Aug. 29, 2012 - Issue #880: LP
In the hood - Brian Paisley
Fringe Festival founder honoured with namesake neighbourhood
A conversation with Fringe Festival founder Brian Paisley is filled with jokes and laughter—on both ends of the phone—and makes you want to meet up with friends and have a few more laughs when you hang up.
His reaction to having a new Edmonton neighbourhood named in his honour? A joke of course. "This is the reason I started [Fringe]; so they'd name a neighbourhood after me," Paisley laughs. "It's a ravine right now. I like that. A little wildness in the city ... I'm basically trying to imagine who's going to live there."
As the development in the southwestern part of the city is still in the works, no one is living there yet. But if Paisley's love of life and ingenuity are a good omen, then it will be quite a pleasant neighbourhood in Heritage Valley—where the various neighbourhood names honour those who have left a positive impact on Edmonton culture.
Paisley has said many times that the first Festival in '82 was a last minute event he threw together because funding for the summer theatre program was cut. "I remember thinking, well, this is a one-shot effort, so let's enjoy it as much as we can. We'll spend the money on theatre and invite everyone we know who likes theatre and see what happens."
What happened was 45 plays and 7500 people gathered to watch them. And now? This year the Fringe boasted 215 shows and 680 000 people—100 000 more than last year. Paisley says that to him the number of people who have been introduced to the live theatre scene over the years is the Fringe's biggest legacy.
"I look at it now 31 years later and I just marvel that it's still there. It's still going strong and for all the corporate logos in evidence, it still has an edge ... It was intended from the beginning to be a community party. And I didn't think the party would quite be that big and have such longevity. We did it for a weekend and people have stayed for a month."
Paisley likes to stop back in Edmonton for the Fringe every five or six years to keep an eye on things, but his work in film and television in Victoria keeps him busy.
For the past eight months he's been travelling around Canada, the US and Mexico for an upcoming television series called Apocalypse When? that will run on Vision TV for five weeks from Oct 29 until the winter solstice on Dec 21—an important end date for a program about the end of the world. Paisley says the idea came from sitting around the pub with everyone one day and getting onto the topic of the apocalypse. They thought that creating a thinking man's guide to doomsday sounded like a great project and set to work.
"It was absolutely fascinating to see how much of our cultural life is based around doomsday thinking. You don't even realize it. For 3000 years it's dominated a large part of how we think and how we look at time and all that stuff. We've got explosions and comets and sun spots and all that stuff [in the program], but we've tried to go a little deeper and find out what's the cultural psyche behind all this."
Paisley's ability to create material that is both thought provoking and entertaining in so many different genres makes him a great Canadian staple and very deserving of having his own 'hood. "I have to admit an absolute fascination to go there and see a place like that. It's something that's quite cool to have in your own lifetime."
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