Edmonton Fringe faves showcased

-- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 4:22 AM ET

EDMONTON - Fancy some Fringe hors d'oeuvres before the main menu?

In a pre-Fringe celebration of its silver anniversary, the festival is offering up several of its tastiest shows of all time.

"I think the four shows we've selected are certainly among the most memorable Fringe shows ever produced over the past 25 years," said festival director Miki Stricker.

The Anniversary Showcase features David Belke's All Expenses Paid; November Theatre's The Black Rider: The Casting of the Magic Bullets; Ken Brown's Life After Hockey and Stewart Lemoine's Pith!.

The showcase launches tonight and runs through Sunday.

These shows - which ran in Fringes 2000, 1998, 1985 and 1997 respectively - perform at Westbury Theatre in the TransAlta Arts Barns in Old Strathcona.

The 25th annual Edmonton International Fringe Theatre Festival runs Aug. 17-27. Because it's the silver anniversary, the festival wanted to organize several commemorative events that really capture the heart of the Fringe, said Stricker.

"And what better way to do that than through showcasing theatre? Of course, over the past 25 years we've had over 3,000 shows presented, so trying to select four of the most memorable was really, really tough," said Stricker.

During her unofficial poll for the most memorable shows, Stricker discovered most folks preferred locally based groups.

As for holding the Anniversary Showcase weeks in advance of the festival, Stricker says "we wanted it as a ramp-up to the festival so that people get excited about the Fringe coming into August. And we wanted it as a stand-alone event so as not to conflict in any way with the shows at this year's festival."

* All Expenses Paid (July 27-28) was David Belke's 11th play at Fringe 2000 and one of his biggest hits. A "comic tale of discovery and disillusionment, with a little Disney on the side," it tells the story of Lynn Wynicki, a solitary artist who wins an all-expense paid trip to Florida, a trip she is loath to take - especially since she finds herself travelling with a guy from work she barely knows.

* The Black Rider (July 28-30) was presented at Fringe 1998. It's a unique expressionist operetta by rock icon Tom Waits, beat poet William S. Burroughs and theatrical maverick Robert Wilson. At the time, the show was one of the first fully staged alternative musicals to appear at the Fringe, boasting an eight-piece onstage orchestra. November Theatre's production has been praised by Tom Waits himself.

* Life After Hockey (July 27-29) was written by Kenneth Brown in 1985 and presented at Fringe No. 3. Within weeks, the one-man show scored national celebrity status. Life After Hockey became one of the definitive Fringe hits of all time. The only play ever to be featured on Hockey Night in Canada, Life After Hockey has been running for 21 years all over the country and been presented in several languages in Europe.

* Pith! (July 30) is an epic tale of travel and adventure set in 1931. An itinerant sailor leads a grieving society widow and her stoic housekeeper on a journey into the heart of the South American jungle - without ever leaving the living room. Directed by playwright Stewart Lemoine, Pith! has played to capacity crowds on tour across Canada, and in the U.S. It features the original cast of Jeff Haslam, Davina Stewart and Leona Brausen.

"It's going to be a fantastic event. I encourage people to buy tickets for all four of the shows - even if you've seen them before - you'll be seeing them with fresh eyes," said Stricker.

For tickets and times contact the Fringe Box Office (lobby of the TransAlta Arts Barns, 10330-84 Ave.) at 409-1910. Tickets are $18 for adults and $15 for students and seniors.


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