Friday, November 11, 2022

Review - Tales From The Fiefdom - Gnarly Bard Theater Company - Talented Group In Need of Better Story - 3 stars


It’s been challenging trying to figure out the best way to talk about Gnarly Bard Theater Company and their current new musical theater offering, “Tales From The Fiefdom.”  It’s challenging because everyone involved in the production is really talented, but the story structure of the musical isn’t giving them much to work with.

“Tales From The Fiefdom” is a collection of a dozen songs in wildly different musical styles, which really shows off the range and craft of Bubba Holly and Louie Opatz who wrote the musical.  The lyrics are clever, the tunes are very catchy.  Director Mike Mellas stages the whole production skillfully and keeps the pace moving right along, making good use of the ensemble cast and the Crane Theater space.  Lighting designer Noah Davis backs Mellas up by creating multiple locations and moods on the largely bare stage just by varying the amount and intensity of illumination. And property masters Jerry McMurray and Brittany Miller not only outfit the central location of the apothecary shop with a lot of fun details, we get some genuine prop comedy laughs - like the knight whose sword gets bigger, and bigger, and BIGGER every time he reappears onstage after disappearing ever so briefly for a line or two during a song. With all that, plus the sheer number of characters seven of the cast members need to play in just an hour and a half, sometimes with elaborate costume changes, stage manager Meghan Gunderson ably keeps all those balls in the air throughout.  The stagecraft on everyone’s part here is unquestioned.

(Even the poster artist made a big splash.  Apologies for not being able to find their name online, I should have made a note of it in the lobby.  The artist for the poster created a whole gallery filling the lobby with frames full of large colorful art inspired by the show in the same style as the primary poster image. Stunning work.)

“Tales From The Fiefdom” wants to be a slice of medieval life. Nicole Wilder as the apothecary is the only member of the cast who remains the same character from start to finish.  Everyone else in the ensemble (Madison Fairbanks, Meri Golden, Bubba Hollenhorst, Ryan Huxford, Megan Kim, Clare Rollinger, and Haley Sisler-Neuman) each plays a whole grab bag of roles - peasants, knights, priests, bartenders, witches, horses, you name it.  Everyone has to be ready to switch gears from one scene to the next and they do it all at full throttle.  Their energy appears boundless and their ability to create a host of different characters with just a costume change (sometimes fairly simple ones) is pretty impressive.  So why don’t I love this show?  Why isn’t it 5 stars if there’s so much talent being thrown at the wall?

The storytelling handicap here, that the production never quite overcomes, is that there is no single story or plot thread that carries through from the beginning to the end of the play. The basic conceit is that each character passes through the apothecary’s medieval pharmacy, looking for a cure that the apothecary can’t really provide to their largely existential problems.  The one guiding notion of the musical is that life in feudal times really sucked. The closing number is a reprise of the opening number, where the full cast is “just trying to get by.”  So essentially at the end of the show nothing has changed, we’re right back where we started.  Circular plots aren’t necessarily bad.  This one just has the circular part of that equation down but doesn’t really offer much in the way of a plot in between the start and finish.  A plot development or character development is always just on the verge of happening, over and over again, but never does.  I’m not saying you can’t have a successful play or musical that’s made up of simple character vignettes, but they have to add up to something.

The musical also seems to want to have almost every moment three different ways - it wants us to laugh, it wants us to feel, AND it wants us to think - but it doesn’t focus long enough to earn it.  The whole evening seems to be going for a very “Monty Python and the Holy Grail” kind of attitude but it doesn’t fully commit to the bit and go over the top the whole time.  That movie was irreverent and absurd from start to finish, insulted quite literally everyone and everything, and ended up making some clever commentary on things like war, politics and the notion of sanity while it was about it.  “Tales From The Fiefdom” wants you to laugh at the death of children and the conscription of child soldiers in the opening scene, but then also wants you to feel genuinely bad about how terrible the tavern owner’s business is doing (“Another Empty Alehouse”).  Not that her children are dead or in mortal peril, but that her customer base has fallen off. In the very next scene we think we’re getting a funny drunk (problematic as that trope may be) but then we learn the reason he’s getting drunk is because the “Pleasant Peasant” keeps witnessing genocide-level events as he travels the countryside - and his wife and kids are “missing” and his whole town is burned to the ground when he gets home. But don’t worry, these two characters won’t bum you out and ruin the evening because you never see them again. That holds true for almost every other character that’s introduced.  And almost every other plot point that gets rolled out with each new vignette.  Stories don’t end, they just stop.

“Tales From The Fiefdom” mostly stays in period with only the occasional anachronism for a joke in dialogue now and again. But then about three-quarters of the way through it abandons that pretense entirely as well and takes an abrupt left turn into an alternate universe version of the musical “Oklahoma.”  Suddenly, for no good reason, people are dressing and talking like they’re ready for country western night - and singing like it, too. There were genuine howls of laughter from the audience when the daughter in the family sang a stirring power ballad about not wanting to sh*t in a “Bucket” anymore. And then we’re treated to a memorial in song for their horse “Buttercup” who they had to kill for food, followed quickly by a perky little ditty that claims the horse tastes like chicken. But after eating the horse, country western dad isn’t feeling well, so he goes to the apothecary who has both good and bad news for him - he doesn’t have indigestion, he has the “Plague!” Cue the full ensemble upbeat musical number about his imminent death - with a record scratch moment when they mention a vaccine and then have the obligatory sidebar with a science denier and - honestly, too soon.  For all of that.

To be honest, a previous draft of this review ran through all the songs, but I realized it was turning into a plot summary style review, for a show with no discernible plot, and that seemed less than useful.  I did try to keep willing a plot onto the production as I watched it, but “Tales From the Fiefdom” strenuously resists this way to engage the piece so… points for consistency of purpose?  If you go just wanting to see well-staged, really good performances of a string of catchy tunes mostly set in medieval times, you will likely be quite satisfied.  If you go expecting more than that, like me, you will be frustrated.  The creators of “Tales From The Fiefdom” had a reason for doing this, maybe something they wanted to say.  I wish I could tell you what it was.

For what it’s worth, everyone in the audience around me was having a great time.  Not a typical musical theater crowd that night, they didn’t clap after every single song, which sometimes made for awkward silences. But they were definitely there to laugh, and they laughed a lot, more and more as the show went on.

I want to see something else by Gnarly Bard Theater Company.  Because new musicals are hard, and they obviously love them, and do them well.  “Tales From The Fiefdom” gets a better production than it probably deserves here.  I want to see Gnarly Bard get the really good musical it deserves, and watch them knock it out of the park.  For now, “Tales From The Fiefdom” will have to do.

Gnarly Bard Theater’s production of “Tales From The Fiefdom” concludes its run this weekend at the Crane Theater (2303 Kennedy St. NE in Minneapolis) - Friday 11/11 and Saturday 11/12/2022 at 7pm, Sunday 11/13/2022 at 2pm.

3 stars - Recommended

(Poster image courtesy of Gnarly Bard Theater Company)

 

Monday, November 07, 2022

What's With All The Unopposed Judges On The Ballot? (I Learned A Few Things...)

Polls don't vote. News coverage doesn't vote.  People do.  Get out there and make your voice heard.

Last day of early voting is Monday 11/7.  Last day to vote is Election Day on Tuesday 11/8. 

The Minnesota Secretary of State's website has all the information you need to vote, including how to register on the day you vote, if you haven't already gotten yourself registered.  Minnesota makes it so easy to vote, so please do.

The "What's On My Ballot?" tool shows you everyone running for each office that's on your ballot where you live and vote, and if there are candidate websites, it gives you the link to them to learn more about them.  It's amazingly helpful for doing your homework on who to vote for (and who NOT to vote for). 

Now, at least on my Minneapolis ballot, none of the many judges listed on the ballot (over 30 of them?!) had an opponent.  They're all running unopposed.

In the years when there is an opponent, they normally both have campaign websites and it's pretty easy to figure out who the person with a functioning brain and experience is, and who's the whackadoo you don't want anywhere near a position of power and authority.  A quick read and you're good.

I don't feel great voting about someone I know nothing about.

A lot of these judge candidates don't have campaign websites, or if they do have a site, it's just a squatter site from GoDaddy or something, so that they have the URL and some weirdo can't snatch it up and post a bunch of untrue nonsense about them.  Solid move, if not terribly informative.

However, I finally had the idea, "Well, what if I just type 'Judge NAME Minnesota' and see what happens?"

And guess what, apparently the state of Minnesota maintains a website about the judicial system with information on ALL the judges.  So you can see what their education and experience is, and which governor appointed them, etc.  All kinds of info.

Why doesn't the Minnesota Secretary of State website ballot tool link to these like they do other candidate pages?  I figure it's probably because it's another official government website, so it looks like the government is endorsing a candidate, and so they don't want to do that?  I kind of get that logic, but it's a shame, because all the information is super helpful, and very reassuring, even for the judges who were appointed by governors I didn't vote for and pretty strongly disagree with.

I also learned from the judges who did post their own websites, that the governor doesn't just pull judge names out of thin air or anything.  There's a Judicial Selection Panel that makes recommendations to the governor.

Also the judges aren't in for life, they have terms that end and then they need to run for re-election, like a lot of these judges on the ballot are doing now.  So that's reassuring as well.

And some of them have interesting little tidbits like "does community theater" which make them seem a bit more human.

So if, like me, you like to know a bit more about how you're voting for before filling in the oval on the ballot, even if they're just running unopposed anyway, try that "Judge [INSERT NAME] Minnesota" trick with the search engine, and one of the results that pops up will be a page from www.mncourts.gov - and that's the judge's official page with the state government.  Super handy and informative.

Here's some links to the judges I had on my ballot:

Judges with their own personal pages:

Susan Segal, Court of Appeals 7

Tamara Garcia,  4th Judicial District, Court 7

Michael K. Browne,  4th Judicial District, Court 9

Hilary Lindell Caligiuri, 4th Judicial District, Court 41

Paul Scoggin, 4th Judicial District, Court 45, has a facebook page with the usual unfortunate nonsense in the comments (did you have George Soros on your conspiracy theory bingo card? you win!), so I'll also put up his government profile page (there's more info there anyway)

Bruce D. Manning, 4th Judicial District, Court 60

Government Profile Pages for Judges

Supreme Court 3, Associate Judges

Gordon Moore

Natalie Hudson

Court of Appeals

1 - Theodora Karin Gaitas

5 - Louise Dovre Bjorkman

8 - Denise D Reilly

10 - Jennifer L. Frisch

11 - Michelle A. Larkin

16 - Peter M. Reyes, Jr.

17 - Matthew E. Johnson

18 - Jeff Bryan

19 - Francis Connolly

4th District Court

4 - Juan G. Hoyos

8 - Anna Andow

18 - Susan N. Burke

21 - Maximillia Utley

23 - Marta Chou

24 - Nicole A. Engisch

26 - Joseph R. Klein

31 - Rachel C. Hughey

34 - Karen Janisch

36 - Julia Dayton Klein

37 - Carolina A. Lamas

38 - Colette Routel

39 - Laurie J. Miller

46 - Theresa Couri

50 -  Rachna Sullivan

51 -  Laura Thomas

52 -  Terri D. Yellowhammer

62 - Julie Allyn



Why I Voted for Conley for County Commissioner

Polls don't vote. News coverage doesn't vote.  People do.  Get out there and make your voice heard.

Last day of early voting is Monday 11/7.  Last day to vote is Election Day on Tuesday 11/8. 

The Minnesota Secretary of State's website has all the information you need to vote, including how to register on the day you vote, if you haven't already gotten yourself registered.  Minnesota makes it so easy to vote, so please do.

The "What's On My Ballot?" tool shows you everyone running for each office that's on your ballot where you live and vote, and if there are candidate websites, it gives you the link to them to learn more about them.  It's amazingly helpful for doing your homework on who to vote for (and who NOT to vote for). 

So, Conley's an interesting case because... she's running unopposed for re-election.

But thankfully, I reviewed her website and she seems perfectly fine, no red flags, no reasons not to vote for her - her record, her views, her endorsements, it all lines up with what I'm looking for when sorting through candidates.  Another easy vote.



Why I Voted for Fateh and Hassan for Minnesota Senate and House

Polls don't vote. News coverage doesn't vote.  People do.  Get out there and make your voice heard.

Last day of early voting is Monday 11/7.  Last day to vote is Election Day on Tuesday 11/8. 

The Minnesota Secretary of State's website has all the information you need to vote, including how to register on the day you vote, if you haven't already gotten yourself registered.  Minnesota makes it so easy to vote, so please do.

The "What's On My Ballot?" tool shows you everyone running for each office that's on your ballot where you live and vote, and if there are candidate websites, it gives you the link to them to learn more about them.  It's amazingly helpful for doing your homework on who to vote for (and who NOT to vote for).

I voted for Omar Fateh for State Senate and Hodan Hassan for State House in the primary as well.

I looked at their websites, their stands on the issues, and the groups endorsing them, and that sold me.

Neither of their opponents has a website with any information, and what information I could find on them didn't persuade me that they'd be a better choice or more in line with my own views and values, so these were two more easy votes for me.



Why I Voted for Blaha for State Auditor

Polls don't vote. News coverage doesn't vote.  People do.  Get out there and make your voice heard.

Last day of early voting is Monday 11/7.  Last day to vote is Election Day on Tuesday 11/8. 

The Minnesota Secretary of State's website has all the information you need to vote, including how to register on the day you vote, if you haven't already gotten yourself registered.  Minnesota makes it so easy to vote, so please do.

The "What's On My Ballot?" tool shows you everyone running for each office that's on your ballot where you live and vote, and if there are candidate websites, it gives you the link to them to learn more about them.  It's amazingly helpful for doing your homework on who to vote for (and who NOT to vote for). 

First of all, Blaha's already in the job and doing the job.  I voted for her in the primary as well.

She has a background in both labor and education

Her endorsements include labor groups, women's groups, LGBTQ equality groups, and even a pro-marijuana group, which, considering two of her challengers are from two different pro-pot legalization parties, is kinda interesting.

Her other opponent's rational for his candidacy is "vote for me, I'm a businessman and a lawyer" - he thinks he's qualified so that should be enough, right?  No experience in actually doing the job for which he wants your vote so... sorry, dude, hard pass.


Sunday, November 06, 2022

Why I Voted for Witt for County Sheriff

Polls don't vote. News coverage doesn't vote.  People do.  Get out there and make your voice heard.

Last day of early voting is Monday 11/7.  Last day to vote is Election Day on Tuesday 11/8. 

The Minnesota Secretary of State's website has all the information you need to vote, including how to register on the day you vote, if you haven't already gotten yourself registered.  Minnesota makes it so easy to vote, so please do.

The "What's On My Ballot?" tool shows you everyone running for each office that's on your ballot where you live and vote, and if there are candidate websites, it gives you the link to them to learn more about them.  It's amazingly helpful for doing your homework on who to vote for (and who NOT to vote for).

I voted for Dawanna Witt already in the primary.

If it's a choice between a woman and a man in a position of power, I tend to lean toward the woman as a starting point, but Dawanna also had key endorsements that made me think better of her as well.

The Stonewall DFL endorsement is a big one for me, as it is in school board races.

And among the many elected officials who endorsed her, City Council President Andrea Jenkins sticks out as a big plus in my book.

So that is some of the calculus that went into that decision.



My Trick for Voting for School Board Candidates

Polls don't vote. News coverage doesn't vote.  People do.  Get out there and make your voice heard.

Last day of early voting is Monday 11/7.  Last day to vote is Election Day on Tuesday 11/8. 

The Minnesota Secretary of State's website has all the information you need to vote, including how to register on the day you vote, if you haven't already gotten yourself registered.  Minnesota makes it so easy to vote, so please do.

The "What's On My Ballot?" tool shows you everyone running for each office that's on your ballot where you live and vote, and if there are candidate websites, it gives you the link to them to learn more about them.  It's amazingly helpful for doing your homework on who to vote for (and who NOT to vote for).

School board is hard to find information on sometimes.  News coverage can be scant.

So I rely on candidate websites and the one thing I look for is an endorsement from either Stonewall DFL or Outfront MN or both.

If a candidate took to the time to seek out that endorsement, I know they're not some wackadoo candidate who is terrified of trans kids participating in sports or generally unsupportive of queer kids in school.

Since all three of the candidates who had campaign websites got those endorsements, and I could only pick two (and I wasn't going to vote for the fourth candidate about whom there wasn't any information), I went with the two candidates of color - one was a parent of kids in the Minneapolis school system, and the other was a teacher (who also happened to be gay, with husband and dog). Nothing wrong with the white female candidate, she could just as easily also be fine.  My vote just tends to go toward putting more BIPOC faces in positions of power.

So I voted for Kerry Jo Felder and Collin Beachy for the 2 at Large seats on the School Board for which I can vote.

And there was only one candidate on the ballot for the District 3 for me to vote for - Fathia Feerayarre - and she's got the Stonewall DFL endorsement (plus Rep. Ilhan Omar and others), so I felt OK voting for her as well.

Be careful, do your homework, and let's try to keep the crazies off the school board.


Why I Voted for Moriarty for County Attorney

Polls don't vote. News coverage doesn't vote.  People do.  Get out there and make your voice heard.

Last day of early voting is Monday 11/7.  Last day to vote is Election Day on Tuesday 11/8. 

The Minnesota Secretary of State's website has all the information you need to vote, including how to register on the day you vote, if you haven't already gotten yourself registered.  Minnesota makes it so easy to vote, so please do.

The "What's On My Ballot?" tool shows you everyone running for each office that's on your ballot where you live and vote, and if there are candidate websites, it gives you the link to them to learn more about them.  It's amazingly helpful for doing your homework on who to vote for (and who NOT to vote for).

This one is a case of dueling endorsements.

Mary Moriarty, in addition to having a career as a public defender, has endorsements from Attorney General Keith Ellison and Rep. Ilhan Omar, both of whom I voted for and whose opinion I value. (If you feel the opposite way about those two people, then those probably aren't as positive a sign for you as they are for me.) In addition she's got the endorsement of the Minnesota Democratic Party, and organizations supporting the causes of women's reproductive health, labor unions, and LGBTQ equality, to name a few.

I wanted to vote for the BIPOC female candidate here, but the first thing that gave me pause was an endorsement from Mayor Frey of Minneapolis - which will automatically get you the side eye from me.  Their other endorsements are police and sheriffs' organizations, which I wish didn't make me suspicious, but they do.  And I naively thought the Star Tribune editorial board wasn't as conservative as they've turned out to be in recent election cycles, so that nod doesn't hold as much sway for me as it once did.


Why I Voted for Ellison for Attorney General

Polls don't vote. News coverage doesn't vote.  People do.  Get out there and make your voice heard.

Last day of early voting is Monday 11/7.  Last day to vote is Election Day on Tuesday 11/8. 

The Minnesota Secretary of State's website has all the information you need to vote, including how to register on the day you vote, if you haven't already gotten yourself registered.  Minnesota makes it so easy to vote, so please do.

The "What's On My Ballot?" tool shows you everyone running for each office that's on your ballot where you live and vote, and if there are candidate websites, it gives you the link to them to learn more about them.  It's amazingly helpful for doing your homework on who to vote for (and who NOT to vote for).

I voted for Keith Ellison when he was in Congress.

I voted for him when ran the first time for Attorney General.

The main reason I voted for him again is that he built the team and helped shape the strategy that got a conviction against the men in uniform who murdered George Floyd.

It's not justice, but it's a start, and I want him to keep doing that job.

Nothing I've read about his opponent makes me think he'd do any better than Ellison, and might well do worse.

 

Why I Voted for Omar of U.S. House of Representatives

Polls don't vote. News coverage doesn't vote.  People do.  Get out there and make your voice heard.

Last day of early voting is Monday 11/7.  Last day to vote is Election Day on Tuesday 11/8. 

The Minnesota Secretary of State's website has all the information you need to vote, including how to register on the day you vote, if you haven't already gotten yourself registered.  Minnesota makes it so easy to vote, so please do.

The "What's On My Ballot?" tool shows you everyone running for each office that's on your ballot where you live and vote, and if there are candidate websites, it gives you the link to them to learn more about them.  It's amazingly helpful for doing your homework on who to vote for (and who NOT to vote for).

I've voted for Ilhan Omar every time she's been on the ballot.

Her campaign website has a host of endorsements that include groups devoted to causes like women's reproductive choice, gun safety and LGBTQ equality.

She's a progressive who speaks her mind and continues to serve despite an unbelievable amount of threats directed at her, and concerted efforts to try and take her out in the primary stage with less progressive Democratic opponents.

I don't want to spend too much time on her Republican challenger - suffice it to say that a speech she gave last spring, touted on her campaign website, starts as follows:

"“Diversity of Thought & Cancel Culture.” It used to be that the Left and the ACLU stood for freedom of speech and expression. Those days are gone. How did we get here..."

No thank you. 



Why I Voted for Simon for Secretary of State

Polls don't vote. News coverage doesn't vote.  People do.  Get out there and make your voice heard.

Last day of early voting is Monday 11/7.  Last day to vote is Election Day on Tuesday 11/8. 

The Minnesota Secretary of State's website has all the information you need to vote, including how to register on the day you vote, if you haven't already gotten yourself registered.  Minnesota makes it so easy to vote, so please do.

The "What's On My Ballot?" tool shows you everyone running for each office that's on your ballot where you live and vote, and if there are candidate websites, it gives you the link to them to learn more about them.  It's amazingly helpful for doing your homework on who to vote for (and who NOT to vote for).

There's a positive and a negative to everything on the ballot.

Reasons to vote for your person and against the other person.

For Simon - basically, the guy wants to do the job, and does it well without a lot of nonsense.

The job of Secretary of State is to administer elections and encourage everyone who's eligible to vote to do so, and to make it as easy as possible for them to do it.

We have 46 days of early voting before election day.  I voted weeks ago and have been horribly lax in not encouraging others to do so as well.

Minnesota is a great place for voters.  It's easy to take that for granted.

Against Crockett - they're one of these people who uses phrases like "restoring confidence in elections" - which is just a nice way of saying she doesn't believe T***p lost the last election and she doesn't believe that Joe Biden was legitimately elected president.  She wants to make it "hard to cheat" (it already is) and be sure that "only citizens vote" (that's also already taken care of, thank you).

They want to cut early voting down to just two weeks (for starters, watch it disappear entirely if she gets elected)

She's for Voter ID - nope.

There's all this "he's making voting all political, I'm not doing that" language on her campaign website.  It's all noise and nonsense and gaslighting and misdirection, no thank you. 

Again, not a hard choice.

It's very important we get this one right, or the next time we vote is going to be a LOT harder.


Why I Voted for Walz for Governor

Polls don't vote. News coverage doesn't vote.  People do.  Get out there and make your voice heard.

Last day of early voting is Monday 11/7.  Last day to vote is Election Day on Tuesday 11/8. 

The Minnesota Secretary of State's website has all the information you need to vote, including how to register on the day you vote, if you haven't already gotten yourself registered.  Minnesota makes it so easy to vote, so please do.

The "What's On My Ballot?" tool shows you everyone running for each office that's on your ballot where you live and vote, and if there are candidate websites, it gives you the link to them to learn more about them.  It's amazingly helpful for doing your homework on who to vote for (and who NOT to vote for).

There's a positive and a negative to everything on the ballot.

Reasons to vote for your person and against the other person.

Against Jensen: His stand against a woman's right to choose, abortion, reproductive rights, whatever you want to call it.  I don't think anyone without a uterus gets to have an opinion this.  (There's a bunch of other reasons but this is the main one for me.)

My goddaughter's bodily autonomy is not up for debate, nor is her little sister's.

My stepmother once asked me when I had a similar negative reaction to another anti-choice Republican if I really wanted to be a single issue voter on this and disregard a candidate just because of this one position and my answer was, and still is "yeah, that's a deal breaker."

For Walz: how he handled two really significant events

The pandemic - I lost a job when the theaters shut down, but I'm still glad Walz did it because more people are alive today because of it than there would have been if he'd been one of those "keep the state open at all costs" morons.  There are less dead Minnesotans because of Walz.  Did the loss of business suck?  Yeah.  Do I blame him?  No, I blame the federal government response under the previous administration that tried to pretend it wasn't a problem and fudge the numbers and ignore the science and hope it was a big city blue state problem, etc. etc., etc.  I blame the selfish, stupid people at the top for not making the hard decisions and putting it in the laps of each and every governor rather than leading by example at the federal level.

Let's not forget over a million people are dead.  And over 350 on average currently are still dying every day from COVID-19.  The health experts said no matter what we did, the first 200,000 dead were baked in from the start as a lost cause.  If we'd made better decisions, it could have stopped there.  The other 800,000 plus dead Americans were a choice to live with the collateral damage rather than do the hard work. F**k the T***p administration.  People should be in jail just for that, and it's not even part of the discussion.  Anyway, thank God we had a governor with a brain and a heart.

The murder of George Floyd - the protests in the daytime, and the criminal behavior at night were two different things that some people like to conflate together.  Do I blame Walz for an inept response to the unrest?  No, I blame Mayor Frey (who's re-election I did NOT vote for).  Walz stepped in when Frey was clearly in over his head and not able to deal.

Walz also has Flannigan by his side, which is another plus.

It wasn't a hard decision.

 

Tuesday, October 04, 2022

Tell a Playright How You Want a Play Written - Bid Now through Saturday 10/8 - for Threshold Theater

 

Threshold Theater is the theater company I work with as their Literary Director and in-house playwright (they’ve got two of my plays in the pipeline for production in upcoming years).  Threshold is doing their annual Coming Out Cabaret and Fundraiser event this coming Saturday, October 8th from 7pm to 9pm at The Black Hart of Saint Paul (I love that name) - a gay/drag/soccer bar just across the road from the soccer stadium (near the Snelling/University intersection), 1415 University Avenue West in St. Paul.

Even if you can’t attend in person, you can still participate by bidding online in our silent auction (right now, through Saturday evening).  Something you may find of particular interest is that I’m putting my playwriting skills up for bidding:

Ever wanted to tell a playwright how to write their play?
You can!
Setting, characters, names, genre, title, plot points, random bits of dialogue? You can dictate as many or few items as you like. The higher you bid, the more input you can have. Or you can just wing it and ask the playwright to surprise you with something. Totally up to you.

There are two categories, ten minute play and one act play:

Top 3 bidders will each get a 10-minute play in that category

Only the top bidder gets a one act play 

Just put your bids in the comments section of the post of the item in which you’re interested.

They’re taking bids on the individual items (links to mine specifically are above) and the rest are all posted on the Threshold Theater Facebook page:

https://www.facebook.com/ThresholdTheater

(If you don’t have a Facebook account, you can either work through me or someone else you know with a Facebook account to place a bid online)

In addition to potentially compelling me to write something new for the stage, we have a variety of other offerings:

A Mega-Bundle of tickets to HUGE improv comedy theater

A signed Minnesota Vikings football

Tickets to Once Upon A Mattress at Old Log Theater (running now through January 7, 2023)

A gardening consultation and work session with a U of MN Extension Master Gardener

Tickets to your pick of several different Guthrie Theater shows in the coming season: The Little Prince (December 2022), Blues For Alabama Sky (February 2023), Born With Teeth (March 2023), Hamlet (April 2023), Murder on the Orient Express (May 2023), Into The Woods (June 2023), and Shane (July 2023)

An almost ridiculous variety and amount of alcohol from several local venues and breweries

Framed original photography

A basket of homemade canned fruits and jellies

And if you just want to make a straight-up donation to the theater company, you can visit the theater’s page at GiveMN.org

So join us in person or join us online. Either way you go, the theater thanks you for the support.

 

 

Tuesday, September 20, 2022

Seeking Writers and Actors for Bi-Weekly Playwriting Group

Want to give yourself a deadline for playwriting on a regular basis? 
Want to help develop new plays and read new work? 
We may have a group for you.

This is a playwriting group that meets the first and third Monday of the month, beginning September 2022 and continuing through May of 2023.  (We normally break for the summer, aka Minnesota Fringe Festival season.)

During the beginning of the pandemic, we shifted to an online platform to continue meeting.  This fall we’re 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.  (The first meeting in this style worked pretty well, and we’re working out the kinks in the process as we go.) We’re keeping an eye on the progress of COVID-19 seasonally and will adjust as necessary.

We're just trying to keep creative while we wait for theater to truly re-open on a large scale again.  We go looking annually 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

 

 

Monday, August 15, 2022

2022 Fringe Review - The Witchy World of Luna Muse - A Fabulous Drag Ambassador - 5 Stars

“I went to college for theater and this cross-dressing gig is all I got.”

Synopsis: Something wicked this way comes! Twin cities drag entertainer Luna Muse makes her one-woman show debut in this whimsical and kooky theatrical experience. Fantasy and reality collide as our host is tasked with sharing her favorite fairy tale of ‘Lady Luna of the Moon.’ This witch puts her storytelling chops to work, doing her best not to get too distracted with the musings (and hauntings) of her childhood. It’s a cauldron bubbling of equal parts drag show, stand-up, and drag-queen-story-hour. Embellished with glittery costumes, a bold red lip, and just a pinch or two of real-life, make-believe magic. Join Luna Muse in her imaginative witchy world!

Tweet review: #mnfringe The Witchy World of Luna Muse: part drag show, part story time, part confessional, Cam Pederson’s glittery supernatural alter ego creates a charming and welcoming world to kick back in for a while; this witch knows how to put on a show - 5 stars

Additionally (pre-show): #mnfringe And how to you cleanse your mind after seeing Jesus quote Tr*mp? You see a drag queen. Help me, Luna Muse!

Though I am nowhere near what you would call a drag expert, any more than I am an authority on dance or puppets or any of the other art forms I mostly see just during these 11 days in August every year, the Minnesota Fringe Festival has exposed me to enough drag performers over the years that I can appreciate someone who does it really well.  Cam Pederson, in the guise of his supernatural alter ego Luna Muse, does drag really well.  From the costumes to the lip syncing to the consistency of the persona for the full show, Pederson is a fabulous drag ambassador for the uninitiated, and his Fringe offering, The Witchy World of Luna Muse, is a great entry point for Fringe audiences who are curious about drag.

“Welcome to a story so whimsical you’ll hardly believe it.”

Not that drag has to be perfect to be effective.  Messy shows are also fun.  Messiness is part of the experimentation and development of any art form.  And it makes you appreciate the precision of a performer like Pederson as Luna when you see them.  Pederson doesn’t just lip sync to the various musical numbers throughout the show.  Pederson also lip syncs to the sound cues recounting parts of the fairy tale story Luna is telling, and the witchy historical interludes presented as well.  Basically, if Cam Pederson isn’t offstage doing a lightning fast costume change, and they aren’t speaking as Luna, they’re lip-syncing to whoever is speaking or singing, and doing it damn near perfectly - and that is impressive stuff.

“My mother always told me to keep all three nipples covered.”

The Witchy World of Luna Muse has a handy framing device of Luna reading a fairy tale about “Lady Luna of the Moon.”  From that story time set up, Pederson will frequently go on tangents either personal (Cam’s biography as a young, now older queer boy, growing up and discovering himself and his talents) or historical (unfortunate witches in history) or musical (gotta have some song and dance, plus the outlandish costumes to go with them).  The aforementioned narrative sound effects also keep things moving from one part of the show (and story) to the next - whether Luna seems entirely ready for them or not.

“She confuses the distant family but the immediate ones clap.”

The Witchy World of Luna Muse is an outstanding piece of work.  Though the Luna persona never drops, so we never get to see fully behind the curtain and get a look at Cam off duty, it nonetheless reveals both Luna and drag performers in general, as approachable human beings.  You’d think we wouldn’t need the reminder, or the gentle introduction to the concept.  But with some politicians trying to demonize queer people of all stripes these days, it’s good to have The Witchy World of Luna Muse as an example.  It’s fine.  Everybody just relax and be entertained.  Stop taking everything so seriously.  Just let everyone be who they want to be.  It’s not going to hurt you or anyone you love, we promise. (eye roll)

“Excuse me, while I pick up my drag droppings.”

The Witchy World of Luna Muse may be over at the Fringe for now, but you can, of course, also continue to follow her online.  Pederson performs year round.  You don’t have to wait till another Fringe to support their work.

5 Stars - Very Highly Recommended


(You can click on the following links to see a set of links to reviews of all the 5 and 4.5 star shows (VERY highly recommended), 4 and 3.5 star shows (highly recommended) as well as other shows, plus the full Top 10 list, the Top 11-20 list, a list of returning favorites, and the full coverage of the 2022 Fringe on this blog.) 

(Side note: The primary may be over, but the midterm elections are coming up soon. Early voting for the election starts Friday, September 23 (so, not much more than a month after Fringe is over). You can check out what's on your ballot ahead of time on the Minnesota Secretary of State website, as well as other voting services and information - like handy links to all the candidates who have websites so you can learn more.  In Minneapolis, not only do we have the Governor and Lt. Governor on the ballot, but there's our U.S. Congressional Rep., our MN State Senator, the MN Secretary of State and MN Attorney General, as well as our County Sheriff and County Attorney, and two members of the Minneapolis School Board.  These are the people who decide what laws we live under and how they get enforced.  These are the people who decide whether or not we have voting rights.  These are the people who decide how our kids learn.  This is how we change things.  Personally, I'm alternately furious and despairing that my goddaughter and her little sister now have fewer rights over their own bodies than they did when 2022 began. There are things we can do, voting in the general election is one of them - if you're looking to volunteer, here's a place to learn more.)

 

 

Saturday, August 13, 2022

Fringe 2022 - Context


As we head into closing weekend, I just thought I'd mention something.

If you've seen me out and about, I probably had a red portfolio in my hands.  I've taken it with me everywhere this Fringe.

The notebooks I've been taking my notes on shows in so I have reference points later as I'm writing reviews are actually much smaller and tucked inside that portfolio.

So, why have I been carrying this thing around?

Well, one, it actually is handy, there's places to put pens so I don't have to carry them around in my pocket, and I can fit a couple of notebooks in there, plus whatever script I happen to be working on writing.

But the primary reason I'm carrying it around with me is it belonged to my mother, Beverlee.

It's one of the many useful and interesting items I discovered when I was working with my brother Mark to clean out her house after she died.

So, it's just a symbol of her still following me around as I go from show to show this Fringe.  In some small physical way, she's still with me on this journey.

We find comfort in the strangest things sometimes.

This one's mine.

Happy closing weekend, everyone.  Let's see some shows!


(You can click on the following links to see a set of links to reviews of all the 5 and 4.5 star shows (VERY highly recommended), 4 and 3.5 star shows (highly recommended) as well as other shows, plus the full Top 10 list, the Top 11-20 list, a list of returning favorites, and the full coverage of the 2022 Fringe on this blog.) 

(Side note: The primary may be over, but the midterm elections are coming up soon. Early voting for the election starts Friday, September 23 (so, not much more than a month after Fringe is over). You can check out what's on your ballot ahead of time on the Minnesota Secretary of State website, as well as other voting services and information - like handy links to all the candidates who have websites so you can learn more.  In Minneapolis, not only do we have the Governor and Lt. Governor on the ballot, but there's our U.S. Congressional Rep., our MN State Senator, the MN Secretary of State and MN Attorney General, as well as our County Sheriff and County Attorney, and two members of the Minneapolis School Board.  These are the people who decide what laws we live under and how they get enforced.  These are the people who decide whether or not we have voting rights.  These are the people who decide how our kids learn.  This is how we change things.  Personally, I'm alternately furious and despairing that my goddaughter and her little sister now have fewer rights over their own bodies than they did when 2022 began. There are things we can do, voting in the general election is one of them - if you're looking to volunteer, here's a place to learn more.)