Fringe artist TJ Dawe performs in Operatic Panic Attack, one of the ten shows in Digital Fringe Volume 1.
Fringe artist TJ Dawe performs in Operatic Panic Attack, one of the ten shows in Digital Fringe Volume 1.

While it is too early to know whether the Vancouver Fringe Festival will go ahead this September, other North American festivals have not been so lucky with casualties confirmed from coast-to-coast due to COVID-19.

While other festivals continue to monitor the situation, including many in Canada, actor and musician Chase Padgett isn’t taking any chances with the launch of Digital Fringe Volume 1, a collection of ten shows filmed last year on the Canadian Fringe circuit.

An idea Padgett has been working on for a couple of years, it was initially his intention to continue filming content this summer and launch next year. But the coronavirus changed the world and like so many other artists around the globe, Padgett suddenly found himself out of work.

Scheduled to perform his solo show 6 Guitars in Toronto for Mirvish Productions, March was to be the biggest month in the performer’s career so far.

“Now I’m just sitting at home,” says Padgett in a media release. “I sure hope we reschedule, but who knows. In the meantime, I have to do something to help my fellow artists out.”

“We are all out of work. We are all struggling. I just want to help ease the pain a little bit for everybody and the Digital Fringe is a way I can do that right now.” - Chase Padgett
“We are all out of work. We are all struggling. I just want to help ease the pain a little bit for everybody, and the Digital Fringe is a way I can do that right now.” – Chase Padgett

That assistance comes from the first wave in a digital collection of shows Padgett had already recorded at Fringe Festivals.

This first volume not only features Fringe veterans with decades of combined touring experience but also represents the spirit of the Fringe with a wide range of genres, including comedy, drama, storytelling, clown, music and more.

“I’ve heard so many people say theatre doesn’t translate on video, but I didn’t buy it,” he says. “Netflix is pumping out stand up specials every week and getting massive views for them. To me, stand up comedy is just another form of theatre, and these specials give us the exact production template we need.”

For the past two years, Padgett has been laying the groundwork for the concept, teaching himself video production by filming other artists in between touring his shows. Using what he learned, he shot nearly 40 live shows last year alone, providing him with a sizeable collection of Fringe content ready for distribution.

“I know why artists struggle to get good video of their shows now. It requires a high degree of professional skill at every level of production,” he says. “That degree of skill comes with a high price tag that most artists can’t afford. My goal was to offer good quality at great value while I learned the ins and out of production and I did just that.”

Among the shows in this first collection are a few familiar faces from the Vancouver Fringe, including TJ Dawe (Operatic Panic Attack), Shawn O’Hara (Field Zoology 101) and Rodney DeCroo (Didn’t Hurt). Other shows recorded at the Vancouver Fringe include DK Reinemer‘s Becoming Magic Mike and Rob Gee‘s Kevin: King of Egypt.

Padgett concludes by saying if there is enough interest in this first edition, he will put together a second. “We’ve got to try something, anything to keep the arts alive during this time.”

Now available through online video platform Vimeo, patrons can either purchase individual shows or the entire ten show season. 90% of the revenue will go to the artists after Vimeo takes its fee.

Padgett and the artists are offering the first 100 people to use the promo code freefringe a 100% discount. He goes onto say that financial hardship should not be an impediment. “For those who are concerned with the cost of these videos, please email [email protected] and say you’d like to watch but cannot currently afford it. We will be in touch to help you out.”