Keep your ticket stubs and other Edmonton Fringe Festival tips

I’m a Calgary girl who fell in love with Edmonton after one summer, and finally made my way back. Now officially an Edmonton transplant, this blog series is meant to explain some of the things I learned (maybe the hard way) over a couple of summers living briefly in the capital city, while other posts are designed to talk about areas of the city I’m just learning about (and fascinated by). You can read the full explanation here.

It’s one of the final days of Fringe 2012, and I’ve got a ticket for a one-woman show in one of the makeshift theatre spaces at La Cité Francophone.

Now it’s nearly a year later, and I’ll be damned if I can remember the name of the show. It was really good — and I was surprised it was good, because historically in my experience, one-person Fringe shows have not been good — and while I can pull moments from the play, I couldn’t provide a coherent synopsis. Call it “Fringe Brain”: that summer I saw 15 shows, five more shows than I’d seen in the past three years of fringing combined. Since I got my hands on a Frequent Fringer pass again (it allows the holder to see 10 shows for a set price, instead of the usual $10 to $12.50 single tickets cost), Fringe Brain seems inevitable this summer (Edit: Fringe starts Thursday, Aug. 13 and runs through Sunday, Aug. 23, 2015 in Old Strathcona), though I should know better by now. Last year was two firsts: it was my first Edmonton International Fringe Festival seeing a lot of shows, and it was the first year I didn’t let reviews dictate which shows I saw. Before, when the shows were announced, I would always get really excited about some descriptions, and then become overwhelmed and not see anything as the festival went on and the various news outlets reviewed the shows.

That was one of the reasons I gravitated towards the outdoor stages (two that are set up with technicians, and then additional busker locations) during the first couple years — it didn’t require nearly as much decision-making. Sitting in the heart of the grounds in Dr. Wilbert McIntyre Park, watching the outdoor stage, is still one of my favourite things to do, and now a great way to fill time in between indoor shows. Hint: bring lots of spare change to sit near the outdoor stages. While all the performers have talents I could never possess — and I’m well aware of that — my rule is that I’ll toss a couple of dollars into their hat at the end of the show only if a part or all of their act is something I haven’t seen done before — many acts are some version of juggling and balancing on impossible objects — by eight other acts that day.

The festival has a new app this year, which I’ll be trying, though a previous, non-official version had a great calendar built into it that wouldn’t let me book tickets for a show if I’d already bought tickets for a conflicting show. (Though travel between venues also has to be allowed for, so while the app wouldn’t let me book conflicting shows, it would let me book shows 10 minutes apart, which, depending on venue locations, may or may not be possible. And please, if you’re late for a show, don’t bang on the venue door hoping someone can hear you. We can hear you, and it says “No late admittance” on the ticket.)

Personal show selection seems to happen best by two ways: ignore the reviews and just go to the seemingly interesting shows. I’ve come to accept there are shows that I will walk out of thinking, “What just happened?” and not in a good way. Though sometimes it does happen in a good way, which is always a nice surprise.

Or, go to the shows that someone, however tangentially related, knows someone in. There’s still the possibility of “What just happened” syndrome, but it just wouldn’t be Fringe without that happening.

A flexible schedule is also key, meaning that if someone tells me about a really great show they saw, and the tickets haven’t sold out, I have time to check it out. One of the things I was pleasantly surprised to discover during the summer I wasn’t living in Edmonton was that a weekday is a fan-freaking-tastic time to fringe. Yes, the crowds add to the atmosphere, but on a weekday, I share the grounds mostly with daycare groups and families, it is noticeably quieter, and I don’t have to sit on someone’s lap just to get a spot on the grass near the outdoor stage.

This year, I think I’ll also keep all my ticket stubs. I’ve kept most of them, but the one that is missing is the one from that really good one-woman show I saw last year, at La Cité Francophone.  Plus, many local restaurants in the area offer discounts to Fringe-goers with their ticket stubs; follow @localgoodyeg on Twitter for updates.

Aug. 13 edit: The play that I couldn’t remember is called “Am I Blue,” performed by Elizabeth Blue. Thanks to John Grady for helping to figure it out.