Hey, Edmonton, take a walk on the wild side.This year’s Edmonton Fringe Theatre Festival — lovingly themed as “Where the Wild Things Fringe” — promises to thrill Edmontonians with a record-breaking 258 shows playing at 50 venues from Aug. 15–25.Tickets to the festival went on sale at noon Wednesday, and eager showgoers were waiting outside the Westbury Theatre to be among the first to buy tickets to this year’s slate of shows.First in line were Darcy and Cassie House, newlyweds who tied the knot on Sunday. Darcy House showed up at 6 a.m. to secure his spot at the front of the queue, while Cassie House joined with the couple’s six-month-old child Jackson four hours later.As the couple joked that this year’s fest was both their “Fringe honeymoon” and “baby’s first Fringe,” it was clear there was nowhere else they would rather be.“We’re going to see everything,” Cassie House laughed.Cassie House has been a Fringe regular since 2003, as an artist in all but three years, while Darcy House has attended off-and-on since 2005, often as a volunteer. Darcy House joked that they plan on calling on an extensive network of babysitters so they can make the most of the 11-day festival.“It’s so much more relaxed to not be performing. I can just walk around and do my own thing whenever I feel like it,” Cassie House said. “I don’t have to be anywhere at a specific time if I don’t want to be.”Demand for early tickets translated online, as well, where heavy traffic briefly took down the Fringe festival’s ticket website shortly after noon.
Cassie House with Darcy House and their son Jackson, 6 months. The 38th annual Edmonton Fringe Festival launches its 2019 line up with a collection of colourful characters and imaginative performances on August 7, 2019. Photo by Shaughn Butts / Postmedia
Shaughn Butts /
Earlier Wednesday morning, Fringe held a preview event at its Old Strathcona headquarters featuring one-minute performance excerpts from 30 of the festival’s shows, giving a sense of what the hoards of attendees can expect.Among these shows was Artisanal Intelligence, a drama-comedy about a humanoid robot built for customer service excellence, played by Drew Carlson.The show travelled from Vancouver on a cross-country fringe festival tour, hitting Prince Edward Island and Regina along with Edmonton. Though their first of six shows during the festival won’t take place until Aug. 17, the pair are in town early to enjoy the city and promote their show. Plus, it gives them a chance to find and insert regionalisms into the show’s script.“Each city we go to, we change the brewery and coffee-shop names to shout out local places,” said Hannah Everett, who plays the robot’s human creator.Even shows that weren’t performing had booths setup at the preview, where they pitched their productions to passersby. One was Hack, a homegrown horror show in the works since October 2018 about two misogynistic playwrights trying to write a female character without getting themselves in hot water.“We’re really examining the 50 shades of toxic masculinity within society, so it has a social commentary as well,” said Eric Smith, who produced and is acting in the show.Co-ordinating 30 productions to give short, back-to-back performances is a logistical nightmare, to say nothing of the challenge of scheduling over 250 shows across 11 days. At the helm of these efforts is Fringe director Murray Utas, who says the record number of performances is “quite incredible.” He credits the jump of about 30 more shows than last year to not just having more venues but also having existing venues become more willing to take on more performances.“What’s intriguing to me is that we’ve had more than 50 venues in the past,” Utas said. “Venues pop up and disappear. Some of them become one-offs, or businesses are sold in the Old Strathcona area that are no longer used.”While most of the festivities are centred in Old Strathcona, venues also dot the map downtown and in Bonnie Doon.Advance Fringe tickets can be purchased online at fringetheatre.ca, over-the-phone at 780-409-1910 or in-person at the ATB Financial Arts Barns (10330 84 Ave.) or TIX on the Square in Churchill Square. During the festival, there will also be pop-up ticket offices around Old Strathcona, and some venues will offer door tickets.Most shows cost $16, a price that includes a $3 service fee that goes towards the festival. The remainder of the ticket cost goes directly to the artists behind the firstname.lastname@example.org/jasonfherring