The St-Ambroise Montreal Fringe Festival, May 30 to June 19, isn’t like other festivals. For one thing, it’s the only theatre, dance, music and comedy festival where anyone can participate, as a festivalgoer, but also as a volunteer or even a performer…
Anyone can participate in the Fringe Fest, anytime- whether they live in the city or are just dropping by to feel the love. This year, the fest turns 21, legal at last, by hitting the summer streets of the Plateau with more beers, cheers, thrills ‘n spills than ever before.
“We took a lot of time to evaluate our values at the festival this year and we decided we’re about neighbourhood, openness and opportunity,” says Amy Blackmore, the fest’s brand-new Director. “Anybody can show up and get involved- I myself started out years ago as a volunteer. We’re open to you showing up, putting on a show, volunteering or even becoming a staff member. It’s one of the only fests in city that offers this opportunity to everybody.”
During the festival, Montrealers and visitors alike use the break of summer to get outside to the world-famous Fringe Beer Tent (now officially called Fringe Park), a common space at the corner of Rachel and St-Laurent where fest-goers can chill out, snack, peruse the program and mingle. The stage is also set for another instalment of Fringe Pop, the collaboration between the Fringe and another popular Montreal festival, Pop Montreal.
The first weekend of Fringe marks the first of many cherished summer weekends of the St Laurent Street Festival, where the Main is blocked off for the Street Festival for everyone to mill around, check each other out and generally hang out. It’s also where the Fringe puts on their yearly Drag Races and other street-themed events.
How to Fringe: There’s so much to do at Fringe, from the gamut of venue shows to the nighttime Fringe After Dark program (featuring the nightly 13th Hour talk show, an air-guitar competition and a Slowdance Night), that sometimes it’s hard to know where to start. But Blackmore has the Fringe down pat after all these years.
“My ideal Fringe day starts at Fringe Park, sitting down to look at the program. I’d start it in the afternoon, since I’m probably hungover from the night before. St-Laurent has heaps of cheap food, so grab a slice or a pita wrap, walk into Fringe Park, buy a beer, sit down, open the program and talk to the volunteers. Chances are they’ve heard what’s good,” explains Blackmore. “I recommend seeing more than one genre during the day- a dance show, straight-up theatre, some comedy. We sell a pass that’s 6 shows for $55 or 10 shows for $85, then bring in the pass for free beer.”
Blackmore suggest you stick around for an evening comedy show and even later for the 13th Hour and party with the staff, performers and other festival people. She’s also got one final tip:
“Finally, you also get to go home with someone if you want- I met my boyfriend at the fringe. So fall in love- for the night, or for a lifetime.”
Guest Blogger: Melora Koepke
St-Ambroise Montreal Fringe Festival, May 30-June 19, 2011