The Toronto Fringe Festival brings over a hundred stage productions to over a dozen venues every July. Proud of its unjuried nature, the Fringe selects producers by lottery, ensuring a wide variety of shows for you to choose from. So how do you get the most out of the madcap world of the Toronto Fringe Festival? Here are a few tips:
- Take Time to Browse the Program
Just because something is a Toronto Fringe Festival show doesn't mean it has anything in common with the other Toronto Fringe Festival production up the street, or the one your friend saw last year. Take time to browse the full program to really get a feel for what this year's Fringe has to offer. You can see the program online or pick up one of the free printed books that are available in advance at many smaller bookstores around the city and several Wine Rack locations, and during the festival at the main venues and the Fringe Club at Honest Ed's.
- If You Do Use the Printed Guide, Still Check the Website
With so many shows and people involved, it's inevitable that there will be a few last minute changes to the schedule. Visit the website to stay-up-to date.
- Don't Forget the Kids!
Theatre for young Audiences is a well-established part of Toronto's theatre scene, and the Fringe Festival keeps up the tradition with FringeKids!, a mini-festival of family-friendly shows that take place at the Palmerston Library Theatre. Puppets, music and interactive fun are usually are on the bill. Tickets for FringeKids! shows are only $5 for those age 12 and under.
- Consider Patron's Picks Early
On the final day of the Fringe, one "Patron's Pick" show is scheduled at each of the main venues. Just a few days before the festival closes, this slot is given to the show from that venue that has proven to be the most popular. Buying an early ticket to the Patron's Pick means you'll see a show a lot of people liked, but you'll have no idea what that show will be until later. If that sounds like a chance you'd like to take, act early because all of the tickets for Patron's Picks are available in advance.
- In Every Other Case, Tickets are Always Available at the Door
You can buy tickets to any Fringe show in advance, but all shows except for the aforementioned Patron's Picks will reserve half of their tickets to sell at the door. This means you can do a lot of Fringing on the fly! Door sales begin one hour before the performance starts, but note that popular shows will have lineups that begin to form before that final hour.
- Bring Cash if You're Buying at the Door
Generally a Fringe box office consists of a few enthusiastic volunteers with a cash box. Interac can't help you here.
- Get There Early
There are two big reasons to be sure you're at the Fringe venue in plenty of time. First, all Fringe shows have general seating so the last person in gets last choice of seats. Second, Fringe shows DO NOT seat latecomers, and offer no refunds. Of course if you have to pick-up advance tickets you ordered online or by phone, they request you get there at least a half-hour early anyway.
- Keep An Eye On NowToronto.com
NOW Toronto has a special online section where they review many plays in the Fringe Festival. If you're not sure what to see, this is a great place to browse for shows that others have enjoyed. Visit www.nowtoronto.com.
- Keep Your Ticket Stubs
Numerous retailers and restaurants in the Bloor-Annex area will give discounts or other benefits in exchange for Fringe Ticket stubs. Keep an eye out for "Fringe Benefits" posters up in storefronts when you're in the neighborhood, or check the Fringe website for participating companies each year.
- Don't Forget the Fun Outside the Theatres
Sure Fringe is about seeing some great shows, but it's also about meeting and hanging out with other people who like seeing great shows! The Fringe Club is behind Honest Ed's (581 Bloor St. W) and offers live music, a bustling beer tent, food service from a changing slate of local business, "Tent Talk" discussions about the arts, displays of visual arts, micro-plays, and more.
Think you're ready to Fringe? Visit www.FringeToronto.com to get started!