30 years of theatre: Saskatoon’s Fringe Pageant celebrates milestone

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This week, Saskatoon’s Fringe Festival celebrates its 30th anniversary as one of the most anticipated festivals of the year.

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Matt Olson Nutrien Fringe Theater Festival executive director Anita Smith and volunteer Rick Cranston stand outside their Broadway office in Saskatoon, SK on Monday, July 29, 2019. Photo by Matt Smith /Saskatoon StarPhoenix

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In 1989, Saskatoon theater aficionados arranged some groups of traveling artists to “test runs” their plays with the 25th Street Theater.

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Now, Saskatoon’s Fringe Festival – which starts today – is celebrating its 30th anniversary as one of the most anticipated events of the year in the city.

“It’s fabulous theater,” says volunteer Rick Cranston. “There are still and there have been so many great talent.”

Cranston has been involved in the Nutrien Fringe Theater Festival almost every year since its inception (although he admits he missed one in the ’90s when he “traveled the world”). He’s seen the festival grow from its smaller and more humble roots into something so big that it was almost unmanageable before it reached the size it is now.

And with 33 shows in seven venues over the festival’s 10-day run, Cranston said the festival’s importance and value has been proven year after year over the past three decades.

“I think it’s something that has to happen,” he said. “It’s not mainstream theater … for $ 15 you can get an hour of entertainment that you might fall in love with or just hate. But you can take this risk. “

That feeling is borne out by Anita Smith, the festival’s new director, who worked with Cranston and a large team of volunteers to make the 30th Saskatoon Fringe Festival a memorable one.

“I really learned … the importance of this festival to the community,” said Smith. “There’s a love for it, an excitement around it, it’s contagious.”

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Just in time for the festival’s three-year anniversary, Smith took up her role as managing director. Although Smith admitted that it was “a little strange” starting in such a big year, it is not the first time she has been pushed into such a position; A few years ago she became General Manager of the Saskatoon Summer Players Community Theater Company during its 50th anniversary.

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Smith had an opportunity this year to add to the productive event and focus on finding more spaces for families to enjoy the festival’s outdoor events together. New this year is a “busking circle” behind Victoria School where you can sit and watch the conversation while you enjoy the food from the nearby food trucks on 11th Street.

“As a parent, if I came to the Fringe with my kids in the past, I wanted more space to sit with my kids and enjoy what was going on,” said Smith. “I think we’re building a really great festival.”

The festival organizers also took the time to celebrate the latest fringe in retrospect. The festival’s website has a page devoted to the event’s 30 year history, complete with pictures of program titles from each year of the Fringe in Saskatoon, historical photos, and a Cranston report for each year.

Cranston said the stroll through the past was “incredible” and praised the support of the Saskatoon community as one of the main reasons the 2019 festival has become a mainstay.

“Saskatoon wants this,” he said. “It’s not a little thing that flies by at night. It’s been running for 30 years and Saskatoon realizes that and they are building it into what it is as a city. “

The Nutrien Fringe Theater Festival runs August 1-10 along Broadway Avenue and nearby venues.

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