Sunday, April 25, 2004

Fringe 2004 Early Buzz - Honorable Mentions (2 & 3 of 3)

Fast Fringe 1: The Agony
Fast Fringe 2: The Ecstasy
produced by The Spanish Ladies
Loring Playhouse

Short play festivals are cropping up all over the country, so why shouldn't the country's largest Fringe Festival have one of its very own?

That was the question and challenge spurring us on as we created the Fringe's first foray into short play showcase experimentation, Fast Fringe.

2 slots, 5 playwrights each, for a total of 10 short plays ranging across all manner of styles and subject matter.

The plays and playwrights are as follows:

Exit Interview by Eugenia Jensen
Manhandled by Mic Weinblatt
Paper Trail by Dominic Orlando
Das Ewig Weibliche by Timothy Cope
Milk by Amanda Thompson
All About Words by Michelle Pett
Limbo Lounge by Betty Liedtke
Mud On A Little Girl's Dress by Jason Connors
Infinite Justice by Mike Peroz
Your Call Is Very Important To Us by Roy Close

A tabloid tale come to life. Super-sized maternal instincts. A homeland security pas de deux. Something that may or may not be incest. A meditation on the virtues of manual vs. battery-operated breast pumps. A gun on the kitchen table. A look at where discarded characters wind up. A hitman in the family. A vengeful father who may or may not be worse that the terrorist he stalks. A trip through the looking glass of a customer service phone bank. Hilarious and terrifying. Thought-provoking but always entertaining. This is a collection of playwrights, most of them local, whose way with words captured our attention. 5 plays each, collected in two Fringe-sized hour-long packages. That's ten shows for the price of two. How can you lose?

The producers, The Spanish Ladies (thanks to a Lady of Spain acordion joke gone horribly awry), are myself, Daniel Pinkerton and Roy Close. Our director for all ten plays is Bryan Bevell, a San Diego transplant who recently directed Lobby Hero for the Jungle Theater. Come see what we've cooked up for you.

View excerpts of the scripts, photos and more in a special section of

(For more of my writing - plays, past blog entries and more - visit
Fringe 2004 Early Buzz - Honorable Mentions (1 of 3)

My objectivity on these shows is probably a wee bit skewed, as they have very direct personal connections, and are close to my heart. I'm not going to front-load the top 10 prospects with them, but they come very highly recommended. After all, why would I be involved otherwise?

Dandelion Snow
by Matthew A. Everett
Out on Stage Productions
MCTC Whitney Mainstage

It was not my original intent to actually have a script of my own in the Fringe. I was helping to produce an entirely different Fringe show that would showcase the work of other writers. But the producer/director of Out on Stage had their original choice of script fall through due to scheduling. A good friend steered them my way. After reading a copy of my scripts, Dandelion Snow was chosen. It's a script that evolved over the course of three years, three Ten Minute Play Festivals and a Great American Play Bakeoff, all sponsored by The Playwrights' Center. The characters of Dana and Ash, two high school sweethearts who meet again in their 30's in the ruins of their old elementary school, burned to the ground by a freak lightning strike, are creations who stuck with me, and whose circle of acquaintances and family continued to grow in both fun and touching directions. Mothers, sisters, husbands, even potential new boyfriends delivering pizza. Love revived, love requited and unrequited, love that won't let you go unless you send it packing. The first segment was a finalist in the national ten minute play contest at the Actors Theater of Louisville, and was fully produced as part of the Original Theatre Company's ten minute play showcase "Ten By Ten" at the Theatre Garage for an extended run back in the fall of 2000. But the full four parts of it - the title sequence, Across Their River, Extra Cheese, and Tools - have never been produced before. I've been lucky enough to have commissions and productions the past four years running, but never in town, or even in state. I'd be on one coast or the other but my friends in the Midwest haven't had a chance to see my work lately. Now, thanks to Out on Stage, the Fringe 2004 is about to change all that. So, join the homecoming, and meet Ash, Dana, Julian, Abigail, Grace, Claire, and Aidan. I personally vouch for them, one and all.

Read excerpts of the four parts of the cycle
Dandelion Snow
Across Their River
Extra Cheese
and Tools
as well as other coverage, photos and more at
Fringe 2004 Early Buzz - The Return of Mom

A number of people have asked, and I was afraid I was going to have to disappoint you. But she's baaack...

Yes, Mom's coming to town for another Fringe. She was originally scheduled to come visit in June only. But because I've got a script of my own being done in the Fringe now (more on that shortly), she felt she had to come back again in August, if only for a weekend. So my Mom will be a guest reviewer once more, this time in the Fringe's opening weekend, so you can put her opinions to good use for the remainder of the festival. Just like last year, Fringing with a fellow theatre junkie should be twice the fun. Just the way to kick off Fringe 2004.

(For more of my writing - plays, past blog entries featuring Mom's assessment of Fringe 2003 and more - visit
Fringe 2004 Early Buzz - Sure Things (3 of 3)

Sure Thing #3

from Kevin Kling
Woman's Club of Minneapolis

A new one person show from Kevin Kling, one of our very best storytellers - an evening of whoppers, big lies he insists are true.

Even with old material, I'd line up to see Mr. Kling. To get in on the ground floor as he crafts brand new stories? One of the treasures of the Fringe.

To get even more Kevin, visit his site at

(For more of my writing - plays, past blog entries and more - visit
Fringe 2004 Early Buzz - Sure Things (2 of 3)

See the previous post for my rationale of creating this Top 3 above the Top 10 list of shows which I'm most looking forward to seeing.

Sure Thing #2

In Defense of Sin (My Friends' Best Stories)
from the Ministry of Cultural Warfare
at Intermedia Arts

One of the many things I like about the Ministry of Cultural Warfare (and there are a great many) is that they're always trying something new and intriguing.

Always it's funny. Quite often, it's just plain great.

My first exposure to MoCW was Fringe 2001's "Into the Acid Fountain" - a bizarro-world Fellini-esque variety hour. Fringe 2002 found the standard of the one-set front porch play turned inside out to present us with "Slaughterhouse Warming." Fringe 2003 brought the "pharmaceutical grade kitsch" of "Industrials." And now the multimedia staging of real-life stories of Matthew Foster's non-theater friends - weird, funny, horrifying and stupid, sometimes all four at once. Potential tales range from having parasites removed with only a bottle of rum handy for anesthetic all the way to finding oneself at a birthday party for the self-appointed queen of the Denver Ku Klux Klan. All the stories are real - and deeply funny. As the folks associated with MoCW say, "It's like reality TV. Except it's live on stage. And also doesn't bite."

For more about the show and the Ministry of Cultural Warfare in general, visit them at

(For more of my writing - plays, past blog entries and more - visit
Fringe 2004 Early Buzz - Sure Things (1 of 3)

As I scan the advance listings of information on the continually evolving 2004 Minnesota Fringe Festival, a number of productions jump out at me.

Last year, I mused about what I would do if someone put a gun to my head and I was only allowed to chose ten Fringe shows to attend, what would they be?

This year, 3 of those top 10 artists are back. It seemed a little unfair to the other 170+ shows to have 3 slots of the top ten already filled up. So to clear the decks for a brand new top 10 prospects, I figured I'd set aside those 3 vets - sort of grandfather them in, if you will, give them their very own category.

Sure Things

Not the same old things by any stretch of the imagination. In fact, they're all striking out in new directions.

Just shows that are sure to be very popular, and deservedly so.

Shows that will almost certainly sell out, and deservedly so.

So when the reservation lines open and the Fringe Festival site goes live on July 1st, these are three shows for which it would be well worth taking the trouble to make advance reservations. Or get in line early for one of their first performances. For the lines, they shall be long, and the performances, they shall be turning people away. Don't be one of them.

Sure Thing #1

Plants and Animals
by Scot Augustson of Seattle, WA
at the Bryant Lake Bowl

Scot wrote the play I fell in love with last year, "Gilgamesh, Iowa."

I've had the pleasure of reading a number of Scot's plays since Fringe 2003. Naughty puppet shows, lesbian christmas film noirs, crackpot tours of ancient mythologies, or gay Cold War espionage tales - they all reaffirmed my delight in his singular talent - hilarious, inventive, intelligent, and above all, intensively humane and sympathetic. Makes me doubly sad that he lives and usually works clear over on the West Coast, and we get to see him and his plays but once a year. But that "once a year" has at last come round again.

This new script he brings to the Fringe is a bit of whimsy telling the tale of the day when the plants join forces with the animals of the earth and rise up against humanity. Another familiar returning face with this show is Jonah Von Spreeken, one-half of last year's stellar Gilgamesh cast.

I'm looking so forward to it that I plan to be there on opening night, Friday, August 6th (and quite likely for some of the performances that follow as well). Perhaps I'll see you there.

(For more of my writing - plays, past blog entries and more - visit

Sunday, April 18, 2004

Minnesota Fringe Festival 2004 - A Love Story

I go to the Fringe to fall in love.

It didn't start out that way.

I guess I have Bruce Abas to blame for exposing me to this.

The Fringe Festival wasn't even on my radar for the first few years of its existence, even though I had already been living in Minneapolis for two years by the time it began.

The reason I even crossed paths with the Fringe of 1998 was because of a play my friend Bruce had written called "Freak" that was being produced in the Loring Playhouse. I went because it was his play and because I wanted to support him, and his little dating psycho-drama - emphasis on the psycho - it wasn't called "Freak" for nothing.

The Fringe had 41 shows that year, its 5th, and the advertising slogan was "Theater as Big as Your Head." None of the other 40 shows got me in the door. I didn't get that "larger festival community" thing, went right over my head.

The next year, Bruce was back with another play, "Happy Meal," as well as an actor friend of mine, Jamison, so I was back to the Fringe yet again, at the Loring, yet again. Number 6, "Plays With Fire," 70 shows in all. This time, I had some other friends, Dash Productions, doing a Whitman compendium called, "Walt Whitman in the Great Supermarket Odyssey," at Red Eye. Walt's poetry and writing in general, plus a hunky supermarket bag boy type, what's not to like? For some reason I also crossed the threshold of the Phoenix Theater's black box space - remember the Phoenix? - for a new play double feature "Sure Thing/Making Love." Can't remember why. While I was thankful there seemed to be a lot of theater handy to my neighborhood, I still hadn't quite succumbed to the Fringe's charms. The other 67 shows went unsampled.

Then came year 7, "Theatre on a Stick," Fringe 2000, and, at the request of a playwright friend, I had auditioned for and somehow landed the part of Jimmy Olson, making out with a guy who wore those fabled Superman tights, all summer long. Nice blocking if you can get it. A strange little play, but the Artist's Fringe Pass gave me no more excuses not to root around and see what other theater I could find. The Fringe had me locked in for a week and a half, might as well see what was up. 100 shows, and as near as I can figure, aside from my own, I saw eight. And this is where the love started. I became intoxicated by the sheer scope and possibility of theater and live performance. I saw my friend Alex, first time out of the box, hit a home run with his first play, "DNA and the Dancing Fool" (which ended up getting an award as well as sell out crowds). I experienced severe playwriting envy and joy upon seeing my friend Todd's time-tripping, role-swapping delight of a script, "Love's Lines, Angles and Rhymes," brought to fabulous life by his partner Robert and what would become their own little ensemble of actor/friends over the next few years. Best show I saw that year, in the Fringe or out. I went back for repeat viewings and wouldn't shut up about it to my friends, insisting they had to see it. Learning after the fact that the whole thing was written in iambic pentameter and still felt like natural modern dialogue, well, floored me. The half-dozen other plays I saw, mostly involving friends in some aspect of the production - including a play written by now Executive Director of the Fringe Leah Cooper, were a mixed bag, some great, some good, some "eh." But I was hooked.

2001, The Fringe That 8 Minnesota, 120 shows, this time I was but a silent observer. Again, 8 shows seen, again mostly friends involved. My love affair that year was again a Todd Hughes script, the sequel to "Love's Lines..." entitled "Midnight Train to Georgia." To see one's reality reflected back at one from the stage, with affection and humor and unrepentant optimism, well, it gives one hope for one's own writing and the world in general. How could I not love something that inspired me so? The Ministry of Cultural Warfare finally drew me in (and has yet to let go). Most of all, I saw the Fringe as a haven for new plays in particular, something that the rest of the year most theaters couldn't afford to take a risk on. Before it was even over, I was already looking forward to the Fringe returning next year.

2002 was the year I realized how far gone I was because I was going through withdrawal pangs. The workshop phase of the production of a new musical I was collaborating on had me headed out of town shortly after the Fringe's opening weekend. I missed the vast majority of that year's 135-plus shows, barely having enough time to catch the five that were being put on by close friends. Since I was already in love with a lot of the writing on display in "Liability," "A Postcard from the Corn Palace," "No Smoking, No Pets, No Loud Sex, " and the latest from the Ministry, "Slaughterhouse Warming," it didn't seem like the rush of first love so much as it was a reaffirmation of all the things I valued in my relationships with those playwrights as a loyal audience member. But the larger "flurry of artistic adventures" was out of my reach that year, maddeningly so. Still, I took comfort in the fact that at least I witnessing plenty of creativity firsthand, just on a much smaller scale, in my workshop halfway across the country. That was a year I was very glad I could count on the Fringe to return.

The Fringe's 10th Birthday, I was lovestruck with a vengeance. Being asked to see and comment upon as much of the Fringe as possible, and also to arrange to share the best of it with my mother - the theater junkie apple didn't fall far from that tree - it was the best of all possible worlds. The 32 of the 162 shows I was able to see did not disappoint. And of course, I fell so deeply in love with "Gilgamesh, Iowa," I returned and saw nearly all their performances.

The Fringe renews my faith in the viability and creativity and community and necessity of theater. All of its best and worst concentrated in one 10 day stretch, much of it not far from my front door. It reminds me why I keep sitting down at my laptop and typing, "Lights up..." It's a shot of adrenalin directly into my creative heart that makes it beat a little faster, and then gives it the fuel and impulse to keep beating and creating the other 11 months of the year.

Staring down the gun barrel of over 175 shows - 2 of which I'm helping produce (at, of all things, the Loring), another of which I wrote (just around the corner on the MCTC Whitney Mainstage), all of which I'm gathering information on for blogging and TV hosting purposes - I couldn't be more delightfully overwhelmed this year.

And there's a show, out there somewhere, waiting for me. With luck, once more, I'll find it.

You'll see a lot of my best guesses as to where and what it might be over the coming weeks, but there's really no telling. Once the curtain goes up, all bets are off. My only nagging regret is that it's not humanly possible to see them all - or even half of them.

I go to the Fringe to fall in love.

Guess we'll see...

(For more of my writing - plays, past blog entries and more - visit