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2012 Calgary Fringe Festival in Review/my “Best of Fests”

Me outside the Lantern Church

Today’s the last day of the Calgary Fringe Festival. I’m done, but there’s still a full day of shows, starting with “Best of Fest'” winner Burnt at the Steak at 1PM (the only real musical here). It was a good week. I saw twelve shows in all with a range of styles, and I liked a lot more than I didn’t. I was disappointed that there weren’t more musicals :(, but that’s the luck of the draw at a theatre festival with a lottery system, and one that is designed to favour one or two person shows – if an artist wants to make any money, that is.

I haven’t been giving the Fringe shows formal “star” rankings as I go along, although I’ve thought about it.  If you feel that would be helpful, let me know for next time. (Isn’t it cheating to give 1/2 stars? You might as well have a 10 point scale if you’re going to do that, IMO). When I write musicals, I force-rank my songs into thirds and then replace the bottom third of songs until they’re all as good as the best third I started with. This process keeps me from getting too attached to my songs and settling for mediocrity, and gives me a full set of strong songs by the third draft. That system works for me, so here’s my force-ranking for the Fringe shows I saw this week with links to my reviews. Not included in this list are shows reviewed on my blog by Laurie Strashok that I didn’t see. You can still catch most shows today.

Top Third – I’d be eager to see these performers if they come back next year

Middle Third – Shows I would recommend, but not as memorable as the above

Bottom Third – Shows that didn’t do much for me 

I’ve also got a few “Best of Fest” awards to give out myself:

Best Fringe Venue

For this one I’m going with all the Bring-Your-Own Venue locations since I couldn’t choose just one. These are: DaDe Art and Design Lab, Jacqueline Suzanne’s Bistro, Stash Needle Art Lounge and Lolita’s Lounge. I didn’t see any shows at the latter, but I’ve been there so I know what it’s like. These intimate settings make for great small shows and are the most interesting spaces at the Fringe – so much so that you don’t notice the lack of lights, sound and curtains. At most Fringe Festivals the BYOV artists (these are ones that don’t make the lottery) literally do have to supply their own venue – and everything else. I think it’s great that these Inglewood establishments have stepped up to offer their spaces for the Calgary Fringe and that the Festival organizers have chosen shows that are a good fit for the spaces.

Best Ass-Busting Fringe Artist

This award goes hands-down to Cameryn Moore who, as in previous years, is a familiar sight at every show line-up, strutting her trademark parasol, short skirts and cowboy boots to promote her one-woman show Power/Play (choose your own adventure). I didn’t make it to her show, so I’m glad my blogger-in-crime, Laurie Strashok, did.

Best Fringe Benefit

Beer. While the air-conditioning at the new Festival Hall might rank high on some people’s lists this week, having some venues where you can watch the show over a beer or glass of wine makes it on mine. These include the Alexandra Centre, the Lantern Church Gym and Basement (not the Sanctuary, sorry :( ), Lolita’s Lounge and Jacqueline Suzanne’s Bistro.

I do have two minor beefs with the Festival (with associated advice for Fringe artists who might be thinking of coming here next year), as follows:

  • Only the Alexandra Centre, the Artpoint Gallery and the Lantern Church Gym have raked seating (conventional theatre seating where each row is higher than the last). When all the seats are on the floor and the stage isn’t very high it can be difficult to see over the head in front of you. Fringe artists in these venues should limit activity near the floor – and audiences should get there early to sit up front. This is especially important for larger venues like the Lantern Church Sanctuary and Festival Hall.
  • There aren’t enough shows that start or end on the quarter-hour for the benefit of Fringe bingers who want to dash between venues and see a 45-minute or 50-minute show in one space and catch the next show on the hour or half-hour. Fringe artists may find more people come to their show if they don’t use the full hour slot, thus allowing people to make the next show on their list.

Another thing that’s been clear to me this week is that I’ve disagreed with the other theatre critics almost as much as I’ve agreed with them, which makes me wonder about the value of reading (or writing!) reviews… At least that’s one nice thing about the Fringe. If you’re only spending maybe an hour of your time and $10-$15, then even if you don’t like something it’s not a total loss. Just don’t go to the Fringe, see a show you hate and swear never to come back, or you just might miss out on one of the best shows you’ve ever seen. Hope to see you there next year.

The Calgary Fringe Festival ends today, August 11. Tickets are $10-$15 per show plus your $5 Fringe button and most shows are about an hour long. For schedules and online tickets (well worth it for popular shows), go to Calgary Fringe Festival.

Outside the Alexandra Centre

If you’re not completely Fringed-out, there are also a few extra post-Fringe performances on Sunday that you might be interested in :

  • 2 to Django – Special repeat performance of this sold-out show at 6PM at Jacqueline Suzanne’s Bistro. Contact the Bistro at (403) 266-1005 to book. (There will be some tickets available to buy on-site for tonight’s show but good luck getting one).
  • 6 Guitars – Repeat performance of Chase Padgett (The Bro Show)’s 2011 Fringe hit at 7PM at the Improv Guild. See link for more details. If you’d like someone to go with, check out The Calgary Musicals+ Meetup Group
  • slut (r)evolution – Repeat performance of Cameryn Moore (Power/Play)’s 2011 Fringe hit. Email for details and booking.

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2 thoughts on “2012 Calgary Fringe Festival in Review/my “Best of Fests”

  1. Pingback: Guest Review: Evil Dead The Musical @ The Pumphouse « Calgary Musicals

  2. Pingback: Review: 3 Stars for Two and Two Thirds Men @ Jubilations « Calgary Musicals

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