“The city, people and festival were like a warm hug.”
The Victoria Fringe Festival usually takes place in the late August and early September. The festival serves as an au revoir to summer before school starts up again. But this year, like many events, the Fringe Festival was postponed once COVID-19 hit. For a while, it seemed like the Fringe wouldn’t take place at all, until organizers announced that they had arranged a shorter online version with Josephine, which was a hit at the 2019 festival, as the headlining performance.
“We were thrilled to get the call from Sammie and Heather at Victoria Fringe,” said Tymisha Harris, the co-creator, costume designer, and star of Josephine. “No exaggeration, Victoria was our favorite stop of our tour last year. The city, people and festival were like a warm hug.”
Josephine is a burlesque-cabaret dream play based on the life of the real life Josephine Baker, the first African-American international superstar. After making her start in the U.S., Baker moved to France in the early 20s and became a sensation.
Josephine’s co-creator, director, producer, and stage manager Michael Marinaccio explained that this year’s performance was a recording they had done for the Orlando Fringe Festival in 2018. Organizers of Victoria Fringe asked if that performance could be shown for this year’s festival.
“[the Fringe organizers] had seen the recording we did of the show back in 2018 …We got to add a 10-piece band, and perform the show to an audience of over 750 people that night. It was a magical performance, so hopefully some of that shines through,” said Marinaccio. “We have been reluctant to put it out there, but it’s for a great cause and supports some wonderful charities, so we were happy to agree.”
Victoria Fringe was a free festival, but viewers could donate to three different charities: Support Network for Indigenous Women & Women of Colour, BC Black History Awareness Society – Colourful Business, and the American Civil Liberties Union’s Voting Rights Fund.
“We need to support and empower women and people of color, and the best way to do that is to make sure their voices can be heard,” said Harris. “That’s why we tell Josephine Baker’s story, and why we feel so strongly about the right to vote and be fairly represented.”
“Victoria Fringe made us aware of the two local B.C. charities, which are doing really important work,” said Marinaccio. “The ACLU Voting Rights Fund is one that is really important to us as Americans, though. We are seeing great energy for change in our country right now, but we are facing a system that has been rigged to suppress and discourage voters, and tip the scales of elections with endless corporate funding.”
Harris said that artists are more important than ever amidst the pandemic as it provides a space for people to express themselves and connect with others amidst social isolation.
“Art is always important. It helps us see things from different perspectives and makes us feel. It is the most human way to express ourselves,” said Harris. “The last four years, getting to travel the world and play this iconic Goddess has been one of the greatest honors of my life. I’ve played her across 3 continents, off-Broadway in NYC, and in front of nearly 100,000 people. I have seen hearts and minds changed in people through our show, and that is the greatest reward.”