Thursday, June 30, 2005

Fringe 2005 - Change of Venue

Hey all,

Looks like the Fringe has decided to bring its own venue as well.

They're moving the blogs onsite, rather than channeling them through a separate host - in this case,

So yesterday was spent over there experimenting with the test blog setup.

I'm going to be playing over there again today. And the Fringe site with all its wonderful redesigned features will be going live at noon on July 1.

So check us out over there at at that time.

More later.

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

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Fringe 2005 - TV Guest #8 - Rik Reppe

Monday, June 20, 2005 - 12noon

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

She never does that.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For more on Rik and his performances, visit

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

(For more of my writing - plays, past blog entries and more - visit
Fringe 2005 - TV Guest #7 - Leah Cooper

Monday, June 20, 2005 - 11:00am

I'll admit it. I love Leah Cooper, Executive Director of the Minnesota Fringe Festival. I'm proud and flattered to be able to call her my friend. She's really just cooler than any human being has a right to be.

She writes, she acts, she directs. But most importantly, she's one of the best (if not flat out just *the* best) thing to happen to the Fringe and the theater community in general in a very long time.

She loves artists, she understands artists, she welcomes artists - and artists at all levels of skill and experience. That might sound like it should be a given for arts administrators and leaders in the field but trust me, it's not. It should be. And seeing Leah in action reminds me that it is indeed possible. She keeps me striving to be better about community building and getting my own art out there besides. Nurturing and the opportunity to create are good things and should be available to all. That is the Fringe at its core and at its best, and Leah is its standard-bearer.

And it's a heck of a lot of fun just to dish with her about the Fringe. We are fellow addicts. We share an obsession. So it's fun and a relief to talk to someone about the Fringe and realize they're not gonna look at you funny because you're really round the bend about it.

Thanks to our little chat, I'm going to be on the lookout for "the trainwreck effect" to see how it manifests itself in this year's Fringe. No names were named, mind you, but I love the idea. Basically, the trainwreck effect is a show that benefits from seemingly negative buzz. It's the show that's so bad that it becomes entertaining in a completely different way than the creators intended. And people flock to it, because their friends and fellow audience members tell them, "Seriously, it's so bad, you kind of have to see it for yourself to fully understand."

They say the only worse thing than being talked about, is not being talked about.

Whatever gets them in the seats.

(For more of my writing - plays, past blog entries and more - visit
Fringe 2005 - TV Taping - Day 2

Monday, June 20, 2005 - 9:30am

Well, we tried. Rather than have a double booking at the 2 o'clock hour today, some calls were made yesterday afternoon, with the possibility that maybe we'd have a 10am guest today instead.

Came in early, since I took the day off to deal with Fringe stuff one way or the other anyway. Turns out that, despite the phone tag and double-checking, it just wasn't going to work out to shift anyone.

So the new plan was to tape one guest's performance downstairs in the main studio, and then lock down most of the cameras for their interview segment, and while we're recording that second part, upstairs in the mini-studio, the other half of the crew records the performance for the second 2pm guest. Once the first interview is done, the second group comes down for their interview and we're back on track. At least, that's the plan...

So I spent a leisurely hour or so gathering my schedule info together for the Fringe Festival, trying to sort out in some preliminary way what I want to see and how it all stacks up. Because much as I want to see everything, it just isn't physically possible. Decisions will need to be made and the agonizing might as well start early.

SPNN was giving what I think were high schoolers a tour of the place, part of a day-long event, I think (during which I believe they also got a crack at the mini-studio upstairs). So I was in the studio, sitting at the interview table with my laptop cracked open, typing away with a bagel and juice nearby, when they came through. "And this," my producer/friend Carol said, "is a host." (Yes, I live here. They won't let me leave.)

Damn, high school kids look younger and younger every year. Can't somebody stop that?

(For more of my writing - plays, past blog entries and more - visit
Fringe 2005 - TV Guest #6 - Emigrant Theater

Sunday, June 19, 2005 - 3:30pm

For me, there's sort of an awkward phase when you don't really know someone personally but you greatly admire their work that makes them kind of hard to talk to. They can be the nicest, most accessible people in the world, but I get tongue-tied. It's different if I know them first and then realize how talented they are. They're a person first so the work, while impressive, isn't intimidating or overwhelming. Sometimes I'm lucky and people I admire sort of level the playing field and somehow help me get beyond the awkward phase and a friendship develops anyway. But there's a weird no man's land in between that's an odd place to wade through in the interim. I guess a person doesn't need to be a star in the eyes of the whole world before I'm starstruck.

Everyday conversations in this situation are tricky enough. When you're supposed to interview them, and the whole thing is recorded, well, all bets are off.

This was one of those interviews.

And the weird thing is, through the magic of editing, everything will probably seem perfectlyl normal. (But if I count the number of edits in that interview segment of the finished episode, I'm guessing the number is going to be higher than elsewhere).

Why all the qualifiers? Guess I'd just hate an awkward interview on my part to make you think this wasn't a great group. Because they are. As a playwright myself, I'm all for another theater devoted to new work and living playwrights opening its doors in this town. No matter how many opportunities there are out there for writers, it never hurts to have a few more. So I was happy to hear that Emigrant Theater was opening shop. Part of the name is about the journey. Part of it is about the destination. They want Minneapolis to be a place that writers come and make their artistic home. And they want to be a part of making that happen.

The intimidation factor comes from the playwright they're working with for the Fringe, Carson Kreitzer. Carson herself? Delightful. A lot of fun to talk to. But I didn't meet Carson first, I met her plays. And frankly, I was so bowled over by them that meeting her for the first time, after following her work for about five years, sort of got the whole thing turned around backwards for me, as I tried to describe above. I was serving on the Theater Arts panel for the Minnesota State Arts Board fellowships, read her script "Freak Show," and that did it. After that, whenever I heard of a play of hers being done locally, I made it a point to go and see it. Were the productions always good? No. Were the scripts without flaws? What script is, really? But I was taken with her style and the way she commands the language to do what she wants, regardless of the subject matter at hand. So I was a fan, which kind of got in the way of the whole interviewing thing a little. (On the flip side, I get a kick out of the fact that I work on a show that provides me with the opportunity to meet people whose work I admire, or get to know new artists whose work isn't yet widely known. It's a great payoff to all the work that goes into the TV show. And it's also the sort of community opportunity to meet with artists that the Fringe provides on a much larger scale for audiences in this town.)

First the performance, a scene from Dead Wait, featuring Catherine E. Johnson (from Emigrant's first production The Presence of Children), Wade Vaughan (from Emigrant co-founder and playwright Matt Di Cintio's play The Valets which Outward Spiral produced as part of the Fringe last year), and Ryan Lindbergh (whose work I get the distinct feeling I should have run into by now, given the list of things the producers rattled off for me that he's done lately - that's what I get for my finances knocking me out of the habit of regular theatergoing the last year or two, oh well). They portray three people, each with varying amounts of celebrity or near celebrity, who each died gruesome deaths - Jayne Mansfield (I not explaining her, look her up), and two waiters, one who was killed by the convict who ended up writing "In The Belly Of The Beast," the other who had the misfortune of visiting Nicole Brown Simpson on the night she was brutally murdered by... (well, they haven't convicted anyone of that yet but there was a trial you may have heard of)

This was another instance where I was asked if the word "ass" would be a problem (though they also had "tits" thrown in for good measure - this is, after all, a play with Jayne Mansfield in it). (However, the Scrimshaws paved the way earlier in the day. No worries)

Emigrant co-founder and director of the production Jason Brown was amused by the fact that for some reason the capturing of the actors on tape made them look younger. "If you're ever worried about your age, check out the tape of this episode."

After the performance taping, it was time for the interview and I was surrounded - Jason, who I'd at least met and talked to before at a performance of The Presence of Children, on one side; Matt Di Cintio, who I'd been emailing back and forth, and who wrote The Valets and The Presence of Children (another kind of unintentional playwright intimidation that you can read for yourself elsehwere), on the other side; and right next to me, Carson Kreitzer.

Considering I was surrounded by talented, intelligent, attractive people all squeezed around our little interview table to get us in the shot, and didn't dissolve completely into incoherence myself, things went pretty well. But it was a mighty odd way to end the day.

All that said, I'm very much looking forward to seeing another production by Emigrant and another production of one of Carson's plays, and if you haven't had the pleasure (or even if you have), the Fringe is offering up a real treat. So go enjoy. I will. (I just may not be up for conversation afterward).

Emigrant Theater
Dead Wait
Jungle Theater
Sun 8/7, 8:30 pm
Tue 8/9, 10:00 pm
Wed 8/10, 5:30 pm
Fri 8/12, 8:30 pm
Sun 8/14, 2:30 pm

For more on Emigrant, check out their website at

For my thoughts on their first production, Matt Di Cintio's play The Presence of Children, click here.

For my thoughts on Matt Di Cintio's The Valets in last year's Fringe, click here.

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

Monday, June 27, 2005

Fringe 2005 - TV Guest #5 - whoops...we'll try that again tomorrow...

Sunday, June 19, 2005 - 2pm

Well, there was a misunderstanding somewhere and the guest scheduled for 2pm Sunday actually thought they were supposed to come 2pm on Monday. Whoops. So, a double booking for tomorrow, but for today, a little breathing room.

During which we took care of the intros and outs for the episodes.

You'd think that walking and talking at the same time wouldn't be that much of a challenge.

Every time I stumble over one of these sequences, I'm reminded anew why I love and respect actors, and normally have the good sense to leave the working in front of an audience thing to them. They know what they're doing. They're trained, and come with good instincts to boot.

Me, it's a miracle if I can memorize and then recite something in a less than wooden fashion that I even wrote myself, and practiced.

Add to that walking in and out of camera range, in and out of my light, hitting a mark, sitting without missing the stool, and sounding enthused about something I'm actually very psyched about, rather than just staring into the camera, seeing my reflection in the lens and looking terrified.

Attempting a cartwheel I sometimes think would be less embarrassing.

Then you reverse the whole thing for the goodbye segment. Start sitting, then stand without losing the camera and becoming the incredible headless host, turn and walk away.

Talk, but not too fast. Try to get all the words out without bobbling them.

Last time, we ended up having to just run the audio part of the exit over the credits because of time constraints, so maybe I can avoid the walking out again at least.

I cracked my funeral director/wedding/job interview suit out of the closet for the occasion. Hopefully it's a step up from my beleaguered blue jacket (at this point the clothing equivalent of the Velveteen Rabbit)

Finally, the cavalcade of guest names...

Today on Cue to Cue...
The Scrimshaw Brothers
Allegra Lingo
The Early Stage
Aniccha Arts
Teatro del Pueblo
Emigrant Theater
Leah Cooper, Executive Director of the Minnesota Fringe Festival
Rik Reppe
David Mann and The Rogues
MedusaHead Productions
the Players of Notorious Temerity
Ballet of the Dolls

...and if you think you're surprised we managed to get that lineup, imagine how surprised I am.

3pm, on to the next guest...

Oh, if you're wondering what Cue to Cue: A Conversation about Theater in the Twin Cities has done in the past, click here to see our past cast of theatrical characters

(For more of my writing - plays, past blog entries and more - visit
Fringe 2005 - TV Guest #4 - Aniccha Arts

Sunday, June 19, 2005 - 1:30pm

Taking for its name, a word that means "lack of desire" in Sanskrit, and "permanence of change" in Pali - Aniccha Arts blends multimedia, live performance and audience interaction into a mix that aims to draw the audience into both the action and the thematic content of the production. This more active role, not just as observer, truly does influence the outcome of the piece and makes every performance different from the last in a way that multiplies that common effect found in live theater.

Last year's Fringe saw their production of "Fear of Freedom" - contemplating the individual's place in society and the ever-moving engine of progress. Here members of the audience were given the power to allow change, or to stop it; to participate in the event moving forward, or causing it to grind to a halt, and all that power implies.

This year, the world response to the tsunami disaster is on creator/director Pramila Vasudevan's mind. It seems easier, simpler, to respond to a disaster that is beyond human control, like the tsunami, than to offer help in a situation that is less clear - such as rebuilding a country or trying to help the people of a nation who are suffering under threat of a dictator or civil war. But is anything really free of politics? That is some of the territory this performance piece, entitled Fragile Lines, is exploring.

It's hard to explain the method in writing. It almost needs to be see, or better yet experienced first hand. I got drafted into an in studio performance that may or may not be used in the final cut of this particular segment of the TV show. We'll see.

Meantime, here's their scheduling information. Check them out. It's the kind of theater even the Twin Cities doesn't have in abundance throughout the rest of the year, but the Fringe makes it possible for these kind of voices to be heard, and be easy to find.

Aniccha Arts
Fragile Lines
Mixed Blood Theater
Sat 8/6, 5:30 pm
Sun 8/7, 4:00 pm
Mon 8/8, 7:00 pm
Sat 8/13, 1:00 pm
Sun 8/14, 7:00 pm

For more on Annicha Arts, check out their website at

(For more of my writing - plays, past blog entries and more - visit
Fringe 2005 - TV Guest #3 - The Early Stage

Sunday, June 19, 2005 - 12:30pm

In the interests of full disclosure, I have a soft spot for The Early Stage.

Gregg Peterson, one of the best directors I've had the pleasure of working with, so much so we teamed up a second time, launched The Early Stage as a way to get new work on stage that he was interested in having a hand in helping to develop and put in front of an audience for the first time.

For its inaugural production, Gregg chose my play Heaven and Home - and gave me my first production in Minneapolis as well. Amazing cast, great reviews, sold out houses. A great way to start any partnership. It's hard to for me to sit here and do the math and realize that was nine years ago now. Greg also helped hook me up with a company out in Los Angeles that produced the play again the next year for an extended run, again getting good notices and audiences, Critics Choice, three Dramalogue Awards, and a nomination for a GLAAD Award. When I got a Minnesota State Arts Board Fellowship the following year to help workshop another new play, I hired Gregg to be at the helm, and assembled much of the Heaven and Home cast again. We've had a rather good run, The Early Stage and I.

Naturally when I saw The Early Stage's name in contention at the Fringe lottery earlier this year, I was very happy to see they were back in business. And happier still when they made the first cut and didn't have to tough it out on the waiting list.

Gregg came to the studio with Aaron Gabriel, Jennifer Grimm, and Drew Pearson. Together, they're four of the six person ensemble that is creating and performing the new musical The Candy Ass Club (with the first of many inquiries over the next 48 hours about language concerns - "Is it a problem that we have the word 'ass' in our title?") (for my response, see the earlier entry on the Scrimshaw Brothers below...). Drew, also the arranger and accompaniast, brought his keyboard, on which Jennifer played and sang her song "Queer Condition" (despite the seriousness of the lament, they all assured me it was a comedy). The mood was lightened by some off camera toying with the various keyboard settings for sampling and funky rhythms, with a few suspicious moans thrown in for good measure (ah, the wonders of modern technology)

They apologized in the interview segment for getting a case of the giggles, but hey, that's a sure sign that things are going well, if everyone still likes each other at this point. Several of my past Fringe experiences could have used less unnecessary offstage drama and more laughter. If the audience has half as much fun as their having with this autobiographical paean to queer childhood, then once again, this time as an audience member, I'm in good hands with Gregg in charge.

Here's their schedule info...

The Early Stage
The Candy Ass Club
Intermedia Arts
Sat 8/6, 7:00 pm
Sun 8/7, 4:00 pm
Mon 8/8, 8:30 pm
Wed 8/10, 10:00 pm
Sat 8/13, 2:30 pm

Definitely going to this one with Mom on opening weekend, hopefully their opening night. Since she considers Heaven and Home her first grandchild, she has a soft spot for The Early Stage, too. Come join us.

For info and pictures on Early Stage outings of the past, you can click on the titles below and browse around

Heaven and Home
Leave (The Surface of the World)

(For more of my writing - plays, past blog entries and more - visit
Fringe 2005 - TV Guest #2 - Allegra Lingo

Sunday, June 19, 2005 - 11:30am

Even though Allegra wears many hats for the Fringe (and bless her for it), I wouldn't have happened upon her work as a spoken word artist and storyteller had it not been for my writer friend Eli Weintraub being in the same spoken word showcase with her. I came to support Eli and wound up a fan of several other spoken word folk as well, chief among them Allegra. In fact, most of my review of Agog (for that's what the showcase was called), was about her tales of trying to fit in as the "unconventional" partner of a bridesmaid at a wedding. Very sweet, clever and amusing material winningly presented.

Back again with a slot all to herself, regaling us with tales of her journeys through Ireland and all the other tangents which may spring from that recounting, in a show called Hubcap Frisbee.

The sampling of that show on display was tales of missing hubcaps leading to talk of an English teacher who hears voices and leads a crusade, and a lawsuit, on behalf of a bush where faeries (the legendary kind, not the gay pride weekend kind) were said to congregate. Said bush was in the path of a road-widening project, but Ireland, it seems, has different priorities...

After hearing this, and chatting with Allegra for the interview about the line between storytelling and spoken word, and where inspiration comes from, I could happily spend another hour of Fringe time listening to her spin tales of countries I have yet to visit. Helps bring the world a bit closer together, and brings out the traveler in me at the same time.

Allegra was actually my first show card. She had the new Fringe logo on it and everything. Like any good artist pimping her show, she had them with her and passed them out to everyone in the studio. The postcard parade has begun.

Allegra's schedule is interesting - she has shows four days in row early on, and then her final performance is on the final day of the festival. I urge you to help her with word of mouth and filling those early shows. Given her lineup of show dates, she has to get that momentum going quickly. So don't wait til the last performance. Slot her into your Fringe-going early.

Allegra Lingo
Hubcap Frisbee
Interact Center for Visual and Performing Arts
Sat 8/6, 5:30 pm
Sun 8/7, 10:00 pm
Mon 8/8, 7:00 pm
Tue 8/9, 10:00 pm
Sun 8/14, 1:00 pm

For more on this show and Allegra's writing and performing in general, check out

For a little remembrance of Fringes past, check out my review of Agog by clicking here.

(For more of my writing - plays, past blog entries and more - visit
Fringe 2005 - TV Guest #1 - The Scrimshaw Brothers

Sunday, June 19, 2005 - 10:30am

There is something both fun and a bit daunting about starting off a long day of shooting with a couple of guys as lively as the Scrimshaw Brothers (not that anyone's lively first thing on a Sunday morning, but...)

I was prepared to be amused, but I also knew I needed to be on my toes if I was going to get through the interview. Smart and funny multiplied by two is a hard act to keep up with. Plus, they were better dressed than I was (again, not that this is exactly hard to do, my wardrobe is rather limited, still...)

Script in hand and a few doodles later, we were ready to shoot the performance part of the segment. Sort of a "Love Letters/Hate Mail" opening bit where the brothers argue in hilariously escalating fashion through correspondence both strained and abusive about what the nature of the opening segment of their new Fringe show is going to be. Talk of rebirth leads to, among other things, talk of a wisecracking placenta puppet (at which point I come very close to laughing out loud off camera and screwing up the taping, but I restrain myself).

Later guests were concerned about the language in their own performances - "Is it OK to say 'ass'?" I could reassure them by saying, "Please, the Scrimshaws read a series of letters one of which began 'Dear Fuckface.' I think you're fine."

Look Ma, No Pants has been retired and replaced by the new comedy/variety outing The Scrimshaw Show, which Joshua and Joseph have been performing on a monthly basis over at the Bryant Lake Bowl through out the year since the last Fringe. (They have one more non-Fringe set of performances coming up, which includes the swan song of Marc Doty before he moves to Washington, D.C., so catch them next Friday and Saturday, July 8th and 9th at 10pm at the Bryant Lake Bowl) And then of course, see the Fringe edition, which, if the excerpt they performed in studio is any indication, should be a different but no less potent kind of funny than we've come to expect from these guys. No big production numbers, a more intimate sort of show, which I'm very much looking forward to seeing for myself.

And no Fringe is complete without at least several different Scrimshaw entries. In addition to the late night Scrimshaw show, Joseph made the lottery pick with his own show as well, which has morphed from a solo show to a three person show called Adventures In Mating, based on the "choose your own adventure" style of books. The audience makes a series of simple decisions - white wine over red, for instance - and that determines which version of the story the actors perform next. Getting a couple throw a successful first date is just as difficult with audience participation as it is when you're doing it all by yourself. But in this instance, you have others suffering the potential indignities for you. And who knows, depending on your chooses in the audience, you might just get them through it without any major mishaps. Good luck. After what I can only describe as Joseph's one-man ensemble piece last year Jack and Ben's 10th Annual Bar Crawl and Moveable Feast - that pulled off the trick of being both outrageously funny and heartbreaking at the same time, I'm up for whatever comes out of this guy's word processor next. Scrimshaws, alone or in pairs, are always enormously entertaining. Wouldn't be a Fringe without them.

The Scrimshaw Show is playing late nights at the Loring Playhouse and well worth staying up for:

The Scrimshaw Brothers
The Scrimshaw Show
Loring Playhouse
1633 Hennepin Avenue
Thu 8/4, 11:30 pm
Fri 8/5, 11:30 pm
Sat 8/6, 11:30 pm
Sun 8/7, 11:30 pm
Wed 8/10, 11:30 pm
Thu 8/11, 11:30 pm
Fri 8/12, 11:30 pm
Sat 8/13, 11:30 pm

Joseph's intrepid Adventures In Mating is over toward uptown at the Brave New Workshop:

Joseph Scrimshaw
Adventures in Mating
Brave New Workshop
Fri 8/5, 5:30 pm
Sun 8/7, 10:00 pm
Wed 8/10, 10:00 pm
Sat 8/13, 10:00 pm
Sun 8/14, 1:00 pm

For more on the Brothers Scrimshaw, check out

For remembrance of Fringe's past, click on the titles below

Look Ma, No Pants - 2003 Minnesota Fringe Festival
Look Ma, No Pants - The Last One (2004 Fringe)
Jack and Ben's 10th Annual Bar Crawl and Moveable Feast

(For more of my writing - plays, past blog entries and more - visit
Well, that was embarrassing...

It seems my internet problems stem from the fact that I am apparently the electronic equivalent of an old woman living with 12 cats and stacks of old newspapers.

Unable to connect with or update my website, and then watching my email account go kaflooey as well, I called in the cavalry. The tech people, after poking about for a bit, informed me that what was gumming up the works was the fact that I had let my email account get so backed up with old messages that the system was basically saying, "Look, we're not letting anything else in or out until you clean up this mess."

Which I did. And what do you, smooth sailing from that day forward.

Just in time for the TV taping.

So I've been playing catch-up ever since.

But with the impending live-ness of the Fringe site with all this year's information upon us, I figured it was time I got back on the blogging again.

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

Monday, June 13, 2005

Fringe 2005 - Another TV Update

Speaking of difficulties...

No sooner do I post that list of potential guests than one of them has a key collaborator needing to drop out due to a family emergency. So they not only needed to reluctantly withdraw from TV taping, the fate of their Fringe show in general is a question mark.

Hope I didn't jinx anybody. Including myself.

I think I won't be posting any more about the taping until the interviews and performances are in the can. Just to be on the safe side.

But this time next week, one way or another, that'll pretty much be a done deal. Cross your fingers.

We also haven't yet heard about potential broadcast dates, if any, from TPT-17, so that's another thing to think good thoughts about. It'd be nice to spread the Fringe fervor to as many TV sets as possible.

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

Just a quick note of explanation. There have been some issues with my website and email account over the weekend and they're still not resolved.

So even though the front page of my site hasn't been updated, there's still new material, and it's still fully functional.

And if you sent me a message in the last 72 hours, I may have either received it and then watch it vanish mysteriously from my inbox, or I may not have received it at all. So don't feel slighted. I'm not sure that any of the replies or new messages I tried to send over the weekend got through either.

Hopefully this will all be resolved in the very near future and I'll be back on track. In the meantime, my other contact info is on the Contact Me page of the website if you need to reach me.

Ah, technology.

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

Friday, June 10, 2005

Fringe 2005 - TV Update

So far, this is what the roster of guests is looking like for the upcoming taping of new episodes of Cue to Cue spotlighting the Minnesota Fringe Festival (last year, we featured interview/performance segments with a couple of City Pages' Best of The Twin Cities winners - Knock! and Calibanco - no telling which of this year's guests might tickle the collective fancy of this year's theater-going audiences. They already have my attention):

Asian Media Access (of 2004's "The Story of Temple Street," bringing "Shanghai Extravaganza" to this year's Fringe)

Ballet of the Dolls (of 2003's Beauty and the Beast, now bringing us "Stripped")

Leah Cooper, Executive Director of the Minnesota Fringe Festival (of course)

The Early Stage (who launched with my first Minneapolis production, Heaven and Home, and now brings us "The Candy Ass Club")

Emigrant Theater (who just had their inaugural production, The Presence of Children a great new play from the author of the 2004 Fringe's The Valets, and is now bringing Carson Krietzer's "Dead Wait" to the Fringe)

Allegra Lingo (of 2004's Agog, among her many other Fringe duties and performances, with this year's "Hubcap Frisbee")

David Mann and the Rogues (of more past Fringe successes that we can go into here - Sex With David Mann and The Worst Show In The Fringe being just a couple - this year he expands on the Shakespearean version of The Godfather that he composed for the Fringe's Five Fifths of the Godfather fundraiser)

Mary Jo Pehl (of Mystery Science Theater 3000 fame, here teaming up with Starting Gate Productions to present her new script "Man Saved By Condiments" - based on a true story)

Penchant Productions (inspired by seeing a Fringe show last year, a poet and a prose writer team up to bring us "Dinner with Medusa")

Rik Reppe (of 2003's Staggering Toward America, with this year's "Glorious Noise")

The Scrimshaw Brothers (of more past Fringe successes than we can go into here - but I just linked to a few anyway - back with their new "Scrimshaw Show," plus Joseph's latest creation "Adventures in Mating")

Walking Shadow Productions (of 2004's Lives of the Most Notorious Highwaymen, now presenting "Ten Speed Revolution")

And waiting in the wings, like the runners up in the Miss America contest, ready to take over the duties of guest if scheduling falls through for one of the others...

Annicha Arts (of 2004's "Fear of Freedom," now tackling the tsunami disaster and world response in this year's "Fragile Lines")

Mime performer Dean Hatton (of 2003's "What Plotline Where?" and other Fringes past, bringing us this year's "Skits-ophrenia!!!")

No Refunds Theater with Kung Fu Hamlet (from the purveyors of 2003's zombies and 2004's sitcoms, we now have 2005's "Kung Fu Hamlet")

The Players of Notorious Temerity (who delivered a ripped-from-the-headlines satire based on Shakespeare's Macbeth, entitled "McBush", and now join the Fringe with "Desolation In America")

More details as I have them.

Sorry to have been incommunicado. A combination of juggling the two day jobs, working on the above scheduling issues, and trying to get the first act of a new play of my own completed to take into a writing group meeting earlier this week. More soon.

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

Sunday, June 05, 2005

Fringe 2005 - Bring Your Own Venue

Live Action Set hits The Soap Factory

One of the things that bummed me out about the Fringe lottery this year was seeing groups that I really liked, whose work I wanted to see, end up far down on the waiting list with little or no chance of getting a slot on the regular slot. All's fair, of course, everyone had an equal shot, but still, sigh.

One of the great things is about the Fringe, however, is that it only seems to have the boundaries that all the performing artists in the Twin Cities allow it to have. Didn't end up with a slot on the schedule in one of the standard spaces? Find a space of your own, apply with the Fringe to be a "Bring Your Own Venue" act, and join the party. The Fringe grows and the Fringe audience still gets a chance to see you in action.

One such group I'm very happy to see getting their own venue to share their own unique style with another year of Fringe audiences is Live Action Set.

In 2003 they didn't have their handy new name yet, but the main players were all in place - Noah Bremer, Megan Odell, Galen Treuer, and Vaness Voskuil - and presented one of my favorites of the Festival that year (5 stars) - Exposure ("It was stunning to see, or I guess be reminded again, of just what the human body is capable of doing").

In 2004, I wasn't aware of the Live Action Set name and nearly missed them - but I luckily caught the final performance of Before Dark ("Fourth wall, why have you forsaken me?").

Now I'm on the lookout, and noticed in making my way around the internet the other day that they're at it again for Fringe 2005, strutting their stuff over at The Soap Factory.

If you haven't seen the Live Action Set in...well, action...I highly recommend them. They have a whimsical way of combining dance, clowning and other forms of physical and musical storytelling that's quite delightful to watch. It doesn't always make literal sense, in an everyday fashion, but it always has its own sort of emotional sense with which one can connect. The variety of bodies in motion in their ensemble, doing things both amusing and often amazing, is another of their unique strengths.

Here's what they're up to for this year's Fringe (August 4th-14th)

"Please Don't Blow up Mr. Boban" - A site-specific collaboration with British clowning director, Jon Ferguson, to premiere at The Soap Factory (2nd Street SE in Minneapolis). Created with support from the MN State Arts Board.

To get more information on Live Action Set and get on their mailing list, there are a couple of places you can go.

They have a page at which has current listings on upcoming shows - here's a link - Live Action Set at Minnesota Artists Online - or you can search them up in the Dance companies section of that site.

And they have their own website, still currently under construction but amusing and functional. One of the most fun bits is a constantly cycling series of words and phrases that have to do with their work that go flying by on the lower half of the home page. when you hold your pointer over the words, they freeze on a particular word or phrase you catch at that moment, and it's almost always completely different. Kind of a fun way to noodle around online. Go play for yourself at

Between now and the Fringe, Live Action Set has another project planned (and I just missed yet another in Red Eye's Works In Progress series). Still upcoming...

July 17th - Bastille Day cellebration at Cafe Barbette (in Uptown, 1600 West Lake Street in Minneapolis)

Live Action Set will present a show in the style of Bouffon, a French form of grotesque clowning. Society's misshapen castoffs seek out the jolly-making crowd, and the chaotic romp culminates in a ludicrous re-enactment of the storming of the Bastille. Viva la (twisted) France!

To see my past reviews of Live Action Set in their entirety, click on the links below:

For Exposure

For Before Dark

And see them in this year's Fringe. They're great.

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

Saturday, June 04, 2005

Celebrity Traffic Jam

Every now and again, working a second job at the Guthrie box office isn't so bad.

Don't get me wrong. My co-workers are fun. I need the extra money. And it's nice to get a little free theater out of it.

But always having one job or another or both every day of the week can wear you down sometimes.

However, the other night was kind of fun.

I just got trained to work at the window, processing tickets and dealing with people face to face and not just on the phone.

And Angela Bassett and Courtney Vance, who are the leads in the next Guthrie mainstage production, His Girl Friday, came to see the current mainstage show, She Loves Me.

I didn't wait on them. Courtney Vance came to another window, and Angela Bassett came in by the stage door so there was less chance of a fuss. But they both came out into the lobby at intermission and they were clearly enjoying the show. It's funny, but I always expect people to be taller for some reason. For me, the camera doesn't add ten pounds, it adds three feet. They're both such imposing presences on screen, I guess I pictured giants in my head or something. Weird. He's a handsome man, and she, well, I'm still gay and everything but she is just stunning. They were both just out to see a show, no big deal. But she just glows. She's lovely. And it's even more apparent when she smiles. They're just a sweet couple. Makes me look forward to His Girl Friday all the more.

The person I did get to wait on was John Guare.

I just turn around and there he is saying, "Ticket for John Guare?"

It's nice that we have to turn our back to the window to pick the tickets out of the rack because it gives one a chance to have whatever momentary freak out one needs to get out of their system before turning back to face the customer.

This man's writing has seriously influenced the way I write, the way I think about theater and what it's capable of. "Landscape of the Body" and "Six Degrees of Separation" are two of my top ten plays of all time (right next to a couple from Chekhov, Shakespeare and Tony Kushner). This man has written incredibly funny and powerful work and managed to make a life for himself in the theater. It's all very inspiring.

But what do you say, really? You've got about ten seconds and then it's on to the next customer in line.

"Here's your ticket. Enjoy the show."

I hope he did.

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

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Fringe 2005 - True Tales of Tech Terror

...or at the very least, Tech Embarrassment.

The tech people on the Fringe are great. But they can't read your mind. So if you're doing a Fringe show, you need to let them know what you need.

Rule #1 - Turn in the paperwork

If you want anything special, the time to let them know is now. Hopefully you turned in all the paperwork early. They may not be able to accomodate special requests, but there's a greater chance of it working out if you let them know now. The last minute is beyond too late. If it's that important to you, you should know now and plan accordingly. And have a contingency plan or two (or three) in place, in case you can't get what you think you need.

Rule #2 - Show Up for your Tech Time

Sounds simple, huh? I kid you not, when I arrived for one of the techs I was a part of at last year's Fringe, there wasn't anything going on. I figured the group ahead of us must have gotten done early. No. The tech person said they never showed up. They were still in the Fringe. They just hadn't bothered to show up. The tech person basically waited around for three hours until the next group was due. Not only is that disrespectful, it's stupid. There's really no excuse. You know well it advance about tech times and places. Adjust your schedule. Otherwise your tech is also your opening performance. You deserve what you get in that case.

Rule #3 - Be Prepared

Now ordinarily that'd be Rule #2, but if you don't show up, being prepared doesn't do you much good, now does it? Your show is brief and relatively low-tech, being a Fringe show. But don't expect to be able to wing it. There isn't enough time. No matter how much time you think you have, if you blink, you miss it. Know where the cues are going to be. Know the space (that means go on the Fringe-authorized tours of the spaces - DO NOT try to sneak into the spaces or contact the owners on your own, that's the kind of thing that makes people not want to be part of the Fringe. Go through approved channels. You may think you're the one exception. Trust me, you're not.) If you're ready to go, the unexpected things that come up won't be cause for alarm. If you're not ready, even the basics may not get covered. Be prepared, so you can be calm and everyone can get through tech time with as little offstage drama as possible. So, you know, *read the handbook* - it answers more questions than you even have.

Rule #4 - Learn The Names of your Tech People

It's common courtesy. Fringe tech people do theater for the same reason most of us do theater, because we love it and we believe in it. Could we all be making more money doing something else? Sure. So why are we doing the Fringe? Because we want to. Because we get something out of it. One of the things we get is community. If you forget someone's name, do what I (frequently) do, apologize and say something along the lines of, "I'm sorry, my brain is a sieve today, I'm not retaining anything, please give me your name again." Do not, as some people have done, continue to refer to them as "Hey you" or, my personal favorite "Hey, light girl." Honestly, people. These are the people who hold the fate of your show in your hands. They're running it. You're not. They are your new best friend. Learn their names.

(Just for amusement - Rule #5 - It's Spike, not Spic)

I'm not kidding, this actually happened. I admire people for trying to pick up the lingo but... When you put little pieces of tape down on the stage floor so you know where to set the furniture and such, that's called spiking. When you say "spic" instead, people wonder whether you're being some peculiar sort of bigot and want people to place illegal aliens at strategic points on the stage floor for the actors to walk around.

But seriously, folks, Rules 1 through 4, they'll make your lives so much easier. Happy Fringe-ing.

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

Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Fringe 2005 - The Great TV Shuffle

Well, it's that time of year again. Time to record 12 interview segments for my TV, Cue to Cue, for our six Fringe spotlight episodes that'll run in July and August on the St. Paul Neighborhood Network (SPNN) and TPT-17, St. Paul's public TV station.

All kinds of things need to dovetail just so for us to pull it off.

First, we need studio time. Which we've got. But it's not all weekend time like it has been in the past. Sunday, June 19th won't be hard to fill, but Monday, June 20th might be.

Then, we need to touch base with potential guests to see if they're available and interested.

But ideally, they aren't people we've interviewed in the past, either in or out of Fringe time, since we also tape at other times of the there, and there's a lot of overlap between the Fringe community and the larger theater community (which is a good problem to have, don't get me wrong).

And of course, we'd like them to be both entertaining in the excerpt from their upcoming Fringe show, and a good interview - neither of which is as easy as it sounds. Some folks in the past which we thought would be wildly entertaining performers either had an off day, or it just didn't translate from live on stage into a no audience, in-studio taping situation. And some chatty folks look like a deer in the headlights when the cameras and lights hit them.

Because we're taping in advance, none of the equally cool out of town acts are a possibility. So, yay for local artists! But it does cut into our potential pool of guests to ask.

Just like the Fringe, we want the shows to reflect the diversity of the performing community. So it can't all just be excerpts from solo shows, or all musicals, or all dance, all classics or all new plays. We also don't all veterans or all newbies.

It's quite a little juggling act, these competing needs. Somehow we always manage to pull it off. But here in crunch time, it always feels a little hairy. I'll keep you posted.

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

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Fringe 2005 - What If They Gave An Audition And Nobody Came?

This year for Mother's Day, I was actually home with Mom and the family, for the occasion of my younger brother's college graduation. Go, Mark!

This time last year, Mother's Day evening was the night of my show's auditions.

Yes, not the savviest planning, but Mother's Day can sneak up on you sometimes.

Since Mom was halfway across the country, I knew I wouldn't be taking her to dinner, but I certainly couldn't speak for anyone whose mother was local.

Plus, word getting out about the auditions wasn't the most scientific process. The director/producer had put out the word among his compatriots in a local acting group but I felt like I better do my bit.

I'm a worrier. It's genetic. So up on my website it went. Extra scenes from the script were posted so actors could find a scene for any character they might be interested in auditioning for.

I put out the word to actor friends who'd done my shows before and told them to feel free to spread the word. Actually I pretty much begged them to do it.

I put out word to other actors I hadn't worked with, but whose work I liked. I figured even if they didn't like my script for themselves, they, too, might know people.

And I put in a request to my friend who helps run Theatre Unbound to see if she could utilize her powerful mailing list to my benefit (and, bless her, she did).

Got a couple of emails from people who were interested but couldn't come because, of course, it was Mother's Day. Whoops. But at least it was a good sign that folks I'd never met were happening across the audition notice.

Maybe I put it out through TC Theater and Film's listings, too. I forget, but that would have been smart. (Another mighty powerful network there)

Amazing the things we do and don't remember just a year later.

I won't, however, forget the weather.

The tornado sirens wailed into life just as I was getting ready to head over to the place for auditions.

The sky was mighty threatening.

Rain hadn't begun yet but the lightning was pretty impressive, and frequent.

As was the thunder.

There was no signup. No specific time slots. We'd be there from seven to nine pm, and whoever showed, showed. No guarantees.

Since the producer hadn't put together any kind of an audition sheet for people to fill out with their info, or to give them basic info on the show and its schedule, I offered to do it. Basically I needed something to do to pass the time since, as the writer, I didn't have much of a function in all this. My stage management degree might as well be useful for something.

There were people standing on a bridge looking into the distance as I drove down to auditions.

I didn't look. If they were standing there staring at approaching funnel clouds, it wouldn't help for me to slow down and gawk as well.

The audition room - in the Center for Performing Arts down on 38th Street - was of course the dance studio - all windows. The elements wouldn't have a hard time finding us.

We waited.

And just as the time arrived to begin, bless him, our first actor arrived.

At that point, the skies opened up and the rain started.

Since we didn't have anyone to read with him, I stepped in, so the director would have a chance to watch the guy in action, rather than have to worry about acting alongside him and evaluating him at the same time.

Like three other actors that night, he came to us through the Theatre Unbound message that went out.

Four of the other actors that came were people I knew - three I'd worked with on other scripts of mine, one I hadn't.

And the final actor who arrived, just as we were packing up for the night, was a friend of the director's and great for the part he'd imagined them filling.

We had seven roles, and nine actors showed up.

Thankfully, they showed up in pairs most of the time so we could read them against other actors and see the interplay.

We didn't really hang on to anyone too long. We read them until the director had an idea of what they were capable of, and then we set them free to battle the elements on their way home.

It was respectful of the actors' time, but it meant there were some stretches where we were basically just waiting around.

We thanked them all very much for coming. After all, we could have just been sitting there, waiting, and have no one show up at all. We got lucky.

Even so, we thought for a minute we'd need to have an additional night of auditions to get more candidates.

Then we looked at the resumes and headshots of who we'd already seen. And the cast quite easily appeared before us.

There was someone - and someone really good - to fulfill each of the roles. In some cases, more than one.

No more auditions needed after all.

We paired them up in different combinations until the shape of the ensemble congealed in front of our eyes.

Phew. We were actually pretty excited.

Everyone even said yes.

In a strange sidebar, an actor friend of mine who really wanted to audition that night was trapped in her building because the power went out. Their underground parking has an electronic door. No car. Too far to walk. Not much in the way of bus service on a Sunday night. She was bummed out about it. She auditioned for but didn't make it into the other shows I was helping produce that Fringe. But it was a lucky thing.

One of the actors we originally cast had a change in her day job. They were transferring her down south. And of course, day jobs don't work around the Fringe schedule. She had to drop out between our first cast meeting and readthru and the first actual rehearsal.

And my friend who was trapped in her garage was available to step into the role, and she was great.

As was everyone. Whatever else one might say about the show, the cast did their best to sell the production and entertain the crowd. And their best made us all look better than we would have otherwise.

Yet another reason I love me some actors.

A writer's best friend.

Basically, when it comes to audtions, overdo it in terms of getting the word out. Better to have too many options and a lot of hard decisions in casting, rather than fewer options than you need, or none at all.

Network like a crazy person.

And neither rain nor snow nor sleet nor dark of night (or Mother's Day), will keep you down.

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

Friday, April 29, 2005

The Latest from Skewed Visions

See, the tough thing about only updating my site once a week is that worthy theater-going stuff slips by me if it falls in between.

(And the not so fun thing about having to schedule my free time about a month in advance these days with the second job is that, well, there isn't a lot of wiggle room, even to see the free stuff. But I need the money. So there you have it.)

Skewed Visions is previewing their latest work on Saturday, April 30th. So, before you head over to St. Paul to help save Outward Spiral Theatre Company (see previous blog entry below or click here...)

You can catch a little of Skewed Visions new creation.

I've greatly enjoyed everything of theirs which I've seen so far, including Fringe 2004's Pipes, and the kickoff segment of Five Fifths of the Godfather, the Fringe's recent fundraiser. It's always compelling, amusing, thought-provoking entertainment.

Here's the info straight off their website...

"The Hidden Room is a new multimedia performance/installation written and directed by Gulgun Kayim based on the life and art of Jewish/Ukrainian artist, author & holocaust victim, Bruno Schultz. A Quiet Ambition is a new work by Charles Campbell and Cherri Macht utilizing film, sound, movement, language and image to evoke of the stillness of anxiety and the disquiet of solitude.

Excerpts of The Hidden Room and A Quiet Ambition will be presented for one night only on Saturday April 30th, 7:00pm, at the Artist's Cooperative Building Complex, 1618 Central Ave NE Minneapolis. A reception will follow the performance.

The event is FREE, but reservations are required to attend. To reserve a seat and for directions call 612-823-4990 or email

This activity is made possible by a grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board, through an appropriation by the Minnesota State Legislature and a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts.

The Hidden Room and A Quiet Ambition are part of the upcoming work Days and Nights, a new series of original performances exploring interior landscapes of isolation, memory, desperation, myth and meaning. Join our mailing list to learn the latest about Days and Nights and other upcoming Skewed Visions work by sending a message to"

(This last, I am definitely doing, since sometimes the showcard comes in the mail when I don't have much I can do about it but think good thoughts and wish them well. If you're lucky enough to have some extra time on your hands and are wondering what to do on a Saturday night, Skewed Visions and Outward Spiral definitely have you covered this week.)

For more info on Skewed Visions, past, present and future, including directions to the event, visit their website at

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

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Fringe 2005 - We All Have Needs

Cleaning out my email box today and found an audition notice leading with the plea:

"I need male actors badly!"

And the first thing that popped into my head was

"Don't we all, honey. Take a number and get in line."

There's all kinds of uses for the casting couch after all.


Apparently I need more of a life. Maybe for my birthday.

(For more of my writing - plays, past blog entries and more - visit
Lend Outward Spiral Theatre Company A Hand on Saturday, April 30th

Got a notice on this in my e-mail box the other day.

Unraveling Muses appears to be the fairy godmother to all kinds of worthy causes. Recently, they did a benefit performance for the queer youth drop-in center District 202.

Now they're lending their talents to give a boost to Outward Spiral Theatre Company, local GLBT purveyor of queer theater, with a little show they like to call

April 30, 2005
Show at 9pm, Doors open at 8pm
Performance is at Over The Rainbow
719 North Dale Street in St. Paul

Tickets are $5 in advance, $7 at the door
Net proceeds go to Outward Spiral Theatre Company

Contact - 763-807-6115 or

In their words...

"The same artistic & producing entities that created the highly acclaimed 'What A Drag' and 'Outside The Box' are draggin' again. Unraveling Muses is proud to present their latest touring event, 'Dragstock.' Unrelated performances combine to form a fast and furious kaleidoscope of drag. Gender bending performers from multiple venues unite in this veritable dragapalooza to save the pioneer of queer theatre in the Twin Cities Metro area, Outward Spiral Theatre Company. Ten years in existence, this vital cultural entity is in danger of closing their doors for good."

They also call the potential closing of Outward Spiral not only an "artisitic injustice" but an "absolute queertastrophe"

(I know they're serious but it made me giggle a bit - queertastrophe - hee hee, I've had a few of those)

Here's the thing - they've been making "downward spiral" jokes ever since the theatre chose its name. But over the years Outward Spiral has contributed a lot of good theater to the local scene, and given some growing artists a home to cut their teeth and take some chances. A city with this big a gay community and this big a theater community, it'd be a shame to have queer theater relegated to just once a year during Fringe time, when people can "afford to" do gay and lesbian theater (bisexual and transgender, too, don't mean to leave anyone out).

Fact is, most of the pioneers in queer theater that came before them have come and gone, like many a good theater in this town, gay or straight. It's tough to get one going, and keep it going. It's a lot of work as well as a lot of money.

Seems they've got the people willing to put in the effort, so this benefit is to help them get the money.

I've got a soft spot in my heart for Outward Spiral, since we both had our first production in the Twin Cities in the spring of 1996. (Not together. Opposite each other, running at the same time in April. For some reason, we've never actually worked together. But I'm always of the opinion there should be more theater, not less, regardless of whether they're ever going to produce one of my plays or not.) Both productions were "AIDS plays," oddly enough. They had the granddaddy of AIDS plays, "As Is." I had a haunted love story 10-plus years into the epidemic called Heaven and Home.

Back when I worked at the flailing Cricket Theater, in the year before they got bounced out of what is now the Music Box Theater, home of Triple Espresso, the managing director bemoaned the fact that it was hard to get help for a struggling theater. The fact that we have so many is both a blessing and sometimes a curse. Does it really matter if one more goes under, if five crop up to take its place? I'd argue that it does matter. A theater shouldn't continue to exist just because it has existed, I'm not saying that. A theater, just like any other going concern, has to continue to justify its existence, to make itself something that people can't do without. But I'd argue that Outward Spiral is certainly deserving of a second chance, based on the work they've done in the past, and even the work they've done recently, even if it didn't entirely wow me.

My Cricket co-worker shook his head and said, "It seems like people would rather go to a funeral than take the time to visit the same person in the hospital."

If all we've got to do to help avoid another theater funeral is go see a drag show for five bucks, that seems a small price to pay. After all, they're going to give us some entertainment for our trouble. It's hardly root canal.

So spend some of your Saturday night lending a hand to a good local theater company that still has a lot of good productions ahead of it, if it can just get over a couple of rough spots in the road.

After all, as the Unraveling Muses signature quote goes, "We are all part of an ancient tradition...We are muses all."

And if you can't make Saturday, but want to shoot some money to Outward Spiral Theatre Company directly, their mailing address is:

Outward Spiral Theatre Company
PO Box 2049 - Loop Station
Minneapolis, MN 55402

You can check out Over The Rainbow online at

Side note - Heaven and Home was first produced by The Early Stage and directed by the skillful Mr. Gregg A. Peterson, both of whom are hitting local stages again this summer as part of the Fringe with "Candy Ass! Saving a Sissy from Social Suicide" More on that later, but trust me, make it part of your "to see" list.

(For more of my writing - plays, past blog entries and more - visit
Best of the Fringe, Best of the Twin Cities

Check out the current City Pages.

The top two most popular Fringe shows last year - the tap dance and music orgy known as 10 Foot 5's "Buckets and Tap Shoes," and the storeography of Theater Latte Da & Jim Lichtschiedl's Knock! - were chosen as Best Dance Performance of the Past Twelve Months and Best Comedy, respectively.

Also in the honor roll is Fringe producer and Fringe host venue Calibanco Theatre, as Best Independent Theater. Born of the Fringe in 2002 with Two Noble Kinsmen, they went on to create a year-round home for their own brand of innovative theater. In 2004, they came back to the Fringe as a host to return the favor for other scrappy new up-and-coming theater companies.

Check out 10 Foot 5 at

Check out Theater Latte Da at

Check out Calibanco Theatre at

And put them on your list to check out year round when you're looking for some quality live entertainment.

And of course, mark the Fringe on your calendar for this year (August 4th through 14th), so you can see some of the best theater the Twin Cities has to offer, whether it all ends up on someone's Best Of... list or not.

(For more of my writing - plays, past blog entries and more - visit
Eating Out for a Good Cause

Don't forget, today is Dining Out For Life

Restaurants in cities around the country and around the world are donating a portion of their profits to HIV/AIDS causes.

Here in Minneapolis, today's the day and over 60 restaurants are participating. Breakfast, lunch and dinner are all covered, one way or another. Sometimes at the same eatery. But there are plenty of options with which you can mix it up. Go out to eat at a participating restaurant today and you're automatically helping a good cause, doing something you want to do anyway.

Proceeds in Minneapolis go to help The Aliveness Project, a community center for those living with HIV/AIDS.

For more information and a complete listing of restaurants, visit

For information on The Aliveness Project at

And here's a shortcut right to the Minneapolis Dining Out For Life page - click here.

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

Friday, April 22, 2005

Go See - The Presence of Children at Emigrant Theater

They've only got two performances left, tonight and tomorrow, Friday and Saturday, April 22 and 23 at 8pm, but if you can go, go.

The play takes place in an old warehouse at 2609 Aldrich Avenue South in Minneapolis, behind the CC Club.

It has the most basic of lighting. Bare bulbs, some of them colored.

Exits and entrances in full view of the audience. Suspension of disbelief is in full effect here.

The set is simply a bed, a very long table and a whole lot of chairs, plus the cage that was part of the space when they rented it.

Four actors, a script that's a cascade of language.

And it's brilliant.

The playwright is Matt Di Cintio.

The acrobatic feats he was attempting with language in The Valets for Outward Spiral at last summer's Fringe - this time, in the service of a completely different story, he nails it. And then some.

It's a play that actually defies easy description or plot summary, but their publicity blurb is as good a synopsis as any:

"An absurdist comedy with thirty invisible children, a father who knows worst, a mother caught in a fairy tale, and a .45 atuomatic. Who's happy ever after?"

The cast - Nick Harazin, Catherine E. Johnson, Erik Pearson, and Katie Willer - are wonderful. They ground peculiar characters and situations in very human souls.

The director - Jessica Finney - guided them expertly in decoding this script for an audience.

That set - designed by Jason Brown - is deceptively simple, and like the script, takes basic elements and makes them more significant than you expect. Even the chairs the audience sits in play a part in drawing you further into the action.

Empty shoes have never carried so much weight for me.

And a gun has never made me more nervous.

It's silly, sad, scary, uplifting, and very, very sharp. It makes you work, but it rewards your effort.

It's the kind of play that leaves you with one feeling in the watching of it, and then has you mulling it over for days afterward.

In part, it's about how the world is sometimes (perhaps oftentimes) a frightening and overwhelming place, never more so than when you feel the responsibility for someone else's safety and happiness - as a parent or a spouse, a friend or a sibling. And whatever it takes to keep putting one foot in front of the other, living despite the odds and less than perfect circumstances is often the most hopeful and courageous thing a person can do.

By sidestepping kitchen-sink realism (not that there's anything wrong with that, it's usually my stock and trade), the play becomes about things much larger than the individuals and plot points presented to the audience.

It's the kind of thing you always hope theater will do in the process of entertaining you, but so rarely actually get from a production.

And this is their first production.

I can only imagine what heights they're going to hit when they get up a head of steam.

They just moved to the top of my Fringe viewing list - they'll be back with Carson Kreitzer's play "Dead Wait" with Jason Brown in the directing chair this time, and Catherine E. Johnson I believe is back as part of that cast as well. I've already commented on it a bit in the Ping Pong Ball Awards - I've A Feeling We're Not In Kansas Anymore, Part 2. I anticipate it even more after this experience.

So, kudos all around.

[Personally, it depressed me a little. They're all so young and talented, I felt very, very old - and wondered what the heck I've been doing with my life. A decent night's sleep fixed some of that. The positive impression the production left remains.]

So check out the play, bookmark their website, and get in on the ground floor with this company. They're poised to do great things. Or should I say, more great things.

Visit them online at

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

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Fringe 2005 - How Not To Produce A Fringe Show - part 3: Whores

Even hookers know to get the money up front.

Now, of course, with the Fringe, we know this isn't possible. It's all dependent on the net box office receipts. The Fringe gets its cut. The artists get theirs. And its significant, as profit-sharing goes.

The Fringe lets the artists know in writing up front what the profit-sharing formula's going to be.

So work out your own with the artists that are working with you (and start thinking of them as working *with* you, not *for* you). Not just a verbal understanding. Get it in writing. That doesn't mean people don't trust one another. It's just common sense. If you leave it verbal, it's left to people's individual memories what the agreement was. Memory's a slippery thing and it's open to interpretation, and misinterpretation. If you put in it writing, simply, everyone has the same physical thing - ink on paper - to refer to. Fewer misunderstandings, less opportunities for unpleasant surprises and hurt feelings.

What you work out is up to you.

We're artists, we don't like thinking about money, or talking about it. It makes us uncomfortable. Like the art isn't pure if we sully it with discussions of money. Get over it.

There may be no money. But if there is, you should know what you're doing with it. You plan everything else about the production - casting, design, publicity, strike, etc. - you should plan this, too.

I used to go by the honor code. It only takes one time getting stiffed for royalties on something you worked very hard on, and you get practical.

First thing I did after I got stiffed for royalties the first time, I took a friend's advice. I joined the Dramatist's Guild. They take away some of the ick factor. It's not me all by myself asking for a contract, my union requires it. There are certain qualifications you need to have to join the Dramatists Guild. You meet them, and the dues payments, and to the Guild, you're a professional writer. They've got your back.

Whatever you have to do to prop yourself up (and believe me, I have just as many days as the next person feeling unworthy and weird talking about money), prop yourself up and get it in writing beforehand, do it.

It's just common sense.

Then you can go about the business of making the best art possible, and you don't have to worry about the other stuff. It's taken care of.

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

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Fringe 2005 - How Not To Produce A Fringe Show - part 2: Corpses

The only good playwright is a dead playwright.

Many producers and directors love Shakespeare because, well, his plays are brilliant.

But there are some producers who like Shakespeare because he's dead. They can do anything they want to his plays, and best of all they don't have to pay him for the privilege.

This is, I'll grant you, so far as I can tell, a minority we're talking about.

But, just like with actors, there seems to be a blind spot some people have about playwrights.

I'm biased. I'm a playwright. And I'm still alive, thank goodness.

Writers tend to be more devalued in film. That I was ready for. When working on an option agreement for a screenplay of mine, my lawyer thought the amount the wannabe producers were offering was, at best, laughable, and at worst, insulting. The primary excuse was they wanted all the money they raised to show up on the screen, they wanted to insure good production values. That seemed reasonable. "If a good script isn't primary among the production values, what are you going to end up with?" noted the lawyer. This also seemed reasonable. As things sometimes to do, funding fell through, the project never came to fruition. But I did get a laughable/insulting payment or two out of it at least.

In theater, I've almost never had this problem, thankfully. But there have been notable exceptions.

One first-time producer was referred to me, read a couple of my scripts, fell in love with one, and then was surprised when I asked how we were going to work out royalties. The producer was committed to going ahead with the project because they were really taken with the script, but they said, in all honesty, "If I'd have known you wanted to be paid for the script before I read them, I'd have never considered them in the first place."

This, from someone who had originally planned to do an older script, by a more established author, fully realizing that this would require royalties. "Yeah, but that play was on Broadway. They made it into a movie."

How does anyone think writers get established? At a certain point, you stop doing it just for love and experience, and you have to start insisting that you be paid, if not what you know you're worth, then at least *something*

I passed that point about nine years ago now. It would have to be a pretty amazing opportunity coming down the pike to make me even consider backtracking.

For many people, this turning point in their careers is the Fringe.

The Fringe provides the infrastructure which minimizes risks so artists can feel free to take some risks.

When my two fellow playwright friends and I designed the Fast Fringe last year, we were giving some writers their first full production. And they were chipping in a small fee for the privilege. And while the show didn't do as well as we'd often hoped and believed it would, it did do well enough that we were able to refund that fee to everyone who paid it to us. So essentially they got a full production for nothing. My fellow producers and I decided to forgo getting paid so that the writers and actors could split the pot.

Now that's not feasible for everyone. And I'm not adovcating for producers to go without any more than any of the other collaborators. They take a sizable risk to make the whole thing possible in the first place. Producers are the driving force that brings a Fringe show into being. Many times, the same person wears many hats - writer/producers, actor/producers, director/producers. Some shows lose money. But if your show makes money, consider sharing it with the people who provided the foundation on which you built the structure of your production.

In other forms of the performing arts, maybe there's not a writer. Maybe it's a choreographer, a puppet-builder. You see what I'm driving at.

If you're trying to make money by riding on someone else's back, the least you can do is pay them for the privilege.

No artist should have to be dead before they earn a little respect for what they do. If the Fringe is about nothing else, it should be that - respect for your fellow artists.

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

Monday, April 18, 2005

Fringe 2005 - How Not To Produce A Fringe Show - part 1: Livestock

The story goes that Alfred Hitchcock was once quoted as trying to correct a misconception about his directing style, "I didn't say that actors were cattle, I said they should be treated like cattle."


In case there was any question in the matter, my Fringe producer friends, actors are not your servants.

Yes, they may be doing a Fringe show primarily for the experience for their resume or simply for fun, but that doesn't mean you get to take them for granted.

After all, without them, you wouldn't have a show, would you?

(This applies to dancers for dance shows, mimes, puppeteers - whoever the principal people are who put their butts on the line by stepping out on stage for your show, that's who I'm talking about)

They are also your very best publicity - they get that word of mouth started and they fill those early performances with their friends and family.

So, if you have any latitude at all, pay them.

Yes, on a certain level, you are creating an opportunity for them to show off their talents. You could even argue that you're doing them a favor by taking the lion's share of the financial risk so "all" they have to do is perform.

But they're giving up a chunk of their lives, that they could chose to spend any other way at all, to help you create something.

Nobody goes into the Fringe expecting to make a lot of money. It's about building an audience and building community, and trying something with the Fringe as your safety net that maybe you couldn't afford to do any other way at any other time of year.

If it's a choice between you getting a nice (or even tiny) chunk of change, and paying the actors something - pay the actors something. It's not the size of the payment, it's the thought that counts (though some would argue that size does matter). To be compensated for your artistic talents happens all too rarely. The Fringe is one of the most artist-friendly spots on the theater map these days. That should extend to splitting up the pot after all is said and done.

Everyone has their own style and they're entitled to it. But for Fast Fringe last year, we knew our actors were working their butts off, so my fellow producers and I did without payment, so we could give the actors a little extra on top of what we'd already planned to give them.

It's up to you. All I'm asking is that you consider the people who are helping you carry the load.

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

Sunday, April 17, 2005

Fringe 2005 - This Time Last Year...

I poked my head on the first gathering of Fringe producers and their reps the other day.

The handing out of the manilla envelopes with the golden page of times and dates and locations, and the even more golden Producers Handbook.

Seriously, people, read that thing. It is a blue print for a successful Fringe show (provided you're also talented and your show is entertaining - and sometimes even that's not necessary, as long as you follow instructions)

Last year, helping with juggling three shows, that handbook saved my butt. All the deadlines, all the forms, all the things I needed to be thinking about.

It's written by people who have seen, literally, hundreds of Fringe shows come and go. You may think your problems are unique but honestly, they've seen it before. It's in the handbook.

Last year, around tech time, I knew a producer who still hadn't read the handbook. He had all these questions about tech. After I got my head out of my hands, I pulled my handbook out of my backpack, plopped it down on the table and pointed to every single piece of information he needed.

This time last year, one of my fellow producers was in the hospital. I went from the handbook meeting to his room for a visit. Thankfully, this year, we're all in fine health. The fact that neither of us is producing a Fringe show this year I'm sure has nothing to do with it (hee hee)

As a side note, I know she's spoken for and, heck, I'm gay, but I love Leah Cooper. And all her merry band of fellow travelers on the Fringe staff. They genuinely love artists and want to improve the opportunities for all varieties of performance - artists fresh off the turnip truck and artists who've been around the block so many times that they've lost count. It's one big huge party, and come August, the general public's invited in to join the fun as well. (My mother is officially a Fringe junkie now, too. She plans her summer vacation to visit me around the Fringe dates and comes in from Pennsylvania to partake of the glorious sloppy grab bag of a mess of theater it never fails to provide.) It is the best breeding ground for performing artists I've run across in my 13-plus years living in the Twin Cities. We've got the biggest Fringe in the U.S., and in this case, the biggest also happens to be the best. And the Fringe staff is a very large part of why that's so. So give them a little love, people. They've more than earned it.

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