Fringe-ing in Ottawa

Last year’s train trip (the Canada portion was from Vancouver to Ottawa) had me stopping in Winnipeg for a handful of days in late July. It was my first visit to this city in the Prairies – also the middle of Canada – and luck would have it that I dropped by right in the middle of the Winnipeg Fringe Festival. You may think that this Fringe Fest is small but it actually held the North American record for tickets sold for a few years until another city outsold them in 2011. Pretty impressive!

I was a Fringe virgin but, lucky me, I had a fabulous Frequent Fringer and devoted volunteer acting as my Fringe guide. She took me to see a variety of shows (comedy, drama, musical, improve, opera) and exposed me to Fringe Central downtown, including free shows on the mainstage. The weather was beautiful, the arts were creative, and I walked away with nothing but fond memories.

How do you walk away from such an experience without wanting to be drawn back into it this year! Lo and behold, I’ll be volunteering at the Ottawa Fringe Festival, running in and around the Byward Market area from June 20-30, 2013…and hopefully checking out a number of shows as well. As with the Winnipeg Fringe, the Ottawa Fringe is unjuried so I would expect an eclectic mix of theatre with a range of quality (subjective, of course).

To attend the Ottawa Fringe, each person needs a $3 Fringe pin. The pin is to be worn at any show you are seeing, is purchased separately from a show ticket, and is a one-time $3 donation to the Fringe Festival itself. This allows all of the ticket sale money to go directly to the performing artists. With 50+ productions over 10 days, you’re bound to find something that piques your curiosity. There is also the Fringe Courtyard where you can hang out, buy some food (Stone Soup Foodworks food truck is the vendor), and enjoy some entertainment.

I’m the type of person who likes to buy tickets in advance. However, for the Ottawa Fringe, I am switching it up by buying my ticket at the door. Something like 50% of the tickets are held for door sales, with the other 50% allocated to advance sales, so I presume there’s a good chance of getting a ticket to a desired show at the door.

Check out the productions and come Fringe! And if you are in town on Canada Day, the Courtyard will remain open on July 1 with some free improv and entertainment!

A source for burlap bags!

I was delighted to find that Bridgehead, a chain of local coffee shops priding itself in fair trade, is selling the burlap bags in which their green coffee beans come in. They opened a roastery at the corner of Preston and Anderson in Little Italy a few months ago and have a nice stack of burlap bags to choose from. They suggest a donation of $2 per bag (although there was a bit of confusion as to whether it was $2 a bag or $2 per pick up when I went to get a few bags); I forgot to ask if they had selected an organization to give proceeds to. I’m not sure what I’m going to do with the six bags I got yet, but there are a bunch of DIY ideas posted all over the net: seat cushions, throw pillows, wreaths, book covers, stockings (for Christmas – not to wear!), napkin holders, baskets…I was even thinking it’d work well as a door mat (maybe stuffed with a little something to give it some cushioning).

So if you’re in Ottawa, stop by the Bridgehead Roastery for some burlap bags!

Fun free event: Rakugo by Sunshine

Last fall, the Japanese Embassy in Ottawa hosted a man named Katsura Sunshine. He is from Toronto but moved to Japan to learn the art of a popular form of Japanese storytelling called rakugo. After apprenticing with his master for several years – the only way to become a professional rakugo-ka (a storyteller in the rakugo form) – he was given his stage name, Katsura Sunshine, and he has been performing in both Japanese and English.

His fall show was hilarious. It was also quite informative, as he explained what rakugo is and his experience as a foreign rakugo-ka in Japan. The room at the Embassy filled up quickly and there were loads of people standing around the periphery to take in the entertainment.

I was delighted to learn last week that the Japanese Embassy is presenting Katsura Sunshine in Ottawa again on Wednesday September 19 at 7:30pm at the National Arts Centre (NAC). The show is free, just as it was last time, which is great because it makes it much more accessible to everyone. They do, however, request that you RSVP by phone or e-mail. If you’re free that night and in town, I would highly recommend checking this out. It’s a little glimpse into Japanese culture and I guarantee you’ll be laughing lots!