After the House Lights

How Brenley Charkow Fringes


Brenley Charkow. Photo supplied.

I first met Brenley Charkow through her work shining a light on the work of women at the Edmonton Fringe Festival a few years ago through the Twitter handle @FringeFemmeYEG. Fringe Femme YEG shines a light on the work of female-identified Directors, Playwrights, and Choreographers at the Fringe. Navigating the Fringe program is daunting, and I’ve found that Fringe Femme YEG helps activate a community of like-minded people who want to find out about and celebrate shows created by women at the Fringe.

This summer, Brenley is also directing 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.

Here’s Brenley’s bio:

Brenley Charkow is a professional director, playwright and theatre creator, and is the Artistic Director of Bustle&Beast Theatre. Throughout her career, Brenley has worked across Canada and toured the United States. Brenley’s directing credits include the Canadian premiere of Tony Kushner’s A Bright Room Called Day, If We Were Birds (Bleviss Laboratory Theatre); Tom at the Farm (Bleviss Laboratory Theatre), The Waves (winner of the Patron’s Pick award, and Best of Fringe selection), Mo and Jess Kill Susie (Outstanding ensemble, NOW Magazine), Almost, Maine (The Hall, Stratford); On The Other Side of the World (Next Stage Festival, Factory theatre Main Stage), Seagulls by Caryl Churchill. In 2014, she was named as one of the top ten artists to watch by Jon Kaplan in Now Magazine Toronto. Assistant directing credits include the Canadian premiere of The Humans (CanStage/Citadel Theatre) Mamma Mia (Citadel Theatre), Parade (Studio 180 and The Musical Stage Company), Hair (Grand Theatre), and the world premiere of Colleen Murphy’s Bright Burning. UPCOMING Projects: Scorch (Bustle&Beast), Blood: a Scientific Romance (Maggie Tree); The Ballad of PeachTree Rose (Workshop West); Sister Act! (Storybook Theatre). Brenley was a recent participant in the Banff/Citadel program and holds an MFA in directing from the University of Alberta. During the Festival, Brenley curates the #FringeFemmeYEG movement, supporting women of the Fringe.

And here’s how Brenley Fringes:

How long have you been Fringing?
Since 2010.

What’s the one item you never forget to bring to the Fringe or other summer festivals? 
Bandaids. They definitely help with the blisters when you walk everywhere!

It’s almost impossible to Fringe without indulging in the food! What’s your go-to food at Fringe?
Green Onion Cakes. Always. They never taste the same during the year.

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 try to support as many works created by women at the Festival. I’m also always interested in seeing productions that are really taking a chance, experimenting, maybe trying something new, less commercial.

What advice would you give to a first-time Fringe-er for the best way to enjoy the festival?
Take a chance. Go with an open mind.

Has something you’ve seen or experienced at the Fringe had an impact on your life? How did it change you? 
The first fringe show I ever wrote and directed was in Toronto. We were chosen as the Patron’s Pick, and at that Festival, that means you get a “bonus”  performance on the last day. We sold out, and as the cast was taking a final bow to a standing ovation, one guy in the middle of the audience stood there booing. Loudly. At first, it was shocking, but it also, truly amazing watching the audience engage with this guy in a very “lively” discussion. This carried out onto the street, and by the time we all got to the beer tents, it was what everyone was talking about. I love that art is subjective. I wish he had liked the show. I wish he hadn’t booed, but that was his right. But the result is that people talked about the play and theatre for hours afterward. That to me was exciting.

Wow! I feel like being in an audience with someone booing the performance is something that could only happen at Fringe! But what a great takeaway around the subjectivity of art – that’s what keeps it interesting.

You can find Brenley at:

Brenley’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.