This month at the Ottawa Fringe Festival, audiences hold the fates of four circus members-turned-pirates in their hands.

In their first time at the Ottawa Fringe Festival, local group the Counterpoint Players will be mounting Pirate Jenny’s Circus, a tragicomic musical “about a circus that’s on the down and outs,” said director Bronwyn Steinberg.

Where they end up will be up to the audience at each performance, said Steinberg.

Pirates, a little girl afraid of the dark, a man who waits for a train that never stops and a tribute to comedic actor Judy Holliday are just some of the shows featured at the 13th annual festival.

Held June 18 to 28, the event features 57 acts in 13 venues over 10 days.

“There is pretty much guaranteed something that you’re going to like,” said Ottawa Fringe Festival executive producer Kevin Waghorn.

“Performers are interested because it gets their work out there and seen, and they get to be part of the community,” he said.

“This is a great opportunity for emerging artists,” said Steinberg. “It’s a safe and exciting place to stretch your wings artistically.”

The festival also allows performers to tap audiences who are open, creatively, said Pirate Jenny’s Circus actor Gabrielle Lalonde. “And it gives us the chance to try new things.”

Once again, Fringe has used a lottery system for entries, said show spokeswoman Catriona Leger. “You never know what you’re going to get.”

While over half the spaces have been reserved for local performers, the event also features national and international acts.

It’s a myth that because something is local, it can’t be as good as something that is far away, said local director and actor Teri Rata Loretto. “The Ottawa-Gatineau theatre scene is alive and vibrant.”

While Twitter and Facebook users will be able to watch interviews with artists and previews and post reviews, out-and-about types can mingle with fellow festivalgoers and performers at the festival’s courtyard. Events include a kingdom mixer, a karaoke night, the kingdom ball and the Fringe Has Got Talent talent show.

The Ottawa festival is rapidly becoming known as one of the best-run festivals of its kind in the country, said local actor Kris Joseph.

“Between Magnetic North starting this week and Fringefest right on its heels, there is a great deal of important national theatre coming.”

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