Tag Archives: Ottawa Fringe Festival

Postcards from the 2012 Fringe Part 2

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).

2012 Postcards From the Fringe Part 1

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:

  1. Little Orange ManThis 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)

  1. 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.

Postcards From the Fringe Part 3

The Ottawa Fringe Festival closes this Sunday so if you haven’t yet gone out to see a show, it is your last chance to do so. What should you see during Fringe’s last weekend? You could start with the winners of the Best in Fest award. These are the shows, which got the highest attendance during the first week of Fringe. This award means that these shows will get a bonus show at 9:30 p.m. on Sunday. Best in Fest is usually a safe bet. From this list, I particularly enjoyed Rob Gee’s Fruitcake: Ten Commandments From the Psyche Ward. It’s a show that will not only make you laugh but also make you think. The writing is sharp and intelligent and Gee’s performance is solid. Go early to get a ticket for this one as it has been selling out on a regular basis.

At Fringe, there are always shows that for one reason or another slip below the radar. These shows tend to get low attendance early on, but by the end of the festival everyone is talking about them. Dying Hard by Mikaela Dyke is a show like this. The last performance is tonight (June 25) at SAW Gallery at 9:30 p.m. Dyke is unquestionably the finest actor I’ve seen this year, but more importantly she is telling a story that needs to be told.  If you miss this one you will regret it. Powerful, moving, and brilliantly acted.

I’ve been hearing about shows at the beer tent and I thought I would pass this along to you. Keep in mind, that I haven’t seen these shows, but whenever four people say a show is good then I’m always eager to check it out. Here’s the buzz from the tent:

Ken Wilson’s The Interview  is a new work with an award winning script that is getting lot’s of attention. An old man with a possibly failing memory is interviewed by the police. The venue is the Janigan studio (found within the Ottawa Little Theatre building).

I’ve also heard good things about May Can Theatre’s Sounds From Turtle Shell. It’s described as a comedy with a hint of charm about a rejected musical. I’m going to check this one out.

Jimmy Hogg’s one man comedy show Curriculum Vitae is getting great reviews. It’s on my list to see too.

The Fringe Festival will be over all too soon. Make sure you catch a show before it leaves town. At $10 a ticket (with a $2 Fringe pin) you can’t beat the price for quality entertainment. If you feel like talking theatre, look for me in the beer tent. I’m always interested to hear what other people think about the shows at the festival.

Postcards From The Fringe 2011 Part 1

Have you ever taken a trip where you were so busy meeting new people, taking in the attractions, and of course enjoying a drink or two, that you barely had time to take it all in? Let alone write about. This is how I feel about writing about the Ottawa Fringe Festival. There are so many shows to see and fun to be had in the beer tent that I always find it difficult to get away to write about it. So like a busy traveller, stopping only to send a quick postcard home between adventures, I have decided to write short mini reviews of several shows this year, rather than full length reviews. Hopefully, it will inspire you to come out and see some theatre and give you a taste for what this festival has to offer.

Thursday: was the launch of the festival and it was great to see many people who I hadn’t run into a very long time (many since the previous Fringe). I only saw a couple of shows, but the one I can fully recommend is When Harry Met Harry . Allan Girod stars in this one man show by Flaming Locomotive Productions about Harry, a man who prides himself on his attention to minute details and lives for the routine of office work, who is suddenly forced to confront his greatest fear– a team building workshop!  Girod’s movements are delightful to watch as he shapes his very tall frame into Rodney and Harry two very physically distinct characters. The story is simple, with a fair bit of audience participation, but anyone who has ever worked in an office, or, dare I say it, the Civil Service will be able to identify with the action on stage. I know the team building exercise felt very familiar to me. This one is simple, hilarious, and kind of endearing. A must see!

Friday: I saw two shows that I really liked. The first was Playing Dead a show about a zombie apocalypse by Dead Unicorn Ink. While some of the performances and production elements were a little rough around the edges, the script is excellent and the zombie puppets are amazing. Who doesn’t enjoy watching puppets being dismembered on stage? In the end, I was totally onside with this show and had a great time. There is also a great cameo appearance by well known local actor Jody Haucke. Playing Dead is a little unpolished, but a whole lot of fun. In other words, perfect for Fringe. I recommend it.

Zombie puppets from Playing Dead. Photo courtesy of Andrew Alexander

In the evening, I checked out Every Story Ever Told where Ryan Gladstone attempts to tell every story ever told in one hour. This one has a manic pace and Gladstone puts in a well executed performance. I loved it. You might want to buy tickets in advance for this one. I have a feeling it will sell out.

That’s it for my first two postcards. Stay tuned for my next installment and, in the meantime, come down to the Arts Court courtyard and join me for some cold beer and great theatre.

Prisoner’s Dilemma: the teaser trailer

Here is a little teaser for the much anticipated Prisoner’s Dilemma at the 2010 Ottawa Fringe Festival. What do you think?

Home Theatre

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.

Seeing Stars

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.