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Living on the Fringe in Winnipeg

When I woke yesterday morning some 40 miles from the Canadian border, I had no idea I’d catch a one-woman stage show with a Vegas connection in Winnipeg later that evening. But then again, I didn’t count on meeting four Canadians at a McDonalds in East Grand Forks, MN the day before who would tell me about the Fringe Festival.

So after arriving in the provincial capital of Manitoba and getting my bearings on this overtly friendly city, I parked the van in a side street of the downtown business and arts district, where after 5:30 pm street parking is free, and walked 15 minutes to the box office of the 12-day Winnipeg Fringe Theatre Festival with its 176 performing troupes and over 1,000 shows at 32 different venues. The Fringe is in its 25th year.

At the box office I was told the well-received 7 pm performance of “Ingénue” would start in the next 15 minutes. For an unbelievable $12 CAD ($9.13 USD), I enthusiastically snatched a remaining ticket to watch the highly-accomplished Melanie Gall play to a full-house in the intimate Tom Hendry Warehouse Theater of 300 seats. In monologue and 15 scores rendered beautifully a cappella, Gall recounted the true story and lifelong friendship between Winnipeg native Deanna Durban, already at age 21 the highest paid actress in the world and on into the 30s and 40s, and Judy Garland. Gall’s unassailable on-stage presence and crystal-clear operatic voice (her rendition of Garland’s “Over the Rainbow” gave goosebumps) offered a studio director’s close-up of these two box office titans.

And the Vegas connection? Durban and Garland were both married at The Little Church of the West situated on the fabulous LV Strip.

By Juergen Barbusca