Vancouver hosting less-edgy Fringe fest

'Swim,' 'Edmundo,' 'Jekyll' among prod'ns

VANCOUVER — To be or not to be professional, that is the question at the 18th Vancouver Fringe Festival, which opened over the weekend amid growing criticism that the genre is losing its edge.

Auds and some participants say the Fringe is no longer as innovative since more professional actors and companies have begun touring the highly organized Canuck circuit that runs from Halifax, Nova Scotia, to Victoria, British Columbia.

Some pros even seem to be making an ill-paying career out of the fests, which now number 28 in Canada, the U.S. and Edinburgh. As a result, sanitized, predictable acts are taking the adventure out of the Fringe. The pros argue that they are eliminating bad acts, while admitting that they are drawing the fests closer to the mainstream.

Vancouver’s unjuried and uncensored theatrical event features 700 performances over 11 days, finishing Sept. 15. Attendance is expected to break 50,000, with most of the auds showing up at theaters and other comfortable venues with seats. Auds were down last year in the aftermath of Sept. 11.

No street performers

Street performers, a traditional mainstay of the festivals, are banned this year, as organizers say they were taking work away from people who perform all year round.

Promising productions playing this year include “Never Swim Alone” at the Vancouver Aquatic Center; “Edmundo (A Musical Dalliance),” a reflection with music at the Pacific Theater; “Jekyll,” a one-man show starring Fringe vet Dawson Nichols at the Waterfront Theater; and “The Disappearance of Janey Jones,” who locks herself in the bathroom, at Studio 16.

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