It seems like every post these days features yet another amazing Toronto summer festival – whether its sports or movies or neighbourhoods – we are a city that knows how to celebrate. Fortunately (or unfortunately), I LOVE them all! So here is another of my favourite summer activities that is cheap, fun and full of culture. The Fringe Festival features over 1,000 independent theatre performances that range from 45 minutes to 1.5 hours (usually about an hour), and include comedy troupes, solo artists, dramas, clowns for adults, puppets for kids, dance for everyone and just about everything in between! The best part, tickets are $10 at the door and $12 in advance, with festival packs a great bet to save some bucks. Venues are scattered around the downtown core and west end of the day, many within walking distance of one another, so you can see several shows in a single day if you are so inclined.
Now for a few of my tips to help you make the most of the festival:
- Get the guide…it’s free and it tells you all you need to know about the festival. Get it in print at these locations, online or through the new app. I always carry a marked up and doggy-eared copy everywhere I go.
- Hang out at the Fringe Club behind Honest Ed’s at Bloor & Bathurst – so many cool free events happen here and it doubles as an outdoor patio and art space with food and drinks available. Last year’s Dolly Parton Bingo was my absolute favourite! This year look for Fringe After Dark events like Board Game Night, Stitch & Bitch, and Paint Night – all free and bound to be hilarious. Shed Shows (literally shows in a shed) are pay what you can.
- Talk to people – at the Fringe Club, in the line, anywhere you can – this is the best way to pick up buzz about the best and worst of the Fringe shows.
- If you have your heart set on a particular show, don’t forget to check if it has been sold out or cancelled to avoid disappointment.
- Some of my most memorable shows have been at the site specific venues (see page 70 of the guide) due to their unique locations (think churches, synagogues, coffee shops, yoga studios!), often with very limited capacity which creates an even more intimate theatre-going experience.
- Try something new – tickets are not expensive so how much can you lose, plus it all helps to support the arts in this city. I’ve seen some good, some bad and some excellent so just go for it.
- You can check out new reviews regularly through Now Magazine‘s well-curated Festival Guide for a bit of guidance.
- If you prefer a sure thing, check out the Patron’s Picks on the last day of the festival. These are the shows that grossed the highest sales and created the most buzz. The picks are announced at the Fringe Awards on Thursday evening and sales open online the next morning – and they usually sell out very fast.
Don’t forget to tip the Fringe & have FUN!
Featured image credit: Fringe Festival