For local theatre artists, the Edmonton International Fringe Festival is more than just another chance to perform. It is a chance for artists to take risks and spread their wings.
For Edmonton queer theatre artists, Fringe is also a chance to dive deeper into the stories they want to tell and to share them with audiences that are willing and interested.
Over the past three years, Nick Green has used the Fringe Festival to flex his artistic muscle. In 2007, he wrote and co-starred in Gayface, a satirical two-person show that looked at the various ways we has humans create our personas and identities. After graduating from the University of Alberta bachelor of fine arts program, Green established himself as a committed and talented artist. In 2008, he wrote the sleeper hit Coffee Dad, Chicken Mom and the Fabulous Buddha Boi while appearing in Two Queens and a Joker — both produced by Edmonton legend Darrin Hagen and partner Kevin Hendricks under their production companies Guys Undisguised and Guys in Disguise Classic. Buddha Boi won three trophies at the Edmonton Sterling Awards (the city’s equivalent to the Tony’s) and has opened doors of collaboration for Green. It also marked an important distinction in the type of artist that Green wants to be. Whereas Gayface was very much focussed on gay identity, Green feels Buddha Boi had a more universal appeal.
“I am not creating theatre for gay people, I am creating queer theatre for everyone,” says Green. “There is nothing to be gained by ghettoizing what you are doing. I want diverse audiences who can relate with experiences beyond their own identity. I want to create conversation.”
This year, Green is once again working with Hagen and Hendricks, as well as Edmonton theatre powerhouse Trevor Schmidt in a piece called Triple Platinum. The brainchild of Schmidt, the piece is not really a play per say. The show introduces three characters — a musical group known as the Boyce Sisters — who have reunited for their farewell tour. In a neat twist, Hagen says the characters may host real-world events and reappear in future shows.
Since the ’90s, Hagen and Hendricks have made the Fringe Festival the center of their creative year. This strategy started when Hagen premiered the Edmonton Queen: Not a Riverboat Story at the 1996 Fringe Festival. It was a wild success and has gone on to be performed on many stages and was published in book form, updated last year.
Hagen credits much of his early success to those who guided him. “Darrin is a mentor,” gushes Green. “For rehearsals he would pick me up from work with a slurpee in hand and we would just talk as he drove. He is so willing and ready to share his experiences. Those car rides were like master’s classes in of themselves.”
Aside from Triple Platinum, Hagen and Hendricks are also producing Berend McKenzie’s provoking and well-received one man show NGGRFG as well as The Sequin staring Edmonton favourites Binki, Chanelta and Krystal.
When asked how he does so much, Hagen laughs. “Please, the Fringe is in our blood,” he says.
Triple Platinum at Edmonton Fringe.
Aug 17, 19, 20, 22, 23.
See Fringetheatre.ca for showtimes and ticket info.