The Fringe is Upon Us

two people dancing FringeMTL. Fringe for All. Trip the Light Theatre Collective. Photo Joseph Ste Marie

Several events can claim to be the gateway into the season of fun: Formula 1 for bros and hoes, Go Velo for spandexians, Mural Fest for beats and spray can set, and the Montreal Fringe for indie performing artists. Whatever your leanings — or all four if that’s your pleasure — the Fringe is the perfect dive into festival season, whether that’s taking in music in Parc des Amériques, checking out the quirky events of the After-Dark programming, or satiating cultural hunger with the wide variety of shows on offer, most under an hour. All ticket sales go directly to the artists themselves, so it’s a pleasant middle finger to Ticketmaster with every show you see.

Festival Executive and Artistic Director Amy Blackmore says she’s found it both overwhelming and incredible that even with just a few shows barely open, the Montreal Fringe is on its way to a record year with over $50,000 in tickets sold. She attributes this success to the longevity of Montreal’s festival. “What we’ve seen is that original hardcore Fringers of the ’90s are still coming out. They’re hardcore in the sense that none of the venues had air conditioning back then and now they all do. Now they’re bringing their families. It’s a new generation of Fringers coming to the festival. I’ve been Fringing since I was 17. Now I’m 40. So many of us have been around for a long time.”

Blackmore further adds that while what you see at the Fringe festival may not be mainstream, the idea of going to Fringe is becoming more mainstream and people want to see new work. Some of this can be attributed to things like the success of Fleabag and Baby Reindeer, both shows that grew out of Edinburgh’s Fringe, but also because the Fringe is appearing in popular culture. For example, she recounts that during a recent interview with Sandra Oh, Stephen Colbert revealed that he was posting flyers for his Montreal Fringe show when he was stopped by the cops. The Fringe has even appeared on the Simpsons.

“In Canada, Fringe festivals are a national treasure,” says Blackmore. “There’s about 23 festivals now and we’re starting to see Canadians overall embrace the idea and the movement. Tourists and locals alike go. I’ll go to the one in Halifax when I’m there for a wedding.” Everyone is welcome, of course and the Fringe makes inclusivity part of its mission, with shows chosen by lottery rather than jury and efforts made to find accessible spaces.

This year, specifically, Blackmore points out that a lot of touring artists will be at the Festival. “It’s a real deal to see touring artists for just $19 a ticket,” she says. She names Sara Mayfield with Who Drinks Mocktails on the Beach, Iris Bahr’s Stories from the Brink, and Jimmy Hogg in Jimmy Hogg: The Potato King. She also is excited for Vehicle with Shane Adamczak. “He was a mainstay of our festival for many years, especially when he lived here. I’m waiting for him to walk into HQ so I can give him a hug.”

Blackmore is also excited about the specific personal themes that seem to permeate so many of the shows. “There’s shows about motherhood,” she says, and points to Erin Eldershaw’s Cute: Motherhood as an example of that. Eldershaw just had a baby a couple of weeks ago. Blackmore continues, “There’s stories about death, love, queer stories, trans stories. It’s funny because some years, the themes are about banjos or zombies, but this year, people want to tell their stories and I’m curious to hear them. There are a lot of personal stories of triumph and struggles.”

Blackmore is right. This year, there’s a real sense of the Festival’s continuity. We’re lucky this year to have a few familiar faces back, but we’re just as lucky that there are new artists ready to become the next legends of the Fringe. For those who wish to attend shows, there are individual tickets and reduced-rate passes in packs of 3-, 6-, 10-, and 30-shows available at Take advantage and see as many as you can. Maybe see them all. It requirers some advance planning… but it can and has been done. Word of mouth is a great way to find out what’s hot and there’s no better place to do that than at Parc des Ameriques where the Fringe festival sells beer and snacks to live music. There are tents set up, so even if it’s raining, there’s shelter.

At any rate, here’s some shows I think you’re gonna love.

A Truck Stop Diner. In the Middle of Nowhere. On the Night Shift.

Kendall Savage is a co-founder of the Montreal Clown festival and has appeared in more than a few films as her career has continued. Now, see her as IOLA, a lonely waitress who wants to be in a beauty contest being judged by her favourite rock group.

At La Chapelle (3700 St Dominique) on June 7, 8, 9, 11, 15, and 16.

By Our Side: An Entertaining Transplant Story

I’ve seen ballet, tango, contemporary dance, wacking, burlesque (which can be a form of dance). But, tap dance! I’m excited for this. All those shuffle-ball-change moves gets my heart thumping. In this case, the show is about a tap dance duo (and couple) whose lives are rocked by sudden kidney failure. Their adjustment to the life-altering news and quest for an organ donor continue the story. This world premiere looks super promising and its straight outta Sutton.

At Studio Multimédia du Conservatoire (4750 Henri Julien) on June 8, 9, 10, 13, 14, and 15.

Cabaret of Murder

Never seen in Montreal before, this show features three women who present the work of serial killers. Think humour and the darkest underbelly of humanity. Charles Manson, David Koresh, Lyle and Erik Mendez apparently all made art — and now’s the chance to find out exactly what that art is. The show sold out at the Edmonton and Vancouver Fringes, so that’s a heads up to get a ticket early.

At the Mainline Theatre on June 8, 9, 10, 13, 14, 15.

Jon Bennett: Ameri-can’t

Jon Bennett hails from rural Australia where he got to jump up and down on buried cows and took off around the globe on a mission to show the world that there are cocks to be found everywhere. In Ameri-can’t, he talks about his journey to where he has finally ended up, the USA. I’m an American, so… uh… good choice Jon. Bennett is a Fringe fave and has toured the world with his shows.

At Petit Campus (57 Prince Arthur) on June 6, 8, 10, 12, 14, and 16.

Hey Buddy, Good To See Ya

Al Lafrance brought moving shows to Montreal in the past, and then he moved West. His absence in the indie performance circuit of storytelling is felt. Well, he’s back in town and it’s good to see him with his latest show. He’ll go places you don’t expect and still manage to reveal his huge heart at the same time.

At the Mainline Theatre (3997 St Laurent) on June 6, 8, 9, 11, 14, 15.

How Birds Sing

Jeff Gandell is another beloved Montreal luminary, and one who has midwifed Fringe shows and storytelling nights. He can make having a Plantars wart interesting, which is fortunately not the subject of his latest. Instead, How Birds Sing is more musical; it is a collection of songs about how the birth of his second child led him to becoming a singer. I’m sure there will be some storytelling in there too.

At O Patro Vys (365 Mt Royal) on June 6, 8, 10, 12, 14, 15.

Wit and Wrath: The Life and Times of Dorothy Parker

Claudia Baumgarten comes to us from New Orleans to bring us the thoughts of the notoriously outspoken Jazz Age writer and poet, Dorothy Parker. Biography wise, Parker was a woman who “made it” in a male dominated world of writing, with her sharp wit and sharper critiques. But, no one has it all, and Parker had a lot of failed romances. This should be scintillating and leave you wondering if you should give the Great Gatsby another try.

At Mission Santa Cruz (60 Rachel O) on June 6, 11, 14, 15, 16.

Shirley Gnome: Titular Character

She’s a devastating diva with perfect pitch who woke up in a ditch with glitter on her genitals. That’s just one of this rockstar’s fabulously subversive songs. Shirley Gnome is back with her guitar and her cowgirl boots. Ride ’em cowgirl.

At O Patro Vys (356 Mt. Royal) on June 6, 8, 9, 11, 12, and 13.

That’s just a small sampler of what’s to come. Some other shows to catch: I Hate Magic for those of you who love a good magic show, Pindorama which is a comic piece about a Brazilian bank robbery, sexuating and steamy Pointe Tango is back with Tango It Takes Two, and Fail Again by Miranda Handford is about being 45 without a family, house, car, or career.

The Montreal Fringe Festival is on now until June 16. Tickets and info about all shows can be found HERE.

About Rachel Levine

Rachel Levine is the big cheese around here. Contact: Website | More Posts