York theatre students living the dream at Edinburgh Fringe Festival
Twenty York theatre students are living the dream, presenting and performing in shows they wrote, directed and designed at the world-famous Edinburgh Fringe Festival, running Aug. 4 to 28. Together they bring three shows to the stage of the largest arts festival in the world, and share their stories – from the challenges of being a millennial woman, to backstage love drama and the history of getting wasted.
Guiding this creative collaboration is Edinburgh Fringe veteran and theatre Professor Ian Garrett, who this year leads York students on a pilgrimage to the fabled fest for the fourth year. The ventures have been so successful that York’s Department of Theatre founded a resident company, the YUFFA Fringe, which supports the development of the pieces, with the help of York International.
A comedic cabaret, Jennaration Y rollicks around with the issues surrounding being a millennial woman, using sketches, musical parodies, stand-up and improv. Playwright and performer Jenna MacNeil will carry you – and her parents’ disappointment – with hilarity through her life of dating struggles, school anxieties, collapsing industries and future aspirations.
For dramaturg Michelle Paunov, the experience of developing the show has been a game-changer. She says it pushed her to grow her skills as a theatre artist, while getting hands-on experience with every aspect of what it takes to create a show. She worked closely with MacNeil to help develop her script, which started as a play for York’s Devised Theatre Festival.
“Edinburgh is beyond expectations,” Paunov said. “It is such a beautiful city with beautiful people, and during the festival season there is such a warm and wonderful community.” The Jennaration Y team, she said, was incredibly excited to open the show on Aug. 12.
Playwright and director Scarlett Larry, a York U student, presents all the answers to your problems and more in What She Said Theatre’s ruthless satire The Stage Manager’s Guide to Dating Assholes. The play premiered at the 2016 Toronto Fringe Festival.
Inebriated is an hour celebrating the brave, drunken, high and sex-crazed pioneers who built civilization one bad choice at a time. The Still Drunk Collective, made up of York University students, invites the audience on a journey through time as they try to understand their own addictions by looking through history and witnessing civilization make the same mistakes since the beginning of time.
With a calm and supportive energy, Garrett is a sounding board and mentor for the students throughout the shows’ development, rehearsal and now launch at the festival.
“The shows have come a long way through the process,” Garrett said. "The students are passionate and dedicated and should be really proud of their work. Audiences will be in for some fringe-tactic surprises. Word is really getting out on campus about the Edinburgh trip. More students and alumni participate every year. There is something special about travelling to a fringe festival. In addition to performing, many of us are seeing a show or two every day while we are here, completely immersing ourselves in the experience.”
This year, Garrett also brings his own production to Edinburgh. Titled Transmission, and featuring site-specific performance, augmented and mixed reality, a smartphone app and a podcast, the show is truly an immersive and interactive production presented by Garret’s Canadian-based theatre company, Toasterlab.
Transmission tells the story of two brilliant science-loving sisters: Leila and Zada Karam, first-generation Canadian-Syrians. Earth has received or intercepted broadcasts from an alien civilization 4.22 light years away on PROXIMA B. The sisters are selected to join a delegation to this potentially habitable exoplanet. One sister decides to go and one decides to stay.
“Transmission is a creative examination of displacement and the decision to leave what you love and know behind,” Garrett said. “Audiences get to consider the profound questions about the human drive for exploration, juxtaposed against the need for community, belonging, family and place to really call home when we are the ones who are different.”
Transmission is staged in the Assembly George Square Studios from Aug. 5 to 26. Tickets and schedule can be found at tickets.edfringe.com.
The student shows are being performed at Venue 13, on Lochend Close, just off the Royal Mile, Edinburgh’s Old Town. For tickets and schedule info, visit venue13.com.