Well THAT was a hell of a thing.
The 2013 Ottawa Fringe Festival has wrapped up (tho the tent is still open for Canada Day shenanigans as I write this) and it was a life-changing experience for me. Happily, this is not hyperbole at all, at all. Yes, it was a great Fringe with tons of great shows which I’ll carry with me for a long, long time. I met lots of old friends and made a few new ones, did way less reviewing than in previous years (but there’s a reason!), danced, rapped, drank and made merry. And none of that is even the most exciting part, for me.
Nope, the big news for me this fringe was THE TRAGICALL HISTORIE OF NICK WADE (AND OTHER FUCK-UPS), the punk rock dramedy put on by Backpack and May Can Theatre companies, with Jonah Allingham, Nick Fournier, Tony Adams, Cory Thibert and, for reasons unknowable, me in my stage debut. After a crash rehearsal schedule, administered by our glorious and magical director Mado Manseau and with the incredible work of soundguy Lewis Caunter, we made our opening night on Thursday June 20th at TAN Coffee to an appreciative crowd of about 35 people. We had seven performances over the course of the Fringe, got some nice houses, great responses from audience members, lots of buzz, good reviews, and a raucous, sold-out closing show. And just when I’d thought the high couldn’t get any higher, we had the completely unexpected surprise of winning the FUTURE OF THE FRINGE award at the closing night ceremonies!
I’m so fucking proud of my little band of theatre rockers, and so grateful to them for bringing me on board for this mad adventure. I learned so very much, especially about myself, and…is this okay to say? I’m proud of myself, too. Because as much as I love theatre, and wanted to get on stage, I’ve still got a lot of years of depressed isolation gnawing at the back of my skull most days, and making the leap to throw myself into the open like this wasn’t easy. But I had the best of friends helping me along the way, and without this experience I never would have taken another leap, namely auditioning for the Ottawa Theatre School, where I’ll be starting full time in the fall. So yes, no exaggeration when I say this show has changed the course of my life. I’m in a bit of an emotional post-show state right now…I just wept uncontrollably watching PIRATE RADIO, for fuck’s sake. Fringe, I miss you terribly right now, so I’m going to indulge in some sweet denial with the writing of this wrapup post, ‘kay?
– THE SHOWS I MISSED: What with being IN a show this year, I couldn’t make it out to my usual number of shows, although I still managed a respectable 34. But there’s a few I couldn’t get to that I do really feel bad about, like Glassiano’s DISILLUSION. And TINFOIL SATELLITE with good guy Dave Rowan…any chance of this becoming a regular event, guys? It sounds like plenty of fun. After hearing all the buzz, I was certainly bummed to miss Chase Padgett’s 6 GUITARS (sold out the one time I tried to make it). And CHESTERFIELD marks my first miss of a Dead unicorn show, although I hear the remount is already in the works, yay! And of course, the big miss for most of us this Fringe was BE A MAN, cancelled after only one show when actor Anthony Hall was hit by a car. Several fundraisers followed, and here’s hoping Anthony and the gang will return once he’s back on his feet!
– FAV’RIT SOLO PERFORMERS: Lots of great one-man and woman-ers this year, which is just how I like it. The great Jeff Leard was back and did not disappoint with THE SHOW MUST GO ON, and the same goes for Kurt Fitzpatrick and his high-octane CATHEDRAL CITY. Cameryn Moore, a last-minute addition to the fest, brought her A-game with SLUT (R)EVOLUTION, and Martin Dockery kept up his winning streak from last year’s festival with THE BIKE TRIP.
Some incredible new performers came into my life this year too, like the ridiculously endearing Bruce Horak with ASSASSINATING THOMSON, or the loveable clown Chris Kauffman and NHAR MOVES. Of course, all the love to my #1 fan Jen Capogreco for knocking it out in NEVER FALL IN LOVE WITH A WRITER, and huge kudos to OTS alum Caitlin Corbett for her one-woman creeper MORNING STAR. Lovely Christine Lesiak in ASK AGGIE made short work of many a Fringe fans troubles, and KEEPER’s Emma Zabloski has definitely won a special place in my heart. Hugely underrated Zeb West had a terrific show with INNOCENT WHEN YOU DREAM, Rachel Krehm blew the roof off Arts Court in LA VOIX HUMAINE, and what to say about Eric Davis in RED BASTARD or Victoria Grove in SAPPHO…IN 9 FRAGMENTS but…wow.
– FAV’RIT ENSEMBLES: A few awesome larger cast shows this Fringe that I caught, starting with a shoutout to the Saskatoon crew at Theatre Howl for the solid FRENZY OF QUEEN MAEVE. Plus some local heroes belting out the tunes in the moody musical VANITY PROJECT, and a great show from the Third Wall Academy kids in PRINCE OF DENMARK. Certainly hard to argue with the mighty cast (undead or otherwise) of the smash hit DIE ZOMBIE DIE, and I’d be remiss if I didn’t send some love to the stellar cast of AROUND MISS JULIE from Hopegrown and Tony and Cory and Ray from May Can’s HAPPINESStm, who all rocked.
Downshifting to duos, much adoration has already been rightly thrown at Emily Pearlman and Brad Long for WE GLOW and you can add mine to the pile. And Martin Dockery teamed up with partner Vanessa Quesnelle for the wonderfully silly and surreal THE PIT, and Saskatoon struck again with the folk fairytale (almost) of MATCHSTICK starring Nathan Howe and Lauren Holfeuer. And could anything match the intimate power punch of Nancy Kenny and Martine Roquebrune in DOLORES? Not in my books.
– FAV’RIT SHOWS: So much good stuff! Trying to narrow down a final few tope faves is always a rough chore, but I’ll give it a go. Here’s an overlong list of Honourable mentions, runners up, and all around great shows…
SLUT (R)EVOLUTION by Cameryn Moore. Cammy pulled out some whole new tricks from her last show, PHONE WHORE, and showed Ottawa just what calibre a performer she really is with this one, her rude and lewd autobiographical tale that just happens to be amazing theatre.
DIE ZOMBIE DIE by Richard Hemphill and Punchbag Playhouse. A raucous zombie riot, with terrific comedic performances from Ray Besharah, Allison Harris and Dave Benedict Brown, not to mention a living set of the living dead and enough jokes to please ANY comedy fan.
THE DAY WE GREW WINGS by Victoria Luloff and Stewart Matthews. A beautiful and underrated show featuring great storytelling and imagery, truly impressive sound design, and terrific performances. Hope to see it return some day!
MATCHSTICK by Theatre Howl. Nathan and Lauren’s folk-duet epic was a smoothly crafted machine, and yes, I bought the CD. A show that would be most welcome back in Ottawa, should any wise ones from the Gladstone or GCTC have been watching.
THE BIKE TRIP by Martin Dockery. More full-throttle storytelling from the creator of WANDERLUST, and you’ll still wonder how his voice doesn’t give out. Hilarious, touching and exciting one-man theatre.
HAPPINESStm from May Can Theatre. The boys just keep on keeping on, and even though Cory and Tony were both doing double duty this Fringe (appearing in my own NICK WADE), they still rocked it out with this dark comedy about corporate sales, and what really makes us happy.
ASSASSINATING THOMSON by Bruce Horak and Monster Theatre. Wonderfully simple concept matched with storytelling that’s impossible not to enjoy, as legally blind Horak paints the entire audience while telling both his story, and the conspiratorial legends surrounding artist Tom Thomson’s death.
BOTCHED from Cleen Theatre. What might have worried some folks as ‘the abortion play’ turned into one of the most special experiences around, telling the tale of an 18 year old girl who lived through an abortion attempt, with scars outside and in to show for it. An amazing performance from lead Alex Vincent.
RED BASTARD from Bastard Productions. Divisive, explosive, and unforgettable…Eric Davis was utterly incredible as the Bastard in question, and some may have hated his methods, but for some he’ll change your life. Can you ask for more from theatre?
– TOP FIVE:
KEEPER from Emma Zabloski and Zopyra Theatre. Oddball, charming and heartfelt one-woman theatre, there was really no way this wasn’t going on my list. Heard miss Emma was feeling under the weather this Fringe, so here’s hoping she’s all better now…her show certainly did ME good.
NHAR MOVES by Chris (not Charlie…whoops) Kauffman. A solo clown show with a dancing fish, slide projector, karaoke, and utter childlike wonder. Just about a pitch-perfect Fringe show.
SAPPHO…IN 9 FRAGMENTS by Jane Montgomery Griffiths. All the way from London, Victoria Grove’s performance in this haunting production, all while entwined in, around or above the stunningly unique setpiece by Ana Ines JP (which won the Fringe award for best design) is absolutely stunning.
WE GLOW by Emily Pearlman and Brad Long with Theatre 4.669. A skewering of corporate culture and inter-office power struggles, that sneakily turns out to be the best love story of the Fringe. Listen to the crabs, folks.
DOLORES by Edward Allan Baker, translation by Nancy Kenny. A rare French Fringe show, and in a venue so small it could only accommodate 16 people at a time. But for those who went, they were rewarded immensely by a stark and intimate theatre experience like you wouldn’t find at any other venue. Winner of best drama at this year’s Fringe, and it was seriously well deserved. Nancy Kenny and Martine Roquebrune, with director Tania Levy, made some magic happen in that church basement. Here’s hoping it will be seen again one day.
– FRINGE CRUSHES!
– FAV’RIT MOMENTS: Fright rap, Boo! The Joy of the Fringe. Monika Glass and the glass harmonica. The whistle song. Sukdip! The voices of the damned. The Fire at the dog factory. Rebecca kicking ass in THE FIGHT. Nemesis in high heels. Pierogies with the Keeper. Tacos in the courtyard. Dancing with Nadine one last time. How did he do that fishbowl trick? I would also like un gateau. Bruce’s painting. The crabs of Christmas Island. Clothespins at Burning Man. Aggie’s box. Sappho on the ropes. Victoria fighting dragons. The Litany of Destruction, seven times over. And Future of the Fringe…oh, hell yes.
That is IT for me for this year’s Fringe…had a lovely 10 hour nap yesterday, and can now maybe start getting excited about starting Ottawa Theatre School in the fall! Extra special thank you from the bottom of my heart to NATALIE JOY QUESNEL for some great guest-reviews on the blog this year, it was my honour. See you all next year…or later this week, as my man Jonah Allingham premieres his SUMMER OF ’34: redux at the Gladstone on the 4th, then for 3 days at Happy Goat Coffee! Plus the park shows from Company of Fools and Bear and Co. are kicking into gear this week…back to work! Peace, love and soul, Fringers,
Kevin Earl, Talkin’ Rockin Kevin Reid, the Visitor (and Winston)