We’ve made it through the first weekend and aside from some hot days and the odd thunderstorm, things have been going pretty well. You can check out the Shameless Self-Promotions and the list of all the shows that have been reviewed (which appears at the bottom of the homepage). If you are still not sure what the Jenny is about you can click on our FAQ (an article from last week) which helps give you an idea on what we are about.

Lend Us a Hand—We’ve still got a lot of shows that have not yet been reviewed, so if you’ve seen a show and want to help us (and other Fringers) out please send us your thoughts on the show. If you think one of our reviewers was out to lunch on a review, let us know that too.

Jenny Awards—As we have seven days of Fringing left, we are also seven days away from the Jenny Awards to wrap up this year’s Fringe. They will be held upstairs at the King’s Head starting at 10pm Sunday July 29th. Anyone who has been mentioned in a Review, SSP or Letter is eligible to be included in one of our made up categories. The lovely Michelle Cook is busy making the equally lovely donkeys that are handed out to the winners. The roar of the crowd decides the winners and you have to be there to get your award, so performers please add it to your schedule.

Murray Hunter

Now some more words by Jenny Coordinating Reviewer Ray Yuen

What I Love About the Fringe

I’ve been Fringing for many years, first just seeing the shows. Then I casually reviewed because a friend of mine was involved with the Jenny. When the opportunity opened, it was irresistible for me to become part of the Jenny staff. Since I moved from being a viewer to a reviewer, it’s made me watch through a different lens. Rather than simply relaxing and watching shows emerge, I now continuously ponder what’s going on, why I like it (or don’t), and what can I tell the world about this. It is for the same reason I became a restaurant reviewer/critic so many years ago. It makes me think about what I’m doing (eating), rather than just watch it slip by.

In my Fringing binge, people often have the same questions for me: what’s it like to be a reviewer? You must love the privilege of seeing unlimited shows? What’s your favourite? All of these are valid questions that I’ve answered in previous years of reviewing—check the Archives if you want those answers. Today, someone asked me a question I haven’t heard before.

Why do you do this? I’ll answer this with one simple statement: I love The Fringe Festival. This naturally leads to the next question: what makes Fringe special and different than other festivals? Here’s my take on The Fringe.

Art by Dave Pruden

My academic background lies with public administration (MPA) and city planning. During the course of my studies, one of the main topics centred on Winnipeg downtown and how to make it flourish like successful, vibrant cities. For most of the year, our downtown sits like a ghost-town, abandoned, wasted and rotting away like the festering buildings within it. The only people you see after work hours are people that society abandoned. One of the exceptions comes with The Fringe Festival, where Old Market Square rocks with vivacity and exuberance. Well before the facelift and The Cube, thousands of people lined the streets, sidewalks and grass, lounging around to soak in the shows of the former stage. Meanwhile, thousands of others combed through the streets, darting from venue-to-venue, seeking out their next show. The Festival has continued to grow since then, and it continues to grow and evolve every year.

This is the vision of what our downtown is supposed to be. Why is it only like this two weeks of the year? What is it about The Fringe that brings people to our core when it’s the leper ward of a hospital for most of the year?

What is it indeed?

That led me to think more about the impact of The Fringe and for me, it became more than just seeing a few shows and enjoying a snack to the free concerts at The Square. What are the compounds that make this Festival so unique and successful?

  • Biking: My Master’s Thesis focussed on cycling as a mode of transportation. I am an avid cyclist, putting on an average of 1500-2000 km from spring to autumn. Not only does cycling improve your strength and health, it also saves the environment and infrastructure. During Fringe, you don’t have to look far to see thousands of bicycles chained to makeshift bike stands. For the duration of The Festival, Exchange District Winnipeg looks like Amsterdam, where cycling is the dominant transportation mode. Here, cyclists are the norm, rather than the pariahs.
  • Inclusion: Not that long ago, members of the LGBTQ+ community were targeted and assaulted in various areas of downtown. We as a city have come a long way since then, but let’s not kid ourselves; homophobia continues to permeate many aspects of our society. Hatred is not as condoned as it used to be but it still lurks in dark corners, leaving people afraid to come out, and afraid to express themselves. Over the duration of The Fringe, you see many members of the LGBTQ+ community unafraid to be themselves. Old Market Square—and to a certain extent—the entire Exchange District transforms into a Safe Space (Safer Space anyway). As an Ally and a feminist, I strive to bring equal right to exist for all humans, regardless of race, religion, orientation, sex, gender, capability, age, and the list goes on. Fringe central brings together a wide spectrum of people, all with the common pursuit of having a good time, regardless of what you are, what you look like, and what you do.
  • Tourism: Winnipeg isn’t a tourist hub. Most travellers come here for business or to visit friends/family. You don’t often hear of people coming to Winnipeg because they simply want to visit. We are not Toronto, Vancouver or Montreal. The Fringe is one of the festivals that, by its nature, draws people to come to our city. Hundreds of performers descend upon our city to showcase their acts, but in between, they roam our streets and take in our sights and amenities. Winnipeg should be proud to have tourists marvel at what we have to offer. During this time, we are a tourist centre.
  • The Festival: Finally, there’s the festival itself. What a wonderful opportunity to embrace some truly great and unique experiences. To be sure, not all shows are for everyone but nothing can beat the feeling of coming out of a theatre after an exhilarating experience. It’s satisfyingly rewarding to be able to tell everyone about those moments after I live through them.

The Fringe Festival is a transformative time for our city. It is electrifying to see some many people come to celebrate and revel in the streets that are normally so sparse. Perhaps someday, downtown will be vibrant all year—for now, let’s enjoy what we have.

Happy Fringe!

Ray Yuen
Coordinating Reviewer