Together We Build Forward: ATB & Fringe Theatre

ATB’s President and CEO Curtis Stange knows what it’s like to fringe together, which is why ATB’s relationship with Fringe Theatre has proven to be an incredible partnership that benefits artists, volunteers, and fingers alike since its inception in 2013. But like many of us, Curtis has been fringing for much longer. Together, he and Murray Utas, Artistic Director with Fringe Theatre, reminisce on their favourite Fringe memories from the past 40 years and reflect on what it takes to rebuild a community.

A polaroid of Curtis Stange, CEO of ATB, and Murray Utas, Artistic Director of Fringe Theatre, having a great time at the Fringe. The words "Together We Build Forward: ATB + Fringe" sit in the middle.

We’re celebrating 40 years of iconic Fringe moments. What is your favourite Fringe memory?

Curtis (C): One of my favourite Fringe memories is from 2019, when my wife and I, along with Bob and Marilyn Westbury, hosted a group of 80 guests. We attended the highly rated Minerva, Queen of the Handcuffs at the Roxy and later enjoyed a delicious dinner at Lyon Restaurant.

Thanks to the generosity of our guests, we were also able to help secure donations for the festival, ensuring Fringe can continue doing what it does best—bringing people together and offering great experiences for all.

Murray (M): I was performing in a show where my character had to dictate technical language for a manual. Memorizing dialogue and monologues become a part of your being as you move around in a space and through the repetition of blocking for the stage.

For the life of me, I could not find a connection to either of those. I was having the most difficult time. An incredible soul, who was also a journalist, acknowledged this and went out of their way to make sure I knew I was given a ridiculously difficult task. This memory truly affirms for me that Together We Fringe.

This year’s event is all about bringing people together and connecting with the community safely. How is your team helping bring Albertans together this year?

C: ATB Financial was built to help Albertans, and we believe that supporting our communities is both a privilege and a responsibility. ATB recently introduced its Greater Good strategy, boldly committing to help tackle some of society’s greatest challenges: access to mental health; access to education and access to technology—all with the goal of raising the overall wellbeing of Albertans.

We also continue to find ways to bring people together and raise funds for important causes with initiatives including the Drive-In for Mental Health concert series with Gord Bamford, a virtual National Music Centre Holiday Concert, and the Castrol Raceway Drive-Thru Experience for clients with donations going to the Edmonton Food Bank. Over the past year, our team members raised over $500,000 for the United Way in Alberta to help the province’s most vulnerable, donated $311,000 to support children’s mental health in Alberta through the annual Teddy for a Toonie campaign and raised over $7 million for charities through ATB Cares.

M: Our team has put such thought and heart into planning for Together We Fringe: A Fringe Theatre Event. Community care has been at the heart of every decision. We knew coming together after the long pause would be both exciting and overwhelming for fringers, so we’ve done everything we can to provide as safe an event as possible while ensuring everything we all know and love about Fringe can still be celebrated: seeing shows together, collecting ticket stubs, drinking ice cold Big Rock beer in the waning summer sun, being wowed by an outdoor performer, reuniting with friends.

Over the last year of the pandemic, we spent many, many hours talking with our artists, volunteers, and patrons – this Event means so much to our community. Fringe IS community. Being able to deliver an Event this August – however small, however, scaled, however safe – is one way we can give back to a community that helped us when we needed it most.  We have adopted this mantra of, “How can we make your Fringe awesome?” and let me tell you, we really mean it.

Fringing together in 2021 is all about relaunching creativity and innovation that Edmontonians love to experience every summer. What are you looking forward to the most as festivals and gatherings return?  

C: Festivals and gatherings bring people together, and give us the opportunity to enjoy talented artists. I’m looking forward to sharing these special moments with friends and family the most. If the past year has taught us anything, it’s the importance of coming together as a community, supporting our friends and family, and lifting up our neighbours.

While ATB has always been focused on helping Albertans through tough times, this year we’re levelling up with our Greater Good strategy. The pandemic and its economic challenges have increased the need for mental health support for many Albertans. We are committed to building healthier communities.

We also know that access to education and technology are barriers for many Albertans. This is a time to lean in and help more people participate in our economy. We are joining forces with other Alberta companies in new and innovative ways, and can’t wait to share more!

M: Watching fringers connect again after such a long time apart. Supporting artists in their return to the stage. That moment of anticipation when the house lights go down and the stage lights go up.

Experimenting with new technology – like our livestream channel on FringeTV – and finding innovative ways to support live performance. Bringing a little joy to the community.

What ways are you working to support local artists? 

C: As a long-time fan and supporter of the arts, ATB has a deep understanding of the unique personal and business financial challenges artists face and has positioned itself to support our clients in all ways possible. 

Additionally, because of our partnership with the Edmonton Fringe Festival, Calgary Folk Fest, and the National Music Centre (NMC), ATB was able to ensure more than 100 Alberta artists were paid for performances during COVID-19.

We also worked with and sponsored numerous other organizations throughout the year, including the Calgary International Film Festival, the Grande Prairie Street Performers Festival, the Art Gallery of Alberta, Edmonton Symphony Orchestra, Edmonton Opera and many more. ATB is looking forward to more opportunities to collaborate and partner with local artists in 2021.

M: Edmonton Fringe exists because theatre exists and theatre doesn’t exist without the creative entrepreneurship and inventiveness of artists. Edmonton Fringe supports artists all year round – in and out of the Edmonton International Fringe Theatre Festival.

The ATB Financial Arts Barns ​​is a safe space for brave ideas and big artistic risk year-round. This is where chance encounters grow into meaningful collaborations; where messy first inklings become brilliant realizations. We don’t just want artists to visit this place. We want artists to inhabit it. Wake it up. Fill the quietest corners with all the noise of artmaking. The road to recovery for our industry is long and unpredictable.

The pandemic impacted the arts in ways we don’t fully understand yet, and likely won’t for a few years to come. But Fringe is committed to supporting artists every step of the way as we rebuild, reconnect, and reimagine the future of theatre in Treaty 6. 

Fringe performances are now online and in person, truly expanding our reach and creating a new path for all to experience something new. How is your team creating opportunities for innovation in Alberta? 

C: We are living in a digital economy. Digitizing Alberta is a must. Positioning Alberta at the centre of innovation will be critical to embracing it. We have an opportunity directly in front of us and it would be, quite frankly, damaging to our economy and our future if we let this opportunity pass us by.

Alberta can become the destination for embracing the digital economy. Think about smart cities, health and education. Look at smart agriculture and energy. We have a strong foundation in place already, but we must double down. We have to reskill our workforce, we have to work extremely hard to break down barriers and attract the world’s best talent… and we must create an environment where Alberta is known – worldwide – for solving the problems of our future.

As Alberta’s bank, ATB is confident we can be a catalyst for growth, and help Alberta become leaders in the digital economy. Over the decades, ATB has transformed people’s understanding of what banking can–and should–make possible, and today we are unwavering in our commitment. ATB’s innovation arm, ATB Ventures, is looking beyond banking to ensure Alberta is at the forefront of innovation and technology.

We are committed to growing strong, industry partnerships that will build on the strengths of Alberta’s growing ecosystem and reputation as global leaders in technology including Radical Ventures, Neo Financial, Open Banking Initiative Canada (OBIC), Digital ID & Authentication Council of Canada (DIACC), Alberta Open Identity Initiative (oID) Consortium, and more.

ATB is also making it possible for young people today to build the skills of tomorrow, improving both their career opportunities and contribution to Alberta’s emerging tech sector with initiatives like MindFuel’s Crack the Code Challenge and AltaML Applied AI Lab’s internship program. Part of our economic recovery will be raising the collective wellbeing of all Albertans, an equitable and accessible recovery. 

M: We now have FringeTV as another way to connect audiences and artists. At the onset of the pandemic, our team learned and continues to apply so many new skills.  They jumped in without any hesitation to make something happen. We turned our theatres into livestream studios and learned how to create digital content, we connected with Fringe audiences around the world from the other side of a screen, we played and experimented and started to think about how these skills might carry us forward as we return to live performance.

All along, our goal has been to make sure whatever we do now will be part of Fringe’s DNA in the future.

This year’s theme is Together We Fringe, so considering your past Fringe experiences, finish this sentence. Together we _____.  

C: Together we build forward.

M: Together we leave no one behind.

Thanks for sitting down with us, Curtis and Murray! We can’t wait to catch a show (or five) with you and everyone else. Don’t forget to tag #YEGFRINGE while you fringe this year!

What happens here in Edmonton doesn’t happen anywhere else in the world. It’s going to be a long road back to the Edmonton Fringe experience we’ve built together over the past four decades. 

Will you help support the future of Edmonton Fringe? Your gift will help us imagine what’s possible for the next 40 years for fringing. 

Thank you for caring, thank you for the last 40 years, and thank you for supporting the future of Fringe.

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