Winnipeg Fringe Theatre Festival

The Winnipeg Fringe Theatre Festival is an alternative theatre festival held each year for twelve days in July in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada.

The History

Founded in 1988 by the Manitoba Theatre Centre with Rick McNair as the first Executive Director, the festival has three key principles: 1. Festival is non-juried; 2. Artists have freedom to present whatever they want on stage; and 3. 100% of the box office goes directly to the artists.[1]

In its first year ticket sales were 14,000 across nine days of performances. That figure was 26,000 in 1989 - year two of the festival. It climbed to 44,709 in 1999 and was over 60,000 in 2001.[2]

Chuck McEwen, former director of the Toronto Fringe Festival, is the current executive producer, and has been in charge since 2008.[3] The festival's venues are centred in Winnipeg's historic Exchange District with the Old Market Square serving as the outdoor stage location. But as the festival has grown there are venues outside that district but still close to Winnipeg's downtown.

The Winnipeg Fringe Festival is modelled on the Edmonton Fringe Festival and provides several venues for performing companies, but some companies arrange their own venues, which is more like what occurs at the Edinburgh Fringe festival. Regardless, all venues have paid technicians and volunteer ticket sellers and ushers.

The performing companies at the festival are both local and from across Canada and around the world. For example, the 2005 festival featured performers from France, Australia, New Zealand, the UK, and South Africa as well as across Canada and the United States.

Paid attendance briefly set a record high for North America in 2009 with 81,565 tickets sold,[4] surpassing the then previous record of 77,700 set at the 2006 Edmonton Fringe. However, the Edmonton Fringe festival currently holds the North American record for 2011 with 104,142 tickets sold.

Annual theme

The festival has a different theme each year. The theme in 2015 was "We're all <blank> here," where the blank was filled in variously. On the program, it was "mad," but on the website for Volunteers it was "friends." In 2014, "We like when you watch" was the theme. The Big Top was the theme in 2010,[5] and other previous themes have been the F word, meaning "fringe," and James Bond. In 2012 there was no theme, as that was the 25th anniversary edition of the festival.[6]

Attendance and Ticket Revenue

YearAttendanceTicket RevenueCompanies

Harry S. Rintoul Memorial Award

The Harry S. Rintoul Memorial Award was established by the Manitoba Association of Playwrights to recognize the best play written by a Manitoban and performed at the festival. The award was named in memory of Harry Rintoul, a noted playwright from Winnipeg who died in 2002.[11]

  • 2002: Kevin Klassen, Aftertaste
  • 2003: Joseph Aragon, The Unlikely Sainthood of Madeline McKay
  • 2004: Daniel Thau-Eleff, Three Ring Circus: Israel, the Palestinians and My Jewish Identity
  • 2005: Jason Neufeld, The Rise and Fall of Bloody Redemption
  • 2006: Stefanie Wiens, Max and Mirabelle
  • 2007: Ross McMillan, The Ingrates
  • 2008: Daniel Thau-Eleff, Remember the Night
  • 2009: Joseph Aragon, Bloodless: The Trial of Burke and Hare
  • 2010: Muriel Hogue, Scar Tissue
  • 2011: Jessy Ardern and Ariel Levine, Sigurd the Dragonslayer
  • 2012: Scott Douglas, The Touring Test
  • 2013: Jessy Ardern and Ariel Levine, The Hound of Ulster
  • 2014: Bill Pats, Executing Justice
  • 2015: Sydney Hayduk and Justin Otto, Manic Pixie Dream Girl
  • 2016: Frances Koncan, zahgidiwin/love
  • 2017: Wren Brian, Anomie
  • 2018: Walk & Talk Theatre Company, The Ballad of Johnny Boy
  • 2019: Connor Joseph, Cuinn Joseph, and Jacob Herd, The Cause


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