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JULIA COOK: On the edge with the Island Fringe Festival

Realizations (brought on by a former lover) is one of the plays premiering this week at the Island Fringe Festival. - Kari Kruse/Special to The Guardian
Realizations (brought on by a former lover) is one of the plays premiering this week at the Island Fringe Festival. - Kari Kruse/Special to The Guardian - Contributed

CHARLOTTETOWN, P.E.I. – The Island Fringe Festival, in its seventh year, includes plays for all ages that cover all subjects.

The festival supports independent and emerging works of art that anyone can submit.

“I think it’s important to bring the fringe festival to P.E.I,” said Suzanne Wilkie, festival director. “There are a lot of world-premieres and brand-new shows that people are workshopping and are just seeing how it audiences will react.”

The 10 plays are chosen via a draw (this year they include plays from Islanders, other Canadians and troupes from across the world), and each show is matched with a location that enhances the play.

This festival is also meant to be affordable to everyone. You buy a one-time fringe pin, which acts as a membership card, for $5, and then each show is by-donation, with a suggested donation of $10 per performance. The shows began Aug. 2 and run to Aug. 5 and are scheduled so people can see all of the plays, if they want.

“And you do have the opportunity to explore topics you may not see on the main stage,” added Wilkie
While some are open to all ages (such as those that take place in Rochford Square), others talk about more difficult subjects, such as sexual assault.

This is writer Kandace Hagen’s first time having a play in the Island Fringe Festival, and her work, entitled “Realizations (brought on by a former lover)”, is based on a somewhat-autobiographical short story.

Kandace Hagen
Kandace Hagen

The play uses a fantastical “Being John Malkovich”-type backdrop to delve into traumatic moments that the main character has suppressed during her life. The scenes centre on unpacking each of those memories.

“I think memory is a really powerful thing, and we don’t always, at first, recall moments that we can’t emotionally handle. I think it’s a safety precaution that you have built in,” said Hagen.

There are eight actors, plus crew, and it’s taking place in the intimate setting of the Charlottetown Yoga Space. This fringe festival play, and the short story, have been opportunities for Hagen to talk about her own past, such as experiences with sexual assault and the trials of discovering her sexual identity.

“It has been challenging watching some of the worst experiences of my life relived over and over again in rehearsals,” said Hagen.

But, the writer also thinks telling these stories is important because it will give others the courage to share their own experiences, especially when it comes to assault.

“I believe storytelling is a way to explore some of the more complicated aspects of human identity,” explained Hagen.

“There are so many different experiences that we swallow, that we don’t talk about, that we keep hidden because it’s too messy and too complicated. They're hard to bring forward and talk about. I hope this play makes opening up about these experiences easier.”
The Island Fringe Festival gives artists the chance to showcase these stories and for audiences to experience something new. Some are light-hearted, others cover more difficult material. Whatever you choose to go see this weekend, these plays offer new ways to experience, are affordable and are all within our tiny city over four days.

If you go

What: Seventh annual Island Fringe Festival

When and where: Different locations across Charlottetown. It began Aug. 2 and runs to Aug. 5

Tickets: $5 for Island Fringe Festival Pin and by donation for each performance ($10 per show suggested)


Julia Cook is an entertainment columnist for The Guardian. She can be reached at Julia.Cook@theguardian.pe.ca.

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