Wom*n and the Fringe

Written by: Sara Flicht

Since 1989 the Toronto Fringe Festival has been a hub for creativity in the performing arts. Bringing people together of all performance mediums, indie or not-so indie, and venues, in an alleyway, a pool, to large scale Toronto stages. Having developed over the years as a member of the theatre community, I felt that Fringe was always an amazing space to make connections and learn about my theatrical “style”. I could find what I liked, appreciated, or was curious to know more about.

This year I was lucky enough to be asked to direct a show in Kid’sFest for Fringe Toronto called Lexi and The Flying b’s, written by Joan Jamieson. Our entire team is made up of womxn, which is something I always strive for with my ensemble (off and on the stage) when possible. It has been such a wonderful way to use my artistic agency not only to support womxn’s voices through the story we are telling; that of a nine year old girl; but also through the lovely and oh so talented team involved!

She’s On Top gave me the opportunity to write about the festival from my own perspective. I thought what better way to do so than to reach out to other womxn involved in the Toronto Fringe to see how they have been “feminizing fringe” in their own ways!

I was taken aback by how thoughtful and insightful the responses were. There are so many teams coming forward with female driven stories as well as pushing to actively represent womxn on their teams.

“We need women’s voices to tell new stories and to inspire younger women to write, produce, direct. Visibility is so important, I’ve personally been influenced by many women in the arts who have made me feel less alone in my creative pursuits.”
– Courtney Gilmour, writer and producer of the show “Congratulations!”

The beauty of using Fringe as a platform for these stories is that the artists involved are instantly a part of a community. I asked some of the womxn I reached out to about why fringe was a clear avenue for their shows. The responses were all in agreement that it was the culture surrounding the two weeks that make it the perfect place to present artistic works, as well as the openness to new works/emerging artists.

“With everything happening in the world around us, it is important for womxn to support and elevate one another and to show that we are both strong and capable.”
– Jaclyn Toledano of Above & Beyond Productions

Many people don’t realize the effort that it takes to develop a piece into what ends up being presented on the Fringe stage. Those efforts, coupled with the difficulty of sharing taboo subjects or not yet appreciated content, can make women shy away from taking space. But as Lauren Greenwood stated in her interview with me “ […] I’ve learned to approach film and theatre like a bear attack. I throw my arms up and make myself appear as big as possible. It sounds extreme, but with only about 30% of productions in Canada authored by womxn (thank you, Playwrights Guild of Canada for the stat), you kind of have to shout and flail like your life depends on it.” – Greenwood, Writer/Director of An Atlas, A Necktie & Other Concerns

The festival also provides us with an opportunity to share in the joy of each others work. Because theatre companies only release so many shows in each season it can often feel like a fight to be seen, when really, it is our continued support that creates space for more feminist theatre to grow and flourish.

“And the world didn’t break with a womxn being in charge, so hopefully that inspires others to take a chance, listen, and trust womxn with more theatre space.”
– Kate Hammer, Creator/Director/Performer of The Peers

“I’ve found myself saying this many times in this process: a rising tide raises all boats. I have worked with people who believe in scarcity; who believe that if I get something, it is taking something away from them. […] There are enough seats at the table for all and if there aren’t,
its time to change the table.”
– Amanda Barker co-creator and actor of Clotheswap

I sincerely hope you make it out to Fringe this year, even if its just for one show. Theatre can be a beautiful community builder and a great way to start some serious conversations that we might not feel we can have in our day to day life. Happy Fringing folks!!

After getting a chance to hear from so many amazing women and their experiences working on shows for the Fringe coming up, there were a plethora of quotes I could have added. I felt that it would be a great thing to have a separate space where some of the interviews can been seen in full!

I’ve added a link here to my website where all the full interviews are posted: https://saraflicht.com/

Check out these shows July 3rd to the 14th at Toronto Fringe:

  • Above & Beyond
  • An Atlas, A Necktie & Other Concerns
  • Clotheswap
  • Congratulations!
  • Lexi and the Flying b’s
  • The Peers

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