Guelph Fringe Festival soldiers on against the odds

Guelph Fringe Festival soldiers on against the odds

Theatre festival almost didn’t happen

It takes a certain sort of person to keep a fringe festival going. By his own admission, Kevin Nunn, who founded the Guelph Fringe Festival in 2015, may not be that person.

“I supply enthusiasm,” says Nunn, “not tremendous amounts of administrative knowledge.” Nunn runs the festival with help from just one other person, U of G student Melania Nadj.

Nunn and I talk on the Red Brick patio on a lovely Sunday afternoon — curtains open on the Guelph Fringe’s 2017 festival in just about four days.

This year’s lineup features three shows, down from eight shows in 2016. The schedule didn’t go up on the festival’s website until last Saturday, less than a week before curtain. But at the very least, fringe is going to happen. According to Nunn, it almost didn’t.

“We lost more than half of our shows within the last month. One had a death in the family, one was just burnt out after touring, one ended up with a conflict of schedule. We went from three theatres, to two theatres, to one theatre.”

In another year, says Nunn, that loss would’ve prompted a last-minute push to find new acts. This year, that wasn’t possible, as family emergencies befell both him and Nadj. “We just didn’t have it in the tank,” said Nunn. “And I had people saying, ‘Just cancel it, just cancel it!’ But I thought, if we cancel it, we’re probably never coming back from the dead.”

And so the Guelph Fringe Festival soldiers on against the odds. The 2017 lineup includes Al Lafrance’s solo show I Think I’m Dead, which received some acclaim at the Halifax Fringe this year, and a new musical by local playwright Susan B. Acheson.

As someone who has worked in the arts and the trades, Nunn believes the Fringe is about getting it done. “An artist is a blue-collar professional,” he tells me. “You produce. Fringes to me are the epitome of that mindset.”

He also tells me that when a new fringe festival reaches its fifth year, World Fringe — the International Fringe Festival Association — sends them a certificate: “Congratulations, you made it, amazingly!”

Nunn thinks Guelph Fringe will get there. And if the 2017 festival is small, that’s to be expected. “You need your shock troops to die on the hill,” says Nunn, “before the next people are ready to save the ground you’ve got. And that’s what the first five years are for.”

The 2017 Guelph Fringe Festival runs from Oct. 12-15 at Silence.

Photo by Will Wellington/The Ontarion