Want to give yourself a deadline for playwriting on a regular basis?
Want to help develop new plays and read new work?
We may have a group for you.
We were hoping to be doing this in person again but given the general spike in the pandemic, we're remaining online for now - a playwriting group that meets the first and third Monday of the month, starting September 20, 2021, and continuing through May of 2022. (Perhaps later on in the calendar we'll be meeting in one another's homes again, but for now...)
We're just trying to keep creative while we wait for theater to truly re-open on a large scale again. Looking for new blood, since both actors and writers tend to get busy in cycles sometimes and we like to have a regular core of people to keep the meetings well-attended and useful.
Material to be read could be scenes, could be an act, could be an entire draft. We also throw out a writing challenge, just in case people want to sharpen their teeth (or pencils, or keyboards?) on something random, or use it to help jumpstart them past writer's block.
We invite actor friends in to help us read (hence the call for actors as well as writers). All are welcome to offer constructive feedback - it's neither supposed to be a lovefest nor a feeding frenzy. We're here to get better, but also to support one another. The idea is to get better collectively, rather than at one another's expense. It's not a place for fragile egos or manufactured personal drama (drama on the page only, please).
Monday Group Manifesto
Six Things We Consider Important About The Group and How It Runs
-Monday Group will invite actors to attend meetings and read most roles. Matthew will be the point dude for inviting actors, but all members should feel free to invite actors if they want someone specific to read.
-Monday Group is and will remain a group of playwrights. While the focus is on writing plays, members may bring any work that can be performed. Long pieces of prose are not appropriate.
-Monday Group members will aim to bring work to every meeting they can attend. Group members who are not pursuing individual projects will do a homework exercise, designed by the host of the next meeting. Group members are, however, not to waste any time beating themselves up if they cannot always meet this goal.
-Monday Group will hold to the Roundtable guidelines for feedback, by beginning the discussion with positive remarks and moving on to offer constructive, specific criticism.
-Monday Group will recruit new members on a mentor system. If you have a candidate for a new group member, after ascertaining the candidate's interest, check in with the group about the person. If the group agrees, bring the new person to a meeting and be willing to serve as their guide.
-Monday Group is about supporting each other in our growth as writers. We want to be, and recruit, writers who can learn from each other's work, and who do work that is inspiring.
So if you’re interested in sitting in on a meeting to see if it's the kind of thing that could help your own creative process, reach out to Matthew online (blog, facebook, twitter, instagram, website, etc.)
Thursday, September 16, 2021
Seeking Writers and Actors for Bi-Weekly Playwriting Group
Want to give yourself a deadline for playwriting on a regular basis?
Tuesday, August 10, 2021
Fringe 2021 - Best Shows I've Seen - 4.5 and 5 Star Shows
Here's a collection of the tweet reviews and links to full reviews (once I post them, of course :) of all the top-tier shows I've seen at the Minnesota Fringe Festival (I'll keep adding day to day as the festival - and my blogging - continues)
5 Star Shows
Breakneck Comedy of Errors - Timothy Mooney Repertory Company
Tweet review: #mnfringe Friday: Breakneck Comedy of Errors - @TimMooneyRep takes convoluted Shakespearean comedy, turns it into a bullet train, plays over a dozen characters w/out breaking a sweat; delightful, and harder than he makes it look - 5 stars
The Consciousness - Nique Content
Tweet review: #mnfringe Thursday: The Consciousness, from Nique Content - great script by @bethanyjdickens; fun cast; nicely shot, edited, step way above most archival recordings; sci fi and queer, two of my favorite things - 5 stars
The Darger Project aka The Darger Project - The Winding Sheet Outfit
Tweet review: #mnfringe Friday: The Darger Project (etc) -@duchess_of_pie's Winding Sheet Outfit serves up a behind the scenes video which is so wonderfully meta and odd it becomes the show; artists in isolation discovering the work of an artist in isolation; enchanting - 5 stars
Tweet review: #mnfringe Thursday: Fruit Flies and Friends - @4thWallEnsemble nails "turning lemons into lemonade" situation, being forced to go to video rather than tour live; delightful collaborations, beautiful visuals, quirky clever editing, lovely music, just f***in great - 5 stars
GenderTalks - TransTheatreFest and Water House Collective
Tweet review: #mnfringe Sunday: GenderTalks, from TransTheatreFest and Water House Collective - docu-play of trans/non-binary conversations by 100% trans/non-binary cast/creative team; *fascinating* and a real eye-opener; mind blown - 5 stars
The Gray and The Gold - Maximum Verbosity
Tweet review: #mnfringe Sunday: The Gray and The Gold, from @maxverbosity; storyteller phillip andrew bennett low weaves an engaging but dark tale of a wandering man on a quest full of talking wolves, cryptic cannibals, unexpected zombies, and bad dreams; first rate experimentation - 5 stars
Monster Island on $20 a Day - Monster Science Productions
Tweet review: #mnfringe Monday: Monster Island on $20 a Day from @RevMattK; yet another droll, meticulously researched (and cheekily power-pointed) lecture on creatures and locations that don't exist but sure would be fun to visit if they did; great fun - 5 stars
VFF - Brian Feldman Projects
Tweet review: #mnfringe Monday: VFF, a free-wheeling hour long conversation on theater, life, pandemic (the usual) on video chat w/@BrianFeldman walking around his DC neighborhood; charming and real, how many "shows" can you say that about? 5 stars
Away, Now The World's Most Desired Destination - Theatre Mobile
Tweet Review: #mnfringe Thursday: Away, Now - The World's Most Desired Destination, from Theatre Mobile (@othererika) - skilled adaptation to video format; clever music, wordplay; fantastic miniatures; just a tiny bit long, but still solid Fringe material - 4.5 stars
The Encyclopedia Show - Word Sprout
Tweet review: #mnfringe Sunday: The Encyclopedia Show, hosted by @duckalishiss w/fact checker @RevMattK, this episode's subject: Fringe; not quite on board at first, then @Fishgirlariel's cry from the heart riveted me, and Pat Harrigan's Fringe TV series treatise brought it home - 4.5 stars
Sunday, August 08, 2021
Fringe 2021 - Shows I've Seen That are OK to Good - 3, 3.5 or 4 Star Shows
4 Star Shows
The Not-So-Silent Planet: Where Dark Things Sleep - Word Sprout
Tweet review: #mnfringe Tuesday: The Not-So-Silent Planet: Where Dark Things Sleep - 3 horror-adjacent, creepy tales with a sense of humor, presented in thirds in rotation; Joshua English Scrimshaw is the standout - 4 stars
Pink Crap - Digi-Pixie Productions
Tweet review: #mnfringe Sunday: Pink Crap, from Digi-Pixie Productions; characters struggling to escape a pink video game; actors struggling to escape a play; bright and playful but also very dark and disjointed; out there and often succeeding - 3.5 stars
StockHome - Unreliable Narrator Theater Group
Tweet review: #mnfringe Friday: StockHome -@UNarrator doesn't match 2020's Super Patriots (but that's a very high comedy bar to clear); kidnapping as business model; either needed to be darker, or have less blood, not sure which I'd prefer - 3 stars
Two-Headed Boy - Broccoli and Cheese
Tweet review: #mnfringe Saturday: Two-Headed Boy - points for degree of difficulty, dedicated cast, cagey Zoom background work; all work to lift 90 min script set in super antigay Canada full of "I love my dead gay son!" melodrama, don't quite get it there, but wow do they try - 3 stars
Thursday, August 05, 2021
Fringe 2021 - 5 Returning Favorites I Know I Can Count On For A Good Show
In the unscheduled, you can watch them anytime video category, there's a handful of Fringe regulars I can always count on for a good show. In no particular order, they are:
The Darger Project aka The Darger Project - Winding Sheet Outfit - Henry Darger created hundreds of paintings and a sweeping epic novel about The Vivian Girls. He created his worlds in isolation, his prolific work only discovered after his death. THIS SHOW IS NOT ABOUT HIM.
Amber Bjork and her merry band of artistic conspirators always come up with something offbeat and original that ends up making me care about things I never expected. I'm sure this offering will be no different. While I enjoyed the archival footage last year to get a chance to see "You Are Cordially Invited to the Life and Death of Edward Lear" again (one can never have enough melancholy whimsy, after all), I really enjoyed the silliness of Winding Sheet's short film that was part of the FringeMiss fundraiser (Napoleon vs. rabbits, I think? My memory's wonky). That film was really well done, so I expect they've got something intriguing in store for their second video outing.Breakneck Comedy of Errors - Timothy Mooney Repertory Theatre - A play about mistaken identity when you’re all the SAME identity? Tim Mooney attempts the impossible, playing all four (maybe EIGHT?) twins…and everybody else! Shakespeare’s wildest farce in 1 hour? Impossible!
Tim knows his classics, and he knows how to cram them into an hour-long Fringe performance slot. He's sort of an honorary local because he's always showing up for our Fringe, in whatever format it finds itself. If he's doing high-speed, one man, Shakepearean comedy, I'm down for it.Fruit Flies and Friends - The Fourth Wall - Left to their own devices, The Fourth Wall (Fruit Flies Like a Banana) hosts a variety show boasting collaborations with friends and new trio pieces created across the miles during a year of living digitally.
Mom and I always loved The Fourth Wall and their assortment of "Fruit Flies Like A Banana" shows and went out of our way to make sure to see them every year they came to the Minnesota Fringe, starting with their first. They are a delightful mix of music, comedy and physical theater. I was happy they were part of last year's virtual Fringe, both live and on video, and I'm super happy they're back again. Variety show with other assorted artists? Sure, why not?Glass and Lady M - Full Circle Theater Company - "Original & powerful!" "Wow!" Two short pieces: GLASS, a dystopian, feminist absurdist play by Lindsey Bushnell; and LADY M., a reimagining of Lady Macbeth’s sleepwalking scene conceived by Martha B. Johnson.
Full Circle is a theater company that does great work, so I was sad that I didn't get a chance to see this production when they did it live a couple of years back (you know, back when we did the whole thing live and in-person on a set schedule - crazy, right? hopefully we'll still remember how to do all that when we can gather safely again). At any rate, even though this one's an archival video footage entry, where the quality can sometimes be sketchy, I'm still enough of a fan of their work and curious enough that I'm going to give it a look.half-baked mythology - Highlander Kitty - Just a bunch of full grown adults playing with baked goods and talking 'bout Greek mythology. What's not to love?
Brian Watson Jones always assembles an engaging motley crew of collaborators, whether it's Fringe Orphans with a grab bag of random shorts or Bisexual Unicorns exploring gender and sexuality, so if he's gathering people to take a swing at mythology (one of my favorite subjects), that's enough of a recommendation for me to check it out. And the people he's working with this time are Heidi Arneson, Eric Cohen, Shanan Custer, Paty Matthews, Jenna Papke, and Mickaylee Shaughnessy? C'mon, that's gonna be awesome!
Wednesday, August 04, 2021
Fringe 2021 - 3 Performers I Really Like Taking On Their First(?) Fringe Show
Certainly these performers have done other people's Fringe shows before, but this Minnesota Fringe, they're striking out on their own a bit. Concepts that, in the hands of others, I might walk by, but because these people are involved, I've got these shows on my list.
A Theatrical Life - Siobhan Bremer - After spending 5+ decades on the stage, Siobhan Bremer’s life is more than just a bit theatrical. From kidnapping to birds on scooters and Greece to cancer, it’s all there. Guess which ones happened off stage?
Full disclosure: this is a largely sentimental choice on my part. Your mileage may vary. Normally, a one person show about an artist is... not my thing. However, this artist was cast in a production of a play of mine that still looms very large in my memory, and on my resume. When it was performed at the Bryant Lake Bowl back in 2008, we made the critic John Townsend cry (and not because we were bad and he was weeping for the future of theater, we actually got to him). Those tears are still one of the highest compliments I've ever gotten. (RIP, John.) So I can't really be fully objective about this. But I'm also super curious what Siobhan has in store - the story she's going to tell, and how she's going to tell it, so I'm gonna watch.Otherwise - Krivski Productions - A child's imagining of the pandemic. How do you process what you didn't live? How do you make sense of the stories you hear? Join us as we reenact future mythology born from the minds of babes.
Again, normally, something pandemic-related, I'll pass. However, this production has Danielle Krivinchuk as one of the people at the helm, and Danielle has done so much for so many so often across more theatrical productions, in and out of the Fringe, than I can count, so that ranks this one pretty high in the "give it a chance" category.
Also, the title keeps making me think of "Other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, how did you enjoy the play?" which I'm sure has nothing to do with this show, but it already has me smiling inappropriately by association, so what the heck.i want to change the subject, again - Off-Leash Area - an interview with Andy Warhol turns inside out in this performance / video-animation installation that explores the metaphysical fault-line between art, social unrest, and personal responsibility
Here I feel like I must have had part of my brain excised because it feels like Off-Leash Area MUST have been in the Fringe before, right, and I'm just blanking in a major way? Because every time I've seen Off-Leash Area over the years, they always seem like they're cramming a whole Fringe Festival inside of one show. So, Fringe-adjacent, if not actual Fringe. And again, show about an artist, even Andy Warhol, and I tend to steer clear, but Paul Herwig and the visual and physical flourishes of Off-Leash Area, and I am very much on board to view this one. If on the off chance you haven't see Off-Leash yet, you really should treat yourself. It's a very particular and audience-friendly kind of weird.
Fringe 2021 - Favorite Weird Title - Bela Lugosi Meets Edna St. Vincent Millay
To which I respond, "Go on..."
"The zany tale of how the feminist Jazz Age poet, who burns the candle at both ends, meets (or does she?) the legendary star of Dracula, who’s determined to leave his mark on the world, or at least on its neck."
OK, Bela Lugosi Meets Edna St. Vincent Millay, as stunt titles and concepts to get my attention go, I'm interested. Nicely done.
I'm friendly to anything that reminds me of titles like Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (which also includes Bela Lugosi, oddly enough)
Fringe 2021 - Favorite New Theater Company Name - Perfectly Normal Puppet Cult
Too bad the name of their show is "Blandville, USA"
And their show description is "Blandville, USA. Where nothing happens. Nothing at all. Seriously, nothing. Like, literally nothing happens, ever."
And the "More Information" tab just says: "A normal day in Blandville, USA."
But hey, they caught my attention in a sea of show listings so, well done.
Now their bios show some signs of life: "Dominique has been a puppeteer since the age of 16, when they first got a job at their city’s local puppet wagon. What started as improvising classic children’s stories has morphed into Dominique creating comical tales of existential dread. Dominique hopes to continue making stories that are humorous, morbid, and ultimately delightful."
Now *that* show I probably want to see. Don't bury the lede, dude.
Perfectly Normal Puppet Cult.
Fringe 2021 - 2 Playwrights l Know Doing Their First MN Fringe Outings
Two playwrights, four plays, so you've got a lot to choose from here if you like. Or you know, see 'em all, I probably will.
In my work with the new Threshold Theater company I read a LOT of plays. Not a lot of good plays, but a lot of plays. So when a good play and a good writer comes along, it's such a relief. Gives me fuel to keep going.
One such playwright is Bethany Dickens Assaf, and her play "Sword Art Real Life" - about a female cosplayer who fights off some jerks on a subway (and gets the girl in the end) - is going to be part of Threshold's online new play reading series in the fall. Meantime, I was very happy to see her name pop up as playwright on a Minnesota Fringe show which is both queer and sci fi:
The Consciousness - Nique Content - Reece, a struggling music student, decides to 'borrow' some ideas from the archived consciousness of a dead composer, but Theodore Price is irascible, forgetful - and hiding a critical secret.
This script was winner of best play in the Tampa Bay Theatre Festival in 2019 and also selected in 2019 to be part of the Cincinnati Fringe. Honestly, I just needed to know it was Bethany's script and I'm on board. You should check it out, she's a lovely writer.
The other playwright, Erik Abbott, may very well have had a Minnesota Fringe show before. He used to live here and work at The Playwrights' Center. But if he had a Fringe show, it was either long enough I go that I missed it, or have forgotten. But he's back, with a trilogy of shows no less:Apokalypsis: Quarantine - Actors Repertory Theatre Luxembourg - In QUARANTINE, married couple HE and SHE are separated when his flight is grounded, stranding him in another country. But with love and laughter and a bit of virtual parenting, they will confront their fear. (The show poster also asks: But what about the cat?)
The Last of the Cousins Beckwith - Actors Repertory Theatre Luxembourg - In THE LAST OF THE COUSINS BECKWITH, a frustrated Rhonda calls her cousin and best friend Aimee, who is in regular contact with a cadre of dead friends and is having a peaceful pandemic. Rhonda? Not so much.
When We Get Back To Normal - Actors Repertory Theatre Luxembourg - In WHEN WE GET BACK TO NORMAL, from the trio VIGNETTES OF A PESTILENCE, two colleagues meet in a conference call. Rachel is new, Jack a long-timer. A friendly chat leads to a clash over pandemic beliefs. (The poster also says that no one else shows up for the call they're on, and "It goes well. Until it doesn't")
Now, normally, if I saw the words "pestilence," "quarantine," "pandemic," and "conference call," I'd probably say, no thank you. But it's Erik, and I haven't seen his work in a while, and I find it amusing to be able to say that sitting in my living room I saw a show or two from a theater in Luxembourg. Your mileage may vary.
Tuesday, August 03, 2021
Fringe 2021 - 3 Artists I Only Just Encountered Last Year Who I'm Very Happy Are Back Again
Every year at the Minnesota Fringe Festival I'm introduced to new artists I've never had the pleasure of seeing before, and they become new favorites. Last year was no different.
There's three such artists coming back this year to a second virtual Fringe. All three ended up as 5 stars shows, among the best that I saw the whole Fringe. One is a live stream again like last year at select days and times. And the other two don't have a set schedule so you can start viewing them online whenever you want once the Fringe online portal opens up on Thursday. (That is one the key benefits of a virtual format, if you have to find a silver lining - you can watch it any hour of the day or night that fits your schedule best.)
So, three returning new favorites, two of which I'll be looking to slot in as soon as I can, perhaps day one, are:
AWAY, NOW - The World's Most Desired Destination - Theatre Mobile - Flight of the Concords meets Pee-Wee’s Playhouse! 16X Best of Fest winners' hilarious song-filled live travel guide to the place everyone wants to go: Away, Now! *WINNER - Best Variety Show - Orlando Fringe*
Erika Kate MacDonald and Paul Strickland really knocked it out of the park last year. These were live performers who adapted so skillfully to the enforced video format that you think they'd been doing this kind of thing for ages. Here's how I gushed about the visiting artists last year in brief - "Paul and @othererika's House Show" from Theatre Mobile; A-MA-ZING; absurd, sweet and delightful; embraces weird time we're all in theatrically; have your plate ready; so great; 1 of the best of Virtual #mnfringe - 5 stars - and here's the full review. Best kind of Fringe show, just defies description. Whatever they're doing this time, I'm here for it, enthusiastically.
StockHome - Unreliable Narrator Theater Group - Danielle's been kidnapped! Worse yet, the kidnapping ring is a start-up with some kinks to work out! Corporate burnout, office gaslighting, and bottomless egomania reign in this workplace satire. (Warnings: Abuse/Physical violence, Adult language, Blood, Crude Humor, Drug Content, Gun/Weapon usage, Violence)
Now normally, based on that description, this would not be my thing. However, this is Unreliable Narrator (a local group) we're talking about, and their show last year, Super Patriots (written by the same playwright Carl Danielson), was a genuine hoot. A short sampling of my reaction to last year - "Super Patriots!" from @UNarrator; hilarious, one of the funniest things I've seen at Virtual #mnfringe; half popsicle stick political puppets, half live action; satire on proud tradition of US demagogues, McCarthy, Buchanan, etc. - 5 stars - and here's the full review. They adapted so well, having to move to video last year, that I'm on board for their followup.
Also local is the one live-streamer in this trio:
Monster Island on $20 a Day - Monster Science Productions - Acclaimed one-man show "Reverend Matt's Monster Science" returns for its 4th MN Fringe! This year: a travel guide to the imaginary lands where monsters dwell! Facts! Comedy! PowerPoint!
It was a little embarrassing for me that I only *just* got around to finally seeing my first Monster Science show last year in the Fringe. He's an established local performer, and I just kept missing his productions somehow, totally my fault. Glad I finally saw one because, as expected, I really enjoyed it. The concept is that Reverend Matt meticulously researches things that don't exist, creatures from myth and legend, and then he presents wry, cheeky lectures about said creatures. In lesser hands, this might not work so well, but Matthew Kessen knows his stuff and is the most genial of performers. So I am game for another super amusing lecture, bring it on. He's scheduled at 8pm on Friday 8/6, Monday 8/9, and Thursday 8/12, with a final 3pm show on Sunday 8/15.
Can't go wrong with these three. Add them to your schedule.
Fringe 2021 - 3 Shows I'd Almost Be Willing To Leave the House To See
I'll be honest, even if I had a car, I'm still pretty nervous about attending live, in-person theater. A gathering made up of relative strangers, indoors (or outdoors), masked or unmasked, with no idea of vaccination status and a Delta variant of COVID-19 on the prowl? Yeah, I'm still not past the thought exercise of "what story do I want to risk my life to go and see in person?" (Or, by extension, what piece of theater do I want to see so badly that I'd be willing to risk bringing the virus back home to my goddaughter Ursula's still unable to be vaccinated 8-year-old little sister Esme? Yes, I know she's in Montana right now, but it's a thought experiment.)
However, if there were three Fringe 2021 shows performing live and in-person that could actually get me to leave the house, they would be these three (in no particular order, they're all equally enticing):
Why We Have A Body - Ducdame Theatre - a contemplative lesbian comedy about identity- familial, sexual and mythical. It follows 4 women through their thoughts as they navigate their relationships to womanhood and each other.
I first saw this play ages ago (like Outward Spiral Theater ages ago) and the script is so strange and charming and full of genuine feeling that I still remember it vividly. Not the specific plot points so much as the way it made me feel - very happy to be in a theater and seeing that particular story. So every time it resurfaces (it was done in the Fringe a number of years back as well by another company), I'm always drawn to it. Now, this one is actually outdoors, at (or rather just behind) The Greenhouse (3717 37th Ave S, Minneapolis), and it's on bus routes as well as being ADA accessible so that makes it even more of a possibility. It's being done by the same folks that did Moon River in the 2019 Fringe (the last time we all got together in person), which I quite liked, so that's another reason to give it a look.Open Your Eyes, Be Bully-Wise!: An Anti-Bullying Spectacular - alleged Theatre Company - In a world where bullying runs rampant, three men stand alone. Join actors Jake, Mc, and Danylo as they solve the nation-wide bullying epidemic through skits, songs, and compulsive sharing activities.
These folks are just deeply strange theater makers, weirdos in the best sense of the word (just check out their bios if you don't believe me). Again, in the last Fringe we all attended in person in 2019, their show Which Middle Name of 'Philip Seymour Hoffman' Are You? was "such a fun, odd, razor-sharp bit of satirical comedy writing, breathless performance, and audience interaction, just wonderfully absurd" that it completely lived up to my expectations that year when I put it in my pre-Fringe Top 20 list of things I most wanted to see. And it turned out to be one of the best things I saw that year. This one's indoors at The Phoenix Theater (I miss the Phoenix Theater) and it, too, is on bus routes, so... very hard to say no to for those reasons as well.
The Convent of Pleasure - Theatre Pro Rata - A wealthy heiress rejects societal pressure to take a husband by building a cloistered utopia for unmarried women where they vow to live unencumbered lives according to the heiress’s “principles of pleasure.”
Returning to the Fringe where it all began for them as a theater company 20 years ago, Theatre Pro Rata has commissioned local playwright Heather Meyer to pen the adaptation of this story and really that's all I need to know. Theatre Pro Rata always does solid work and I also admire their focus on the plays and writers they choose to work with. Heather Meyer is one of the most reliably entertaining writers in the Twin Cities right now (I'd say she's one of the funniest writers but nobody takes comedy seriously, and they barely take things you call entertaining seriously - it's hard to write a good script, it's even harder to write a good entertaining or funny script, and Heather does all that on the regular. If you've never seen her work you must not live here and go to theater - but really, if you haven't, then you're missing out and you should give yourself a treat and fix that.) Theatre Pro Rata always works with great actors in town and this cast is no exception so, do I really need to say more than that? Just go. This one's also outdoors, at the Wood Lake Nature Center Amphitheater (6710 Lake Shore Dr S, Richfield), and also on a bus route so...
And that's the rundown of the theater that could maybe get me out of the house to see theater at the Fringe this year.
Monday, August 02, 2021
Fringe 2021 - First Ticket I Bought - VFF
VFF is a weird one.
Which should surprise no one that saw Brian Feldman's virtual Fringe show last year, #txtshow (one of the best things I saw last Fringe).
Last year it was the audience anonymously writing the script in the Zoom chat window which Feldman performed in real time (a virtual variation on a former live in-person show Feldman created)
This time it's sort of the ultimate in audience participation: it's just one audience member, and Feldman. That's it. It's a one-hour video call on Facetime with the artist, to discuss the vagaries of friendship. This again is a variation on a theme, back before the pandemic, when Feldman would meet up with an individual at a designated time and place and basically just go on a two-hour date with them and hang out chatting while biking or bowling or what have you.
Does this skew a little close to paid escort? Kinda. But not really. Check out the testimonials from the in-person meetups on the "More Information" tab of his show page. They're amusing, and kind of fascinating.
Feldman seems to be all about breaking down the barriers between artist and audience and connecting in unusual ways. His virtual Fringe show last year was proof of concept for me, so I've essentially sold-out his Monday performance by purchasing the only ticket.
I misread his show description at first, thinking it was saying only 11 people per show could take part. But it's actually only 11 people over the course of the whole festival, only one person, one show per day.
Am I normally incredibly averse to audience participation events? Absolutely.
Could this all go horribly wrong and just end up being an awkward half-assed conversation that never really gets off the ground? Sure.
But the feat of performing this guy pulled off last year still fascinates me. He's incredibly adept at thinking on his feet. And he's already done this kind of show a bunch of times.
Will I have a virtual friend forever (VFF)? No. It is one conversation he'll have among many just during this Fringe alone, but one among a great many he's had over the course of this particular experiment.
He must have a conversational agenda in mind, while at the same time being improvisationally open to wherever the discussion might lead.
And it's an hour, where I get to have a conversation with a gifted performer about, I don't know, what it means to be human right now?
Have I had a lot more boring and awkward discussions virtually in the last year and a half? You bet.
Is the one reviewer from a past outing who says "you can tell him absolutely anything because you'll never have to worry about seeing him again" as a selling point entirely correct? Well, this is already his second Fringe here so maybe not, but relatively speaking I get the point, sometimes it's easier to talk to a stranger.
Human conversational interaction vs. the rest of the festival quite passively watching things on a screen? That's kind of a no-brainer.
(Did I comp myself as a press person? Nope. Even if he sells all 11 slots, I can't imagine how he doesn't lose money on this, so I'm going to do my small bit to help out. Plus there's the new tipping the artists option this year, I might toss in more.)
I had a really good time last year. So I'm game for something else weird this year.
This is probably the Fringiest thing I'll do in 2021.
Curious? Sell out one of his other shows and buy the only ticket.
Fringe 2021 - Hybrid Theater Festival Approaches
The Minnesota Fringe Festival kind of snuck up on me this year.
This is partly because of the day job - the full-time one that survived the pandemic, that is. Normally, they would be doing events in the spring, but we didn't quite have the vaccine out in the general public quite yet at that point, and so all those events got pushed back to, you guessed it, August. One will take place in the middle of the Fringe, one will take place just after the Fringe, and the last one a week after that. So I'm going to be doing half days at work during the festival just to help do my part to keep things on track.
This is partly because of the other day job - the part-time one that didn't survive the pandemic. It was in the box office at the Guthrie Theater and after three months of stay at home pay because they got one of those government payroll loans, and another four months of unpaid layoff, they knew they wouldn't be reopening any time soon, so they eliminated the positions of all the low level front line staff. However, they're now reopening a year and a half after shutting down, and they needed some part time help processing season ticket renewal orders, so that's been evenings and weekends the past two weeks, now stretching into an unexpected third. They're also rehiring. Fingers crossed, hopefully the fact that they don't have to train me from scratch and I was there for 16 years will count in my favor.
This is partly due to transportation issues. Someone ran a stop sign a month and a half ago and totaled my car (no human injuries, thank God) and I've been dealing with car insurance paperwork and hunting the inventory of used car dealerships ever since. Closing in on the endgame on this one but still doing a lot of walking (for instance, the Guthrie is a little over a mile from my house). So my stamina, and my legs, are improving. I'll actually almost miss that. But I'll be grateful for wheels again because it makes logistics a lot simpler.
This is partly due to the fact that my stalwart Fringe companion of many years, my mother Beverlee, is no longer with us. Just passed the two year mark since she died on July 1st. Normally, I'd be sorting through show listings and concocting a schedule that would allow her to see the maximum amount of shows with a minimal amount of running around. That's somewhat simplified by the fact that nearly everything is online again this year. There's everything from old reliables who've been around for years, to new favorites I just learned about in last year's virtual Fringe, to the wide assortment of complete unknowns who could become my new artistic best friends. But it's easier to keep yourself focused on the task at hand if you're doing it for someone other than just yourself, if you're trying to craft a schedule that would be fun for a guest you want to enjoy it with. But I can be my own curator, too. Just feels a little weird. Still getting used to it.
So I finally did sit down this weekend and dig through all the show listings to start conjuring up a schedule. The following posts are my suggestions, take them for what you will...
It's nice to be back, even if things are quite totally normal just yet.
Stay safe and be well, Fringe friends.