Story by Alouise Dittrick
EDMONTON, ALBERTA — The Edmonton International Fringe Festival is the second-largest such event in the world. This year, from August 13-23, artists from around the world will come to perform non-juried and uncensored pieces of theatre at 34th annual Fringe. As one of the most popular summer festivals in Edmonton, The Fringe attracts thousands of visitors every day. Here are 10 tips to help anyone making their way to the Alberta capital for the festival.
The Fringe started in 1982 by Brian Paisley, the artistic director of Chinook Theatre, and was modelled after the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Each year The Fringe has a theme. Last year it was 1970s-inspired Fringed and Confused. This year’s theme, SupercaliFringeilistic, is an ode to silliness and childlike wonder.
Getting Around at the Edmonton Fringe
Parking close to the central hub of The Fringe (83 Avenue between Gateway Boulevard and 103 Street) is limited. Paid parking lots (most are cash only) are located within a few blocks of The Fringe. Edmonton Transit has bus routes (4, 7 and 94) with stops close to The Fringe ($3.20 for a single fare; $9 for a day pass with unlimited use). The High Level Streetcar ($5 fare) also operates during The Fringe and goes across the North Saskatchewan River to its downtown Jasper terminal (109 Street between 100 Avenue and Jasper Avenue). For hotels, the Commercial, the Metterra and the Varscona are all within walking distance of the festival site.
Get to Know the Central Fringe Area
The central area of The Fringe is the ATB Financial Arts Barn (10330 84 Avenue). Inside you will find the central box office, Westbury and PCL Studio theatres. Outside the Arts Barn is where the buskers, food carts, retail merchants, a beer tent, information booth, daily discount booth, KidsFringe area, several performance venues and other activities will be encountered. There is a lot to see and do at The Fringe. Josh Travnik, a performer in the musical Ordinary Days at the 2015 Fringe, suggests people “wander around aimlessly and experience [The Fringe] as its chaotic whole.”
The Fringe for Kids
While The Fringe does not censor any show at the festival, there is a general rating system to help parents decide what shows are best for their kids. Adults shows (A) are for those 18 or older, PG are shows where parental guidance is encouraged, FF are family-friendly shows, and KF are shows specifically for those 12 and under. The Fringe has a specific area called the Kids Fringe (not available August 13) that has shows, games, and activities for kids 12 and under. KidsFringe is located north of the ATB Financial Arts Barn.
Choosing 2015 Edmonton Fringe Shows
The Fringe has one-person dramas, cabarets, musicals, improv troupes, comedies, dance shows and much more. You are bound to find a show at The Fringe that you will enjoy. A festival guide (available at any Fringe box office) will provide information about each show, including performance time and venue location. Travnik suggests talking to people in line to find out what shows they are going to, something that has served me well at past Fringe Festivals. Artists may also hand out pamphlets for their shows. Feel free to take a pamphlet and talk to the artist if you have any questions about the performance.
Get Your Fringe Tickets
Tickets can be reserved online at www.fringetheatre.ca, but you will need to pick up your tickets at the box office. Tickets are not available at the venues. You must go to a box office to get your tickets. Luckily, The Fringe has several box offices open during the festival, and you can buy or pick up (with a confirmation number) tickets at any box office. Tickets range in price from $6 to $16. All ticket sales (minus a $3 charge per ticket to offset costs of running The Fringe) goes back to the individual artists of the show. The Fringe also has a daily discount booth where select shows will offer 50% savings on tickets for shows that day.
Know Your Fringe Venues
The Fringe has three types of venues. Outdoor venues are where buskers perform. The main venues are in established theatre spaces in Edmonton such as the Westbury Theatre or Walterdale Theatre. Since The Fringe is so big many shows house their performances in rented venues called BOYVs (bring your own venue). A church, a school, a movie theatre, a store, a rental tent, a pub — almost any space can be a BYOV for The Fringe. Each venue is numbered, and its location can be found on the festival map. Some venues, like those around La Cite Francophone (8627 – 91 Street) are not within walking distance of the central box office. Be sure to check the venues of the shows you are going to and give yourself lots of time to get to your next show.
Every year a select few Fringe shows become fan favourites. These shows (known as Holdovers) are chosen to stay for a few performances after The Fringe. Holdover shows are announced, and tickets go on sale during the last few days of the festival. Holdover performances cost a few dollars more than regular Fringe tickets (usually between $15-$18 per ticket). Holdovers are a great way to see popular Fringe shows in case you arrive in the city during the final days of the festival or after it. Be warned, though, tickets for Holdovers usually sell out quickly so do not wait too long to buy your tickets.
Food and Drink
The Fringe has several food vendors along 83 Avenue. Try a green onion cake, a popular snack on the summer festival circuit in Edmonton. Packrat Louie, Next Act Pub, and MEAT are some of the popular restaurants close to The Fringe. If you walk a few blocks, you can go for cajun food at Dadeo, South African and Indian food at Narayannis, or the stellar cuisine at the highly rated &27. If you see a show around the venues at La Cite Francophone, try casual French bistro fare at Café Bicyclette or Korean cuisine at Bul Go Gi House.
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Outside The Fringe
A block from the central Fringe area is Whyte Avenue (82 Avenue), a popular area with restaurants, bars, cafes and shops. On Saturday, you can check out the Old Strathcona Farmers’ Market (highly recommend is a donut from Frickin’ Delights Donuts). Downtown including the Warehouse and Arts District is accessible from The Fringe by taking the High Level Street Car. From there you can walk east along Jasper Avenue to 104 Street (Warehouse District) or continue to 100 Street and turn north to go Sir Winston Churchill Square.
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The Edmonton International Fringe Festival is always a lively and fun festival to visit. Whether you just wander around and take it all in, or you pack your day and night with shows The Fringe is a great festival for anyone coming to Edmonton.