Our thoughts on issues, ideas, and all things Fringe.
Why you should volunteer at Toronto Fringe
When you volunteer at the Toronto Fringe, there are some amazing perks, including free tickets, terrific parties and being part of a thriving community. But the best one (in my opinion) are letters written home by yours truly to our amazing volunteer team/force every night. This was one such letter.
July 4, 2016
You know pickles are a funny thing. When I was a kid, until a divorce basically saved my life, I was raised in a Mennonite home. I did Mennonite things. If there is one thing Mennonite women do, it is sew, wash dishes, and canning (that’s three things but whatever). While Saturdays were sewing days, every day was dishes day, and September was pickle canning month. Which meant I went back to school smelling like brine, tasting like brine, basically oozing all things brine with my home-made dresses and dishpan hands. Is it any wonder I didn’t have my first boyfriend till I was 19. Technically my first kiss was with an over excited dog. Neither of our choices. But it still happened.
But... pickles. It starts as a small cucumber, gets shoved into a jar and sits on a shelf for forever, somehow magically morphing into a pickle. What else can you say gets better with age? Not breasts that is for sure. Unless you have some sort of way of canning your breasts. Which we do not.
Like breasts, there are so many types of pickles.... you can get small pickles which are creepy and raise more questions than provide answers. Why are you so small? What warped, teeny cucumber did you come from? Also, why are you called a Gherkin? Get a better name, perhaps just small pickle. You can get medium pickles that are great for parties - who hasn't gone to a party without a pickle tray? You can get pickles for ladies who lunch, pickles for men who drive trucks, and who hasn't googled babies eating pickles...Hilarious. Do yourself the favour. Then there is also my personal favourite, smashed pickles also known as relish because it is derived from the Latin word delish.
Don’t even get me started on the fact that so many cultures have their special version of pickles, Kosher, Polish, German, Garlic. Who can forget the culture of Garlic. In fact, one might say that pickles are the most universal food in the world. The champion of side dishes. I mean, if we lived in a world without mayo…but emotionally I can’t even go there.
Today in the office I brought Lisa a pickle. It came in a bag. I thought it was going to be funny. I left for a brief second -- my first mistake. Upon my return she was bent over appearing to be crying. The pickle in a bag had attacked her, and by attacked I mean she dropped the large pickle bag and in doing so sent liquid brine directly thru her nasal passages like a Viking roller coaster.
Instantly I knew, I knew exactly what she was going through. I too had been purposely water boarded by brine, by my sister (of course) during the down time on Christmas Day in 1986. But it made me realize not only are pickles a universal food they are a universal experience.
As the day went on people started sharing their horrible pickled misfortunes. It made me think perhaps pickles are a universal theme and theatrical theme. Did you know that Shakespeare actually coined the phrase “IN A PICKLE”?
When you are out at shows, are you not watching people’s stories of their personal pickles? Pickles = Food = Metaphors = Theatre = Festivals = LOVE.
And even though Lisa's nasal passages will never be the same again, one might say that theatre should leave you changed, so even though it was a very literal and aggressive pickle, it did exactly what it was supposed to do. Maybe not the bag part and come to think of it I am embarrassed as an avenger for the planet that I actually bought a pickle in a bag.
And so today as you volunteer for our Festival please remember:
1) You are your own pickle, what ever you wish to be. Perhaps you even just wish to remain a cool cucumber (which actually can lower your body temperature in the summer by 3 degrees).
2) Life is to be lived to the point of story. I hope you are having fun, I hope your Fringe is what you want it to be. But mainly I hope you dance--no sorry I got carried away. I hope you are creating your own pickles. AKA, Stories.
“How camest thou you in this pickle?”
“I have been in such a pickle since I saw you last that I fear me will never out of my bones.”
William Shakespeare. For a raging alcoholic, he sure spoke purdy.
Volunteer Coordinator to the Max
To learn more about volunteering at The Fringe and how to get involved, click here.
May 15 2018
I’ve been spending a lot of time envisioning what a greener festival for us looks like. I thought I’d call up one of my favourite people, the former Outreach Coordinator here: Kevin Matthew Wong. If you don’t know Kevin, he runs Broadleaf Theatre and takes being an environmentalist theatre creator seriously. We weren’t able to establish how long we’ve known each other, but I was able to learn and discuss ways that we can all be greener Fringers.
Ideas for Green Fringing
- Bring a reusable water bottle and refill it. There’s no reason to buy bottled water, and if you haven’t heard that Nestle is awful, take the time to educate yourself about the damage it wreaks. There is no reason not to drink tap water!
- How are you dashing from venue from venue? Our festival is in July and the weather will be beautiful (fingers crossed). Hop on a bike or a Bikeshare, walk to your venue, take public transit.
- If you’re driving, bring some friends along with you!
- Recycle programs!
- Reuse your program guide! We always run out and there is a fellow Fringer out there who wants one too. Keep one as a roadmap!
It’s great to work with a team where we’re moving to grow our festival to be greener and more environmentally responsible. We’re lucky to have Cascades Recovery+ onboard as a partner to make our city greener by not just offering their recycling program at the Fringe Patio, but also contributing to our cause by offering the service free of charge. We’ve also got Bike Share offering us a special Fringe discount for the duration of the festival and there’s ton of stations near venues so that you can hop on and off a bike. Personally, I’m excited to charge my phone while cycling. The only way to find out what I’m talking about is to come to the Fringe Patio on the weekends and see for yourselves.
Let’s all do our part to go green and work together to make Toronto Fringe a greener experience.
- Karthy, Emerging Festival Producer
May 4th 2018
The Fringe was a pop-up before it was cool
In the music industry, the nature of “discovering” a new artist has drastically changed with curated playlists on streaming services like Spotify and Tidal. How can theatre, an industry dependent on a live audience, keep up in a content-on-demand society?
Tapping into the sharing economy through platforms like Artery might be one answer to this question, empowering audiences to seek out interesting showcases happening in living rooms, backyards, patios and offices. Indie artists and producers, some of the most resourceful people in the creative industry, know how necessary it is to repurpose public and private spaces into make-shift rehearsal studios and performance venues.
But what about the audience that isn’t looking?
“Pop-up” experiences are one of the biggest trends in retail marketing. Companies use them to change the conversation around a brand and test new markets. There are even permanent pop-up storefronts in Toronto’s downtown that host a rotating roster of major brands, trying to woo millennials into giving freezer pizza another go. The goal here is to create new and unexpected (and therefore memorable) experiences.
Popping up in unexpected places has always been at the heart of the Fringe movement. Toronto Fringe venues across the city’s downtown include traditional theatres and non-traditional venues such as coffee shops, climbing gyms, and even bathrooms and back alleys. We’ve come a long way since our scrappy beginnings in 1989 (selling 70,000 tickets each year is nothing to sneeze at) but there’s still something about the Fringe that feels underrated. For our 30th festival in 2018 we want to make a big splash and shine a major spotlight on our artistic community.
The Toronto Fringe Patio, formerly known as the Fringe Club, has popped up over the past 30 years in places like the Tranzac Club (still the home of our annual Lottery Party) and Honest Ed’s Alley, where the hole-in-the-wall vibe was a major source of its charm. In 2017 we started a new chapter in an unlikely setting by reimagining an outdoor public hockey rink at Dundas & Bathurst. The Scadding Court community has been incredibly welcoming and, like many in the artistic community, is passionate about activating typically vacant public spaces. Together we’re working to make the Fringe Patio a gathering place for artists that lets the wider community in on Toronto’s best-kept secret: the really exciting creative life is often underground.
-Cody, Development Manager
March 29th 2018
Started at the TENT...Now I’m in the Office
Youth training programs have been extremely salient in my growth as a young artist and administrator. Much of the youth programming I have had access to has led to job opportunities or artistic growth. I moved to Toronto in 2013 straight out of theatre school and knew only my roommates. The shock of coming to a community where it felt like everyone already knew everyone was extremely overwhelming. In 2014, my first summer in Toronto, I applied to the TENT program. I really just wanted to feel connected and a part of the Toronto theatre community. I had been a part of other Fringe Festivals before so I figured it was a good stepping stone. TENT gave me a chance to meet other young emerging artists who were also seeking to build a community. It offered us a chance to learn about the Toronto Theatre Community through workshops, seeing shows, and creating together. TENT connected me to granting opportunities, producing skills, how to effectively market a show, and other important resources.
After participating in TENT, I was a participant with The AMY (Artists Mentoring Youth) Project, a barrier free arts training program for women and non-binary youth. The AMY Project provides mentorship, community and a place to tell your own story while devising a piece with other young artists. AMY has been significant in my growth as an artist, beginning as a participant in 2015 to now working in multiple roles as the theatre program’s assistant director and coordinator of other programs. My growth was made possible through incredible mentorship and access to these youth programs.
Fringe is just under 3 months away and we are setting up a lot of programming for the festival. Our programming includes things for Kidsfest, the Fringe Patio, a new music series (more info to come!), as well as programs for youth. This year we are again offering Teen Fringe and T.E.N.T. Teen Fringe is a musical theatre training program for teens aged 14-17 taking place during the second week of the festival, and culminates with two performances on the Fringe Patio stage. The T.E.N.T program is our Theatre Entrepreneur Network and Training program that is free for participants aged 18-29 and focuses on learning opportunities for emerging producers.
In short, the deadline to apply to TENT is this Friday April 13 and if you are someone emerging in your theatre career, looking to build new skills and your community I strongly encourage you to apply or to check out other youth programs throughout the year. I started a small list with links and I am sure there are so many more! If you have questions about TENT, Teen Fringe or other youth opportunities, my email is firstname.lastname@example.org. See you at the Fringe!
T.E.N.T - Emerging Producers aged 18-29
Teen Fringe - Music Theatre Training for teens aged 14-17
The AMY Project- Barrier free arts mentorship and training for women and non-binary youth
The Watah Theatre- mentorship and professional development for black and diverse artists.
Paprika Festival - Youth led professional training and mentorship programs
YAC- Youth Advisory Committee with Theatre Ontario
Emerging Creators Unit- Buddies in Bad Times, Develop artistic voice through creation and performance
City Youth Academy- Soulpepper, performance training program for youth
Animikiig Creators Unit- Native Earth, Indigenous creators in the emerging stage of their career
- Jules, Outreach Coordinator
April 12th 2018
"Nothing about us, without us"
Several months ago, a wine company from the states approached our Development Manager. They were a small independent company that wanted to have a presence in the Canadian market. We were intrigued, and being a wine drinker myself, my priority was on how it tasted. I took a brief look at their website and said to Cody ‘get them to send us a bottle to try’!
The retail value of the wine was more than we were used to buying at Fringe but they wanted to provide us with free cases, it really was about exposure for them. Even better we thought, and then the wine arrived.
I am ashamed to say I did not pay much attention to the labels; there was a bottle of red and a bottle of white. We tried both and I have to say it was delicious. It was really good wine. I thought to myself, ‘I think people are really going to like this on a hot summer’s night on our Fringe patio.
Then we all started noticing the label of the white bottle. The wine is called Kung Fu Girl. On the front of the bottle is a face, with no eyes but long hair in pigtails, dark lips, and arms, dressed in traditional kung fu clothing. Her hands are, as if, in fighting mode. On the back of the bottle is a bowl of rice with chopsticks crossed over the top. I think it said it paired well with sushi. There was no apparent reason as to why the label was like this and we knew the creator of the wine was an older white man.
So we talked and talked and realized that something wasn’t right about this, that this was cultural appropriation – unless there was a legitimate reason behind this – maybe his wife or the CEO of the company culturally identified to this person in the picture. So we wrote back to the rep and asked for the story behind this label. They wrote back and said Charles was eating sushi one night, watching Kill Bill and was inspired by the character of Lucy Liu. It was an homage to that.
So, we said no, we can’t take your free, delicious wine. We can’t have this misguided homage prominent in our Fringe community. We told them, our audience would not be a fan of this, and if they ever felt like relabeling their wine to let us know. We had hoped, if nothing else, we might be the first to point this out to them, they might say, ‘Oh shit, we didn’t realize!’ But they said they were sorry it wouldn’t work out and that we ‘knew our audience best’. And that’s what we hope. Is that we know our audience and know how respectful they are of one another and that this use of imagery was being used for commercialism. That although his intentions were seemingly innocuous they were offensive and stereotypical.
I am sorry that I didn’t notice it right away. This incident has made me more aware of things like that and I am grateful that I have a team who is thoughtful and diligent.
Kevin, our then Projects Manager pointed out the saying “Not about us, without us” I had never heard that line before. It makes decisions like this so simple and I have quoted that line so many more times since (often, unfortunately).
So even when something is free there is often a price to pay and I think it is always in your best interest to work out if it is worth that cost.
- Lucy, Executive Director
March 12th 2018