When the Edmonton International Fringe Theatre Festival (originally called A Fringe Theatre Event) first launched in 1982, it was the first of its kind in North America. Now in its 36th year, it has grown to be the continent’s biggest fringe festival. The annual event welcomes more than 1,300 local, national and international theatre performers and technicians who put on more than 200 productions (and nearly 1,700 individual performances) for tens of thousands of spectators at dozens of venues around the city.
This year’s festival takes place from August 17 to 27 (tickets go on sale August 9 at noon). Here’s what’s new in 2017.
The festival theme is inspired by a Shakespearean play
The festival has a different theme each year, such as “Fringe and Confused” and “Supercalifringeilistic!” This year, organizers asked the public to weigh in and they chose “A Midsummer Night’s Fringe,” a twist on Shakespeare’s famous comedy, A Midsummer Night’s Dream. The festival will pay homage to magic, one of the play’s main themes. Expect mystifying performances by magicians and illusionists, children’s activities such as a fairy garden and magical activity centre, and “Fringe fairies” at the festival grounds.
There will be more shows than ever before
Edmonton’s Fringe Festival is already the largest in North America, and it’s getting even bigger this year. Up from 213 productions in 2016, this summer’s 11-day festival will have 220 theatre productions to choose from—that’s the most the festival has ever had. The productions range in genre from musicals to comedies to children’s shows.
It’s easier to plan out which shows to see
With so many theatre productions to choose from, it can be difficult to decide which ones to see, but the Fringe website has a new feature that can help you choose. Appropriately named The Random Show Generator, this online tool randomly suggests a show for you. You don’t have to take the suggestion, but it’s a great way to learn about the offerings.
There are new eateries to check out near the festival
While there are plenty of pop-up food vendors on the main festival grounds, the surrounding Strathcona neighbourhood is also home to some of Edmonton’s best local restaurants, bars and cafés. Recently, some new spots have opened within walking distance of Fringe. Calgary’s Re:Grub, known for its crazy milkshakes and inventive burgers, opened a second location across the street from The Next Act pub (a long-time favourite during Fringe). Just a few minutes away, newly opened Korean dessert café Snowy Dessert specializes in bingsu: a bowl of shaved ice with your choice of toppings such as mango, cheesecake or red beans.