Thursday Theatre Review: Toronto Fringe (in review)

Well, I've come through my inaugural Toronto Fringe Festival experience, and I thought it would be good to review it as a whole general festival.

First off, let me say that overall it was a really great, if intense, experience. Most of the shows clock in at around the 1hr mark, so I was going to two shows a night and there was something thrilling about that.

Also, I got to experience the fringe in two ways, as an audience member, and also as a volunteer billeting a theatre company. So, I went to 10 shows and billeted 3 people.

First, the shows. A few quick lessons I learned about Fringe this year:
- The description in the program often doesn't really tell you what you need to know about a show.
- Lots of media outlets (including blogTO) will do a round up of Fringe shows that will tell you much more than the write-up.
- The second week often sells out, the first week is the time to just randomly show up and try to get in, if you wait until the second week book your tickets in advance.
- It's worth showing up to something you know nothing about because sometimes it's amazing but has missed out on the buzz because no one from the media has seen it yet (with over 140 shows some are bound to be left until last)
- Next year I want to take two weeks of vacation and just immerse myself into the Fringe experience, it was amazing and I wanted more.
- Since the festival is not juried, participants are chosen through lottery, so you have to remember that it's going to be hit and miss (well, more hit and miss than other festivals)

And now, billeting:
- When billeting artists you get a 6 VIP pass, which gets you 6 tickets to use however you want at the festival, plus you'll no doubt get free tickets from the people you are billeting
- It's fun to have people at your house who you can find out a bit of the ins and outs of the festival from.
- It's important not to over-estimate the space you have, we billeted 3 people, really, it should have been 2.
- Without someone giving artists a roof over their heads and a bed, couch or patch of floor to sleep on, this festival couldn't happen.

Overall I highly recommend the Fringe. Even if you only make it to one show, it really is fun to see, not just the show, but to experience the energy of the people standing in line with you, it's a great people watching opportunity.

And, if you missed out on this year's Fringe, you still have a chance to see some of it. Diesel Playhouse is hosting "The best of the Fringe" and showing the patrons picks now through August.

It's been an eventful time in Toronto for theatre. Fringe presented two exciting and frenetic weeks of theatre. Toronto experienced the loss of two cornerstones in support of theatre in Toronto (and beyond) when Ed Mirvish and Bluma Appel died. And just yesterday there was an announcement that the city was going to buy the Theatre Passe Murialle building, helping a theatre that was integral in the development of Canadian theatre when it was founded almost forty years ago (this coming season is it's anniversary season).

It will be interesting to see how the rest of the summer plays out (no pun intended) in the theatre world. The Summerworks festival in August (this one is a juried festival) will present another two weeks of intense theatre to sink our teeth into.

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