Eight original shows from as far away as New York City make up this year’s Fringetastic theatre festival.
But the vast majority of shows in the two-week festival are from Vancouver Island.
“We really want this to be about the community of Nanaimo,” said Jeremy Banks, artistic producer of Fringetastic.
Fringe festivals feature roughly 60-minute theatre shows of original work. Fringe is unjuried and entries are picked by lottery.
“It’s luck of the draw,” Banks said.
Fringetastic reserved 50 per cent for Island performers, with slots open to national and international performers, who will take to one of two stages at the Port Theatre and the Vancouver Island Conference Centre.
Seeing unjuried, original theatre means taking a slight risk on the part of the audience.
“I can’t say what shows are going to be awesome and which are not,” Banks said.
The show from New York earned positive reviews from LA Weekly and CBC and focuses on the story of a man and his dog, with all the love, loss and dog yoga in between.
Rel8shun, a drama about relationships, earned five nominations in Calgary’s CAT Awards.
Banks reached out to performers and festivals last year as part of a tour of North American fringe festivals as a performer, and continued that work through administration this year.
“Part of this festival has been about connecting with other people and festivals,” Banks said.
Nanaimo-area theatre companies are well-represented, including Child of a Hoodlum Productions’ The Cult of Brother XII, based on the cult leader operating at Cedar-by-the-Sea in the 1930s.
Bill Miner and Antonio Gradanti provide music and lyrics, with movement by Holly Bright for the cast of seven actors.
“They’ve got this awesome dream team creating it and they’re all locally based,” Banks said.
He said one of his goals was to help foster original theatre in Nanaimo by putting local shows next to veteran, international performers to show that one stacks up next to the other.
The trick now is to get audiences out to see that, he said.
“Nanaimo has some of the most incredible talent … if people are willing to take a chance and see it,” Banks said.
Last year the festival ran for a weekend, with the final day the best attended.
By stretching the festival to two weekends, Banks said he hopes to create buzz for the performers and draw in larger crowds.
Those crowds not only help performers cover travel and production costs, but also secures financing and enthusiasm for next year’s festival.
“That’s the kind of incentive we need to do this next year,” Banks said.
The festival also offers a preview night on Wednesday (Aug. 15), 7-9 p.m., in the Port Theatre’s lobby for people curious about fringe theatre. Admission is $7.
Each night of the festival also features the Fringe Hub, in the Port’s lobby, beginning at 7 p.m., where artists and audience members interact. Live music runs Thursday to Saturday, beginning at 9 p.m. – admission is free.
“It’s really there to give people a chance to interact,” Banks said, adding that a chalkboard for writing review will be a fixture at the fringe club.
For people who’d like to see some shows but find their pocketbook stretched thin, volunteer opportunities exist with some perks.
Please visit the website and click on ‘Supporting the Fringe’ for volunteer information.
“The more volunteers we have, the easier it is,” Banks said.
For a description of shows, times and admission, please visit www.fringetastic.com.