(First sent out in the Theatre Ottawa newsletter, On Stage weekly. Do you subscribe to the newsletter? You probably should. Just saying.)
Thursday marks day one of the 21st Ottawa Fringe Festival. That’s 57 shows, in 12 venues across 11 days. Full info on all shows out there at: ottawafringe.com.
If you’re having trouble deciding what to see, here’s some people who want to help:
- Great Canadian Theatre Company artistic director, Eric Coates, offered his top 8 picks over at APT613: http://apt613.ca/fringe-picks-eric-coates/
- Patrick Langston offers his thoughts over at ARTSFILE: http://artsfile.ca/ottawa-fringe-festival-lineup-finds-future-happiness-in-fantasy-and-sci-fi-influences/
- The critics over at the New Ottawa Critics offered up their top picks here: https://newottawacritics.com/2017/06/05/fringe-forecast-2017/
- On Stage reviewer, Caitlin Oleson, offered up her choices here: https://fringecrushed.wordpress.com/2017/06/07/my-2017-fringe-picks/
I suppose since this is my website and I have been to a few Ottawa Fringes before, I could put in a few words on the subject as well.
Category 1: Six shows you can take to the bank:
Bank is important. Having a known reputation for delivering quality is hardcore in a festival where quality isn’t always guaranteed. These are artists with proven reputations for delivering an A-Game. If their promo material / press / marketing gets you interested in their shows, you can count on them for quality and won’t go wrong buying a ticket.
- Dead Unicorn Ink (Ten Little Sinners)
- Martin Dockery (Delirium)
- AL Connors (AL Connors: DJ Detective)
- Jem Rolls (The Inventor of All Things)
- Vanessa Quesnelle (Luna)
- Nancy Kenny (Your Princess Is In Another Castle)
(Note: there are certainly other artists at Fringe with bankable names, ask around and people will be happy to tell you, I limited to the top ones I have first hand knowledge of. Comment below if you something to add.)
Category 2: My personal top four “Can’t Miss” shows:
Ten Little Sinners: Dead Unicorn Ink has a high reputation of delivering entertainment with a broad appeal. From as far back as Playing Dead and Space Mysteries From Outer Space, they work in the genre of crowd-pleasing theatre and tend to become quick fan favourites. Plus they’ve got a great cast going. Mark my words, this show will be selling out Academic Hall by the end of the festival. (If it doesn’t do so from the beginning.)
Rough Magic: Two years ago, Theatre Arcturus came to town with Weird: The Witches of Macbeth. It blew me away enough that I saw the show twice (which is the highest and rarest mark of quality I can give a show). Seeing that Theatre Arcturus was coming back with Rough Magic was all I needed to know for it to make this short list.
Delirium: Martin Dockery is a king in the world of solo-storytelling shows. Perhaps The King, though subjective opinions may vary. He’s been touring through Ottawa every year since 2012, I’ve seen every show he’s put up, I’ve loved every show he’s put up. Wanderlust and last year’s Exclusion Zone probably being my favourites. His way with words, his style of performing them, and his knack for narrative will all dazzle you. Plus he’s an all round chill and good guy.
Unbridled Futurism: Is quirky a genre? While I think that nearly everyone will find enjoyment in Ten Little Sinners, Rough Magic, and Delirium, I can’t make as strong a guarantee with Unbridled Futurism because not even I really know what to expect. Here’s what I do know. I fell in love with Nick Di Gaetano and Emily Pearlman’s MiCasa Theatre back in 2012 with Live From The Belly of a Whale. I fell in love all over again with REVISED from the Belly of a Whale. And it’s to my greatest shame to say that I continue to miss every single opportunity to see Countries Shaped Like Stars. While Unbridled Futurism isn’t a MiCasa Theatre project, I’ll happily take one half of the duo any chance I can get. They’re that amazing. I fully expect that whether or not this is a show people are buzzing about at the beginning of the festival, it’s one of the ones that everybody will be talking about by the end of the festival.
Category 3: Honourable mentions (or the shows I’ll be trying my damnedest to get out to):
Luna: With the aforementioned Vanessa Quesnelle. First solo show she’s brought to Ottawa, but her two-handers with Martin Dockery (and one three hander) have shown her to be a powerhouse performer in her own right.
- The ADHD Project: Carlyn Rhamey’s SAOR was one of the few shows I was able to get to last year. It was all I needed to convince me to keep The ADHD Project near the top of my list.
- Who, Me: Marketing is everything at Fringe. I’ve talked about it before. There’s no chance a Doctor Who themed/marketed show won’t attract the crowd it sets out to. Myself included.
- Movin’ Melvin Brown: Less traditional theatre, more kick back in a Vegas lounge and watch “the last of the great song & dance men” entertain you for an hour and then some.
- Underneath It All, Tooth:Hurty, The Sellout, Ethel, HOOTENANNY!: All featuring outstanding local performers who I adore.
**Your Princess is Not in Another Castle is not listed in that group only because it’s noted as “presented as a workshop” which means I know I’ll likely get the chance to see it again down the road, and so it won’t break my heart quite as much to miss it. If I find an opening in my schedule to fit this show in, you can bet I will do so.
- Do You Want To Live Forever, The Illiad for Dummies: Grabbed my interest from their concept and marketing.
Category 4: …?
Really, I could go and find reasons to push nearly every show at the festival if I tried, but my list above comes down to what I’m most looking forward to that are the best bets to deliver quality and entertainment when I sit down in the audience.
But, as always, this is simply my opinion and I would love to know what you think. What have I overlooked? What are you looking forward to? If you’re reading this in the future, what have you seen and loved and want everybody to see? Join the discussion and tell me in the comments below. Alternately, hit me up on Instagram or Twitter at @ThatMackeyGuy