Friday, September 08, 2023

Seeking Writers and Actors for Biweekly Playwriting Group

Our summer break is behind us, the season of autumn means it's time to start meeting and germinating new plays again.

Want to give yourself a deadline for playwriting on a regular basis? 
Want to help develop new plays and read new work?  

We might have a writing group for you.

This is a playwriting group that meets biweekly on Mondays, ongoing now, starting up again next Monday 9/11 and continuing through May of 2024, before our next summer break begins.

During the beginning of the pandemic, we shifted to an online platform to continue meeting.  Last fall we started experimenting with a hybrid format, those comfortable with meeting in person gathering in one another’s homes, and those who prefer or need to remain online joining the rest through our online meeting room.  (We've learned to roll with technical difficulties :)

As seasons change, we go looking for new blood to join those already in the group, since both actors and writers tend to get busy in cycles sometimes and we like to have a regular core of people to keep the meetings well-attended and useful.

Material to be read could be scenes, could be an act, could be an entire draft of a whole play. We also throw out a writing challenge, just in case people want to sharpen their teeth (or pencils, or keyboards?) on something random, or use it to help jumpstart them past writer's block.

We invite actor friends in to help us read (hence the call for actors as well as writers). All are welcome to offer constructive feedback - it's neither supposed to be a lovefest nor a feeding frenzy. We're here to get better, but also to support one another. The idea is to get better collectively, rather than at one another's expense. It's not a place for fragile egos or manufactured personal drama (drama on the page only, please).

Monday Group Manifesto

Six Things We Consider Important About The Group and How It Runs

-Monday Group will invite actors to attend meetings and read most roles. Matthew will be the point dude for inviting actors, but all members should feel free to invite actors if they want someone specific to read.

-Monday Group is and will remain a group of playwrights. While the focus is on writing plays, members may bring any work that can be performed. Long pieces of prose are not appropriate.

-Monday Group members will aim to bring work to every meeting they can attend. Group members who are not pursuing individual projects can do a writing challenge, designed by the host of the next meeting. Group members are, however, not to waste any time beating themselves up if they cannot always meet this goal.

-Monday Group will hold to the Roundtable guidelines for feedback, by beginning the discussion with positive remarks and moving on to offer constructive, specific criticism.

-Monday Group will recruit new members on a mentor system. If you have a candidate for a new group member, after ascertaining the candidate's interest, check in with the group about the person. If the group agrees, bring the new person to a meeting and be willing to serve as their guide.

-Monday Group is about supporting each other in our growth as writers. We want to be, and recruit, writers who can learn from each other's work, and who do work that is inspiring.

So if you’re interested in sitting in on a meeting to see if it's the kind of thing that could help your own creative process, reach out to Matthew online (blog, facebook, twitter, instagram, etc.) or via matthewaeverett268 AT gmail DOT com


Sunday, August 13, 2023

Fringe 2023 - Day Eleven Schedule

We made it!  Here's the rundown for my Fringe Sunday (closing day) and links to the reasons why:  

1pm - Boy Crazy - my returning favorite write-up on Madde Gibba




2:30pm - Fargo Allegro - my returning favorite write-up on Heather Meyer






4pm - Against The Odds: Rachel Carson and the Writing of Silent Spring

“Nothing I could do would be more important.” Carson overcame obstacles that would have stopped most of us. She persevered to write Silent Spring and become the “Mother of the Modern Environmental Movement."

Venue: Augsburg Studio
Tagged for: Drama, Solo Show, Spoken Word, Storytelling, Historical Content, Political Content, Audience Participation
Content Warnings: None

One of a couple of solo shows which were very last-minute additions to the festival, this one from Fringe storytelling regular Katie Knutson.

5:30pm - New Origins: Beauty and the Beast

Explore the story before the fairy tale. Learn the true origins of how the Prince became the Beast. Journey with Belle as she navigates her feelings, and deals with a jealous sister that results in tragedy.

Venue: Rarig Center Thrust
Tagged for: Musical Theater
Content Warnings: None

Heard some good things about this one around the festival. Also, I previously missed that Kaz Fawkes is involved in this one. They've done a couple of great turns for Threshold Theater in our new play reading series in the past couple of years, so I'd like to be supportive in return.

7pm - Too Many Notes (yup, one last time, the 5th solo show in this lineup) - my returning favorite write-up on Maximum Verbosity





8:30pm - Dolly Who? - #7 on my Top 10 list this year

Then off to Fringe Central for the closing night celebration and Golden Lanyard Awards.

Here's some handy links to a rundown of 5 and 4.5 Star shows I've seen this year, also the 4 and 3.5 Star shows, and the rest, plus this year's Top 10 list, and Top 11-20 List, and the full list of all returning favorites in the 2023 Fringe, plus a link to all the 2023 Minnesota Fringe Festival coverage.



Fringe 2023 - 5 and 4.5 Star Show Rundown

Here's a rundown of all the 5 Star and 4.5 Star shows I've seen so far in the Minnesota Fringe Festival this year, all come Very Highly Recommended:

5 Stars

Chris Davis Does Stuff

tweet review - #mnfringe show 11 - Chris Davis Does Stuff/Just Black Enough: skewering stereotypes and semantics, banning books improv-style, deconstructing which lives matter and the unfortunate naming of buildings, Davis' comedy may be laid back but it still hits all its targets - 5 stars

Full review here.

Climbing My Family Tree

tweet review - #mnfringe show 3: Climbing My Family Tree, so good to finally see this show live and not just online; Les' quest to find the forgotten branches of his family tree (and of course their wild stories) is even better in person; wouldn't be a proper Fringe without him - 5 stars

Full review here.



Everything Bagel

tweet review - #mnfringe show 9 - Everything Bagel: hearing spoken word this good from Michael Shaeffer again made the 15 year hiatus just blink away; the words and pop culture references and jokes just dance and bounce off the walls; deliriously fun; great stuff - 5 stars



Fire In My Veins: Blazing Through Life With Invisible Illness

tweet review - #mnfringe show 13 - Fire In My Veins: Blazing Through Life With Invisible Illness: Allison Broeren is a marvel; either 90 min. version (Thurs) or 60 min. version (M/W/F), you should see this; frank, funny, eye-opening, brilliant, best of the fest - 5 stars

Full review here

5-Step Guide To Being German

tweet review - #mnfringe show 35 - 5-Step Guide To Being German: biggest audience I've seen at a Fringe show this year, and Paco Erhard really worked that crowd, skewering German and American culture, us, and himself; smart and hilarious - 5 stars

4 Bisexuals and 2 Guys Named John Kill Dracula

tweet review -  #mnfringe show 24 - 4 Bisexuals and 2 Guys Named John Kill Dracula: among many other things, the horniest and most ridiculous use of garlic bread I have ever seen; joyful, sexy, hilarious, from the web of relationships down to the scene changes; great fun, no notes - 5 stars

Favorite #mnfringe quote of the night: staff member at Rarig Arena calling out to people approaching the box office, “Are you here to see 4 Bisexuals?”
Full review here.
tweet review - #mnfringe show 31 - Funny, Like An Abortion: (yikes, like I wasn't already mortally afraid for my goddaughter) sharp darkly funny script, well-acted, with current events updates to remind us that government control of women's bodies is quickly becoming our reality - 5 stars

Ha Ha Da Vinci

tweet review -#mnfringe show 23 - Ha Ha Da Vinci: if someone asked me what a great Fringe show in its purest form looked like, it'd be something a lot like this; music, magic, puppets, humor, whimsy, silliness, song, talented performer; Phina Pipia just nails it - 5 stars

Full review here

H.G. Wells' The Invisible Man

tweet review - #mnfringe show 28 - H.G. Wells' The Invisible Man: a madcap 4-person marathon, tongue firmly in cheek; homage to classic Hollywood monster movies full of fun stage tricks and physical comedy; I kind of can't wait to see what all these artists do next - 5 stars

Full review here.

Kill B: The Epilogue

tweet review - #mnfringe show 36 - Kill B: The Epilogue - brilliant riff delivering on an open question from the Kill Bill movies of 20 years ago; lively fights; perfect balance of humor and drama, fun callbacks, with a queer twist to top it off; very nicely done - 5 stars

Lost In Bear County: Birth, God, Death...and the Bearenstain Bears

tweet review - #mnfringe show 29 - Lost In Bear Country: Birth, God, Death...and the Bearenstain Bears; high-energy verbal whirlwind of a show, randomized by the spin of a wheel; topics this time: God, Sports, Race, sprinklings of autobiography; funny and serious at the same time - 5 stars


Monster Science's Greatest Hits

tweet review - #mnfringe show 25 - is it a surprise that Monster Science's Greatest Hits is a good show? (not in the slightest); this peek into old Hollywood and the woman (uncredited for decades) who designed the Creature From The Black Lagoon was both fascinating and entertaining - 5 stars

Full review here.

 My Only Hope For A Hero

tweet review - #mnfringe show 5 - My Only Hope For A Hero: Duck Washington is a stronger, braver and more articulate man than I; this solo show about finding heroes in popular culture, everyday life, and the home you grew up in is funny and moving in equal measure; great stuff - 5 stars

Full review here.


The Place I Return To

tweet review - #mnfringe show 15 - The Place I Return To: fascinating, detailed look at depression (and making it to the other side) from young artist who journaled and wrote poetry in the moment to capture the experience; well worth 45 min. of your time; very highly recommend - 5 stars

Full review here.

Reincarnation Soup

tweet review - #mnfringe show 1: Reincarnation Soup, beautifully rendered tapestry of the past lives of a human across Vietnamese history and culture as they wait in line for their next life to begin; first rate acting and writing, perfect way to start my Fringe - 5 stars

Full review here.

The Resilient Child

tweet review - #mnfringe show 30 - The Resilient Child: well worth it for Denzel Belin and Katie Starks' storytelling alone, but there's so much more besides to recommend this show, including 3 very poised kids also taking the spotlight, songs and more - 5 stars (I'm not a monster :)

Too Many Notes

tweet review - #mnfringe show 8 - Too Many Notes: never too many words for me from phillip andrew bennett low; this time it was the hilarious, borderline sacrilegious Santa/Christ narrative, but every show is different; each a greatest hit well worth revisiting, and I shall - 5 stars

tweet review 2 - #mnfringe show 17 - Too Many Notes: (yes, again), this time The Concept of Anxiety, a trippy rollercoaster of words about (among other things) a guy trying to wrestle a multiverse of his life into a storyline he likes, and failing spectacularly; mind-blowing fun - 5 stars

tweet review 3 - #mnfringe show 27 - Too Many Notes (yes, again - the guy tells a good story): this time, The Gray And The Gold - a wanderer alone on a vast desert landscape, a talking coyote, a rescue mission that may or may not be too late, and some very chatty zombies - 5 stars

tweet review 4 - #mnfringe show 41 - Too Many Notes: this time, On The Concept of Irony (With No Reference To Socrates); nice to see this story trio live instead of just online, though we still got a lot of great video backgrounding the performance (including, yes, puppies) - 5 stars

The Very Model of a Modern Monster Scientist

tweet review - #mnfringe show 18 - Very Model of a Modern Monster Scientist - Rev. Matt Kessen and new assistant Elora Riley make this look easy but taking your singular, exhaustively researched obsession w/monsters and turning it into something entertaining/hilarious is hard; kudos! - 5 stars

Full review here

We Can Wish: A Beatboxing and Music Variety Show

tweet review - #mnfringe show 43 - We Can Wish: A Beatboxing and Music Variety Show; fully prepared for this not to work for me at all; Luke Skippy Harbur pushes past my cringe reflex, forming genuine connection to the audience by being so open about himself; that's quite a gift - 5 stars

 The Windblown Cheeks of Lovers

tweet review - #mnfringe show 12 - The Windblown Cheeks of Lovers: inspired lunacy; a non-existent horny TV miniseries from the 1980s through several lenses: family TV time, documentary interviews, behind the scenes footage, and the series itself; just 3 people, live onstage; nuts! - 5 stars

Full review here.

4.5 Stars


tweet review - #mnfringe show 2: Allegro, freakishly great integration of sound and performance; art about artists normally leaves me cold but this demonstrated the power of the music while still remaining human and funny and willing to admit that people are sometimes jerks - 4.5 stars

Full review here.

 Baldwin's Last Fire

tweet review - #mnfringe show 4: Baldwin's Last Fire, delivers on premise of conjuring James Baldwin onstage then setting him on the case of kidnapped/murdered black children in a small French town; Baldwin might even be too big for a Fringe-sized tale but it's a lot of fun to watch - 4.5 stars

Full review here 

Butts In Seats: How to Get People to Attend Your Shakespeare Production by Having Musical Settings for the Lyrics in His Plays. Numerous Examples Included.

tweet review - #mnfringe show 47 - Butts In Seats (long subtitle about music in Shakespeare plays): part concert, part discussion about creative process of setting Shakespeare lyrics and soliloquies to music, both parts intriguing and entertaining; lot of talent gathered here - 4.5 stars



Let Me Say This About That

tweet review - #mnfringe show 20 - Let Me Say This About That: watching good improvisors at work is so much fun; Raffi Jarvis, Heather Meyer and Danna Sheridan play so well off each other creating 3 different fake podcasts and ad breaks from list of audience suggestions - 4.5 stars


Open Mic at the Dream Shop

tweet review - #mnfringe show 22 - Open Mic At The Dream Shop: just what the title says, a neighborhood open mic transplanted into the context of the Fringe; poets, hip hop and spoken word artists leave it all onstage using language and beats to process a lot of emotion - 4.5 stars

Full review here.

20,000 Leagues Under The Telltale Heart

tweet review - #mnfringe show 7 - 20,000 Leagues Under The Telltale Heart: delightful theme song/dance number; killer concept, well-executed; scene-stealing crow puppet narrator and foley artist; not sure how I feel about the queer-baiting but... solid improv, a lot of fun - 4.5 stars

Full review here

When You Hear The Chime

tweet review - #mnfringe show 42 - When You Hear The Chime: charming two-person storytelling exercise; adults pretending to be kids playing dress-up worked better than I thought; grief content needed a bit more room to breathe, or maybe stories that fed into/countered it better - 4.5 stars

Write Me Letters

tweet review - #mnfringe show 46 - Write Me Letters: original musical from 1st time producer/composer/performer Noah Gundermann; great showcase for him and co-star Grace Czywczynski; grandma/grandson correspondence; wanted more character/details but great start - 4.5 stars

Here's some handy links to a rundown of 5 and 4.5 Star shows I've seen this year, also the 4 and 3.5 Star shows, and the rest, plus this year's Top 10 list, and Top 11-20 List, and the full list of all returning favorites in the 2023 Fringe, plus a link to all the 2023 Minnesota Fringe Festival coverage.



Fringe 2023 - 4 and 3.5 Star Show Rundown

Here's a rundown of all the 4 Star and 3.5 Star shows I've seen so far in the Minnesota Fringe Festival this year, all come Highly Recommended:

4 Stars

A Jingle Jangle Morning

tweet review - #mnfringe show 21 - A Jingle Jangle Morning: puppets, flying saucers, ingenious use of cardboard set pieces; young girl accidentally transported to alien planet during theft of the moon; inventive, highly-stylized kids tale stops just short of transcending its genre - 4 stars

Phoenix Presents: How To Kill A Horse

tweet review - #mnfringe show 39 - Phoenix Presents: How To Kill A Horse; breathless, exhaustive, original one-man musical on the title task; inventive use of slides and different methods of song and storytelling; swindlers/killers all start to blend together but solid first stab - 4 stars



Phoenix Presents: Slices

tweet review - #mnfringe show 38 - Phoenix Presents: Slices; quartet of well-acted monologues crafted skillfully by Clay McLeod Chapman which get unexpectedly, progressively grimmer; bizarre but detailed examination of darker side of humanity; and... your point...? - 4 stars


Starved: The Astonishing True Story of the University of Minnesota Starvation Experiment

tweet review - #mnfringe show 37 - Starved (and its enormous subtitle): crams as much into 1 hr as it can about true story UofM starvation experiment; well done sketch of larger story; needs more time than Fringe offers to flesh out characters and emotional resonance - 4 stars


Uncle Walt

tweet review - #mnfringe show 40 - Uncle Walt: the disembodied head of Walt Disney turns 2 brothers against each other so he can get a new body out of one of them and regain his empire; no, really, that's the plot; pitch black comedy, well executed (no pun intended) - 4 stars

What If We Hugged?

tweet review - #mnfringe show 10 - What If We Hugged?: Levi Weinhagen tells 2 tales of trying to understand what his body is telling him, the birth of his daughter, and his own heart surgery, knit together with improvised commercial breaks; more parts than 1 whole, but getting there - 4 stars

Full review here.


Yes No Maybe (please explain)

tweet review - #mnfringe show 26 - Yes No Maybe (please explain): charming, funny and heartfelt exploration of a woman's high school years and first love, prompted by a mountain of old handwritten notes and a singing/dancing/videotaping chorus of her subconscious - 4 stars


3.5 Stars


tweet review - #mnfringe show 44 - Behemoth: appreciate the experimentation with time; may have just reached my "dead parent" limit this Fringe; strategies for dealing w/terminal diagnosis seemed more grounded in plot structure than emotional reality; close; another draft? - 3.5 stars

Breakneck Midsummer Night's Dream

tweet review - #mnfringe show 32 - Breakneck Midsummer Night's Dream: admire Tim Mooney's work, but Shakespeare's clowns are not my favorite (YMMV), and that's half this show; that plus all the chemically-altered, non-consensual love antics; hard for me to enjoy this script anymore - 3.5 stars



tweet review - #mnfringe show 33 - Coyfish: college student strikes up online relationship with trans person still on journey to full awakening; awkward, rushed; good intentions but needs more than Fringe show run time for depth and not to feel like a gimmick - 3.5 stars



Two Stars In The Vast Dark

tweet review - #mnfringe show 6 - Two Stars In The Vast Dark: haven't quite figured out what's going on in this whimsical sci-fi musical/concept album yet; performers are amusing; if you like the The Mountain Goats sound, you'll love it; if you don't, could be a long 45 minutes - 3.5 stars

Full review here.


Here's some handy links to a rundown of 5 and 4.5 Star shows I've seen this year, also the 4 and 3.5 Star shows, and the rest, plus this year's Top 10 list, and Top 11-20 List, and the full list of all returning favorites in the 2023 Fringe, plus a link to all the 2023 Minnesota Fringe Festival coverage.

Fringe 2023 - Other Shows I've Seen

Here's a rundown of all the shows rating 3 Stars or less which I've seen so far in the Minnesota Fringe Festival this year.  I'd recommend seeing the 5 and 4.5 star shows, or the 4 or 3.5 star shows on my list first, but after you've hit all those, check and see if these shows sound like they might be your thing, even though they weren't for me:

3 Stars

Audacious Ignatius: Lost In Atlantis

tweet review - #mnfringe show 14 - Audacious Ignatius: Lost In Atlantis: big fan of performer/his solo show last year; this one feels a draft away from being done, can almost see the play it's trying to be; he's interested in the subject, not sure why I should be; but still good - 3 stars

Dock Work

tweet review - #mnfringe show 16 - Dock Work: dance/scripted/hard rock show work in progress about unions/organizing; each part OK but the 3 parts of the show don't really gel with each other so it doesn't really add up to a single cohesive show or message; lot of talent onstage - 3 stars

Jonah and Joanna...and the Great Big Fish

tweet review - #mnfringe show 34 - Jonah and Joanna...and the Great Big Fish - retelling of Jonah and the "whale" with significant mid-show detour into a tribute to all the MN sports teams(?); Cooney is an enthusiastic storyteller; could have used less sports, more theology - 3 stars


2.5 Stars

Choose Your Own Fringe Adventure

tweet review - #mnfringe show 45 - Choose Your Own Fringe Adventure: performers needed more time together to improv as a team before this; lot of floundering around inside the agreed upon plot points/audience choice moments; overall structure didn't lead to anything; puzzling - 2.5 stars


tweet review - #mnfringe show 19 - Primary: (oof) hard to say what went wrong here; words of the play seem smart/funny, though perhaps cramming too much in 1 hr?; acting, directing, staging all just feel off in execution; talent here, but not a lot of collaboration - 2.5 stars



Here's some handy links to a rundown of 5 and 4.5 Star shows I've seen this year, also the 4 and 3.5 Star shows, and the rest, plus this year's Top 10 list, and Top 11-20 List, and the full list of all returning favorites in the 2023 Fringe, plus a link to all the 2023 Minnesota Fringe Festival coverage.