Fringe ‘til you drop

The annual Toronto Fringe Festival (July 5-16) is the city’s largest, most wide-ranging theatre festival.

The annual Toronto Fringe Festival (July 5-16) is the city’s largest, most wide-ranging theatre festival. This year, 103 shows will be presented at over a dozen indoor venues around the city. The shows are picked by lottery, so anyone with an idea and luck can participate, and they range from musicals to drama to dance to standup comedy and beyond. Tickets tend to be around $13, with all the cash going to the artists. And the Tranzac Club POSTSCRIPT patio is returning this year — head there for post-show drinks and free community events.

The best way to do Fringe is to grab a physical program and pick things at random. But since the full schedule won’t be out until June 14, here are some shows to get excited about.

Fringe Theatre

Killing Time: A Game Show Musical

(Mixtape Projects)

Mixtape Projects has already mounted two productions of this ultra-fun satirical musical about a murder on the set of a game show. The first garnered them three Dora Award nominations, including Best Direction for company leader Margot Greve. The second, at the Hamilton Fringe, was unfortunately cut short due to COVID-19. This next Fringe attempt will hopefully go more smoothly and produce a big hit.

Morning After

(a front company)

Over the last two years, a front company has been producing exciting, small-scale work by artists like Kole Durnford both here and in Alberta. They’re now expanding, and recently announced their ’ rst full season of work, which includes this movement-heavy play by Katarina Fiallos that explores the complex process of recovering from sexual assault.

CAEZUS

(Theatrum Pompeii)

Nam Nguyen’s meta-theatrical food musical A Perfect Bowl of Pho was the blockbuster hit of last Fringe, and he’s back this year as the lyricist of this “industrial hip-hop concert” about Julius Caesar’s final days. With music by Maksym Chupov-Ryabtsev, it promises to be startlingly contemporary and just plain fun.

The Will of a Woman

(Diamond Heart Productions)

Pre-pandemic, a key part of Fringe was the “site-specific” section of the program, which included shows done in unconventional performance spaces around the city. For the first time since 2019, that category is back, and accomplished playwright Steven Elliott Jackson (of last year’s Fringe hit The Garden of Alla) is using the opportunity to premiere this immersive new play at the historic Spadina House.

Park Plays

Generally short, scrappy, and accessible, outdoor theatre is a genre unto itself. Lie back on a blanket, watch the sun set, and sip wine from a snuck-in water bottle at shows from these theatre companies with outdoor offerings. 

One of the best parts about outdoor theatre is how much of it there is, so other companies to watch out for include Clay & Paper Theatre, Dusk Dances, Shakespeare in Action, Driftwood Theatre Group, Common Boots Theatre, and Panoply Theatre Collective.

Shakespeare in the Ruff

Based out of the east end’s Withrow Park, this collectively led company mixes creative audacity with accessibility. Their next show, Richard Three (Aug 17-Sep 3), reflects that blend: director Patricia Allison is taking a multiverse approach, drawing an innovative link between a hyper-popular contemporary form and a Shakespeare history play, itself the popular entertainment of its day. Ruff tickets are free/PWYC.

Canadian Stage

For the last 40 summers, CanStage has brought cheap, high-quality theatre to the High Park amphitheatre. This year, the centrepiece of their outdoor slate is a 90-minute, Jamie Robinson-directed A Midsummer Night’s Dream (July 21-Sep 3). Shorter-running dance and music pieces will fill out the programming.

Guild Festival Theatre

This growing company is nestled away in Scarborough’s Guild Park & Gardens, where they inhabit a stage with ornate, Greek-inspired architecture. In addition to some programming for young audiences, they’re doing two plays about trios: the satirical Three Men in a Boat (July 27-Aug 13), and The Drowning Girls (Aug 17-27), which is about three murderous brides.

You Might Also Like

New Buddies artistic director ted witzel
Arts & Culture

Buddies in Bad Times Theatre announces first season under new leadership

Artistic director ted witzel to direct season opener by Bernard-Marie Koltès

By Liam Donovan