Ordering chaos : the Canadian fringe theatre phenomenon




Paterson, Erika

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In 1982, the Edmonton Fringe began as a low budget experimental theatre event,and quickly became an annual celebration of performance that was (and is) a truly popular festival. Today, the Edmonton Fringe attracts 500,000 spectators, 200 street performers, and 150 theatre groups from across the country and around the world. Between 1985 and 1991, Fringe festivals were established in Montreal, Toronto, Saskatoon, Winnipeg, Vancouver and Victoria. These 7 festivals constituted a 4 month theatre circuit for national and international travelling theatre and street performance troupes. All of these festivals continue to receive more applications from Fringe artist to produce, than they can possibly accommodate. Audience members are willing to stand in line for up to six hours to see a sell-out Fringe show. These events have stimulated a remarkable level of excitement and enthusiasm for theatre. Why ? How? These are the central questions that this work approaches from a number of different, and sometimes distinct perspectives. “Part One," Ordering Chaos. begins with a history of the Fringe that places the festivals in a larger context concerned with Canadian theatre, and in particular the historical relations, social and theatrical, between the alternative theatre movement and the Fringe, and between the Fringe and the postmodern. It includes a description and analysis of the Fringe Production model, Fringe performance, and excerpts from numerous interviews with Fringe producers, artists, and critics.“Part Two," The Fringe Phenomenon, observes these events from two different perspectives; one is concerned with festivity, the other with popular culture; both observe the Fringe as a socio-cultural event. Depending primarily on Victor Turner’s anthropology of performance and John Fiske’s observations on popular culture, I examine the festivals as cultural performances. Linda Hutcheon’s understanding of the Canadian postmodern provides a context for conclusionary remarks.



Performing arts, Theaters