How Liz Nicholls Fringes

Liz Nicholls looks at the camera against a grey backdrop

Liz Nicholls. Photo supplied.

It’s just this simple: if you know Edmonton’s theatre scene, you know Liz Nicholls. A prolific theatre reviewer, previously for the Edmonton Journal, Liz moved online to 12thnight.ca in 2017. I always look to Liz’ thoughtful commentary after dissecting my own reaction to a piece and think we are so lucky to have someone with her level of professionalism and knowledge contributing to our arts community.

Here’s Liz’ bio:

Liz Nicholls writes about Edmonton theatre. And you can find her reviews, previews, feature stories at her theatre website 12thnight.ca.

A rare example of someone actually from Edmonton, Liz ‘s academic specialty is the late Shakespeare romances. For 34 years she was the Edmonton Journal’s theatre reviewer, and was lucky enough to be on hand for the huge proliferation of theatre in these parts. In 2017 she left the paper and took her theatre coverage into the online world. She still feels lucky to be talking about Edmonton’s most discussable, lively arts scene!

And here’s how Liz Fringes:

How long have you been Fringing? Do you remember the first time you Fringed?

I’ve been at the Fringe every summer since year #2, 1983! The fun, and craziness, and challenge, of covering the ever-more-uncoverable as the Fringe grew (and grew and grew) is a big part of my life as a theatre writer — for three decades-plus as the Edmonton Journal’s theatre reviewer, and for the last year-and-a half online at 12thnight.ca.

I remember getting sent out by the Journal entertainment editor of the time to “something happening in Strathcona” in the summer of 1983. I’d just started at the newspaper, and my instructions were to find out what was going on, and come back in a few days. So I did. In the warehouses and defunct greasy spoons and parks of Strathcona there was a brave new world of theatre, and people arguing about Edward Albee at midnight.

Has something you’ve seen or experienced at the Fringe had an impact on your life? How did it change you? 

Everything about the crazy total immersion effect of the Fringe has had an impact on me as a theatre reviewer. There’s so much that’s brand new and untested at the festival, and at every stage of development from the bright idea to the fully polished. It’s been a great lesson in leaving my preconceptions at home and trying to start fresh every time out.

What advice would you give to a first-time Fringe-er for the best way to enjoy the festival?

Don’t stay in the beer tent indefinitely! See lots! Artists are experimenting, and you should too!. That’s the whole point: Surprise yourself by seeing something you know nothing whatever about. The sense of discovery can be yours, and it’s pretty magical!

Try going to a show at a time you’ve never gone to the theatre, and the vibe can be strange and cool, too. Enjoy the liveness of live theatre, up close. And remember that a Fringe show doesn’t have to be buffed within an inch of its life, and ready for Broadway, to be exciting to see and talk about.

How do you choose the shows you’re going to see at the Fringe?

I’ve always gone as a theatre reviewer, in a mad rush to see as much as possible. So I’ve leaned towards plays and experimental theatre pieces rather than stand-up or sketch comedy. But hey, there have been lots of exceptions in the middle of the night! It’s a swirl of seeing plays I’ve always wanted to see (that are too big or unstageable or just plain weird for the winter season), seasoned artists trying something new and maybe way outside their usual terrain, up-and-comers arriving on the scene. They’re all there at the Fringe. So many possibilities, so little time!


You can find Liz and her Fringe coverage online at 12thnight.ca.

Liz Nicholl’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.

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