Winnipeg Fringe Festival brings 182 unique shows to Winnipeg

Have you ever wondered what it's like to orchestrate one of Winnipeg's most beloved summer festivals?   Chuck McEwen, the Executive Producer of the Winnipeg Fringe Theater Festival since 2008 is a man who’s in love with his job.

"My job is to put on a big party, and that's not a bad job to have. I put on a big party every summer!"    

Clearly, McEwen is doing an excellent job at throwing that party. Fringe Fest attendance and ticket sales increase every year, and last summer 195 shows sold out. This trend is expected to continue this year with 182 amazing shows to attend. That’s a lot of shows and venues for just 12 days

What is it about the Winnipeg Fringe Theatre Festival that keeps people coming back year after year? The man behind the show says that it's all about the vibe. Ever since it was founded in 1988, the Fringe has been committed to creating an environment that is fun, accessible, diverse and inclusive for everyone.

When you attend the Fringe, you will bump into all kinds of people from all walks of life. Everyone is welcome and included, so it's no wonder that performers also love that type of environment.   

"We don't promote one show over another, it's the audiences who decide what the hits are through word of mouth and support, as well as the reviewers. We reduce the barriers between the audience and the artists. There are no strangers at the fringe. It's cross demographic."

Affordable ticket prices are a big factor in making the Winnipeg Fringe Fest accessible for everyone. Each show is $5.00 - $10.00, which means you can go and see multiple shows and get the whole experience of the Fringe without breaking the bank.   

Most of the shows are centered around Winnipeg's historic Exchange District, and there are venues downtown for afternoon and evening shows. During the day, the Kids Fringe and other shows occupy Old Market Square and the outdoor stage.

Affordable ticket prices aren't the only factor that keeps Winnipegers coming back to the Fringe every year.  It's the quality of the artists and performances. Performers feel that the Fringe's name speaks for itself.

According to McEwan, performers know the Fringe is one of the best organized festivals on the circuit and a pleasure to perform at. "Most fringe artists will say, ‘Definitely go to Winnipeg’"- It's one of the best audiences for fringe independent theater and a testament to Winnipeg's excellent arts and culture scene.

Festival organizers were tight lipped about the program because it isn't out until mid-June, however guests can expect to enjoy a multitude of new performances as well as the return of some audience favourites. There are big names from 182 companies across Canada and around the world, which are a mix of first timers and those coming pack from previous years.

Now that you have been convinced to attend the Fringe, which shows should you attend? Performances will be listed on the Winnipeg Fringe Theater Website at winnipegfringe.com. To keep track of the action or check for info and updates, follow the Fringe on Twitter @WinnipegFringe and use their hashtag  #wpgfringe Happy Fringing!

Part of the series: The 7th Annual Summer Festival Guide

Published in Volume 69, Number 27 of The Uniter (June 3, 2015)

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