The 37th annual Edmonton International Fringe Theatre Festival held a preview of their ticketed shows on Wednesday.
Hoping to stand out in a crowd of 227 different scheduled acts, performers and producers were on hand to promote their shows as tickets were made available to the public.
After weeks of rehearsals, some of the hardest work is still ahead for these artists — that is of course, if they want full seats at their venue.
“The amount of incredible tenacity it takes, the energy to make that happen, it’s vital,” said Murray Utas, director of the festival. Utas said the preview was the first time many of the 2018 shows were seen by the public, and that the word-of-mouth advertising is a critical step in selling tickets.
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This week, performers have already been hard at work hanging posters and distributing flyers in the area.
“When they go out and have to flyer, this is the first start to the leg of work that is the marathon that is the festival coming around the corner,” Utas continued.
Rebecca Merkley, the writer and director of Bountiful — one of the productions at the Fringe this year — said Edmonton theatre fans are usually quite supportive of her shows, but she still has to do everything she can to ensure her shows sell out.
The hours spent promoting in Old Strathcona are important “to remind people that you’re here and you want them to see your show,” Merkley said.
“You have to put yourself out there, even if it’s awkward going into the beer garden handing out handbills.”
From dramas to comedies, the effort is the same.
“Every year the hustle is a little bit different,” said Jessy Ardern, star of The Alien Baby Play. In past years, her team has promoted a one-woman Greek tragedy which required a more demure approach.
This year, Ardern will waddle through the Fringe grounds dressed as an extremely pregnant mother of an alien.
“This one is nice because of the kind of odd nature of it, the fun of it and the comedy of it,” Ardern continued. “It’s a lot of just trying to get the word out among the joyful noise of 200 Fringe shows.”
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It’s a necessary rite of passage for almost all of the successful Fringe runs, and Utas said the “immediate engagement between artist and audience” at the festival is what makes it so unique.
“Whether I’m pitching you my show, or we run into each other minutes after seeing my show… the connection to the audience is key,” Utas said.
Tickets for the Edmonton Fringe Theatre Festival are now on sale here.