I look forward to mid-July each year, not because of the lack of snow (though that’s really great), but because it’s fringe time in Regina! The Regina International Fringe Theatre Festival takes place from July 8-12, 2015. Over the course of five days, you can have the opportunity to see 19 plays by performers from Saskatchewan, Canada and around the world. This year, theatre artists have travelled from such far-flung locales as London (UK), South Africa and Japan to take part in the Regina Fringe. And there’s everything from drama to comedy to kids’ shows to choose from! What is fringe theatre? Traditionally, the term refers to theatre that is experimental in subject matter or style – theatre on the “fringe” of the mainstream. Shows take place in small venues rather than large theatres, creating an intimate environment. Sets and costumes are minimal, relying more on the performers’ skills and the audience’s imaginations, and plays are brief – typically around 60 minutes. One major distinction between mainstream and fringe theatre festivals is how shows are chosen. Instead of being picked by jury or curated by an artistic director, fringe shows are drawn by lottery or by “first come, first serve” applications. The result is an uncensored grab bag of amateur and professional performances that can include theatre, dance, musicals, puppetry, clowning and spoken word. One of the best parts about this mix is that it includes a lot of original material. Often, the plays are written by the performers themselves. It is a profound experience to sit in an audience and watch a performer tell his or her life’s story in such a unique way. How does it work? Another great thing about fringe is that it’s accessible. Tickets are only $10 per show, so you can go to one or a bunch, depending on your mood and budget. You can buy them in advance (Pssst … Affinity Credit Union branches have 2 for 1 advance tickets on sale for a limited time) – or at any of the festival’s venues. And 100% of your ticket price goes directly to the performers! Check out the descriptions of the shows on the Regina Fringe website and the schedule of performances here, and start thinking about which shows you want to see. There is also a FREE Kids Fringe taking place on July 11! Outdoors, there are fun activities like face painting, balloon animals, Dino Bouncers and more. Inside are family-friendly fringe plays: Saskatchewan Outdoors, New Canadian Kid, and Opera Mouse. new canadian kidkids fringe How do I know what to see? The Regina Fringe is unique in that it has a crew of volunteers reviewing all shows within the first two days of the festival and posting them online. If you’re a bit shy about dipping your toe into the fringe waters, wait a day, then click on the “reviews” tab next to each play. That will give you a hint of what others think of the shows. Many of the plays have toured to other fringe festivals before coming to Regina. Keep an eye out for the “buzz” a show makes in other centres. For example, Melanie Gall’s Stitch in Time: A Knitting Cabaret received rave reviews at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. stitch in time But don’t forget about the local folks! A number of plays in the festival are by Regina and Saskatchewan writers and performers. It’s great to be able to experience the vast talent we have in this province, as well as the shows touring from other provinces or countries. Some of the local shows I’m looking forward to seeing are Apocalypse, Saskatchewan (I’m billeting the director of this play at my house!), Fraz vs the Future, and Words of Luv. Apocalypse SK fraz vs the futurewords of luv For the first time, the fringe is offering a preview night on Tuesday, July 7. For just $5, you’ll get to see bits and pieces from a number of plays, to help make your decisions a little easier. And if you like a variety show format, you’ll love the Another Fantastically Fringe Fundraiser on Saturday night, which is full of storytelling, singing, burlesque, stand-up comedy and other performances featuring performers from this year’s fringe. However, when in doubt, just close your eyes, point your finger at the fringe schedule, and go to that show. With this much variety, you can’t really go wrong. Happy fringing, all! Photos courtesy of Regina International Fringe Festival