Intrepid Theatre Company Society was founded in November, 1986 to produce the Victoria Fringe Theatre Festival. Now in its 29th year, the Victoria Fringe is one of the oldest in Canada and a founding member of the Canadian Association of Fringe Festivals (CAFF).
In 1996, Intrepid Theatre added a second winter festival - the Focus on Women Arts Festival, an interdisciplinary performance and visual art event which ran for two seasons. In 1998, it was replaced by the Uno Festival of Solo Performance, now North America's longest-running solo performance festival.
September 25-27, 1987, Intrepid Theatre produced the first Victoria Fringe Theatre Festival (aka "Fringe Benefits") in three temporary venues in the Old Towne area of downtown Victoria BC. Featuring 22 companies in 60 performances, the festival participants were selected on a first-received, first-accepted basis and representative of the established alternative and independent theatre companies in Victoria at the time, including Puente Theatre, Fend Players Society, and Theatre Inconnu. Edmonton Fringe veterans Three Dead Trolls in a Baggie were among the first out-of-town companies to participate in the Fringe, paving the way for future touring participants.
Under the producership of founder Randy Smith, with GM Dave Venoit and co-founder Julia Meynard, the festival grew to a ten-day, five venue event over five years, featuring avery strong international roster which included Inside Out Theatre, Sensible Footwear, English Suitcase Theatre Co (UK), Moscow Theatre Igroky's Animal Farm (USSR), and Shane McCabe's No Place Like Home" (USA). Victoria's large ex-pat British community fully embraced the Fringe from the early days, welcoming the opportunity to see touring work and creating sizeable fan-bases for returning UK companies.
After five years at the helm, Randy Smith and General Manager Michael MacLennan left Intrepid Theatre to pursue other projects. Tammy Isaacson was hired as Producer, followed by Stephen White in 1993, Ros Smith in 1998, and Janet Munsil in 2000 (the company's General Manager since MacLennan's departure in 1991). Heather Lindsay is the current General Manager.
25th Anniversary to Present
The Victoria Fringe celebrated its 25th anniversary in 2011 - the fourth-oldest Fringe in Canada. It has remained a mid-sized festival (with 50-60 participating companies annually) with an annual attendance of 20-25,000. Of particular interest is the support for and from companies from Japan, who regularly present work in Victoria's fringe to enthusiastic English and Japanese-speaking audiences.
In the mid-90s, under the producership of Stephen White, Intrepid Theatre produced a handful of contemporary plays including Charles Tidler's Fabulous Yellow Roman Candle and The Sex Change Artist, and David Drake's The Night Larry Kramer Kissed Me (performed by Stephen White and directed by Janet Munsil.) Venues included Open Space Gallery and Theatre Inconnu in Market Square.
Having used an unfinished retail space on the 4th floor of the Victoria Eaton Centre as a temporary festival venue for the Fringe Festival and Focus on Women, Intrepid Theatre approached the Cadillac Fairview Corp. to use the space as a year-round venue in 1995. For two years, Intrepid Theatre operated The Planet Theatre, outfitting the space with 99 chairs and technical equipment, and making it available for community rentals in addition to festival programming. The venue closed in late 1998 when the fire inspector noted that the all-concrete studio space had no sprinkler system or fire separation for the stage area, and it was subsequently leased to a computer training school.
The closure of The Planet Theatre was one of several venue closures around this time, including the Theatre Inconnu in Market Square, and Kaleidoscope Theatre's 290-seat venue on Herald Street, which had a short-lived revival as the privately-owned Herald Street for the Arts, before closing permanently in 200- (?)
In 2005, Intrepid Theatre identified the need for small theatre venues as a major factor affecting the sustainability of its festivals and the health of Victoria's independent theatre scene, which by this point had dwindled significantly. Between 1999-2001, an average of three Victoria-based companies were applying to the Fringe annually, failing to fill the 50% local regional quota held for them (the definition of "local" was expanded to encompass all of BC).
Within a year of identifying this need, the opportunity for Intrepid Theatre to develop the "Metropolitan Hall" gymnasium at the Victoria Conservatory of Music in downtown Victoria arose, and within months, a successful capital campaign and in-kind donations of equipment resulted in the Metro Studio opening to the public. (Date?)