Ernie Stigant introduced our guest speaker Janet Munsil, Artistic Director and Festival Producer of Intrepid Theatre. Janet has been responsible for programming the Victoria Fringe Theatre Festival, Uno Fest, and the new experimental theatre festival, Winterlab. Over the past 21 years at Intrepid, she has produced 45 performing arts festivals.

Intrepid Theatre also operates two downtown venues that are available to the community - the Metro Studio and Intrepid Theatre Club. Janet is an alumni of the UVic Phoenix Theatre program. She is an accomplished playwright whose work has been produced across Canada, the US, Ireland, the Czech Republic and throughout the UK. Her adaptation of Pride and Prejudice was seen by 30,000 people last fall in Ottawa and Calgary and it recently won the critic's award for the best play of 2012.


The Fringe Festival starts next Tuesday August 20 with a picnic in Centennial Square followed by Fringe Eve Preview on August 21 when performers have 2 minutes each to pitch their shows. Shows start August 22 and the Fringe lasts through September 1.

Intrepid Theatre was founded in 1986 as an experimental theatre and the first Fringe in Victoria was in 1987. The first Fringe was started in Edinburgh in 1947. It was a post war event designed to promote European culture and rebuild community. It was originally planned as a large theatre production but there were 8 gate crashers who rented their own venues, did their own promotion and put on their own plays outside the main venue. This entrepreneurial spirit is the foundation of all Fringe Festivals. The festival allows performers who have work and think they can get an audience to put the work out there. It is artist driven. For the first 25 years of the Edinburgh Fringe, there was no administrator. Early Fringe artists included the likes of Dudley Moore. By 1960, the idea of Fringe - non mainstream, non traditional, young - was in the lexicon.

Edinburgh is the largest Fringe with 2700+ shows, performers from 47 countries, 300+ venues and 1.5 million tickets sold in 2012.

Canada has the Canadian Association of Fringe Festivals. It was founded in the early 90s to trademark the event. The principles on which the Victoria Fringe is based are:

  • unjuried shows - participants are selected by lottery
  • uncensored
  • accessible - includes all levels of experience
  • ticket prices are kept low ($11 per show in Victoria's Fringe this year) - volunteers get in free
  • 100% of the gate goes to the performer

Performers often tour their plays across Canada starting in Montreal in early June and then every two weeks through mid September. Performers pay their own way but they are billeted locally for free. The Festival provides the venue with professional services and a listing in the guide.

Edmonton is hosting its 32nd Festival and it is the largest arts festival in Canada. It was started by Brian Paisley with 220 shows and attendance by 500,000+ to outdoor shows and 104,000 to indoor shows. Winnipeg is a close second in size.

Victoria's Fringe is all indoors because of unpredictable weather and because we already have great outdoor events during the summer. All venues are within walking distance downtown. There are 140 applicants for 38 slots. The choices are drawn out of a hat. Every year audience members report that the Fringe gets better even though the choice of plays is strictly by random. The Victoria Fringe also started Fringe Kids, something that has been added to Fringe Festivals across Canada. There is also Family Fest Fringe where children under 12 get to experience theatre - hosted at the Langham Court venue and a Fringe Block Party and fashion show at Centennial Square. 

Janet concluded her presentation by introducing us to several shows that she had picked at random.

Here are her suggestions for how to "fringe":

  • circle what looks interesting
  • wear layers - venues aren't air conditioned and get hot
  • buy a Fringe button for $6 - that helps fund the festival
  • stand in line and talk to people about what they've seen that was good - the best way to find out what you might want to see
  • attend the Fringe Club at Riflandia where you can meet performers

Pieta VanDyke thanked Janet.