The St. Ambroise Fringe Festival – lunacy takes over Montreal

The Fringe celebrates 25 years of irreverent performances

One of my favourite press conferences is the annual ‘event’ for the St. Ambroise Fringe Festival. And I don’t think I’m alone. Hosted by Executive Director Amy Blackmore at the Cleopatra … er, burlesque club on the notorious section of St. Laurent, I saw many Montreal theatre executives who were on hand to support the festival that is also an incubator of creativity. Fringe is a springboard for many young actors and theatre companies. From its early days in Edinburgh, Scotland (who knew that those dour Scots could have so much fun?); Fringe has grown to be a worldwide phenomena that celebrates creativity and more than a little bit of lunacy. What other festival would have drag queen Mado Lamotte as an official spokesperson?

The concept of Fringe is to keep it simple – offering artists a chance to perform for an audience, and for audiences to have fun at moderate prices. There are over 700 shows from, including outdoor performances. There is no artistic direction for Fringe performers; they are free to do what they want. This year will feature the 15th Anniversary Drag Queen Races at Fringe Park (located at St. Laurent and Rachel), in which regular Fringers dress up as amateur drag queens have races against professional drag queens led by Mado Lamotte.

June 5 at The Centaur will feature a Fringe All-Star Reunion Show, with many past Fringe stars appearing to celebrate the 25th Anniversary. The Fringe-For-All launch party at Cafe Campus opens the Festival on June 1 with 2 minute teasers from most of the performers. It’s bilingual, free and a great way to help select what shows you want to see. Volunteer Appreciation Day is at Terrasse St-Ambroise from 2 – 8pm at the very cool St-Ambroise brewery terrasse on the Lachine Canal. Other notable shows include Broke Ass Bingo Paume and Strip Spelling Bee on June 3 at the Mainline Theatre. The jury is out on who ‘wins’ a strip spelling bee. You can download an iPhone app for the complete Fringe schedule.

Performers receive 100% of their ticket revenues (not including a $2 per ticket service fee), and prices for all shows are kept low ($3, $7, $10 and so on). Even if sold-out online, all shows reserve 24% of the tickets for sales at the door, which are cash only. Multi-show passes are also available in increments of 3 shows for $30, 6 for $60, 10 for $95 and $275 for unlimited access.

Tickets can be purchased online at or by telephone, 514-849-3378 (FEST). It’s a lot of fun – so go out and get Fringed. You’ll thank me.