Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Fringe 2010 - Drag Show Without The Drag Queen?

Maybe it was the Liza Minnelli impersonation that put me over the edge.

But when I was watching this video trailer for the visiting Fringe show, Skinny Dipping: Not Your Mama's One Woman Show, one of my first thoughts was, "That looks like it might be a really interesting drag show."

Except it's not a drag show. It's a biological woman.

I hasten to add that I consider this a compliment, though I'll grant you it's an odd one.

Perhaps the writer/performer Shanna Shrum has an untapped market - she can franchise. Because after Judy Garland, many old school drag queens (and their audiences) have a real soft spot for Liza (no disrespect to the Beyonce, Celine and Madonna impersonators out there).

As much as one-person, multi-character shows by women often intrigue me, this one had my brain flipping the gender switch in casting and wondering what curious results might occur.

All of which is to say, this makes me curious about Skinny Dipping: Not Your Mama's One Woman Show (though the subtitle clearly has not met my Fringe-going mama).

And I always like to support the visiting artists as much as I can. Plus, Shanna Shrum is one of four acts doing the new Midwest Fringe circuit this year. She'll hit Kansas City before she hits the Bryant Lake Bowl stage. And she's already toured this show of hers last year. Which leads me to believe it's mighty polished and audience-ready by now.

So check out the video, and her website, and see if it might be something you want to add to your Fringe schedule this year when the site goes live with all the information on Thursday.

Here's her gay-friendly press release (Wizard of Oz reference, first sentence - see, it wasn't just Liza).

Shanna Shrum Strips Down and Dives Into

Skinny Dipping: Not Your Mama's One Woman Show!

Chicago, IL (June 8, 2010) -

Twinkies, wigs and a Liza Minnelli tribute? Oh my!

It’s all in funny lady Shanna Shrum’s nationally touring, Skinny Dipping-Not Your Mama's One Woman Show! Prepare to strip down, dive in, and find out what might happen! Because when you’re Skinny Dipping, what MIGHT happen is the best part!

Chicago based actress, writer and comedian, Shanna Shrum, hits the road again with Skinny Dipping-Not Your Mama’s One Woman Show! Shanna pulls out all the stops in Skinny Dipping including improv, audience participation and a dash of cabaret to strip down and bare the souls of six intertwined woman, ranging from a brassy washed up Liza Minnelli obsessed diva to a sweet unassuming handy-woman in love with her gay best friend. With gut busting comedy and heartfelt honesty, Skinny Dipping has it all.

In 2009, Shanna independently produced Skinny Dipping’s first national tour, which made stops in St. Louis, Kansas City, Chicago and New York City. Shanna will continue Skinny Dipping with audiences in 2010 at the Kansas City, Minnesota, Indianapolis and Chicago Fringe Festivals.

Not only did Shanna Shrum create a show about, "Finding out what might happen, because what MIGHT happen is the best part." She also took the leap herself by quitting her cushy corporate job in downtown Chicago to sleep on couches and carry 75lbs of wigs and costumes around the country. To her, living life the way you want, not as you should, is what Skinny Dipping is all about.

Skinny Dipping will continue its Midwest Fringe Tour at the Minnesota Fringe Festival and can be seen at Bryant-Lake Bowl the following dates:
Friday, August 6th at 10:00pm
Saturday, August 7th at 5:30pm
Sunday, August 8th at 1:00pm
Thursday, August 12th at 5:30pm
Saturday, August 14th at 7:00pm

What the critics are saying about Skinny Dipping:

“Shanna Shrum channels a series of increasingly complex personalities…with impressively precise and sincere characterizations.”-The Chicago Reader

“One of the top five things to do in Kansas City.”-Brian Mctavish, KC Confidential/KCUR Radio

Tickets are $12 plus $4 admission button and are available at or call (866)-811-4111

Passes and discounts are available.

To view the Skinny Dipping reel please visit:

For more information please visit or

Bryant-Lake Bowl is located at 810 West Lake Street, Minneapolis, MN

Monday, June 28, 2010

Shameless Plug of the Day - Kick My Asthma

"Between an asthma attack, an induced coma, and myriad other medical misadventures, Allison Broeren and her boyfriend and sometime performing partner Marlow have had a woefully eventful year. But never fear -- you can help, and all by attending the wildest, weirdest fundraiser this side of the Mason-Dixon line."

I really can't top that as an opening line, and so I scavenge the press release.

This Tuesday night, June 29, 2010

Kick My Asthma
a fundraiser for Allison Broeren and Marlow
featuring the Rockstar Storytellers

Raffle at 7pm
Performances start at 8pm

Recommended donation of $7.00 at the door

All at Kieran's Irish Pub's new location on Block E in downtown Minneapolis (600 Hennepin, Suite 170 - the corner of 6th Street and 1st Avenue)

I've often written before about the talented and enthusiastic Allison Broeren both in the context of her solo shows in the Fringe, and her work as a spoken word guru. In fact, they quoted me in the press release for the fundraiser. She's good people. Smart, funny, and enormously entertaining. (More official bio below.)

Her boyfriend Marlow made a hilarious cameo as both a shark, and a drunken sea captain in Allison's Fringe show last year. So, though I don't know him all that well, that brief bit of stage time makes me think of him fondly.

I can't think of two people more deserving of a break, and the roster of talent involved makes it wonderfully entertaining and easy for us all to do so.

The evening features raffle prizes and performances by some of the Twin Cities' leading spoken word artists, including Rockstar Storytellers Laura Bidgood, phillip low, Courtney McLean, Ben San Del, and Joseph Scrimshaw, as well as special appearances from Allison's co-Slam Master Wonder Dave, Northstar Storytellers Paula Reed Nancarrow and Katherine Glover, Monday Night Comedy Show host Andy Brynildson, and creator of the Fringe hit "Parry Hotter and the Half-Drunk Twins" Tom Reed!

WARNING: This show contains adult language.

Can't think of a better thing to do on a Tuesday night, or an easier seven dollars, or more, to part with, given that line-up. Join me there, won't you. I fear I shall miss the raffle because I'm working the second job, but I'll head on over as soon as I'm off duty to put my money in the jar and show some Fringey/artist solidarity.


Allison Broeren is the co-Slam Master of the Minneapolis Poetry Slam at Kieran's Irish Pub. Allison comes from a competitive speech background and performed her first one woman show, All the Things I Never Told My Mother, in the 2007 Iowa and Minnesota Fringe Festivals. She has detailed her long medical struggles in 2008's I'll Marry You For Health Insurance, and teamed up with Marlow in 2009 to perform My Sinking Ship. She has also performed in Women Stand Up! A Comedy Cabaret, been on KFAI's Write On! Radio, and finished a writing mentorship through Intermedia Arts and SASE: The Write Place.


"Her words come out at such a dazzling's a flurry of clever turns, comical juxtapositions, and the occasional random pop cultural reference that elevates everyday conversation to an art form."

- Matthew Everett, Twin Cities Daily Planet

Take it from me, and me, you want to be there.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Shameless Plug of the Weekend - Twin Cities Improv Festival 4

This is the thing I'm most bummed about missing this weekend, so if you have the chance, *you* definitely shouldn't miss it. (Yes, you.)

Because just like Christmas and the Minnesota Fringe Festival, the Twin Cities Improv Festival (TCIF) comes but once a year. And the time is now.

And what a great line-up they have, once again. (I seriously need to plan my summer better next year.)

TCIF (#4) has already begun. Last night's improv fiends included visiting acts from Philadelphia, Chicago and New York, in addition to our local comic geniuses in Fingergun, What If? and Stevie Rays's.

Tonight (Friday) the double bills...

7 pm
(Tom Reed and Tyler Samples don't get to play together as much since Tyler moved to Chicago, so this is special treat)
Phoenix's troupe, Apollo 12

8:30 pm
Comedy Sports TC
Austin's Parallelogramophonograph

10 pm
Dishwater Blondes from Denver
and locals, the Gay Straight Alliance

11:30 pm
Confidence Men from Austin (improv David Mamet style? well, f**k me)
and Jill Bernard's wonderful Drum Machine

12:30 am
Chicago sends us a Stripper's Picnic
sharing the bill with
our own Five Man Job

Saturday, June 26 holds...

6 pm
Storybox from Chicago

7 pm
The Reckoning, out of Chicago
with our own
Brave New Workshop

8:30 pm
plus our own
Splendid Things

10 pm
the mind-boggling SCRAM (which I still remember two years later)
and our beloved weirdos
Ferrari McSpeedy

and to cap it all off on Sunday, June 27
we have the four-car pile-up of local comedy that is...

8 pm
Mustache Rangers

Thursday, June 24, 2010

My Strategy for Being More Gay This Weekend

Each year as Gay Pride approaches, I wonder...

"You mean, I have to be *more* gay this weekend?"

Since I live near Loring Park, Gay Pride normally means it's just a little more difficult to get in and out of my neighborhood if I wish to get anything done. I feel like that cranky old man shouting, "Hey, you kids! Get off my lawn!"

I think the last time I went down to Loring Park deliberately during Gay Pride was, strangely enough, to help promote a Fringe show. By performing a scene in a pair of pajamas, with a guy wearing tights and a cape as my acting partner. But he was cute, and we got to kiss. So all things considered, pretty gay.

But that was 10 years ago. Pre-blog.

This year, there is no Fringe show. There is no man in tights.

In fact, I'm working most of Gay Pride over at the Guthrie in the box office. Which means I'm also missing most of the Twin Cities Improv Festival (which I actually regret missing more).

However, a bit of a script of mine will be at Gay Pride in my stead.

I'm working with The Flowershop Project on a production they're doing with Project 515 about civil rights for gay couples in Minnesota. Another writer, a choreographer, and a couple of musicians are creating material alongside me, all dealing with the long list of laws that treat gay couples differently than their straight counterparts here in our fair state.

The Flowershop crew will be on the Rainbow Stage in Loring Park (near the intersection of Grant and Willow Streets - close to the big dandelion-style water fountain on that side of the park).

3pm, this Sunday, June 27th

One of my scenes will be in the mix. Just keep an eye out for the gay cops. It's a comedy routine that involves a dead body.

You can check out the scene here if you like - along with some others.

So, enjoy Gay Pride, everybody. My writing will be there, even if I will not. So I'm thinking of you. And glad Pride exists, even if I don't feel compelled to participate.

I promise I'll continue to be gay the other 363 days of the year, just to balance things out.

The full Project 515 show will be hitting the stage at Patrick's Cabaret this fall. More on dates and times as autumn approaches.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Fringe 2010 - Top 10 - #s 6 through 10



Action Theater Project

For all the reasons listed here

Their Fringe Page

Mom and I are seeing their first performance on Thursday 8/5.


Open And Affirming Fairy Tales

AWOL Productions

For all the reasons listed here.

Their Fringe page

Mom and I are seeing their first performance on Thursday 8/5.


Ballad of the Pale Fisherman

Isabel Nelson and the Ensemble

For all the reasons listed here.

Their Fringe page

Mom and I are seeing their first performance on Saturday 8/7.


I Remember You

Jess Dunne and Connor Molloy

For all the reasons listed here.

Their Fringe page

Mom and I are seeing their second performance on Saturday 8/7.
(Their first performance is on Friday 8/6.)


The First Five Minutes Are Slow

Tamara Ober/Present State Movement

Though the genesis be a bit convoluted, yet I look forward to getting it on my schedule for all the reasons listed here. (Plus they're gathering some nice reviews already from the Winnipeg Fringe.)

Their Fringe page

Not sure where this one lands on the schedule yet. Their performances are
Thursday 8/5, Sunday 8/8, Tuesday 8/10, Friday 8/13, Saturday 8/14

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Fringe 2010 - Lottery Stuff

Let the cross-referencing begin! I've started posting Fringe-related blogs again on the site for Twin Cities Daily Planet, so I figured I'd set up some handy links to the posts here. First up, something on the Fringe Lottery system...

6/17/2010 - What's Wrong With A Lottery System?
Twin Cities Daily Planet version

Friday, June 18, 2010

Fringe 2010 - Returning Favorites - Shelby Company

Of the 54 different shows I saw last year at the Fringe, there were only two I loved so much that I found a way to go back and see them a second time.

Only one of the companies that produced those memorable shows is back again in this year's Fringe.

That would be Shelby Company.

Their show this time around...

Uncle Shelby’s Traveling Treasure Trunk

- described as "A scaled down traveling version of the Shelby Company Cabaret"

This could be a variation on their current production...

Uncle Shelby's WunderPantry of Possibility

which is described thusly...

"A cabal of talented, emerging writers create a plethora of material. Through alchemy and editing they summon up a cohesive evening of mischievous merriment that zigs, zags and finds a straight path to the brain, heart and lungs. This inspired collection of music, scenes, jokes, theatrical burps and dramatic hiccups will make you laugh, gasp and think.

written by Jonathan A. Goldberg, Dan Moyer and Ben Forster"

Dan Moyer wrote last year's mind-bogglingly good Shelby Company Fringe show "Winnemucca (three days in the belly)" - a script so good just reading Scene 1 vaulted them into my Top 10 list for the 2009 Fringe. The production itself lived up to the script's promise - 5 stars all the way. (Plus they did a wonderfully odd preview at the Out of Towner showcase.) And the Shelby Company folks were also delightful people offstage.

And if you need more convincing, read this, or some of this...

So I was mighty happy to hear Shelby Company's number get called in the Fringe Lottery back in February.

And I almost don't care what they're doing. Whatever it is, it's going to be good. And I'm gonna be there, with Mom in tow, opening weekend.

If this blog is good for anything, hopefully it'll help spread the word and swell their audiences. Shelby's coming from New York, the least we can do is cross town to see them at whatever venue they're at.

I see a lot of theater. I don't get excited about a lot of theater. Shelby Company does theater I get excited about. Give 'em a look.

You can learn more about them at

My coverage of them last year can be found via the links above, or here, here, and here.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Fringe 2010 - What's Wrong With A Lottery System?

During the theater conference I just attended a couple of weeks back, I was singing the praises of the Minnesota theater community, as I tend to do whenever anyone asks, and sometimes when they don't. The subject of the Minnesota Fringe Festival came up. Things were going well, people seemed excited at the prospect of such a big eclectic festival, when I mentioned the lottery system. And one of the women I was speaking to made a face as if I had just taken a dump in her hand. "A lottery? That's terrible."

I resisted urge to punch her in the face.

Or call her an elitist bitch.

Or both.

A few months back, some theater people I quite like were talking about the lottery results and someone said, "Does anyone else think it's an abomination that (so and so who shall remain nameless) got a slot in the Fringe and we're stuck down well below 100 on the wait list?" When I started piping up in defense of the lottery system, someone else thought there really should be some kind of way to ensure that certain companies had a better shot of getting in.

An abomination? Quality control?

It's theater. Not cancer research.

What is it about the phrase "unjuried" that's so repugnant to some people?

Do some artists really think they're so important or so popular that the Fringe just simply wouldn't be the same without them?

Honestly, I love you all, but get over yourselves.

I mean, a healthy dose of self-esteem is lovely, and important to functioning in the world, I'll grant you.

But the Fringe is the one time of year when you don't have to wait to be invited, because everyone's invited.

(Yes, your ping pong ball has to be drawn, but don't you think it improves the odds of a better festival - completely at random - if we've got so many applicants we could have another Fringe and a half from the number of artists on the wait list? 19 acts so far have gotten in off the wait list anyway.)

You don't even need to know what you're doing. You just need to commit to doing *something*

You don't need an extensive resume. You don't need to have done anything at all before in the theater.

Does this mean some turkeys get through?

Sure. But established artists can stink just as badly, if not worse, than newbies. Personally, I'd rather accidentally see "well-intentioned but inept" over "hopelessly pretentious" any day of the week, any week of the year.

Good art can be created by procrastinators who run in to the Fringe office at the last minute to hand deliver their application on the day of the cutoff just as easily as bad art can come from people who make sure their application lands in the Fringe mailbox the first day applications are accepted.

I saw 54 different shows in last year's Fringe. Only one of them was painful (and that was from artists I normally love, and even it had its redeeming moments, just far too few of them). Most of the things I saw were great. Some were just good. A few were wonderful. Two I liked so much I went back and saw them again.

This is coming from the blog of someone who has seen a LOT of Fringe over the past 8 years, and studied it in detail - The Fringe is getting better, not worse. It's getting more popular, not less. And the artists are getting better, because they're getting practice, because the Fringe gives them the support structure to learn as they go, get new work in front of audiences, and understand what works and what doesn't - from marketing to performance. The Fringe seeds the ground for new writers, new performers, new directors and designers, new theater companies. It raises audience expectations and expands their horizons. It waters the ground for the rest of the year.

And it does this because everyone is welcome, whether you've heard of them, or consider them worthy, or not.

I don't want someone else deciding what I get to see for 11 days out of the year. The other 354 I'm at the mercy of programmers from the Guthrie and Park Square on one end, to Red Eye and the Bryant Lake Bowl on the other. They all have good intentions. They're all devoted to theater. Some may share my aesthetic. Some may not. But I don't get to decide. They do.

And I don't want my aesthetic to shrivel up and atrophy from lack of exercise.

11 days out of the year, I get a chance to pick from a ridiculous number of wildly different offerings. A lot of them end up being fantastic. And nobody had to program anything.

A group of artists whose work I really enjoy resisted submitting themselves for the lottery for several years, as if it was some kind of indignity. Some of them had come from elsewhere, where the festivals were juried, and their work had been chosen a few times. They felt since their work was judged to be of high quality, they shouldn't have to put themselves at the mercy of a random lottery. Well, they finally did enter the lottery last year, got in (first try), had a very successful show and even got picked up for a remount elsewhere. See, that wasn't so bad was it? You got in via a random lottery, and someone later still picked you out of a lineup - non-juried and juried all in the same year. It happens.

No one's entitled to a Fringe slot, because everyone's entitled to a Fringe slot. That's the beauty of it.

Theater should be open, not closed. And the Fringe is one of the few times of the year when that actually happens. Embrace chaos, people.

I get my own work judged and rejected enough the rest of the year, thank you very much.

In the Fringe lottery, I stand just as good a chance of getting in as anybody else. Because no one's judging. They're just turning a chicken wire cage, grabbing ping pong balls, and calling out numbers.

(For the record, the company I'm working with didn't get in. Fine by me. Makes the logistics of the Fringe with Mom less tricky. I get to relax and just watch other people make theater, and I get to see more shows. Nothing's keeping me from writing anyway. Nothing's keeping me from collaborating with people who are going to produce my work. For a couple of weeks this summer, I get a break. And after some grumbling, everyone else in the company admitted to being pretty happy they had the summer off, too. If their number suddenly came up off the wait list at this point, I don't think they'd do it. Which just means there's room for someone else below us on the list who *is* wishing the call would come.)

Those who got themselves a slot, I'm looking forward to seeing what you have to offer.

[Sneak peeks are coming up with the two part Fringe-For-All, Monday July 12 and 19, and the Out of Towner showcase on Wednesday August 4, the night before the festival begins! And of course, before all that, the Fringe site goes live with all the show descriptions and schedule info in just a couple of weeks!]

Those, like me, who didn't get in? There's always next year, or, you know, there's nothing stopping you from self-producing the other 11 months of the year between Augusts. (Harder than during Fringe season, sure, but not impossible. People do it all the time.)

Relax. Unclench your sphincters. You'll live longer.

Long may the ping pong balls spin!