Friday, July 26, 2019

So You Wanna Fringe: Our Best Bets at Minnesota Fringe 2019

Friends! It's almost time for the Minnesota Fringe Festival, eleven crazy days of wild, adventurous theater fun.

But DON'T PANIC. Even though there are 142 shows in the 2019 Minnesota Fringe & Family Fringe Festivals, we have your Fringey back (ew--you should really do something about that). 

Plan Accordingly: Note that you can only see 62 different shows (in 76 time slots out of 735 performances of 142 possible productions (thanks for the stats, Fringe!), so no need to get overwhelmed. You'll need to make some serious choices. We can help.

Trust the Experts: Follow our friend Cherry and Spoon, an utter Fringe fanatic, and check out the rest of the Twin Cities Theater Bloggers on Facebook for even more Fringetastic reviews and news.

Ease In: By starting off with the Family Fringe, which runs July 26-28 and August 2-4 at the very accessible Barbara Barker Center for Dance on the West Bank. Read more about Family Fringe here!

Need To Know Basis: Here's your link to the Full Festival Line-Up,  the Daily Schedule, Accessibility, and the Box Office and Ticket Info.

Enough Backstory! And now, without further ado, here is our highly personal list of the 25 shows we cannot wait to see at 2019 Minnesota Fringe Festival, divided by genre for your Fringing convenience. Plus, a few more shows that intrigue us. (Text in italics is from the Fringe website.) Let's DO THIS!


Wanna see something spooky and can't wait until the Twin Cities Horror Festival (in October at the Southern Theater)? Check out these horror-themed shows at the Fringe!

Booth's Ghost By Andrew Erskine Wheeler (Ritz Theater Mainstage)
In Short: A ghost story of comedy and tragedy. Of swashbuckling, Junius Brutus, and his two actor sons: Edwin and John Wilkes Booth. Featuring Walt Whitman's writings and journal entries of the Booth acting family.
Why We're In: Because after seeing Andrew Erskine Wheeler in Walking Shadow's The Christians and The River, he's been on our permanent must-see list. Also, g-g-g-g-g-ghosts! And history, of course, with the endlessly fascinating Booth family.

A Confederate Widow In Hell By Breaker/Fixer Productions (Southern Theater)
In Short: After 150 years of waiting, a widow has returned to resolve her eternal fate. Armed with mementos from her past life, she faces the legacy of the American South in this irreverent, ghostly dramedy.
Why We're In: We saw A Confederate Widow in Hell at the Twin Cities Horror Festival and it was inventive and charming. Plus, it's an irreverent dramedy! It has everything!

Frankenstein: Two Centuries By Mysterious Old Radio Listening Society (Rarig Center Thrust)
In Short: Two original stories inspired by Frankenstein, each performed in the style of a classic radio series. Written by Tim Uren and Joshua Scrimshaw. Also featuring Shanan Custer, Eric Webster, and Joe Weismann.
Why We're In: It's never too late to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the writing of Frankenstein and that it keeps inspiring new stories. Also, this is brought to us by the folks who created the podcast The Mysterious Old Radio Listening Society. MORLS is a completely delightful and a practically perfectly produced podcast (which is a fairly rare accomplishment, IMHO.)

Hello Mother By Haunt Armada (Rarig Center Xperimental)
In Short: A newly merged family moves into a house that's just down the street from a horrifying urban legend. Of course, it's just a made up story... Right?
Why We're In: If we love anything more than horror, it's an urban legend. We're also pretty intrigued by the fact that most of the creators of this show come from a background in haunted attractions. The cast and crew biographies are pretty fascinating--this group needs to do an AMA (Ask Me Anything for non-Reddit users).

How To Come Back From The Dead By Monster Science Productions (Mixed Blood Theatre)
In Short: Death! Many people would rather not be involved with it. And Reverend Matt’s one-man show “How To Come Back From The Dead” will give you the tips, tricks and techniques you need to defy it, returning as a brain-eating zombie, a restless ghost, a chocolate-cereal-mongering vampire, or any of countless much, much weirder things from mythology, cinema, and cartoon advertising! Don’t return from the grave as a shambling mockery of life without seeing this show!
Why We're In: We heart Reverend Matt and his Monster Science. Seriously, how many times do we have to tell y'all how hilarious AND informative he is? Also, death is the new life!

The Tale of The Bloody Benders By The Feral Theatre Company (Strike Theater)
In Short: Come gather around the campfire as we tell you a tale that is shocking, horrifying, and not what it seems to be! "The Tale of The Bloody Benders" tells the story of America's first family of serial killers!
Why We're In: Because the story of the Bender family is INSANE and fascinating. Even in a world that has embraced the guilty pleasures of true crime, the Benders are beyond. And apparently, this is the first theatrical depiction of the Bender family. We will probably not choose to sit in the front row.


This year's Fringe is particularly rich in shows by, about, and starring women. YAY! In addition to the shows listed below, nine shows in the festival are banding together for #feministfringe [which] "is weaving the threads of an array of perspectives to create a feminist theater festival within the larger Fringe." (#feministfringe press)

Because I Said So By Schmidtshow Productions (Rarig Center Arena)
In Short: Mother knows best? Twin Cities favorites invite their moms and daughters to share the stage -- and their stories, sketches, and songs about their complicated, hilarious, difficult, and lasting relationships.
Why We're In: Because MOMS, y'all. Also, the cast line-up is outstanding, with Shanan Custer, Emily Schmidt, and Lauren Anderson and many more amazing artists. Also, MOMS. Also, Schmidtshow Productions is the best theater name ever.

Can I Borrow Your Poop? By Amie Durenberger (Strike Theater)
In Short: A comedic solo show about living life with a parasite. Through stories, stand-up, and a few horrible songs, this show explores misogyny in medicine, alternative health, and doing weird stuff with poop.
Why We're In: Although as delicate flowers, we are not completely on board with the title, you can't argue that the subject is ripe for exploration. Also this caveat from artist Amie Durenberger: If you don't like poop jokes, don't worry, this show doesn't have any-- except for the title, a full musical number, and multiple scenes. But other than that, it's totally highbrow. Whew!

Cat Confidential: The Secret Lives of the Mothers of Lions By Weggel Productions (Theatre in the Round)
In Short: The co-creator of best-selling Fringe franchise “Couple Fight” brings you a variety show starring the mothers of CATS! Treat yourself to music, storytelling and sketches by 10 talented and mighty women.
Why We're In: This one's for all the crazy cat ladies out there--and you know who you are. This show features an amazing cast of hilarious women paying tribute to their cats. Honestly, with this cast, we'd happily listen to them talk (or sing) about anything.

SIZE By Somerville Productions (Theatre in the Round)
In Short: Nothing tastes as good as rejecting bullshit societal standards feels. With songs, sketches and stories, the creators of Not Fair, My Lady! and an array of artists present a love letter to every body.
Why We're In: Because we have heard NOTHING but raves for Not Fair, My Lady! and HELL YES to rejecting bullshit societal standards. Stupid society. Also, another Shanan Custer show for your punch card! (See awkward joke set up below.)


Is there anything more Fringetastic than a show that takes on the hottest trends and beloved icons of pop culture? Get your nerd (or geek? which is it?) on with these Fringe shows that will tide you over until the next big Con (vention, for civilians). 

Edith Gets High By Devious Mechanics (Rarig Center Arena)
In Short: Meet Edith. Nothing helps her escape like taking a hit from her bong and playing video games. When she finds a mysterious game cartridge, Edith is sucked into a virtual realm and must face her own mythic quest.
Why We're In: Because it's created by local geniuses Keith Hovis and Allison Witham, both of whom we've raved about repeatedly. Plus, the cast features Debra Berger, Lizzie Gardner, and Ryan Lear. What else can we say? The MUSTEST of SEES.

Escape THIS By TheatreX (Ritz Theater Mainstage)
In Short: This room gets a little personal. A group of friends trying to beat an escape room discovers the room seems to know more about them than they do about each other. A new comedy by Rob Matsushita.
Why We're In: We love the intriguing, modern premise and are fans of TheatreX's past work. That said, as we have the attention span of a drunken gnat, this is about as close as we'll ever get to an actual escape room.

Game of Toms: One-Man Game of Thrones By Tom Reed (Rarig Center Thrust)
In Short: The ultimate GoT binge! Fringe fave Tom Reed irreverently resurrects all eight seasons of death, sex and dragons in this EPIC solo musical parody. Packed with sensual satire, violent laughs and abrupt endings.
Why We're In: I think it's actually illegal in the state of Minnesota not to see a Tom Reed Fringe Festival show, and we don't want to take any chances. Truthfully, our friend Cherry and Spoon kept urging us to check him out and after seeing Stranger-er Things: Netflix and Kill, we were sold and will happily join his doomsday cult.

The Lunch Bunch By Snikt! Bamf! Thwip! (Theatre in the Round)
In Short: Twenty five years ago, five people spent a Saturday in Detention and they thought it changed their lives. They have hardly seen each other since then. Has it been too long or not long enough?
Why We're In: Because even though John Hughes's movies have not aged as well as we'd have hoped, we are IN for a show that revisits The Breakfast Club 25 years later. We'd like to request a Better Off Dead revisit next, please and thank you!

The Scranton Strangler: An Office Musical By Literally Entertainment (Rarig Center Thrust)
In Short: It’s a new musical comedy from Fringe mainstays Literally Entertainment exploring a fresh take on your favorite TV show and how Scranton's most notorious criminal was working in plain sight all along.
Why We're In: What would the Fringe Festival be without at least one musical adaptation of a classic television show? Also, MURDER! It looks charming. Also, I suspect Toby.

Xena and Gabrielle Smash the Patriarchy By Mermaid Productions (Theatre in the Round)
In Short: In a time fraught with the resurgence of patriarchy, body regulation, and the imposition of draconian laws, the world cried out for a hero... her name was Xena!
Why We're In: Because look at that picture! Have you ever seen such spot-on casting in your life? Ariel Leaf as Xena and Nissa Nordlund Morgan as Gabrielle are entirely too perfect to miss. Our favorite episodes of Xena were always the modern ones, so transporting X & G to a SF convention is a fabulous premise. Plus, patriarchy-smashing! Yay!


Although there's a surprisingly small amount of Shakespearian adaptations this year, there's still a lot of literary and historical goodness in the Fringe. (Maybe take the history with a grain of salt.)

Beat. By W.A.R. Theater (Crane Theater)
In Short: An adaptation of the true story of the murder that bonded and changed a generation of America's greatest writers.
Why We're In: Although I find the writers of the Beat generation virtually unreadable, I owned a copy of Penguin's Beat Reader for many years, displayed proudly on my bookshelves. (I was very young.) Also, we love that it isn't all men in the cast. Yay!

A Cult Classic by Sheep Theater (Southern Theater)
In Short: After the death of their leader, a doomsday cult must deal with the doomsday that was supposed to come, but never came.
Why We're In: Because there are few things more fascinating than a good doomsday cult. Also, the genre and content tags refer to Shakespearian elements and that is even MORE intriguing. Ooh, the possibilities!

Glass & Lady M. By Full Circle Theater Company (Dreamland Arts)
In Short: Two Pieces, One Compelling Vision: GLASS, a dystopian, feminist absurdist play by Lindsey Bushnell; and LADY M., a ritualistic re-imagining of Lady Macbeth’s sleepwalking scene conceived by Martha B. Johnson
Why We're In: Because we love Full Circle Theater Company and their mission: "Our mission is to produce heartfelt, groundbreaking theater that artfully addresses issues of diversity and social justice for 21st-century audiences."  We will happily support their every endeavor. Also, very randomly, ithe title reminds us of Lady L from Freaks and Geeks.

Mad as Nell, or How to Lose a Bly in Ten Days By Rinky Dink Operations (Rarig Center Thrust)
In Short: All that stands between Nellie Bly and her dream job as a New York reporter is freeing herself from a deadly insane asylum on an island from which there is no escape. There’ve been easier job interviews.
Why We're In: Because this show features "a cavalcade of Twin Cities comedy all-stars." A cavalcade, y'all! You can't just brush that aside! Cavalcades don't happen every day! Also, this is the fourth show on our list that stars Shanan Custer. Two more and we get a free ... Shanan Custer? Great cast, intriguing premise, must see.

Measure4Measure By Rough Magic Performance Company (Southern Theater)
In Short: Measure4Measure is a fresh, feminist take on Shakespeare’s classic #MeToo play. Six actresses bring to life this powerful tale of the intersections of sex, corruption, and spirituality.
Why We're In: Because there is not nearly enough Shakespeare on this list so far. Also, this CAST: Ashawnti Sakina Ford, Alayne Hopkins, Catherine Justice, Elise Langer, Mo Perry, and Taj Ruler. Plus, directed by Sarah Agnew? What else is there to say?

You Are Cordially Invited to the Life and Death of Edward Lear By The Winding Sheet Outfit (Crane Theater)
In Short: There once was a man who drew parrots/ And wrote many poems of merit/ We'll look in his mirror/ And find life is dearer/ Existence so sweet none can bear it.
Why We're In:  Because no one does mysterious, spooky, literary, and historical stories as beautifully as The Winding Sheet Outfit. Example: The Memory Box of the Sisters Fox. Plus, there's a bibliography on their Fringe page! I mean, come ON! Books!


Is what our final three recommendations are about. (Categorization is not always easy--just ask our friend Melvil Dewey.)

#FirstDate By Scammers, Thieves, and The Like (Strike Theater)
In Short: What happens when a single person looking for love swipes right from the possible dates created live on stage. Will we see a successful date or will it be a night to forget? No one knows, including the cast.
Why We're In: Because online dating is either horrifying or hilarious, and either way, it makes for excellent theater. Also, the talented cast includes Breanna Cecile and John Gebretatose.

A Man's Guide for Appropriate Behavior in the 21st Century By One T Productions (Augsburg Studio)
In Short: A Man's Guide is a discussion series based on the blog of the same name; inviting professors, community organizers, activists, legal experts, and theatre producers to discuss the state of modern masculinity.
Why We're In: To be honest, the title gave us a bit of a pause, but when we saw that the panelists included Dr. Taiyon J. Coleman, Duck Washington, and Marcela Michelle (and many other fascinating artists and advocates), we were in.

Visitation By DangerVision Productions (Crane Theater)
In Short: Grief is not tidy or well behaved, nor is this show. This creative collaboration explores the grief experience from funny to poetic to painful by mixing performance and video projection
Why We're In: Because as a society we need to talk more openly about death and grief. We love that this show is addressing this. Because as they say in the show description: "Here's the deal: if you haven't already experienced the loss of a loved one that has blasted a giant hole in your universe, you will. It's undeniable that the people that we love will die and, of course, so will we." TRUTH. Also, this show has an excellent cast.


Chisago: The Musical When Roxie is forced to move to Minnesota, she struggles with finding her place in the land of Target, Valleyfair, and 10,000 lakes. Dive deep into what makes this state great in this MN parody of "Chicago".

ChorusA collegiate choir journeys across the country for their annual tour in this musical coming-of-age tale. A reflection on all the people that come in and out of our lives, and the music that brings us together.

Director's Cut: SurvivorSmartmouth's signature series Director's Cut features a TV show with a zealous “director” at the helm who makes the cast jump to improvised tangents, it's a little improv, a little script, & a lot of fun.

First Comes Love Out of tragedy, beauty can sometimes follow. A tender memory piece that reflects on the 2016 shooting at the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, the deadliest incident of violence against LGBTQIA people in US History.

Magic GirlMagic Girl, an Ode to Rainbow Brite, is an iridescent one woman show that uses movement, microphones, sound, and light to explore personal history, nostalgia, and unabashed self love.

Mighty RealA piano bar. Closing time. The 50th anniversary of Stonewall. Five men of all ages will tell their comic, poignant, true-life tales creating a shared context of the journey so far. Then they'll probably sing!

My KahaaniPersonal South Asian stories from the community. Stories about immigration, integration, cultural differences, similarities and more.

Queer Circus An all-inclusive Queer Circus experience: Drag, Dance, Burlesque, Circus, Music, Clowns and weirdos of all sorts! Hosted by the 2018 International Burlypicks Champions, Gabe&Martina

Reclaiming My TimePassionate and empowering, personal experiences shine light on a host of difficult topics. This performance seeks to speak truth to power, advocate for the voiceless, and cut through the bullshit.

STOOPIDITY3 blackboys sit on the front stoop of their apartment building, trying to navigate & understand what it means to love deeply. To question tradition. To be queer. To be unapologetically black in the world today.

Stuck in an Elevator with Patrick Stewart II: The Wrath of Fandom -  The sequel to the sold-out MN Fringe hit is set 30 years later: Patrick Stewart. Another elevator. Another sci-fi convention. The stakes are higher than ever as toxic masculinity, diversity, and hope collide.

HAPPY FRINGING! Let's make some good theater (and safety) choices out there!

(Edited on 7/28/19 to correct an omission. Don't worry about it.)