Thursday, July 30, 2020

Virtual Fringe 2020 - Adjust Your Expectations

I'm not saying lower your expectations for the Minnesota Virtual Fringe Festival.

Just... adjust them.

Those among us with access to Disney Plus (I only do because my brother currently has it, largely for Marvel and Star Wars movies, which I am also enjoying, don't get me wrong) have no doubt enjoyed a little dosing of theater by watching Hamilton (which is also the first time I saw that play - cast album yes, script book yes, enormously expensive theater tickets and travel plans, no).

None of this is going to be Hamilton.

This whole festival is a fairly last minute, jury-rigged experiment.

Everyone, artists and audience alike, is doing the best they can.

But just like with any normal, in-person Fringe experience, there's going to be a lot of suspension of disbelief involved.

Acting for a camera with zero immediate audience feedback in the room with you is a different kind of performing.  People study for years to learn how to do it.  The learning curve right now is fairly steep.

The fact that people are willing to attempt this live at all is a tall assignment and we should give them credit for the attempt.

Heck, some hapless actor last night during previews forgot to turn on their microphone so half the scene started out being a silent film - until the director hopped back on Zoom to tell the actor, "Hey, your mic is off!"

And did that fluster this actor to the point they couldn't continue?  Nope, they just flipped on the mic and jumped right back in the scene, because they'd been hearing the other side of the scene with their acting partner the whole time.

Normally, an actor doesn't need to worry that their voice is turned on in a theater.  They just walk out on stage and open their mouth and as long as they don't have a sore throat, sound comes out.

[Note to self for later: Zoom silent film idea, modern story with old timey piano music and dialogue cards]

Some people have productions that are designed for this video conference call format, but they're in the minority.  Most people are just using the internet to broadcast archival pre-recorded footage, or are pretending they can use multiple cameras and locations to approximate what it would be like to gather all the actors on the same stage together.  It's not ideal.  And it's an awkward fit in a lot of cases.

Will an actor's stage presence and charisma still make it across the internet?  Will a genuinely good story still be able to transport you, even through a screen?

Have you watched TV or film before?  Yeah, sure it'll still work.  The medium won't completely hijack or flatten the story or the performance.

And the live element of danger and potential screw-ups in real time is also still there.

Will there still be bad scripts?  Will there still be bad performances?  Will we still be able to tell?

The answer to all those questions is still yes.  It's the Fringe, they can't all be winners.  But every story has its audience.  That audience just isn't always going to be me.

As for the pre-recorded offerings, again, this isn't going to be Hamilton.

Most videos that theater companies do for archival purposes aren't meant to be viewed by anyone other than the company members involved,  or their immediate family.  They're meant to be a keepsake, a way to relive an experience that everyone's already shared ("Aaawww!  Remember when we all did that show together?  That was the best time.")

Nobody meant for you to experience their theater production on video.  They meant for you to be there in the audience breathing the same air as the performers seeing the thing in real time.

Right now, that's a health hazard.

But the fourth wall here is solid.  It's a screen, large or small, and it is unforgiving.  It is constantly reminding you that you are watching something you can't touch (well, I guess most theater you probably shouldn't touch without permission and encouragement, but you get what I'm driving at here).

The new fourth wall can make it harder for you to lose yourself in the story.

Theater lights are meant to illuminate actors for a live audience.  They tend to wash them out for the eye of a camera.  And if all you can afford to do is stick a camera at the back of the house with no one beside it and just let it run until the show is over, forget close-ups.

Not many theater companies have the resources to find a good camera person and editor to record and assemble a decent video document of a performance.  They exist, but they're rare.  Not all of us can be Tamara Ober recording the dance performance of Gabriel Mata - for instance.  (Tamara as filmmaker, and Gabriel as a man finding people to document his performances, are actually two really good examples, come to think of it.  Study their work.)

Notable exception in the previews last night for pre-recorded content? 

The dance show Proximity, from the group Pones. 

Great camera work and editing, intriguing performance (we only got a snippet, after all).  I did want to scream at everyone without a mask on outside, but they appeared to be distant from other people most of the time, and indoors without a mask is worse, so... (Given my family's luck with the health care system this past year, my brother and I are constantly reminding one another not to get sick and die, so you'll have to forgive my over-zealousness.)

But, Proximity, definitely worth the $5 Fringe button to help the Fringe and get access to the Digital Hub, and then a $10 suggested donation for the artists.

(Seriously, people, pay the artists.  Or if they ask you to donate to the Fringe instead, donate to the Fringe.  Or give them the money to pay the Fringe on the back end.  Whatever the set up is, pay for the art you want like you pay for any other streaming service.)

And I know money's tight, so if all you can afford is just to log on for the freebies in the Nightly Fringe schedule, that's completely understandable.  (Me, I haven't been spending my entertainment budget on any live theater for a while now, so I have a little wiggle room.  Not much, but some.  And I'd like artists and the Fringe to have it more than a lot of other things I can think of.)

The situation's not ideal.

But now, quick, last minute, we're making do with what we've got.

So go easy.  On the performers, and yourself.

This Virtual Fringe is meant to tide us over, raise money to ensure the real Fringe continues, and will probably help us appreciate the in-person Fringe a lot more when we can all finally begin to gather again.

Right now, no one's asking you to risk your life to watch their art so, be grateful not to have to weigh that choice.

Oh, and it's live right now.  They went ahead and opened the Digital Hub early, right after the previews last night.  So all the pre-recorded content is up and available.  The live scheduled performances on the Nightly Fringe and Digital Hub, those you still have to wait for, but check the calendar and give 'em a look.

Happy Fringing, everybody.

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Virtual Fringe 2020 - Digital Hub - Previews Tonight! (Wed. 7/29)

If, like me, you're finding the long list of the many artists on Digital Hub of this year's Virtual Minnesota Fringe Festival both delightful and a bit overwhelming, and you were wishing you had a traveling artists showcase here on Fringe Eve to help you preview and sort even a sampling of them all, then you're in luck.

Maximum Verbosity is hosting a Digital Hub preview event this evening, Wed. 7/29, at 7:30pm CST

It will be hosted on Maximum Verbosity's Facebook page.

The event listing says (I'm throwing in the synopses I was given):

"The theaters are dark, but the theater lives on. Check out an entirely artist-led combination of live and pre-recorded previews from the upcoming Minnesota Fringe Virtual Festival's Digital Hub, including but not limited to:

3-Way Lovve: Robyn Meets Keepon (Maatology Productions)
"3 Way Lovve is a modernized Shakespearean story about a street painter who os challenged by his love relationships and his art. The play is inspired by the life of iconic painter Basquiat."

The Art of Opposition (The People Project)
"The Art of Opposition uses movement to explore resistance in all of it's forms, from physical to sociological. This work was inspired by the evolution of resistance across generations, and aims to provoke discussion around the varied forms opposition can take. 50% of proceeds will go to the Black Women's Health Imperative."

Between...Then, Now, Next (Ray Terrill Dance Group)
"Dances of hope and resilience from repertory, including Litany, Reverence, Interplay | Still & Moving and Untitled: Number 1, 2012."

A Circus Show (WeFlip Entertainment)
"Come one, come all to witness the amazing Brothers as they spin, jump and flip in this one-of-a-kind intimate circus. The two brothers are trapped for an eternity of performance which can only be broken by an audience that will not clap…But that is near impossible as audiences watch the Brothers amazing acrobatics mixed with comedic foolery. These brothers will spin in full size hoops, balance at heights over 15ft in the air, and flip off a launching see-saw; All of this while their comedic interaction and intimacy will keep audiences of all ages intrigued! Be sure not to miss A Circus Show!"

Climbing My Family Tree (The Adventures of Les Kurkendaal Barrett)
"Les takes a test on and gets shocking results . Watch him learn about his roots and help solve a decades long mystery"

Confessional (Reservoir Frogs) (also part of the Nightly Fringe schedule)
"Three characters who will do whatever it takes to reach their goals. Ambition will collide with poor judgment as we take a peak into their inner thoughts. Presented live, free, and improvised. Showtimes at 6pm on Aug 1st, 2nd, 6th, and 9th Come see our show as a part of the NIGHTLY FRINGE at 7pm on Aug 7th as well!"

Fallen from the Toy Box (The Fourth Wall) (also part of the Nightly Fringe schedule)
"From the award-winning creators of "Fruit Flies Like a Banana" come tales of youth and consequences. Inspired by our discarded mementos, this musical reverie revisits fairy tales, childhood games, and the secret life of toys. FIVE STARS - CBC & Winnipeg Free Press. “So beautiful you might get a little verklempt.”

The Feral Theatre Company Presents (The Feral Theatre Company)
"Hanging Tree: A Short Confession by James Wilkinson lets us see into the confessions of a young woman and her supernatural experiences."

I'm not playing (Who's Louis)
"Jeremy and Jess broke up last night. Jess is ready to leave him, but Jeremy isn’t convinced; meanwhile, Caitlyn and Dev mediate and miscommunicate. This digital installation gives audiences the power of choice: choose your viewpoint as you unravel the tight-knit relationships of these four roommates whose feelings may prove more powerful than their wit."

Knifeslingin'! (Paper Soul)
"Ted "Critter"; Montana is BACK with the 2017 Fringe Hit "Knifeslingin'!", where Critter will teach YOU how to survive the guns, no karate chops, just KNIVES, hotshot. Filmed at the 2019 Cincy Fringe by Minion Productions' own Grant Evan Knutson and guest starring Cincinnati rockstar Liz Carman!"

A Mermaid in Every Sea (Mermaid Productions)
"Storyteller Ariel Leaf presents some of her best stories from Fringe shows in 2013, 2015, 2017. Will it be the famous ferry ride to the wrong country, her trip to Narnia on LSD, her russian roulette with bathrooms in India, her postcards from abroad, or the time she almost got arrested in her own hallway? One things for sure, it's bound to be quite the journey."

On the Concept of Irony (with No Reference to Socrates) (Maximum Verbosity)
"What happens when human folly runs face-first into apocalypse? Stolen placentas, political genies, sad puppies, Elder Gods, cryogenically frozen comedians...welcome to this election year's grotesque anthology of comic horror, with no mention whatsoever of a certain ancient Greek philosopher."

Phone Whore: a one-act play with frequent interruptions (Cameryn Moore/Little Black Book Productions)
"Truth and taboo collide in this intimate visit with a phone sex operator. Sit back and buckle up. A slice-of-life comedy/drama, Phone Whore invites audiences in for an unflinching look at taboo, fantasy, and the place of “deviant” desires in society today."

Proximity (Pones)
"Dance is an art form of touch. Of bodies connecting in space to make shapes, to tell stories, to create feeling. So, what happens when we can't be next to one another? Pones will explore how to feel close, even though, for the moment, we are all so far apart."

Radio FEAR! (Conundrum Collective)
"Conundrum Collective performs two frightful Radio Dramas from the Golden Age of Radio: 'Pyrigi's Wonderful Dolls,' and 'Three Skeleton Key!' Complete with all new music and Foley effects... do you dare listen in the dark??"

RagTag: A Circus in Stitches (Cirque Us)
"Follow our RagTag group of threadbare, yarn-spinning characters as they explore a new patchwork world. You’ll be entwined with our group of mismatched artists as they stitch together a tapestry of talents. This show features high-flying, knot-tying, gravity defying aerialists, loopy jugglers, musicians that pull at your heart strings, and comedy that will leave you in stitches. Can these six ragamuffins find a common thread, or will they fall apart at the seams? Join us as we tell tales of support, fear, friendship, and the connections which inevitably interweave themselves in our lives."

Stuck in an Elevator with Patrick Stewart (Theatre Cosmic)
"A renowned actor torn between the London stage and Hollywood, and the sharp but awkward teenager who idolizes him, challenge each other's hopes and fears amidst the chaos of a sci-fi convention in 1988. "Stuck in an Elevator with Patrick Stewart" was performed at the 2013 Minnesota Fringe Festival, receiving the Audience Choice encore award and selling out all six of its performances. ALL PROCEEDS GO TOWARDS THE MINNESOTA FRINGE."

Trudy Carmichael Presents The Improvised One-Woman Show! (TruSongstress Productions)
"Join legendary Las Vegas lounge singer, Trudy Carmichael (and her band) as she musically improvises an entirely original and hilarious One-Woman Show based on YOUR suggestions (and comments) ON THE SPOT!"

Zelda: The Hero of Fringe (Albino Squirrel Productions)
"Join Link, Navi and Zelda on their epic quest to restore peace to the kingdom of Hyrule! Based on the classic Nintendo game series "The Legend of Zelda.""

Streaming live to Maximum Verbosity's Facebook page, and hosted by phillip andrew bennett low.

Though nobody is turned away from watching, we strongly recommend you spend $5 to purchase a 2020 #MNFringe button!

The Minnesota Fringe Virtual Festival is July 30-August 9, 2020."

To be clear, Maximum Verbosity isn't asking for donations for themselves or the other artists.  They direct you to the Minnesota Fringe Festival's donation page with a link - and you want to get a Fringe button anyway, because that purchase is what gains you access to all the content on the Digital Hub.

So it's for the good of the Fringe, and you for, assuming you haven't already done so.

Looking forward to it!

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Fringe 2020 - Virtual Fringe - Nightly Fringe - Uh... what happened to the diversity?

I'm not gonna lie, I got to the end of this Nightly Fringe roster and was suddenly struck by the thought, "Wow, on the surface, other than the night of the fundraiser, a lot of this is really white."    When I get to see some of the casts I'm unfamiliar with onscreen, that may help balance things out a bit, but right now...

Time to hop on over to peruse the press info I have on the digital hub, see if the diversity ratio improves any.  Fingers crossed. 

I mean, I know that the whole situation in the world at large is crazy right now, and this isn't a traditional Fringe with a lottery, etc.

But if the default for content in times of stress is this Caucasian

[however much, again, I'm thinking I'm going to enjoy it],

we obviously have a lot more work to do.

Fringe 2020 - Virtual Fringe - Nightly Fringe 11 - Sunday, August 9

And for the grand finale on the Nightly Fringe roster, a double feature of comedy and dance.

In the 7 to 7:30pm slot:

Lauren and Nissa Present: Fun Times, from Special When Lit
(aka Lauren Anderson, Nissa Nordland)

"Lauren and Nissa Present: Fun Times is a brand new two person sketch comedy offering where Lauren and Nissa attempt to find fun while the world is dying. The concept came up because…look around."

I've seen so much good comedy from both these women, all you have to do is say they're involved and I'm sold.  And both of them together in the same show?  Absolutely.  Sign me up.

(Warnings: Adult language, Drug content, Sexual content; for ages 12 to 15 and up)

In the 8 to 8:30pm slot:

Rabet Mynd, from Rogue & Rabble Dance

"In the garden, where all our fears can find us, the RABET MYND tells us to fight...or freeze...or fawn...or take flight... A solo dance in four sections, created by dancer/choreographer Jesse Schmitz-Boyd"

Don't have any previous experience with this artist that I'm aware of, but it isn't Fringe for me if I can't see some dance, so I'll take it.

(No warnings; for ages 12 to 15 and up)

Fringe 2020 - Virtual Fringe - Nightly Fringe 10 - Saturday, August 8

Minnesota Fringe closing weekend Saturday 8/8 on the Nightly Fringe roster, we have a returning favorite traveling trio, plus some improv comedy built for the small screen:

In the 7 to 7:30pm slot:

Fruit Flies Like a Banana: Virtual Style, from The Fourth Wall

"Part chamber music group, part devised theatre company, part modern dance troupe, part circus act, The Fourth Wall blends music, theatre, dance, and acrobatics into a new hybrid art form. In their award-winning variety show Fruit Flies Like a Banana, this trio of musicians creates new interdisciplinary works and reinterprets classic repertoire - all performed in an order chosen by the audience - to make music that leaps off the stage.  Interactive online performances of Fruit Flies Like a Banana put everyone in a front-row seat, and all are invited to help create a show that leaps off the screen."

The trio of Hilary Abigana on flute, C. Neil Parsons on bass trombone, and Greg Jukes on percussion and accordion are a true delight.  Mom and I never tired of seeing them and would rearrange our schedule to make sure we caught them whenever they were doing the Minnesota Fringe Festival - even when they were out on the far side of town doing the Family Fringe, we followed.  I'm super curious to see how they adapt to an online venue.  More than most performers, the joy, the challenge and the comedy is the three of them together in the same space, along with their audience.  But if anyone can blow the doors off the thing, it's them.

(No warnings; for ages 2 to 6 and up)

In the 8 to 8:30pm slot:

On the Fringe of Improv, from Scenes from a Hat

"Minnesota based public access TV show currently running for two years, now with an online version of the show due to social distancing. The show features improv comedy performed live by a group of very skilled improvisers with real-time audience suggestions."

Another improv troupe I haven't had the pleasure of seeing in action before so, again, I'm curious.  And since they've been honing their craft together for a while, I'm expecting it to be quite enjoyable.

Cast listed as: Jay Sterling, John Bickford, M.A. Doerfler, Cherelle-Renée Childs, Remy Argentum, Rod Motzko, Mark Olson, Kat Fenton

(Warnings: Adult language, Crude humor; for ages 12 to 15 and up)

Fringe 2020 - Virtual Fringe - Nightly Fringe 9 - Friday, August 7

Taking us into the weekend, the Nightly Fringe has an evening of what promises to be a lot of manic testosterone and questionable life choices:

In the 7 to 7:30pm slot:

Confessional, from the improv comedy group Reservoir Frogs

"Three characters who will do whatever it takes to reach their goals. Ambition will collide with poor judgment as we take a peak into their inner thoughts. Presented live and improvised."

Since it's a show image with four people and cast list of eight (Adam Boutz, Amy Zajack, Rob Ward, Jennifer Benusa, Andy Christian, Heather Jo Raiter, Michael Deneen, Gina Slattery), I'm assuming three are the characters and some of the rest of them are the inner thoughts.  Guess we'll see.  There's so much improv in this town, this is a group I don't think I've seen yet.

Their facebook page says: "The Reservoir Frogs improvise tales at the darkly comic intersection of greed, ambition, poor judgment, and failure. They are stories about people who each want something bad enough they are willing to cross any line to get it."

Their profile on The Improv Network says: "Reservoir Frogs is a Minneapolis-based improv troupe who have performed around the Twin Cities and surrounding area. They initially bonded over a shared love of the role-playing game 'Fiasco' and set out to create a form that could allow an audience to experience the creation of a tale of high ambition and poor impulse control.  After a successful run at the Coulee Region Improv Festival in 2016, they decided to continue their collaboration. The addition of new cast members marks the beginning of an exciting time, and they look forward to creating many more stories celebrating the power of poor life choices."

(Warnings: Adult language, Crude humor; for ages 12 to 15 and up)

In the 8 to 8:30pm slot:

RIGHT NOW, from Martin Dockery

"Trapped in his home for months on end, animated solely by the glow of his devices, an otherwise world-traveling storyteller has lost the thread of his own narrative. Previous MN Fringe shows: Delirium, Inescapable, Moonlight After Midnight, The Exclusion Zone, The Surprise, Wanderlust."

As you can tell from the all caps title, Martin Dockery is known for his shy and retiring presence on-stage.  I'm kidding, of course.  He's very high energy, so strap in for the half hour.

The bio on his website says: "Brooklyn-based Martin Dockery spends the majority of the year touring his nine one-person shows through Canada, Australia, the UK, and the US. Seven of them are autobiographical (Wanderlust, The Surprise, the Bike Trip, The Holy Land Experience, The Exclusion Zone,  Delirium, and Forbidden City!) and two are fictional (Bursting Into Flames and The Dark Fantastic). He has won "Best of Fest" awards at theater festivals in Vancouver, Ottawa, New York, Orlando, London, Toronto, Edmonton, Winnipeg, Victoria, San Francisco, Calgary, and Adelaide. He's performed at The Melbourne Comedy Festival, the Edinburgh Fringe, the Piccolo Spoleto Festival, and twice headlined the London Storytelling Festival in England. Dockery has also written and performed with his theater company Concrete Drops Theatre, touring with his partner Vanessa Quesnelle to Edinburgh, Adelaide, and across North America in their original two-person plays. (Oh, That Wily Snake!, The Pit, Moonlight After Midnight, Love Is A Battlefield, and with Jon Paterson in Inescapable). He has a BA in English from Kenyon College (where he won the Paul Newman Award for acting) and an MFA in playwriting from Columbia University."

So you can see staying home in quarantine is totally his thing.  I'm sure he's adapting just as well as the rest of us.

Oh, and he's got content over on the Digital Hub side as well.

(Warnings: none - but if you've seen one of his many previous Fringe shows prior to this, you know what you're in for; for ages 16 and up)

Fringe 2020 - Virtual Fringe - Nightly Fringe 8 - Thursday, August 6

Thursday 8/9 for the Nightly Fringe is an evening of drugs, mental illness, and song:

In the 7 to 7:30pm slot:

8 Pills and Counting, a new play written and directed by Gabriel Brosius

"Queerness, schizophrenia, and schizotypal disorder:
[editor's note: just to be clear, only those last two are mental illnesses, not the queerness]
real men, real stories, really bad times at the pharmacy."

Cast is listed as: Milton Espinoza Jr., Pryor Krugman, Will Wallentine

The warnings in the press materials for this one are longer than the show description:
Abuse/Physical violence, Adult language, Crude humor, Drug content, Mental illness, Sexual content, Sexual violence, Suicidal ideation/Self-harm, Violence

So, you know, a comedy.  And again, only a half an hour.

However, queerness, and a new play, so I'm in.

(for ages 18 and up only)

In the 8 to 8:30pm slot:

The Champagne Drops: The In-Between Years

"The Champagne Drops reflect on those awkward, angsty years of early adolescence. Looking back on our days of braces and questionable crushes, we celebrate the music we loved (and hated), the feelings we didn't understand, and the female friendships that got us through. Join us and our ukuleles for some nostalgic covers, new originals, and embarrassing stories."

Leslie Vincent is back, after strumming and singing TV show theme songs on Monday, this time with Emily Dussault, another local actor/singer of note.  And two ukuleles this time!

(No warnings; for ages 7 to 11 and up)

Fringe 2020 - Virtual Fringe - Nightly Fringe 7 - Wednesday, August 5

(Blogger changed the interface on me overnight so there's a bit of a learning curve. Have patience with a slightly slower pace posting today, plus any goofs, which I'll do my best to correct as we go...)

The Minnesota Fringe Festival's Nightly Fringe offerings on Wednesday, 8/5 are composed of two Millers, no relation.

In the 7 to 7:30pm slot:

Focus Testing, from Tristan Miller

"A Comedy Podcast where 2 comedians (Tristan Miller, Tucker Dally Johnston) pitch movies from a random prompt."

It wasn't until I saw Tristan Miller's preview in the traveling artists showcase prior to opening night of the festival last year that I realized, "Oh, yeah, I definitely want to see that."  His stand-up comedy show Manic Impressive was supposed to be dealing with fun subjects like bipolar disorder and depression, and given that my mother had just died a month before the festival, I wasn't entirely sure I was up for it.  But while Miller may be a comedian with a mission, but he's still a comedian and a very funny one.  My tweet review at the time was "to be brief, @TristanJMiller1’s stand-up show Manic Impressive was... both :) An entertaining, informative and quite circuitous tour through a brain that can make his life challenging sometimes - 5 stars."  Basically after that introduction, I'm down for whatever he's doing next.  And this one just seems like random comedy, perfect for a Wednesday evening.  And they've been doing this podcast for a few months now already, so they're not experimenting on you with something they haven't tried before - you can check out previous episodes like "Sequels to our favorite films," "Ratatoulli but with Lice," "Santa Claus?" and "Serial Cereal"

(Warnings: Adult language, crude humor - because it's two improvisors pitching movie ideas, and they're probably not Disney films; for ages 16 and up)

In the 8 to 8:30pm slot:

Edith Vs. Quarantine: 89 and One Tough Cookie, from Amanda Erin Miller

"Edith Shlivovitz, a ferociously spirited octogenarian, hasn’t left her apartment since Covid-19 descended upon NYC. Through belting showtunes to her taxidermied cat, pretending to be a snake, Zooming with her long-dead husband, and much more, she shares her journey during these solitary months and the lessons learned along the way."

A fellow blogging geek, New England Theatre Geek, previously reviewed this show as follows: "Miller’s character shoots through Zoom, past the door of your bedroom and into the street like porn on an iPhone at a family reunion."

So... there's that, which accomplishes the task of making me even more curious to see the show without spoiling a thing.  Well done.

She was previously here at our Fringe non-virtually (I miss theater IRL) with her solo show The Jew In The Ashram, which I didn't get a chance to see, but those of you who caught it have a frame of reference for the performer.  She's already hit the digital Fringe circuit with Edith in Philly and Providence.  She's toured other 3-D, in person performances to Edinburgh and Edmonton, Pittsburgh and Portland, San Francisco and Rochester, just to name a few, so we've got a seasoned Fringer here.  I'm looking forward to finally catching her act since I missed her the first time through.

(No warnings; for ages 16 and up)

Monday, July 27, 2020

Fringe 2020 - Virtual Fringe - Nightly Fringe 6 - Tuesday, August 4

Tuesday, 8/4 on the Nightly Fringe roster we have two shows each in their own very different way inspired by pandemic:

In the 7 to 7:30pm slot:

Dame daDA & the Covidada Meta Show, from Nichole Hamilton

"After living in a Beckett play for long have I been here? What a question... Dame daDa invites you to share 1800 seconds of silliness as we make (non)sense of where we have been and ponder where are we going, and why ARE we in this handbasket?!  Dame daDA appeared in the 2017 Fringe Festival at the Ritz Theatre Studio where one Minnesotan stopped her on 13th Avenue and exclaimed "I don't know what I just saw, but I loved it." Dame daDA brings a little something different in the guise of storytelling, standup, satire, games, performance art (ew, gross), and pure ridiculousness, this isn’t a show…it’s meta."

She had me at "Why ARE we in this handbasket?!"

Missed her show in 2017, but I'm totally there for this one based on the description alone.  I do worry if I'll notice absurdity onstage given, you know, reality right now, but let's see...

(Warnings: Adult language; for ages 16 and up)

In the 8 to 8:30pm slot:

The Cut-Out Bar, from Landman Land (aka your host, Sam Landman)

"Sam's been collecting obscure albums with sad, strange cover art for years. Now, thanks to the pandemic, he's finally listening to them all. Pour yourself a drink & help him judge some of the most unlistenable albums ever committed to wax."

Sam's been doing this show online since the pandemic started, so he's got the routine down by now.  And I'm sure he has the perfect music chosen for this particular half hour installment.  This is definitely going to take the edge off of whatever passes for Tuesday in the real world right now.

(Warnings: Adult language; for ages 18 and up only - because it's Sam, drinking, talking about bad music, he can't be held responsible)

Fringe 2020 - Virtual Fringe - Nightly Fringe 5 - Monday, August 3

Kicking off the Fringe work week with Nightly Fringe on Monday, 8/3 we have the double feature of:

In the 7 to 7:30pm slot:

TV Tunes with Leslie Vincent

"Join Leslie Vincent as she sings and ukuleles through time's most iconic TV tunes with the aid of Mr. Josh Carson, verified TV expert."

If you haven't heard Leslie Vincent sing and play the ukulele before, you've been missing something.  She's a delight.  Hop on over to her music homepage and just turn on any of her recent home concerts and just enjoy yourself (oh, and she's got an album coming out just a week after this Fringe show, so check that out, too).  And if you haven't seen Josh Carson in a Fringe show, uh, well, welcome to the Fringe, first-timer - you must have just moved here since September 2019.

For those of you asking "What's TV?" or "What's a TV show theme song?" just, I don't know, leave me alone, I'm old.

This will be the online theatrical equivalent of comfort food for me and I'm very much looking forward to hanging out with the two of them for half and hour.  It will go too fast.  I almost don't care what they're doing, but TV show themes is a bonus.

(No warnings, because, well, do you really need any for this one?  for ages 7 to 11 and up)

In the 8 to 8:30pm slot:

Good Grief (and other ways to process loss), from Melancholics Anonymous

"Five rambunctious kiddos (Claire Chenoweth, Bianca Davis, Matthew Humason, Annika Isbell, Timothy Kelly, Rachel Ropella - ok, one of these is actually the group leader but there isn't a cast list so...), each mourning the loss of a special person, meet for the first time in Ms. Lorraine's grief group. Come for the snacks, stay for the eggs."

OK, last year would have been WAY too soon for me to see this one, but since it's been a year, and I've sat in on a fair number of grief support groups myself, and been seeing a grief therapist since January (yeah, it's a hell of a long waiting list for therapy), I should be good to watch this one.  If it's accurate, I'll probably enjoy myself and even laugh.  If it's inaccurate, it'll piss me off.  But why would someone write something like this if they didn't have personal experience with it, right?  (I had to go and type that, didn't I?)  Guess we'll see.  I am, weirdly, looking forward to this and super curious.  I'm assuming I'll get the egg joke after I see the show.

(Warnings: Mental illness; for ages 7 to 11 and up)

Sunday, July 26, 2020

Fringe 2020 - Virtual Fringe - Nightly Fringe 4 - Sunday, August 2

The end of the first Virtual Fringe weekend, Sunday 8/1, for the Nightly Fringe includes:

In the 7 to 7:30pm slot:

The Mystery of the Gryphon's Ears, from Monster Science Productions

"Reverend Matt's Monster Science - "Part science. Part comedy. All monsters" - is a series of comedy lectures about the broad and fascinating topic of monsters. It has appeared at past MN Fringes with "What To Do In Case Of Dinosaur Attack" and "How To Come Back From The Dead."

I have enjoyed Matthew Kessen's deadpan humor in his monster lecture series.  But thus far, I've only seen bits and pieces, in previews and hosting gigs.  And sadly, last year, a month after my mother died, was not a year for me to try sitting through something titled "How To Come Back From the Dead" (too soon).  Gryphon's ears, though, that I can do.

(No warnings listed; for ages 12 to 15 and up)

In the 8 to 8:30pm slot:

Waiting for Hugs, from Highlander Kitty (OK, now *this* is my favorite new theater company name)

"Three problem actors (Jenna Papke, Mickaylee Shaughnessy, Rob Ward) wait to perform virtually to a church youth group. At least they can't hit each other when in separate zip codes."

I am strangely drawn to this one, even though theater about theater is normally not my thing.  So I'm just gonna go with it.  I could use some inappropriate meta humor, designed for our video conferencing world.

(Warnings: Adult language, Crude humor, Drug content, Sexual content - you know, all the things your want for your church youth group; for ages 16 and up)

And on the we go into the Virtual Fringe week ahead.

Fringe 2020 - Virtual Fringe - Nightly Fringe 3 - Saturday, August 1

Saturday, 8/1 is the only three show day in the Nightly Fringe schedule (because, hey, it's the weekend).  And those three shows are:

In the 7 to 7:30pm slot:

My Kahaani, from SAATH (from our roster in Friday night's Fringe fundraiser)

"Personal South Asian stories of immigration and cultural integration."

It is a function of the time I went to high school that any two word title that begins with "My..." my brain immediately translates to the music of the Knack's song, "My Sharona" - that's just something you should know about what my brain does.

(Cast TBD, no current warnings listed, ages 7 to 11 and up)

Then, for something completely different

In the 8 to 8:30pm slot:

Oops, I F**ked My Mom and Killed My Dad! And Now We're All In Hell!, or A Hellish Reunion, from The Feral Theatre Company

(easily my favorite new theater company name so far, but we're just getting started)

"Oedipus Rex may have gouged out his eyes so he doesn't have to see his parents in the underworld, but that doesn't mean they still won't make his death a living hell! (ba dum tss). Join the "whackiest family in Ancient Greece" as they sit around in the underworld and face their problems with special guest Sigmund Freud!"

(is it wrong that I enjoy a show description that includes its own rimshot?)

Now, since I recently crossed the threshold of having two dead parents myself, such a plot situation might be a bit touchy.  But it's the ancient Greeks, and it's a (dark) comedy (especially for Oedipus, he gouged his eyes out).  So I think I can buck up for 30 minutes.

(No warnings listed but, you know, he f**ked his mother and killed his father and gouged his own eyes out, and that was all before the play started, and now they're in hell, and in therapy so... consider yourself warned by the title; for ages 16 and up)

In the 9 to 9:30pm slot:

timz paranoid delusionz, from Timothy Mooney Repertory Theatre

(Yes, our loyal traveling friend Tim Mooney is back, and this time he doesn't even need to travel.)

"Tim Mooney presented "Electric Eye" and "The Dog That Doesn't Bark" as part of yesteryear fringes' "Fringe Orphans" presentations. He's reviving these two monologues (along with whatever his latest freak-out might be) for those who might have missed them the first time around!"

Fringe Orphans is a handy recurring concept dreamed up by Fringe local Brian Watson-Jones to serve as a catch-all for ideas that are clever, but not enough of an idea to sustain more than maybe five to ten minutes.  Not a full Fringe show on their own, but if you put a whole bunch of them together, voila, a full Fringe show.

So Tim's bringing back a couple of older pieces and throwing a new one on the pile just to round out the half hour.  Should be fun.

(Warnings: adult language, sexual content; for ages 12 to 15 and up)

An evening of storytelling with a new play in the middle.

Fringe 2020 - Virtual Fringe - Nightly Fringe 2 - Friday, July 31

Just one slot on Friday, 7/31

7:30pm - FringeMiss (an artist-led fundraiser telethon for the Minnesota Fringe Festival)

Described as "a live fundraising event to help raise funds for our beloved Minnesota Fringe. The event will feature amazing hosts, short acts from past Minnesota Fringe artists, and an online auction. Our goal is to reach $10,000 to help save the Minnesota Fringe."

The group name is Adventurous Artists, a banner under which a whole host of really first-rate Fringers are banding together for a good cause in this two hour slot from 7:30 to 9:30pm.

Live hosts: Allison Witham, Duck Washington, and Shanon Custer  (honestly, these three people have created and performed so many fantastic Fringe shows - and theater outside the Fringe year round as well, I'd be willing to watch only those three riffing for two hours, but then there's the roster of acts as well...)

Blackout Improv
(They were tops on my pre-Fringe top 10 list in 2017 and delivered a hell of show, just like they always do.  Some of the best improvisors in the Twin Cities, which is a couple of cities full of great improvisers.)

Domino D'Lorian, Michael McKitt, and Ian McCarthy (aka, The Stoopidity Collective)
(If you didn't see these guys in last year's Fringe with their award-winning show Stoopidity, you really missed something amazing.  At the time I tweeted about the show: "best thing I saw today; mix of scenes, spoken word, movement, rap, w/drag show thrown in at the end, great performances to match material; hard to summarize."  They were right near the top of my pre-Fringe Top 10 list last year, and they exceeded all my very high expectations.  I'm so glad they're part of this fundraiser so people get another chance to see them at work.)

Hit the Lights
(crazy talented live-action, music and shadow puppetry performers responsible for recent Fringe hits like 2017's Dungeon, and 2018's Fringe/Family Fringe double feature, Whales and Horsetale)

Oncoming Productions
(doing the Fringe horror thing, which isn't always my bag, but I know some of the artists involved, and they do great, creepy work in this genre, including last year's avenging space ghost story, Geminae, which was later also was part of the 2019 Twin Cities Horror Festival)

SAATH (formerly Bollywood Dance Scene)
(Another Fringe hitmaker, they've also got their own slot in the Nightly Fringe kicking off Saturday 8/1 as well)

Somerville Productions
(First Fringe show out of the gate for them in 2018 was the huge hit Not Fair, My Lady - which was the kickoff show to Mom's and my last Fringe together, not that we knew that at the time.  It was fantastic, and we weren't the only ones that thought so.   And they had another hilarious hit last year with Size.)

The Winding Sheet Outfit
(produced venue-stuffing, award-winning Fringe hits three years running (The Memory Box of the Sisters Fox, Blood Nocturne, and You Are Cordially Invited to the Life and Death of Edward Lear) that were so popular you might not have been able to get a ticket to get in to see them - well, here's one of several chances to correct that - other work by Winding Sheet is also on the Digital Hub the entirety of the festival for your viewing pleasure, details on that later)

Great entertainment, great cause.  Two hours well spent in our virtual theater world.

Fringe 2020 - Virtual Fringe - Nightly Fringe 1 - Thursday, July 30

Let's start with a rundown of the freebies on the Nightly Fringe page, since their schedule of options is already posted.

Starting with Nightly Fringe, night 1, Thursday, July 30th

There's two slots

One of the common parameters of the shows on the Nightly Fringe page, with one notable exception (Friday 7/31, more on that in the next post), is that the shows are all supposed to be just half an hour (rather than the usual Fringe length of 45 to 55 minutes).  So there'll still be time between shows for you to switch online platforms if need be, restock your snacks (food's allowed after all, you're at home), take a bathroom break, etc.

The 7 to 7:30pm slot on Thursday, 7/30, is

Break The Dice: The Improvised Campaign

This the the improv comedy show previously known as Swords and Sorcery, from the improvisers known as The Bearded Company (Maria Bartholdi, MJ Marsh, Tyler Michaels King, Tyler Mills, Joe Rapp, and Allen Voigt).  They've been in the Fringe twice in recent years with this concept and I've seen them both times.  It's dungeons and dragons-style role-playing in full costume - magic, elves, knights, etc. - where the fate of the characters at key moments throughout the course of the show depends on how a 20-sided die rolls.  20 spells great fortune, 1 is really bad news - everything else is on a sliding scale in between those poles.  In past incarnations, someone was in the middle of fight, the die master rolls a good number, they are victorious, they roll a bad number the hero gets their butt handed to them.  One time a hero's special skill was flirting with the opposition to disarm them - they got a bad roll, and so executed a hilariously bad come on and had to come up with another strategy to get what they wanted.  Previous years, they took each of their five performance slots as another episode in the same campaign, each show building on the previous to its funny and spectacular conclusion.  One year I saw the very last performance, one year I saw the very first, so I got to see them both start and wind up a big ensemble story with multiple plot threads.  Great fun.  They almost broke into my pre-Fringe Top 20 list two years running.  Given some of less than spectacular shows that made the cut (hey, my educated guesses can't all be winners), I probably should have gone with the Bearded Company.  They're a very entertaining way to kick off our virtual experiment.

Here, of course, they have the added wrinkle of only a half an hour total, and they're all working via a collaborative Twitch connection in different locations.  No idea how that's gonna play out, but hey, they're improvisers, they run with weird circumstances all the time.  (Warnings: Adult language, loud noises, violence; ages 16 and up)

The 8 to 8:30pm slot on Thursday, 7/30, is

A Virtual Collaboration of Singing and Ice Skating (off-ice)

The description is: "This passionate duo from Minnesota, Heather Rae and Amy Berglund, who are both professional figure skaters, are here to entertain you in a unique way. One sings, one figure skates (on pavement) and they will leave you wondering what's next."

Checking out Heather Rae's official facebook page for her music (where the show will be streamed), it looks like Heather Rae is currently based in Nashville, and is described as "Amy Winehouse meets Brandi Carlile."  She's got some music currently posted on iTunes, so you can get a feel for the kind of songs she creates.

And if you're wondering how the whole half-songs, half-skating but not on ice thing might work, it turns out Heather Rae and Amy have done this several times before, the most recent example of which is posted in Heather Rae's Facebook timeline from June 20th of this year.  Having perused it, I'm intrigued.

So that is a very eclectic opening double feature to get things started.

Once I have a chance to peruse some of the press information the Fringe sent on Digital Hub offerings thus far, I'll see what's on tap for Thursday.

For now, on to the rest of the Nightly Fringe lineup.

Fringe 2020 - Figuring Out How Virtual Fringe Works

If you're anything like me, you like to think you're tech savvy, but you also frequently end up like a half step behind where you think you ought to be so the wonders of technology actually do make things easier and not just more complicated.

The Minnesota Fringe Festival's new Virtual Fringe experiment this year (since we can't gather and are all on our individual couches or favorite chairs viewing theater online instead) actually looks pretty easy, and I don't say that lightly.

I inadvertently got a dry run at it when Phillip Lowe of Maximum Verbosity did a Fringe retrospective/fundraiser on Twitch earlier this spring.

This was the first time I'd been on Twitch but it didn't require anything of me.  No download to my computer, no account I needed to sign up for.  In fact, the only reason I even set up an account is so I could text at Phillip while I was in the program and he'd know it was me and not "random unidentified guest."  No need to do that for shows I'm just watching.

In fact, the Fringe has a handy chart on their Virtual Fringe overview page that lays out all the platforms that artists will be running their live and recorded content on from July 30 to August 9.

Vimeo, YouTube, Twitch, Facebook Live, Bandcamp and Zoom

An account isn't required (though for Facebook that just applies to public pages, but I think the show pages will be.)

They're all free platforms, no charge to use them to watch shows.

And all but one of them (Zoom), you don't even need to download anything onto your computer.

And if, like me, your day job has converted to a work from home situation and meetings have been required, you're probably familiar with and have downloaded Zoom by now anyway.

So that's it.  The Virtual Fringe line-ups for the Nightly Fringe (schedule up now) and the Digital Hub (schedule goes live on July 30) all let you know which platform the artists are using.  In some cases, they have an option of more than one.

All Nightly Fringe offerings are free, and you don't even need a Fringe button to access them.

All Digital Hub offerings, you need to buy a Fringe button (but you might have already done that, like I did, to help them raise money before now) and then log in to your Minnesota Fringe website account (and if you don't have one, you should set one up, it's free), in order to access the offerings on the hub.

Now, I say "free" here a lot but artists on both platforms are also free to request donations.

(And let's face it, artists should be paid for their talent and for entertaining you.)

However in a lot of cases, the reason the artists are asking for a donation is that it's a donation for the Minnesota Fringe Festival itself.

The Fringe is still trying to reach its $100,000 fundraising goal in order to keep the festival afloat so it still exists next year when (fingers crossed) we can all gather together again in August 2021.

They're about $70,000 of the way there.  $30,000 to go.

And the Nightly Fringe offering on Friday, July 30 is just straight-up an online fundraiser for the Fringe, with an amazing line-up of artists who all came together to help keep the Fringe alive as a resource for all artists in the future.

Like the rest of us, the Fringe is doing what it can to survive until better times.

There's other things we can do (like vote, and help campaigns, and protest) to insure we get some better times.

But in the meantime, there's also a festival of artists gathering from July 30 to August 9 to present us with some theater via the web.

So let's enjoy that while we're at it, too, and keep it going.

Saturday, July 25, 2020

Fringe 2020 - They've Got Merch

This is amusing because Mom really missed it when the T-shirts went away.

In fact, she missed them so much that she'd make a point of trying to hand an envelope with her annual Fringe donation personally to whoever the Executive Director of the festival was on a given year (she saw, I think, at least four of them over the years), and make a plea for a leftover staff or volunteer T-shirt after the festival was over.  And I think most of the time she got them.  I inherited her Fringe T-shirt collection and I haven't made a full inventory, but she did pretty well from a cursory overview.

So I'm sure she's looking down and rolling her eyes and thinking, "Sure, the year AFTER I die, that's when you have T-shirts for sale again."

So, on her behalf, I shall purchase some merch.

I already have a Fringe face mask - good causes with face masks to dangle in front me me have gotten a lot of my money the last five months.

And I got the Fringe buttons ages ago (for me, and Mom, and my brother back in Pennsylvania - and now he can finally Fringe, too, and see what all the fuss is about).

But how can you pass up a shirt that says "I Tried to Fringe In 2020, But All I Got Was This Lousy T-shirt?"

Or a mug, or stickers, or a two different kinds of totes?

There's even a pet hoodie - if I had a pet.

And I'm pretty sure this is another way to give money to the Minnesota Fringe so, that's an added bonus to having Fringe swag.

There's a link on the Minnesota Fringe Festival website, of course, or you can just go directly to