It’s that time of year again. I’ve found myself blogging less and less over the years, which is a shame because it’s always interesting to go back and read what I was up to a year or two ago, but without fail I always find myself writing during the Fringe Festival. This is definitely the time of year I find myself happiest, and it always passes by far too quickly. Dear friends fly into town, the beautiful Exchange District is filled with life, colour, and crowds that appreciate the arts, and I’m just surrounded by creativity, talent, and wonderful people. The rest of the year seems so dark and desolate in comparison; Old Market Square is deserted and there’s that underlying hesitance to even visit the Exchange. But for these two glorious weeks in July we’re treated to hundreds of productions from noon ‘til night every day; local vendors sell pretty trinkets to take home, and pubs and coffee houses thrive with dedicated theatre-goers.
I’m sitting here, at this moment in time, thinking how lucky I’ve been this year. Fringe season, without fail, has a knack for making me count my blessings, and this year I’ve had a lot of them. Sure there’s been quite a bit of crap too, but why remember 2008 for that? I’ve got a beautiful new apartment; I’ve been home to England; I’ve visited Ireland and seen something I never dreamed I’d see in person; I’ve caught up with old friends and family; and right now, all my absolute favourite people are here in Winnipeg. I saw a greeting card while I was in the UK that had the words “wherever you are, it’s your friends who make your world”, or something to that effect, on the front, and it’s so true. This past week I’ve been able to see people I may only see once a year, but these are some of the people I love most in the world. And being able to share in such an amazing festival every single day is just quite possibly the most wonderful thing ever.
I’ve seen about 6 plays since last week; I saw the boys twice and I’m so happy they’re doing so well. It’s a wonderful show and Winnipeg loves them and they deserve such love and success. If you see one thing at the Fringe this year, please go and see Sherlock Holmes and the Saline Solution over at the Gas Station. I also saw Scratch – I don’t normally tend to go to improv shows, but it was highly recommended, and I wish there were more hours in the day because I’d go again in a heartbeat! Probably the best improv I’ve ever seen – they took three suggestions at the beginning of the show and somehow, through flipping characters throughout the show, created three elaborate stories that all converged amazingly in this montage, tied up loose ends and had me laughing the whole time. Very impressive indeed. Last night saw Chris Gibbs, a wonderful storyteller and the ever awe-inspiring (and ever perspiring) Jem Rolls, who just opens your mind and mesmerizes an audience with his incredible performance poetry. In a world where praise is given to highlights and boob jobs over natural beauty, trashy gossip magazines are read over a good book, and a night out is dressing in skimpy clothing, getting drunk and dancing with strangers while a club plays soulless records made exclusively for money; the Fringe festival restores my faith in people at large. I’m so glad the theatre is still so very much alive, and there are still so many people who have such an appreciation for the arts.
Throngs flock to venues hours ahead of showtimes to get a ticket to see an hour-long performance, a lot of the time going on word of mouth with no knowledge of what they’re about to see. Performers spend months preparing a show, from an initial idea to a full-on production, and the variety is enormous. Storytellers, dramatists, comedians, singers and dancers all materialize and the city is treated to two magnificent weeks of culture and the creative spirit. One day I’d love to go over to the Edinburgh Fringe in Scotland – almost a month of shows, selling 1.6 MILLION tickets. I hope the boys do well there next month, and just maybe I might be able to go next year. Fingers crossed!