The first Lethbridge Fringe Festival will focus on local talent, Sept. 10-13.
The event features seven shows taking place at the Gate, Casa and Club Didi throughout all four days.
“I only have two rules about what goes on stage — be clear about what audiences can expect and don’t break any laws,” said organizer Michele Gallant, who has been involved with organizing the Calgary Fringe Festival for the past 10 years.
“We’ve got two and a half weeks until the first Lethbridge Fringe Festival, so I’m getting pretty excited about it,” she continued recently, adding she and her husband, Blair, have been working on getting the Fringe Festival off the ground for the past year and a half.
“My husband is a fifth-generation Lethbridgian. He talked to city council and they were really excited about it. We were in Lethbridge for the Whoop-Up Days parade and a lot of people came up to us and said they can’t wait for the festival,” she said.
Tickets for each show cost $10 each.
“So you can see seven shows for $70. A lot of people will see a show, then go have a coffee, then see the next show,” she said, adding theatre shows are a lot more expensive in Calgary.
She is excited about the seven shows.
Jay Whitehead is presenting a play he wrote called “CRABS” and performs in another play written by Greg MacArthur called “White Gleaming Beach.” It is two dark comedy shorts combining sunburns, Cheerios, revenge and pubic lice starring Whitehead, Jocelyn Haub and Dylan Parsons.
“Co-Workers” is a production written by U of L grad AJ Barager, starring Michael Rolfe and Madeleine Taylor-Gregg about two very different co-workers — naïve accountant Mark and impatient, jaded Stan.
“Banger Bingo” is a Medicine Hat production by Marcus Iannattone featuring ’80s rock, bingo, crappy prizes and sleazy wit.
On a more educational note Calgary playwright and director Chris Denholm presents “Legends of Canada,” a one man show featuring stories and legends from across Canada.
“Ms. Sugarcoat” features Fringe Festival circuit veteran Alice Nelson , a well-known comedian, clown and puppeteer. It is a satirical comedy about teachers who deal with helicopter parents, entitled students and political correctness.
Another Lethbridge entry is “The Duck Variations” from Lethbridge playwright David Mamet featuring Mike Theissen-Ernest and Andrew Legg who discuss ducks in depth and in the process explore the nature of existence, love, the environment, friendship, death and the nature of humanity.
The last Lethbridge entry is a production of “The Vagina Monologues” from director Deonie Hudson.
Gallant emphasized the entries were not curated. The participants were chosen by lottery.
“I’m really excited to bring the Fringe to Lethbridge,” she said.
“It’s about celebrating local artists and helping them expand their palate. People don’t realize how many talented artists there are in their own back yard.”
She noted of the $10 ticket price, nine dollars goes to the artists and the other dollar covers ticket expenses
Hudson, who is well known as a back stage worker and director of Lethbridge Music Theatre productions of “Hairspray” and “Peter Pan,” is excited to present something a little more edgier for the Lethbridge Fringe Festival — “The Vagina Monologues.”
There will be four shows— one on each day of the festival at Casa. All of the proceeds go to local female-oriented charities including Womanspace, which puts on their own regular productions of the Vagina Monologues.
“It will all stay local,” said Hudson, adding the 10 member cast includes people from all walks of life and all ages who range from having a lot of theatre experience to having no experience.
“Most of it is the performer talking to the audience. But I’ve added a part where all of the cast members hold hands and perform together,” she continued.
She noted while talking about male sexuality is no big deal, but talking about the female side is still taboo. “I think it is an important piece. It is a good way to open the doors to discussing the issue. Talking about male sexuality is no big deal, but when you mention the other side, the walls go up,” she said.
Performer Kim Harvey is excited to make her stage debut in “The Vagina Monologues.”
“It’s important to we talk about the vagina. I remember buying a ticket to the show but there were people around and I couldn’t even say the word vagina. I asked for a ticket to the monologue show,” Harvey said adding she is excited about the possibility of the show opening the dialogue.
“I feel we have some work to do to de-stigmatize it,” she continued.
Hudson said the monologues range from light-hearted to more serious.
“The subject matter ranges from lighthearted while others are a lot heavier about rape and violence against women,” Hudson described.
“I’ve also add passages from native women as well as transgendered,” she continued.
She is pleased with her cast, who she chose based on their relationship to the passage rather than their acting experience.
Hudson is excited to perform a monologue about childbirth.
“I really connected with it because I was in the room when my niece was born and I was surprised by the power of the vagina to see what it could do,” she said.
Harvey is performing a monologue about self-stimulation.
“My piece is about a woman who wants to have her own orgasm, so she goes to a workshop to show her how to do it,” she said.
Both are excited to be part of Lethbridge’s first Fringe Festival.
“I think it’s exciting,” said Hudson, who earned a BFA in technical theatre at the University of Lethbridge. “I love Fringe festivals. I go to the Calgary and Edmonton Fringe. I think it’s great we have one here,” she said, adding she is also excited to see some of the other local productions, especially Jay Whitehead’s play.
“I feel like this is a great opportunity for people who have graduated from the university and who have to leave to act on their creativity. With the Fringe they can act on their creativity right here,” added Harvey, who has a BA in science and biology as well as a BA in education.
“Fringe festivals, you never know what you’re getting and all of the venues are within walking distance,” Hudson said.
“My hope is everybody will get out there and support these different artists,” she continued.
“I’m looking forward to seeing how well I can hold up under the pressure of performing and seeing what I’ve got,” Harvey added.
Edgy plays and Fringe festivals are right up U of L professor Whitehead’s alley. He just returned from performing in his male burlesque show “Oh Manada” at the Edmonton Fringe Festival and was in Ireland earlier this summer with New West Theatre’s Kathy Zaborsky performing in his drag opera “Castrati.”
He has two brand new shows planned for the Lethbridge Festival.
“We’re calling it two queer shorts by two short queers,” Whitehead chuckled.
He wrote “CRABS” and will be performing in Greg MacArthur’s “White Gleaming Beach.”
“‘CRABS’ is zany but very political, while ‘White Gleaming Beach’ is dark and poetic,” he described.
“‘CRABS’ is very absurdist. It is about pubic lice going extinct because people are shaving their pubic areas, but it’s also a metaphor about the queer community becoming mainstream as we are moving to assimilate,” he said.
“With gay marriage, our values are more aligned with mainstream culture rather than the counter-culture, which is where we come from,” he said. The play stars Whitehead along with Jocelyn Haub and Edmonton actor Dylan Parsons.
“He’s coming all the way from Edmonton to play a go-go boy,” he said.
“White Gleaming Beach,” directed by Kyle Schulte, is an extremely dark monologue featuring Whitehead and an afterword from Haub.
“It’s about the strange twists life can take based on a single moment,” he said.
The two sorts will run each night of the Fringe in Club Didi, though there will also be preview performances, Sept. 6 and 7.
Club Didi will also feature nightly cabarets after the shows. They will be a variety show featuring musical guests, games and drinks. Whitehead’s alter-ego Didi may even make an appearance.
Whitehead is excited to have a fringe festival in Lethbridge.
“I think it’s an exciting thing. And they’re being smart by starting it small and they‘re also smart to have it in September when the university and college crowd are back,” he said.
“Fringe style theatre is right up our alley, so we’re quite keen to be part of it, ” he said.
They will have a booth downtown across from the SAAG, next to the Gate for tickets and more information. More information plus tickets are available through lethbridgefringe.ca.