Consent questions raised after Fringe Festival Late-Night Cabaret incident

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A variety show at the Edmonton Fringe Festival has come under fire for an incident Wednesday night that prompted complaints and criticism.

The Late Night Cabaret is described on the festival website as variety show that features performers, guests and a house band. The cabaret show is rated as adult and includes a warning about nudity and adult language. 

At Wednesday’s performance, an artist invited an audience member up on stage “and as part of the scene began to remove an article of their clothing,” the festival said Thursday in a news release.

“Immediately recognizing that proper consent was not given, contact was stopped, the artist acknowledged the error, and the artist and patron left the stage.”

The artist immediately apologized to the patron, the festival said. Police were called, the festival said, and after getting witness statements from the parties involved decided that no charges were warranted.

Vikki Wiercinski was in the audience Wednesday night and took to social media afterwards to raise concerns about the show.

In a tweet, Wiercinski said a member of the audience was undressed on stage “with zero consent.”

She said a discussion was held before the show about creating a “safe space” in line with the festival’s policy.

The policy includes a lengthy section that defines consent as “a voluntary, ongoing, active, and conscious agreement to engage in the activity in question.”

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The policy directs all “fringers” to practice “active consent when engaging in activities of a sexual nature.”

In a statement, festival executive director Adam Mitchell said Wednesday’s incident is a reminder of why the safer spaces policy is important.

The poster wall at the Fringe Festival includes an ad for the Late Night Cabaret. (CBC)

“We are committed to supporting this patron in every way we can and will continue to take an active role in maintaining a safe space for everyone taking part in the festival,” Mitchell said.

The 2019 Fringe Festival cited the safer spaces policy as the reason it cancelled a play written by David Belke, who had been found guilty of child pornography possession in 2017.



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