Artists are starting to look alarmed. Actors mutter to themselves on the street as directors quietly go mad in the shower. Journalists comb through press kits. Juries are being dispatched. Technicians stockpile coffee and cases of Red Bull. Yes, Canada, the signs are here: another summer at the Canadian Fringe is about to begin.
The Montreal Fringe is the first festival out of the gate and it has a long tradition of being a ten-day, wine-soaked party that separates the wheat from the chaff. The unprepared usually wake up on the last day in a puddle of their own handbills, hungover and unable to recall if they even made it to their last performance on time. But those made of sterner stuff will flounce off to Toronto and Edmonton with an armful of buzz, solid press quotes and maybe even an award.
Then there are my many friends and colleagues who routinely appear to humble me at the start of every summer. My fellow playwright Joanne Sarazen is back with her third show – she’s the pen behind previous hits Jesus Jello and The Birth of Weza. This time around, she’s teamed with the folks at Processed Theatre to produce Nothing Never Happens in Norway, a musical adaptation of Ibsen’s The Master Builder and Rosmersholm. As a musical theatre junkie, I am eager to see if an Ibsen musical can work – it’s taken me years to forget the best-forgotten sequel to A Doll’s House (A Doll’s Life). (cont'd)
Ibsen’s women in “Nothing Never Happens in Norway”
Another fellow playwright, Paul van Dyck, routinely impresses with his ambitious shows, including the one-man adaptation of Paradise Lost and the real-life ghost story Haunted. This time he’s stepped into the future – the distant future with The Harvester, a sci-fi set in a world where the “oceans have shifted and salt deserts now cover the earth”. Humanity’s last survivor (another friend, Eric Davis) struggles to bottle time, only to learn he’s not humanity’s last survivor at all (newcomer Melissa Carter). Paul’s been responsible for some of my favourite moments in the theatre and I doubt he’ll disappoint: he seems to succeed no matter what genre (or era) he’s in. (cont'd)
Eric Davis takes his last breath in “The Harvester”
The award for best sales pitch goes to my friend Tanner Harvey who is shepherding a team of belly-dancers in Ethereal Tribal (see below). If the phrase “team of belly-dancers” doesn’t wet your whistle, consider the fact that the team includes two sets of identical twins and a finalist from So You Think You Can Dance Canada. Their show promises to “fuse the sensuous and feminine energy of cabaret-style bellydance with the powerful postures of flamenco, spice from Balkan and Roma traditions, warmth from Polynesia, and glamour from the silent film and vaudeville eras.” Now that’s what I call an elevator pitch.
Tanner works over at the Freestanding Room with another pal, playwright / director Jeremy Taylor. I’ll be speaking about Jeremy more this summer – he has two shows in the 2012 Summerworks Festival – but for now what’s important is that he’s directing Kissed by a Butterfly, an “intimate story from the diaries” of the hyper-talented Shiong-En Chan. I’m equally excited to see what my friend Robin Henderson (director of last year’s The Only Bar) will do with comedian Rodney Ramsey in his one-man show Act of Rod. And my good pal Stephanie Breton speaks highly of L’enterrement du comte d’orgaz, a new production of a play by Pablo Picasso. (cont'd)
Winner of Best Poster of the Fringe
Of course I have more friends (at least, I think I do) so I’d also encourage Montrealers to check out work by Jane Gilchrest (Out of the Fog), Jonathan Fournier (Miner Inconvenience), Liz Trucahnowitz (Dreaming in Autism), Jessica Abdallah (Rump) and Heidi Hawkins (Let’s Start a Country!). Planning your Fringe schedule based on People Who Know Joel Fishbane is as good a policy as any and at least if you have a lousy time, you can write me a strongly worded letter. Just know that I don’t offer refunds.
My Fringe coverage continues next week with an interview with New Yorker Elizabeth Blue and her show One Week with the Shaman.
The Montreal Fringe Festival runs from June 4 – 24 in and around Montreal. Visit www.montrealfringe.ca.