In Preview: The 2015 Minnesota Fringe Festival

A NOTE BEFORE WE BEGIN: What follows is my preview of the 2015 Minnesota Fringe Festival that I wrote for l’étoile. However, there was one show I couldn’t mention there for obvious reasons, but I can mention it here…

My show!

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I am making my long-awaited return to the Fringe in Total Eclipse Of The Heart, an ensemble-created piece for The Peanut Butter Gallery, under the direction of Christopher Kehoe. Here’s the official synopsis..

“Forever’s gonna start tonight…”

You never know who you’ll run into at the Preston Wright Gallery; a pop mogul, the ex-lover who broke your heart, or even the illegitimate daughter of a famous Italian artist. Whatever you do, try not to make a scene. And if you have 30 seconds, be sure to take the survey.

Total Eclipse of the Heart is an original, ensemble-built comedy inspired by Bonnie Tyler’s iconic 1983 power ballad of the same name. Turn around, Bright Eyes, because every now and then we all fall apart.

Featuring Ron Giroux, Todd O’Dowd, Atim Opoka, Kaitlen Osburn, Marika Proctor, and Laura Ricci. Stage Managed by Logan Toftness. Directed by Christopher Kehoe.

Best of all, we got lucky in our venue; we’re performing at Illusion Theater. Performances are as follows:

  • Thursday, July 30 @ 7pm
  • Saturday, August 1 @ 7pm
  • Sunday, August 2 @ 4pm
  • Tuesday, August 4 @ 7pm
  • Saturday, August 8 @ 10pm

I am so excited to be back at the Fringe and in company with some lovely people. Get your tickets and be there!

And now, onto the other 173 shows I’m excited by at this year’s festival….


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Friends, it’s that time again. It’s time for the theatre scene to tie up the city once more as the 2015 Minnesota Fringe Festival opens this Thursday, July 30.

With 174 shows performing all over the city of Minneapolis (with pocket zones in Uptown, Downtown, West Bank, and Northeast – as well as several site specific performances throughout the city), it can be kind of daunting to figure out where to go and what to see. That is why I went through every single show description as shown on the Fringe Festival’s massive (and helpful!) website in a planned attempt to preview the shows I think are worth seeing. But a funny thing happened along the way. As I was going through the shows there were several themes I’ve noticed dominating this year’s festival lineup. (Click on each title to be taken to the show’s official page on the Fringe’s website.)

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Remounts Remounts Remounts (And a Sequel or Two)
Last year, I complained that there were too many remounts of previous shows for my tastes at that year’s festival. While remounts will always be a part of the Fringe experience, there are several that are worth mentioning in this year’s lineup. Yeah No Sketch Show Players’ 2010 hit S#!tlisted: The Very Worst of Craigslist is being remounted and revised as Craigslist: Not a Musical! with a brand new cast and some new material from acclaimed actor and writer Sam Landman (who also has the premiere of his new play Pretty Girls Make Graves in the festival). Under the moniker Fat Bottom Jones, We Do Every Show in the Fringe is a variation on /remount of last year’s Four Humors Does Every Show In The Fringe but with an army of the Twin Cities top improvisers joining in the remount (including Jill Bernard, Joe Bozic, Mike Fotis, Tim Hellendrung, Andy Kraft, and more). The Coldhearts (Katie Hartman and Nick Ryan) are returning with their lovely two person play Edgar Allan, one of the hits of last year’s festival. Actor and writer Zaraawar Mistry remounts his one-man show Dr. Deep – Shake Your Noggin Like a Bobblehead after its run as part of Illusion Theater’s “Fresh Ink” series earlier this month. Director Tyler Olson remounts his bloody adaptation of Frankenstein which was the hit of last year’s Twin Cities Horror Festival. And while not technically a remount, comedian Mary Hirsch and storyteller Katie Knutson return with sequels to their previous Fringe shows with Pull Yourself Up By Your Bra Straps Part 3: Electric Boobaloo and A Return to the Grimmer Side: More Dark Classic Stories for a Modern Time respectively.

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A Very Literary Fringe
Both Frankenstein and A Return to the Grimmer Side:… also play into one of the big trends this year’s Fringe: adaptations of literary works. Director Joseph Stodola 0f New Epic Theatre (best known for last year’s acclaimed production of One Arm) returns with a modern adaptation of The Picture of Dorian Grey. Herman Melville shows up twice in Bartleby (a musical adaptation of Bartleby The Scrivener) and White Whale (a one man adaptation of Moby Dick contrasted with the events of the Essex shipwreck which inspired it). The Falling Up of Shel Silverstein promises a dark look at the beloved children’s author and poet. Two Jokes, One Act: The Boar & The Proposal is a rare presentation of Anton Chekhov’s one act comedies. Manners and Misconduct: Improvised Jane Austen is an improvised riff on all of Ms. Austen’s characters. Minneapolis’ Gilbert and Sullivan Very Light Opera Company make their festival debut with a rare staging of the G&S one act opera Trial By Jury, And for the Shakespeare fans, there’s Poor Lear, Shakespeare’s Shorts, Breakneck Hamlet, and Kamehamehamlet: Good Night Saiyan Prince – which mashes up the famous tragedy with Dragonball Z.

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Mashups and Riffs, Oh My
That last show I just mentioned also plays into another trend at this year’s festival; a host of shows mashed up from various sources such as The OzFather, SuperOz, The Sound of Footloose: A Not Musical, and A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Death Star. And of course, pop culture serves as the basis for many shows this year including the the meta shows Fringe Tonight! with Jonathan Gershberg (a riff on John Oliver’s show) and Collyard / Nelson’s Guide to Reviewing Fringe Festival Shows & Other Tips to Help Keep Your Cool In the White-Hot World of Amateur Criticism OR “So You Kept Their Postcard; Now What?”. Additionally there’s The Morning Meal Society (a parody of The Breakfast Club), Oregon Trail: The Musical, Pocahontas (Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Mouse), and Comedy Suitcase returns with their parody The Averagers (featuring the fantastic actress and comedienne Laura Zabel in a long-overdue Fringe debut).

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Hey Old Friends
While the Fringe has always brought out practically every working member of the Twin Cities theatre scene, this year in particular sees a whole host of people coming out of the woodwork; many of whom we haven’t seen in years it feels like. Actress and writer Ariel Leaf returns with her new one woman show A Mermaid in Narnia (on LSD). Ferrari McSpeedy (the acclaimed improv comedy duo of Mike Fotis and Joe Bozic) are back with Merry Spider Cafe. Beloved actor/comedian/writer Ari Hoptman has written two shows this year; Hope You Guess My Name (which he co-stars in with a host of hilarious actors) and The Consolation (featuring the great David Mann as Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann). And then there are the returning out-of-town performers who’ve practically made the Minnesota Fringe a second home such as the great Les Kurkendaal (who returns with his new show Coffee, Tea or Me, an existential crisis) and Siobhan O’Loughlin (with her new show Broken Bone Bathtub).

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Let’s Get (Site) Specific
Ms. O’Loughlin’s piece (which takes place in the bathtub at The Gillette House in Minneapolis) also ties into the fact that it is one of the nine site-specific works at this year’s festival; with venues as varied as the Weisman Art Museum (Art (Like It Matters)), the Nomad (The Famous Haydell Sisters Comeback Tour) a house in Dinkytown (“Glorious Garbage, Good Grief”: True Stories of the Notorious ‘Lang House’ in Dinkytown), the Lyndale Farmstead Recreation Center (Parachute), the Minneapolis American Indian Center (Bring The Children Home?), and more. Given that this has been the year for immersive performance in the Twin Cities as a whole, you owe it to yourself to go see at least one of these shows.

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The Sure Bets
Finally, there are certain shows that just stick out; given the pedigree of the people involved, the plot of the story, the ideas behind it, or just a gut feeling you have. These are the shows that you know you should go see in addition to the ones I’ve mentioned already. Last year, Bollywood Dance Scene gleefully stole everyone’s hearts at the festival with their massive hit Hi, Hello, Namaste. This year, they’ve returned with their new Bollywood-inspired show Spicy Masala Chai (and have sneaked a few ringers into their cast this year, including long-time Fringe favorite Natalie Waas). Mainly Me Productions has always delivered some of the funniest shows in the history of the Fringe (see last year’s hit Our American Assassin; or You Can’t Handle The Booth!) and look poised to have another hit on their hands with their play Backlash thanks to a murderer’s row of comedians in the cast (including Sulia Altenberg, Josh Carson, Tucker Garborg, Andy Kraft, Nels Lennes, and Sarah Marsh). Speaking of great casts Joking Apart’s production of David Mamet’s Bobby Gould In Hell has a formidable ensemble in Michael Lee, Jennifer Maren, Edwin Strout, Tina Frederickson, and director Jean Wolff. Actor/writer/director Tim Uren gave us last year’s brilliantly creepy The Tourist Trap and hopes to artfully scare us again with Melancholy London. I am deeply intrigued by AND THEN…: A (verb)-Your-Own-Adventure (noun), a choose-your-own-adventure improvised musical. Speaking of musicals, Shelly Bachberg Presents: Orange is the New POTUS: The Musical is not only the sequel to the hilarious 2013 musical Shelly Bachberg Presents: How Hellen Keller and Anne Frank Freed The Slaves, but is packed to the teeth with star power (including director Nikki Swoboda, music director Jason Hansen, and the all star cast of Kim Kivens, Kendall Anne Thompson, Todd Bruse, Joy Dolo, and Erin Schwab). And then there’s High Flight; an intriguing ballet with brass quintet co-created by choreographer Windy Bowlsby, writer Ben Tallen, and Theatre Pro Rata artistic director Carin Bratlie inspired by the famous poem by John Gillespie Magee Jr. and the true story of the mid-flight disappearance of Ms. Bratile’s father.

As I said, these are the things that stuck out to me as I perused this year’s lineup for the Fringe. What stands out to you? Sound off in the comments below and let me know what you’re excited about, and I’ll see you at the Fringe!

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The 2015 Minnesota Fringe Festival will take place at various venues around Minneapolis from Thursday, July 30 through Sunday, August 9. Admission to all shows is $14 (or $5 for children 12 and under) plus the Fringe Festival button, which can be purchased at any of the performance venues and is required for entry to all shows.

The Official Opening Night Party will be on Thursday, July 30 at the Red Stag Supper Club, located at 509 1st Ave NE, starting at 10pm. The Festival Closing Night Party will be on Sunday, August 9 at the Varsity Theater, located at 1308 4th St SE, starting at 10pm. Admission to both 18+ events is free.

For updates on the festival, please follow their Facebook page and their Twitter.

For more information, including the entire festival schedule and purchasing tickets and festival passes, please go to FringeFestival.org.

And as an extra treat, here are excerpts of several shows featured at this year’s festival courtesy of the Fringe’s recent preview events:

Photo & Video Credit: Minnesota Fringe Festival

Originally Published on Monday, 27 July 2015 for l’étoile

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