Explore the Winnipeg Fringe Theatre Festival

We’re sharing expert tips to help you make the most out of your Fringe.

“Fringe is unique, it brings the community together. There’s no stranger at the Fringe,” offers Chuck McEwen, Executive Producer of the Winnipeg Fringe Theatre Festival.  This summer from July 19-30th the 36th annual Fringe is back at Old Market Square.

An expert in his own right, Chuck’s been involved with the Fringe since 1989, and producing the festivals since 1998. He worked as the Executive Director of Toronto Fringe from 1998-2007 and has been back in Winnipeg producing Fringe Festival since 2008. “It’s been a long road with my love affair working Fringe,” he says, having been hooked after his very first Fringe.

Fringe Festival seems to have that effect on people.  Winnipeg and its strong arts community have always embraced it, triumphantly claiming the largest first-year Fringe attendance of any festival across Canada.  Winnipeg still hosts the second-largest Fringe Festival in North America, a testament to the engaged community that supports independent theatre.

“Fringe Festivals are fantastic for their community no matter what community it is, and provide a great opportunity for artists and audiences to engage in this unique form of independent, self-produced theatre,” notes Chuck when speaking to what sets Fringe apart.

The beauty of Fringe lies in its diversity and accessibility. It gives theatre lovers the chance to see work they would not see anywhere else, and gives independent artists the ability to tell stories in their own way, with their own voice.  “The idea is to give independent artists the opportunity to put on a show and find an share their love of theatre, ideas, and stories,” he says.  

This year Fringers will have the opportunity to see pieces from 144 different participating companies.  There’ll be a lot of returning Fringe artists who have built an audience over the years alongside newcomers with fresh stories.  The Fringe has something for everyone, with a wide assortment of shows for all types of audiences. Check out musical theatre, stand-up comedy, spoken word poetry, dance, plays, improv, and more! 

The hardest part of  Fringe may be deciding what shows to go see, and that’s also the fun of it.  To aid in your planning we’ve rounded up some tips from Chuck on how to make the most of your Fringe experience:

  • Read through the program- the whole program!
  • Take pen to paper and highlight anything you feel drawn towards, putting stars by the must-see shows and question marks by anything you want to see what the word-of-mouth reviews are like.
  • Leave some room for surprises along the way.
  • Take a chance on something that sounds interesting! You never know what you’ll see or what could be your next favourite piece.
  • Talk to other Fringers! Recommend shows and hear what they have to say. Take part in the Fringe Festival community.

Fringe focuses on affordability, accessibility, and encouraging first-time Fringers to take part in the Festival.  This year they’ve invested in new programming to support those efforts, including lots of great family-friendly options. Check out:

  • Pay-what-you-can kids venue tickets: Available at the door at the Manitoba Theatre for Young People.
  • Pay-what-you-can open mic and stand-up comedy night: Available at the door.
  • Pay-what-you-can Sherlock Holmes Experience: an interactive experience involving solving puzzles and questions taking place every night from 6-9pm.
  • Increased ASL programming: There will be at least one ASL performance on each day of the Fringe Festival.

The Fringe program and tickets are live as of June 27th, and the festival will be running at Old Market Square and other locations from July 19-30th.

Check out the Fringe Festival Full program here:

Buy your tickets to Fringe Festival here:

Read more about Accessibility at the Fringe Festival: