I see as much of Julie NIUBOI Ferguson‘s work as I can, catching them with Punctuate! Theatre, at Found Festival, Odd Wednesday, NextFest and nearly everywhere art is happening. Julie’s work is innovative, moving, and many of their pieces have stuck with me over the years – I can’t count the number of times I’ve thought about or referenced Glass Washrooms, which was part of last year’s Found Festival.
This summer, Julie is staring as Kes in SCORCH by Stacey Gregg, a play that focusses on gender identity and “gender fraud”, inspired by very recent cases in the UK, at the Fringe. At its heart is Kes, a teenager searching for their place in the world. By posing as a boy who embarks on an intimate relationship with another girl, it leads Kes to devastating effects both legally and personally. It is concerned with language, how we use it, how it can be both limiting and liberating, especially for young people trying to work out who they are. When you’re raised in a society that has such rigid gender roles, it can be incredibly challenging and, at times traumatizing, to try and navigate your way through it when you don’t fit in.
Here’s Julie’s bio:
Julie NIUBOI Ferguson is a trans non-binary performance artist, whose work combines movement and visual art to create live performance, video, installation and cabaret. They studied clown under Jan Henderson and they are a life-long student of both traditional and contemporary movement practices ranging from ballet to improv to voguing to mime. Their created works Glass Washrooms (Theatre), The Milk Bar (Film), Antiquation (Installation), and The Great Canadian Beaver Party (Cabaret) have been presented by Found Festival, The Chinook Series, Mile Zero Dance, Odd Wednesday, and Nextfest.
Here’s how Julie Fringes:
How long have you been Fringing? What is your favourite Fringe memory?
I’ve been Fringing since 2011. My favourite Fringe memory was the year that my mum pushed me around in a wheelchair all Fringe because I was in recovery from a hospitalization. We even went to the Late Nite Cabaret!
What’s the one item you never forget to bring to the Fringe or other summer festivals?
Snacks. Food trucks aren’t cheap, and I get very cranky when I’m hot and hungry. I always have bulk corn chips and dried mango in my backpack to make sure I can snack quickly when the hunger hits.
Do you remember the first time you Fringed? Who introduced you to the festival? What were your impressions and have they changed at all over the years?
The first time I Fringed was in 2011. I was stage managing a show called Total Identity Theft: The Stolen Memories of Jesse Parker. It was not a hit. We were a local show with no marketing budget, and we had audiences of about 15 in King Edward School. We had a blast rehearsing and figuring out how to make artist passwords for Zach Galifianakis. Since then, I’ve fringed in many different ways. I’ve been a venue tech, an SM, a performer. I’ve done Kid’s Fringe, BYOV’s, and Lottery Venues.
My impression of the festival has pretty much remained constant throughout the years: local shows have a hard time competing with touring shows unless they are big name companies like Teatro or Guys in Disguise; there are too many shows competing for too few audience members; and the best was to create a Fringe hit is to tour it before bringing it to Edmonton. I haven’t done the tour yet. Maybe once I get a credit card!
It’s almost impossible to Fringe without indulging in the food! What’s your go-to food at Fringe?
I love mini donuts more than any other sugary indulgence on planet earth. I always scrape together enough cash to treat myself to a bag of mini donuts mid-way through the festival. The bags are so big, I always have to share; but, it’s a great way to make friends in the beer gardens!
How do you choose the shows you’re going to see at Fringe? It’s still early, but do you have your eye on any shows you’re interested in seeing this year?
I usually pick a theme and see all the shows that fit that theme. One year, I only saw clown shows. One year, only mask and puppet shows. Last year, I only saw local shows. I don’t know what my theme will be this year, but I’m always excited to see the touring shows that utilize aesthetic (props, costumes, mask, puppets, projections) in new ways. I love having the opportunity to learn from artists from around the planet.
Tell me about the best show you ever saw at Fringe. Why has it stuck with you?
In 2014, Butt Kapinski came to Edmonton and performed in the venue Upstairs at the Armoury. Butt Kapinksi is a clown who solves crimes and brings an interrogation light around with them attached to their head. The show felt effortless. It involved soooo much audience interaction and ridiculous sound cues. There was a beautiful moment when Butt’s mic cut out and they yelled at the technician and I was truly mortified, but the moment was planned and executed so flawlessly that even I thought it was real, and I am always looking for a show’s blueprints. Butt made the audience cry with laughter. The show was simple in the best way. I learned so much from it.
What “weird”, unusual, or indulgent thing do you only do at summer festivals?
I love Julie’s tip about choosing a theme and building your Fringe schedule around it! I myself have done the “locals-only” route, but I’m going to start thinking of other themes or through-lines I want to follow this year. Thanks, Julie!
You can find Julie at:
- https://www.bustleandbeast.com/upcoming for more information on SCORCH at this year’s Fringe
Julie’s profile is part of my 2018 How to Fringe series highlighting some of the folks I look up to in Edmonton who have generously agreed to share a bit about themselves and how they Fringe. If YOU want to Fringe, tickets for the 37th annual Edmonton International Fringe Theatre Festival go on sale August 7.