Let’s just pretend I never stopped doing this and carry on as if nothing has happened, all right? Agreed? Agreed.
Anyhow, apparently tomorrow night there’s a thing called a ‘Fringe Festival’ happening in Ottawa, and my vestigial memories of the before times tell me this is a thing to be celebrated. There have been some changes behind the scenes, and it’s a touch smaller than previous iterations, but hey hey, that’s okay, there’ s fringing to be done and now we get to do it! And while I do have a couple of comments about the nuts and bolts of it all, those can wait til later, because first we must…I repeat, we MUST…get to the manic gushing and fanboying over the upcoming shows and performers soon to be putting the arts in Arts Court. And there’s plenty of both. For example…
HOMETOWN HEROES. As mentioned, here’s some new faces behind the scenes at the Ottawa Fringe (hallo, new head honcho Alain Richer!), but happily, outgoing boss Pat Gauthier hasn’t left all of Ottawa Theatre in the dust. He’s back with the legendary Gruppo Rubato and a cast to please the gods themselves with @the mayor, a brand new political satire that promises to hit way too close to home.
The great man himself Pierre Brault is back! After putting Ottawa Fringe on the map way back when with BLOOD ON THE MOON (fun fact: now available for online viewing at the indispensible Live Online Live), he’s back and, along with Jamine Ackert, is upping the stakes on your average Fringe production by getting married. On stage. Every performance. And while I’m not sure if this means we have to bring presents to READY OR KNOT, but I for one am hoping there’s cake. And speaking of wedding-related themes…
Get it? The Proposal AND the Ring? Well, Plan B Productions gets it, with hardhitting local talent like Laurie Fyffe, William Beddoe and more tackling a Chekhov-inspired double bill to die for.
All this plus tireless local Fringe mainstays like Rachelle Elie and Tuba Czar Productions, and Ottawa is well represented at this year’s fest. But of course, there’s more than just Ottawa (hard to remember sometimes, am I right, civil servants?)
LEGENDS RETURN. It’s been 3 years since the last in-person Ottawa Fringe, and even longer since Martin Dockery has graced our stages, so this is a treat too long in the coming. Martin never fails to pack houses and then entertain the merry heck out of’em…and I can officially vouch for FORBIDDEN CITY, having been lucky enough to catch it in Winnipeg a few years back.
Two titans of spoken word are also returning, the great Rob Gee and Jem Rolls, each a must-see every time. Gee’s FORGET ME NOT and Jem Rolls’ TED HALL (by my count, his perhaps record-setting 13th show at Ottawa Fringe) are absolute can’t miss pieces, from two masters of their wordly craft.
And the big names just keep dropping! Melanie Gall continues her musical assault on Fringe with the Noel Coward revue A TALENT TO AMUSE, and workhorse Jon Paterson brings his first ever solo show HOW I MET MY MOTHER, along with great expectations. Add in more Fringe heroes like magician Keith Brown, gumshoe Dirk Darrow, CIVILIZED teaming John Huston and Keir Cutler…the name dropping just goes on and on! And so does this blogpost, apparently…
FRIENDS OLD AND NEW. Some of the best parts of any fringe festival? Seeing old pals, and making new ones! So happily there are plenty of opportunities for both at this years event. For instance, I’m delighted to see Tamlynn Bryson back with BEDWETTER, a highly anticipated new piece from a rising theatrical talent. And I’m also over the moon to see my one-time improv pal Dianne Skoll with her solo fringe debut in A FUNNY THING HAPPENED ON THE WAY TO BECOMING A WOMAN. The cool kids from Dangerous Dames Theatre are back with ARTHUR BAMPOT AND THE CASE OF THE KEPT MAN. And while it showed in last years virtual-only festival, I’m stoked to have the chance to see Keith Alessi’s TOMATOES TRIED TO KILL ME BUT BANJOS SAVED MY LIFE in the ever-loving flesh this time around.
As for the brand new, there’s plenty to look forward to. I’m unreasonably excited about Velvet Wells’ (Re)TIRED MAGICAL BLACK MAN, Illumabilities’ SPEECH FROM THE THRONE, John Michael’s MEATBALL SEANCE, Ingrid Garner’s ELEANORS STORY…Look, if you remember me at all (I wouldn’t) you’ll know I could keep at this until I’d listed literally every show. So let me just sum up by saying, see literally every show. And in conclusion…
Okay, so this isn’t a ‘normal’ year, right? I’d say we’re just recovering from a global pandemic, but that would be obscuring the fact that we’re still smack dab in the middle of a global pandemic…and that tends to affect things like Fringe-Comas. How many shows WILL I see? Hard to say. I’d love to binge like crazy, but I got an anxiety attack at the goddamn Great Glebe Garage Sale, and that’s outside, so who knows? I AM very thankful that the Fringe gang have made masks and vaccination mandatory, a most welcome move. I do wish the venues were a little more spread out as in years past…I see the lure of having everything centralized in one place, but if ever there was a year I did NOT want Fringe to feel more claustrophobic than usual, it’s this one.
And for the love of God, put Preview Night online. Just do it.
But I quibble. Am I happy Fringe is back, and in person? Yes, yes I am. Will I see shows, and hang out n the courtyard, and make merry with friends old and new? I sure will try (mingling is not my strong suit, but I usually linger long enough that people take pity on me…it’s a working strategy). And I do have a few years worth of hugs saved up for familiar faces gone too long from my life. There may be tears. So good luck at Preview Night tonight (seriously, stream that bizness), flyer safely, sell them seats, and I’ll see you at the beer tent. Peace, love and soul,
PS I’m a little rusty at this, so if any Fringe artists have some photographer credits they’d love for me to add to pix, or pix that I should remove, feel free to shout me down at firstname.lastname@example.org