Sunday, June 15, 2008

Do You Have A Show In The Fringe This Year?

The short answer - Yes.

The slightly longer answer - Not a month ago.

Or, what I like to call the start of the Bronze Bitch/Dog Blog

My friend Marc Halsey got one of the lucky ping pong balls in the Minnesota Fringe Festival lottery this year. He was planning to finish a new script and have his company, the newly named Magicword Theater, produce it this year. Then he got a job out in LA on the writing staff of a TV show.

We'd been trading emails and text messages earlier in the week, with him floating the idea of producing a couple of my short scripts in the slot, since it had become clear to him he wasn't going to finish his own script in the timeframe he wanted. Settling into a new life out west was gobbling up a lot of time, and probably would for a while.

Friday May 16th - mid-afternoon - the phone rings. Marc says if I want to take over the producing reins under the Magicword banner to get a Fringe show up on the boards this year, he's happy to hand it to me. Beyond long-distance moral support, his involvement was going to be minimal. So I had to decide if I could take it on.

Time? Money? Both tight, but possible.

Since I'm trying to finish rewrites on another script right now, which goes into rehearsals literally the day after the Fringe closes, the key was to get a team together that I could provide the infrastructure for and then set loose. Tempting as sitting in on rehearsals would be, those scripts weren't changing, so I'd withdraw, let the director and actors go to work, and get myself to work on the script that *was* still changing. Before a directors and actors would be set loose on that one, too.

How's it going so far?

Right now I'm waiting for an actor to call me back so we can confer about his schedule conflicts and, if it works, actor one of three is decided. Then two more welcome phone calls to the director's other choices. Then the five phone calls to the actors who didn't make the cut. At the callback rate currently taking place, this is gonna take all weekend.

Rewrites? Yeah, those are still screaming in the back of my skull at the moment. Or maybe they've given up on me paying attention and decided to take a nap. We'll see when I try to jumpstart it all again this weekend.

So why is it called the Bronze Bitch/Dog Blog?

The titles of the two scripts being done in the Fringe slot by Magicword are

The Bronze Bitch Flies At Noon


Dog Tag

More on them in just a bit. Right now, it's time for me to saunter off to day job #2 for the day.

And then some grocery shopping. And dinner. And bills.

47 days and counting...

Ah, the glamor of show business, eh?

Rarig Center - U of M campus
Arena Stage
Minnesota Fringe Festival
Friday 8/1 at 7pm
Saturday 8/2 at 10pm
Wednesday 8/6 at 10pm
Thursday 8/7 at 5:30pm
Saturday 8/9 at 8:30pm

This blog can now also be found on Twin Cities Daily Planet

About the rating system...

The Minnesota Fringe Festival website has pretty much always had a five star rating system for audience members that want to post reviews, but just what the differences were was always fluid, varying from person to person, quality in art always being relative.

A couple of years back, a group from out of town had in their press a notice from the Fringe in Indianapolis (the Indy Fringe). They also use the five star system, but they slapped some handy modifiers on it, so I borrowed them...

5 stars - Life-Altering Experience

4 stars - Excellent

3 stars - Good Job

2 stars - Not Bad, Needs Some Work

1 star - Life's Too Short

0 stars - Run For It

I added a few intermediate categories of my own for things that fall in between those absolutes

1-1/2 stars - Life's Still Too Short

2-1/2 stars - Not Bad, Still Needs Some Work

3-1/2 stars - Good Job Plus

4-1/2 stars - Damn Near Perfect

Since no one sets out to do a bad show, it's rare that I dole out anything under 3 stars, but it happens. I also don't hand out the 5 star ratings lightly, but thankfully I'm inspired more often on that end of the scale by the things I see at the Fringe.

Normally anything 3 stars, I'll tag as Recommended

3-1/2 or 4 stars, Highly Recommended.

4-1/2 or 5 stars, Very Highly Recommended.

Generally, that's the lay of the land. You can leaf through some reviews from past years if you want to poke around and scope out some of my biases.

This blog can now also be found on Twin Cities Daily Planet

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Our story thus far...

Back in 2003, the folks at the Minnesota Fringe Festival said, "Hey, would you like to write a blog for us?"

I said, "Sure. What's a blog?"

And that's how it started. I'd nursed a growing Fringe addiction for the past several years, and the prospect of being to see as many shows as I wanted, for free, all in exchange for some typing, seemed too good to be true.

I was supposed to give the blog a name, and being horrible when cornered about titles, I settled on "Single White Fringe Geek."

That same year, my mom's annual pilgrimage from the east to the midwest had her landing in town just as the Fringe was heading into its final weekend. Mom's a big theater buff, too. She'd never been to the Fringe. So I saved some of the shows I was most looking forward to, in order to share them with her. She took to the Fringe enthusiastically, and became something of a guest reviewer on the blog. Now she specifically arranges her visit to come at Fringe time, to catch the opening weekend.

And the blog morphed into "Single White Fringe Geek (and Mom)"

So, essentially, Mom is my gimmick. Often, people don't care whether I'm coming or not. They want to make sure Mom is attending.

2004, the blog was not my only tie to the Fringe. A cycle of short scripts I'd written, under the title of "Dandelion Snow" was being produced, at the same time I was helping as a co-producer on a two-part Fringe showcase of short scripts by other writers called "Fast Fringe." There is such a thing as too much multi-tasking.

So in 2005, I was back to spectating full-time with Mom. The other writing that year, for Thirst Theater, was un-Fringe related.

2006, I was writing a new script that went into rehearsal right after the Fringe out at Allegheny College, "But Not For Love."

And last year, the first part of my year was consumed by a workshop of another new script, funded by a grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board, "Love's Prick" - a modern day riff on Shakespeare's romantic comedy "As You Like It." By the time the Fringe arrived in 2007, watching other people's art for a while was a welcome relief (bridge collapse or no bridge collapse)

Now, here we are again.

Something I invented to help me wrap my arms around the Fringe in my first year blogging was a little exercise I like to call...

If You Put A Gun To My Head...

or, if I could only see 10 Fringe shows, what would they be and why?

After all, I can't write about all 150-plus shows in the Festival, much as I often try.

Each year, I clear the slate and choose a different set of ten.

That of course has expanded into a second tier of ten as well (If You Removed That Gun From My Head... ), giving the last couple of years a list of shows 11 to 20.

And with five years of Fringe blogging behind me, and a penchant for many artists to return year after year - as long as the ping pong balls are kind, that means I've got a growing list of things that are worth your time which I'll toss out as options. Newbies and returning favorites.

That should keep me scribbling for a while.

Oh, and contrary to rumor, I do not like everything. Really.

This blog can now also be found on Twin Cities Daily Planet