"A People's History of Love" by Micky Foley (Photo: Brad Dahlgaard, courtesy of MN Fringe Festival)
by Jennifer Tuder
Aug 1, 2012, 11:43 PM

On the Minnesota Fringe

If you’ve never been to the Minnesota Fringe Festival you cannot consider yourself truly Minnesotan.  The Fringe, as its friends call it, is a ten-day performing arts festival featuring everything from experimental dance to musical theatre.  Since shows are selected by lottery, this is a democratic festival featuring seasoned and novice performers.  The Fringe offers a great deal for both artists and audience.

Each show gets five 50-minute performance slot at one of the Twin Cities venues, a house manager, a stage technician, standard Fringe promotion, and a 65% cut of the box office for about $425 (for comparison, you could maybe get a 3-day mid-week run at one of these venues for $400, but it wouldn’t include house manager, technician, or PR).

If you’re an audience member, your tickets will run between $10-$12 plus a $4 button that gets you year-round discounts.  Since the time limit is under an hour, you can pack in up to 56 shows.  And, if you really hate what’s on stage, just wait.  It’ll be over soon and chances are you’ll find something fabulous at the next show.  See?  The Fringe is quintessentially Minnesotan:  creative, egalitarian, brisk, and a good deal.

I’ll be doing reviews from the Fringe over the next ten days. Below is my list of recommended shows, mostly based on my past experience with the artists.  I think they’ll be good bets artistically and all have interesting political/social commentary:

Chorus:  Voices After the Silence created by Alice Bergblom Johnson and cast

A high-quality collection of storytellers, spoken word artists, and writers present work that stands up to sexual violence.  The cast is a who’s who of local artists containing Fringe favorites Amy Salloway and Katherine Glover.  This show promises excellent writing and a message the audience can sink their teeth into.

Confession of a Drunk Mother created by Kristi Treinen

Dr. Treinen is both a friend and colleague.  She’s shared some of her creative process for this show, so I’m excited to see the final product.  Based on her blog, The Story of a Girl, this one-woman show charts Treinen’s journey through motherhood and alcoholism.  I expect it to be raw, emotional, and very thought-provoking.

Christopher Street:  A New Musical by Silver Slipper Productions

As stated in the title, this is an original musical focusing on the 1978 New York City Pride Parade.  It follows three young men from smalltown America as they encounter Pride for the first time.  Directed by Erica Fields and produced by Silver Slipper, Christopher Street should have great musical numbers and some worthwhile social commentary.

The Stitcher’s Wife created by Anna Wakefield and Bob Helland

This is an allegorical tale that places the myth of Pygmalion in a future dystopia.  The titular wife is a cyborg created by a “rogue military officer.”  The officer tries to teach her to be human, which begs the question, “What does ‘human’ mean?”  Two St. Cloud State alumni are involved in this production:  co-creator Bob Helland and Assistant Director and Stage Manager Ben Thompson.  Thompson’s work has always pushed boundaries, so I expect The Stitcher’s Wife will continue to do so.  Check out The Stitcher’s Wife Facebook event page for some of the artists’ intriguing ideas about “artist-entrepreneurs”.

What About Little PD? written by Nadine Sehnert & Mike Tangedal

This show is near and dear to my heart:  an autobiographical comedy about the joys of choosing to raise dogs over children.  Sehnert is a great writer and I’m excited to see her perform with her partner, Tangedal.  This show should be a lot of fun.

The Naked I:  Wide Open (Abridged) created by 20% Theatre Company

Full disclosure:  I played a role in the full-length version of The Naked I, though I am not appearing in the Fringe version.  However, the show has been so well-reviewed, I feel my biased endorsement is fully justified (see reviews here and here).  The Naked I:  Wide Open tells the stories of local transgender folks. This collection of short performances written, directed, and performed by local artists is funny, heartbreaking, and brilliant.  If you missed the first two virtually sold-out runs, here’s your chance!

Ash Land by Transatlantic Love Affair

I am having a love affair with this theatre company.  Creators of the Fringe hits The Ballad of the Pale Fisherman and Red Resurrected, TLA uses haunting a capella singing and beautiful movement to create entire oceans (Ballad) or forests (Red).  I can’t wait to see how they transport us to the desert to retell Cinderella.  If this production is like their first two, expect to see some unexpected turns in gender roles.

Going Down on the Queen of Minneapolis by Freshwater Theatre Company

Forcing your disgruntled employees onto a river cruise-what could go wrong?  Freshwater is one of the newer companies on the Twin Cities theatre scene, but they have produced a lot of good work in a short amount of time, (such as the well reviewed Dirty Girls Come Clean).  In addition, playwright Ruth Virkus writes hilarious stuff.  The cast is filled with talented, funny actors.  What’s not to like?  In these tough economic times, watching a troubled construction company implode sounds like a good time.

Animalice written by Nico Wood

A performance artist wakes up in a cage after trading her humanity for fame.  It’s all down the rabbit’s hole from there.  Animalice from performance artist and Ph.D candidate Nico Wood promises quite a bit of provocation about consumer culture and the art world.  I’m familiar with Wood’s work in Southern Illinois University’s performance studies program (of which I am an alumna).  It’s both visually appealing and deeply disturbing.  I’m looking forward to it.

For other Fringe recommendations, check out MPR’s Marianna Combs, TC Daily Planet’s Matthew Everett, and the Fringe reviews audience members post on the site.  Don’t forget your Fringe etiquette:  no late seating, turn off your cell phones, and save the conversation for the lobby. Hope to see you at the Fringe!

Thanks for your feedback. If we like what you have to say, it may appear in a future post of reader reactions.