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Volume 22 Number 2 / Fall 2001

A Fringe Odyssey: 20th Annual Edmonton Fringe Theater Festival, August 16-26, 2001

  • Shelley Scott
May 13, 2008


2001 marked the 20th anniversary of the Edmonton Fringe Festival. The scope and success of the Festival—involving 153 theatre companies and selling 85,000 tickets to indoor productions, with an overall attendance of 500,000—invites a closer look at the theatre being done there and its place within the larger context of Canadian theatre. The most obvious influence of the Edmonton Fringe is that it has inspired more than twenty-five other Fringes across North America (Fringe Program 6). I would argue that the Fringe circuit in Canada has great potential to play an important role in new play development. It is already, to some extent, a source for new Canadian plays, but this role could be enhanced if the Fringe were promoted as a viable, low risk venue for exploratory productions of plays in some stage of dramaturgical development. It could also be a place to see lesser-known Canadian plays that have been published, but not remounted, bringing such plays to a much larger audience. In considering the example of the most recent Edmonton Fringe, however, there is one particular obstacle to this potential: the tendency of the local media to emphasize familiarity as the highest virtue. Valorization of familiarity as a sort of consumer guarantee tends to mitigate any process which could truly be called developmental.