New Ventures and Old Traditions In This Year’s Montreal Fringe Festival
The 28th Edition Kicks Off May 28
The St-Ambroise Montreal Fringe Festival is kicking off its 28th edition as the tickets for over 100 shows in this year’s programming went on sale Tuesday evening.
The indie theatre festival starts May 28 and runs until June 17 with three show programs. Fringe A-Z is their main programming, with numerous shows running all over the city. Then there is a lineup of live music and drag performances at the annual Fringe Park on St. Laurent Blvd at Rachel St. Fringe After Dark rounds out the festival with late-night, playful programming featuring parties, a drunk live reading and pinball karaoke.
This year’s program also includes a one-time screening of On The Fringe, a 2014 documentary following a dozen Fringe artists on the Canadian tour. They began in London, Ont., and headed west.
“I think it’s easy to forget that Fringe happens outside of the city, and [the documentary] is a really nice capsule on how people Fringe differently in different cities, too,” said Amy Blackmore, the festival’s artistic director at a program launch event on Tuesday. “Fringes are always a reflection of the city that they’re in, which is why ours is bilingual, and which is why ours is multidisciplinary,” she continued.
“Most Fringes are very theatre focused with a little sprinkle of dance and different things like that, but there are just so many artists in this city,” said Blackmore about Montreal Fringe’s multidisciplinary history. “There’s a real happening theatre scene, the burlesque scene is growing and growing and the music scene in montreal, it’s like the best city in the country for music.”
This year’s spokesperson for Montreal Fringe, Véronick Raymond, highlighted Fringe’s bilinguality as a an asset over the years.
“We have very little places where francophone artists and anglophone artists meet. We live in parallel worlds and there are no reasons for this to happen,” she said. “Here, francophones and anglophones meet.”
Raymond has been involved with Fringe extensively as a director, producer or actor for 12 shows in 12 years, and looks forward to participating in this year’s festival in a new role: “I’m very happy to be the spokesperson for the 28th edition.”
Another new event taking place at this year’s festival is the recording of the very first episode of a new Fringe podcast, FringeBuzz, by the Canadian Association of Fringe Festivals. Producers from across the country will be working on the podcast, which will be recorded June 16 at Fringe Park.
Blackmore said that audience members can expect the shows in this year’s program to take on feminist issues.
“Every year there’s a trend. Because fringe work is so often a combination of work that’s polished and work that’s raw and new work that’s coming out, we find that every year a lot of the programming is topical,” she explained.
The 27th edition, which followed the 2016 US elections, consisted of many politically-motivated shows. In this summer’s post-#metoo climate, many shows at the Fringe festival are taking on the topics of sexual violence and body autonomy.
“For us, of course it’s an artistic festival, but it’s also a festival of values,” said Blackmore. “We do gather under the values of diversity, accessibility and artistic freedom.”
Blackmore said that despite the totally random nature of the selection process for the festival—with the shows being picked out of a hat—she feels the Fringe program always features intriguing performances, and this year is no different.
“Every year I have this moment where I’m like, ‘Is it going to be a flop? Is there going to be no shows that are interesting?’ It never happens. All the shows happen for different reasons and if you just give yourself over to it, you find that little gem that blows your mind,” she said. “There’s no way of controlling it, and that’s the beauty of it.”
For more information on the Fringe Festival, check out their website at montrealfringe.ca