U of W’s theatre department contributes to the Fringe’s success

Helpfulness of staff help actors of all skill levels put together great shows

The Winnipeg Fringe Festival, conceived as an answer to the extremely popular Edinburgh Fringe Festival, has been around for just over 20 years. The festival has always served as an open and affordable opportunity to anyone interested in putting on a theatrical production. This, as you might imagine, is the ideal opportunity for University of Winnipeg students studying dramatic arts.

The Fringe is a great way for students to get started in the community. At around $700, it is relatively inexpensive to rent a venue and produce a show. All the money made from tickets goes right back to the producers of plays and, being one of the most popular theatre events in the country, it is very rare that a fringe show will not make profit.

Nearly 50 per cent of Fringe shows are in some manner associated with U of W students and graduates. Students contribute as actors, play writers, directors, producers, organizers and tech workers.

Honours student and fringe actor Aaron Pridham attributes the 50 per cent statistic to helpfulness of the staff.

“U of W theatre faculty staff are open and willing to help everyone.”

Pridham believes it is the combined faculty’s shear passion for their art form that pushes students to succeed.

“Professors really want you to do well and encourage you to audition and contribute to shows.”

Pridham contends there is no better opportunity for people interested in theatre.

“It’s a great platform for anyone involved in entertainment.”

Lana Hasting is a psychology graduate from U of W who is writing, directing, producing and acting in her play, People Like You. Despite not being a member of the faculty, the department still made sure Hasting had all the resources her production needed.

“Professors gave me great advice and let me use their practice room.”

As well as helping with ticket sales and advertising, U of W supplies productions with free practice space and props.

“Our department is a major sponsor of the event both in consulting expertise and the loan of equipment,” said Patty Hawkins, the theatre department’s office manager.

The school has even dedicated a class to the fringe. “Special Studies: The Fringe” is a summer course that teaches students every aspect of producing a Fringe show. The class covers everything from public relations to acting to costume designs. This year the course will be producing Henrik Ibsen’s classic, A Doll’s House.

Pridham, Hasting and Hawkins assert the theatre faculty is very open and welcoming to anyone putting together a production.

“I don’t think the Fringe would exist as we know it without U of W,” Hawkins said.

Published in Volume 63, Number 29 of The Uniter (July 16, 2009)

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