May 26, 2017
by Murray Utas, Fringe Theatre Artistic Director
Fringing since 1994
I pinch myself daily, grateful that I am in the role I am, with an event and city I truly love. It is hard to explain to people not from here what happens when this place blossoms into summer; and we all head outdoors to chase festivals and long weekends from June to September.
The Edmonton International Fringe™ Theatre Festival is, of course, one of the stops along that journey. It amazes me in so many ways how the community rallies around us. I feel we are so engrained into the fabric of our culture here in Edmonton. Understanding this our team works hard to make sure that everyone can feel included, welcomed, and a part of the fun.
One way we decided to do that was to take the long-standing tradition of theming our Festival and include our community in the process. We put out an open call for submissions and were astounded by the number of creative ideas we received.
The final theme we chose went through a lot of vetting. We went through a few stages to narrow it down to 100 possible themes. Then, we invited volunteers, artists, sponsors, partners, and Fringe Fan Club members to vote for their favourite three. From those votes we narrowed the choices to the top 5 themes. For the last step, we asked the Fringe staff to vote – and the theme with the most votes won.
For the full effect of this announcement, please use your two index fingers and, using a hard surface nearby, provide a drum roll…
The 2017 Fringe Festival theme, receiving the majority of votes cast in each step of the process (by a considerably large margin, I might add) is…
What struck me first about this theme was the idea of summer. The colours. The long days. The endless sky. Ironically, I was drawn to the idea of summer before I’d even connected the dots that the theme was a spin off the Shakespearean play, A Midsummer Night’s Dream. That probably sounds strange coming from someone who has spent their entire adult life working in theatre.
But it’s true. When I read this theme submission I was struck by the power of summer and how magical it can be. It made a quick and resounding impact. I mean, just think of how we define magic:
1. the power of apparently influencing the course of events by using mysterious or supernatural forces. Example: “Do you believe in magic?”
1. used in magic or working by magic; having or apparently having supernatural powers. Example: “a magic wand” or “a magic spell”
2. informal wonderful; exciting. Example: “what a magic moment”
1. move, change, or create by or as if by magic. Example: “The table magically floated mid air.”
Magic is used to express so many different types of things that occur in life. In theatre we talk about theatre magic as the idea of a willing the suspension of disbelief — which is a foundational premise we ask our audiences to embrace. But magic extends so much further: a sunset or sunrise, the universe, love, unicorns, a child’s smile, music, Ronnie Burkett’s marionettes, and naturally — the Fringe Festival.
I describe the Festival as a phenomenon and/or a movement. What makes the Festival feel so magical is the energy that surrounds it. The joy, laughter, art, community, and the summer sun. A Midsummer Night’s Fringe encapsulates the feeling that surrounds what it means to be fringing.
So, our 36th Festival is inspired by the magic that accompanies and surrounds it. The Festival is a time when anything is possible, and anything goes. People whose paths normally never cross are swept together by the adventures of storytelling and stage craft. Minstrels wander the patios, jesters line the streets, fantastical creatures that have only be dreamt appear before you.
And, for 11 days, magic REALLY IS all around…
To push the envelope a little further though, we have some special editions for this years Festival. Leading up to and throughout the Festival you will see Fringe fairies popping up around town — offering Fringers golden opportunities. And throughout the Festival incredible magicians will take to the stages — indoors and out.
In fact, our Festival’s Opening Ceremonies, sponsored by our buds at Driving Force, will be featuring an illusionist on the ATB Financial Outdoor Stage (August 17 @ 7pm). KidsFringe will also feature a fairy garden and an activity centre where kids (and adults who are kids at heart) can try making their own magic.
Our team is hard at work preparing this years Festival to be the most magical yet. We are excited for the stories that will be told and the ones that will be created!
I look forward to seeing you August 17-27.
“If we shadows have offended,
Think but this, and all is mended—
That you have but slumbered here
While these visions did appear.
And this weak and idle theme,
No more yielding but a dream,
Gentles, do not reprehend.
If you pardon, we will mend.
And, as I am an honest Puck,
If we have unearned luck
Now to ’scape the serpent’s tongue,
We will make amends ere long.
Else the Puck a liar call.
So good night unto you all.
Give me your hands if we be friends,
And Robin shall restore amends.”
— William Shakespeare
A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Act V, Scene 1