Arts Theatre

Early bird gets the Worm

Wormwood offers a sneak peek of the Fringe

Surreal SoReal Theatre has been around the block since 2004 when Jon Lachlan Stewart started it with his play Little Room. And as Edmonton's Fringe Festival prepares for its 29th year, Wormwood, a Surreal SoReal fundraiser, is offering an exclusive sneak peek at some of Edmonton's most promising local talents.

The company has compiled eight plays by what it feels are some of this year's strongest local talents, allowing performers to test their work on audiences while raising awareness about the festival.

"I really believe in sharing a lot more with the community and trying to promote smaller and bigger companies, and getting their name out there," Lachlan Stewart says, "because it's really hard to just start up for the first time with a show in the Fringe and get publicity."

With segments performed from plays like Death: LIVE!, The Survival of Pigeons, Call Me a Liar, Tornado: A Musical Tragicomedy, Drunk Enough to Say I Love You, This Lime Tree Bower and HOBOHEME: The Musical, the fundraiser focuses on trying to persuade new Edmonton audiences to join the existing group of festival goers.

"It takes building a community who is willing to invest in being groupies, invest in checking out theatre," Stewart admits. "It is a general live theatre problem. You need audiences who invest in going out and enjoying themselves and being a part of a community rather than sitting at home."

While getting audiences to attend the Fringe hasn't been an issue with over 550 000 people setting foot on the grounds last year, there has been a consistent problem getting people to invest in tickets—With sales for 2009 at a record high for the Fringe, only 92 279 out of total attendees purchased tickets to actually see the performances. Still, Lachlan Stewart is confident that this year's Wormwood, along with other fundraising events will increase the mere 16 percent ticket sales and keep audiences interested in attending shows.

"Luckily, we are in a city that is really aware of the arts during the Fringe," he says. "A lot of Edmontonians really associate themselves with the Fringe, which isn't the case in a lot of other cities … we have a following building. We notice we can just put a show out there and there are people who support us and who are part of an ongoing conversation as artists."

Being a city that holds the second largest Fringe in the world and the largest in North America, Lachlan Stewart feels that Edmonton plays a very crucial role in supplying venues to showcase younger artists and new plays.

"This is where new plays come from," Lachlan Stewart says. "They come from Fringes in Canada. This is what our identity in the national theatre community is: it's the Fringe." V

Sat, Jul 24 (7 pm)
Wormwood: A Surreal SoReal Fringe Fundraiser
Featuring Death: LIVE!, Call Me a Liar, This Lime Tree Bower and more
Roxy Theatre (10708 – 124 st), $10 – $12

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