Piggyback Fringe Festival comes to Wakefield Quebec

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by admin on June 17, 2010

pb_piggyIt’s that time again, to showcase new scripts that verge on the obscure, the edgy and the unusual.

The Piggyback Fringe Festival – the largest fringe event in the world, per capita! -will return June 25-27 to Wakefield for its third consecutive year with a host of local and outside talent, with performances in theatre and music as well as workshops and an opening and closing gala.

The first night, Friday June 25, will feature local talent only. The “All-Local All-Night Gala” will begin with Ian Tamblyn’s A Day in the Night of Zephyr Fallutin in the Black Sheep Inn at 7 p.m. Five plays will follow and each will run for an hour or so. Slam and village poets will read in between, and the night will end with music.

International performances will take place on the weekend at Cafe Molo, the United Church, the Wakefield Farmer’s Market and the Black Sheep. An “Artists’ Schmoozer and Info Session!” will be held Saturday, from 2-4:30 p.m. at River Echo Language School for artists who’d like to meet among themselves and with The English Language Arts Network (ELAN), a provincial Montreal-based organization in support of English artists living in Quebec.

River Echo will also host Ian Tamblyn for a workshop on “Music Composition and Sound Design” on Saturday, starting 11:30 a.m., and “Script Analysis with Jeff Culbert” on Sunday, starting at 10 a.m.

Kaffe 1870 will turn itself into “Piggyback Headquarters” for the weekend, offering Piggy tattoos, a barbeque, twisted balloons, and performance teasers by international artists on Saturday and a closing party on Sunday.

Some notable international performances include the funny and eccentric Archy and Mehitabel and the dreamy and magical The Girl Who Was Eaten By The Dark . (Check out video previews for both here: vimeo.com/12304170) Both should draw a crowd because of their success last year alone. The new matinee, Cactus – the Seduction… – written and performed by Jonno Katz, who has performed at 70 Fringes worldwide, including last year’s Piggyback Fringe with Accident – should be a hit as well, judging by its reviews. “[Cactus] deserves more exclamation marks than the paper will allow,” said a critic in Terminal City; it is “just about the wackiest, most delightful and unique thing I’ve witnessed in years,” said another from the Ottawa Citizen.

Other hopefuls include Fear Liath Here, a play about four women attacked “by a malevolent force” in the woods of Manitoba, where some “fears are justified,” and Blind to Happiness, a play from Kuwait that uses a range of ingredients, including a hapless poet, a cat and S Club Seven to ask whether happiness is a choice.

Yet Fringe Fest predictions are purely speculative. Each year the Fest offers performances that range wide in kind and even wider in talent. Many shows have never been preformed before and the result can be wildly good or wildly bad.

“Expect the unexpected,” said Piggyback Executive-Director Gwen Shea. “The magic of fringe is that you don’t know what the pieces are.

“You just never know what it’s going to be, but it’s usually something off the wall.”

In fact, being “off the wall” is a reason why the Fest was called “Fringe Fest” in the first place. According to ottawafringefest.com, “Fringe Festivals trace their roots to Scotland in 1947, when several theatre companies not invited to participate in the first Edinburgh International Festival staged their shows on ‘the fringe’ of the official venues, setting up wherever they could find space, finding audiences by word of mouth and succeeding or failing on the strength of their talents alone.”

The basic premise has not changed since. Today’s’ productions are often too strange, too provocative, too unheard of, or, in some cases, just too bad for regular festivals. The Canadian Fringe Festival Model (which includes six locations in the U.S.) doesn’t censor or subject artists’ work to jury approval, and artists are thereby encouraged to make bold and, hopefully, original choices.

Last year the Festival in Wakefield was a “fantastic success,” according to Brenda Rooney, an event organizer a noted presence in the Wakefield artistic community overall. But, she said, the success includes more than the festival itself. Thanks in part to the number of artists in Wakefield, the town is the only non-city to host the Fringe Festival – hence the “piggyback” in the name – and it offers “an incredible opportunity to learn and develop as artists in the region,” Rooney said.

For more information, visit www.piggybackfringe.ca.