4 Things we Loved About Fringe 2015; 4 Hopes for 2016

FringeKidsPhoto by Catherine Jan

We Loved: FringeKids!
Last year, FringeKids got good, acquiring their own club especially for young audiences. But this year, things got awesome, with all-day activities rocking right next to the FringeKids venue — finally out of the library and into the George Ignatieff — unifying both halves of the FringeKids program. In two years, FringeKids has gone from being a bit of a drag (walk to a show; walk back to Bloor for lunch; walk to a show; walk back to Bloor to kill 45 minutes…) to a daylong destination, and with all the consternation over declining audiences, we’re please as punch to see the festival getting this right.


LotteryPhoto by Dylan George

We Hope For: More Venues!
This year, nearly 700 companies entered the lottery, and this is one of the festival’s biggest successes — but they’re only drawing 130ish winners, and that figure gets more and more disappointing every year. There’s definitely an administrative and technical overhead associated with looping in more venues, but adding the Tranzac — remember the Tranzac? — would bring an additional 10-11 shows to the festival; scoop up the Storefront, that’s another more-or-less dozen, and there’s more where that came from. (If you’ve got the Storefront, the Comedy Bar has two spaces about a block away, and Bad Dog now has a little shoebox, too…) Obviously, we’re never going to get anywhere near 100% participation, but with the Fringe growing every year, can we find room for more?

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Butts in Seats: the 2015 Fringe Venue Roundup

If there’s one thing theatre writers are good at, it’s sitting. From Robert Cushman to the lowliest blogger, our butts are what unite us. And don’t think we’re joking: we’ve sat in the plushly-appointed Princess of Wales, on benches at Theatre Passe Muraille, on blankets on the lawn in High Park, on virtually every flat surface in Toronto — and a few which aren’t.

As Fringe winds down, we’d like to share some of our wisdom with you. We’ve assessed every mainstage venue for comfort (will you regret sitting there?), utility (sightlines, proximity, etc.), charm (is it a nice room?), amenities (toilets, snacks, transit…) and access. Then we use this information to generate a score between 1 and 5 moons — after all, Mooney on Theatre doesn’t give star ratings.

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A podcast and a survey for Disappearing Act? A Public Forum on Canadian Theatre & Toronto Audiences

If you are in the Toronto theatre industry you may have heard about the impromptu forum that happened on Sunday January 11, 2015 spurred to life from a status on Facebook posted by Derrick Chua on December 3, 2014 where he said “At some point, I’d really love to have an open and frank discussion / forum to hear people’s thoughts and opinions on how to attract a larger audience / how to convince the general public to attend more original Canadian theatre!”

Then, he did it, as Derrick is wont to do. He didn’t do it alone, he also enlisted the help of Sue Edworthy and Sheila Sky. Between them, by eight days later they had announced Disappearing Act? A Public Forum on Canadian Theatre & Toronto Audiences with time and location. Location eventually had to be changed because the interest in the event was so high that the original venue wasn’t big enough.

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The Theatregoer’s Bill of Rights

  1. No folding chairs; no patio furniture. (An exception may be made if your show is literally on a patio.)
  2. If the show runs longer than 90 minutes, it must have an intermission.
    • If the show runs longer than 120 minutes, try for two. (And add an intermission for each additional 45 minutes.)
    • If the show runs longer than 180 minutes, it better be the best thing anyone’s put on a stage since Olivier did Hamlet.
  3. If you’re holding the curtain longer than 5 minutes, tell the audience and give us an estimate of when we’ll kick off. (A vague message about “technical difficulties” is just fine.) Don’t make us sit there wondering whether someone’s died.
  4. Always end your show before 1 AM. (If only so people can catch the subway home.)
  5. Warn your audience in advance — about everything. Warn us about gunshots; wheelchair inaccessibility; audience participation; lack of parking near the venue; strobe lights; graphic sexuality; cigarette smoke; “splash zones”; anything; everything.
    These warnings should be on your website, on your social media presence, on a poster outside your venue, and anywhere else it makes sense to include them. It should be impossible to buy a ticket in a state of obliviousness.
  6. Functional, sanitary, well-maintained and accessible washrooms, inside the venue. Don’t make us cross the street to Starbucks.
  7. The venue will have some indication that it is a venue; at least tape a poster to the front window. Don’t make us tug on anonymous doors hoping we’ve found the right place.
  8. Unless it’s opening night, closing night or a fundraiser, curtain speeches are to be capped at 2 minutes; aim for 90 seconds. If the speaker hits 3 minutes, just start the show and play him off-stage.
  9. Latecomers will be seated in sensibly-located aisle-facing house seats near the doors, not wedged into the middles of rows.
  10. But seriously: NO FOLDING CHAIRS. EVER.