July is here again (already?) and that means one thing. Actually, a few things: Canada Day, real summer vacation-time, and festivals of all kinds including the Toronto Fringe Festival.

For those of you who may not know, Fringe festivals happen across the world and showcase a whole whack of unjuried theatre pieces by anyone whose name gets pulled out of the proverbial hat.

In Toronto, that means 10 days of hurried, sweaty chaos as you bolt around Bathurst street trying to see as many of the 155 plays as possible.

At least this year I don’t also have a show to promote and worry about (although the past two summers of presenting shows at the Fringe have been absolutely amazing and I’m not going to lie and tell you I don’t miss that stress just a little bit).

I’m not a critic or reviewer, but I did want to announce that I have not seen a single ‘bad’ play so far (granted, I’ve only seen 6). So if you’re in town, you might want to check out some of these diverse theatrical experiences (in order of me seeing them):

ENGLAND

Jenna Turk and Celeste Percy-Beauregard in ENGLAND by Tim Crouch

I liked this one. A lot. It made me feel weepy in that “I’m so inspired and sad and happy” way that I haven’t experienced often. Was it just seeing my friend Jenna’s simple and stirring performance that made me teary? I don’t know. I don’t think so.  I think it was also walking around the beautiful bright 401 Richmond Gallery, the repetition of the word “look,” and the clever, economic, poetic (and yet very real) writing of Tim Crouch. As we were led around the gallery by the actors, they’d say stuff like: “I look at these things and I don’t really understand them. I like them, but my boyfriend would understand them. He says that good art is art that sells.” I hope they sell out the rest of their shows.

OF MICE AND MORRO AND JASP

Clowns Morro and Jasp get the economic downturn to turn our frowns upside down. Photo by Alex Nirta.

A Fringe favourite, these clown sisters are back! It’s always exciting to see Amy Lee and Heather Marie Annis on stage (and off), and here they are adding their messy charm and pee-in-your-pants hilarity to the old classic I never read in high school (but let it be known that I read and loved The Pearl (my heart still hurts for you, Coyotito!)). Lots of fantastic moments (and also just the whole premise) keep me in constant awe of these theatre-makers.

WITH LOVE AND A MAJOR ORGAN

Julia Lederer and Robin Archer play strangers on the subway

A sweet play that speaks directly to our time (Google-everything + nostalgia for cassette tapes) in Julia Lederer’s own quirky, imagistic voice. Fun and oh so true, even if set in a world where organs can be lent freely- but not without consequence- to a stranger.

THE BALLAD OF HERBIE COX

Victoria Chiu and Roland Cox

An original mix of über-casual story-telling and precise, evocative dance, this Melbourne duo (trio?) kept me holding my breath. I can’t wait to get to Australia- maybe there’s more performance like this?

BUFFERING…

Shauna Wootton and Amy Cunningham as Princess and Witch

Funny, smart rhyming verse that spins fairy tale tropes into a web of fun and fancy. So much potential here, I can’t wait what this group writes next. Who knew there was still something original to do with fairy tales? Apparently there is.

VIC HARBOUR

Andrea Grant and Matthew Gin as Alice and Jimmy

I didn’t think I’d laugh so much during a ghost/abuse/drug/lighthouse story, but the two young characters are pitch-perfect, especially in the first couple of scenes. The atmosphere of a small town on the bay was palpable and inspired me to revise some of my short stories.

There are so many other plays I need/want to see, but with the departure date for my trip ‘around the world’ being only a week away, time is tight with finishing up my last week of work, preparing for my garage sale, meeting with friends for one last lunch together, and mentally preparing to leave (this includes watching Master Chef, I’ll admit).

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