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Eric Coates: Top picks at the 2017 Ottawa Fringe Festival

By Eric Coates on May 23, 2017


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8 Fringe Picks by Eric Coates

Eric Coates is the Artistic Director at Great Canadian Theatre Company

It’s the hippest time of the year and I am delighted to provide my eight picks from the Ottawa Fringe Festival lineup.

Full disclosure/disclaimer:

  • I have deliberately selected four local shows and four from away.
  • I define “local” kind of loosely.
  • It’s hard to interest me with wry reinventions of the classics. I believe that Shakespeare knew what he was doing and did it very well.

Starting with the local shows, I am delighted to throw my pre-Fringe support behind these feisty offerings:

Photo courtesy of the Ottawa Fringe Festival.

Photo courtesy of the Ottawa Fringe Festival.

Hootenanny by Kate Smith and Will Somers

I will be forever tickled that Will wrote a play called Pierre Brault. Pierre may have had a hit at the box office with Will Somers, but Will won the tilt for best title. And I adore Kate Smith, despite the fact that she broke bullet point #3 in my disclaimer above with her wonderfully irreverent Burger King Lear. Back to Hootenanny: funny and musically adept, Kate and Will seem to be taking aim at those who are less so. I never shy away from a good fraud-bashing, so let’s have at it, Hootenanny.

Three to Leave by Sofie Milito, Sadie Laflamme-Snow, Aurel Pressat and Franco Pang

This quartet of alumni from Jordan Tannahill’s magnificent Concord Floral are putting their youthful energy and recent experience to the best possible use with this new collective work. Watching them grow over the course of last year, (I crossed paths again with them all at Magnetic North in Whitehorse) I was thrilled by their determination to enter the gladiatorial cage of professional theatre.

Tooth:Hurty by Damien Bailey and Pamela Feghali

At GCTC, we are eager to support emerging female artists through the Shannon Reynolds Fund. Pamela Feghali will be assistant director on two productions with us in 2017/18, thanks to this fund. She burst out from a field of compelling applications with a clear vision of where she wants to go. I am dizzy with excitement to see how her Fringe project matches her career goals.

Photo by John Breggar

Photo by John Breggar

Unbridled Futurism by Nick Di Gaetano with Teddy Ivanova

See bullet point #2, above. My arrival in Ottawa aligned with Nick’s departure, and although people have assured me that this was merely coincidence, I sometimes lie awake at night worrying that I somehow offended him. Sleepless nights are passed, mulling what might have been if only Nick had stayed. He’s funny, dashing, clever and unabashedly comfortable with these qualities, which makes me hate him a little bit in spite of the total mancrush. #bromance.

Photo by James Penlidis

Photo by James Penlidis

6 Quick Dick Tricks: A Dirk Darrow Investigation by Tim Motley

Long alliterative titles totally tickle my fancy, so tip this to the top of my from Away list. Truthfully, I am a sucker for film noir and sleight of hand, so this seems like a good bet. Plus, it’s Australian and I have consistently been impressed by both film and theatre offerings from Down Under.

Photo courtesy of the Ottawa Fringe Festival

Photo courtesy of the Ottawa Fringe Festival

The Inventor of All Things by jem rolls

Obscure Hungarian genius apparently “wrecked the Nazi bomb”…? How do you mean, “wrecked”? Inquiring minds want to know. Plus, Hungary is more than just stew and vizslas. It’s high time that the Fringe shone a spotlight on this under-represented nation.

Fish Saw by Sachie Mikawa and George Lewis

The old Japanese/Argentinian 1, 2 punch. I love unlikely pairings like this because they usually trigger an examination of my unconscious bias or outright ignorance regarding other parts of the world. I also love the notion of disparate lives connected by an ocean. For the record, I find this the most intriguing piece in the festival.

Photo by Larry Carroll

Photo by Larry Carroll

Rough Magic by Phillip Psutka

Bullet point #3 above notwithstanding, I am curious about an aerial show inspired by The Tempest. Paul Mazursky’s cinematic take on the story changed my life as a teenager, so I am curious to see if an aerial Ariel from Huntsville can reboot my middle years. And who knew that acrobatic theatre is a thing in Muskoka? Strange bedfellows, as Trinculo says.

Best wishes to all artists, staff and volunteers who bring the Ottawa Fringe to festive life again this year.

The 21st Ottawa Fringe Festival runs from June 7–18, 2017 at multiple downtown venues including Arts Court Theatre, La Nouvelle Scène and the University of Ottawa. 4-show packs cost $48 and are available online until June 8. Door Passes cost $55–189 (5–2o shows). Single tickets cost $12 at the door and $14 online including a service charge. All ticket 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 for box office info.

This post was co-created by Great Canadian Theatre Company and Apt613 creative staff; apart from Apt613’s editorial team.