Nanaimo Fringe Festival gets worldwide attention for not cancelling, going virtual

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WatchWhile most fringe festivals across Canada have cancelled in light of the pandemic the Nanaimo Fringe Festival will celebrate it's 10th year.

The Nanaimo Fringe Festival is getting worldwide attention for keeping the show going despite the pandemic.

The organizers of Nanaimo’s Fringe Festival say adapting to COVID-19 restrictions is allowing them to bring performances to a whole new audience.

While most fringe festivals across the country, including Victoria’s, were cancelled, the organizers of Nanaimo’s festival determined their shows must go on-line.

“We thought if we can do this. If we can do something to support artists and give audiences in Nanaimo something to look forward to in August and to partake in a fringe of some kind then we should go for it,” said Tamara McCarthy, the Festival’s Board Chair.

While the festival’s mission of nurturing and connecting local artists remains the same this year, the interaction between actors and audiences will be much different.

All shows will be live-streamed for free on social media.

“How do you touch an audience through a screen and still call it theatre? Good question. We don’t know the answers. We’re just going to go for it and see what the audience thinks and hopefully they’re able to enjoy the fringe,” said McCarthy.

McCarthy says they could end up with a bigger audience.

“Other fringe festivals that have had to cancel, they’re also promoting the Nanaimo fringe so our tiny little fringe festival is getting recognition around the world.”

Of the six shows, three feature artists from Nanaimo and two feature artists from Victoria.

Three Nanaimo roommates are part of a production called “Gender Sucks”.

“We are very very excited to be involved in Nanaimo Fringe and to be able to share our stories as transgender individuals as well as for Ty as an Indigenous person as well,” said Sam Wharram, the “Gender Sucks” director.

And they’re excited by the potential increased reach of this year’s festival.

“That’s a huge reason why we took this opportunity because this story can really reach the target audience, individuals like us, trans people, Indigenous people and people of colour they can see this and take joy in this and that’s really the goal here,” said Miles Kehoe, an actor.

The festival is hoping people will donate to help pay for the cost of running it and to help pay actors.

The festival starts Tuesday and runs through the weekend.

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