Happy #WorldFringeDay!

Did you know that July 11 is World Fringe Day? Join us and our friends from all over the world as we participate in the #WorldFringeDay campaign. Fringe creates such great memories and we want to hear yours. Share your stories by tagging them with #worldfringeday.

We’re so proud of all the great community effort from all our artists, volunteers and supporters to make the Fringe happen year after year. We are especially thankful for all of the support around This Is Not a Fringe Festival, our online and socially distanced event, held this past June.

As a Canadian Fringe, we are proud members of the Canadian Association of Fringe Festivals (they are incredible). We love that they unite so many Fringe festival friends from across the country (including the Ottawa Fringe, Victoria Fringe, Halifax Fringe) and even some American Fringes (such as the San Francisco Fringe, Orlando Fringe and Boulder Fringe!). Although we may not be able to visit each other’s festivals this year, we can still support each other online by attending each other’s events! Thank you, CAFF for keeping us all connected.

Do you remember the Fringe World Congress which was held in Montreal in 2016? Thanks to the support of Le Conseil des Arts de Montréal, we welcomed over 100 delegates from around the world to our favourite city! Working in collaboration with the Edinburgh Festival Fringe Society, the World Fringe Network and CAFF, we hosted three full days of programming around the future of the International Fringe Movement. It was so lovely to get to know directors from around the world such as those from The Cape Town Fringe, Taipei Fringe Festival, Stockholm Fringe Festival, Prague Fringe Festival, Sydney Fringe Festival and more! We hope to make it to the next Fringe World Congress in Orlando, Florida in 2022!

Tomorrow, World Fringe is hosting a show on Facebook Live with producers from all around the world! CAFF and USAFF producers will be featured as of 12PM EST. Our Associate Director and Producer, Kenny Streule as well as our Public Relations Director Sarah Grenier LaForce will be representing Montreal!

Happy #WorldFringeDay from your MainLine team!
Amy, Kenny, Deirdre and Sarah

PS: If you are able to, please consider donating to the Fringe through Canada Helps here.

EMERGING BIPOC ARTIST PROFILES : T.Y. Jung

T.Y. Jung is a South Korean dancer and musical theatre performer with emerging credits in English and French productions across Montréal. He notably comprises one-half of the musical duo ‘The Balcony’, an acoustic pop-rock/folk band he created in 2015 with childhood friend Rhys Sheng. Despite also having been a dancer in his youth, T.Y.’s valued presence in the Montréal artistic community is one of relative recentness.

“All throughout my teenage years I dabbled with so many different things because I didn’t really know what I liked or where I belonged,” he shares with amusement. “Then I did my first musical in 2017, and that’s when I knew I had finally found my place and my people.”

France: Le Sildenafil (aussi connu sous le nom de Citrate de Sildenafil) est la version générique du Viagra, Ennolys membre de l’IFEAT il convient de comprendre ce qu’est une érection.


Since responding to the “calling”, T.Y. has risen on the local scene to appear in ‘The Rocky Horror Show’ (MainLine Theatre), ‘Cabaret’ (The Côte-Saint-Luc Dramatic Society), ‘Shrek: the Musical’ (WISTA), and ‘Légalement Blonde’ (CoMUM).

When prompted to speak about the kind of works he’s drawn to, he cites a regard for sincerity in storytelling. “I want art to feel real,” he explains. “I’m mainly a performer who presents a form of art that was made by someone else, and so for me it’s important to show the true emotion of the original work that was created. Nowadays, I’m also specifically trying to find material that is challenging to me.”

On the opportunities for the expression of his particular identities on stage, he reflects: “I’ve gotten to play some gigs highlighting queer artists of colour, and in those environments, there’s always the question of ‘how do tell my story?’. What I’ve actually realized, though, is that I don’t necessarily need to talk about being a person of colour for my work to be relevant in that way. I don’t always need my art to talk about me being queer in order to be a queer artist. The representation – just being on a platform and having that voice be heard – is what’s most important to me.”

True representation of the diversity of Montréal on stages and screens are among his greater hopes for the artistic community as it rebuilds from crisis. “I’d like to see casts and crews in this industry that are reflective of the city we live in.”

“In general, I hope we all come to acknowledge these differences that exist in society. Recognizing our privileges as individuals is the first step in finding a solution. Then we need to be having conversations about these issues – especially in educational environments. I wish they’d discussed more about LGBTQ+ stuff in high school, you know? It’s so important for the coming generations to know everything that exists in this world. Hopefully we get to see that change from now on.”

EMERGING BIPOC ARTIST PROFILES : Azin Mohammadi

Azin Mohammadi is an Iranian-Canadian multidisciplinary artist and educator based in Montréal. Currently enrolled in the Master’s of Information Studies program at Université de Montréal after completing a BFA in Art Education from Concordia University, she presently works as an art facilitator for seniors in rehabilitation while pursuing her passion for the stage. Credits at the Fringe include performing in ’The Thrill of the Chaise’ (Chocolate Moose Theatre Co.) and ‘Bullshit’ (Collectif Les Louves).

In reflecting on the kind of art that speaks to her: “I’m inspired by anything that brings a fresh perspective on a concept, idea, or story,” she begins. “Even if it’s something as well known as Shakespeare, for example, and someone approaches it with a different outlook or draws new parallels with the world we live in today, I’m really interested in that.”

“I will specifically add, though, that I also have a really gory side. I like to be shocked and feel emotions heightened,” she muses.

Azin is furthermore an emerging playwright whose latest piece, ‘Trifekta Babe’, was slated to open at the MainLine Theatre this past May as part of the Revolution They Wrote Festival. With that production being cancelled due to COVID-19, an online reading of the play is now being presented by Teesri Duniya Theatre as part of its Fireworks Program Showcase.

When asked if her Persian background finds its way into her original creations, she describes it as an exploration in process. “I’m kind of in this discovery phase where I’m trying to bring more of it into my art, but I’m still having some difficulty and resistance in doing so. I don’t exactly know why yet. But my heritage is dear to my heart, and so I’m working on that little by little.”

What is most certain, however, is her desire to see her identity further represented in the theatre.

“In fact, I’d like to see more diverse stories in general – from artists with disabilities, people of colour, LGBTQ+ individuals, etc,” says Azin. “I think that if there is any positive that’s coming from everything that’s happening right now with Black and Indigenous communities, it’s that these voices will be valued and given a chance to be heard. And it’s about time. It’s gotten better but we still have a long way to go. I hope this moment will make us all look at our own behaviours so that we can better ourselves and the world we live in.”

FRINGE FIRE ROUND
Favourite Fringe show you’ve seen?
Last summer I saw Marissa Blair’s ‘Spurt of Blood’ and I still think about this show to this day (…speaking of gory…).

Annual Fringe Tradition?
Going to Jeanne-Mance park after a show with friends and just chilling with a few beers while talking about theatre and art.

EMERGING BIPOC ARTIST PROFILES : Smriti Bansal

Smriti Bansal is an author, editor, and communications professional from New Delhi, India. Upon moving to Montréal, she began building her profile within the local artistic community as a Communications Intern for the Fringe festival, an opportunity which then led her to the position of Digital Content Manager at Confabulation. Now a Producer for the celebrated company’s true-life storytelling series, her contributions to the creative landscape have involved providing platforms for unheard voices across Canada.

With the craft of storytelling at the centre of the work, Smriti reflects on the narratives that most inspire and interest her. “There isn’t one particular type of story that I like hearing or seeing, and that’s the beauty of what we do at Confabulation,” she begins. “We believe that everyone is a storyteller. All you really need is something or someone to empower you to connect to the storyteller that’s already inside of you.”

Although diversity is inherent to True Life Storytelling, current world events around Black Lives Matter and anti-racism protests have led the producer and her company to a deeper reflection on their practices. “Right now we’re talking about the many ways in which we can evolve to be even more inclusive,” she shares. “Whether that means inviting new artists onto our stages, finding different organizational partners in the city, reaching out to specific groups, or diversifying the talents within our own team, we want to be accountable to our community. We’re listening and processing all that we’re learning at this time so that the action that comes out of this is thoughtful.”

Individually, “this moment has made me consider what I can do as an ally and how I can make contributing to my community a regular part of my life. What’s happening now in the news has been going on for hundreds of years – this isn’t and shouldn’t be a trend. I think the best thing that will emerge from this is that people will realize the pain that others experience on a daily basis and make changes to positively impact that”.

On her hopes for the future of the arts community as it rebuilds: “It sounds cliché, but I would like to see more people that look like me,” Smriti reveals. “It would be beautiful to see more South Asians making art and seeing the world that I live in reflected in the arts here. I’d also really love to see more Indigenous voices be spotlighted. The Fringe does a great job of promoting diversity in that way, but I still find the community in Montréal to be quite homogenous. It could do with a bit more colour. We’d learn so much more about each other.”

EMERGING BIPOC ARTIST PROFILES : Alessandra Tom

Alessandra Tom is a Chinese Canadian artist based in Montréal whose professional theatre credits involve roles as a director, dramaturge, and devised creator. Having graduated from Concordia University in Performance Creation with a minor in Human Rights, she has combined the two passions in the aim of staging socially relevant works. Productions at the Montréal Fringe include stage managing ‘Adoration’ (Tantalus), directing ‘Bite Your Tongue’ (SortOf Productions), and most recently directing, producing and co-creating the Frankie-nominated ‘Attempts in Flight’ (Dai Bao Productions).

On the kind of art that shakes her to the core, she shares that “what I am interested in seeing and making is often set by the process and practice,” she begins. “I’m also interested in non-hierarchical creation methods and what that can look like – meaning: what are the hierarchies that exist within the team? Is the design as important as the text and the performance? How do we collaborate within the room? I like pushing the boundaries in that way.”

Alessandra then considers her ethnocultural background in relation to her artistry. “My desire to direct and create stems from wanting to present socially engaged theatre, and part of that is making it more inclusive and expansive. It’s about making it so that the people behind the scenes and on stage actually reflect the world we live in.”

In contemplation of the impact of the current global crises on her practice: “As artists we always strive to make art that feels important. And, at this moment, I’m grateful for the opportunity to slow down a bit. Being in quarantine has given me the time to be introspective – to sit with myself and the uncomfortable question of ‘what do I need to change in my own life?’. That then translates outwards to my art to pose hard questions to the audience as well. We can all listen better and be more compassionate. And a reflection on that in a communal space like the theatre is very precious.”

FRINGE FIRE ROUND
Favourite Fringe show you’ve seen?

‘Docile Bodies’ by Wig in a Box. Their lighting design was insane. I was shocked how something like that could be accomplished in just 3 hours.

Annual Fringe Tradition?
This isn’t an annual one, but something I miss this year is going to Ice House after a show and getting a drink to celebrate.

Most memorable moment at the Fringe?
This is a little bit of a double edged sword, but for two years my Fringe show’s venue was the MainLine Theatre. That rush of it setting things up and taking it all down and sweating out of our minds with Bruce (Lambie) as our Technical Director there for both times is a beautiful memory.

EMERGING BIPOC ARTIST PROFILES : Maryline Chery


Maryline Chery is a French creole artist of Haitian descent whose original works as a performer, dramaturg, and creator include ’Noire’ and ‘Afrodisiaque’. An alumna of Concordia University’s BFA Theatre program and Black Theatre Workshop’s Artist Mentorship Program, professional stage credits since graduating include Tableau D’Hôte Theatre’s ’Blackout’. At the Montréal Fringe, she’s notably appeared in ‘A Dyke’s Guide to Fair Play’ and, most recently, in last year’s ’The Trophy Hunt’.

“It’s the effervescence and the energy of it,” Maryline shares on what draws her to the Fringe. “The festival gives a jump start for a lot of emerging artists in the city. I also appreciate that you can experiment and that there’s an audience for that. I’m always intrigued and impressed by what people can do in small spaces.”

On the kind of art that moves her, she expresses: “I want to be surprised. I like things that make me uncomfortable in a way that I can learn something. I also like everything that’s really electric. My family is from Haiti and I grew up in a colourful, vivid, loud household – maybe that’s why I enjoy clown and cirque so much,” she contemplates. “I like theatre that makes me feel alive.”

Deeper at the heart of Maryline’s work is her heritage and identity, which has led to theatremaking centred around Black feminism and West Indian culture. “A lot of what I do artistically is rooted in the idea of exposing injustices,” she explains, “and today we’re right in the middle of it.”

On current world events surrounding Black Lives Matter, she further reflects. “It’s terrible and inspiring at the same time. But I think the artist is a solider and an agent of love, and whatever is happening around us should be a fuel for what we’re going to create. For me, the idea that artists cannot be part of political conversations is ridiculous; we a have a platform to raise voices, and so it is our duty to bring that awareness. We have to find ways to educate and engage others in conversation so that we can learn and move forward. That’s what I hope to do with my art.”

 

FRINGE FIRE ROUND

Favourite Fringe show you’ve seen?
The Drag Races.

Annual Fringe tradition?
I spend a ridiculous amount of time on St-Laurent meeting friends. Is it a tradition or way of life? – I don’t know, but that’s what I do: looking fabulous with iced coffee on the curb between shows.

Most memorable moment at the Fringe?
At last year’s closing party, there was this song that came up – I don’t even know the name of it – and my girlfriends and I just took over the stage, and we had this moment. And it was amazing.

 

EMERGING BIPOC ARTIST PROFILES : Brefny Caribou

Brefny Caribou is a Swampy Cree/Irish-Settler artist from Toronto, ON, whose stage credits have included working with Infinithéâtre, Urban Ink, Caravan Farm Theatre, and Aluna Theatre. As a creator, her works are known to be collective and collaborative in nature, often encompassing subject matter of identity, culture and decolonization as it relates to her ancestry. Through theatrical storytelling, she explores and expresses her unique challenges as an Indigenous woman living in the contemporary settler state of Canada.

Interrogating and evolving her artistic practice on the regular, Brefny here reflects on the impact of 2020 world events on her craft. 

“I had this moment the other day – and that I have every once in a while now – where I wondered about the next time I was going to be able to be in a room full of people again, and it scared me,” she reveals on the effects of isolation during the COVID-19 pandemic. “I love being with other artists and in front of an audience so much, and it’s hard not knowing when that’s going to come back.”

“However, I do get excited about figuring out how to navigate theatre spaces going forward. What will the first show look like when we do return? How do you get that connection and sense of physical closeness that makes you feel comfortable and safe as a performer? It’ll be interesting to see.”

With regards to the BIPOC uprising, “It’s a very intense time because it’s literally a matter of life and death for people in my Indigenous community and in the Black community,” says Brefny. “It’s such a direct and immediate experience that in many ways makes my art feel so small, but in the same breath, it feels like it is the only way that I can really help. It feels as though my responsibility right now is to bear witness to what is happening and then to turn this pain into a cathartic experience that can be shared with others.”

On her hopes for the artistic community as it works towards rebuilding from crisis: “I would wish to see many more of the people whom I admire to have the platforms to speak truth to a wider audience. I would also want to see what the deconstruction of an arts institution looks like. We’ve been doing things in one way for so long now, and it makes me question if maybe there are alternative forms of organizing creative entities, structuring leadership, and distributing financial support. If what we’re doing isn’t working for everyone, then we need to figure out something else. I look forward to being able to have more of these kinds of conversations and I’m hopeful that we will find another way.”

EMERGING BIPOC ARTIST PROFILES : Amanda Benn

Amanda Benn is a Canadian artist of Antiguan and Guyanese descent made prominent in Montréal for her work as a dancer, choreographer, singer, instructor, and radio host. On stage, she’s notably performed with the Afro-Caribbean dance troupe Westcan Folk Performing Company, with Black Theatre Workshop’s ’Shifting Grounds’, and as a creator for the Revolution They Wrote Short Works Feminist Festival – among other professional credits.

Ms. Benn (as the hip-hop radio jockey is known on CKUT 90.3FM) has been pursuing a calling in the arts since the age of 4, but as a female BIPOC creative, her path has been one of challenge paved by resilience.

“Having grown up in the South Shore, I was accustomed to being the only black girl in the class,” she shares. “I lived in a foster home and because of my upbringing, it wasn’t so blunt in my face that dreams could come true and that Black people could do things. I didn’t have a lot of guidance, support, or mentorship, and a lot of the understanding I had was more about race. What got me through my day to day was the art.”

Benn’s artistry is inspired by a search for identity and representation. “As I tried to dig and research not only who I am but my whole diaspora, I’d always felt like there was something incomplete. And I knew I wasn’t alone. I wasn’t seeing what I wanted to see on stage, and so I figured that the only way to have that was to create it myself. That really drove me to develop the type of work that I do today.”

On current and future projects – and in reflection of present world events as it relates to Black Lives Matter – she speaks of an individual and collective need for healing.

“In the Black communities, ‘everything that is oppressive, is oppressed’. And it gets oppressed by us ourselves. Something will happen and it’s always like ’stay strong’,’ too bad’, ‘move on.’ We don’t talk about it. A place of healing is not somewhere where my community has ever found itself, and I really feel at this fake rolex level now where I’m at, I want to be having those difficult conversations, and so I incorporate it into my work.”

There is hope in rebuilding. ”I really do appreciate everyone who has taken the time to acknowledge this moment. However, what is going on now is not new.For me, the fight hasn’t just started. But it has changed. Black artists: right now we don’t need to fight so hard. People are going to be more open to hearing us. We likely going to be hired more outside of Black History Month. And we can feel more powerful to create the kind of content that we want.”

EMERGING BIPOC ARTIST PROFILES : Swati Khanna

Fringe Festival Volunteer Coordinator Swati Khanna is a rising presence in Montréal theatre as one of our community’s beloved cultural workers. Having first pursued a calling in the arts at the age of 5 as an Indian classical dancer, she then forged a successful career in Mumbai as a creative director/producer in film, television, and advertising. Despite having to rebuild a professional profile from scratch upon moving to Canada in 2017, she swiftly found herself at work with established companies – from the Fringe, Just for Laughs, Teesri Duniya Theatre, and Silk Road Institute – to her current position as Program Manager for the English Language Arts Network (ELAN).

With the stage arts again coming into focus, her previous experience in theatre acting, design, and production have now lent themselves to comprise a comprehensive industry skillset. “Everything that I have learned in these past 15-16 years of my career, I’ve put it all together to do the work I do today.”

Swati is a valued behind-the-scenes contributor at the local Fringe in coordinating 150+ volunteers for the fest. “It’s pretty intense,” she muses, “but it’s been a good run.” On what she cherishes most about the job, she cites “the raw energy. Then there’s the fact that it gives back to the community in a big way. I’ve met so many diverse people and made good friends along the way.”

Embraced by the community through her dedicated work and generosity of spirit, Swati still attributes her success to some fortune. As a BIPOC woman with little knowledge of French and few connections in Montréal, “I have been very lucky that I’ve been able to navigate myself here, and I am grateful to the community for supporting me and giving me so many opportunities.” she says. “I have also been lucky to not have experienced many issues of racial discrimination in Canada, but, just because racism hasn’t affected you, doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist and that you can turn a blind eye to it.”

On her hopes for the theatre community, she reflects: “I have a lot of faith in human spirit, actually. Great minds will come together to find a solution that is going to help art at large. The landscape will change and the nature of how we produce and consume art might change, but wigs near me art is here to stay. And maybe the silver lining is that it is going to become much more inclusive.”


FRINGE FIRE ROUND
Favourite Fringe show you’ve seen?
The Drag Races.

Annual Fringe tradition?
Going to the Fringe Park. It’s a great place to meet people. It’s like the Central Park of Montréal in my head.

Most memorable moment at the Fringe?
The great energy from the staff and volunteers.