“The site is a place where a piece should be but isn’t.”
Fringe Onsite is an exciting project in collaboration with The Only Animal that helps Fringe artists create and develop their own site-specific work for the Fringe. Over the course of six months, artists in the Onsite program work intensively with the Only Animal’s Producing Artistic Director, Kendra Fanconi, to embrace our beautiful city and bring the it to life for the Fringe in September.
The Vancouver Fringe’s history of site-specific work began in 1997 with Theatre SKAM’s production of Louis and Dave which took place in the parking lot of The Cultch in a 1978 Plymouth Volare. (The artists joked that they were the only venue with coat check, since they placed audience members’ coats and bags in the trunk before escorting them into the back seat of the car.)
In 2010 the Fringe included five site-specific shows including performances that took place on a fire escape, on the back of a bicycle, and even in an artist’s apartment. In 2011 there were 17 site-specific shows, 12 of which were developed through Fringe Onsite and in 2012 this expanded further with 19 site-specific shows, 14 of which came through the Onsite program. These shows took place in alleys, on boats, under docks, in the Net Loft, on a playground and in other surprising locations
Fringe Onsite is a new step for the Vancouver Fringe. For the first time in its history, the Fringe is involved in the creation of new work that will be presented at the Festival. Staying true to the Canadian Association of Fringe Festivals’ guiding principals, the Fringe accepted artists into the program on a first come, first served basis and local artists signed up quickly. The 2011 program began with 12 theatre groups who met with Fanconi on Saturdays over the late spring and summer on Granville Island. Without knowing what their shows were going to be, the artists explored the island, learned about its history, and took inspiration from their sites. For 2012, the program expanded to 14 groups of artists, all of whom created substantial pieces for the festival. In addition, 2012 saw the addition of the Site Specific Award, presented to the company & show that make the best use of an unusual or non-traditional theatre site.
Coming up with an idea for a show is just the first step in the Onsite process. The logistics of creating a site specific performance brings up questions that artists preparing for shows in a theatre don’t have to think about. For instance, where is the audience going to stand? How is the lighting going to work when you’re standing outside in the dark? What happens if children come around and innocently grab your props?
Despite the challenges Onsite artists face in creating site specific theatre, they’re excited to have the opportunity to learn and engage with Fringe audiences through Fringe Onsite. “I would have no idea how to do a site-specific theatre piece without this program,” Melissa Aston (Duck Off, 2011) says. “And not only does it give you the tools but it also gives you the structure, so that we have the deadlines… and we have so much support from the whole Granville Island team, from Lois [Dawson, the 2011 & 2012 Fringe’s Onsite Coordinator], and everybody that, I mean, I don’t even see how I would have done this show without the program basically.”
We are so excited about Fringe Onsite that we asked our good friend Michael Sider to create this amazing video about the program in 2011:
For the Fringe, Onsite is a way of deepening its commitment to artist development and of ensuring that Granville Island remains a dynamic site. For audiences, the Fringe hopes that this means even more surprises in an already extremely diverse array of theatrical treats.
The Onsite Program has shifted slightly over the years with DAREU! taking its place for the 2015 Fringe, and Generation Hot for 2016. The program continues to be mentored by The Only Animal and is still site-specific in its scope.
This Fringe program is graciously sponsored by the RBC Emerging Artists Program.