You may know the Fringe Festival started in 1982 or that the Edmonton International Fringe Festival is one of the largest in the world (in non-covid times), but what do you know about its humble and rumble-y beginnings?
In this blog, there will be the following sections:
- Navigation Companion Materials for your tour
- The Walking Tour Audio and Transcripts for you to follow along.
Put on your walking shoes and put on your headphones, next stop: Fringe. Can’t make it out to Old Strathcona? You can still listen to the stories and follow along on the google maps link below.
Navigation Companion Materials
Here are some materials to help you navigate around! Here’s a Google Maps route of all the stops: https://goo.gl/maps/EsYNLpCxC8UZEWZe7
Map to help navigate (Download this map here: Walking Tour Map)
You will be stopping at the following locations:
Stop 1: The Princess Theatre (10337 82 Ave NW, Edmonton, AB T6E 1Z9)
Stop 2: The Varscona Theatre (10329 83 Ave NW, Edmonton, AB T6E 2C6)
Stop 3: The Old Strathcona Farmers Market (10310 83 Ave NW, Edmonton, AB T6E 5C3)
Stop 4: The Backstage Theatre (around back, 10330 84 Ave NW, Edmonton, AB T6E 2G9)
Stop 5: Fringe Grounds Cafe (10330 84 Ave NW, Edmonton, AB T6E 2G9)
Now let’s begin!
Next Stop: 40th & Fringe
By Gerald Osborn
A walking audio play in 5 stops.
Lace up your walking shoes & head out into Old Strathcona to retrace the (absolutely exaggerated, totally hysterical) steps of the Edmonton Fringe’s history.
This audio tour begins at the Princess Theatre on Whyte Avenue, Edmonton (10337 82 Ave NW). Head to the front of the Princess Theatre to begin your Fringe experience.
Written by our own beloved Office Manager, unofficial Fringe historian, and lauded Fringe playwright Gerald Osborn. No artists were harmed in the making of this audio play. Featuring the many (and sometimes questionable) talents of the Edmonton Fringe staff.
No artists were harmed in the making of this audio play.
Our eternal gratitude and thanks to the many movers, shakers, creators, administrators, agitators and artists who came before us who will come long after us. Fringe exists because of you.
Special thanks to Lead Partner and Sponsor ATB Financial for supporting the Edmonton International Fringe Theatre Festival and all our wilding shenanigans.
Edmonton Fringe exists because theatre exists and what exists here doesn’t exist anywhere else in the world. When you give to Edmonton Fringe, you invest in the future of theatre Edmonton, across Canada, and around the world.
Give now, Fringe forever. Visit fringetheatre.ca/donate for more.
Howdy Fringer, we’re happy you’re here. Your feet are firmly planted on Treaty 6. Home of the original caretakers of this land the Papaschase Cree. We are humble guests here and we are honoured to carry forward in the timeless tradition of gathering in community and sharing stories. Tatawaw. Welcome. There is room.
What you’re about to listen to is a hysterically exaggerated, but mostly true, walking audio tour of Fringe’s past written by our own beloved Office Manager, unofficial Edmonton Fringe historian, and lauded playwright Gerald Osborn. There are five stops along this tour, each of the five stops will lead you to an iconic location important to the early beginnings of North America’s largest, longest running Fringe Theatre Festival. So lace up your walking shoes.
Wonder at your own pace. And head out into the Old Strathcona neighbourhood to retrace the steps of Fringe’s history.
STOP 1: THE PRINCESS THEATRE(10337 82 Ave NW, Edmonton, AB T6E 1Z9)
Your first stop is the Princess Theatre located at 10337 82 Avenue, the original home of Edmonton Fringe. Are you there now? Look up at the ornate marquee. Press play now on part 1.
SOUND: BIBLICAL MUSIC – A FANFARE
VOICE: In the beginning, there was Old Strathcona and it was good but it was sorely lacking in the ways of the “artsy” and the ‘fartsy”. Then Father Fringe looked out upon the neighbourhood and said:
FATHER FRINGE: (BOOMINGLY) “Let there be Fringe”
VOICE: And there was Fringe.
SOUND: MIRACLE MUSIC – A HEAVENLY CHOIR
VOICE: And the people saw and they knew it was fabulous so they clamoured for more. Ask and you shall receive.
Here we are forty years later standing at 10337 – Whyte Avenue. Which is as good a place to start as any.
Ahhh, the Princess, Edmonton’s oldest surviving theatre. From 1915 on it is a haven for Vaudeville, concerts and countless silent films—
SOUND: SPRITELY SILENT MOVE ACCOMPANIMENT
VOICE: First “talkie in 1929—
SOUND: VOICE OF JOLSON: (SCRATCHY SOUNDTRACK) Wait a minute! Wait a minute! You ain’t heard nothin’ yet!
VOICE: The Princess remains the jewel in the crown of Whyte Avenue for decades to come. Then someone invents a little box that transmits flickering black and white images right into people’s homes…for free and ticket sales take a dramatic plunge.
SOUND: VOICE OF LUCY: Ethel! Ricky’s gonna kill me! Waaaah!
VOICE: So the doors of the Princess slam shut in 1958. For over a decade it becomes retail space finally returning to its cinematic roots in 1971 as the Klondike Cinema. The Klondike features all sorts of fun family fare which eventually gives way to a whole swack of blue movies.
SOUND: PORNO MUSIC OF THE BOW-CHICK-A-WOW-WAH VARIETY.
VOICE: After a few years the Klondike goes under so the Old Strathcona Foundation leases the space, eventually buying the building out right. It reopens in 1978 as a repertory movie house under its original name and live performances are tossed back into the mix.
In 1980 Artistic Director Brian Paisley, not yet Father Fringe, relocates from Fort St. John B.C. to Edmonton bringing with him the Chinook Touring Theatre.
FATHER FRINGE: Bro, this Edmonton place looks like an awesome theatre town!
VOICE: It’s 1982. Summerfest, a funding organization finds itself with $50,000 earmarked for some form of summer arts activity. And the soon-to be Father Fringe has a vision.
SOUND: MUSIC – SOMETHING, ALMOST INSPIRATIONAL, IN THE VEIN OF THE BATTLE HYMN OF THE REPUBLIC WHICH COULD PLAY UNDER FATHER FRINGE’S SPEECH
FATHER FRINGE: Bro, I see a Festival, all colours and chaos in the heart of Old Strathcona inspired by the Edinburgh Fringe in Scotland but it’s a
whole different animal— artist-driven, unjuried, uncensored with all the money going directly to the artists themselves. And some of it will be brilliant and some of it will be terrible but that’s all part of the fun. Well? Whadya say? Bear in mind, I’m a Won’t-Take-No-for-an-Answer kinda guy!
VOICE: Summerfest can’t possibly turn down such enthusiasm and the first Edmonton Fringe is a go.
SOUND: FOOTSTEPS, CREAKING FLOORBOARDS
Look down, look way down, First headquarters for the Fringe is the basement of the Princess.
FATHER FRINGE: Bro, I don’t think anybody’s been down here in years. The walls are damp, the floor is so dusty and the air (COUGHING). But this dank subterranean “cavern” represents artistic freedom…and free rent too. We’ll take it!…. One problem though: whenever we’re having a meeting and a classic film is screening upstairs we can hear every word of dialogue.
GARLAND (AS DOROTHY): Toto, I’ve a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore.
BOGART: “Of All The Gin Joints In All The Towns In All The World, She Walks Into Mine. Play it, Sam.”
BETTE DAVIS: Fasten your seatbelts, it’s going to be a bumpy night!”
VOICE: Sleeves are rolled up and planning gets underway for the first-ever A Fringe Theatre Event.
FATHER FRINGE: Bro, I know it sounds crazy but I’m thinking five indoor stages all within walking distance with something like 200 performances and an outdoor area with bands, singers, clowns, pretty much whoever shows up. Well? Whadya think? Bear in mind, I’m a Won’t-Take-No-for-an Answer kinda guy!
SOUND: A HUGE ROUND OF APPLAUSE AND CHEERING
FATHER FRINGE: Thank you! Thank you! You’re too kind!
VOICE: From their nerve centre in the Princess basement Father Fringe and his staff set about selecting venues. At the time Whyte Avenue is going through an economic slump. There are numerous vacant buildings, many of them well-worn and a tad shabby. There are also a few spots that might be considered cool (at least by 1982 standards).
The Princess, Orange Hall, The Art Store and the Tower Mortgage Building make the final cut. Plus Walterdale Theatre, the only legitimate performance space that the first year.
Nuts and bolts are tightened, performers sign up, venues are prepared and on August 14, 1982 it’s Ready-Set-Fringe!
SOUND: A WILD CARNIVAL ATMOSPHERE
Father Fringe’s dream is realized and history is made. But no sooner is one dream realized than another manifests itself. Father Fringe has his eye on his next challenge: a brand new home for the Fringe and the Chinook Touring Company. In 1983 Father Fringe and company bid the Princess basement a fond farewell and move one street over to 83rd Avenue’s former Fire Hall No. 6 which becomes the makeshift headquarters for Return of the Fringe. But more on that later.
Over the past few decades, the Princess changes ownership several times. In 1994 Brian Paisley, Father Fringe himself, becomes manager of the space and offers to buy the historical movie house but after long and heated negotiations fall through the Won’t-Take-No-For-an-Answer Kinda Guy has to take no for an answer.
FATHER FRINGE: Bummer!
VOICE: In 1997 the Princess rethinks its repertory format. Gone are the classics, the independent productions and the cult films. It is now a first-run theatre. In 1999 the Princess II opens downstairs in the Fringe’s old office space.
SOUND: SOLITARY WIND BLOWING ACROSS A EMPTY PRAIRIE – I’M SEEING TUMBLEWEEDS ROLLING ACROSS THE SCENE
It’s October 2020. As Covid-19 takes its toll on the film industry (as well as everything else!) the Princess closes its doors yet again and is put up for lease. 106 years of glorious history has been shuttered away. But you can’t keep a good theatre down. In July 2021 the Princess reopens its doors just when we need it the most. Ah Princess, here’s to the next 106 years whatever they may look like.
Here’s to the Princess Theatre. Time to mosey on Fringer. Your next stop is the Varscona Theatre, located at 10329 83 Avenue. Please take care crossing the street. And might we recommend ducking in the back alley behind the Varscona for a sweet treat from our friends at Sugared and Spiced. We’re big believers in the magic of theatre… and cookies. Once you get to the Varscona (also known as Firehall No. 6) press play on part 2.
STOP 2: THE VARSCONA THEATRE (10329 83 Ave NW, Edmonton, AB T6E 2C6)
VOICE: And it came to pass that Father Fringe delivered his staff across Whyte Avenue to their new home at 10329 – 83 Avenue and it was good. The building’s original purpose: Firehall #6 built in 1956 not to be confused with the other Fire Hall #6 built-in 1909 right across the street which eventually became Walterdale Theatre. I know. That’s a lot of former firehalls to keep track of but stay with me.
This space becomes the makeshift headquarters for Return of the Fringe. More shows – more audience – more venues. Another rip-roaring success for Father Fringe and the gang. In December of 1983, after $200,000 worth of renovations, Chinook Theatre officially opens its doors.
FATHER FRINGE: Bro, I’m aiming for an intimate space that literally embraces the stage so actors and audience can feel as close as possible and are always aware of each other’s presence. It’s like we’re co-conspirators in the theatrical experience you dig?
VOICE: Fringe Artists are not just local anymore. As word spreads participants start arriving from all over North America and places as far away as England, Northern Ireland, Uganda, South Africa, New Zealand.
And Fringe Venues are being fruitful and multiplying. From 1982 to 1985 venues jump from 5 to 13 all within walking distance of the main Fringe site.
It’s 1988. Winds of change are blowing. For one thing we’re ditching this whole biblical metaphor in favour of something a little less pretentious. I’m thinking sitcom?
SOUND: PERKY SITCOM THEME MUSIC A LA MARY TYLER MOORE SHOW
Judy Lawrence arrives in Edmonton to become Assistant to Father Fringe. Co-workers affectionately refer to her as Judy “Tyler Moore” because she’s a perky optimistic career woman trying to make it on her own.
JUDY T M: Give it a rest, pal!
VOICE: In two years Judy “Tyler Moore” is running the whole operation.
VOICE: After creating the largest alternative theatre festival this side of the Atlantic and inspiring numerous Fringes across North America, Father Fringe departs in search of brand new challenges.
FATHER FRINGE: Catch you on the flipside, bro!
SOUND: FARM ANIMAL SOUNDS
VOICE: (CRYING OUT) Ферма животное! Ferma zhivotnoye! In 1991, during X Marks the Fringe, conservative forces in the Soviet Union stage a bloodless coup to depose president Mikhail Gorbachev [gor-buh chaaf]. Twenty-two young soviet actors, in Edmonton to perform a Russian adaptation of George Orwell’s Animal Farm, are stranded, unsure if they will be allowed back into their country.
SOUND: SAD BALALAIKA MUSIC
Many nights you can hear them gathered in the Beer Tent singing mournful Russian folk songs. Members of the Edmonton theatre community open their homes to them cuz that’s what we do.
BEER TENT ASIDE: The first Fringe Beer Tent is in the Walterdale Theatre Parking Lot but at the time the Alberta Liquor Control Board’s rules are such that it cannot be referred to as a Beer Tent. It is an Extended Lobby (“extended” from an existing Fringe venue) and to partake of an alcoholic beverage a patron must show proof that they have or will be attending a Fringe show. Flashing your ticket stubs or your Fringe programme will get you into that extended lobby.
At The Fringe Also Rises, a number of artists decide to do site-specific performances using spaces other than official Fringe venues.
A Midsummer Night’s Ice Dream is performed by the National Ice Theatre of Canada at the Granite Curling Club. And then there’s Ron Jenkins’ Eureka! performed in the used car show room of Hugh McColl’s on Whyte. The audience sits on cardboard as a car comes speeding into the space and a hostage is pulled from the trunk. Riveting stuff. So riveting that during rehearsal the SWAT team is called by some conscientious citizen who glimpses a “crime in progress” and does his civic duty.
As Father Fringe once said:
FATHER FRINGE: Given enough resources and enough talent and imagination any space can be turned into a place of performance.
VOICE: During a particularly raucous happy hour one Friday afternoon Judy “Tyler Moore” and staff coin a new term:
JUDY T L: (A LITTLE DRUNK) Why don’t we call ‘em B.Y.O.V.s for Bring Your Own Venue?! Huh? Huh?
SOUND: MUCH HOOTING OF APPROVAL
JUDY T L: Can someone pass the Scotch?
VOICE: And a whole new way of fringing is born. The term B.Y.O.V. catches on around the country and is used at a number of other Fringes to this day.
SCANDALOUS ASIDE: It’s 1994. There’s a production touring Fringes across Canada. It is called Good Girl, Bad Girl. The play, about female empowerment, contains no nudity, no sex, no violence. But just as the tour begins, there is a slight title change. The title now contains a coarse anglo saxon word for female private parts.
SOUND: TELEPHONE RINGING
JUDY T M: Judy here. Oh hey. Great to hear from you. We’re really looking forward to your show this summer. Good Girl, Bad Girl. Heard great things. I— hmm? You’re changing the name of your show? Shouldn’t be a problem. Happens all the time. What’s the new name? The Happy— what? (PAUSE) Oh. And how do you spell that? (PAUSE) That’s what I thought. Well, there you go. See you in August.
VOICE: This title change causes a wave of protest at Fringes across Canada. Some festivals cave to public pressure and ask that the group stick to the original title. In Edmonton, there are police warnings regarding postering and concerns from various sources. But Judy “Tyler Moore” will have none of it!
JUDY T M: C’mon people! This is the Fringe. We don’t jury or censor here!
VOICE: Risking possible legal blowback, Judy “Tyler Moore” hangs the poster at the opening reception for everyone to see.
JUDY T M: We must never forget that we are a forum for artists to produce their own work independently and test their ideas. That’s what we’re here for.
VOICE: From this point on, the cover of the Fringe program always contains a warning like—
JUDY T M: “Beware: may (probably does) contain language and/or ideas construed as thoughtful, radical, controversial, provocative, offensive, childlike, half-baked, ill-conceived — the list of possibilities is endless.”
VOICE: It’s 1994 and there are radical changes in the offing.
JUDY T M: Hey Firehall 6, got some news and it’s not gonna be easy to hear. We’re leaving. Please understand. It’s not you. It’s us. Over the years we’ve grown. You must’ve noticed that. And the Bus Barns can offer so much more space: for Fringe theatres, for administration offices, for production shops. We’re gonna miss you something awful. But we’ll always have the memories. Well, there you go.
VOICE: The Varscona Theatre Alliance, a group of Edmonton theatre artists, takes over the building and renames it the New Varscona Theatre. Initially, there is some concern that once Chinook signs the lease for the Bus Barns, that the City will evict the Varscona Theatre Alliance to make way for a restaurant or retail space. City Councilor Michael Phair and various members of the media go to bat for the group and they are allowed to take over the lease on the city-owned building.
VOICE: Okay Fringer – let’s keep on keeping on. We’re going to wander over to our friends and neighbours, The Old Strathcona Farmers Market. To get there, head east on 83 Avenue and hang a left to the Farmers Market on Gateway Blvd (also known as 103 Street). Pause here to take in the Farmers Market art. Now, press play on Part 3.
STOP 3: THE OLD STRATHCONA FARMERS MARKET (10310 83 Ave NW, Edmonton, AB T6E 5C3)
VOICE: Here we are on the north side of 83rd Avenue between 103 and 104 Street. To the left you got your ATB Park, then if you look past the Beer Tent you got your Fireman’s Memorial Statue butted up against Walterdale Theatre. And then you got the Barns, be they Bus or be they Arts – an impressive structure that takes up the entire block. Way back in the middle of the Twentieth Century, this building is definitely a Bus Barns for diesel, trolley what have you. And it remains that way for over three decades. Then in the mid-eighties, the buses pull out for good and the Old Strathcona Farmer’s Market moves in. Of course, they can only utilize a portion of the building. And their neighbours across the street can’t stand to see all that space going to waste. By 1986 Fringe venues crop up in various corners of the cavernous building: Bus Barns North, Bus Barns West, Bus Barns South. And there are several tiers of abandoned offices in the building too which sing their siren songs to Judy “Tyler Moore”.
SOUND: THE PING OF AN IDEA BEING BORN
JUDY T M: I have an idea.
VOICE: To secure the long-term survival of the Fringe, Chinook Theatre presents a business plan to the City for a 20-year lease on half of the city-owned building. The purpose of the proposal: to transform the run-down Bus Barns into a brand spanking new multi-use arts and culture centre. The City goes for it and the $1-a-year lease is signed.
SOUND: RAUCOUS CELEBRATORY MUSIC
While all this is going on, BYOVs continue to grow in popularity spreading throughout the neighbourhood and beyond.
BYOV ASIDE PART 1: Dead Slow is a stylish murder mystery performed in the Renford Inn on Whyte Parking Garage. The audience is seated in the actual garage. The actors drive in, do their scenes and drive out again. The lead actor has to learn to drive a standard and during one performance she almost backs over the audience.
BYOV ASIDE PART 2: Who can forget Confessions of a Nude Model at the Sunflower Gallery? You guessed it, our lead actor is naked. The audience is handed sketch pads and encouraged to do some sketching as the show proceeds. Back then a Fringe ticket is $7. However, the programme states that if you attend this show in the nude, admission is only $1. At the time a struggling student (and future Fringe Festival Director) is strapped for cash.
He takes the discount and opts to watch the show in the buff. Talk about pulling focus from the star.
It’s 1995 and Fringe Festival Director Judy “Tyler Moore” now serves as Executive Director of Programming and Development. And Chinook Theatre renames itself Fringe Theatre Adventures—
JUDY T M: “To better reflect its wide-ranging activities and adventurous spirit”.
VOICE: Oh, and the Old Strathcona Bus Barns becomes the Arts Barns (at least the Fringe’s half of it anyway).
Initial renovations to the Bus Barns are underway, paid for by a $100,000 provincial grant (at this point primarily upgrades for offices, heating ducts, washrooms, etc.).
FRINGE APPLICATION ASIDE: In the earliest days of the Fringe, applications are strictly first-come, first-served— whatever application makes it through the door before the deadline is in. Places of origin are not really considered. Eventually, it is decided that this gives local applicants an unfair advantage so a quota system is put in place. Suddenly there are limited spots available for a substantial pool of local talent. Due to this new quota system, the first overnight lineup for Fringe slots occurs in December 1993. Applicants begin lining up on a cold Sunday night in order to have their applications processed at 9 AM Monday morning. They are allowed to spend the night in the Bus Barns wash bay, huddled together for warmth (very Les Miz). The next year, the same thing only this time it’s two nights. This campout becomes a regrettable but regular tradition. Until—
SOUND: OMINOUS CHORDS OF MUSIC.
Fringe applicants are forced to line up four days before applications are scheduled to be processed. An over-zealous individual pitches a tent in front of the Arts Barns in order to be first in line and no amount of discouragement will send him away. From this point on, all future Fringe applications are done via lottery.
BIZARRE ASIDE: One year a large jar is filled with Smarties to represent how many volunteers the Fringe has acquired. A hungry volunteer doing clerical work in the office opens the jar and eats all the Fringe “volunteers”.
CELEBRITY NAME DROP PART 1: In the early years of the Fringe there are always Street Dances held the night before the Festival begins. Alberta’s own k.d. lang headlines one of these dances. Other Street Dance performers include Moxy Fruvous and Sarah McLachlan. One year it is announced that Crash Test Dummies will be appearing. Mistaking the early 90s rock band for the full-scale anthropomorphic test devices used to measure human injuries in traffic accidents, a panic-stricken Judy Tyler Moore says, “Crash Test Dummies?! Where are we going to put them?”
CELEBRITY NAME DROP PART 2: In 1992, former A-list movie star Elliott Gould (Trapper John in the original M*A*S*H* movie and Ross and Monica’s dad on Friends) is in Edmonton appearing at the Mayfield Dinner Theatre. He spends his off-hours reading stories to children at the KidsFringe and taking in numerous Fringe plays.
CELEBRITY NAME DROP PART 3: Since we’re name dropping before he heads off to Hollywood, Nathan Fillion, star of The Rookie, Castle, and Saving Private Ryan appears in at least two Fringe plays– The Maltese Bodkin and The Reluctant Resurrection of Sherlock Holmes, then he gets the hell out of Dodge.
In 1998 Judy “Tyler Moore” tosses her hat in the air one last time and hands over the Executive Director reins to Darryl Lindenbach (henceforth referred to as Big D/Double R).
BIG D: I’m here. Let the games begin.
VOICE: In his five years with Fringe Theatre, Big D/Double R reinvents the Fringe Theatre School, reinvigorates Theatre for Young Audiences and creates Imagine, a summer arts program for youth from across Western Canada—
BIG D: Hey, what can I tell you? It’s a gift.
VOICE: But renovations to the Arts Barns take up the lion’s share of his time.
BIG D: The early Bus Barns were every artist’s dream – a blank canvas between concrete columns. Endless opportunities for art, but it’s also endless maintenance and massively expensive too.
VOICE: In 2000 Fringe Theatre Adventures unveils its $8.5-million fundraising plans to gut the existing 49-year-old Arts Barns and replace it with a slick multipurpose community space. The plans are met with excitement and some hesitation.
BIG D: Ugh don’t get me started. The naysayers are crying: ”But it won’t be the same if we renovate it.” Meanwhile, they’re standing in front of massive cracks in the walls, peeling paint, leaking pipes and mounds of never-ending dust.
Once the company clears the many hurdles, the long-planned renovations begin. A substantial amount of the now 51-year-old building is demolished to make way for the new theatre complex. Fringe staff box up decades of memories and relocate across town, camping out in Queen Mary Park School. The contractors have only 10 months available to complete the entire project.
BIG D: Look! There’s no room for error here! We’re walking on a tightrope! One slip and it’s game over! Did I mention you’re all doing a helluva job? Props to you.
In the late spring of 2003, the staff receive the keys to their new home: an $8.5-million theatre complex completed just in time for Attack of the Killer Fringe. New offices, studios, a shop for building sets, a spacious lobby and box office, dressing rooms and the Westbury, a new multi-form theatre make up the shiny new building.
The glass on the doors by the admin office is so pristine that a well-known critic from Global TV walks right into it leaving a Shroud of Turin-like faceprint on the glass. There’s shiny and then there’s shiny! With his mission accomplished Big D/Double R departs to cultivate new challenges.
BIG D: And that’s what they call a wrap. Think of me, think of me fondly.
VOICE: Let’s go Fringer, head north. We’re going to carry on now to the Backstage Theatre. Keep walking until you come to the big alleyway to your left. Stop at the brightly coloured mural with the ghost and the candle. A beautiful piece was recently painted for us by Nextfest Mural artist Haley Fortin. Are you there? Great. Press play now on Part 4.
STOP 4: THE BACKSTAGE THEATRE (around back, 10330 84 Ave NW, Edmonton, AB T6E 2G9)
The Backstage Theatre at the north end of the Bus Barns has been around for a number of years. You may know it by its original name: Storage Space! Yes indeed. Eleven months out of the year it was the repository for chairs and risers and flats and all things backstage. Once a year it would be trotted out as a theatre space for Fringe. And that seemed to be that. Or so everybody thought.
It’s 2015. The Varscona Theatre (original home to the Fringe) requires a massive facelift. A financial campaign is launched to fund much needed renovations which include expanding the lobby and providing more space for the theatre. But where to present their season during the renos? The Varscona makes a proposal: to move into the Fringe’s warehouse storage space for their upcoming season. An agreement is struck and construction begins on a 150 seat theatre.
Cut to 124 Street. The historic Roxy Theatre, home to Theatre Network, is destroyed by fire. While trying to figure out what the future holds for Network, they decide to move across town (temporarily) into the Fringe’s warehouse storage space, apparently now a port in the storm for wayward theatre companies. Shows are presented, seasons are completed and The Backstage Theatre becomes a year-round programmable space.
VOICE: Howdy Fringer. How are you holding up? It’s time to carry on. Wander west down the alleyway here towards Knox Church, that beautiful brick building down the way. Perhaps linger by the big green doors where the train cars sleep at night. Now, onto the newest addition to the Fringe Theatre family, The Fringe Theatre Cafe. Head left around the corner of the ATB Financial Arts Barns towards the main Westbury lobby entrance. Press play on part five.
STOP 5: FRINGE GROUNDS CAFE(10330 84 Ave NW, Edmonton, AB T6E 2G9)
Which brings us to Fringe Grounds Cafe, the Arts Barns newest addition. Your place to eat, meet and create. The Fringe Grounds Café is so much more than made-with-care-eats and freshly brewed coffee (though it’s very much that too). It’s a safe(er) space for brave ideas and big artistic risk.
Come as you are. You are welcome here. Stay for a few minutes, or spread out, get comfy, and hunker down for the day.
If you’re a creative thinker, doer, appreciator, or anything in between you belong here.
VOICE: That’s it. But that’s not all. We’ve got at least 40 years and more Frigner. Thanks for tuning in. Thanks for wandering down memory lane with us. And thank you for Fringing. We can’t do it without you.
This audio tour has been made possible thanks to the brilliant talents of the Edmonton Fringe team. Want to engage with more wildly wonderful works like this again in the future? Please consider making a gift to Fringe Theatre. When you support Edmonton Fringe, you support the future of Theatre across Canada. All gifts over $20 will receive a charitable tax receipt. Visit fringetheatre.ca to learn more.
P.S… why don’t you pop inside for a latte? Or one of chef Teresa’s baked treats. Maybe find a seat on the patio (or in the warm lobby if it’s chilly outside) and settle in for a spell.
Till next time Fringer.
SOUND: SOFT PIANO TUNE FADES OUT.
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.