Audience support needed to make festival successful

Fringetastic Theatre Festival, featuring small, often one-act plays produced on a shoe-string budget, takes place at three downtown venues Sept. 8-11

Jeremy Banks knows fringe festivals.

For the past two years, the former Vancouver Island University theatre student toured the theatre festival circuit across Canada – first as a volunteer, the second as a performer.

With a strong theatre community and a city brimming with talent, he decided Nanaimo needed to be part of that culture.

“I want to see the theatre community and performing arts community in Nanaimo grow,” he said. “Nanaimo’s got talent and it’s time to showcase that.”

Banks organized the Fringetastic Theatre Festival, featuring small, often one-act plays, produced on a shoe-string budget, at three downtown venues Sept. 8-11.

“Fringes are the grassroots of theatre,” Banks said. “It allows anyone to put a production together and put it on stage.”

The last fringe festival in Nanaimo ran for two years in the late 1990s. Victoria’s fringe festival, which wrapped up Sunday, is the third oldest in Canada and celebrated its 25th anniversary.

Fringe festivals are unjuried and drawn by lottery, which means organizers have not seen the shows or performances beforehand. It’s a bit of a gamble sometimes that doesn’t always pay off, but more often audiences see thought-provoking and moving pieces in small venues for low ticket prices.

Fringetastic features eight shows in total, ranging in price from $8-10, in addition to a fringe festival membership, which is by donation. Multi-passes are also available.

Volunteers receive discounts to shows and are instrumental to the success of the festival. To get involved, e-mail co-ordinator Chelsee Damen at

The shows are divided between Nanaimo Centre Stage, Vancouver Island Conference Centre and Diners Rendezvous. The Rendezvous is also the unofficial after-party location, with volunteers, artists and fans gathering at 10 p.m. each night of the festival.

“In a very fringe festival way, it will be very spontaneous,” Banks said.

Planning is already underway for next year, which Banks hopes will spread to two weekends. To help that become reality, people need to attend this year’s festival.

“Just by showing up you help support what’s going on,” Banks said.

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