shows you want to see and how you’re going to get to them is advised.</p>

Leif Norman photo

If you intend to attend fringe, having a solid plan for what shows you want to see and how you’re going to get to them is advised.

Also on the website is listings for "a new event in the beer tent during the day called Face to Face, with discussions hosted by performers just to chat about a variety of topics," McEwen says.

For example, on Friday, July 27 at 3 p.m., Frances Koncan and Josh Languedoc take on the subject of "Indigenizing Theatrical Spaces."

Before the Free Press reviews are posted, you can still research the shows.

"A lot of fringers are following the social media feeds for other festivals like Ottawa, Toronto, Montreal, London and Orlando because the touring artists are doing new shows there," McEwen says.

"You can find out what people thought, what the media thought and what fringers thought about those shows from their previous festival experience."

Free Press at the fringe

Once again, the Winnipeg Free Press will be your No. 1 source of fringe reviews, with 16 reviewers seeing a staggering 164 plays from Wednesday to Saturday (not counting nine reviews of returning shows), with all reviews posted online by the afternoon of Sunday, July 22.

Once again, the Winnipeg Free Press will be your No. 1 source of fringe reviews, with 16 reviewers seeing a staggering 164 plays from Wednesday to Saturday (not counting nine reviews of returning shows), with all reviews posted online by the afternoon of Sunday, July 22.

Once again, the reviews will be viewable online, free here.

It's a tall order and this year; we enlisted some extra help from playwright Frances Koncan and playwright-performer-critic Lara Rae.

At the 2016 fringe, Koncan won the Harry Rintoul Award for best Manitoba play for her drama Zahgidiwin/love, and last year presented her play Riot Resist Revolt Repeat. Earlier this month, Koncan premièred her play Women of the Fur Trade at the Toronto Fringe Festival, where it won that fest's Best New Play Contest.

Last year, Rae won five-star reviews for her play Fragments, a meditation on change and mortality written in tribute to Rae's friend Catherine Wreford as she fights terminal brain cancer.

Returning to the reviewing ranks are retired Free Press theatre critic Kevin Prokosh, in addition to the entire Free Press Arts and Life staff.

Not everything at the fringe is in the Exchange District.

A few fringe venues satellite out from the Exchange epicentre, including The Forks, the Prairie Theatre Exchange, the University of Winnipeg and the West End Cultural Centre.

"It makes a kind of a second hub there and you’ve got several venues to choose from," McEwen says, pointing to Venue 15, Gendis Studio, Venue 16, the PTE Mainstage and Venue 17, the PTE’s Colin Jackson Studio in Portage Place’s Prairie Theatre Exchange complex,

"If you can maximize your time doing one or two or three shows in a single location, it can maximize your overall fringe time."

randall.king@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @FreepKing

 

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Randall King

Randall King
Reporter

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

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History

Updated on Tuesday, July 17, 2018 at 8:29 PM CDT: Fixes typo in headline

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