Kelly Straughan, the Fringe’s new head honcho
The Fringe’s executive director, Kelly Straughan, knows exactly what it means to have a show drawn in the Fringe lottery.
“It’s important to have a non-curated festival that gives everyone from the schoolteacher writing a first play to the seasoned veteran an opportunity to be part of this kind of event,” says Straughan as she prepares for the fest’s 25th edition.
“The Fringe has been part of my career since I directed a production in 2004. It led me to do an M.A. in directing, and I honed my craft in later Fringe and Next Stage shows such as Timebomb, Wake and The Red Queen Effect.
“Over the years, I started to appreciate the Fringe on a wider scale – what it does for the arts ecology as a whole. I see it as a way to test the waters, empowering artists to express themselves and produce their own work and not feel they have to sit and wait for someone else to initiate.”
That led to the realization that the Fringe, a phenomenon that has branches across the country, is about more than a person or group putting on a play.
“It’s bigger than that, involving audiences meeting the artworks and artists expressing themselves.”
For the Fringe’s silver anniversary, Straughan’s planned some special events, including an alumni party at the Tranzac Club on July 11, a series of buskers, bands and food trucks at the Fringe Club and an underground dance party July 6 on the second level of Honest Ed’s parking garage.
“That way,” she smiles,” we don’t have to worry about being too noisy for the neighbours. It gives us a chance to party like it’s 1989, when some of us were a lot younger.”
Events like that can draw people even if they’re not regular theatregoers.
“And when someone is having fun at the festival, they’re likely to take in other parts of it and see a play.” JON KAPLAN