KF: I am interested in the “burlesque cabaret dream play” Josephine, about the groundbreaking entertainer Josephine Baker, which has awards and great reviews from the States. And I’m also interested in performers who thrive on the Fringe circuit. One is Gemma Wilcox, whose solo shows are Toronto Fringe favourites (this year she’s bringing back her 2008 hit The Honeymoon Period is Officially Over). Some friends tipped me off to Brooklyn-based Martin Dockery, a storyteller they say is mesmerizing — this year he has two shows in the Fringe: The Bike Trip and Inescapable.
CM: Alongside Josephine is Ryan G. Hinds’s #KANDERANDEBB and Ashley Botting’s Ashley With a Y. Hinds is an established cabaret favourite, and Botting is best known as an improviser and comedian but has shown off her dramatic skills in shows like Jessica Moss’s Cam Baby. These cabarets provide a mix of the solo storytelling and the musical extravaganzas that the Fringe has come to epitomize.
CM: The Fringe’s Best New Play Contest winner is usually one to keep an eye on and this year’s it’s Women of the Fur Trade by Anishinaabe writer Frances Koncan from Winnipeg. It’s great to see a non-Torontonian win, and this one stands out as a story about three women confronting their cultures, histories and potential futures in 1918 Canada.
KF: Also interesting is Upstream Downtown by Morgan Johnson and Alexandra Simpson, about “salmon and humans finding a home in Toronto” (check out their promo photo and you can see that the performers indeed get “fishy”), and Soulo Theatre’s We the Men, in which female-identifying performers play 10 men on a weekend trip, based on real conversations.
The Fringe is also fun for shows in non-traditional locations. Flooded: A Show and Sail Around the Toronto Islands takes place on the Pirate Life Boat, a nifty floating venue where Fringe-goers can catch a welcome breeze.
CM: And expand your limits with genres you’re not used to. Circus Shop of Horrors mixes circus arts with the esthetic and themes of horror movies. And there’s another dark tale in Carmilla, an adaptation of the 1870s vampire novella of the same name. Karen, you know I’ll be there.
KF: I expect no less, my horror-loving colleague! Other shows in unusual locations are Harvey & the Extraordinary, Eliza Martin’s solo show in a garage; Fiona Ross’s Is That How Clowns Have Sex? staged in an adult entertainment store; Mrs. Mama’s House, a riff on “The Old Woman Who Lived in a Shoe” at the Bata Shoe Museum; and St. Peon of the People, in which the audience joins a parking enforcement officer on her beat.
You mentioned the Fringe Tent before. This year the Fringe has launched something new for after-hours socializing.
CM: The Fringe Beer Tent has been officially rebranded as Postscript, seemingly to make it more open to non-Fringe artists and fans. With its public location in the Scadding Court hockey arena, people can come in off the street for food, drinks and daily programming, including a comedy night, a music festival, a silent disco and a prom (an ’80s prom, to be specific).
KF: I’m excited for the Postscript Youth Takeover Night on July 11, with programming from the AMY Project and Paprika Festival, and the Fringe Awards on the 12th hosted by Ali Hassan.
CM: And the #UrgentExchange events organized by Generator. I know I’ll see you at July 13’s workshop on the new faces of theatre criticism!
KF: Big time! And at the July 10 #UrgentExchange on precarity and mental health. We’re running out of space here but, speaking of new faces, I’m looking forward to our next column about the University of Toronto course we’re launching this week, “Reviewing the Toronto Fringe.”
The Toronto Fringe Festival runs July 4 to 15 in venues around the city. Tickets are $13, with discounts for previews and same-day purchase, and multi-show discount passes available. KidsFest shows are $5; no charge for babies in arms. See fringetoronto.com or call 416-966-1062; the festival box office is at 707 Dundas St. W.