Fringe 2017: Zahraa's Top 505 July 2017 / by Zahraa Hmood (author)
The annual Toronto Fringe Festival is just around the corner, and promises to bring a lineup of over 150 artists from the city and beyond to perform in the disciplines of theatre, comedy, musicals, dance, and everything in-between. Going from July 5 to 16, dozens of shows will be held every day at the Scadding Court in Toronto, plus a whole variety of venues located throughout the downtown area.
Since its inception in 1989, Fringe Toronto has sought to bring together unique and buzz-worthy acts coming up in the sidelines of the performing arts community. After over 30 years of business, they now boast being the largest theatre festival in the province in number of acts under their umbrella. As opposed to selecting acts based on performances given in front of a judge or jury, Fringe offers an opportunity to all acts who apply through selection via lottery.
It can be particularly overwhelming to decide what to see with so many interesting acts on the bill, so I’ve put together a list of the top five artists that I feel have something special, important or just plain good to offer.
Alison Daley, Half Second Echo, Tracey Norman
As a major lover of dance, the preview of Wild / Walled with cast member Denise Solleza in this Fringe promo video excited me deeply. Wild / Walled is a contemporary dance show that promises an honest and powerful performance from the dancers at Half Second Echo and others. Choreographers Alison Daley, who owns Half Second Echo, and Tracey Norman are Toronto Fringe favourites. Their work Elly’s Emotions and no permanent answers, respectively, have appeared in back to back Fringe festivals of 2013 and 2014. They have gone on to receive widespread critical acclaim, awards, and take on bigger stages, like the Solar Stage Children’s Theatre for Daley, and the Harbourfront Centre Theatre for Norman. This performance also features the choreography work of Miles Gosse, who also performs in this piece. All involved are a tightly-knitted team of York University alums, working to make their vision for contemporary dance come alive at the classic Al Green Theatre. The first performance will be Thursday, July 6 at 6:30 p.m.
Not Oasis Productions
The hustle and bustle of Toronto life can be thrilling albeit overwhelming, but sadly, not always enough to distract from the constant sense of isolation many of us carry. Alone in this Together is not about denying that loneliness in the face of mounting responsibilities, failing relationships, and social media F.O.M.O. - but rather, embracing it. Graduates of the Second City Conservatory program, these folks are bringing a mix of some of their best sketch comedy acts to Fringe in this show. Directed by Second City Alumnus Nigel Downer, Alone in This Together has its characters working over a couple’s fight in the style of video gameplay. It will be interesting to see how this diverse cast plans to cover various topics in what they describe as a “dark” and “honest” way. They’re set to hit the Tarragon Theatre this Thursday, July 6 at 6:45 p.m.
Immigration has rarely not been a contentious political issue, as especially evident in our current Western political climate. The Door adds to this conversation not in an overtly political way, but from the perspective of two Iranian women with plans to emigrate, one from Tehran to Toronto, and the other from Toronto to Tehran. Iran’s Saye Theatre have experienced firsthand some of the stressors of obtaining a U.S. visa to perform in the country, and took a stand against the proposed U.S. travel ban back in January. Directed by Mehdi Mashhour of Iran, this play previously saw a Western audience at The New York International Fringe Festival back in 2016. It will be interesting to see how Toronto’s audience reacts to this play. They will be at The Theatre Centre, the first performance on Friday, July 7, at 8:00 p.m.
Seven Siblings Theatre
Seven Siblings Theatre aspires to enrapture audiences in its work, and gritty sci-fi play Recall could be their most challenging attempt thus far. Creator of Recall, Eliza Clark, is an American actress and playwright who boasts a lengthy and impressive CV. Her plays have been developed at the Manhattan Theatre Club, The New York International Fringe Festival, and Yale University, to name a few, and she has done television writing for AMC’s The Killing and Rubicon. Recall tells the story of a mother and her unsettling daughter, living in a world where crimes can be prevented before they happen. The play says it “picks apart empathy,” suggesting a production that will challenge and maybe even disturb audiences, making it an intriguing event worth checking out if you’re in the mood for such a thing. They will perform at the Franco Boni Theatre, their first performance on Friday, July 7 at 1:45 p.m.
Mia Raye Smith
A personal story from the mind of actress and playwright Mia Raye Smith of Queens, New York and Detroit, Michigan. I Am Hope is a one-woman performance about Mia’s struggle with anxiety disorder, and journey to healing. Smith will play 19 characters who have influenced her life, and portray her issues with anxiety and panic attacks. As this performance situates itself in our current conversation around mental illness, I’m interested to see how it can, potentially, tackle the stigma attached to this issue. Smith has performed “I Am Hope” at several festivals in the U.S., including the New Works Series Festival, United Solo Festival, and Flying Solo Festival. Toronto will be host of the international premiere of this performance. As the lead artist, producer, and director of I Am Hope, Smith promises to deliver a poignant performance to the intimate Tarragon Theatre. The first performance will be Thursday, July 6 at 9:30 p.m.