Power outages wreaked havoc at the Vancouver Fringe Festival last night, with the electricity cut at the Waterfront Theatre, Carousel Theatre, and the Revue Stage, all at the event's ground zero, Granville Island. Vancouver TheatreSports League also reported cancellations of its show #NoFilter due to the blackout at its Improv Centre. Power has been restored now, and shows are set to go on normally today.
The culprit? Believe it or not, a child's foil helium balloon flying into hydro wires. "My wife saw it happen," related fest executive director David Jordan to the Straight about the incident that happened around 6:30 p.m. "She was driving onto Granville Island and there was this kid's Happy Birthday balloon and there was a big flash."
Travis Bernhardt from the Fringe show Chris & Travis also passed along a secondhand eye-witness account. He says his friend Simon Huffey was walking along the Granville Bridge toward work when he witnessed a "dude loose a withering foil balloon from the railing, and it slowly drifted toward a transformer in front of the Kids' Only Market." It apparently caused a loud pop and blue-light explosion. When Huffey informed said dude he thought he had just blown all the power on Granville Island, the guy apparently responded with: "Oh. Did I?"
The ever-intrepid comedy duo of Bernhardt and Chris Ross staged their show, Chris & Travis, outside the venue by cellphone flashlight during the outage. "It was actually really great and it made it into an experience and something special. It sounds a bit sappy but it gave it that Fringe community feel, like lo-fi," Bernhardt told the Straight. "It was a collective warm experience. People had to move the chairs themselves [out from the Carousel space onto the grass], and people were really great about it." Chris & Travis continues tonight at 6 p.m. and Saturday at 10:30 p.m.
Some Fringe shows lost their power mid-production, "So we had to get people to exit very slowly," said media spokesperson Debby Reis.
Jordan has helmed the organization for 12 years but has never witnessed anything quite like this. He laughed that it was a surreal touch to September 7, a day the fest had named David Jordan Day, as their leader is set to depart after this event to work for the Shadbolt Centre for the Arts in Burnaby once the theatre extravaganza closes.
"I thought I had seen it all," he joked to the Straight, adding he was impressed with the speed with which BC Hydro fixed the breakdown. "We've had venues flood before, the website's gone down, we've had things fall on people, we've had all manner of medical emergencies. But never this."
Shows at the Waterfront and Revue had to be cancelled for the evening because BC Hydro couldn't repair the problem, including Interstellar Elder, which returns to the Fringe September 13 and 15 to 17. (Read about that show here.) A David Lynch Wet Dream, Teaching Shakespeare, and Gigantic Lying Mouth were also affected, with shows continuing this week. Electricity came back at the Carousel for the 10:45pm performance of Gutenberg: The Musical!.
Generators kept the Fringe Bar going, and all other venues operated normally through the evening.
On its website, the Fringe promised refunds for advance tickets bought for the cancelled shows online, to be refunded via Fringe online accounts.