Fringefest kicks off 11 days of fun

by Ottawa Fringe

June 18, 2009

Last Updated: 18th June 2009, 7:16am

Fire-eating jugglers, macabre stiltwalkers and the theatre of the truly absurd — get ready for life on the Fringe.

The Ottawa Fringe Festival returns for its lucky 13th season, bringing the best — and sometimes the worst — of alternative theatre to a dozen venues over the next 11 days.

The festival officially kicks off today, with the first of more than 300 performances to grace the city’s off-the-beaten-track stages.

The acts, all about one hour in length, run the spectrum from heart-wrenching melodramas to screwball comedies, risque sex romps to polished one-man soliloquies.

“It’s our biggest lineup ever and probably our most diverse as well,” said executive producer Kevin Waghorn.

But there’s more than just the content that sets the Fringe apart from traditional theatre.

“When we started in 1997 we truly were on the fringe, because there were only certain key people who knew about it. It was mostly really alternative theatre groups and artists performing there,” says Waghorn.

“It’s really evolved now to the point where more traditional theatre artists have their work produced, as well as keeping with the alternative crowd.

“It seems too, that people who attend traditional theatre year-round are starting to come out to see these shows, so it’s evolved a fair bit.”

The performances — more than half of the 57 troupes are local — are selected by lottery, meaning past success, talent, and spectacle are all thrown out the window and all performers are given an equal chance of grabbing a coveted spot.

“That really sets us apart from a traditional festival of any sort in that you’re bound to have diversity,” said Waghorn.

“Having the performances chosen by lottery means there is a varying degree of experience, so you’re getting a bit of a mixed bag. People are taking chances, and when they’re taking chances and it pays off, it can really be rewarding for both the artists and the audience members.

“But there are also moments where the chances don’t pay off, but even then it’s awful in a good way — it’s spectacularly awful.”

Tickets for most performances are available at the door for about $10. Festival passes are available on the Fringe website, along with venue information, performer bios and a complete schedule at ottawafringe.com.

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