Now it’s on to the Fringe

Camilla Holland

As my first season at MTC winds to a close, we find ourselves ramping up for the Winnipeg Fringe Theatre Festival, and busy with planning and subscription sales for our 55th anniversary season. (Side note: I’m happy to accept gifts of emeralds – traditional or modern – on MTC’s behalf.)

The fact that MTC produces the Winnipeg Fringe Theatre Festival, the second-largest Fringe Festival in North America, is a little-known secret in our community. For two weeks in July, more than 170 productions and 1,000 performers will transform the Exchange District in an explosion of energy and raw theatre.

Fired up at last year’s Fringe. Photo by Leif Norman.

Our festive season
The Fringe is a fertile breeding ground for new talent, and the work is often delightful, frequently provocative and always a great deal. I was in the audience (having paid my $8) at the Toronto Fringe in the late nineties to see a wacky new musical titled The Drowsy Chaperone, a show that went on to win Tony and Drama Desk awards, and enjoy stellar and hilarious productions across Canada and the United States, including MTC’s own Mainstage.

Summer in Winnipeg is indeed festival season, and as one of the rare Winnipeggers without a cottage, I’m going to take full advantage of the exciting events in town.

For my family, this will be our first Winnipeg Folk Festival and first Winnipeg International Children’s Festival – two events that have long been circled on our calendar. A friend characterized the Folk Festival as being “as close to Woodstock as you can get” and encouraged me to explore camping options at Birds Hill Park. Kidsfest features wonderful performers, including Fred Penner who charmed my girls at the Manitoba Theatre for Young People earlier this year in The Cat Came Back.

Much of the summer will be spent in the design, planning and casting phase for the 10 great shows in MTC’s 2012-13 season. When people ask which play I’m most excited about, I often demur and say I couldn’t possibly choose a favourite – that, like our children, we love them all.

With such a diverse offering of well-written plays – drama, musical, comedy, tragedy – that’s largely true. We will assemble fantastic creative teams to bring these stories to life, and we know each show will spark something surprising in our audiences.

But I will reveal to you my four “hit” predictions – shows that you’ll want to buy early in order to get the best seats. A Few Good Men is a taut, compelling drama, with some of the smartest dialogue on stages today; writer Aaron Sorkin adapted his hit play for the movie script, and also created The West Wing.

Miracle on South Division Street is an absolute charmer and will be a wonderful holiday treat; Winnipeg audiences flocked to Over the Tavern, Tom Dudzick’s last play at MTC. Ride the Cyclone: A Musical is a wild ride down a deadly rollercoaster that audiences across the country adored.

Frankly, my dear, it’s coming
And finally, our grand world premiere for the season is our adaptation of Gone With the Wind. This epic romance, set against the backdrop of the American Civil War, will sweep you off your feet with its timeless story, majestic set and period costumes.

This is my last official column for Lifestyles, and I thank Dorothy Dobbie and Joan Cohen for the wonderful opportunity they extended to me when I moved to Winnipeg in September. It’s been a wonderful chance to engage with the Winnipeg community and also to reflect on the many adventures I’ve enjoyed. I hope your summer is full of sunshine, fun and relaxation (except during the hectic two weeks of the Fringe!) We look forward to seeing you at the theatre next fall.

Camilla Holland is general manager of  Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre. She can be reached at

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