Saskatoon Fringe returns to new residence off Broadway

The Saskatoon Fringe Festival is back once again for its annual 10-day stay in the Bridge City.

Running until Aug. 6, the festival has undergone some changes since it’s last full rollout in 2019 prior to COVID-19.

Opting for some pandemic holdovers, the festival is largely taking place at W.E. Graham Park behind Victoria School like it did last year. Rather than taking over Broadway Ave for nearly half a month, 11th Street East is the only road closure for the festival.

“We’ve shifted our focus a little bit, and this just serves our needs better,” 25th Street Theatre artistic and executive director Anita Smith said. “I like to think we have the best of both worlds because we still have 11th Street and we have this beautiful green space where we’re able to welcome people in.”

Smith doesn’t look at moving off of Broadway as scaling down, but rather making the most of an opportunity. With the pandemic getting in the way of the 2020 festival, it allowed 25th Street to reimagine how Fringe Fest could look.

She said that shutting down Broadway takes a lot of time and resources. 

“So by not doing that, we’re able to put those resources in other places that we feel help engage the community with artists in a different way,” she said.

International artists from as far away as Sweden, South Africa and the United Kingdom help make up 18 live performances across three venues and 10 digital shows. Also returning is Saskatoon born and raised performing artists Lindsay Istace. Now based out of Edmonton, the fire and sword swallower is happy to not only be home but interacting with audiences at familiar festivals like she used to.

“Now people are just so hungry for entertainment – it’s awesome. They just want to see you have fun and have fun with you and they’re just so ready for it. It’s magic,” Istace said.

Having a bio as colourful as “Circus nerd. Artist. Sword swallowing contortionist with a fire habit,” according to her Instagram page means there are some unusual job hazards. Swallowing roughly two feet of a steel blade can cause problems.

“In the world, there are more astronauts then there are people who swallow swords,” she said. “You can collapse a lung if you don’t have it in there right. Some people can get like minor lacerations or bruising is also a thing too if your posture is not quite right.”

If fire and sword swallowing isn’t your thing, there are theatre shows, art installations, food trucks and live busking performances happening throughout the festival to keep crowds entertained.

Smith said there’s no one way to enjoy Fringe Fest, but it’s best to try and divide your time at different areas.

“It’s like dipping a toe into the future of art. What’s fringe today is going to be mainstream tomorrow. So by coming to visit our site, you’re gonna get a jump on what’s coming next,” she said. 

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