It’d be easy to say that this year’s Halifax Fringe Festival won’t be a typical one—but when has the beigeness of that word ever really captured the wild edges of the annual unjuried, uncensored performing arts event? Fringe has always been about the beauty of spontaneity and strangeness—a cloud of ‘anything could happen’ forming over the dozens of venues where it sees actors and artists of all backgrounds taking the stage.
“We felt it was so important to do whatever we could this September to get local folks back together again and put on something in person,” Lee-Anne Poole, executive director of the Halifax Fringe says, speaking with The Coast by phone. In a pandemic, she says, “our most successful version is still not going to feel like over 60 shows from artists all over the world, jam packed lobbies—you know, because we can't have jam packed lobbies. It's got to be smaller in every kind of way. But it's also a good opportunity for it to be more intentional.” If she sounds a bit wistful, she’s allowed: Today is World Fringe Day. But, she also has the right to feel excited, too, since today she’s also announcing that Halifax Fringe will be going ahead this fall with a fully local list of talent (a twist from its usual global offerings).
Poole explains that, hopefully, the province will be in Phase 5 by Fringe’s September start date. Her current plan for the festival includes outdoor, socially distant shows, and smaller crowds in larger venues to ensure safe show going experiences. The Neptune Theatre will once again be a hub for the event, too.
Fringe 2021 will be held from September 2-12, and applications to submit your own theatrical masterpiece are open until July 25. While the full show lineup is still being finalized, Poole shares that this year’s event will include a workshop production of a new musical by singer-songwriter supernova Gabrielle Papillon which was slated for 2020 but went on hold because of the pandemic.
“I feel like, in the Buy Local movement that everyone is all about—support local, buy local—we often forget that our local artists are also a product that we have to buy and ‘support local’ of,” Poole says. “And being in a place like Nova Scotia, we often don't really celebrate and appreciate the artists that we have locally until they make it elsewhere—as if the approval of some other place is what makes them valid to us, when we know we have so many beautiful artists here. It's hard because you don't need the masses to approve of you to have intrinsic value as an artist. And so I'm very appreciative of these smaller houses and looking at who we already have here.”