Welcome to the final installment on my series on the State of the Fringe. This week, I’ve talked to Ian Case and David Jordan, who run the Victoria and Vancouver Fringes.
Today, I interview Jeremy Banks, who has acquired the title this summer of “UberFringer.” I met Jeremy in the spring, and he told me he had this crazy idea: he had just bought a Flip cam, and wanted to travel across Canada, visiting all the Fringe festivals, working where he could and blogging and shooting video. You can follow along with his travels at Fringetastic!
I caught up with Jeremy via Skype in a coffee shop in Calgary.
RC: How many Fringes have you been to so far?
JC: I piloted the idea at Uno Fest in Victoria, but my Fringe journey started June 10 Montreal. Since Montreal, I’ve been to Magnetic North, the Toronto Fringe, Winnipeg, and Calgary. I will check into the Edmonton Fringe, will perform at the Victoria Fringe, and will do some videography at the Vancouver Fringe.
RC: Who is Jeremy Banks? How did you come up with this crazy idea?
JB: I went back to school and finished my theatre program recently. I graduated from Malispina University in Nanaimo, a town that is better known for a dessert bar than theatre. With that in mind, I thought I’d try to get a sense of the bigger world–to contextualize what I had learned in school. I contacted Fringe festivals, and was able to get some work with my theatre skills.
I’ve been interviewing lots of people: Executive Directors, actors, technicians, to get an overview of what the Fringe is about.
RC: What’s the state of the Fringe in Canada right now?
JB: It’s hard to describe. It’s an artistic expression of an entire culture. And it’s not just about theatre. It’s theatre people, but it’s not just for theatre people. It’s an entire cultural celebration. Because you get people from every arts discipline coming out to participate in the Fringe. Some Fringes have that as a bigger component than others–here in Calgary, for example, there are multi-disciplinary performances on stage, in Winnepeg and Edmonton, there’s a huge outdoor aspect, which makes it great for families. It needs to be valued and realized as a cultural capital in Canada. Each Fringe is so organic. Each Fringe is unique and they are all connected, and there is definitely a through-line going through all of them. But because each one is connected to their community, it makes each one different and growing.
RC: What’s been your favorite moment so far?
JB: I don’t know yet. My journey is not yet over. Right now, it’s really hard to have perspective on what I’m doing while I’m still in the process. Sometimes you go and get this material, but you don’t know what it’s going to be until you’re finished. I might not exactly know what it is I’m trying to accomplish, but that’s okay. I have faith in the process.
RC: What are your plans for your home Fringe?
JB: I’ll be performing in Victoria, Big Smoke by Ron Fromstein, which won the 2006 National Playwrighting award for Theatre BC. I’ve never performed in a Fringe before, so this is a new experience for me, but I also have this background knowledge of “Fringeness.” After Victoria, it’ll be time for me to look back and start to try to put the pieces together. This has been a great adventure, but in order for me to finish, I need to find the thruline. I also need to find a niche where I can continue working on the project in a a sustainable way: a concrete goal, financial support. I love the idea of creating a fringe show about the fringe.
Everywhere I go, everyone has a different story, not just about fringe, but about life. The gbiggest thing I’ve learned is that fringe and theatre are about connecting and sharing stories. Fringe creates an avenue for you to express yoruself however you want to, under the excuse of theatre. And that’s what makes it valuable.
RC: Thanks, Jer. I look forward to catching up with you again when you’re home, and seeing what you come up with!