It happens every year at the Ottawa Fringe Festival, for many reasons some shows fall below the radar and are not as talked about as much as others early on. Usually by this point (with 3 days left to go), word has gotten out that these productions are very much worth seeing.
Here are a few of these below the radar shows:
White Noise: Created by Margaret Evraire and Christina Bryson, tells the story of Nadia Kajouji, a Carleton University student who committed suicide in 2008. The play is largely a movement piece and recounts the last days of Nadia’s life. Originally I was going to give this production a pass. Plays based on relatively recent true life events can be very challenging to handle with appropriate sensitivity. The buzz in the beer tent, however, was positive so I decided to go. I’m glad I did. After the performance ended, the audience (myself included) was very slow to get up and leave the theatre; obviously very moved by the play. I was also very impressed by the sophisticated staging and sound design. Make sure you see this one!
White Noise (photo courtesy of the Ottawa Fringe Festival)
Gametes and Gonads: This one man show created, by Jeff Laird, is a high energy whirlwind of a show in which he takes on a multitude of characters (seriously there are like a couple million sperm alone!). Laird skillfully handles all these roles and the show never loses its coherence. Gametes and Gonads is billed as Star Wars meets your genitals. It’s clever and fun. The last show is at 11:00 p.m on Saturday (June 23). Go see it!
Trashman’s Dilemma: Set in a dystopian future this play by (Bruce Gooch) delves into complicated themes revolving around language. Can agency/freedom exist without the words to express it? As an interesting twist the three member cast rotate the roles for each performance. The last chance to catch this show is 3:00 p.m. on Saturday (June 23)!
There are only three days left in the festival! If you haven’t done so already, buy a fringe pin ($3) and check out a play(s) for ($10/ticket).
The 2012 Fringe festival is well under way. This is definitely my favourite festival of the year. It’s a chance to see some great theatre, dance, and story telling at a bargain price. It’s also an opportunity to meet new friends, catch up with old ones, and drink plenty of beer outside under the open sky! What could be better?
This year, I intend to see approximately 30 shows and I will tell you about my adventures over a series of three articles featuring brief postcard reviews.
At Fringe, I spend a lot of time in the beer tent and this year is no exception. As a reviewer, I get asked this question a lot: “What are your top picks for the festival so far?”
While I haven’t seen everything yet (I’ve attended 11 shows so far), here are two must see shows:
- Little Orange Man- This is a brilliantly whimsical one woman show, created by Ingrid Hansen and Kathleen Greenfield. It’s about Kitt, a high energy 12 year old girl who likes to recount folk tales told by her Danish grandfather. Kitt uses puppets in variety of different forms, some of them are even made out of her lunch, to tell her stories. It’s a really special show. Go see it! I recommend getting there early and sitting as close to the front as you can since the sight lines in her venue, St. Paul’s Eastern United Church, aren’t the best.
Ingrid Hansen in Little Orange Man (photo courtesy of SNAFU dance)
- Heterollectual: Love and Other Dumb Ideas-- This is a contemporary dance piece by an emerging Toronto dance company (Pollux Dance). Artistic Director Leslie Glen describes her show this way “It makes fun of love; it exposes sadness; it impersonates the irrational ways in which human beings behave.” It’s a special treat to be be able to see such a talented group of dancers for $10. I was impressed by this company’s athletic ability, grace, and skill.
Photo courtesy of Pollux Dance
Another show I really enjoyed, but that won’t have as broad appeal as the two shows mentioned previously, Is Garkin productions’ Lonely Bear. Written by Ray Besharah, this one is dark, quirky, with a sense of humour. Smart, sharp, eccentric writing. Very much worth seeing.
So there are three shows to get you started. Check out ottawafringe.com to read about the rest of the shows featured in this year’s festival.
Here is a little teaser for the much anticipated Prisoner’s Dilemma at the 2010 Ottawa Fringe Festival. What do you think?
Those of you following my blog will be interested to know that I finally saw MiCasa Theatre’s Countries Shaped Like Stars. This was a raincheck performance for a show that was cancelled due to illness back in November. The show was sold out (when does this show not sell out?) but Charlie and Bridget were kind enough to squeeze me in. I’m very grateful they did. Seeing theatre in a home was a novel experience for me. What a great idea! I’m a firm believer in taking theatre to audiences. Performing in a living room seems the most direct application of this concept.
The audience itself was an interesting eclectic mix of people (neighbors, friends, musicians, theatre types and one lone blogger.) All told, there were approximately 40 people in attendance. Charlie and Bridget are warm friendly people and wonderful hosts. I’m not surprised they had such a large turn out. In fact, this was not the first time that they have hosted artists in their home. I was intrigued to learn about a network of folk musicians who tour across the country putting on concerts in peoples living rooms. The artists make money off of donations and by selling other products.
So what did this reviewer think of Countries Shaped Like Stars? I think any show that receives this kind of enthusiastic response from audiences is pretty special. Yep, I liked it too. I’m especially thrilled that this was an original work (based on text by Emily Pearlman) produced by an independent theatre company on a shoe string budget. This is clearly a theatre success story. Ottawa theatre-goers and theatre practitioners are wise to celebrate it.
It’s worth noting that MiCasa Theatre now has CDs available for purchase of the music performed in the show. Order a copy if you’re curious to see what all the fuss is about. For those of you in New Mexico, the show is coming your way contact MiCasa for the details. I recommend buying tickets early. This one sells out fast.
As many of you know, I began reviewing theatre at the Ottawa Fringe Festival back in June. Before I took on this assignment, I decided to check out other reviews from other Fringe festivals to see how others went about the job of reviewing. I quickly noticed that most reviewers had adopted the star system. The system was straight forward. Each show would earn between one and five stars based on how much the reviewer enjoyed the show. One star would be given to the worst of the lot and 5 to the best.
I decided not to adopt this system and instead chose to just use words to convey what I thought was or was not successful about a given production. Theatre is a very subjective experience. A show I loved others might not enjoy as much and a show that I found boring might have mass appeal. This is why I always encourage others to see a show and decide for themselves how “good” it is.
A star rating system would only be useful for those readers who either have similar theatrical tastes as me or the exact opposite aesthetic sensibility. I suspect both these instances are pretty rare. Maybe I’m wrong and excellent theatre is more universal than I am letting on here. Any thoughts?
For these reasons, I would feel very guilty if a theatergoer missed out on a show that they would have loved because I did not give it 5 stars. Yet, this is the kind of thinking that the star system encourages. People want to see “the best” without recognizing how artificial this is. (Then again it seems to work for wine.)
I do understand why this system is popular. I saw 14 shows at the Fringe and yet this was still only a sampling of what the festival has to offer. Most theatergoers don’t have the time to watch even that many and so they are understandably looking for short cuts.
I feel that talking about the various elements of a production gives a reader a sense of what a show is about so they can make these judgments on their own. This decision process, on the part of the reader, is more useful than simply seeing a show based on a high rating.