10 hot venues hosting the 2017 Edmonton Fringe Festival

By Gene Kosowan

To take some liberties with William Shakespeare, “all the neighbourhood’s a stage.” In this case, it’s the Old Strathcona neighbourhood of Edmonton, which will be transformed into a facilitator of some 1,600 live theatre shows in roughly 40 venues during the Edmonton International Fringe Theatre Festival August 17 to 27. Here's our guide to 10 venues hosting fringe shows this August. [Photo credit: Fringe Theatre Adventures]

10 hot venues hosting the 2017 Edmonton Fringe Festival

ATB Arts Barns

Ground Zero of The Fringe is this multi-purpose theatre facility, which houses three stages to be used by performers. It’s also the headquarters of Fringe Theatre Adventures, which administers the festival. But to get the inside scoop on what’s hot, get in line for tickets at the box office, where you can overhear patrons chat about what shows are generating the greatest buzz during the festival.

La Cite Francophone

Located in neighbouring Bonnie Doon, this massive two-storey building is also the epicentre of everything francophone in Edmonton. Its auditorium has housed festivals and concerts and is the main stage for L’UniTheatre, the largest francophone theatre company in western Canada. Elsewhere in the building, you’ll find restaurants, galleries, clothing stores and services catering to all things French. But don’t be shy if you’re not fluent in French – everyone will gladly help out in English.

Show pick: Evil Dead: The Musical

Evolution Wonderlounge

The LGBTQ nightclub contingent converge in this Old Strathcona venue that doubles as a safe place to catch cutting-edge club tunes, take in theme nights (from underwear parties to choreography spectacles) and numerous drag revues. Expect fringe shows at the bar to cover some similar territory.

Show pick: The Milkyway Express

First Memorial Harmony Funeral Services

This business is one of the more novel Fringe sites – it's not every day you're able to go to a memorial chapel and take in some theatre. What’s ideal is that the chapel seats nearly 200 and is housed in one of the more ornate buildings in the neighbourhood, with its 1920s architecture still holding up nicely.

Show pick: Aspergers: The Tale Of A Social Misfit

The New Varscona Theatre

Once an old firehall that became a theatre, this venue was rebuilt in 2016. Today, there isn't a bad seat in the house. It’s also where you can catch a lot of the improv shows going on during the festival, with stars such as Mark Meer and Donovan Workun of CBC’s The Irrelevant Show. While there’s no guarantee, chances are better than average that you might even catch some bigger celebrities taking part, such as Castle’s Nathan Fillion (who donated funds for the Varscona reconstruction).
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More fun things to do this August in Edmonton:

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Princess Theatre

If you’ve ever seen David Cronenberg’s first movie Fast Company – filmed in Edmonton in 1978 – you might have caught a glimpse of the venerable Princess movie house on what was then a very seedy Whyte Avenue. Thanks to a redevelopment of the neighbourhood a few years later, the Princess today stands as a crown jewel of Old Strathcona’s revitalization. Besides hosting a few Fringe shows, the 422-seat venue is also a prime destination for fans of repertory cinema.

Show pick: Scratch

The Roxy on Gateway

Theatre Network was a primary destination for live theatre northwest of downtown until a fire broke out, forcing the company to relocate in a complex previously occupied by Catalyst Theatre in Old Strathcona. The wide-open auditorium is versatile enough for any attraction, whether they be music, dance or theatre. Given the mandate of Theatre Network is to produce shows by Canadian playwrights, it'll be a bonus that the bulk of the shows in the venue will be created by Canuck troupes.

Show pick: Orson Welles' Last Magic Show

Varscona Hotel on Whyte

One of the more popular hotels in Old Strathcona for those who want to avoid the rat race downtown, this spot houses a number of smaller-scale Fringe shows, mostly in the board and meeting rooms. It’s also a charming spot for visitors to spend the night, given that most stores, pubs, clubs and other nightlife attractions are within easy walking distance.

Show pick: Missed Connections

Walterdale Playhouse

One of the oldest established theatre companies in town, the Walterdale has the distinction of putting on shows with casts (and occasionally writers) who contribute on a volunteer basis. Like the Varscona, the Walterdale building was also a firehall and remains the only pre-WW1 hall to have its exterior still intact.

Yardbird Suite

The ultimate destination for local jazz is nicely set up for musical outings during the Fringe, especially if the setting is more on the loungy side. At other times of the year, some of the city’s finest musicians tear it up onstage, but it’s also been a showcase for a myriad of international performers such as Sheila Jordan, Wynton Marsalis, Pat Metheny and Woody Shaw.

Show pick: The Man With The Broken Brain

With all this entertainment in ample supply, chances are The Fringe will pack these venues out. Don't miss out – check out the festival's full list of shows and snag your tickets before they're all gone.

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