The Fringe Festival will be returning to Vancouver yet again, from Sept. 5 to 15, with most of the performances being featured on Granville Island. With 101 shows available, it’s hard to make heads or tails of what to see, but rest assured, organizers say, there’s something for everyone.
The Fringe Festival may be one of the most democratic and inclusive arts festivals in Vancouver. Shows put up by performers and groups are picked from a hat, and the vast majority of proceeds go to the performers. As a result, there’s a wide variety of art available to experience.
While most performances are plays, they can range from one-person shows to music, poetry, and more. There’s also a wide range of people behind these performances, including many writers, actors, directors, and organizers from marginalized communities.
“It is a more accessible place for emerging artists to try putting something up early in their career, or for more established theatre artists to put up a passion project that they maybe want to generate interest in,” says Paneet Singh, who’s directing Guards at the Taj, a play written by Rajiv Joseph. The play focuses on the story of two guards at the Taj Mahal in 1648.
“If someone wants to get really specific with parts of their identity, or if they’re from a marginalized community, the Fringe as an organization has been great in identifying and helping equity, diversity, and inclusion work with underrepresented artists,” Singh adds.
“I wouldn’t say you have to go to the Fringe to find that kind of content, but I feel like one of the things that makes the Fringe Fringe is that there is so much of that content available and so accessibly.”
Former KPU student Beau Bridge’s journey to the Fringe was an unexpected one. Bridge made his way through the criminology program at SFU, and for a time, he worked with the Vancouver Police Department as a social media coordinator and volunteer trainer. He made use of his ability to speak Mandarin in Vancouver’s Chinatown, helping people make victim impact statements and translating for police officers.
“I was into doing random creative stuff. I would write diaries, but sometimes they wouldn’t be my own experiences but told from a random character’s perspective. It was like a bunch of creative random writing,” he says.
Bridge then found himself borrowing books at the Vancouver Public Library and Googling how to put a stage performance together. With some time and work, he was able to start his own theatre company, Midtwenties Theatre Society.
The play he’s directing at the Fringe this year is Two Modern Noh Plays by Yukio Mishima, which are based on two works by the controversial Japanese author. Mishima is a well-known author in Japan, but remains relatively unknown elsewhere.
“These two plays that we’re choosing … are very specifically oriented towards more of [Mishima’s] poetic writing. He had an obsession with age and dying, and the cycle of death and memory, and I think these two plays really speak to that,” says Bridge.
The two stories focus on characters who are in their twenties and uncertain about what awaits them in the future.
“We have our vision, which is theatre for everyone, and then we have our mission, which is cultivating artists and audiences to create an open and vibrant theatre community,” says Laura Efron, Executive Director of the Fringe.
“[Fringe] also provides audience members with the opportunity to see a variety of different kinds of works at an affordable price and see a huge variety of different types of shows and different content.”
Efron views the Fringe as an entry point for anyone who would not see theatre otherwise.
“I hope that Kwantlen students will come check out the Fringe. There are lots of amazing shows to see,” she says. “I’m sure there’s something for everyone.”