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A silhouette of Tymisha Harris in 'Josephine'. Photo: Roberto Gonzalez.

Top picks at the 2018 Ottawa Fringe Festival—shows open 06.14.18

By Eric Coates on June 6, 2018

Eric Coates is the Artistic Director at Great Canadian Theatre Company.

The problem this year is that I just want to hang out in the gorgeous new OAG for the whole time. Seriously, if you’re all site-specific and eager to shake the old dinosaurs out of their evil venue-attending ways, just find me in one of the galleries and spray some theatre at me. There, or on the Sky Lounge. I just want to write “Sky Lounge” over and over again because how could anything be cooler than a Sky Lounge?

I’ve picked six shows and, although I care deeply about all your feels, I will not be guilt ridden if you are upset with my selections. This year I am aiming at some shows that would otherwise be hard to catch due to geography, and at a handful of local projects that pump my Ottawa pulse. Let’s kick back with a cool one in the Sky Lounge and chat about this:

Ingrid Hansen in a promo shot for ‘Interstellar Elder’. Photo: Laura Dittmann.

INTERSTELLAR ELDER: Badass Grandma in Space

by Ingrid Hansen – SNAFU (Victoria, BC)

Two words: Ingrid Hansen. She will always be one of my favourite performers, due in equal parts to her quirky, intergenerational sensibility and her flat-out charisma. Plus, I received my first senior’s discount at the Rexall the other day, so anything with “Elder” in the title is going to stir my Metamucil, in the very best way. Her approach to physical theatre is always delightful, as is her use of found objects to create a compelling world.


Rocko and Nakota: Tales From the Land

by Josh Languedoc – Indigenized Indigenous Theatre (St. Albert, AB)

“…the interplay between stories of the present against the long forgotten stories of the past.” I am curious about the degree to which the playwright is working from stories that have actually been forgotten versus stories that should be more prominent. During this year’s conference of the Professional Association of Canadian Theatres (PACT), Kevin Loring delivered a scorching keynote address about the nature of Indigenous stories. If we return to the beginning of storytelling, we will take the first and necessary steps towards de-colonization. I am hopeful that Rocko and Nakota embrace this spirit of Indigenous story.


‘What They Said About Love’ by Steve Budd. Photo: Cheshire Isaacs.

What They Said About Love

by Steve Budd (Oakland, CA)

This show received Best of the San Francisco Fringe award in 2016, so I suspect that it delivers on its promised qualities of “funny, insightful”. Although there is no shortage of scripts about individual angst and modern monogamy, this looks like it might transcend the “I-am-endlessly-fascinating-to-myself” school of solo performance because he reports on the lives of other people who don’t share his helplessness around relationships. Plus, I was born in Berkeley, California, right next to Steve Budd’s Oakland.


Photo courtesy of the Ottawa Fringe Festival.

Re:Construct

by Even Gilchrist – theatre decentred (Ottawa, ON)

Okay, I just dissed the self-referential solo show in the previous entry, and here I am promoting a piece that is entirely about staring at one’s self. Or, rather, a better version of one’s self. Kind of like the Royal Oak staring balefully at the Sky Lounge, wishing that it, too, could attract the cool kids of Fringe. This show appeals to me because I have become a huge fan of Even Gilchrist who seems to crop up in a different form on every indie production in Ottawa. Actor, playwright, beloved by all theatre artists in town…are we witnessing Tony Adams 2.0…? Only time will tell.


Photo: Roberto Gonzalez

Josephine, a burlesque cabaret dream play

by Tymisha Harris, Michael Marinaccio and Tod Kimbro (Orlando, FL)

“…burlesque cabaret dream play”…what’s not to like? The five-star pedigree of this piece is enough to make it interesting, but the fact that it’s also a tribute to the great Josephine Baker is enough to turn my head. Plus, I love to see select pieces that come from different corners of the continent when I’m fringing. It’s always fascinating to see what wows ‘em in Wichita and how that success translates in Ottawa. I have a feeling that this show will be every bit as popular here as it is in the U.S.A.


The Geography Teacher’s Orders

by Marta Singh (Ottawa, ON)

This looks like a clear narrative about political activism in Argentina. I am fascinated by the lives of guerrillas and political activists who risked, and continue to risk, their lives in volatile regions. I am also very curious to see Marta at work as she continues to fuse her storytelling background with the conventions of theatre.


That’s it for now. Track me down at the Sky Lounge and let me know about all the good things that I have failed to include in this list. I look forward to seeing anything and everything that I can possibly fit into the schedule. Congratulations, Fringe friends, on another successful year.


The 22nd Ottawa Fringe Festival runs from June 13–24, 2018 at downtown venues including Arts Court, La Nouvelle Scène Gilles Desjardins and the University of Ottawa. 4-show packs cost $48 and are available online. Door Passes cost $55–99 (5–10 shows). Single tickets cost $12 at the door or $12 plus a $2 processing fee online.

Except for processing fees, all box office revenue goes to the artists. N.B. The one-time purchase of a $3 Fringe Pin is required to buy tickets. That $3 goes toward supporting the Festival. Visit www.ottawafringe.com for box office info.


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