The Vancouver International Fringe Festival turns 25 this year. It's come a long way from the original venue - the parking lot of the Mount Pleasant IGA - but not so far that it doesn't remain true to its unconventional roots. Over 459 performances this year will grace the six main stages on Granville Island and its surrounding neighbourhood, as well as a number of East Van locations, once the curtain rises on Wednesday night. Most of the shows come in at an hour or under, offering the possibility of going on your own theatre-crawl. Here are a few suggestions to whet your appetite:
Ariel Gladstone directed one of the shows in that inaugural VIF in 1985, and he's back again in 2009 with a production of Stephen Beiber's Tape . The play is set in a motel room where three high-school friends are reunited and confronting their past. Gladstone mounts a site-specific production, where audience members will watch from within an actual room in the fabulously kitsch Waldorf Hotel.
Up-and-comers in the Vancouver acting scene are given a helping hand from more experienced thesps to mount a mini version of the city's cell-like experimental theatrical event Hive , wittily subtitled The New Bees .
Comedy, Canadian cowboys - what could go wrong? Vancouver's Monster Theatre brings The Seven Lives of Louis Riel or, rather, just the one life told Rashomon -style, from different perspectives.
With a title that can't help make you want to see more, Andrew Templeton's Biographies of the Dead and Dying is a psychological ghost story designed to give you the creeps.
There will be no place to hide from Upintheair Theatre's Wagabondi! Ho! : A different tale will be performed every 20 minutes in the back on a camper van to an audience of four. Cups of tea will be provided.
Expect nothing quite so quaint at Grade 8 , Dwayne Morgan's spoken-word story about a single parent father struggling to raise his daughter. Award-winning Morgan has performed with a number of big names, including Alicia Keys, Kardinal Offishal and Nelly Furtado.
Music fans may want to check out TransCanada 69 , as Victoria's Colin Godbout offers a nostalgic trip back to that famous summer, with the songs of Joni Mitchell, Neil Young, Gordon Lightfoot, Leonard Cohen and others. Those who prefer their sounds a little more eclectic might try the intriguing Clarity: Vancouver's Original Punk Harpist .
If you're up for a laugh, there's some quality comedy on the program. From Montreal, 2008 Just for Laughs winners Uncalled For present their latest sketch collection Today Is All Your Birthdays .
From Britain, Fringe favourite Jem Rolls brings his greatest hits or, as he prefers to call them, his Leastest Flops together for an hour of hilarity. And trailing great reviews from his hometown of New York, crazed comedic clown Red Bastard , challenges you to an interactive master class on "the theatre of life."
The 2009 Vancouver International Fringe Festival, Wednesday through Sept. 20, various venues and times, see vancouverfringe.com for complete schedule.