Wednesday, August 3, 2022

Oh HEY, Minnesota Fringe Festival!

Fringe logo
Dear Minnesota Fringe Festival,

It's been three years since we attended and wrote about you. And those three years have been ABSOLUTELY BANANAS. But it's your 29th birthday and you look fabulous.

So y'all, let's see some dang theater. Let's BE THE FRINGE we want to see in the world. 

IN SHORT:
What: 29th Annual Minnesota Fringe Festival
When: August 4 through 14, 2022
Where: Eleven Minneapolis venues, centered in Cedar-Riverside and Uptown
What: Over 112 shows and well over 500+ performances

NEED TO KNOW:
Buttons, Tickets, and More - In short, Button + Ticket + Proof of Vaccination = Fringe Fun!
MN Fringe COVID Policy - Subject to change. But definitely bring your Proof of Vax. Masks may be required depending on community level reporting. But, seriously, mask up. Those lines and venues get crowded!

Adorable dogs sporting Fringe hoodies
They also have sweet merch!
SIDEBAR: WHY THE MINNESOTA FRINGE IS AWESOME (from minnesotafringe.org)
"Artists and audiences are encouraged to take risks at Fringe. We keep ticket prices low so patrons can afford to gamble on something they've never heard of or stumble upon a hidden gem. We believe in the creative process of every producer, regardless of where they fall on the artistic spectrum. We aim to shatter the barriers to theatrical entry by ensuring all artists are provided the opportunity to stage a show. Regardless of pedigree, each festival producer is given an equitable performance schedule in a reputable theater with professional technicians and front-of-house staff."

BTW, if you are new to Fringe, you must check out our friend Cherry and Spoon's Guide to Successful Fringing. She is a Fringing all-star and she gets her game ON.

ON TO OUR 2022 FRINGE PICKS!

If You Love Spooky Theater and Can't Wait for Twin Cities Horror Festival ...


Årsgång: What You Follow Follows You by The Winding Sheet Outfit (Theatre in the Round)
On the dark night of the solstice, a brave soul seeking visions of the coming year must undertake a dangerous, quiet, supernatural pilgrimage through the still and snowy forest...although not truly alone....
Why: Winding Sheet Outfit always brings the thoughtful and uncanny to the Fringe.

Slender Vale by Oncoming Productions (Mixed Blood Theater)
Each performance is a spontaneous tale of terror from the haunted, cursed, infested little Northern MN town of Slender Vale. You've seen improv comedy, now come explore the darker corners of what improv can do.
Why: Oncoming Productions creates atmospheric, memorable horror theater. They also have an excellent podcast: Dead North

Silver Hammer by The Coldharts (CFPA Black Box)
An autobiographical horror-fiction concerning disinformation, non-linear warfare, arson, troll-farms, Russian oligarchs, psychic attacks, tik tok, and our ever-eroding sense of what is true and what is false.
Why: We LOVE The Coldharts and their musical horror stylings. Also, that song is super creepy.

Stages: A Horror Play by Maximum Verbosity (Huge)
A bickering brother and sister repeatedly awaken in strange scenarios to witness terrible things happening to each other. An expressionistic nightmare about anxiety, loss, madness, love, grief, and table salt.
Why: The description is incredibly intriguing. We're in!

Fight the Patriarchy - See These Women's Stories

Endometriosis: The Musical

Endometriosis: the Musical by Ripped Nylons Productions (Theatre in the Round)
Endometriosis: the Musical is a humorous and playful look at the deeply flawed world of women's healthcare and the complex, and often infuriating, realities of navigating a system built for anyone but you.
Why: Great cast and extra points for their awesome promo image! Can you judge a Fringe by its cover? With 112 shows, you have to do SOMETHING.

Bonny & Read: A Swashbuckling Musical by Haute Dish Productions (Rarig Center Thrust)
The duo who brought you Chisago: The Musical is back to tell the tale of Anne Bonny & Mary Read. Based on a true story, these women defy odds & gender norms to become two of the most famous pirates in history.
Why: Their previous Fringe show, Chisago: The Musicalwas a delight. Plus, lady pirates! 

The Dog Show

The Dog Show by Mairzie Dotes Productions
In this funny and touching memoir, Mary Jo Pehl chronicles life after her husband’s death and becoming a single parent to Seymour The Dog - and his obsession with her.
Why: Look at the puppy!!!! Also, Mary Jo Pehl is a Minnesota treasure.

The Hysterical Woman by Fortune's Fool Theatre (Rarig Center Xperimental)
The misdiagnosis and ridicule of women in history from Cassandra to Britney Spears, told in poetry, testimony, historical documents, and noir. “Calm down, honey, you’re being hysterical.”
Why: Because Cassandra feels like a legit presence in 2022. And nothing is more infuriating than being told to calm down.

One-Woman Beaches by Alisa Rosenthal (HUGE)
This is the movie “Beaches” told by one woman. And that woman is Alisa Rosenthal. And she will get you to question – who is the wind beneath YOUR wings?
Why: Did you ever know that you're my hero? You're everything I wish I could be? That's why.

We Live in a SOCIETY - Culture and Social Norms Interrogated, Plus Apocalypse


A Day with the Newhearts by Melancholics Anonymous (Mixed Blood Theatre)
The Newhearts, the happiest 1950s Minnesotan family you’ve ever met, have come together to host the perfect barbecue for their new neighbors. What ensues is a fatal sitcom of Midwest manners.
Why: An idyllic setting with a hell of a content warning: "This production contains physical violence, adult language, blood, and historical misogyny."

Ancestors Rising by Goddard's Gardens (Mixed Blood Theatre)
It’s post-apocalyptic America...or what's left of it. After using music-powered experiments to time travel in search of a way to save a dying humanity, "afrophysicist" JahDavis returns home to join his fellow freedom fighters in rebuilding a new world out of the ashes of the old. Interweaving music, poetry, and storytelling, Ancestors Rising is an intimate and immersive portrayal of joy and resilience.
Why: Post-apocalyptic America PLUS joy and resilience? Yes, pls.

Jesus Qhrist

Jesus Qhrist by Christopher Kehoe (Rarig Center Xperimental)
Is this solo performance about the ridiculous incongruities between Christianity and Trumpism? I don't know; I'm just asking questions. Don't "stand back and stand by" for this insurrection of a good time!
Why: Christopher Kehoe is a dang riot. Plus, his beard game is on point.

What's Your Day Job? Or, How Capitalism Destroys Us All! by Fearless Comedy Productions (Augsburg Mainstage)
From the industrial revolution to the apocalypse of tomorrow, follow workers through a series of absurd, comedic vignettes to try and break the constraining capitalist hoops that try and keep workers powerless.
Why: Capitalism is destroying us all. Please make me laugh.

Every Day a Little Fringey Death - Love at the Fringe:

Finger Lickin' Good by Special When Lit

Finger Lickin' Good by Special When Lit (Rarig Center Thrust)
A sex-fueled horror/comedy/edutainment show about fast-food giant Colonel Sanders. There will be blood (with 11 herbs & spices).
Why: Did you look at the promo image? Need we say more? NEED. WE. SAY. MORE.

5 First Dates by Danna Sheridan
Danna Sheridan has been working on herself ... kind of. Ready to get back into the dating scene, Danna will select an eligible audience member at each show to go on a real, live first date with her on stage!
Why: Mmmm, improv first dates. Where's my popcorn?

Erotica for Houseplants by Tom Reed
A comedic collage of erotica by, for and about plants (read aloud by a human). Steamy succulents. Lonely redwoods. Corn-ographic tales of crop pollination. A silly botanical f*ckfest. Houseplants get in free!
Why: Because WHAT NOW? Also, Tom Reed.

Ten More Shows We're Looking Forward To:


The Best Jester by Neuro-Disgusted (CFPA Black Box)
It is a Choose-Your-Own Adventure Drag Juke Box Musical. Come pick out the playlist as Hawai navigates her college experience. Each show is one of a kind, don't miss it!

‘WHOOSH! The Civil War Mythology of Michael Hickey and His Perilous Precipitation Over St. Anthony Falls.’ by Wheeler In The Sky
An ‘Homerical Poem’ of memory, art and healing as Minnesota veterans of the Civil War return home.

Pop Sensationz by Babe Train (HUGE)
Enjoy the drama, singing, and comedy in this improvised musical biopic offering a peek into today’s hottest pop group’s rise to fame - except you’ve never heard of them and it’s all made up on the spot!

Rewrites by Lessismore Productions (Augsburg Mainstage)
A desperate Writer struggling to progress in her work, haunted by a successful former colleague, invites characters she can't pin down into her home. Stakes rise, pages shred, egos and identities deconstruct.


PEOPLE R READY-The Musical by James Gutzman/Melody Bay Productions (Rarig Center Thrust)
Original American musical with an emphasis on dancing, singing and having fun. College students return to campus, renew friendships, audition for upcoming school musical and say adieu to Tator Tot casserole.

Michael Bay's Bridgerton VII: Revenge of the Forlorn by Snikt! Bamf! Thwip! (Theatre in the Round)
Follows the exploits of Penelope Featherington and Eloise Bridgerton through the dark underbelly of London society balls. A comedic romp through toxic masculinity in Regency England!

It's Going Down In Uptown by Legends Improv Theater (Bryant Lake Bowl)
Welcome to the House of Humility. L.I.T. is here to serve you bowls of random acts of dopeness! Let's get L.I.T. with the pure language of the present tense!

He-Man is the Devil and Other Satanic Panic Tales

He-Man Is The Devil & Other Satanic Panic Tales by Kyle B. Dekker (Rarig Center Arena)
Evangelical Christians and the general public were afraid of and went to war with a ton of things in the 1980s. What happens if you are a kid and some of those things are the books, games, and movies you love?

On a Stick: A Minnesota State Fair Musical by Literally Entertainment (Rarig Center Thrust)
Follow a story with more turns than any ride on the Midway as an upstart band tries to save the State Fairgrounds from falling into the clutches of an East Coast real estate mogul.

GEMINI: A Magic Show by Noah Sonie (Augsburg Studio)
GEMINI is an experimental one man show from the Mind of Minneapolis based Magician and Creative, Noah Sonie. Noah blends numerous passions including magic, comedy, storytelling, and his love for modern culture

Happy Fringing, Y'all!!!

Tuesday, April 19, 2022

Hands on a Hardbody at Minneapolis Musical Theatre

Hello! It's us! Returning from hiatus to bring you a very special message about THEATER.

It's back, baby! May is rich with theater goodness to see and love, but we're starting off with an old favorite: Minneapolis Musical Theatre and their upcoming production of Hands on a Hardbody performed at Luther Cadillac Roseville (April 22 - May 8).

A little backstory: Although they’ve been around since 1992, Minneapolis Musical Theatre (MMT) first came on our radar with La Cage Aux Folles in 2006. Starring founders Kevin Hansen and Stephen Meerdink as Albin and Georges and performed during the Minneapolis Pride celebration, this production was pure joy.

We’ve followed MMT ever since. Their mission is ‘rare musicals, well done’ and truer words were never spoken. We’ve seen a number of fun, quirky, and heartfelt productions of musicals we haven’t seen anywhere else including Chess, Kiss of the Spiderwoman, Zombie Prom, Zanna, Don't!, Mame, The Story of My Life, Reefer Madness, Sunset Boulevard, Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson, Eating Raoul, and YES, Carrie, the legendary flop based on the Stephen King novel. 

Oh, and their 2016 production of Silence! The Musical, "an unauthorized parody of The Silence of the Lambs" was LEGENDARY (read our rave here). Featuring songs like "Are You About a Size 14?" and featuring a Fosse-inspired chorus of lambs, this show was so hilarious and spot-on, we saw it three times.

And it's not even our favorite MMT show (so far)! That honor belongs to 2018's High Fidelity, which was performed at Minneapolis beloved record store Electric Fetus. A close runner-up is the sweet two-person musical Daddy Long Legs, delightfully performed at the James H. Hill House, and one of the last shows we saw before COVID.

But enough about the past! Let's talk about a show you can actually go see!

Hands on a Hardbody is based on a 1997 documentary of the same name which depicts a yearly endurance competition in Texas that pits contestants against each other to see who can keep their hand on a pickup truck for the longest amount of time. The last contestant standing wins the brand-new truck. These competitions can last for days and takes place outside, under the Texas sun and in pouring rain.

The musical was commissioned by the La Jolla Playhouse and features a book by Doug Wright, lyrics by Amanda Green, and music by Trey Anastasio (of Phish fame) and Amanda Green. The show opened on Broadway in 2013 and closed after only 28 previews and 28 performances. Despite closing so quickly, the show was nominated for three Tony awards (including Best Score) and several Drama Desk awards.

Charles Isherwood in the New York Times described the La Jolla production as it "sings sincerely and with a rough-edged humor of the dusty margins of American life, where people live paycheck to paycheck if they are lucky enough to have a job, and chase a chancy illusion of sudden salvation if they are not." Sounds familiar, no?

We've all been through incredibly hard times the last few years, which why this show spoke to MMT Artistic Director Joe Hendren. “They’re all hoping for a better life - whatever that means to them. The characters, the music - it’s a wonderful slice of Americana that explores our shared humanity. In a word - it’s about hope.”

Thankfully, Minneapolis Musical Theater is not staging this show outside (you can't count on Minnesota weather), but at at the Luther Cadillac showroom in Roseville. In case you're worried about standing for an entire show, there are a variety of seating (and pricing) options available. You can also find content warnings and COVID policies at the website. 

MMT puts on quirky, funny, and heartfelt musicals and in non-traditional venues. They provide truly unique theatrical experiences. Hands on a Hardbody runs from April 22 through May 8 and will likely sell out quickly. Get your tickets soon!

See Also:

There are a ton of fascinating articles at the HOAH Broadway website about how a truck contest became a Broadway musical written by the guy from Phish.

Check out the "Something for Nothing" episode of  This American Life, which features audio from the documentary. 

For another look at an endurance contest in hard times, see the film They Shoot Horses, Don't They?" which features a Depression-era dance marathon.