Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Fringe 2005 - TV Guest #8 - Rik Reppe

Monday, June 20, 2005 - 12noon

And what better way to follow being recorded just hanging out with Leah, than to be recorded just hanging out with Rik Reppe?

Based on a tip from those in the know back in 2003, I put Rik and his one man 9/11 storytelling odyssey Staggering Toward America on my first top ten list for my first year blogging (under the banner, If You Held A Gun To My Head...and I Could Only See Ten Fringe Shows, What Would They Be, and Why?) [and just like last year, the gun is returning to my temple - I'm just waiting for the Fringe site to go live to get started making the tough decisions...]

We exchanged emails, Rik and I, and when he got into town from L.A., we hung out at the Anodyne, one of my favorite coffeehouses, and I learned a little about how Rik manages to get these amazing stories out of people wherever he goes in his travels - the guy likes nothing better than to have a conversation. And not just small talk, real talk. It's so easy and relaxed, you don't even know you're doing it until you're in the middle of it all, and you realize, "Hey, I just met this guy."

Maybe he's right. Maybe the old cliche is true and it is easier to open up to a stranger, particularly one who you figure you're never going to see again, as most of his subjects do.

But I think Rik's not giving himself quite enough credit. Just like that other great story collector, Studs Turkel, it takes a particular kind of person to set another person at ease and get them to open up in conversation.

And boy, what Rik can do with the stories he hears.

His latest creation, Glorious Noise, may not be about 9/11, but it's every bit as powerful and compelling as Staggering Toward America.

We got all set up to record Rik's performance, did a sound check of the highs and lows in volume (which offered a couple of tantalizing hints of what was to come, and then Rik sat down on the stool, we got the countdown and...


He told the story only once, with a song at the end of it, and we all had to pick our metaphorical jaws up off the floor when he was done.

When it was over, there was a little more silence than we normally have taking us out of the moment.

Then Carol gave us the all clear over the god mic, and walked into the studio applauding Rik.

She never does that.

She tells everybody they're good - when they are - and when we need to do it again to pick something up. But that's the first time I've ever seen her take the time clap for someone in the middle of a hectic day of taping.

(Knowing Rik and his work, I wasn't surprised he might get that response. But it was fun to see him gain another fan right there on the spot)

By the way, this is not the Red State/Blue State thing that was announced at the lottery. Funny, but both Rik and David Mann, who were each planning their own one-man meditations on the divided state of the electorate, decided early on that the idea was too simple, and would already be long ago played-out by the time August 2005 rolled around. The state of the country, its leaders and the world would be addressed more obliquely, in a completely different fashion by them both.

Glorious Noise is about people's favorite songs - and how those songs are tied to either their greatest joy or their greatest pain. If the story we heard in studio is any indication, this is going to be an amazing bunch of stories.

After a couple of extra shots to give Carol some options in the editing booth, we switched over to conversation mode and that was just a breeze. Some guests you can just ask a question, and set 'em loose. Rik's one of those guests.

And, bless him, I can sometimes make him laugh. And it is a hearty, room-filling, joyous laugh. Does a person good to think they can elicit that kind of a response from another human being every now and again.

The moral of the story: see Glorious Noise. Those of you who saw Staggering Toward America know what I'm talking about. Those of you who didn't have the good fortune to see it, don't miss this one.

The man deserves to have as many sold-out houses as the Fringe can provide.

Oh, and the happy ending to the story is that Rik liked Minneapolis and the Fringe so much back in 2003, he moved here this year. So we'll hopefully get the pleasure of his company and his work on stage year round, or at least we won't have to wait another two years before he'll be telling us stories again.

He was my Mom's favorite performer back in 2003, and so Rik's definitely on the list of opening weekend events for Mom's four day Fringe binge at the start of the festival this year. It's either a late Mother's Day/birthday gift, or an early start on Christmas for the theater junkie who raised me.

The tricky part of editing the TV show sometimes is that we don't quite have enough material, or at least enough good material. With Rik, of course, we have the opposite problem. Where the heck do you cut into or out of that story in progress? or that song? or the converation afterward? I know Carol will pull it off in fine style, given the raw material she has to work with, but I'm glad I don't have to make that decision.

Rik Reppe
Glorious Noise
Loring Playhouse
1633 Hennepin Avenue
Fri 8/5, 8:30 pm
Mon 8/8, 7:00 pm
Thu 8/11, 10:00 pm
Sat 8/13, 7:00 pm
Sun 8/14, 2:30 pm

For more on Rik and his performances, visit www.reppe.com

For my love letter to Staggering Toward America in 2003's Fringe, click here.

(For more of my writing - plays, past blog entries and more - visit www.matthewaeverett.com)

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