2015 Minnesota Fringe Touring Artist Showcase

This is definitely the showcase that I look forward to every year – both because those who have committed to touring tend to have a significantly more polished body of material; and because as someone who does the circuit myself, I usually have some knowledge of the performers. As this is often a point of contention, I draw your attention to the **, which indicates that I have a pre-existing relationship of some kind with the performer(s).

I will say that I was a bit disappointed by the Festival’s abandonment of strictly enforced time limits for this preview – presumably because they had well under the typical thirty acts. I’m fond of the lightning round, and watching how artists respond to the limitation.

A Series of Absurdities presented by Lisandrist Productions

Appears to be a sketch comedy collection, which in this instance actually makes me more favorable towards it: sketch consisted of a pair of blow-up dolls, one trying to get laid, one trying to engage in a philosophical argument. Dialogue was funny. Wished that the performers engaged the dolls as more than props, but I can endure it as a one-off gag, and the writing’s strong enough to pique my interest.

Post Traumatic Super Delightful presented by Pair of Animals

A series of tongue-in-cheek placards about sexual assault that actually succeeded in drawing laughter from me, particularly in its poking fun at the media conception of the problem (that a white female constitutes the “perfect survivor”). It’s a tricky subject, but one that engaged me for three minutes, which is three more minutes than it typically engages me for.

A Mind Full of Dopamine presented by Rory Ledbetter

I am shamefaced, and feel a traitor to my favored genre. This act may have suffered by being sandwiched between a number of visually dynamic ones, but I had a hard time focusing – I’d be listening to what he was saying and then I would hear the audience around me laughing and then I would realize that I missed the punchline because I was thinking about the last act. Based on their response, he was doing quite well – shame on me.

Growing Into My Beard presented by I’ve Seen The Future

The performer was charming and charismatic – but I often find love stories a slog, gay or straight.

Tales of the Lamp presented by The Fourth Wall

This plants itself squarely in the middle of one of my personal obsessions – I discovered Sir Richard Francis Burton’s translation of the Thousand and One Nights as an adolescent, and masturbated furiously to it (risky click) – so I bring both a familiarity and a fondness for the source material. Formally, the presentation relied on a series of tried-and-true theatre tricks that some might refer to as tired, but that I regard with hearty nostalgia as traditional. An hour of this nonsense? Yes, please.

Fruit Flies Like a Banana** presented by The Fourth Wall

As someone who spent an embarrassing amount of his early years as a playwright attempting to imitate Groucho, I’m inclined to warmly regard a show that takes one of his one-liners as a title. It’s more than just the joke that they use, however – their physical comedy embraces the same casual, nonchalant silliness that the Marx Brothers made their bread-and-butter. I am the target audience for this.

Teacher in the House presented by Watson Arts

I alluded to the fact – in my review of her trailer – that I’m resistant to this particular technique of physically embodying a story as it’s being told: she talks about walking down a street, and looks around as though she’s actually doing it. She pops into impressions of the people she encounters. These are techniques designed to draw an audience in, but I have the disease that means that they have the opposite effect on me – I find the devices artificial and weirdly distancing. She’s a fine actress, but for my part, I would prefer that she tell her stories, rather than show them.

Petunia and Chicken** presented by Animal Engine

I actually saw this full show in Indianapolis last year, thought I didn’t write a review of it. My brief thoughts? They are a duo with extraordinary physical skill, which they place at the service of a story that I wish I enjoyed more. I’m a city boy; the poetry of the rural world is often lost on me. I get that the fact that they play every cliché and trope of country life isn’t a bug, it’s a feature – it’s just a feature that makes me squirm.

Breakneck Hamlet** presented by Timothy Mooney Repertory Theatre

I have published a full review of the show at this link.

Broken Bone Bathtub** presented by Siobhan O’Loughlin

I am fond of Siobhan, and fonder still of this concept (in which she invades the bathtub of a local resident and delivers a one-woman show from it). The nature of that concept means that a preview that captures the weirdness of it is hard to create. I don’t believe that she did (coming out in a robe and babbling about personal troubles doesn’t quite do that), but I both trust her and am interested enough in the concept that the preview is hardly relevant.

The Famous Haydell Sisters Comeback Tour presented by The Famous Haydell Sisters

I have a soft spot for both dirty novelty songs and country music (I’ve unironically enjoyed Hank Williams, both Sr. and Jr.) – but still, that would only place me in the “mildly interested” camp for a Fringe show. But the performers opened by mentioning that they would be performing at 5:30pm every night of the Festival – in a bar on the West Bank, just beginning its happy hour – and I thought, yeah. I’m almost certainly going to sit through this. If only because it gives me an opportunity to grab a drink and a bite to eat while still fulfilling my compulsive desire to see something in every slot.


The Surprise presented by Martin Dockery

Jeff introduced him as a well-known figure on the circuit – I’ve heard his name but hadn’t officially met him. His polish shows – while I didn’t find his material too compelling (artist problems, natch), he was incredibly animated, fast-moving without babbling, engaging audience response closely while barely stopping for breath. I found him impressive.

Falling Man presented by Leonard Cruz Tanztheater

As someone without an extensive dance background, I’m often grateful for any context that the artist is inclined to give – I appreciate the beauty of abstract physical movement, but it can quickly blend together into something impenetrable to my eye. Here, one of the jumping-off points is the infamous image of a man falling from the World Trade Center, and that’s really all that it took to hook me – I have a fondness for (and a small collection of) artistic responses to 9-11. Would I have found the performer’s looping, tumbling movements as compelling without that context? Perhaps, perhaps not, but the dance was graceful and controlled, and I definitely wanted to see more.

Don’t Move To Toronto presented by Fresh Hell
My Shrink Says I Need This presented by Brian Schiller

Two competent comedians, about whom I have roughly the same observation. Zoe Daniels touches on what seems to have been a uniquely disastrous year, while Brian Schiller touched on a tale of childhood bullying – both were smooth, confident performers, but I didn’t walk away with much of a sense of what the shows were about, or if they could sustain an hour.

Moonlight After Midnight presented by Concrete Drops
Terra Incognita presented by Soma Acrobatic Theatre

Two more acts that blended in my perception, but in a very positive manner. The subject matter of the first was light and airy, barely there, but – it’s rare to find a playwright with a solid ear for patter. It’s rarer still to find an actor who knows to play it. Two actors? Forget about it. These guys hit the trifecta. I enjoyed listening to the lyrical dialogue, setups and punchlines flowing smoothly into one another.

Likewise, the latter show featured dance and dancelike movements, acrobatic feats that drew appreciative gasps – but the action didn’t stop for them. The shapes they made flowed naturally from one to another, impressive leaps that were all the more impressive for not drawing attention to themselves.

Edgar Allan** presented by the Coldharts

I have published a full review of the show at this link.

Mom?: A Comedy of Mourners presented by Box of Clowns

I have published a full review of the show at this link.

Coffee, Tea or Me, an existential crisis** presented by The Adventures of Les Kurkendaal

Les is one of those performers who I have a long enough history with that I should probably recuse myself from writing too much (we’ve done the circuit together for years – hell, I slept on the guy’s couch for a month in LA) – so I’ll limit myself to observing that his appeal lies in his easy, relaxed charm. I’m particularly intrigued by his use of another performer. Was the story she performed based on one from NPR, or on Les’ recollection of it?

Everything You’ve Done That Hurt Me presented by Offbeat Productions

Well, this is a show whose premise sells itself – the writer found an abandoned notebook filled with lovelorn scribblings, and using all manner of theatrical devices (song, poetry, storytelling, etc.) does his best to animated a stranger’s ramblings. It’s a feat of voyeuristic imagination, and I found both the performers playful enough to sell it.

Questions? Comments? Enraged invective? Check out my answers to occasionally asked questions in Notes on Notes, or the contact info linked from that page!

** I have a friendship/acquaintanceship/working relationship with someone involved in this production.


One Response to “2015 Minnesota Fringe Touring Artist Showcase”

  1. 2015 Minnesota Fringe Festival Summary | Womb with a View Says:

    […] 2015 Minnesota Fringe Video Trailers 2015 Minnesota Fringe Previews #1 OMG YOU GUYS LIKE SUPER TOP SECRET FRINGE PREVIEWS 2015 Minnesota Fringe Touring Artist Showcase […]

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