Friday, July 27, 2018

2 - Itchy Tingles - Heidi Arneson - Rarig Xperimental

Childhood in the eye of the tornado. Suburban gothic humor and exquisite classical guitar. A long-lost lake filled with secret urges, ardent mermaids, and ...what monsters lurk under the muck?! "BEAUTIFULLY VIVID."

(That’s all caps for emphasis at the end there.  I don’t think the critic was actually screaming when they were quoted.) 

Heidi Arneson was in the very first Minnesota Fringe Festival (and many thereafter) and she’s back for the 25th anniversary.  That all goes by way of saying, Heidi’s been doing this one-person show thing for longer than a lot of current Fringe artists have been alive.  She knows her stuff, and she’s always been pushing the envelope, either as a writer for others, or a performer of her own material.  But she doesn’t try to shock people just for the sake of shocking them.  There’s always a method to the way she offers up her unique point of view on the world.  It’s always struck me as an unexpected blend of worldliness and childlike wonder, even innocence. 

Not surprisingly, Arneson had a deeply weird Fringe preview.  One of the many things I appreciate about her art is that Heidi is not the least bit worried about making people uncomfortable.  If the culture got its act together and was less weirded out by things like sex and sexuality and young girls, Arneson’s work probably wouldn’t seem so out there.  Guess she’ll keep doing her act until the day arrives when it’s no longer necessary.

The press release captures it best, so here’s sampling:

“Music and story overlay in a translucent reveal:  Secrets of a hidden childhood. Fish-heads are nailed to the trees. A killer lurks under the muck. The lips of one girl must never touch the lips of another.

But our heroine falls dangerously in love with the new girl and is cast into a maelstrom of wishes-come-true. A midcentury summer on a midwestern lake embellished with the compositions of Spanish prodigy Isaac Albeniz.

Seen through the eyes of a kid-size strike-anywhere match, the world is full of mystery. Monsters wait around every corner. The secrets of reproduction are in unending lockboxes. The keys are hidden in every crack in the neighborhood. But beware! When you're the baby of ten in a house full of life, you better learn fast how to disappear, for death waits behind every wall, under the murky waters, and in that kitchen oven. 

Here is a land lost, where kids run naked and swim free. Siblings shoot arrows into siblings. Fathers burst with hot lava. Mothers dispense underhand wisdom. And myths of good and evil, sex and suppertime, and love and death multiply unseen in moist lakeside basements like mildew on hidden Playboy magazines.

Here are flowers waiting to be pried open. Here are oversize snapping turtles. Here is the ever-gardening neighbor with a clothesline full of square-dance petticoats.

And here the moon dances, a white snake on black water.

You sit in the dark grass hugging your knees. Your tongue stained with popsicle, your skin covered in mosquito bites, the air full of  popping bratwurst: How much trouble you can make before winter falls?

Childhood's unselfconscious rebelliousness in translucent layers, like shimmering mermaid-tails, of symbolism, celebration, and reverence.”

A world premiere of a new piece by Heidi Arneson is quality Fringe time, so of course she ends up near the top of my Top 10 list.

I’m not sure Mom’ll be a fan, too, but she’s up for watching any Fringer do their thing at least once.  We shall see.

Here's some handy links to the full Top 10, Top 11-20 and Returning Favorites lists.

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