Repost: My First Fringe


While I try and resolve some massive computer issues before I release this year's MUST SEE list, here's a repost from a few years back about my first experience at the Ottawa Fringe Festival.

Picture it: Sicily Ottawa 2002

A young and naive theatre student by the name of Nancy Kenny answers an audition notice posted on a bulletin board (where audition notices went long before this thing called the “internet” existed) in her Theatre department at school.

The show: Tuesdays and Sundays by Daniel Arnold and Medina Hahn

(Little did I know at the time that this was a huge hit on the Fringe Festival Circuit back then. Heck, I didn’t even know what a Fringe Festival Circuit was. I just wanted to be in a play outside of school. The director of our production saw it done somewhere out west and got the rights for it in Ottawa. I believe that this was the only Fringe Festival that wasn’t done with the original creating team.)

The show is rehearsed over a few weeks and put on in the Alumni Auditorium at the University of Ottawa (which is no longer a Fringe venue at this point in time).

Attendance? Is terrible in this 300 seat auditorium. One midnight show pulls in only 4 people for this cast of 2. (Fortunately, the next Executive Producer of the Fringe, the awesome Kevin Waghorn will later make some very beneficial changes, including cordoning off a section of the theatre so everyone sits in one clump and abolishing midnight performances. But, until then, shitballs for us.)

The company also only gets 5 performances instead of the usual 6 since Nancy Kenny’s scene partner had to attend a wedding in Windsor at the end of the week.

However, the reviews are incredible and rave about the performances of the two young students from the University of Ottawa Theatre Department. Nancy Kenny has fun, discovers something called the “Beer Tent” and makes friends with lots of performers from out of town. She also meets a bearded man with a big laugh who tells her really nice things about the show and has been an avid follower of her career and a dear friend ever since.

Somehow, the show wins the coveted Best of Venue prize and gets an additional performance on the closing night of the festival. The director had rented risers for the performance and had returned them by that point thinking the run of the show was done. Milk crates and planks were used to replace them.

(I still remember sitting backstage, 15 minutes to showtime on a Sunday night, wondering where the heck my partner was as, upon hearing the news we had an extra show, he guaranteed he’d be back from the wedding on time. I also remember how relieved I felt when he ran in, out of breath, with less than 5 minutes to spare.)

No money was made by anyone, but the director bought her actors a beer and an Ottawa Fringe Festival hat. The run NOW officially over, everyone really went their separate ways. Nancy Kenny ends up at the Beer Tent and sits around for the closing festivities. As awards are handed out, she is shocked to hear her and her partner’s names called out in the “Outstanding Performance” category.

Nancy Kenny starts to think this “Fringe Festival” thing is not bad. Not bad at all.

The rest, as they say, is history.