June 8, 2017
by Michael Konecny, Fringe Summer Staff
Fringing since 2012
Believe it or not a simple cup of coffee changed my life. Five years ago, I met up with a buddy to shoot the breeze at a coffee shop on Whyte Ave. To our surprise the area was bustling with a world of colour, light, and sound.
You probably already guessed it, but it was August and we’d stumbled upon the Edmonton International Fringe™ Theatre Festival. Having moved to Edmonton just a few years prior, I had never heard of the Festival before.
Walking up to the Festival grounds you could feel the excitement rising. The cheers and gasps of the audience echoed in our eardrums, while the smell of the Festival food immediately had our mouths watering. The Festival was like entering another world. Jugglers tossing knives, magicians performing tricks.
After wandering in a dream-like state for a while we decided to go see an indoor show. Gazing at the long list of shows, our choice was decided when an artist gave us an intriguing hand-bill. The show was part video and part stage-craft. It was like nothing I had experienced before, and I loved it.
As the day came to an end all I knew is that I wanted to more. It was decided, I was a life-long Fringer.
The best way I could imagine to immerse myself in fringing was to become a volunteer. Scrolling through the team choices there seemed to be a place for everyone. There was the Volunteer Headquarters Team for people who wanted to be behind the scenes. Or, the Box Office Team for those who liked interacting with patrons and talking about shows.
Eventually I decided to join the Community Engagement Team, helping patrons and partners navigate the Festival. As a guy whose specialty is electronics and computers, I was scared. I knew hardly nothing about the Fringe Festival, and knew even less about theatre. I went through volunteer orientation and training and, before I knew it, I was preparing for my first volunteer shift.
Arriving to the Festival for my first shift was amazing. There was a buzz of excitement, and it was clear from everyone’s faces that this was something special – something to care about.
My volunteer position stationed me at the heart of the Festival action in the ATB Financial Community Gazebo. I helped direct people, engage them in special activities, and kept people excited about events of the day. Seeing so many smiling Fringers enjoying the Festival brightened my day.
From using foam microphones and hosting impromptu patron interviews, to making paper hats to wear on rainy days, I discovered my deep and unwavering love for fringing. Somewhat unexpectedly, I discovered the artist inside me.
During my third year volunteering I was offered the opportunity to become a Team Leader. Through that role I learned more about the behind-the-scenes production that is required to organize the largest Fringe Festival in North America.
Over time things changed slightly. For instance, the Community Engagement team has expanded into two teams, the Information and Patron Services Team and the Ambassador Team. Meanwhile, I’m stepping even deeper into the Fringe Festival, having recently joined the communication and marketing team as a full-time summer staff member.
Despite these changes, one thing remains – the magic that accompanies fringing. Since my first step into the Festival it has felt like I’ve been swept away on a fantastic adventure. I am excited to use my new role to help others experience their own Fringe adventure.
Who would have guessed all this would come from a cup of coffee?
I’ll look forward to seeing you around the Fringe Festival and helping YOU get your fringe on.