While performer Mikaela Dyke, who's been receiving positive reviews for her play Dying Hard, has enjoyed being in Halifax for her Atlantic Fringe run, which ends this weekend, she hasn't been as happy with the treatment she's apparently received from the Fringe's director, Ken Pinto.
In fact, Dyke has written an open letter of complaint to the Halifax arts community, and now: "A number of local and touring artists are petitioning the Canadian Association of Fringe Festivals (CAFF) to withdraw its affiliation with Halifax's Atlantic Fringe Festival while under the leadership of the current festival director, Ken Pinto."
We've been speaking to Dyke, a couple of other artists and members of CAFF, as well as Pinto. Look for an article in Thursday's paper. In the meantime, here's Dyke's letter:
An Open Letter to Halifax Arts Patrons
I am a touring artist, who has felt nothing other than welcome and support in your beautiful and cultured city. Welcome and support from your artists and audiences, from the local businesses and the media. So it pains me very much to say that I would tell other touring artists that they would be best to avoid your Fringe Festival, and that I would not wish my experience with the current Atlantic Fringe Festival director on anyone.
I am from the East Coast myself, and love the other CAFF (Canadian Association of Fringe Festivals) festivals I have been a part of, so I jumped at a chance to bring my show to Halifax. I certainly hope that the patrons who were left waiting outside the box office for an hour and a half on Sunday past, and others who have shown up to shows only to discover that they were cancelled without any updates to the website, the 1-800 line, or even signs on the door won't be upset with the artists themselves. We have no control over many of these variables and, in fact, pay a fee that is intended to cover things like box office and marketing. When I tried to ask the festival director why these things weren't being taken care of, I was told that I was rude to ask, that my complaints were unimportant and that I didn't matter. I am ashamed that this is the way the East Coast allows touring artists to be treated, and understand why other touring artists warned me strongly against participating in this Fringe.
Halifax, you have a vibrant and friendly arts culture, and your city and its Fringe deserve to attract national and international acts from all over, like the other festivals associated with CAFF. You need only compare your Fringe's lineup to any other Fringe in the past couple of years to understand what you are missing out on. (Try Saskatoon, Victoria or Orlando for comparable city size, or length of time running.)This is a loss due largely to the unprofessionalism and rudeness of your festival director.
When the festival director told me that my complaints didn't matter, he was correct in a way. My problems as an artist simply mean I won't return, and will warn others against coming to the Fringe here, like others tried to warn me. It's really you, the audience, who are being cheated out of the wonderful nature of Fringe everywhere else in the world, where you can see a little bit of something from everywhere. It breaks my heart to say that I have filed a formal complaint with CAFF recommending that they remove their affiliation with this festival, at least while the current festival director is involved. I suggest that if you want touring acts to return to your city, you send them a letter as well - firstname.lastname@example.org.
With love and regret,
Complaints aside, there are two days left of Fringe: if you haven't seen anything yet, do so. There's some fantastic productions. Kate Watson has boldly reviewed every play for this column. Times here.