I am always surprised by the number of people who are lucky enough to live out the summer in Montréal, and yet have never been to the Fringe festival. Here are 5 reasons why it's time to go (you have until Sunday June 23rd).
1. The variety
Yeah OK, the Fringe festival is mostly focused on theatre. If you're a theatre newby, these performances are actually a great initiation point, because most of them last 45 min to 1 hour, which does not leave you time to get bored. But if you're really not into theatre, you can definitely stick to the POP Montreal music performances, the drag races, or to the 13th hour DJ sessions at the Cabaret du Mile End.
Check out the 13th hour tonight or Saturday starting at 1:00 am with DJs and drinking spinning wheel games.
2. It's cheap, or FREE
The most you'll ever have to pay to see show is 10$, but many of them have discounts for students, and also for random criteria (i.e. 5$ for all those who come with a funny hat), and some are totally free. If you're feeling lazy, you can lounge at the Fringe parc (corner of St-Laurent and Rachel) to enjoy some free live music, yoga, and (not free) beer.
3. It's full of QUEBECERS
That's right. 70% of performers are Quebecer; 15% are Canadian; and 15% are international artists. And while most shows are in English, there's a significant portion of shows in French. On top of that, ANYONE can apply to perform at the Fringe during the selection period. But don't think that's a bad sign: only the best get selected.
4. There's 0% censure
That's right. The play I saw on Wednesday was Chairs: a Parable (about a society of three men who unintentionally build a hierarchy amongst them). I think I heard the word ''Fuck'' or its derivatives about 12 times in one minute. There's also late-night strip spelling bee...
5. It's a sweet place to volunteer at
The festival organizers are always looking for volunteers. For every shift, volunteers get to see a free show. And if you're feeling adventurous, do the overnight shift: from midnight to 10 am, you're basically guarding the beer kegs at the Fringe parc from the hobbos. But what really happens is that you eat free pizza and bagels, drink lots of coffee, and bond for 10 hours with 5 other volunteers. An interesting experience.
That's five for the Fringe.
Now give me a single reason why you shouldn't go. Nope? Alright, get the fuck up from your couch.
Like last year, the 2021 festival is planned as a hybrid of in-person concerts and virtual events.
"What a wild time. It's the 20th-anniversary edition of POP Montreal! Yes it's still a pandemic so we have to remain safe and careful but we can celebrate and be thankful that we can still go to shows and see amazing live music. What a gift!" says an announcement posted on POP Montreal's website.
The festival is set to take place from September 22-26, 2021.
"We know that there are voices missing from the stories we tell," says Eda Holmes, Artistic and Executive Director of Centaur Theatre.
"While we have been inclusive of the stories of several cultural communities in Montreal we have not included the Indigenous voice in our programming in any comprehensive way. This is a stark absence on our stages," she told MTL Blog.
The residency will help creatively support and develop a new piece
The theatre will provide a commissioning fee and other materials, such as an Indigenous dramaturg and space for workshopping and experimenting.
Specifically, the call lays out the following allocation of funds:
$10,000 for the commission (includes time for research and development of the project)
$2,000 for travel
$2,500 for dramaturgical support
$8,000 for collaborating artists
$10,000 for production support
$1,500 for outreach activities
Submissions can be from an artist, company or collective.
"We have structured the residency to include time to do research, support from a professional culturally specific mentor and access to our stages for development of the work and support for presentation of the outcome," says Holmes.
"We are hoping to build up the canon of Indigenous stories that are specific to this territory in an effort to broaden our understanding of the larger Indigenous history that is present in our country."
The selection process will include a jury with two Indigenous theatre artists
Anyone interested in the residency should send their proposal of the project and an estimated timeline, as well as a list of other Indigenous artists that would be ideal to work with. An up-to-date resume should also be included.
Submissions may be emailed or mailed-in (Centaur Theatre Company, 453, rue St. François-Xavier, Montréal, Quebec, H2Y 2T1).
Video submissions will also be accepted.
Those selected will be invited to meet with a jury of two Indigenous theatre artists and Holmes, either in-person or virtually.
Applications are open until January 31. Any artist who makes a submission will hear the answer by February 15.
The residency highlights a key element missing from the conversation
"Long before Cartier sailed up the St. Lawrence and encountered a nation of Iroquoian people in a place called Hochelaga, the island which the European settlers chose to call Montreal had been a point of conflict, conference, creativity and exchange since time immemorial for many Indigenous peoples including the Anishinaabe, Huron/Wendat, and Abénaki nations," Holmes explained.
"The people of the Kanienkéha:ka Nation — known in English as the Mohawk — are now considered the caretakers of the land and water around Montreal. In their language, this island bears the name of Tiohtià:ke, which means 'broken in two', because of the way the river breaks around it."
"I love how this Indigenous language identifies the island as part of the river, because it reminds me that we are all in the flow of a much larger story. This mighty river has for centuries carried people here from all over the world in search of new opportunities and new lives and the Lachine Rapids that sit just off the western tip of this island have given pause to many of those journeys."
"The river has made contemporary Montreal into a vibrantly diverse city. I find that diversity inspiring because it is by telling each other our stories that we build bridges between our different cultures and languages."
"And so I offer you stories at Centaur Theatre that I hope can build a bridge to you along with everyone in the audience no matter where you come from. They are all stories that explore our hearts and hopefully open our minds to affirm our collective humanity."
On September 28, the provincial government announced that Montreal will be entering Quebec's COVID-19 red zone for 28 days, starting on October 1.
Premier François Legault outlined which businesses will remain operational and which will close during the red zone period. Businesses in the arts and culture industry were among the closures — hitting theatre companies, museums and cinemas particularly hard.
Now, some of Montreal's playwrights, actors and movie theatre owners are denouncing the government's decision, concerned about what this means for their livelihoods and the mental health of Montreal's art enthusiasts.
How do Montreal business closures affect the arts and culture industry?
As of midnight on Thursday, all auditoriums, cinemas, museums, bars, casinos and restaurant dining areas will be forced to stop operations for the next month.
All activities and events are cancelled, outside of places of worship or funerals.
Retail stores are staying open, as are beauty care services, and will operate under the province's public health protocols. This includes the social distancing, mask-wearing and hand-washing we've all become accustomed to.
Legault argues that theatres, cinemas have a higher chance of spreading the virus
Though retail stores are a major source of local outbreaks, according to Montreal's regional public health department, Premier Legault defended the province's decision to keep shops open while closing spaces for the arts.
In a press conference on September 29, he said there is a higher risk of transmission in places where people are in close contact for more than 10 minutes.
"In a theatre, even if you’re only 250 people, even if you’re wearing a mask until you sit down, there is still a risk after an hour or two . . . There’s a lot of community transmission," said Legault.
"So we can’t wait until there’s a bunch of cases in these places [to shut them down]."
Theatres and cinemas denounce Legault's restrictions
Mathieu Murphy-Perron, executive director of Tableau d'Hôte Theatre, said in a statement that the government's restrictions "unfairly target" the arts.
"It is scandalous that . . . you will be able shop at Chapters, but you may not visit a library. You can go to the mall, but not a museum," said Murphy-Perron.
Eda Holmes, artistic director of Centaur Theatre, told MTL Blog that artists in the city feared they would be next on the list of business closures.
"We felt that we had made a good first stab at finding a way to safely offer live art inside the pandemic. But we always knew that things could change on a dime — and they have," she said.
She said she hoped theatres and other arts institutions would receive financial compensation for their losses since the beginning of the pandemic in March.
Vince Guzzo, president of Cinémas Guzzo, said the government's move was "arbitrary and unwarranted."
"There have been no known cases of COVID-19 transmission linked to movie theatre visits in Québec," he said in a statement.
"The inevitable toll induced by the government’s decision will be devastating for many local business owners and the provincial economy as a whole."