Fundraising series prompts fringe boycott

A popular Edmonton director has followed through with his threat to pull his show from the Vancouver International Fringe Festival in response to the festival's Encore Series, a fundraising venture that will feature popular Fringe shows from past years running concurrently with the main Fringe Festival.

Kenneth Brown , the director behind previous Fringe hits Boygroove , Bouncers , and Be a Man , has yanked his latest production, Water , and is encouraging other artists to boycott the festival. "I think it makes sense to send that message to the Vancouver Fringe, that 'If that's how little respect you have for me as a Fringe artist, it's no longer worth my while to come to your festival,'" he told the Straight .

As reported in Arts Notes on August 16, performers have accused the Vancouver Fringe of competing against them with the Encore Series, arguing it goes against the nonjuried spirit of the event. An open letter sent in August to the Canadian Association of Fringe Festivals, signed by a number of Fringe performers, expressed concern about the Vancouver festival. It read, in part: "The attention and energy of media sponsors and media representatives will be drawn to the Encore Series, and it is self-evident that it is intended by the Festival as a kind of representation of elite excellence. We find all of this not only unfair, arbitrary, and bizarre, but highly offensive."

Chuck McEwen , president of CAFF, responded to the open letter in an e-mail that stated, in part: "As an organization, CAFF does not have any policies dealing with fundraising events taking place during the course of a festival.”¦I'm sure that the producers of the Vancouver Fringe will do their utmost to ensure the festival is a success for all of the participants and that it continues to be an important part of the local theatre community."

David Jordan , executive director of the Vancouver International Fringe Festival, told the Straight , "We clarified some misconceptions with the performers and we're going ahead with the four days of it [the Encore Series], which I think is very reasonable.”¦We were sorry to see them [ Water ] go, and we were able to give some other performers their slot."

So far, Brown is the only performer to drop out of the Vancouver Fringe, but others say they are discussing ways to make their dissatisfaction known during the festival. Kris Joseph , a member of Gruppo Rubato, whose show The Churchill Protocol will appear at this year's event, explained to the Straight that his company "can and will be making a firm statement to reinforce the fact that the Vancouver Fringe knows it has made a terrible mistake that it–and no other festival on the circuit–will repeat."

Joseph said he was proposing standardizing the speeches given by many of the artists after their performances, so that each of them addresses the issue. He has also suggested providing audience members with protest letters to send to CAFF and the Vancouver Fringe, and said he will be informally picketing the Granville Island Stage during the Encore Series, "which will likely take the form of me handing out informational fliers while toting a sign that says 'The Vancouver Fringe is the Fringe that eats itself.'" Meanwhile, James Judd, the San Francisco–based writer and performer of the 2007 Fringe show Fat Camp , has yet to follow through with his threat to take legal action against the festival for lost revenue.

City strike ripples campus
The ongoing labour dispute between city hall and CUPE 15, which represents the city's inside workers at venues including the Orpheum and the Queen Elizabeth Theatre, may have a trickle-down effect on students at the UBC School of Music , who have classes and rehearsals in the Chan Centre .

The Chan, which accommodated Festival Vancouver's early-August gala opera evening when it was forced to move from the larger-capacity Orpheum, has been asked by some of the city's major arts groups to find contingency slots, should productions be affected by a continuation of the strike.

"A few of our largest clients have contacted me looking at our availability, which is always skimpy, so they are making plans," Wendy Atkinson , the Chan's programming manager, told the Straight . But with the Chan's season booked, finding time to accommodate more concerts may mean asking music students to move rehearsals to another space.

"Monday to Thursday we're booked with classes, so what I'm willing to do is talk to the school of music and see if they'll release some time to accommodate clients," said Atkinson. The school's opera, wind ensemble, orchestra, and percussion students use the hall during the week, often until as late as 10 p.m.

Nancy Hermiston , head of the voice and opera division at the UBC School of Music, said accommodating requests to relocate rehearsals is possible, but only in the short term.

"If it's once in a while we can deal with it," she said to the Straight . "If it's a long time, we can't deal with it, because we have to have a place to rehearse, and that's our rehearsal space.”¦We have released a few dates right now, but when we get further on into the fall, when we're going into our rehearsals for the concerts we're doing, that will get problematic."