Accessibility at the heart of digital shows returning to Saskatoon Fringe

Poster for 2022 Saskatoon Fringe Festival digital show "An Unaccompanied Minor's Guide to Life" featuring Savana Gallant, Monet Comeau and Kassie Kardos. (Supplied / Show Poster)

What was once a COVID-19 necessity has now become a new feature of the Saskatoon Fringe Festival in the name of accessibility. 

The Saskatoon Fringe is offering a slew of digital shows this year in addition to its in-person productions

Savana Gallant, a performer in one of this year’s digital shows, said keeping digital shows a part of the Fringe gives more people a chance to participate in the festival. 

“I can send the ticket link to my digital show to anybody in the world … I think it gives a lot more access to the performers and the audiences out there,” she said. 

Digital theatre productions were the only way for artists to continue producing theatrical works during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. Public health orders closed down theatre venues early in the pandemic, and many companies turned to remote digital productions to continue working. 

Despite no public health orders that would force theatre to go digital, the Saskatoon Fringe Festival decided to continue with digital shows. Nine shows — one-third of the theatrical productions offered by the Fringe in 2022 — will only be available to watch online. 

Anita Smith, the artistic and executive director of the Saskatoon Fringe Festival, said in a statement that they chose to bring digital shows back to the Fringe for “accessibility for those that are unable to be here in person for any number of reasons. That applies to both patrons and artists.”

Gallant created her show, “An Unaccompanied Minor’s Guide to Life,” with fellow students Monet Comeau and Kassie Kardos while studying at the Guildford School of Acting in the UK.

The trio converted the cabaret-style show to a digital production while Gallant was back in Canada and the other two were still overseas. 

If the three didn’t have the option of a digital performance, they never could have brought their show to the Saskatoon Fringe. 

“It gives more people the chance to … put their work out there, and maybe create stories that don’t necessarily lend themselves to the on-stage medium,” Gallant said. “It broadens the horizons of what theatre can be and what it can achieve.”

When done properly, digital shows can do more — through sound and video editing — than an in-person show. Gallant referred to some “magical” quick costume changes in “An Unaccompanied Minor’s Guide to Life” that would have been impossible in-person. 

Beyond that, Gallant believes digital shows will continue to have a place in the future as artists continue to experiment with mixed media in the theatre. 

And in the end, there are few better places to experiment with any kind of theatre, digital or otherwise, than the Fringe Festival. 

“It’s just another step towards the future and what’s possible in theatre,” Gallant said. “I don’t see why we would stop.”

The 2022 Saskatoon Fringe Festival runs from July 28 to August 6, 2022. Information for all shows, tickets, and the full festival program can be found at 25thstreettheatre.org/saskatoon-fringe/.

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