David Jordan couldn't resist seeing the play Bookworm about a father and a son and the books they read at the Winnipeg Fringe Theatre Festival in July.
"I'm a sucker for stories about fathers and sons right now as I'm a father of two, soon to be three," said the executive director of the Vancouver International Fringe Festival, whose third son is due Sept. 13.
Bookworm is just one of 97 shows to be performed around Granville Island and beyond, Sept. 6 to 16, as part of the 28th annual do-it-yourself theatre event.
"We're an entry point. We're the place where artists can get their break," Jordan said of the un-juried, first-come, first-serve Fringe selection process. "You can't have a really thriving art scene if you don't have a place where people can go and get their break."
Recognizing Fringe-goers might need help with their show selection process, the Fringe has launched its own "escort service."
"Many people come to the festival because somebody drags them," Jordan said. "So what about those people who don't have those people in their lives?"
Now theatregoers can hook up with a knowledgeable volunteer at the Fringe Info Centre who will help them pick a performance and even accompany them free of charge once they've purchased their Fringe membership and ticket.
Those up for even more adventure can swing by strangers' homes and a hotel room at the Waldorf.
Three More Sleepless Nights will be performed each night in a different house, which the actors haven't previously visited. The homes will be on the East Side for the first half of the festival with a meeting point at Havana restaurant on Commercial Drive, and on the West Side for the second half of the festival with a meeting point at Studio 16 on West Seventh Avenue near Granville Street.
Vancouver's Squidamisu Theatre will perform George F. Walker's Suburban Motel series in a hotel room at the Waldorf.
Organizers dubbed this year's festival "2012: A Fringe Odyssey." Coincidentally, five shows relate to this theme, including Loon, by Wonderheads Theatre, which won widespread acclaim for Grim and Fischer last year. The Portland-based theatre company uses oversized masks and gestures instead of dialogue to tell stories. "It's just delightful to see something like that. It's sort of like a really simple old-fashioned cartoon or something," Jordan said. "Their masks are just beautiful, too."
Other emergent themes include war, murder and God, or what Jordan calls "the wrath of the Fringe."
Audiences need to download an MP3 file to participate in a podcast-directed, nonviolent reenactment of the War of 1812.
"That one's done by our former business manager, Craig Laven," Jordan said. "He's been thinking about it for years, so he says, 'Well, the deadline came,' because it's the 100-year anniversary."
The 1812 Event happens at noon at Granville Island's Ron Basford Park on Sept. 8.
"Even more fun than the actual War of 1812!" reads the program guide.
Shows with religious overtones include Sex, Religion, and Other Hang-Ups, An Evening with Satan and God is a Scottish Drag Queen.
The Fringe offers free live music, improv and literary shows at a café bar on Granville Island, site-specific shows, including one at Ocean Concrete, and a new satellite venue at the CBC studios downtown. The Fringe kicks off with a party Sept. 4 and festival-goers can attend the Fringe-For-All show Sept. 6 where every Fringe artist has a chance to perform the best two minutes of their shows to lure audiences. The top 10 festival favourites will continue running Sept. 19 to 23.
"Book a show early in the festival," Jordan recommended, "and then improvise from there."
Audiences must pay a Fringe membership of $5 and tickets for shows range from $5 to $12. For more information, see vancouverfringe.com. Program guides are distributed at Blenz Coffee, libraries and farmers markets, among other locations.