Theatre Mobile Embraces Surprise While Touring the Fringe Circuit – Erika MacDonald and Paul Strickland, Fringe Artists
For artists on the Fringe circuit, roving from city to city offers plenty of unexpected surprises. For Erika MacDonald and Paul Strickland, one of those surprises happened to be each other.
Both are seasoned performers who’d been fringing with solo works before a fateful meeting at the 2013 Minnesota Fringe. Now, partners on and off stage, they’ve toured together for years, with acclaimed shows like 13 Dead Dreams of “Eugene” and Tales Too Tall For Trailers.
They’re returning to Edmonton with a brand-new work called Away, Now – The World’s Most Desired Destination. It’s “a live travel guide to a place you wish you could go,” Strickland explains, noting that it puts the full range of their artistic whims on display: toy puppetry, surreal storytelling, and song all blend together in its runtime.
It’s the sort of creative meld that fits perfectly in Fringe, where artists can collaborate and explore their biggest “what if we tried…?” ideas for audiences willing to go along for the ride.
“I started out in the songwriting and stand-up comedy world, Erika was a puppet builder, and neither one of us have ever felt particularly comfortable in any one of those single genre non- hyphenated artistic endeavors,” Strickland says, eliciting a laugh from MacDonald as they drive to the Orlando Fringe to begin their tour. “Being able to have the opportunity to do work that is actually more close to who we are as individuals is so important to just kind of keeping yourself alive, you know?”
“It’s been beautiful that Fringe gives us a space to really make the art that we want to make, and then try to get people there and see what people respond to,” MacDonald continues, picking up the thought. “There’s not that middle man of the producer deciding what the public wants, which lets it be more authentic.”
After more than a decade of Fringing, they have some tips: go see returning acts you know you like, but make room in your schedule to take some risks too—shows you’ve heard nothing about. And whatever you see, leave expectations at the door.
“Just go to a show, hoping to have an experience that you’ve never had before,” Strickland says.
To them, Destination Fringe is more than just a physical location: it’s the people, the time of year, the fellow artists, and the charged, creative atmosphere that takes over Old Strathcona—something that feels especially important after the last few years.
“When Paul and I say Edmonton, we mean the second half of August,” MacDonald says. “We mean the Fringe. It’s more than just a city name to us. It’s an anchor point in our year, and over the years.”