The Vancouver Fringe Festival is a performing arts festival at theatres and other venues on Granville Island and around Vancouver in September.
Last year the festival shows ran from September 5th to 15th, not including an extra day of previews on the 4th. 2020 dates were from September 10th to 20th, as well as in October and a couple days in even November because of the coronavirus pandemic. Dates for the 2021 festival are to be determined.
The Vancouver Fringe
The Vancouver Fringe Festival is normally an 11-day event showcasing a wide range of theatrical works. It’s hosted by the Vancouver Fringe Theatre Society which is a non-profit charitable organization whose mission is to produce “Theatre for Everyone.”
Below on this page you’ll find information about the following Vancouver Fringe-related topics:
- About the Vancouver Fringe – basic background about the Vancouver event.
- Fringe Admission Prices – a list of prices and ways to save.
- Vancouver Fringe Shows – a description of types of shows.
- About Fringe Theatre – a brief history and description of the festival.
- Vancouver Fringe Video – a video showcasing sights and scenes from a previous year.
- Vancouver Fringe Venues – names and addresses of participating theatres.
- Tips & Advice – suggestions on how to make the most out of your Fringe experience.
- Other Information – where to find further details on this and other similar events in Metro Vancouver.
Click on any of the above links, or scroll down for all the information.
About the Vancouver Fringe
The Vancouver Fringe Festival, or early variations of it, has been running since the mid-1980s. Today the festival involves hundreds of volunteers, hundreds of performances and tens of thousands of attendees each year.
At the Vancouver Fringe “everyone is welcome” and this applies to both audience members and performers.
The selection process for performances involves drawing names out of a hat and giving all applying artists an equal chance to participate. This means actors and their shows range from fairly novice to professional, and from semi-questionable to exceptional.
The quality of the average show at the Vancouver Fringe is surprisingly high, as evident by the fact that the festival is frequently voted the city’s top arts festival by the Georgia Straight newspaper.
If you go to a Fringe Festival performance, odds are you’ll be impressed and have a great time!
Fringe Admission Prices
Admission to Fringe Festival shows is very reasonably-priced, which is great and keeps the event accessible to all (or at least mostly all).
Regular Ticket Prices
Regular tickets for Vancouver Fringe Festival shows usually cost about $15 (which includes taxes and a $3 ticketing fee). 2021 details are to be confirmed and may be different due to COVID-19.
Fringe Membership Fees
In addition to the ticket price for each performance, attendees need to purchase a membership to the Vancouver Fringe Theatre Society. In recent years it has cost $7. This is a very reasonable price and its purpose is to help offset the costs of the festival (which are significant) and allows actors to keep the full base proceeds of sales to their shows (excluding the ticketing fee which typically costs around $3).
Fringe memberships can be purchased at the Box Office, at the door of venues prior to each show, and online during the ticket-purchasing process for pick-up at the event.
Important Note: You must present your Fringe Membership at each performance. Failure to do so requires the purchase of an additional Fringe Membership for $7 or so.
$15 per show is inexpensive for live theatre, but Fringe tickets are obtainable even cheaper than that in the form of half-price shows and “Frequent Fringer” passes.
Half-Price Shows are simply that – 50% of regular price!
Every day during the first week of the festival, at least in years when there isn’t a pandemic, between a couple and over a dozen performances are offered each day at half price, so $7.50 per ticket instead of the full $15 or so. Generally the earlier in the season, the more half-price shows there are.
Frequent Fringer Passes
Frequent Fringer Passes are for people who love theatre and want to attend multiple shows. They come in groups of 4, 10 and 30 shows, are available in limited quantities and frequently sell out.
2019 Frequent Fringer rates were the following (which were the same prices as last year). 2021 details will likely be similar, but may also be different due to COVID-19.
- Frequent Fringer 4: $40 – good for 4 performances.
- Frequent Fringer 10: $90 – good for 10 performances.
- Frequent Fringer 30: $270 – good for 30 performances and includes Fringe Membership.
Vancouver Fringe Shows
The Vancouver Fringe Festival typically features 100 or so different productions offering as many as 700 performances each season. Each show is different, with some featuring a single actor or actress, and others with casts of over a dozen people plus support folk in the background.
Fringe Festival productions include musicals, stand-up comics, serious subject matter, slapstick, storytelling, dark comedy, dance and all kinds of creativity. Some are political, some touch on serious topics and some are just pleasantly silly.
Fringe Festival Advice & Suggestions
Below are some tips and information to help you make the most out of your Fringe theatre choices:
TIP #1: Check the Vancouver Fringe Festival Guide to learn about each show. The guide lists show times, venues, show lengths of time, show descriptions and warnings (like if there’s course language, nudity and age restrictions). The Guide also provides critic reviews in some cases, including what media have said about past performances.
TIP #2: Read the show descriptions carefully in the Festival Guide. Words like “weird,” “LGBTQ+,” “intense,” “18+,” “family-friendly,” “poetic,” “intellectual,” “violent content” and “silly” are good indicators of what to expect.
TIP #3: When you go to a performance ask the people around you if they’ve seen any other shows and what they recommend.
TIP #4: Recognize that everyone is different and what’s entertaining or impressive theatre for some isn’t necessarily for others. At the Fringe Festival there is definitely something for everyone!
TIP #5: It can be hard to predict which shows will be the best each year. Some performers are regulars, however, and some of them are consistently popular. Popular shows from the last couple of years are listed below (and for these shows it was recommended to get your tickets well in advance as they sold out).
- Advanced Field Zoology for Beginners – features Shawn O’Hara from Victoria as Dr. Bradley Q. Gooseberry.
- After the Beep – has had great reviews in Toronto.
- Inescapable – stars Martin Dockery and Jon Patterson who are really good.
- Josephine – the winner of several Best of Fests awards.
- One Man Avengers – Charlie Ross is known for his one-man pop culture epics including his One Man Star Wars Trilogy from a previous year.
- Operatic Panic Attack – starring TJ Dawe who is always popular.
- Pretending Things are a Cock – with Jon Bennett who has participated at the festival numerous times and is a favourite.
About Fringe Theatre
Fringe Theatre takes place around the world and performances it features are, by definition, “on the fringe,” which means they are “alternative” and not what you’d normally find on Broadway. The theatre productions at the festival are generally of high quality, but not infrequently with experimental or “unique” subject matter or style.
The world’s largest and original Fringe Festival is the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in Scotland which has been running since 1947.
In Canada there are around two dozen different Fringe Festivals across the country running between late May and mid-September. Quebec’s Festival St-Ambroise Fringe de Montréal typically hosts the first festival of the season each year and Vancouver hosts the last.
Some theatre groups participate in multiple Fringe Festivals and tour the country with their productions, and others just perform in their home towns.
Vancouver Fringe Video
Below is a short video showcasing some of the sights and scenes of the Vancouver Fringe Festival from 2019.
Actors featured in the above video include performers from the shows Bushel and Peck, Szeretlek: A Hungarian Love Story, Beaver Dreams, Blue River Blues, Draining the Swamp, and Bombay Black. Others featured also include OBIT: A Deathly Serious Comedy, The Adventures of Rocketman and Beano, Interstellar Elder, Stupid Cupid, I Am for You, Gruesome Playground Injuries, Good Game in “Gung Ho!”, Brain Machine and ‘Tween Earth and Sky.
Vancouver Fringe Venues
Vancouver Fringe Festival performances take place at a number of different venues. Most are on Granville Island, but a few are in other areas around downtown Vancouver.
Granville Island Venues
Theatres and other venues participating in the Vancouver Fringe Festival on Granville Island most years are listed below. 2021 details may or may not be the same.
- False Creek Gym – the gymnasium at the False Creek Community Centre at 1318 Cartwright Street (which is the first street on the right as you enter Granville Island).
- Performance Works – a 200-seat theatre and multi-purpose venue at 1218 Cartwright Street.
- Revue Stage – at 198-seat theatre at 1601 Johnston Street (which is the same street as the Granville Island Public Market).
- The Nest – a “black-box” 50 to 100-seat performance and multi-purpose hall at 1398 Cartwright Street.
- Waterfront Theatre – a 224-seat theatre at 1412 Cartwright Street.
Other Vancouver Venues
Fringe Festival theatres in other parts of Vancouver include the following (as well as other venues):
- The Cultch – a 200-seat historic theatre at 1895 Venables Street.
- Dramatic Works Series – a black box studio at the Vancity Culture Lab at The Cultch at 1895 Venables Street.
More Tips & Advice
Below is a list of additional suggestions and information that will help prospective audience members make the most out of their Vancouver Fringe Festival experiences.
TIP #1: Tickets are available at the door, but many shows do sell out, especially the most popular ones and half-price shows. Buy your tickets early!
TIP #2: All ticket sales are final. Neither refunds nor exchanges are permitted.
TIP #3: Don’t forget your Fringe Membership card. You’ll need it for every performance (unless you want to donate an additional $7 to the festival for a second membership).
TIP #4: Out of respect for the actors and other audience members, be sure to arrive in plenty of time to find parking and get settled well before the show has begun.
TIP #5: It can sometimes take a few minutes to find parking on Granville Island, depending on the time of day, so take that into consideration when planning your arrival time.
TIP #6: The Fringe Box Office is located at 1398 Cartwright Street next to Waterfront Theatre not far from the entrance to Granville Island. Its hours, beginning a couple of days before the start of the festival, are from 4 to 9 pm on weekdays and from noon until 9 pm on weekends. They accept cash, Visa and MasterCard, but not debit or other kinds of credit cards. The same goes for individual venues.
TIP #7: On or around the first night of the festival in years when there isn’t a pandemic, there’s the “Fringe-For-All” opening night event where about 40% of so of the festival’s performances each have a 2-minute opportunity to present their shows. Tickets are just $25 or so and the event is an excellent opportunity to get a taste of the Fringe and to decide which shows you’d like to see in full version. It’s kind of like an exceptionally high quality summer camp skit night!
For further details about the Vancouver Fringe, see the official Vancouver Fringe Festival website.
For ideas about other things to do while visiting a Fringe show, click Granville Island or check out Vancouver’s Calendar of Events.
And for a comprehensive list of major festivals and events throughout the year, see the Festivals & Events Calendar.