Drifting outside of my usual comfort zone, I’m always struck by the fact that this town doesn’t really consist of a “theatre community” so much as it consists of a vast array of communities arranged around various disciplines and economic models. There’s definitely a “Fringe circle” (which I’m most heavily involved in), an “Improv circle” (generally arranged around the Brave New Workshop and the activities of its various alumni), stand-up circles, poetry circles, circles ad severe nauseam — and whenever I believe that I have my finger on the pulse of what’s going on in the Twin Cities, I walk into a new environment and have that illusion shattered.
Hence my being startled at walking into the Fringe-For-Fall and realizing that I recognized a significantly smaller proportion of the crowd than I’m used to. Of course, with a $25.00 price tag, most of my compatriots in the artistic world couldn’t afford the night out — and I also had the abrupt realization that I was both younger and more shabbily dressed than most of the people I was occupying a room with.
Still, y’know, Bedlam Theatre, Fringe entertainment, and my own personalized “Shazam!”, copious alcohol. But it served as a healthy — and important — reminder to me that the Fringe phenomenon reaches across a wide variety of boundaries, not simply limited to those who I choose to surround myself with.
Both of the entertainers were at the top of their game, too — both performers who have been performing at the Festival since waaay before it was cool, and they manage to hit the stage with a certain ease, projecting confidence and relaxing into an easy and playful relationship with the audience without visible effort.
Joe’s piece was mainly a “Fringe-i-fied” preview of his Christmas show, “Fat Man Crying” (so indicated by the sparse settings), sandwiched by a pair of comedy monologues by the author (opening with rejected ideas of Fringe holiday shows and closing with an “instant audience review”). Enjoyable enough that I wondered how Kling would follow it up — and his more thoughtful style definitely took a period of adjustment — but not too long, as he hit his stride with a meandering piece alternating between story and music.
There’s something about accordion music — I don’t know what it is — something really bizarre and melancholy and jarring that just — feels like Fringe, to me, in some indefinable way. And standing, leaning against the archway between the theatre and the bar, I was struck by how much of my experience of fringe is sensual — the bitter, acrid taste of dark beer at the back of my throat, the surge and swell of laughter and applause on all sides, the clatter of dishes and glasses in the background, the way the stage lights neatly divide any black-box space into a light-dark yin-yang. And I’m struck by the thought that so much of what we do year-round is trying to recreate those physical sensations, in an effort to evoke something in our own fleeting sense-memory. That’s the reason for so many of these monthly showcases, from the Scrimshaw Brothers to Sin Cities 7 — and the real draw of these occasional fundraisers that the Festival puts on.
Am I romanticizing? Probably. I was accused, back when I was writing directly for the Fringe, of glamorizing my bosses. But the fact is that I’m a willing accomplice — I’m the Jared Fogle to the Subway that is the Festival. (Except, y’know, that the Festival has actually caused me to gain weight.)
Anyway, I had a moment. And that was worth the twenty-five bucks.