Fundy Fringe Festival finesses in-person performances amid COVID-19
HALIFAX -- Summer festivals throughout the Maritimes have been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, with many opting to go virtual or cancel altogether. However, despite less-than-ideal circumstances, New Brunswick's Fundy Fringe Festival is navigating the logistics and protocol necessary to hold in-person performances.
On Saturday, performer Caroline Bell rehearsed for a live and in-person performance – a rarity amid the pandemic. Preparing her play Swing, she's one of the many acts to be featured as part of the Fundy Fringe Festival – which begins on Monday and runs until Saturday, with shows taking place at the BMO Studio Theatre and online.
"It's stories, some of them are fictional, some of them are true," says Bell. "But all of them are very relatable to someone in their early 20s; falling in and out of love – that sort of thing."
Since 2013, the festival has been a staple in Saint John. Due to COVID-19, organizers initially thought the eighth instalment of the event would have to be an online affair – prompting them to drop their acts from outside of the Atlantic Bubble. However, things changed soon after.
"We found out that venues could start to open up," says Fundy Fringe Festival director, Sarah Rankin. "So then, we started to have those conversations about how many people could we safely get into this building, how do we set up those seats, and how do we sell tickets?"
Organizers have changed the festival's usual layout and are taking pandemic precautions for audience members – including reducing capacity giving the area a deep cleaning before each performance. Additionally, audience members must wear a protective face mask until they're seated.
"We have also tried to communicate as best we can that we would really encourage people to buy their tickets in advance," says Rankin. "We will not be selling tickets at the door; so, they really should call us and get their tickets if they're interested in catching a live show in the studio."
And through battling adversity, Fundy Fringe Festival is navigating new territory with its mix of live and live-streamed performances – adding a new dimension to the theatrical experience.
"New and exciting has always been the point of theatre, right?" says Bell. "So, as long as audience members feel safe and they want that feeling of people in an audience again – I think the BMO Studio Theatre is handling it really well."