Theatre enthusiasts in Hintonburg and Wellington Village have been spoiled for play-going choice for the past nine months with no less than three professional companies running full seasons all within four block radius around the Irving Greenberg/GCTC anchor at Holland and Wellington.

But with Chamber Theatre, GCTC, and Third Wall “put to bed” for the summer, many west end play-goers are feeling the absence of the energy that live theatre brings to our neighbourhood.

Stepping into the void is the timely Ottawa Fringe Festival, just a mere 8 minutes away via Tunney’s Pasture transitway. It centres on Arts Court on Daly, and starts this upcoming Thursday the 18th of June.

The ten-day festival is spread across ten venues all five minutes from Arts Court, and this year it has more live theatre than ever before.

But with so much going on it can be just a little daunting for first-timers, so if that includes you, we’ve set out to make the festival as accessible as possible by asking Oracle theatre reviewer Jessica Ruano ( that’s her in the photo) to take us through ten of her personal “can’t miss” productions at this year’s Fringe.

Here’s Jessica:

“Choosing your Top 10 Fringe Festival shows is like choosing your Top 10 children. Assuming you have more than ten children. Well, let’s just say it is exceedingly difficult. This year from June 18 to 28 the Ottawa Fringe Festival boasts 57 performances ranging from local to national to international. And I – because I am a die-hard theatre enthusiast with no conception of sanity – am determined to see at least 50 of them! Without further ado, here are (a few of ) my recommendations:”

Oreo
Company: Silent QUEMB Productions
Last year’s “Best in Venue” returns with a new comedy by Nadine Thornhill about race, identity, and vibrators. Participants are rumoured to be offering sex advice gratis during the festival.

Spiral Dive, Episode One
Company: THEATrePUBLIC
Those that saw this “brilliant” show in Edmonton last year are still raving about it. This poetic, action-packed drama by Kenneth Brown details the adventures of a WW2 Spitfire pilot and his mysterious lover.

Pirate Jenny’s Circus
Company: Counterpoint Players
Led by up-and-coming director Bronwyn Steinberg, this new collective troupe experiments with clown, music, and movement, all inspired by the theatre of Bertolt Brecht.

Grandpa Sol and Grandma Rosie
Company: That Girl
Critically acclaimed one-woman (Lana Schwarcz) puppet theatre set in a Jewish seniors home. All the way from Melbourne, Australia!

This is a Recording
Company: Ditto Productions
Featuring dynamic duo Kelly Rigole and Simon Bradshaw – two talented local actors that I think deserve a lot more attention – in super hero outfits.

We Never Clothed
Company: People with Principles Productions
See local performers Kate Smith and Amy J. Lester naked! And, if you need another reasion, this show promises to be an intelligent look at London’s risqué Windmill Theatre that was famous for allowing nudity onstage.

Is Shakespeare Dead?
Company: Doctor Keir Co.
Fringe favourite Keir Cutler returns to Ottawa for a seventh season, this time determined to prove that William Shakespeare did not write the works of William Shakespeare. Gee thanks, Keir: this is like telling us that Santa Claus doesn’t exist. I mean, think of the children!

The Women Come and Go…
Company: 100 Watt Productions
Seasoned actresses Mary Ellis and Kristina Watt (Rideau Award for Best Performance – Female 2007) star in this new play about some of the greatest female literary characters, inspired by the Women’s Liberation Movement and the poetry of T.S. Eliot.

The Beer Tent
Company: mutatis mutandis
Local thespians David Whiteley and Kel Parsons shamelessly tease anyone who has been involved with the Ottawa Fringe Festival. If you have ever shown your face at the beer tent, then there is a good chance you will get a mention in this show!

Duel
Company: Top Bun Productions
Exploding tomatoes. Need I say more?

For a complete list of shows, check out www.ottawafringe.com or pick up a Fringe program from the Arts Court, 2 Daly Avenue (next to the Rideau Centre)

Courtesy of The Wellington Oracle