FTLComm - Winnipeg - July 2, 1999
What the heck is a "Fringe Festival"? This is definitely one of the more difficult questions I have struggled with lately and it is not going to have an easy answer. One visit does not a definition make.
There are forty Fringe Festivals each year from Victoria to Halifax, from Hong Kong to Edinburgh. In some ways I suspect it is almost an alternative culture but as settled into to our first exposure to this format I immediately realise that the offbeat and the irreverent can only be offbeat and irreverent as a reaction to the conventional or mainstream.

We began our Fringe experience by joining the large and cheerful Canada crowd that were on hand to witness the opening of this year's Winnipeg Fringe Festival in the "Exchange" district of downtown. With the various theatre venues all within walking distance we
chose to make our first part of the adventure right here in the open stage. A comic magician did his act and it was well done and hardly that far off the mainstream of what I would consider the regular entertainment world. A good card trick and a
well done apparatus illusion made for a nice show with a load of light banter and excellent interaction with the audience

The act that really stomped on me and the crowd alike was that of a brilliant young music impressionist Rick Miller who is doing a one man show with 150 characters 13 sketches in 75 minutes. The portion of his show that was presented on the outdoor stage Thursday afternoon was outstanding and its frantic pace made it one of the highlights of a great day.

But the Canada music of Wes Borg and Darrin Hagen that truly gave us a hint at what "fringe" may be about. Their comedy songs included one about song of unity aimed at the thing all Canadians hate "Toronto" and then a send up on the war of 1812.

The concept of the "fringe" would suggest that the entertainment is on the edge of the mainstream but what I saw was perhaps leading the way for where we can expect the mainstream to head. The spirit of the fringe seems to come from both the past and the future. People walking around looking like they had just slipped out of a moment in the flower power world
of the1960s while at the same time reaching for the a more liberated and laid back future existence. Many of the best things about entertainment involve that suspension of reality and in the "Fringe" atmosphere that suspension of reality seems to go beyond the stage and into the audience and beyond.

The picture on the right captures that spirit the entertainment on stage was Rick Miller and this couple were caught up in the moment and his flights of talented transportation.

With the plays and performance there is a sort of midway of shops and items from jewelry to spray can painting and garments that seemed to have escaped from Woodstock. Below are a couple images of the midway area. I had some great scenes on video but will not get our
video capturing capability up to speed until this afternoon. Perhaps we can have a streaming clip of some of this scene tomorrow. Much of what is the Fringe is the atmosphere and not specific content.

No less then 125 plays, shows, reviews and scheduled art events make up this year's Winnipeg Fringe Festival so there
is a lot to see and enjoy. We are going to sample some of the items but I doubt if that will help us with the definition any more because of the enormous diversity of the material. Check out some of the titles: The Big Stupid Improve Show, The Kiwi Stand Up Experience, Plan B, Kenny haven't they killed you yet, Babes with broadswords, Got spleen, Moose Mating, Swift Current and Would you like fries with that?

Below is a
QuickTime VR of the Market Square area and of course as people move about they seem to vapourise in the image as it was knitted together.