This year’s Winnipeg Fringe Festival features 112 different companies presenting shows in a variety of genres including comedy, drama, improv, dance, musicals, cabarets, children’s shows, spoken word and multi-media. It’s impossible to see all of the shows during the 12 days of the Fringe. So, you will have to choose which shows you are going to see. The following tips will hopefully make your Fringe experience enjoyable.
1. Buy a program. They cost $5 and are available right now at Liquor Marts and the Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre. After the Fringe starts Wednesday night, they will be available at the various venues. After you buy a program, read it. If a show description sounds interesting, chances are you will like the show and you should go see it.
2. Talk to other Fringers. Get to shows early and talk to other people waiting in line. Also, after the venue opens and you get a seat, talk to the person next to you. Ask them what other shows they’ve seen and what they liked and did not like. Try to engage in a meaningful conversation. If someone tells you they saw an amazing show, ask them what was so special about it? Was it the acting? The script? The direction? If a person can describe to me what was wonderful and get me excited about that show, chances are that I will go and see it.
3. Be media savvy. Read a wide variety of media outlets. Winnipeg has a lot of media outlets that cover the Fringe, including umfm.com. Each day each of these outlets post dozens of reviews. Read them. If you read a review and the review makes the show sound interesting, go see it. Do not only look at the star ratings media outlets assign to a show because star ratings are not consistent between reviewers (i.e. Two reviewers can have different definitions of 4 stars). I’ve seen brilliant 2 stars shows and rather dull 5 star shows.
4. When planning what shows to see, think about how you are feeling. If you’re tired, don’t see intense drama. Generally, I see the heavier shows (drama) earlier in the day when my brain is most alert and save the comedies for the late night shows.
5. Buy a Fringe pass at the Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre, which saves a couple of bucks off the standard $12 ticket price.
6. If you want to guarantee a ticket, buy advance tickets right now through winnipegfringe.com.
7. If you are still not sure what show you might want to see, try one of the shows that offer 2 tickets for the price of 1 (2 for $12). They are highlighted in yellow in the program. Many shows also offer discounted rates for under 25, seniors and afternoon shows. After all, every Winnipegger likes a bargain.
8. Wear comfortable walking shoes. Even though most venues are close to Old Market Square, you will have to stand in line, because they don’t open up the venues until about 15 minutes before the show.
9. Bring a water bottle (or two or three). During the summer, it can actually get pretty hot in Winnipeg. Some venues have poor air circulation. So drink lots of water.
10. Listen to the radio and find out the weather before you head down to the Fringe. Or, google Environment Canada to get the weather. And dress appropriately for the weather.
11. Between shows, you can check out the free music in Old Market Square.
12. Wearing a mask is highly recommended during indoor shows because you do want to avoid covid.
13. Even if you see the absolute worst show in the world, there’s always the beer tent in Old Market Square to look forward to.
photo courtesy of Leif Norman