Toronto Fringe Festival, the city’s annual theatre festival, is celebrating its 30th birthday this year. With this milestone comes an exceptionally diverse and plentiful lineup, packed with plays for anyone from the theatre novice to connoisseur. Select shows will also be selling tickets to their first preview shows for $8 — a steal for great theatre. There are 159 Canadian and International plays spread across 12 days (July 4-15) at venues all over the city. To make the selection a little bit easier, here are my top five picks for this season’s Fringe Fest.
Everyone Wants A T-Shirt!
Ever since Beyonce stood in front of a giant screen with the word “Feminist” displayed in all-caps in 2014, the fashion market has scene the phrase (and modifications of it) emblazoned on t-shirts, from couture collections to Forever 21.
“Everyone Wants A T-Shirt!” explores this phenomenon in a smart, satirical way. Madeleine Brown, director of last year’s hit “Madeleine Says Sorry,” tells the story of one woman’s attempt to climb the corporate ladder — with the help of commodified feminism.
The first performance is July 4 at 8:15 p.m. at Theatre Passe Murraille – Backspace.
My second pick for Fringe comes from Chocolatekiss Collective, a Toronto-based female theatre collaboration. “F*cking Perfect” stars four young women — Jeysa Caridad, Jessica Bowmer, Iliana Spirakis and Adriana Moraes-Mendoza — who learn what happens when obsession towards perfection takes over.
At a time when selfies and self-worth are consistently spotlighted in the media, this dark comedy is not only timely but significant. It’s a must-watch for anyone who has ever felt the pressure to be perfect.
“F*cking Perfect” begins on July 6 at 5:00 p.m. at Factory Theatre – Mainspace.
Slaves of Starbucks
Informally titled as “A Requiem for the 20th Century,” “Slaves of Starbucks” hails from Toronto-born playwright and actor Peter Aterman. The show first played here at Fringe in 2000 and 18 years later, the acclaimed play is returning to Toronto. Since then, it has traveled to England, Scotland, Germany and Australia (just to name a few), making it a highly coveted act to attend this season.
Aterman, who plays 19 characters in the play, dissects the “Golden Age” of popular culture, providing irony and comedy in equal measure.
The first performance is on July 4 at 8:15 p.m. at Al Green Theatre.
High School Symphony
Part big-band musical, part “Mean Girls” — “High School Symphony” has something for everyone. The teen drama originates from Teeny Tiny Music Show, Toronto’s first marching band theatre company. It is written by Hayley Pace and directed by Ryan Percival, with musical direction from Daniel Walsh.
The show explores the peaks and pitfalls of high school, filled with a video game-referencing soundtrack, vintage cartoon theme songs and an eight-piece immersive marching band. And of course, no teen drama is complete without some drama. Two Catholic school girls face suspension for sexual harassment toward their teacher. Can their friendship outlast the consequences? You will have to find out for yourself.
“High School Symphony” is showing at The Randolph Theatre, starting July 5 at 7:00 p.m.
The last play on my list is definitely not to be missed. “Awkward Hug” debuts from the mind of theatre mainstay Cory Thibert, who acts as his 19-year-old self in the show.
This coming-of-age tale gives viewers a glimpse into the life of a boy trying to figure it all out, while uniquely demonstrating what it is like to have parents with disabilities. Thibert wrestles the norms of “regular” families portrayed in media in a funny, honest way, which will stay with you long after you have left the theatre.
“Awkward Hug” is first showing at Theatre Passe Muraille – Mainspace on July 4 at 8:45 p.m.