ACCESS - in every sense of the word
ACCOUNTABILITY - we work with integrity and respect
CREATIVITY - freedom of expression permeates everything we do
EXPLORATION - we let curiosity be our guide
SUPPORT – empowering you to take a chance
About the Toronto Fringe
Toronto Fringe is a grassroots, charitable organization that runs the Toronto Fringe Festival each July, the Next Stage Theatre Festival each January, and various year-round programs that benefit youth, emerging artists, BIPOC artists, artists with disabilities, and the performing arts community at large. Embedded in Fringe’s operations are the values of Access, Accountability, Creativity, Exploration, and Support.
Toronto Fringe is a creative match-maker, connecting artists with audiences, and empowering everyone to unleash their artist within. Toronto Fringe creates vital opportunities for both emerging and established artists to produce their work with complete artistic freedom, while making productions as affordable and accessible as possible.
The Toronto Fringe Festival
Each July, the Toronto Fringe Festival welcomes approximately 140 companies from around Canada and the world to our 30+ theatre venues in downtown Toronto. Over the course of 12 days, over 1,200 artists participate in performances across the city that include comedy, drama, musicals, improvisation, storytelling, children’s theatre, dance and much more.
During the Fringe Festival, there is also daily free programming at POSTSCRIPT, Fringe’s pop-up patio at Scadding Court. At POSTSCRIPT, audiences can grab a drink, some food, and experience the concerts, interactive performances, and dance parties that make it such a vibrant hub.
Fringe is unique because it is a non-juried festival, and holds an annual lottery to program the festival, selecting shows at random. Why does Fringe do this? Because we believe every voice has an equal right to be heard. It's not about who you know or how much you know - your project holds just as much weight in the Fringe Lottery as any other. When you produce a show at Fringe, you're joining a community – this isn’t simply a co-production agreement. If you are new to producing theatre, the dedicated staff will guide you through the process of putting on a Fringe show.
The Next Stage Theatre Festival
Each January, the Next Stage Theatre Festival offers performance lovers a more intimate, cozy festival experience. Next Stage is the curated sister event of the summer Fringe, where approximately 10 shows are programmed by a jury of industry professionals. Next Stage artists are on the cutting edge of “indie” theatre and are creating urgent, exciting work. Patrons can expect to see artists at Next Stage who are about to hit the mainstream – Next Stage artists frequently break out into CBC, Mirvish, Broadway or Netflix hits within a year or two of appearing at the festival.
About the Organization
Toronto Fringe is run by a staff of five fulltime and two part-time employees, a dedicated and diverse board of directors, a yearly seasonal festival staff that tops 150 members, an active Artist Advisory Committee, and over 500 passionate volunteers. Toronto Fringe is a registered charitable non-profit organization, and has been in operation since 1989.
Toronto Fringe is a proud member of the Canadian Association of Fringe Festivals (CAFF) and World Fringe. More information here.
Toronto Fringe presented its first Toronto Fringe Festival in the summer of 1989. Over the past 33 years it has grown into this city's largest theatre festival, welcoming over 90,000 patrons and giving voice to over 1,200 artists annually. To date, Toronto Fringe has returned over $6,000,000 in box office revenue to artists. Fringe has also premiered some of Canada's most successful theatre productions including Kim’s Convenience, My Mother’s Lesbian Jewish Wiccan Wedding, 'Da Kink In My Hair, The Drowsy Chaperone, and Mump and Smoot, to name a few. Artists such as the TallBoyz (CBC Comedy), Kat Sandler (award-winning playwright) and Irene Sankoff and David Hein (Come From Away) also got their start at the Fringe.
The Fringe Festival's success in early years led to fiscal stability for the organization, which then created year-round activities, including the Next Stage Theatre Festival, which started in 2008. Next Stage is an intimate, curated festival that runs annually each January, featuring 10-12 productions programmed by a jury of industry professionals. Next Stage’s mandate is to provide a platform for independent artists to take their work to the next level.
In 2011, Toronto Fringe moved its operations to the Centre of Social Innovation in the Annex and opened the Creation Lab. The Lab offered two fully equipped creation spaces that were rented to indie artists for as little as $6/hr, with the rest of the fee being subsidized by Fringe and our generous donors, Neville Austin and Blake Thorne. The Creation Lab filled a need for affordable studio space in the community, and was busy day and night. The Creation Lab at CSI closed in 2016 when the Toronto Fringe moved its administrative office to Queen West. After another move in August 2019, the Toronto Fringe found its new, fully accessible home in the east end of the city, at 100 Broadview Ave in Riverside.
In 2012, Toronto Fringe launched the Culturally Diverse Artist Project (CDAP), which encourages people from diverse ethno-cultural backgrounds to apply to the additional CDAP Lottery for the Fringe Festival. Three artists, chosen at random through the CDAP Lottery, receive a free slot in the festival, a bursary, and mentorship as they work towards their production in the Fringe.
From 2014 to 2017, Toronto Fringe ran Fund What You Can (FWYC), an online crowd-funding platform for independent artists across North America. Fund What You Can offered the lowest platform fee on the market (3.5%), plus hands-on support, accessible resources, and free crowdfunding workshops. By the time the platform closed, hundreds of thousands of dollars had flowed through the platform to indie artists.
Honest Ed’s parking lot was the home of the Fringe Club for almost a decade until Honest Ed’s was torn down for condo development. (Before that, the Fringe patio was located at the Tranzac Club.) In 2017, the Fringe Club relocated to to the hockey rink at the Scadding Court Community Centre. In 2018, the new Fringe Club at Scadding Court was rebranded as POSTSCRIPT, Toronto’s largest pop-up patio. The relationship with Scadding Court and the surrounding community remains strong to this day, and every year Fringe converts the hockey rink and parking lot into a welcoming, exciting, free pop-up patio.
In 2017 Fringe launched its first Accessibility Lottery, and began a three-year funding arrangement with the Metcalf Foundation to overhaul and improve accessibility at Fringe’s two festivals and yearly operations. Similar to the CDAP Lottery, the Accessibility Lottery offers two free slots in the Fringe Festival, a bursary for those drawn, and additional production support. An Accessibility Manager was hired, and continues to work with the Fringe staff to implement these vital systemic changes in the organization.
In the spring of 2020, due to the COVID-19 pandemic and widespread government lockdowns, the 32nd annual Toronto Fringe Festival was cancelled. The organization quickly pivoted to a new offering: The Fringe Collective. Held during the original dates of the festival, The Fringe Collective was an online Fringe experience, featuring many of the artists that were slated to appear in the 2020 festival. Video, audio, and written content was hosted behind a paywall on fringetoronto.com that patrons could access through a Pay What You Can model. Over $27,000 was raised for the artists in the Collective.
In the fall of 2020, Toronto Fringe began an Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Audit. Findings from this audit will be shared with the public in early 2021.
Executive Directors of Fringe
Founding members: (1989 – 1991)
Gregory Nixon, Producer
Jennifer Ross, Programmer
John Sime, Manager
Gregory Nixon (1991 – 1993) *Festival producer
Nancy Webster (1994 – 1998) *Festival producer
Chuck McEwen (1998 – 2007)
Bridget MacIntosh (2008) *Interim Executive Director
Gideon Arthurs (2008 – 2012)
Kelly Straughan (2012 – 2017)
Lucy Eveleigh (2017 – present)