Hinge of the Fringe: Go West, Young (Wo)M(a/e)n

Moving on to the West Bank, y’all. (The Rarig Center will be getting its own post, due to the large number of shows.)

At the Mixed Blood Theater we have Bite Me Twilight, which perhaps unexpectedly, constitutes one of the shows by artists I haven’t seen before. I have witnessed Tom Reed‘s work at previews and various open-mikes around town — enough to be impressed by his chops (and his acting isn’t bad, either, rim-shot) — but missed his last show, Parry Hotter and the Half-Drunk Twins — one of several at the Fringe alive last year. I’ve read the first two of the four Twilight books — enough to regard them as presenting one of the most detailed portraits of an abusive relationship I’ve ever encountered — and look forward to watching them be ripped to shreds.

Also in the same venue is See You Next Tuesday, presented by stolidly sturdy stalwarts Walking Shadow. Perhaps of more relevant interest is the fact that it’s written by Steve Moulds. I’ve had mixed feelings regarding his last two Fringe shows, but I was sufficiently amused by last year’s effort (Buyer’s Remorse) to be eager to check out his next one.

There’s an embarrassment of riches over at the Playwrights’ Center. Can Michael Come Out and Play? is, beyond question, one of my most anticipated shows of the year. Mahmoud Hakima stormed onto the storytelling scene with Two Bowls of Cereal and Some Bacon, an impressive initial effort that was both heartfelt and well-structured. With that show, he established himself as someone with at least one great story to tell — the question of whether or not he’s go staying power as a storyteller may be answered by this one.

Do Not Kill Me, Killer Robots! is a show that would have caught my interest even if I didn’t know the author (the co-creator of Orange in 2008). It has a premise that’s tailor-made for Fringe:

Set in the very near future, “Do Not Kill Me, Killer Robots” presents a world where the entire human population has been reduced to one (namely, writer/performer Ben Egerman) by a murderous horde of robots. Locking himself in as secure a building as he could find, he prepares for the robots’ inevitable arrival. Luckily, he knows the robots’ only true weakness-the line of their programming code that inexplicably prevents them from killing during a one-man show.

He’s already getting some great press in the DC Fringe, so All Signs Point To Yes

At the Southern Theater is ONEymoon, co-created with Fringe favorite Jimmy Hogg. I’ve got absolutely no good excuse — I’ve known the guy for years, I’ve drunk with him, I’ve argued with him, he’s a total rock star every time he comes into town, and I’ve still utterly failed to see even one of his shows. Here’s hoping the synchronicity highway takes me out his way this time.

Finally, at Theatre in the Round is Oedipus Rocks! Has anyone else detected a major Greek theme this year? I’m the last guy in the world to complain, but, huh. Obviously, it’s working, at least on me. It’s a giddy musical parody of Greek shit. Yes, of course I’ll be in the audience.

…circling the drain…

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Minge of the Fringe: Goin’ Up

Google it. You won’t regret it.

Over at the solid storytelling standby Bryant-Lake Bowl, we have Mumble Mumble Productions presenting Pants on Fire! Featuring performances by the Slam Masters of Minneapolis, Allison Broeren and Wonder Dave, plus a rotating guest spot of awesome: on any given night, you could get Khary Jackson, Les Kurkendaal, or Courtney McLean. (No word on who’s performing if they get the Encore slot.) Premise is solid: each storyteller tells two truths and a lie, and you get to try to determine which is which.

Meanwhile, there’s a couple of shows that have caught my eye over at Intermedia Arts. Condoleeza’s Rites is actually a remount of a show that impressed the hell out of me when it presented a few years back — and didn’t get anything resembling the audience it deserved. The story of a shock-jock conservative reflecting on the choices that brought her to her profession, it stood out as rising above the material — rather than a shrill condemnation of conservatism, an examination of the forces that shape things like the Tea Party movement. And this was written, like, years before anyone had dreamed up that nonsense. I’m eager to check it out again, to see how the play has changed — how I’ve changed — and, well, how the audience has changed. Here’s hoping it gets a better shot this time around.

There’s absolutely no-one who can convincingly feign shock that I’m awaiting the Inferno with bated breath, right? I love the poem deeply — enough so that it’s one of the few texts I collect multiple translations of — and I’ve been chipping away at notes for my own adaptation for years. (2012, maybe? …maybe?) Plus, it’s in freakin’ Italian, which is just insanely fucking ballsy. I predict a turnout in the single digits, and fervently pray to be proven wrong.

And, in continuing to be completely predictable in my predilections, I am once again championing Kirsten Stephens and Dean Hatton, joined this time by Renee Howard, presenting Waiting for Biffy at the Jungle Theater. These guys have consistently been among my most anticipated performers every time they mount something, and I have endeavored to never miss a show for pretty much the past eight years. This means that I’ve memorized most of their material — so it also means that I’m ecstatic when I hear that they’re doing a combination of either all-new material or material that hasn’t been mounted by them in years. As they’ve been getting more and more performance opportunities, it’s been enabling them to push themselves further and further down the road of formal experimentation, and I can’t wait to see where they end up next.

At the Minneapolis Theatre Garage, we have another returning favorite — the Shelby Company, which mounted what could arguably have been my single favorite show of last year’s Fringe, Winnemucca (three days in the belly), a compelling and at times profound exploration of faith, doubt, and cheap motels. That alone is pretty much a guarantee that I’m on the edge of my seat for anything they do next — in this case, Uncle Shelby’s Traveling Treasure Trunk. This is another case where I think their show description speaks abundantly for itself:

Through a rotating collection of monologues and scenes, Uncle Shelby’s Traveling Treasure Trunk creates a fractured suburban landscape populated by depressed magicians, two-timing closet monsters and the world’s hottest chili pepper. A rapid-fire picture of a world that is at once quotidian and utterly bizarre and the oddballs and outcasts who, for a brief moment, just might have the chance to shine. No two shows are the same!

Dude, they used the word “quotidian.” Sold!

Finally — in another nod to BYOV boldness — I surely must give a mention to Ringtone, taking place at the Fallout Arts Initiative. Alan Berks is probably best known these days as the editor of Minnesota Playlist, but he’s a hell of a writer, too. Plus, it looks like they’re planning on doing some pretty bold stuff with the BYOV concept:

“#ringtone” is a site-specific event in a real art gallery that combines dialogue, dance, video, music, phone calls, text messages, and visual art as six everyday people hunt for authenticity, compassion, and an uninterrupted connection.

Y’know, like every other show in the Fringe. Way to upstage us, Alan.

Ever inwards…

Fringe of the Fringe: The Outer Limits

Hey, everyone. Back.

Whoa…what’s with all the new formatting options? Man, it really has been a while since I posted anything here.

Sorry. I’ll try to exercise some restraint.

So, as usual I haven’t really been able to take part in the pre-Fringe Festivities. Partly because I’m currently on the road with one of my old storytelling shows, and partly because I’ve been in pretty much non-stop rehearsal for the other two-and-a-half shows I’m part of at the Minnesota Fringe this year. (And, while I have enough professionalism not to mention them by name in this space — so, happy hunting — I apparently don’t have quite enough professionalism to refrain from mentioning that the Fringe site now allows you to search shows by cast. I am a blogger, after all.)

What this means is that, since I haven’t had the opportunity to witness many previews this year, I’ve been compiling my list the old-fashioned — caveman-like hunting and pecking through the online Fringe schedule. I usually make a conscious effort to include a portion of shows by companies I know nothing about, to avoid that kind of incestuous nepotism that can take over (that’s what mainstream theatre criticism is for — HEY-o!), I haven’t had to make nearly as much of an effort this year — there’s a huge influx of new companies, and I couldn’t be more delighted.

I have, for no adequately explored reason, decided to group the groups that caught my eye via *location* this time around. So, beginning with those venues that are further out:

The Fringe of the Fringe: The Outer Limits

Let’s start with Match Game Minnesota, taking place at the Gremlin Theater. A quick glance at the Cast + Crew tab reveals why: this is definitely the Fringe all-stars entry of the year, with a rotating cast of some of the Twin Cities top comedians and improvisers. This one’s a clear no-brainer.

Meanwhile, over at the Ritz Theater Studio, we have a new show by one of my old favorites Tim Mooney (he’s done Criteria, Moliere Than Thou, and Karaoke Knights, my love for all of which continues unabated). This one? Dancing Nude, an auto-erotic deconstruction told through storytelling, poetry, and, well, dancing nude. I actually saw the first half of this on my tour in Kansas City last year, but had to leave in time to perform my own show across town, so, yeah, I missed the, er, money shot — but what struck me about what I saw was a rare thoughtfulness and detachment with which the subject of sex was discussed.

Also in that space, we have Melting in Madras, one of those mystery shows I know nothing about beyond its premise:

A wide-eyed 23-year-old goes to India to explore meditation, yoga, and music. After three months, his quest for spiritual clarity takes a detour when he becomes seriously ill.

A glance at his website reveals that, yes, this is based on a true story. I’m a sucker for these kind of travelogues — hell, I’ve performed a few of them myself — and I’m hoping I’ll get the chance to catch this one.

Never to leave out a BYOV — at the Sacred Paths Center (one block from the Gremlin), we have The Quest, which seems to be an attempt to use Joseph Campbell’s The Power of Myth as a basis for improvisation. The mythology aspect caught my interest, though I’ll confess to a long and active dislike of all things Campbell — his methodology seems to exemplify everything that was ridiculed by authors like Tolkien and Lewis, particularly that a focus on recurring story patterns dismisses the fundamental importance of the trappings of the individual stories. This is something that I’ve been exploring pretty heavily in my own scripts for a while, and I’m nowhere close to having resolved all of my thoughts about it.

And, what the hell. I’m probably overthinking this. It looks primarily like a backdrop for a compelling theatre exercise. And Scrimshaw did a similar thing, to great effect, in last year’s The Tragedy of You. Still, when you’re juggling those kinds of elements, it’s got to be interesting to see what resonances emerge, and this is definitely another one I’d like to take a swing at checking out.

Moving inwards…