Chowing down on chili and Fringe
by Sarah Deshaies
Media, sponsors and Fringe well-wishers assembled at Katacombes Club to get a taste of the upcoming 22nd edition of Montreal’s Fringe Festival, and to deliberate over a chili cook-off.
Earlier last Monday, Fringe staff and volunteers had meandered down the street on foot and by car from the fest’s home, Mainline Theatre, toting vegetables, Coco Rico buns, ladles and burners to outfit the Katacombes bar for a chili competition. The food was provided by local theatre luminaries. (Full disclosure: I was amongst the gang setting up that day, since I’m aiding with volunteer co-ordinating at the Fringe this year.)
But never mind the tasty chili, here are the most salient parts of the conference to chew on:
- The Fringe has upped its quota for local content from 60 to 70 per cent. I don’t think the average theatre-goer concerns themselves with the pie-chart breakdown of performer origins, but it’s handy to know that there’s an attempt this year to cultivate more local talent.
- JEM ROLLS RETURNS. But, you probably already knew that about this festival regular. Several other international performers are joining him, as well.
- There’s a focus on selling tickets online this year, with sales opening the day after the press conference. You can start to buy your tickets here: montrealfringe.ca
- Several events are returning from last year, including the Mondiale de mac and cheese, the drag races, Piknic Électronik and Fringe Pop. Roller Derby is also making a comeback after a two-year hiatus.
- New hosts for the 13th Hour, the daily late-night gabfest: performers Kirsten Rasmussen, Cat Lemieux and Karl Werleman. (These are their civilian handles, not their dazzling stage names.)
- Spokesboys Dan Bingham and Ben Drouin Germain both spoke to the good parts of the Fringe, with Dan crediting some of his success to his Fringe show, and Ben emphasizing that you’ll find both the best and the worst at the Fringe.
- Fringe It Forward initiative: the festival is passing on 160 passes to its Daily Donation charities to be redistributed amongst its recipients, volunteers and staff. That’s a total of 480 tickets.
- Parting words: “It doesn’t matter if you like a show, what matters is that you show up.” - Amy Blackmore, fest director.
Oh, and if you were wondering about the chili, here’s the rough breakdown of voting:
It was a close race between Roy Surette, Artistic Director of Centaur Theatre, who handed out chili dogs and cheese curds in his chili, and Jeremy Hechtman, director of Mainline Theatre and former head of the Fringe, but Surette won in the end. Honourable mentions to Megan Bradley, actress and Fringe box office manager, who concocted a turkey chili, and Alison Louder, artist rep on Mainline board, arrived late (perhaps due to a taxi snafu) and missed much of the voting, but still doled out some vegetarian chili to the delight of meat avoiders.