Provocative Playwrights

By Amanda Hu

Fringe is not for the faint of heart. Fringe isn’t censored, held-back or a place for those looking to make a large profit off others. Fringe is not your grandmother’s theatre festival-unless, she lived in Edinburgh in 1947, that is.

Originating in the Scottish city, the Fringe Festival is a bouncing point for burgeoning artists and performers, a place where artistic boundaries can be stretched and a broad spectrum of projects celebrated. Calgary’s Fringe has walked a bumpy road towards establishing a stable and thriving festival. The current format has existed since 2006 after two short-lived attempts-the Plan B Festival in 2000 and the Loose Moose Theatre helmed Fringe Fest during 2001 and 2001-and after overcoming venue and administrative struggles. Co-creator and festival producer Blair Gallant says that the city’s wobbly history had an effect on the current team’s feelings.

“There was a lot of apprehension that we wouldn’t be able to do it,” he recalls. “With the questions this year, people have finally stopped asking if we’re going to be around next year. So, third year seemed to be the charm for that. They ask us what’s happening next instead.”

This Fringe incarnation has earned its sea legs and now features 25 shows, chosen by lottery from 58 submissions to further the overarching Fringe mandate: unbiased, unjuried, uncensored and to provide all of the ticket revenue back to the artists. Though it’s coming to its own, Calgary’s link to other festivals has proved integral to their success.

“We all meet in November every year after all the Fringes are done and share work, share ideas and share resources,” says festival director Michele Gallant. “That’s a very give and take community.”

“When we started, a lot of our packages and marketing all came from other Fringes, so we all bring our stuff together,” Blair elaborates.

As Calgary’s Fringe Fest moves forward, organizers hope to keep providing an atmosphere for development and exploration as well as maintaining its spot in the city’s cultural scene. Ultimately, Michele says that there are several things she holds at the festival’s core.

“It’s a three-fold thing: supporting the Fringe artists, because [Blair and I] both performed in the Fringe circuit so we both know about that, the patrons coming to experience something new and stepping outside of their box and comfort zone and putting themselves out there and the volunteers,” she says. “The volunteers we have absolutely rock and are so supportive of the Fringe and keep coming back year after year.”

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