The Winnipeg Fringe Theatre Festival is coming back strong after a two-year hiatus, starting July 13-24.

Theatre performers have come from near and far to have the chance to display their talents to Winnipeg citizens all around the Exchange District over the next 10 days. The festival is non-juried, meaning that performers have a free range of what to present to the public, as long as it isn't illegal.

Tori Popp, the Festival Manager of the Winnipeg Fringe Theatre Festival, happily shared that 100 per cent of the proceeds from ticket sales goes back to the performers.

As this is Winnipeg Fringe's first time back in person since the pandemic, Popp shares some insights about how COVID-19 has affected the festival.

"It [the number of performers] has gone down a little bit and that's, I think, mostly because of some hesitation with everything that has gone on in the past couple of years. Some folks who travel from international or national places maybe weren't feeling as comfortable because the Winnipeg Fringe Theatre Festival is a local, national, and international theatre festival. We have folks coming in from all over the world, and so some, I think, were a little hesitant to come by just due to travel things. But we still have lots of locals and lots of fun touring shows coming through."

Popp notes that in previous years the Fringe Festival normally has approximately 180-185 companies involved, but this year it is only around 112. She also says that her team has also been affected by the pandemic, trying to adjust to moving everything online for the Digital Fringe they held last year and struggling to find the resources they need to keep the festival going.

Like many other organizations that seek help from volunteers, due to the pandemic, the Winnipeg Fringe Theatre Festival struggled to keep volunteers from previous years, but Popp looked on the bright side.

"A lot of folks this year are new people, so they're new folks that have come out of the University of Winnipeg theatre program or have moved into different positions. So, we have a lot of fresh, new, green folks joining us this year at the Fringe. I'm hoping that because they're younger and they're keen that they'll stay on with us for the next couple of years and that helps with staff turnover if we can get them learning what the festival is all about and how to do everything, do their jobs. Usually, they all come back next year because they had so much fun and then that sort of continues the cycle on and on."

The Winnipeg Fringe Theatre Festival is a great opportunity for local artists to get their names out in the public eye. Popp says that viewers can enjoy comedies and dramedies (drama/comedies). Some specific artists people can expect to see are Syd Hayduck, Lyndsay Johnson, and Sarah Flynn, among other artists, both recurring and new.

"I think this festival is for everyone, that's what I would say. I think if you like to volunteer, then it's for you. If you like theatre, then it's for you and even if you don't like theatre, maybe you like music and you like to come out and drink at the patio and listen to some tunes. I think that makes it for you too. There's always something for everyone at the Fringe."

There are performances for adults, and for children as well.

"Our Kids Fringe is at Stephen Juba Park, so lots of grass and space for kiddos to run around. And we have a lot happening at Old Market Square because our entire park is licensed this year, so you can wander around, and check out some merchants. We're just really excited to be back and see everyone mingling in the Exchange District and Old Market Square."

Popp advises people who have not been to the Fringe Festival before to get a program, they come in handheld or online form. She says that having the program available makes it easier to plan which shows to see and where to be.