Kate Ryan: A Lifetime With Fringe

Very few Artists can claim the bragging rights of being raised at Fringe. But for Kate Ryan, the Edmonton International Fringe Theatre Festival has always been a family affair.

“I’ve been here since day one,” Kate laughs. “As was my Dad, Timothy Ryan (the founder of the Theatre Arts program at Grant MacEwan University). Those formative Fringe years are what kept us in Edmonton. Meeting the community and working with people like Fringe Founder Brian Paisley and getting to know all these Artists who came to Edmonton…we knew Fringe was going to be a really important part of the future of Edmonton in so many ways. I think that was a huge reason why my family stayed.”

Fringe exists because theatre exists and what exists here in Edmonton every August doesn’t exist anywhere else in the world. Will you make a gift to sustain the future of Fringe in Edmonton?

“Crescendo” Directed by Kate Ryan in 2019

As Fringe grew from a gritty grassroots movement into one of North America’s most influential theatre festivals, so too did the Ryan Family’s artistic legacy continue to grow and shape the local arts scene. Fringe not only became a ritual summer after summer for the Ryan family, but it also defined Kate’s dedication to the craft as an actor, director, and producer. 

“The first time I was in a Fringe show is an incredible memory for me. I did the show with my mom and my sister. I think I was 17. My dad said: you know, you’re going to need to work on this show, you’re at the Fringe now, you gotta work hard, it’s going to be important for you to do your best work,” Kate remembers. “I learned how important this work is, how disciplined it is, how Fringe gives a platform for the importance of art.”

When you give to Fringe Theatre, you provide Artists the resources and platform to do what they do best: wow you,  entertain you, and challenge you.

Kate Ryan

“I’m really grateful for Fringe because it taught me to hone my skills as a as a director. I knew I loved having a vision of a piece, but I didn’t realize how much I loved that until I actually stepped into the director role. So, Fringe is a place where I needed to have the discipline to follow through, to articulate that vision, to gather support.”

From theatre for young audiences to full blown musicals, Kate has been involved with more than 30 Fringe productions over her decades of fringing.

“Through the years, I developed a body of work, I tested the boundaries, I was mentored by professional Artists, and I was challenged! I came up against walls, I had pushback. All of these are things that I so greatly appreciate. I’m so, so, so grateful Fringe exists.”

I’m never, ever going to stop learning,” she continues. Fringe taught me that. I’m always learning something new, learning different perspectives on life. I grew up with that curiosity because of Fringe. I’ve found a community where we have important conversations. And I’ve been incredibly inspired by watching theatre and witnessing the artistry of other Theatre Makers. We’re all so damn lucky to be experiencing this together. Theatre is moving; it moves our minds and our hearts. I’m so in awe of the Artists who create theatre. 

Will you help amplify Artists’ voices and illuminate stages at North America’s largest, longest-running Fringe Theatre Festival?

While the Festival provided Kate the resources and platform she needed to develop her skills as a Theatre Artist, it’s the Audience who offers the greatest collaborative payoff.

“We get to open the doors and share the work. We get to celebrate the work. Fringe is where people come together and talk about the work. They don’t just see the show and then go home. They stay. The biggest part of the collaboration is when the Audience is in the room.”

“Fringe Audiences are a powerful force,” Kate continues. “They come willing to experiment. And when they’re moved, they let people know. They share their joy and their excitement about a new piece. They make sure that it gets seen. And they talk about it. And if they don’t understand it, they still talk about it. And I love that, too. Because theater is subjective. And if something doesn’t appeal to you, it might appeal to somebody else. And that is the great thing about Fringe!”

“It’s a Bird, It’s a Plane, It’s Superman” Directed by Kate Ryan for Plain Jane Theatre in 2014. Photo by Ryan Parker.

Your support matters. Your gift to Fringe Theatre help Artists like Kate build lifelong careers in the arts – careers that go on to shape future generations of storytellers and bring Audiences together in celebration.

“We need – we need – to be together experiencing theatre more than ever now. We must remind ourselves we are compassionate; we must remember our own imagination is a muscle. For me, beauty and dreaming and all that comes from our imagination is truly inspired by experiencing the humanity in front of us. We experience that humanity through storytelling.”

Connecting, celebrating, sharing stories. It’s Artists – the writers and storytellers, musicians and creators – who remind us how important human connection is to our collective wellbeing. When you give now, we all fringe forever.

See you at the Festival!

PS: Fringe Theatre is a charitable organization. Gifts of $20 or more will receive a charitable tax receipt. Please give today.  

PPS: PPS: Kate’s best fringing tip? “Don’t go to see just one show. See as much as you can. Because that’s when you really start to understand how Fringe works. And experiment! See something you’re familiar with. See something you’ve heard is good. But then also see something that you’ve never heard of. See something local. See shows by Artists who’ve travelled from all over the world to come here. Plan to see as many shows as you can.” 

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