For 11 days this August, Kingston theatre fans will have plenty to choose from: the 2023 edition of TK Fringe will bring 19 productions to the Limestone City as part of the annual festival. Running August 3 to 13 at three different venues in downtown Kingston, the 2023 festival will present a wide range of comedy, drama, improv, and everything in between.
According to Theatre Kingston Artistic Director Rosemary Doyle, the Fringe Festival is a grassroots event, providing independent theatre companies with a low-cost and accessible option to present their works to audiences. “A fringe festival is a theatre festival which is un-juried, meaning the producer does not pick the shows. [Instead], the shows are picked by lottery; it’s not curated, so it’s a little wild,” she explained.
Aside from being open to any production that is selected in the lottery, Doyle also noted that companies receive little to no guidelines from organizers, except for a stipulation that shows must not exceed 60 minutes. Theatre Kingston serves as the producers of the Fringe, in partnership with the Kick and Push Festival, and Doyle lines up venues, schedules performances, and facilitates ticket sales — but 100 per cent of the profits generated through the festival go right into the artists’ pockets.
“Theatre Kingston doesn’t make any profit from putting on the festival. With the ticket price, the breakdown is that the base [value] of the ticket goes directly to the artist. The rest is just taxes and [Grand Theatre] box office fees,” Doyle explained.
This year’s Fringe Festival takes place across three venues in downtown Kingston, with each production sharing its space with a number of other companies. Returning from previous editions of the festival are the Baby Grand and the Davies Lounge, both of which are located inside the Grand Theatre (218 Princess Street). For 2023, organizers have also secured a third venue, located inside the Confederation Place Hotel (237 Ontario Street).
“We have three different venues this year, and each venue has [approximately] six shows,” Doyle said, noting that the schedule makes it possible for dedicated audience members to see all 19 productions over the course of the 11-day festival. “The thing I love about Kingston Fringe is that it is actually possible to see everything, and not die, and actually get some sleep.”
According to the Artistic Director, the festival was originally supposed to include 18 productions, but one company was unable to perform all eight of its scheduled shows, so Doyle added a 19th, with two productions running a reduced schedule.
After starting out in 2016 as a way to breathe life into empty storefronts during the ‘Big Dig’ on Princess Street, Kingston’s Fringe Festival has evolved considerably over its seven-year history. As businesses began to return to the downtown, a lack of empty storefronts forced organizers to rethink aspects of the festival, eventually turning it into more of a traditional theatrical experience.
“There aren’t as many empty storefronts left, if any, and the ones that are empty are being renovated… so I felt our artists deserved to have comfort,” Doyle said. After a soft re-launch in 2021 amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the TK Fringe Festival returned in 2022 with 12 performances across two venues inside the Grand Theatre.
Doyle noted, “Last year, I did two venues at the Grand because we had a smaller Fringe with 12 shows. I felt we could give them the luxury of air conditioning, good equipment, a nice venue, and a good box office system. This year, we’re up to 19 shows, so I [added] the Confederation Place Hotel, which can offer the same level of comfort [as the other venues].”
This year’s festival features a mix of shows by local artists, as well as several travelling productions from Toronto and the surrounding area — many of which have a Kingston link. “The majority of the festival is made up of local shows. Of the out-of-town shows, I’d say half are made up of expats: people who have a very strong Kingston connection,” Doyle shared.
The 2023 TK Fringe Festival opens Thursday, Aug. 3, 2023 and runs for 11 days. Among the local productions are Bottle Tree Productions’ Once Upon Another Time (Davies Lounge), Spur of the Moment’s Birthmarks (Baby Grand), and Op Knox Entertainment’s Girls Unwanted (Confederation Place Hotel). The festival also features several travelling productions, including duhdumduhdum productions’ One Night Only, starring two-time Dora Award winner Nicholas Eddie (Davies Lounge) and Menno-Morphosis, written and performed by Toronto’s Sandra Banman.
A complete listing of all 19 productions is available on the TK Fringe website. Individual tickets for all performances, as well as all-access TK Fringe passes, can be purchased through the Grand Theatre box office.