Toronto Fringe Sees Record Breaking Festival Again!

Toronto Fringe Sees Record Breaking Festival Again!

It's been a banner year for Fringe. The 2017 Toronto Fringe Festival was the highest selling festival in its 29-year history, selling 68,312 tickets to theatre-lovers. Since Fringe returns 100% of the net box office to its 160 producing companies, this means that we will deposit a record $519,707 into the bank accounts of indie artists in the coming weeks. This is the first time Toronto Fringe has broken over $500,000 in its payout to artists.

From the very beginning of Fringe season, this festival caught the eyes of Torontonians. Fringe saw its highest opening day sales ever, as people flocked to Fringe's new and improved website and program book to discover the gems of the festival. Every year, Fringe brings in tens of thousands of new patrons to the theatre community, demonstrating that live performance can be fun, affordable, intimate and inviting. These patrons go on to frequent other theatres throughout the year - making Fringe the invaluable feeder-system of the Canadian performing arts ecology.

Every year, Fringe creates a platform for new voices to be heard. This year we expanded the platform to include more space for emerging voices (via our Theatre Entrepreneur's Network & Training/TENT program), teen voices (via the first ever Teen Fringe program), diverse voices (via our Culturally Diverse Artist Project/CDAP and bursaries for youth from priority neighbourhoods) and voices from people with disabilities (via our first ever Accessible Lottery Category).

Fringe is also extremely proud to announce that we have not only achieved gender parity in our festival, but surpassed it. 108 out of the 160 shows in the festival (67.5%) were written, directed or choreographed by a female artist.

A New Home at Scadding Court

After a fond farewell to Honest Ed's (and an epic parade down Bathurst Street) we said hello to our new community at Scadding Court. >From opening night's toe-tapping Sly Fox cover band to our closing night jamboree last night, the new Fringe Club has been the most vibrant, inclusive and welcoming place to spend 12 summer nights.

Highlights:

- A huge crowd of multigenerational dancers took to the dancefloor for Fun Funky Friday with Yasgurs Farm in honour of former donor Howard Hacker.

- Our World Fringe Day birthday party celebrated the Fringe movement, which started in Edinburgh 70 years ago, with tons of free cake and merriment!

- Slay Day featuring Beyography and Beardoncé took the club by storm (in heels!) and welcomed one and all into an inclusive and spectacular evening of dance, drag and friendship.

- #UrgentExchange, co-presented by Generator, gave artists a place to voice their feelings and concerns about what it means to be mid-career and how to balance work for love and work to live.

- Slaight Music night featuring rising star Kayla Diamond and Juno winner Tomi Swick showcased the vanguard of Canadian indie music on closing Saturday.

- Hugs abounded and tears/beer flowed on closing night last night, as we bid goodbye to the 2017 Fringe Festival.

Breakout Hits

Our diverse, eclectic and adventurous 160 shows were truly a feast for the artistically curious. Although every show had something special and memorable to offer, each year there are a few breakout hits that may become the next big thing.

The Seat Next to the King by Steven Elliott Jackson
This New Play Contest winning show connected deeply with audiences. Nearly selling out the 200-seat Theatre Passe Muraille Mainspace almost every night and garnering one of the very few 5 N reviews from Now Magazine, this show focused on the racial and sexual tension that arises in a 1960s public washroom. Now Magazine states: "here's hoping someone picks the show up for their season."

The Clergy Project by SOULO Theatre
Sold out before opening day, this site specific gem in Narayever Synagogue showcased the storytelling genius of VIP Fringe artist Tracey Erin Smith, as well as three prominent (and gregarious!) members of the Toronto clergy. This show is off to a run in New York City later this month.

32 Short Sketches About Bees by Clear Glass Productions
Announced last night: this show is the winner of the Second City Outstanding New Comedy Award! The buzz (sorry) for the show just never died down. Consistently earning chatter on social media from trusted members of the comedy community, this show with a deceptively simple concept was a true audience favourite.

Lysistrata by how.dare.collective
The sleeper hit of the festival, this bawdy adaptation of Aristophanes' classic play used burlesque and humour to dazzle and entertain audience members at The Painted Lady.

Bendy Sign Tavern by Sex T-Rex
Selling out almost all of its shows, Sex T-Rex departed from their typical sketch comedy this year to craft a show in a bar about 2 lonely puppets who fall in love. We hear rumours that this audience hit may be back again soon... fingers crossed!

Nasty by Maelstrom Art Collective
Also selling out consistently, this critically acclaimed dance show is "a thought-provoking experimental ensemble piece that introduces audiences to 13 women from history and myth who have been derided at one point or another for being "nasty."" - Jordan Bimm, Now Magazine.

soaring in liquid skies by Franco Nguyen
Emerging artist and Culturally Diverse Artist Project participant Franco Nguyen had one of the breakout hits of the festival. This show tells the autobiographical story of the artist accompanying his mother on her return to Vietnam for the first time in 28 years.

Ten Creative Ways to Dispose of Your Cremains by Rose Napoli
Called an "artist to watch at the festival" by the Globe and Mail, Napoli should be proud of this very first foray into Fringe. Her show sold out all but its first performance and garnered rave reviews.

There's no way to list all the hits of this year's festival, but it's worth mentioning that we are very proud of the producing power of this cohort of artists. And the taste-making power of our audiences, who have the influence to determine festival hits. This festival still runs on word of mouth so check out our Patron's Picks here.

What's Next for Fringe?

We look forward to the 30th anniversary festival in 2018, when our partnership with Scadding Court will continue to flourish and our roots in the community will grow even deeper. The organization will also see great change this year, with the transition of our outgoing Executive Director, Kelly Straughan, at the end of this month. Kelly has overseen the move to the new Fringe Club and is celebrated by the community for her vision and leadership over the past five years. An executive search is currently underway. Interested parties can review the posting on our job board. Applications are due July 31, 2017 and approximate start date is Fall 2017.

And, of course, the 11th annual Next Stage Theatre Festival will be running at Factory Theatre in January 2018.

Those interested in applying for the 2018 Fringe Festival can apply to the lottery as of October 2017.


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