News / Halifax

Seeing local playwright's Atlantic Fringe Festival debut just makes Common Sense

Sitting in a dark theatre, Ryan Van Horne heard the audience laugh as the actors brought his first play to life, and knew he was hooked.

Van Horne’s political satire, Department of Common Sense, begins its Atlantic Fringe Festival run on Saturday about five months after it debuted in the Theatre Arts Guild festival.

“It’s basically meant to lampoon government and bureaucracy. The left hand not knowing what right hand is doing,” said Van Horne, a freelancer writer who once did government communications.

“There’s some absurdity in this play. It’s a bit over the top.”

After years of telling funny stories about his experiences, Van Horne decided to take his best cocktail-party anecdote to the stage in March.

Although Van Horne said he was nervous as the play began, he was able to relax when the first laugh burst from the audience.

"I was hooked,” Van Horne said. “I wanted to see it on stage again.”

The Fringe version will be nearly double the length of the original, Van Horne said, with three new scenes bringing the length to 40 minutes.

“I’ve changed the names to protect the foolish,” laughed Van Horne, adding that there are two “kernels of truth” in the play he’ll reveal to anyone who asks him afterwards.

Fringe also welcomes more suggestive, adult plays such as Van Hornes, which he said is an example of “newsroom language” mixing with politicians.

“Even if you’re not interested in politics, you love laughing at the government, and everybody loves laughing at stupid,” Van Horne said.

He said that Nova Scotia and HRM have a thriving, dedicated arts scene that the Fringe Festival makes available for people who wouldn’t usually go to a Neptune Theatre play.

“There is great theatre that is accessible for a modest price,” Van Horne said. “You just have to look for it.”

Fringe Festival offers a little something for everyone

The 23rd annual Atlantic Fringe Festival kicks off Thursday night with a round of “speed-dating” theatre where all 54 plays have 60 seconds to give audiences an idea of what their show is about.

“It really does kind of soak the city in alternative and independent theatre in a way that’s really unique and special,” said festival chair Kevin Kindred.

Besides theatre, new to Fringe this year is a “mini-busker” festival where part of Argyle Street will be closed down for performances, Kindred said.

Comedy and musical acts will also be popping up in venues across the city, and some plays are staged in unusual areas like art galleries and the Natural Museum of History.

Kindred said Fringe is a great way to see shows from out of Nova Scotia, such as Mature Young Adults, set in Cape Breton where two ex-lovers reunite in a park, or Love in the Time of Time Machines.

His advice to festival goers was to make a list of shows that seem interesting, then add two shows to the list you aren’t sure about, and you will “find gems you weren’t expecting,” Kindred said.

All shows are $10 or less, and run from Thursday night’s sampler at the Neptune Studio at 7 p.m., until Sept. 8.

For a complete festival schedule go to .

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