Thursday, July 31, 2003

Workweek Fringe - Friday at last!

I'm sure I'll be in frantic cleaning mode, Mom arrives the next day. But I have to see something to celebrate the arrival of the weekend at long last.

August 8, 2003

Six Steps by Brent Doyle
Illusion Theater

I'm here for Brent. His writing never fails to get me thinking. Since I haven't seen any summer movie blockbusters yet, this will help with my superhero quota for the summer. (Friendly Persuasion #1, 7/13/2003)
Workweek Fringe - Thursday

August 7, 2003

A couple of sentimental favorites, the first a play, the second an actress...

Spring Awakening
Red Eye

90 minutes of German expressionism, good and bad spirits, and oversexed schoolchild teenage angst. (Friendly Persuasion #5, 7/22/2003)

5 Women On A Hill In A Spain
Loring Playhouse

Kate Eifrig and Outward Spiral draw me to this one. (Friendly Persuasion #3, 7/19/2003) The recent Lavender write-up on the Fringe (see the link on the Fringe's home page) reminded me that Suzy Messerole is directing. One of the best directors in town. Only makes me want to see it more. Haven't a clue what it's about, but I'm in good hands so I'll just go with it.
Workweek Fringe - Wednesday

August 6, 2003

Very light so far for Hump Day...

James Berry: The Reluctant Hangman
Hey City Theater, Downstairs

Well, there's that title for starters (OK, I'm Curious #1, 7/23/2003). Then there's the description..."A junk opera and magic lantern show highlighting the life and exploits of a Victorian hangman" I'm not gonna see that particular combo anywhere else this week.
Workweek Fringe - Tuesday

August 5, 2003

A slightly lighter evening schedule today...

Beauty and the Beast
Intermedia Arts

Finally, I see Ballet of the Dolls and make up for a gap in my theatregoing resume. And my top ten is complete. (If You Held A Gun To My Head #8, 7/22/2003)

The Captain and the Dog-faced Boy
Jungle Theater

Got a very nice personal invite from the playwright this afternoon, who I actually knew through a new play reading series I used to run. He also is the writer who collaborated with 15 Head for "Oil on Canvas," so he's been busy. He described Captain/Dog to me as, in its way, very traditional - hints of Shakespeare, Cervantes and Robert Louis Stevenson - and yet there is also an enormous pair of pants that represent pure evil. Hmmm... I'm intrigued.
Work Week Fringe - Monday

August 4, 2003

The Hobbit
MCTC Whitney Mainstage

A three man, one dragon puppet extravaganza in the Tolkien tradition. If that doesn't get me out of my workaday funk, nothing will. And my top ten tour (sans Mom on the weekend) is nearly complete (If You Held A Gun To My Head #5, 7/19/2003)

The Art of Ruth Draper
MCTC Whitney Studio

Right next door, same building. I haven't talked about this one before, but the monologues of Ruth Draper were revered by my actress friends as far back as my undergraduate college days. Even Kevin Kling mentioned recently that he loves these stories, and seeks them out, trying to complete his own personal collection of the scripts. In the hands of an actress who's done it before, directed by a respected local actor. Can't be a bad way to spend an hour.

Minneapolis Theater Garage

Well, it's one way to purge some pent-up day job rage, right? It's another award-winning company from England. A classic script. Heavy sledding? Sure. But I don't go to the Fringe exclusively for puppets and naked gay guys. Besides, my life will seem light and airy by comparison after this one.

Wednesday, July 30, 2003

Opening Weekend Schedule, Part 3

Sunday, August 3, 2003

Dang. Got a prior commitment during the afternoon. I volunteer at the Quatrefoil Library one Sunday a month and this is that Sunday. Check it out some time if you haven't already -

Anyway, after I'm sprung from the library at 5...

Time to get in a top ten show

Gilgamesh, Iowa
Bryant Lake Bowl

Seattle import. The Ethereal Mutt, Limited. Monkeys, Irish grave diggers, tiny houses, zombie prom, wild west whores. All that and so much more in only 90 minutes. Let the male bonding begin. (If You Held A Gun To My Head #4, 7/14/2003)

War Golems
Loring Playhouse

I missed this one the first time around. A late father's experiences in the Vietnam War in the hands of his actor son. Nice to end the weekend with a Fifty Foot Penguin, I always say.

Back to the day job grind.
Opening Weekend Schedule, Part 2

Saturday, August 2, 2003

...well, I can't sleep in too late

It is the Fringe after all. Let the running around begin...

The Book of Names
Bryant Lake Bowl

I know, I haven't mentioned this at all. However, I'm a sucker for plays that weave religion and interpersonal relationships together. And being a playwright, I've got a soft spot for new plays, too. I'm gonna take a chance on this one. 90 minutes.

3 Way
Pillsbury House Theater

Sorry, mom. I'm keeping the naked gay guys to myself. Besides, even though I know she'd get a kick out of it, I have to admit I feel a little weird about the idea of going with my mom to that. Whether I'm worried about her seeing me enjoy it too much, or vice versa, I'm not sure. Best to play it safe. (Live Nude Fringe 7/6/2003, Friendly Persuasion #3 7/19/2003)

Oil On Canvas
Intermedia Arts

Fifteen Head's take on Modigliani and the Paris art scene prior to World War I. I've talked about Fifteen Head before. They're a theater company that's taking chances and always worth seeing. Even more so for just an hour for $10.

Sock Puppet Serenade
Old Arizona

It's in my top ten. It's the Fringe. I must see puppets. (If You Put A Gun To My Head #7, 7/21/2003)

Love Talker
Loring Playhouse

Theater Unbound. I've said it before. I like 'em. I'll go along for the ride.

Phew. Day over.
Opening Weekend Schedule, Part 1

Friday, August 1, 2003

In a strange position. Having scheduled six of my top ten at the far end of the Fest to see with my mom, I'm not seeing any of the remaining four, nor any of my friend's shows in the lineup. Hmmm...

Also, I work a day job in St. Paul. No way I'm making a 5:30 or even 6pm curtain time.

So we're looking at 7pm. And the rest of the evening.

It's been a long week already and it's only Wednesday. I'd prefer to stay close to home.


It's a Minneapolis Theater Garage night!

7pm - Selling Blood
8:30pm - Exposure
11:20pm - Voice In Head

Selling Blood made the cut because
1) it's a remount
2) it's from England
3) the theater company doing it has won their fair share of acclaim - it's probably not comedy, but it won't be dull

some dance, some attractive manflesh, it starts right after the other one in the same venue so I don't have to start running around right away - sold (OK, I'm Curious #2, 7/24/2003)

My apartment's close enough that I can go home, do some other things that need doing, and then go back to close out the night with...

Voice in Head
the last minute casting high-wire act aspect of it all has me intrigued - again, sure to not be dull, plus there's puppets, what's not to like - and I get in a top ten show after all on opening night (so it was a long week, I can sleep in tomorrow) (If You Put A Gun To My Head #3, 7/13/2003)

Tuesday, July 29, 2003

A Fringe Schedule Only A Mother Could Love, Part 2 of 2

or is it, *Even* a Mother Could Love?

Mom at the Minneapolis Fringe, Day 2

Sunday, August 10th

Well, she's had an easy first day to settle in. She's gotten a decent night's sleep. We've had a chance to sit and chat a bit. Now it's off to the races. We got us some theatre to see before the weekend, and the 10th Annual Fringe, is over...

Grab some lunch *and* some theater at

Bryant Lake Bowl
Staggering Toward America

For all the reasons stated before (If You Held A Gun To My Head #2, 7/10/03), I'm really looking forward to this one. And I got my bleeding heart liberal genes from Mom's side of the family, so she's up for a journey through post 9/11 America.

Red Eye
I Hate This

OK, it's tight. The noon show is 90 minutes, but it's not that far to drive, there's a school parking lot right down the block from Red Eye, and mom got that bad knee replaced over Christmas, so we should be able to make it. And it says a lot about my mom that I think she's also up for back-to-back, one-man, 90-minute shows - this second one about the playwright/performer's life after the still birth of his child. (for more, see If You Held A Gun to My Head #6, 7/19/03)

Time off for good behavior downtown to get a bite to eat, then...

Hey City Theater, downstairs
Baseball, Dogs and Motorcycles

My mom can't miss Kevin Kling. And neither can I. (If You Held A Gun To My Head #1, 7/7/03)

Then just a couple of blocks further downtown to...

Illusion Theater
Tell Me On A Sunday

With the right set of vocal chords, even (shudder) Andrew Lloyd Webber can be beautiful. Patty Nieman has those vocal chords. (Friendly Persuasion #1, 7/13/03)

Illusion Theater
Buy Me A Mockingbird

After a long day of one-person shows, my mom deserves to end her Fringe experience with some laughter and music. Tod Petersen, take us home. (Friendly Persuasion #1, 7/13/03)

And mom's whirlwind tour of Twin Cities' theater is complete.

Farewell, fellow Fringers.

On to binge at the movie theaters, Mom!
A Fringe Schedule Only A Mother Could Love, Part 1 of 2

or is it, *Even* a Mother Could Love?

In any case, here's what my Mom gets to see, Fringe-wise, when she gets into town, Saturday August 9th...

Much as it pains me, I'm not scheduling myself for Fringe activities in the afternoon that day.

I picture my mother waiting around in a car on a hot day for me to get home from a show, and it's not a pretty thought.

So, I'll clean the bathroom or something until she arrives, get her settled in, get a bite to eat, and then...

Old Arizona
Emily Dickinson: My Letter to the World

I missed this one last year. Elizabeth Dickinson, who does the show, is actually a descendant of the titular poet. And much as some of my fellow writers dismiss Emily, I'm quite fond of her. Her poems sit in a well-worn book on a shelf with my other favorites - Auden and cummings and Lorde. She inspires me just as much as they or Shakespeare. I can't think of a better way to ease mom into the Fringe than to spend an hour in the company of Ms. Dickinson.

Then perhaps a spot of dinner at...

Bryant Lake Bowl
One Man Hamlet

For all the reasons stated before, I'm looking forward to this. And I'm sure Mom will get a kick out of it, too. (If You Held A Gun To My Head #9, 7/23/03)

Intermedia Arts (just around the corner and down the block, a nice evening's walk)

Can't think of a better way to end mom's first evening in the Cities than taking her to the Ministry of Cultural Warfare's latest bit of uber-camp. (If You Held A Gun To My Head #10, 7/24/03)

And so my mom and I end our broadcast day...

Monday, July 28, 2003

Hook, Line and Sinker

Sometimes, a show has an idea so fascinating that I feel compelled to go see it just because I want to see how it all turns out.

Three plays that fit this category would be...

Apologetic Killer
Acadia Cafe
A woman reflects on her participation as a juror in a death penalty case. She is traumatized by her experience and visits the man she helped send to death row.

The German Socialites
Red Eye
Germany 1937 - enter the home of a young writer and his wife as he is commissioned to write a novel for the Nazi Party.

A Room of Angels
Loring Playhouse
A homeless man and a doctor. One has the cure for AIDS and one sees a cure for his salvation.

Thought they were worth a mention. Curious? Go find out.

Sunday, July 27, 2003

Stop and Smell the Art

visual art, that is...

I have to admit, the first two years of the Visible Fringe I was too busy running around to stop and look.

This year, I'm leaving myself some breathing room at as many of the venues as possible so I can stop and smell the art.

20 different artists, themselves on the fringe, self-taught or with non-traditional training, all creating vital new art that fits the Fringe to a T. And it's for sale, too.

Programs of all the art will be available at all the venues where the art is on display. Still more of the art is showcased in a couple of local galleries. So pick up some info and take a look while you're waiting for them to open the house for that mad dash to general admission seating.

There's a sampling and statements from each of the artists on the this website, too.

There's a discussion of the Visible Fringe in the "Cue to Cue" shows available online. Give it a listen. Doing the show opened my eyes to a whole other dimension of the Fringe Festival. I'm looking forward to catching my breath and taking in still more art while I'm at it in the coming weeks.

And yes, Mom's gonna see some, too, and I'm sure she won't be shy about expressing her opinion.

Wonder if we'll buy anything? Stranger things have happened. Maybe I'll send Mom back to Pennsylvania with something she can't fit in her suitcase.
My Fringe Schedule

My oh my but that online scheduling thing is handy.

And not just because I can print out a clean copy, which, believe me, is sorely needed after I scribbled all over my Fringe program.

But I can now just send the whole darn thing via email to my friend Dave and see if he wants to join me on my Fringe binging jaunt. The site does that for you. All you've got to do is point it in the right direction and off it goes.

Hmmm, better print an extra copy for Mom.

Saturday, July 26, 2003

Patrick Scully's Farewell Performance

Folks, I saw Patrick Scully's "Making Lemonade" last night at Patrick's Cabaret and I was reminded again why I love theatre, and why I continue to try creating it against all common sense.

"Making Lemonade" was funny and angry, romantic and incredibly sad, and ultimately, hopeful.

Go to Patrick's Cabaret and see "Making Lemonade" tonight or tomorrow night, because after that, he's gone. He steps on a plane August 4th, and August 5th he starts his new life, in Germany, with his husband by his side at last after yet another 4 month separation.

Saturday and Sunday, July 26 & 27, 2003, at 8pm
Tickets are $15
Reservations (the place was packed last night) - 612-721-3595, ext. 3

Even though Scully has to go overseas in order to live with the man he loves, because the United States will have no part of it, there will be life and love beyond Minneapolis. It's just sad that he has been forced to leave home in order to make a home.

Watching him take the stage at Patrick's Cabaret one last time, looking over every inch of it, knowing that it will be a long time, if ever, before he sees it again, and that his husband has never and can never see it, is just part of the incredibly moving subtext that suffuses the evening.

But damn, what an amazing story.

By the the end, he's shared his heart and mind and body, not to mention both lemons and lemonade, with the audience. Such a gracious and graceful man, such a powerful artist.

It's our loss.

It's a topsy-turvy world when Germany is more progressive than the land that promises life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Just a little more incentive in my mind to find a decent presidential candidate and vote these bastards out of office. Because until they're gone and we get our country back, nothing changes.

Farewell, Patrick.

Friday, July 25, 2003

Fringing With My Mom

My mom's coming to visit the second weekend of the Fringe, arriving (sometime) Saturday afternoon on August 9th.

For some people, this would help narrow things down scheduling wise. (Uh oh, mom's here, better look up those Family Friendly Fringe shows)

However, my mom is up for anything.

My mom would probably love "3 Way." After all, I can sadly say with a fair amount of certainty that it's probably the first time in a long while that either of us has seen a naked man up close and personal. Sigh. At least we can go out and comiserate over ice cream together afterwards.

Plus, there's a side of me that would take great glee in walking up to the actors I know in that show and saying, "Hi, I'd like you to meet my mom." (And she'd get a kick out of it, too.)

Theatre addicts are raised, not born. I didn't fall far from the tree, to put it another way.

So, of course, I want her to see as many of my top ten as possible.

Now instead of scheduling forward, like a normal person, I'm scheduling backward.

Instead of winding down and giving myself breathing room, I'm gonna be cramming them in.

Good thing mom had her knee surgery over Christmas. She's gonna need it.

Thursday, July 24, 2003


Just the briefest skim of the blogs of other Extraordinary Fringers in the League convinces me that I am, most probably, the dullest of the bloggers.

Useful, perhaps. But definitely "Fringing for Dummies" rather than the quotable Dorothy Parker.

In fact someone was just gushing about my blog recently, which was nice until I realized they were talking about Matthew Foster's blog, not mine.


I think I like theater too much to be publicly nasty.

In order to be amusing, perhaps I should adopt more of the attitude of the old guys, Statler and Waldorf, in the balcony on The Muppet Show.

To this day, one of the best movie reviews I've ever heard was Statler and Waldorf's assessment of the first Muppet Movie.

"I've seen DETERGENTS that leave better film than this!"

Perhaps I should get out the carving knives. We shall see. I'd rather just go see theater.

Oh well. It's not easy being green.
Fringe TV Alert

These episodes of "Cue to Cue" will soon be streaming to the web as well, but meanwhile, if you're in the St. Paul area, and get SPNN (St. Paul Neighborhood Network) Channel 19, you can see it on a TV screen rather than a computer screen.

Weekend Schedule

Friday, July 25, 2003
7pm-10pm - Episodes 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6 (detailed below)

Sunday, July 27, 2003
1:30pm - Episode 6
Kevin Kling's Baseball, Dogs and Motorcycles; Marlene Dietrich and Edith Piaf: The Kamikaze and The Chameleon

3-4pm - Episodes 5 and 4
Ministry of Cultural Warfare's Industrials, 15 Head's Oil On Canvas, Tom Cassidy and The Hanging of Pollyana, KaBobenco's ...and now for something completely different

6-7pm - Episodes 3 and 2
Visible Fringe and Zap Kunst or Presto! It's Art!, Spoken Word Fringe and Hunter Marionettes' Sock Puppet Serenade

7pm - Episode 1
Theater Unbound's The Love Talker and VISTA Productions' The Point
Our story thus far...

So, my top ten "must sees", in the order I rhapsodized about them

1. Baseball, Dogs and Motorcycles - Kevin Kling
2. Staggering Toward America - Rip Rekke
3. Voice In Head - The Theatrical Music Company
4. Gilgamesh Iowa - The Ethereal Mutt, Limited
5. The Hobbit - Rhino Productions
6. I Hate This - Bad Epitaph Theater Company
7. Sock Puppet Serenade - Hunter Marionettes
8. Beauty and the Beast - Ballet of the Dolls
9. One Man Hamlet - Theater Inconnu
10. Industrials - Ministry of Cultural Warfare


Now I just have to schedule them - and all my other friends' shows. Good thing I can get in more than one a night.
If You Put A Gun To My Head (10 of 10)

...or, If I Could Only See 10 Fringe Shows...

what would they be and why?

Well, let's face it. They hardly need my help. They've been lodged in the top five shows scheduled by others since the Fringe site went live this year. However, my Fringe experience wouldn't be complete without...

Ministry of Cultural Warfare
Intermedia Arts

I have my actor friend Nathan to blame for my addiction to this particular company. And once again, they're serving up something that promises to be both intelligent AND funny as hell. Old education and defense films from the 50's, reimagined for today's society. I need this particular kind of laugh very, very badly right now. I quite literally can't wait.
OK, I'm Curious (2nd in a series)

I Won't Dance, Don't Ask Me

but I will watch others

Still, having two left feet, no adequate vocabulary for movement, and being shamed by others' superior grace and agility, dance shows tend to make me feel stupid.

Not wanting to feel stupid, I tend to stay away from them.

This is probably more stupid.

So thankfully, once a year, the Fringe allows me to get my head out of my own uncoordinated butt and thrusts me into a world filled with dance.

Apart from Ballet of the Dolls, about which I have already made a shameful confession (see If You Put A Gun To My Head, #8) here are a couple of dance shows that are calling out to me...

Noah Bremer
Minneapolis Theater Garage

"...inspired by Buster Keaton, Pilobolus and Salvador Dali"
"You got your Keaton on my Pilobolus!"
"Well, you got your Pilobolus on my Dali!"
Three great tastes that taste great together.
Besides, the guy in the photo looks cute. (Hey, whatever gets 'em in the seats, that's what I say)

The Rules of the Land
Ijeoma Performing Group
Minneapolis Theater Garage

They came all the way from Nigeria. I'm not gonna see that every day.

Probably more dance than I'll see all the rest of the year, but hey, it's something.

Wednesday, July 23, 2003

If You Held A Gun To My Head (9 of 10)

...or, If I Could Only See 10 Fringe Shows...

what would they be and why?

One Man Hamlet
Theatre Inconnu
Bryant Lake Bowl

Why? Well, it's a one man Hamlet, for starters. Gotta love it when an actor jumps off a cliff like that. And apparently he's landed safely in Scotland and all across Canada. And now he's playing it in our local bowling alley/bar/restaurant/black box theater space. Don't make him do it all by himself. Give this man an audience. I know I will.
OK, I'm Curious (first in a series)

Calling Something By Its Proper Silly Name

There are some shows that had me at, "Hello" - that hello being their very peculiar names. Sometimes they're outright nutty, sometimes they're just intriguing. Sometimes it's the name of the show, sometimes the name of its makers. To wit...

Bette, My Fraudulent Welfare Queen: A Comic Bluegrass Opera In One Act
courtesy of Gaucho Gar
at the Brave New Workshop

The company, Texas Red Liquid Players
The play, Better Being Bad
The place, Hey City Theater Upstairs

James Berry, The Reluctant Hangman
Topsy-Turvy Theater
Hey City Theater, Downstairs

The company, Fifty Foot Penguin Theater
The play, War Golems
The place, Loring Playhouse

and finally...

Swing This: A Professor, an Orangutan and 15 Dancers
Rhythmn & Swing
In The Heart of the Beast Puppet Theater

Just five examples of oddities that say so right up front, and then dare you to look away.

Could be fun. Some of them will definitely find their way onto my final schedule. Always remember, a silly name will never hurt you at the Fringe Festival. Catching someone's attention is half the battle.

Tuesday, July 22, 2003

If You Put A Gun to My Head (8 of 10)

...or, If I Could Only See 10 Fringe Shows...

what would they be and why?

Beauty and the Beast
Ballet of the Dolls
Intermedia Arts

I have a shameful confession to make. I've lived in the Cities for over a decade and never seen Ballet of the Dolls. And the longer I live here and the more I hear about the company, the more I realize I've been missing out, big time. Thankfully, they are participating in the Fringe this year, so I can finally correct this error. Whether you've seen them before or not, Ballet of the Dolls always provide the kind of vibrant and innovative performance that the Fringe is all about. So, for goodness sake, go. I finally am.
Friendly Persuasion (6th in a series)

...or Some Friends' Shows I Know that are Worth a Look

Marlene Dietrich and Edith Piaf: The Kamikaze and the Chameleon
Hey City Theater Downstairs

Kirsten Frantzich and Josette Antomarchi are Marlene and Edith, respectively. Both are absolutely charming ladies and just as talented as they are charming. The Dietrich/Piaf double bill is made all the more interesting by the fact that these two icons were once very close friends, and, for a time, perhaps more. But of course, it's also all about the music, and music there shall be. I got a taste of it during the taping of the "Cue to Cue" shows on the Fringe for SPNN Channel 19. Fresh Ink audiences at Illusion Theater have sampled a workshop version just recently. And now, on to the Fringe. A refreshing change of pace, highly recommended.
Get a Word in Edgewise...

Spoken Word, that is

Something new I'm trying this year, and I recommend you do the same, is to sample a little of the Spoken Word Fringe.

Unlike the other shows at the Fringe, there are no tickets or buttons required, just a $3 suggested donation.

There are two showcases each day/night of the festival, all at Dunn Brothers coffee house on Loring Park, each focused on a particular theme. There's a wide variety of spoken word artists participating - both from in and out of town - and there's probably something for everyone with that kind of scope involved.

The Spoken Word Fringe is more informal than standard Fringe offerings. You can just kick back with coffee and a snack, stay for as much or as little as you like, take a break from running around between theaters. Sounds like the perfect respite from sitting in a darkened theater all day and all night.

So give Spoken Word Fringe a try.
Friendly Persuasion (5th in a series)

...or, Some Friends' Shows I Know that are Worth a Look...

Actually, this time I'm lobbying for a script that's something of an old friend.

Spring Awakening
Virginia L. Anderson
Red Eye Collaboration

I know it may seem odd to form a sentimental attachment to a German expressionist play that features sexual repression (and abandon), abortion, suicide, and a creepy (and oddly funny) climax (the structural kind) in a graveyard, but there you have it.

The plays you get exposed to (no pun intended) in college sometimes follow you like stray puppies on the street into adulthood.

And it's not just the end that's kind of amusing. The play is rife with both comfortable and uncomfortable humor.

And they've managed to work in puppets as well.

So I'm going to revisit an old friend. And I'd urge you, whether you've seen it in the past or not, to join me. A large ensemble piece just doesn't get done every day anymore, even in a theater town like this one. Just one more thing the Fringe makes possible.

Monday, July 21, 2003

If You Held a Gun To My Head (7 of 10)

...or, If I Could Only See 10 Fringe Shows...

what would they be and why?

Sock Puppet Serenade
Hunter Marionettes
Old Arizona

Some of you may have seen the titular sock puppet on strings and his friend the skeletal marionette narrator at Balls' Fringe Preview Night at the Southern Theater this past weekend.

If not, I can tell you, having met both puppets and their master first hand, that this show is sure to be a delight. A puppet show that even adults can revel in.

Kurt Hunter has studied with, among others, the guy who did the amazing marionette work seen in the movie "Being John Malkovich."

And when else can during the year can you say, "I'm going to see a puppet show" and not feel a little silly, except at Fringe time? So get out your old jokes about Pinocchio and strings, kick back and enjoy the serenade. I know some sweatsocks that will be happy you came.
Mailing Lists

Ah, summer at Fringe time - when the show cards are in bloom.

My mailbox sees more and more little, and no so little, show cards from a variety of artists, all plugging their Fringe shows each day.

That's the other great thing the Fringe is for, giving you an opportunity to get on all sorts of theater's mailing lists. If you're worried about felling one too many trees with all this paper, then hit the websites that the Fringe site has links to for the various artists and take your mailing lists on line into the ether ("no trees were harmed during the making of this e-mail"). And if they only have your email address, they still don't know where you live.

Once you're on mailing lists, there's sure to be a steady flow of info about theater beyond the Fringe coming your way for the rest of the year. You're always plugged into the scene. As Martha would say, "That's a good thing." (Well, it beats getting your hand caught in the stock exchange's cookie jar, anyway)

So sign up when and where you can.
The Programs are Coming! The Programs are Coming!

Actually, they're here.

Like Johnny Appleseed, the Fringe is planting stacks of Fringe Festival program booklets all over the city, immediately ripe for the picking.

So great to see all the shows and the pictures and the codes, and oh that heavenly grid of a performance schedule - waiting to be scribbled on and highlighted in the quest for the perfect, and humanly doable, schedule.

Next week, they hit the City Pages as well.

So grab one and dive in.

Saturday, July 19, 2003

If You Put A Gun To My Head (6 of 10)

...or, If I Could Only See Ten Fringe Shows...

what would they be and why?

I Hate This
Bad Epitaph Theater Company
Red Eye Collaboration

OK, when I saw the title, I thought, "Man, is this guy asking for it from the critics. He's handing them their headline if..." Then I saw what it was about. Ouch. "An honest, horrible and humorous look at stillbirth" That may be too much for some of you. But I go to the Fringe to see something I don't see every day. And this playwright/performer's got guts. Check out the website. The picture of the artist, sitting with a pair of baby shoes, is both heartbreaking and compelling. And with a time hopping structure, promised laughter among the tough stuff, and a proven track record in Ohio where it comes with praise from several critics (who apparently didn't take the title up on its offer), I'm willing to risk it. I'm pretty certain it's going to be worth it, and that this is an artist I'm going to want to know better.
A Little International Flavor

Yes, people actually do come from not just all over the country, but all over the world, to take part in our Fringe Festival.

So let's give them an audience worth making the trip for.

After all, how often do you normally get to see award-winning theater ensembles from England the rest of the year? For $10 a show?

And not only our mother country, but our neighbor up north, Canada, is shipping them in.

Not to be outdone, several companies have hopped a plane from Australia. For battling jet lag alone, they deserve a hand.

There's also a dance company all the way from Nigeria.

So, utilize that "Out of Town" search on the website and expand your horizons across the border, and even a few oceans, to see how they create theater on other continents.

It's more than a bargain. Whether it shows you something completely different or shows you that we're not all that far apart after all in this scary world, it could change your whole outlook, very much for the better.
Sample Someone Just Passing Through Town

(or, Nothing More Attractive Than Someone You Know You Won't Have To See Again for a While)

In addition to offering some of the finest and most varied performance work available in the Twin Cities, our Fringe being the largest in America also draws a lot of people from both out of town and out of state who work the Fringe circuit and want to be sure they hit our fair city.

Shows from California, Florida, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Massachusetts, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Texas, Washington, and Wisconsin.

And a little closer to home, everything from right next door in Stillwater to off in Duluth, Rockford, Mora, Barrett, Winona and St. Peter, Minnesota.

So do an "Out of Town" show search and take a look at some work you won't have the chance to see every day of the week, even in a theater-rich town such as our own.
The Large Economy Size Shows

The praise and perils of 90 minute shows

When you're scheduling, be aware (not beware) the 90 minute show.

I realize this is mainly short attention span theater the week of the festival, but there are about two dozen shows on the docket that run for 90 minutes, rather than just under an hour like the rest of the festival offerings.

Just make sure you know how long your show is. You don't want to be overlapping with, or making a mad dash for, your next Fringe fix.

The nice thing about the 90 minute shows is they're a nice way to break up the pace of a breakneck day of theatergoing. First, you get to settle in and enjoy a slightly longer tale - and if it's a good story, I rarely am anxious for it to end.

2nd, it's really only half an hour longer. So it's still shorter than your standard issue full-length play experience. You're in and out in fine time.

3rd, because most shows run on the hour and half hour, you probably have an imposed break to catch your breath before the next show you planned to see (either before or after a 90-minute one) starts up. Plenty of time to even get from one end of town to the other.

So, 90 minute shows are your friend. Program a few in to mix things up.
Friendly Persuasion (4th in a series)

...or Some Friends' Shows I Know that are Worth a Look

A double feature, courtesy of a friend of mine that's looking to bulk up her resume and apparently can't say no to a Fringe show

Cafe Delphi
Minneapolis Theater Garage

The Sugardaddy Project
Old Arizona

Delphi is being presented by local company Nimbus. They've done good and varied work thus far - both new work and established plays. This one is apparently by a playwright named Cockroach. And anyone willing to mix ancient Greek prophecy with fast food has to be given points for the non sequitur. Hey, I'm curious, whether it killed the cat or not (besides, I'm not a cat person)

Sugardaddy is being presented by 2 Desperate Chicks (no, that's the name of the company, I'm not making fun of them). One of the sugardaddies is Ari Hoptman. That alone is worth the price of admission.
Catch Him While You Still Can

or, Patrick Scully says goodbye to the Twin Cities, and the USA

So it's not Fringe, strictly speaking, but if anyone embodies the spirit of the Fringe, it's Patrick Scully, making of art (and waves) for 32 years, founder and long-time head of Patrick's Cabaret.

Patrick's Cabaret will, of course, go on. It already has. But Patrick won't be dropping by as often.

For one last look, and I strongly encourage it, go to Patrick's Cabaret and see "Making Lemonade"

Friday, Saturday and Sunday, July 25, 26 & 27, 2003, at 8pm
Tickets are $15
Reservations (also strongly encouraged) - 612-721-3595, ext. 3

It's our very own local "Glory Box," sad to say.

Patrick fell in love overseas, but unlike his heterosexual counterparts, he can't bring his mate to the US. No marriage, no green card, not even a chance of a student visa. Rejected at every turn, he has only one option, to take his life and his art across the ocean, to Germany, where he and his husband can live and be creative in a place that doesn't put up multiple roadblocks to their union. Pat Robertson may be turning purple over the Supreme Court's recent sodomy ruling, but the fact that the U.S. is still forcing bi-national gay and lesbian couples to make impossible choices (home or heart?) must help him rest easier. And even if Patrick does someday come back to visit, his husband can't come along.

Catch Patrick while you can, folks. This time, he's really gone.
If You Held A Gun To My Head (5 of 10)

...or, If I Could Only See 10 Fringe Shows...

what would they be and why?

The Hobbit
Rhino Productions
MCTC Whitney Mainstage

I have to admit, I'm coming late to the whole "Middle Earth" mania thing. Never read the books. That was my younger brother's obsession. But Peter Jackson's trilogy of films has won me over. His enthusiasm, and that of his collaborators, for this story is infectious. So I was already predisposed to want to see this "prequel" - pardon the blasphemy, Mr. Tolkien - to the "Lord of the Rings" cycle. But this particular production has me intrigued for a number of other reasons. Someone from Heart of the Beast Puppet Theater is constructing the dragon, so that should be great fun to see. The show itself is in one of the larger venues in the Fringe, so the epic has room to breathe and go all out. And yet it's only three people. One for the Hobbit, and only two other guys to play all the other roles. I love the theatricality of that kind of highwire act on stage. Just the thing to tide me over til the next DVD comes out, while I'm waiting for the end of the trilogy (and no, I still haven't read the books, so I have no idea how it ends, so don't go saying "The butler did it" and spoil the surprise)
The Problem with "The"

If you want to find The Hobbit, The Love Talker, The Point or The Seussification of Romeo and Juliet...

You can in indeed find them by typing in Hobbit, Love, Point or Seussification (if you can spell it, I'm not sure I can)

But if in a full list of shows on the site search, for some reason they end up clumped together in the "T" section with the other dozen or so shows beginning with "The"

So don't let it throw you. They're in there somewhere.
Numbers Game

Funky search trick #1

Shows like "3 Way" and "5 Women on a Hill In Spain" don't show up where you think they will on the list.

Because they have numbers in the title, they get booted to the front of the alphabet and the top of any list of all shows.

Which is a crafty way to set yourself apart from the pack, I must admit. (Particulary the other number show, using the ever popular 69, second only to "3 Way" in arousing prurient interesting without actually using the word "sex" in the title.)

But you have to enter the number, rather than spell it out, if you want to find them with a specific search.

Typing in "Five" gets you only a blank stare and an error message.

5 is the password to Outward Spiral this year - or you can catch them by doing a "Queer Content" search - same with 3 and 69 (shocking, I know)

"Three" gets you "Three on a Seesaw", not "3 Way."

And so it goes...
Friendly Persuasion (3rd in a series)

...or Some Friends' Shows I Know That Are Worth A Look

3 Way
Filthy Whore Productions
Pillsbury House Theater

5 Women On A Hill In Spain
Outward Spiral Theater
Loring Playhouse

3 Way - it apparently started as a bet at a party to create a Fringe show. 3 guys try to sort out their couplings, and socks, the morning after. Sounds kind of like Rashamon on poppers, but what the heck. Nudity warning, naturally. But if I had a short list of actors in the Twin Cities I wouldn't mind seeing naked, John Trones would be on it. Let's face it, he had plenty of practice in "Party" a year or so ago. Very sweet guy, too. Even though he's taking my money, I won't consider him a filthy whore.

5 Women - In talking about established, ongoing theater companies hitting the Fringe, I totally forgot to mention Outward Spiral Theater Company. Eek, major oversight. They do great work and I'm sure this will be no exception. And while I tend to get nervous about plays with lesbian content turning into "Theatre of the Evil P," the cast includes Kate Eifrig, who I just adore. I'd see her in, literally, anything. And you should, too.
Fringe Fashions

My Fringe T-shirt and bag arrived in the mail the other day. Very spiffy, and practical as well.

There's a list of the entire catalog of shows on the back of the shirt and one side of the bag. And little check boxes you can check off as you see all the shows on your list.

Or you could get a friendly stranger to help you with the back of the T-shirt. "Here, I'll bend over..." (But enough about picking up men at the Fringe...)

Personally, I think boxer shorts is going overboard, but if you like that sort of thing, you can order a pair and keep the Fringe very close to your...heart.

Also mugs with very tiny print (but again, all the shows are there for the squinting), traveling coffee containers, baseball-style shirts, etc.

Only available online, folks, so don't go looking for them at the Fringe venues during the festival. If you want to get them, the time is now and the place is the website.

So celebrate the Fringe's 10th Birthday and get a little souvenoir of the largest Fringe Festival in the United States.

They're like my own little website databases in one shot. I can scan over the list and see who I've neglected to mention.

Speaking of which...

Tuesday, July 15, 2003

Grain of Salt... (2nd in a series)

...or, Remember it's only my opinion - and I'm owning up to, rather than dodging, my prejudices here. So take this into account and then consider the source and go make up your own mind about shows that might fall into this genre...

Theater of the Evil P
Theater of the Happy V

Since I don't want this to turn into an essay on genitalia, assume for the sake of argument that P represents a certain male sex organ, and V the female. All will hopefully become clear as I proceed.

Ladies, I sympathize. Sometimes men are jerks. I should know. I am one. I'm also gay and have to date them.

But can we please agree on the use of "sometimes"?

I'm all for theater of the oppressed. People need to express themselves, particularly when they feel (correctly) that they've been wronged. Some incredibly powerful art throughout the ages has come from the disenfranchised among us.

There comes a time, however, when "angry" all by itself is no longer getting the job done.

If we can't celebrate our own uniqueness without feeling compelled at the same time to denigrate someone else, then we're not getting any closer to common ground. We're putting up walls rather than making progress.

(and queer theater has the same dang problem half the time, so don't think I'm letting myself or my queer brothers and sisters off the hook for a second - Gay "Good", Straight "Evil"? Please. Turn on your brain and look around. Sustitute "Straight" for P and "Gay" for V, make the necessary adjustments, and you get two essays for the price of one here)

For instance, there's Theater of the Evil P. In this genre of theater, women decry the evils of men. All men. If it's got a P, there can't be anything good about the person.

I'm not pretending that men don't *sometimes* (perhaps even often) do bad things. Of course they do.

(Heck, I'm a card carrying member of the "White Liberal Guilt" Brigade - it's a Pavlovian response, I've been conditioned. Ring a bell, wag a finger, shake your head, look at me cross-eyed, I'll feel bad about the fact that I don't live in a refrigerator box on the street. However...)

Theater of the Evil P is not thinking person's theater. By definition, it does not feel the need to make its case. In the world according to Theater of the Evil P - "Woman good. Man bad." You agree, or you get out. There is no discussion. There is no debate. It's a screaming match. It doesn't want you to respond to it. It just wants you to sit there and let it berate you. You're a bad person, you should sit there and take it. No thanks.

And hey, that may be it's purpose, just to get the ranting out of your system. Fine. But I don't think I'm your audience then. And maybe I'm not. I've learned to stay away from places I'm not wanted.

(Please read to the end before flaming me)

Theater of the Happy V - theater that celebrates woman and feminity without also feeling the need to use the male of the species as a whipping boy. The best (and perhaps most extreme) example of this would be somethting like the Psychic Slutz production of The Once And Future Whore a few years back. Prior to its Fringe run, it was birthed (quite literally) at Bedlam Theater. After paying for your ticket, you proceded down a long tunnel, parted a slit in some red fabric, and you were in the womb. After stepping into the theater space, you realized that you had just entered through a vagina. Well, were it not for the fact that a daughter of a friend of mine was in the show and I was attending with him that night, I might have just turned around and headed straight for the nearest therapist. But I stayed. And I'm glad I did. Yes, I probably saw more breasts and... uh, other things, live and in person, of all body types, than I will likely ever see again in the totality of my life as a gay man. But the overall atmosphere of welcome and celebration was quite intoxicating. Wouldn't it be great if we lived in a world where (well, with more clothes perhaps, but...) a world in which we all interacted with respect for one another and embraced the feminine side of ourselves and weren't afraid of it? A very unusual, but nonetheless very potent evening of theater. And years later, I remember it still. Because it embraced not only my heart and my mind, but also me, as a person, regardless of whether I had a third leg or not.

This is not an indictment of feminist theater or women's theater.

A number of very good friends of mine founded and continue to run Theater Unbound, a collective for women theater artists that is mounting a production of "The Love Talker" for this year's Fringe. And I'll stand in line and see this and every other production they do, and heartily endorse them to all who will listen (as I'm doing now). I feel what they're doing is very important and necessary work. They are helping to fill a void in the theater community, providing another artistic home for female artists. And creating great theater while they're at it.

I enjoy Fifteen Head - though sometimes it skates pretty close to the edge of Theater of the Evil P, it always pulls itself back at the last moment. Strong female characters do not preclude interesting characters for men as well.

Point me toward some Theater of the Happy V, and I'm there.

But I'll skip Theater of the Evil P, if it's all the same to you. Chances are, I wouldn't be welcome anyway.

If theater's about dialogue, shouldn't the other person at least be allowed in the room?

(Hey, it's only my opinion)
Friendly Persuasion... (2nd in a series)

...or Some Friends' Shows I Can Recommend That Are Worth A Look...

Mrs. Cowbeach's Profession
Pillsbury House Theater

I've seen Stuart Holland developing the character of Mrs. Entwhistle Cowbeach in various outings at Patrick's Cabaret.

Yes, it's a man in a dress, but it's not a drag show. And it's more Family Friendly than it is Queer Content.

It's also very funny stuff. Mrs. Cowbeach is a dear old lady, obsessed with etiquette, and completely oblivious to the double, triple and quadruple entendres that spill from her mouth in a near continuous stream.

If you need a good dry laugh, this is your show. I know I'll be there.

Monday, July 14, 2003

Fringe TV Alert

See the 7/13/2003 post titled "Fringe TV Alert - Week of July 13, 2003" for show content and times for "Cue to Cue's" look at the Fringe, broadcasting Tuesday, July 15, 2003
Do The Math

The Fringe lasts 10 days. Each day has multiple shows.

Even if you don't want to go to more than one show on a weeknight, there's still two Saturdays and two Sundays with 12 hours of programming in 20 different locations.

1 show a day is nothing, particularly if you're just going to an early evening one-hour show. Easily done. You have the rest of the evening and the bulk of the weekend to hang out and socialize with your friends around the Fringe venues all over the city.

If you just did a single show every other day of the festival - that's a Five Show Pass.

If you did just one show each day of the festival - that's an Ultrapass. $100 may seem like an expensive ticket - but it's not one ticket, it's ten tickets. Ten? Did I say ten? You can go to as many shows as you want. The more shows you see, the less they cost you and the more that Ultrapass pays for itself. Heck, I'm having to imagine someone putting a gun to my head to try and limit myself to *only* ten (which ultimately will not happen)

Too much good stuff. The Fringe is the one time of year that I treat myself to theater in bulk. Raw, uncensored, big, sloppy theater in all its live imperfect glory. I can coast on that for weeks, until the fall theater seasons kick in. It's a fun-filled vacation for my mind, and a most welcome one (right in my neighborhood). All for much less than the cost of a plane ticket.
If You Held A Gun To My Head (4 of 10)

...or, If I Could Only See Ten Fringe Shows...

what would they be, and why?

Gilgamesh, Iowa
Bryant Lake Bowl

A 90-minute paean to male friendship, here after a sold-out run in Seattle - comedy, drama, monkeys, tiny houses, cryptozoologist, zombie prom, Irish grave diggers. Personally, I think the women's volleyball team and the wild west whores is trying too hard. I'm a sucker for tales of male bonding. I love a title that puts Gilgamesh and Iowa together. And, frankly, they had me at the name of the theater company. How can you not be a little curious about a band of theatre people who call themselves The Ethereal Mutt, Limited? I'm swinging wild on this one, but it's just too many quirky bits drawing me in. See you in Gilgamesh, Iowa.
It's Only My Opinion

Hey folks, that thing I said about the "theater of me"? It's my own personal prejudice. I said as much. If you like and/or perform autobiographical material, more power to you. I mentioned my bias so you could ignore me in regard to those shows and make up your own mind.

I'm not telling anyone not to see anything. I respect the hard work that goes into a show too much to dismiss anyone's work sight unseen.

I lean toward the familiar. The world of solo shows is relatively foreign to me. Like I said before, consider the source.

Also, if I recommend a storytelling/autobiographical/solo show, then you know it has to have overcome some serious reservations on my part.

Kevin Kling and Tod Petersen (at Illusion Theater) fall into that category.

Take it with the grain of salt with which I titled it, and move on.

Fringe TV Alert

See this week's schedule in an earlier post from yesterday for broadcast times on "Cue to Cue" for Monday, July 14, 2003
Take a local theater for a test drive

One of the many great things about the Fringe is that it allows you to sample the work of a theater company with which you're not already familiar.

Theater's expensive. During the course of a theater's regular season, you're lucky if you can find a ticket for $15, more likely it's $18, $20 or $25. If you don't know a company's work, I can understand the reluctance to blow that kind of money and a whole evening of your life on that.

Here at the Fringe, you can sample them for just an hour or 90 minutes of your time, and $10, tops. If you get a Fringe Ultrapass and see more than ten shows (which I highly recommend as an unrepentant Fringe junkie myself), the cost of shows just keeps going down.

Ballet of the Dolls is doing their own unique take on the legend of "Beauty and the Beast."

Fifteen Head is doing "Oil on Canvas," an exploration of the wild life and times of the artist Modigliani in Paris before World War I.

Theater Gallery is remounting a production hailed as one of the top ten of 2001, "Zap! Kunst! or Presto! It's Art!" They've been getting consistently good reviews for all their productions but they've only been in town a couple of years, so you might have missed them.

Theater Unbound is a new company just kicking into gear that does quality work.

Gremlin Theater, Ministry of Culutural Warfare, there are so many more that I know I'm overlooking. This is just off the top of my head.

Check the websites of the local shows. If they're an ongoing theater company throughout the year, this is a great opportunity to introduce yourself to a theater company that could become your own personal addiction, and a source of entertainment till the next Fringe comes around.

Now's your chance to try any or all of them for a fraction of their normal cost. Under these conditions, I'd suggest "all."

Sunday, July 13, 2003

Don't stop with this website

On many of the listings for the shows, there is a small button saying, "View Artist's Website" right under the description of the show.

Click on it.

A lot of artists have enthusiastic and funky websites, full of information. You can learn more about both them and the show.

Chances are, if you're on the fence about their show, that website will push you over the edge, to one side or another. Some shows just don't lend themselves well to a short description, and the fuller explanation makes things clearer. Some artists don't sound like someone you'd want to spend even an hour with, but most do. Just like on first dates, a sense of humor is always a plus for setting one at ease.

So don't think of it as homework, think of it as touring the inside of someone else's head. And all you have to do is point and click.
Grain of Salt (first in a series)

My personal prejudices, so you can consider the source...

There are certain shows that probably aren't going to show up in my discussions of things I'm excited about. Doesn't mean they're not valid. They're just not for me.

"Don't Quit Your Day Job"
Just because it happened to you, doesn't mean it's interesting

There's a whole school of theater that would be better confined to a psychiatrist's office.

People seem compelled to purge all their feelings about their daily lives and particularly their day jobs in their art, if you can call it that.

Just because it happened to a human being doesn't automatically make it relevant or universal to the rest of us. Now, there are exceptions, and notable ones, to this. The specificity of detail able to be provided by someone who has literally done a certain job can ground a piece in reality and create a different world that many of us have not experienced. And the "workplace as alternative family" genre of storytelling has given us some really facinating art - theatre, TV, movies, you name it. But it's one of those things that can very easily be done badly. If the artist isn't reaching for something more than ranting against the injustice of the fact that they have to work for a living with people who don't appreciate art, well, that's not terribly interesting to me.

So if a blurb on a show has something to do with "recounting the artist's personal experiences...," chances are I probably won't be lining up for it. There are too many other things to choose from that I do have an interest in seeing. But that's just me...
If You Held A Gun To My Head (part 3 of 10)

...or, If I Could Only Go To Ten Fringe Shows...

what would they be, and why?

Voice-In-Head: Improv Headphone-Guided Futurismo
The Theatrical Music Company at Minneapolis Theater Garage

This is just one of those things that's so odd, and frankly (delightfully) insane, that I have to go at least once just to see if it works. I'll probably go more than once, since it's a new experience with a new cast each evening. Every night of the Fringe, after all the other shows have been put to bed (11:20pm all nights but Sundays, when it's 9:50pm), 13 different volunteer performers from other Fringe shows are chosen at random - right before showtime, costumed and given a set of headphones and a MP3 player to strap on. The cast all hit their Play buttons at the same time, and they're off, creating a show as instructed by their individual set of directions over the headphones. And sometimes, the headphones just tell them to cut loose and improv something - so we may be getting selections from a number of other shows woven into this one. Sound like fun? Hit the website that's linked to their Fringe listing and sign up as a volunteer performer. I, and many others, will happily watch the magical marvelous highwire act that results.
Fringe TV alert

Week of July 13, 2003

To avoid clutter, future alerts will just refer back to this list for the week.

Coming soon, if technology cooperates, the ability to view these shows from the web. More details as they become available, one way or the other.

Also, one of the episodes will be aired on August 3rd on the St. Paul Public TV station, channel 17, so anyone in the Cities should be able to access that. Time and content of that show still being determined. More to follow.

In the meantime, those of you in the St. Paul area who have access to Channel 19, SPNN St. Paul Neighborhood Network cable access --

"Cue to Cue" spotlights the Fringe...
All shows feature Executive Director Leah Cooper giving us an overview of the Fringe from various angles.

Guests for each show...

Episode 1 - Sock Puppet Serenade from Hunter Marionettes, Spoken Word Fringe artist Lisa Perez

Episode 2 - Theater Unbound's "The Love Talker", VISTA Productions' "The Point"

Episode 3 - Visible Fringe curator Yuri Arajs and artist Amy Rice, Theatre Gallery's "Zap! Kunst! or Presto! It's Art!"

Episode 4 - Spoken Word/Visible Fringe/solo show and chalk artist multi-tasker Tom Cassidy of "The Hanging of Pollyana," KaBenco's blend of tap and music in "...and now for something completely different"

Episode 5 - Fifteen Head's "Oil On Canvas," Ministry of Cultural Warfare's "Industrials"

Episode 6 - Kirsten Frantzich and Josette Antomarchi in "Marlene Dietrich and Edith Piaf: The Kamikaze and The Chameleon", storyteller Kevin Kling


Sunday, July 13, 2003
6-7pm, 11pm-12midnight - Episodes 1 and 2 in both slots

Monday, July 14, 2003
12noon-3pm - Episodes 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6
9-10pm - Episodes 3 and 4

Tuesday, July 15, 2003
3-4pm - Episodes 3 and 4
8:30-9:30pm - Episodes 5 and 6

Thursday, July 16, 2003
12noon-2pm - Episodes 6, 1, 2 and 3
6-7pm - Episodes 3 and 4
8:30-9:30pm - Episodes 5 and 6

Friday, July 18, 2003
2:30-4pm - Episodes 1, 2 and 3
8:30-10pm - Episodes 4, 5, and 6

Sunday, July 20, 2003
3:30-6:30pm - Episodes 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6

The shows will continue to be in heavy rotation until the Fringe Festival. Further schedules to follow as I receive them.
Friendly Persuasion (first in a series)

(or, Which Friends' Shows are actually worth seeing?)

Don't forget the Fresh Fringe.

Illusion Theater is extending its annual Fresh Ink series of new work into Fringe territory to give us even more new material to sample.

It's a little hard to find these shows on the website because they have only the most basic information attached to them - no genre markers, no listing of the artists involved - so they won't turn up on most normal searches.

Quickest way to find them, just run a search with Illusion Theater as the identifier and nothing else. That'll turn them all up at once.

Why are they worth it? Here's the lowdown (in no particular order)

Six Steps by Brent Doyle
Brent's an incredibly talented Twin Cities actor who's popping up everywhere lately, on both stage and screen (having just finished a run in the world premiere of Craig Lucas' new play "Small Tragedy" and seen in the local film festival in Patrick Coyle's movie "Detective Fiction" - the first Minnesota film ever to make it to Sundance). But Brent is also a very talented playwright. Last year's Fringe featured his play "Ellen's Empty Chair." This year, it's "Six Steps," a tale of superheroes afraid of sitting idle too long. However, the use of the phrase "evildoer" in the blurb makes me think there's more going on here than standard comic book fare. Definitely worth checking out.

Tell Me On A Sunday - Patty Nieman has one of the most pure and beautiful voices currently working in the Cities. She has been involved in a number of projects on the Illusion and History Theater stages (Vanishing Point, Cocoanuts, The Christmas Schooner and Sisters of Swing, just to name a few). She has such a lovely voice and such engaging stage presence that I'm even going to see this show - a one woman show by, shudder, Andrew Lloyd Webber. This is a testament to her drawing power with me like none other.

Buy Me A Mockingbird - Tod Petersen, Patty's male counterpart in the fine singing voice category, brings another new show, full of his signature humor and showmanship. Queer content, for those of you who get nervous about that kind of thing. But give him a shot. Great voice, great laughs, the most family friendly kind of gay artist I can think of.

If You Don't Really Want To Know - Then Don't Ask Me - Kim Hines reprises her role as Mae-Belle (from Don't Let 'Em Catch You), a psychic who can't stay out of everyone else's business. Sure to be a hoot.

So check out the Fresh Fringe. Illusion Theater has all winners in this year's Fringe.

Thursday, July 10, 2003

Fringe TV alert

SPNN, St. Paul Neighborhood Network, public access cable, Channel 19

Thursday, July 10, 2003
2:30-3:30pm and 7-8pm

"Cue to Cue" looks at the Fringe Festival - each hour holds a replay of the first two of six episodes spotlighting the Fringe - with commentary from Exec Director Leah Cooper and samplings of Sock Puppet Serenade, some Spoken Word Fringe, The Love Talker, and the musical The Point.
If You Held A Gun To My Head (part 2 of 10)

...or, If I Could Only Go To Ten Fringe Shows...

what would they be and why?

Staggering Toward America
Bryant Lake Bowl

The buzz on this show is that the script is simply amazing. A solo 90-minute show from L.A. about a man in search of post 9/11 America that has been hailed as both hilarious and heartwarming.

So if, like me, you're feeling a little strange about the world these days, and our country's place in it - and you don't feel like bombing every nation that looks at you cross-eyed and have run out of people who scare you to throw in prison - well, this might be the place for an intelligent and entertaining respite from the madness.

This one caught my eye when I first saw the initial Fringe listings and I've only gotten more excited about it. Can't wait.

Wednesday, July 09, 2003

Sure Things...

(or, try Sex with David Mann)

(or, experience something that someone before you has already tried and liked)

(or, if they decided to mount it again, it's worth your while to show up and watch)

But seriously folks, there are many - many, many, many - shows that are either back for a second helping of the Minneapolis audience because they were so popular the first time, or shows that have been making the Fringe or other theater circuits around the country and around the globe, picking up accolades wherever they go, that have finally landed in our neck of the woods.

Trying something new and untested make you nervous? Try some slightly used, but well loved and highly recommended theater.

For instance, (in no particular order)

the aforementioned Sex With David Mann, back again, this time at In The Heart of the Beast Puppet Theater (I can vouch for this one personally, I saw it the first time)

The Worst Show In The Fringe - last year's most popular Fringe show, one of the City Pages' Top Ten for 2002, also at In The Heart of the Beast.

Around the World In A Bad Mood - which started on the Fringe circuit, came through town, evolved into a one woman off-Broadway hit and is now back on the circuit, here at Hey City Theater Upstairs

Sabotage: in fine form - in its fourth year touring, with good reviews from Seattle to Albuquerque to LA to Montreal, playing at Hey City Theater, downstairs

ZAP! KUNST! or PRESTO! IT'S ART! - a remount of a City Pages Top 10 of 2000 on its first regular theatrical run, by a new Twin Cities troupe, The Theater Gallery, who have been collecting reviews from the Star Tribune that look more like love letters.

A Comment from the Peanut Gallery - trailing good reviews in its wake from places as far flung as New Zealand and Los Angeles, now settling in for a run at Acadia.

Charlie Bethel's Beowulf - a one-man home run at the Jungle Theater

Moby Dick by Herman Melville - also at the Jungle, by way of successful run in New York. As the artist's website says, "One Man. One Hour. One Whale."

War Golems - from Fifty Foot Penguin Theater and Zach Curtis, who has revised the show since its lauded first run. Now to be found at the Loring Playhouse.

Getting It Wrong - at Acadia, by way of LA

Pull Yourself Up By Your Bra Straps Again - over at Brave New Workshop, a sequel to one of the Star Tribune's top picks in 2002

Punk Rock Revisited - also at Brave New Workshop, another sequel, this one to Punk Rock Omaha, already a very buzzed about show.

One-Man Hamlet - wowed 'em all over Scotland and Canada, (with puppets, no less), now housed at our own Bryant Lake Bowl

Weaverville Waltz - also at the BLB, after bringing in praise in San Francisco as well as the Canadian Fringe circuit.

Pretty much anything involving the Scrimshaw Brothers (and they've got their hands in four, count 'em, four shows this year). They've been involved in nine of the first ten years of the Fringe. It wouldn't be a Fringe without them - Look Ma No Pants, or A One Woman Show featuring the Scrimshaw Brothers, etc. Can't go wrong.

The Point by Harry Nilsson - a VISTA productions remount at MCTC Whitney Mainstage, playing here before heading off as one of the selected acts at the Edinburgh Fringe in Scotland.

Medea - the company Eyewitness Theatre comes to us from England, and recently won the International Theatre Festival in Frankfurt, now at the Minneapolis Theater the Garage

Selling Blood - also at the Garage, also from England, this show was also a winner at the International Theater Festival, in Manchester in 2002.

69 Moments of Life by Terry Costa - one a roll from previous productions in Canada, now at our Old Arizona.

Emily Dickinson: My Letter to the World - back again at the Fringe after a popular initial run, labeled a "must see" by the Pioneer Press, also housed at Old Arizona

Tyrannous Rex - getting good press from Australia and Canada, now also setting up shop in Old Arizona

I Hate This - (no, really, that's the title) - on display at Red Eye Collaboration, after successful touring starting in Ohio.

So put a few of these in the mix, to put your mind at ease, and then try something brand new as well. Who knows, that new show this year could be next year's highly anticipated returning production.
Try a little bit of everything...

More than anything, the Fringe is a place to experiment with expanding your horizons - both cheaply and quickly.

$10 is a lot less than you would normally pay to see a dance performance, or just about any theater performance.

And if you find you don't like something, well, hey, it's only an hour out of your life, at least you tried, now you know, on to the next experience.

I'm not saying, "Go to things just because you think they're good for you (the artistic equivalent of eating all your vegetables.)"

By all means, go to as many things as you possibly can that strike you as fun.

But if there's such a thing as good performance art - and there are days, believe me, when I wonder - you've got a far better shot at finding it here than any other time during the year.

Dance, storytelling, solo pieces, huge ensembles, new plays, spoken word, dramas, musicals, puppets, juggling, comedy, physical feats of sheer daring of all types, improv, variety, vaudeville, cabaret, across the spectrum from "family friendly" to "queer content" and everything in between (often a mix of many of the above in a single show).

It's an embarrassment of riches in an already art-rich city. By all means, dive in. Don't be shy. There's plenty to go around for everyone.

Monday, July 07, 2003

Fringe TV alert

For those of you in the St. Paul area...

SPNN, the St. Paul Neighborhood Network, Channel 19

Tomorrow, July 8, 2003

The theater discussion show "Cue to Cue" is running its first two in a series of six episodes on the Minnesota Fringe Festival.

These two programs feature selections from Sock Puppet Serenade by Hunter Marionettes, spoken word artist Lisa Perez, Theatre Unbound's production of The Love Talker, and VISTA Production's musical The Point, as well as an overview of the festival by Executive Director of the Fringe, Leah Cooper.

The two half-hour episodes are run back to back in a hour block of time

3-4pm and 8:30-9:30pm.

A full schedule for this week exists in my first post, but I'll throw out reminders if I remember as well.

Just one of many ways you can preview the Fringe - also, check out the home page of the Fringe site for information on live showcases of local and out of town artists prior to opening night on August 1.
If You Held A Gun to My Head... (part 1 of 10)

...or, If I Could Only Go To Ten Fringe Shows...

what would they be and why?

Baseball, Dogs and Motorcycles
Kevin Kling
Hey City Theater, downstairs

This one's not much of a stretch. It was the first show to cross my mind when the question of 10 and only 10 came up.

Kevin Kling's a great storyteller and a great guy as well.

Spending time in his presence allows me to relax and appreciate life, to laugh at society but especially myself and all the silly things I get hung up on.

The fact that Kevin feels like the Fringe is a community of which he wants to be a part just validates the experience all the more for me. After all, he's not a guy looking for his first break in the entertainment world. He doesn't need to do the Fringe - he wants to.

Above all, after listening to Kevin spin a tale or two, I feel more human, more creatively energized, and feel that the world seems a little more like something I could actually affect for the better.

At just ten bucks, that's not a bargain, it's a steal.

Sunday, July 06, 2003

Location, Location, Location

When constructing your Fringe schedule, give yourself some breathing room, and don't tempt the traffic and parking gods more than absolutely necessary.

Find a show that's a must-see? See what else is playing at that venue over the course of the festival. Hanging out in the same locale for a couple of shows or more gives you the leisure time to mingle with other Fringers and get their take on other worthwhile shows to see elsewhere. Plus you might get to meet some of the artists while you're at it.

If nothing at the same location strikes your fancy, try something in a venue nearby...

Intermedia Arts and Bryant Lake Bowl are walking distance from one another, you don't even have to move your car. Or you could move your car, but only as far as Old Arizona.

Hey City Theater Upstairs and Downstairs - what's more convenient than that? And Illusion Theater's just up the street.

Loring Playhouse is a leisurely stroll from the MCTC's Whitney Mainstage, which is just down the hall from Whitney Studio, and all three are a quick car ride from the Minneapolis Theater Garage.

You get the idea.
Sax and Violins

Violence warnings

May not be as scary the title implies - for example...

Two of the warnings are attached to the classics - Beowulf and Medea

One is attached to a memoir of the Vietnam War

One is related to a zombie show

One has a description which includes "bear eats child" (hopefully not from a family in the audience, but...)

Nothing unexpected there.

A couple are attached to riffs on the Bible (a book known to have a gory passage or two, regardless of the testament) - one show's comedic, the other more serious - and depending on how seriously you take the Bible, and how liberal your sense of humor is - despite or because of your religious leanings - they could be delightful or offensive for reasons completely unrelated to violence.

One warning's tacked on to the Strip Club show that already has a nudity warning - but it's a one woman show, so unless she beats herself up...

One's appended to a production of sketch comedy about love. (Who's been reading my diary?)

One's attached to Ministry of Cultural Warfare's "Industrials" - why, I have no idea - but I trust them.

One's attached to Theatre Unbound's "The Love Talker" - but again, I trust them.

Steel your stomach and take a chance. After all, they can't say they didn't warn us. And let's face it, we see worse on the nightly news to absolutely no purpose but to get us to buy another lock for the door and fear our neighbor. At least, one hopes, these violent interludes have a purpose.

When all else fails, just keep telling yourself, "It's only a play."
Friends and Family

When you're wittling down the 162 shows to your own special list of the precious few, consider...

are any friends or family members in shows?

Not sure? Ask them. (Though they've probably already hit you up to come and see them on stage, unless they're the shy type)

Attendance and word of mouth are hard to get going, particularly right at the start. They'll love you even more than they already do.

Going this route nearly always introduces me to some good stuff I would otherwise have missed.

My actor friend Nathan is responsible for introducing me to the Ministry of Cultural Warfare a couple of Fringes ago, and I've hit each Fringe show since, plus some of their regular season outings as well. Intelligent, well-acted, (actually funny) comedy - what a pleasant surprise. And of course, they're back again this year, this time with "Industrials" at Intermedia Arts, which sounds like a hoot.

Not an actor among your friends or family? Go see something by someone you've seen in other productions outside the Fringe, or that comes recommended friends, family, or... well, anyone making the Fringe rounds. Hang out afterward, pay them a compliment, and if you don't seem like the stalker type, you might have just made a new friend for next Fringe.
Live Nude Fringe

Well, not really.

Folks, for good or ill, you really don't have to worry about seeing too many naughty bits this year. So you can either relax and enjoy yourselves, or sigh and wish you were enjoying yourselves more.

There are only 3, count 'em, 3, shows with nudity warnings this year.

3 Way at Pillsbury House Theater, courtesy of Filthy Whore Productions, so what did you expect? Guy on guy on guy action (or rather, sorting it all out the morning after), for those of you that care one way or the other (personally I do care, and you can all decide for yourselves which way).

A Regular Night at the Strip Club at the Minneapolis Theatre Garage, a solo woman's show, so you can figure that one out.

and finally

Tyrannous Rex at the Old Arizona from Company C Nana of Australia, so you can rest assured that after the Fringe is over, you won't be running into Rex on the street. This may make things less or more enticing for some.

So take your pick, but remember, "The Fringe. It's not just naked people throwing food." (Now, more than ever)
I feel quite remiss in not starting sooner, yet better late than never.

One project I've been working on should help you sample some of the Fringe.

SPNN, the St. Paul Neighborhood Network, cable access channel 19, will be running a new show on theater called "Cue To Cue." The first six programs spotlight the variety of the Fringe Festival, with Leah Cooper, Exec Director of the Fringe, and I co-hosting.

The first two episodes go into rotation this week on the Channel 19 schedule. Those in the St. Paul area should be able to pick it up.

Episode One features excerpts from the Hunter Marionettes of Sock Puppet Serenade and Amy Solloway, Spoken Fringe goddess, and spoken word performer Lisa Perez.

Episode Two features excerpts from Theatre Unbound and their show The Love Talker, and VISTA Productions with their show The Point, which is headed for the Edinburgh Fringe in Scotland after the first week here with us in Minneapolis.

This week's schedule:

Tuesday, July 8, 2003 - episodes one and two back to back at
3-4pm and 8:30-9:30pm

Thursday, July 10, 2003 - episodes one and two back to back at
2:30-3:30pm and 7-8pm

Friday, July 11, 2003 - episodes one and two back to back at
1:30-2:30pm and 6-7pm

Saturday, July 12, 2003 - episodes one and two back to back at

Sunday, July 13, 2003 - episodes one and two back to back at
11am-12noon, 6-7pm, 11pm-12midnight