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. 

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

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!
"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.


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.

Monday, March 8, 2021

How Do You Measure a Year (Without Theater). Also, Assassins.

Tonight I'm watching the original cast of Assassins reunite on YouTube and for the first time in nearly a year, I feel like writing about theater. 

On January 26, 2020, we published our most recent post, declaring that we were on hiatus due to unforeseen circumstances.

Sunday, January 26, 2020

We're on a BREAK!

Hi theater friends!

Due to circumstances beyond our control, we are taking a bit of hiatus from sharing our love for Minnesota Theater.

We'll still do our best to share shows we're loving on social media and posts from our fellow bloggers:

MN Theater Love on Facebook 

MN Theater Love on Twitter

MN Theater Love on Instagram

Until we return, please check out our friends at the Twin Cities Theater Bloggers! They're covering the Twin Cities theater scene beautifully.

We want to give a special shout out to the OG theater blogger, Cherry and Spoon. We are always amazed by Jill's commitment to local theater. 💓

We also recommend the theater writing of:

Jay Gabler at City Pages
Arthur Dorman at Talkin' Broadway
The reviewers at MN Playlist

Happy theatergoing!

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

A Love Letter to SIX - Ordway Center (Guest Post)

Full disclosure, I haven’t fallen in love with a musical since Les Miserables and that includes WickedDear Evan Hansen, and Hamilton (I know). I was 18 and it was my first time seeing a professional touring production. From the moment the music started and that stage floor started to spin, I was hooked. Epic in every way.

Also full disclosure, I am a member of the marketing team at the Ordway.

I reveal these things so that I can freely speak my love of SIX.

I was fortunate to be sent to see the show at Chicago Shakespeare Theater before Ordway announced it as part of the season. I remember leaving with my co-worker and saying “It was fun,” “The music is great,” “Everyone was having a great time but I don’t think it’s life changing.” 

SIX at the Ordway - Photo by Brett Beiner
Then, as we made our way back to our hotel and we talked more about the show, it occurred to me that the show actually did make me want to know more about the Six Queens. It was that bigger Hamilton discussion in that it matters who tells your story and that representation on stage is vital. The more we talked, the more genuinely excited we both were about the show. The soundtrack became a staple in our office. 

Andrea Macasaet as Anne Boleyn in SIX.
Photo by Brett Beiner
By the time the show opened here in St. Paul at the Ordway on November 29, I was more than ready to see it again. By the end of the run on December 22, I will have seen it seven times.

The show’s creators chose the six wives of Henry VIII not for the love of the topic itself, but because they were looking for subject matter that would allow them to create a musical that featured the incredibly talented women and non-binary identifying performers in their lives. 

They wanted to create a show where each performer had their break-out moment and would be able to shine center stage. They delivered that vision and the Six Queens never disappoint. The show also features a 4-piece rock band--also all female. To have ten women on stage delivering a powerful, funny, and heartbreaking 90-minute set is something I have never experienced before. It needs to be celebrated and I find myself looking forward to the opportunity to cheer them on again.

Adrianna Hicks as Catherine of Aragon in SIX.
Photo by Brett Beiner.
There is something powerful that happens in the house every night. The knowing laughs from women when the Queens reveal frustrations of their husband and societal expectations. The intense quiet that happens at the end of “All You Wanna Do,” a song that starts as a fun flirtation only to reveal at the end that the sexual power she thought she held was really abuse and that she had no agency or control over it. I always wonder in that moment how many people in the room have had that same revelation. I think about how lucky I am to have never been in that situation. I think about how lucky I am to have been born in the 20th Century.

Maybe that is the reason I love Six so much. It’s still so relatable today. 

Nicole Kyoung-Mi Lambert as Anna of Cleves in SIX.
Photo by Brett Beiner.
Maybe it appeals to me because, since the age of 12, I have been involved in the arts in some way. First as a performer, then in various roles in managing venues, box office, and marketing. 35 years on, I can look back at the times I dealt with the misogyny of the entertainment industry. From club owners who assumed I was always a “groupie” or a “girlfriend” when I was the lead singer of a band to having to politely and professionally turn down sexual advances from artists when I was a manager, the “pitfalls” of being a woman still remain. For many, we are still seen as less than; for what we can provide and not for what we bring to the table. Disposable. 

Samantha Pauly as Katherine Howard in SIX.
Photo by Brett Beiner.
Maybe it appeals to me because it spotlights the lack of choice in these women’s lives. Having to marry to not be ostracized. Having to marry because saying no isn’t an option. Having to marry because there is no way to create income for yourself, to survive on your own. This is still relevant for many women. Modern society still has a lot of negative things to say about women who never marry and/or never have children. The expectations placed on Henry’s wives are not so far removed from today.

Maybe it appeals to me because I lost my best friend this year. In the gaping void that was his presence in my life, I realize now more than ever how important it is that your story is told, that your life lives on in those you love. It is important that your life is celebrated and shared in a way that represents you as wholly as possible. Six illuminates the lives of the women who are far more than just one of Henry VIII’s wives. They had their own power. They left their own mark on history. Their stories matter. Their lives mattered. 

Mallory Maedke as Jane Seymour in SIX.
Photo by Brett Beiner.
Maybe it appeals to me because, halfway through my life, I feel more powerful and relevant than ever. Seeing that reflected on stage is life affirming.

Maybe the reason changes every night.

All I know is that Six has affected me. The show gives me goosebumps. It gives me a reason to laugh along with the people in the audience who get the joke. It helps me find “my people.” It gives me an opportunity to cheer on ten incredibly talented women. It gives me an opportunity to celebrate women as a whole. 

Anna Uzele as Catherine Parr in SIX.
Photo by Brett Beiner.
Six has been a catharsis and a celebration for me in a year that was difficult in many ways. By the time Katherine Parr (Anna Uzele) transitions into the reprise near the end of the show and sings “We’re one of a kind, no category,, there are usually tears in my eyes. I want to be on my feet. I want to be singing along at the top of my lungs for myself, for all the amazing women in my life whose stories have gone untold, for those that are no longer here, and for the stories yet to come. 

--Shellae Mueller

Minnesota Theater Love note: 
Two of the queens were out during much of the Minnesota run, so we want to give massive love to Mallory Maedke, who took over for Abby Mueller as Jane Seymour, and Nicole Kyoung-Mi Lambert, who took over for Brittney Mack as Anna of Cleves. These performers, along with Adrianna Hicks as Catherine of Aragon, Andrea Macasaet as Anne Boleyn, Samantha Pauly as Katherine Howard, and Anna Uzele as Catherine Parr, were utterly fantastic. We hope this amazing ensemble has the opportunity to perform together on Broadway. Here's hoping! SIX starts previews at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre on Broadway on February 13 and we hope New York audiences love it as much as we do.

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Let It Show! Let it Show! Let it Show! (Holiday Theater Picks 2019)

David Beukema as the D'Ysquiths
(photo courtesy of Old Log)
The winter holidays are always rich in Twin Cities theatergoing opportunities. From Austen and murder to Krampuses and the apocalypse, here are a few shows we are particularly looking forward to this winter.

Traditional(ish) Theater

A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder - Old Log Theatre (Oct 18 - Feb 15)
Set in London in 1907, this show centers on Monty Navarro, a penniless clerk who is informed after the death of his mother that he is ninth in line to inherit the earldom of Highhurst, controlled by the wealthy D’Ysquith banking family.
Hilarious performances by Max Wojtanowicz (as Monty) and David Beukema (as all of the D'Ysquiths) and gorgeous singing by the endearing cast makes this a holiday must-see.

Another Miracle on Christmas Lake - Yellow Tree Theatre (Nov 8 - Dec 29)
A hilarious sequel to the smash hit comedy Miracle on Christmas Lake! Join Martha, Neil and some zany new characters as they try to save their beloved town of Christmas Lake from annexation. A Hollywood location scout arrives, hailing Christmas Lake the perfect spot to film a new adaptation of It’s a Wonderful Life. Colin and Tess scramble to put on a sparkly pageant that will draw tourists and hilarity ensues.
THIS CAST: Ryan Nelson, Jason Ballweber, Elise Langer, Anna Leverett, Damian Leverett, Neil Skoy, & Abby Day.
See also: Miracle on Christmas Lake - Camp Bar (Dec 5 - 28)

Miss Bennet - Jungle Theater (Nov 20 - Dec 29)
The beloved Bennet sisters and their spouses gather at the Darcy home for Christmas a few years after Jane Austen left off their story. When the middle Miss Bennet, Mary, unexpectedly encounters shy bookworm Arthur de Bourgh, she finds a kindred spirit and intellectual equal. But, since Arthur is a “single man in possession of a good fortune,” she’s hardly his only suitor. Mary must learn to be the heroine of her own story in this charming holiday romance.
Because Mary Bennet is always given such a hard time. She deserves her very own holiday romance!

Six - Ordway Center (Nov 29 - Dec 22)
The wives of Henry VIII join forces for an electrifying pop-concert spectacle—shining a spotlight on these six women as never before. The queens take the mic to reclaim their identities out of the shadow of their infamous spouse, remixing five hundred years of historical heartbreak into a power-packed celebration of twenty-first-century female empowerment.
Friends who caught it in Chicago loved it, and it's going to Broadway, baby! See it here first for full theater bragging rights.

Adventures in Mating: Holiday Edition - Daleko Arts (Nov 29 - Dec 22)

From Twin Cities native, Joseph Scrimshaw, Adventures in Mating: Holiday Edition is a romantic comedy where YOU play the role of cruel fate! When the dysfunctional couple on a terrible blind date can't make simple decisions such as red or white wine, leave or stay, kiss or slap, the audience votes and the show takes off in wildly different but always hilarious directions.
We heart Daleko Arts. And shows about the comedic possibilities in dating.

The Norwegians - Dark & Stormy Productions at the Grain Belt Warehouse (Dec 5 - Jan 5)
Olive and Betty are two southern women living in the land of snow, lutefisk, co-ops, and Norwegians. They have something else in common: they both want their ex-boyfriends dead. So, they hire the only hit men they can find in Minnesota: really, really nice ones.
Sure, it's comedy, but this is Dark & Stormy: it's going to be at least a little dark (and stormy) and we need a little of that. Plus, the cast is Luverne Seifert, Sara Marsh, Jane Froiland, and Avi Aharoni. Come on.

Hanukkah Lights in the Big Sky - Minnesota Jewish Theatre Company (Dec 6 - 22)
When a brick is thrown at a menorah set in a child’s window for Hanukkah, community leaders of all faiths come together to help spread a message of tolerance and peace. With the help of school children, 10,000 families display menorahs in their windows for Christmas in solidarity. Based on true events that occurred in Billings, Montana in 1993, this family play, an MJTC original, is newly adapted for everyone age 6 & up.
Peace and solidarity, y'all. Yes, please.


Getting Plowed: A Holiday Survival Guide - Brave New Workshop (Nov 7 - Jan 4)
The holidays are stressful enough. Sometimes you just need to laugh. Really hard. Plus, it's written and performed by Lauren Anderson, Denzel Belin, Taj Ruler and Tom Reed. How could you could do better than that for your holiday hilarity?

Family Dinner - Huge Theater (weekends through December)
Family Dinner – The improvised holiday show you can relate to – returns! A family coming home for the holidays, each with a secret you suggest…It’s just like your family, if your family were played by some of the funniest improvisers in the Twin Cities!

A Very Die Hard Christmas - Bryant-Lake Bowl (Nov 30 - Dec 21)
Don't miss this yuletide tradition combining the action and suspense of Die Hard with the sentiment of everyone's favorite TV Christmas specials loaded with music, magic, and mayhem!

Miss Richfield 1981 Gender Fluids For The Holidays! - Illusion Theater (Dec 6 - 22)
In her all-new show, Miss Richfield 1981 will attempt to find non-binary answers to our increasingly complex world! With all new music, new videos, new costumes, and a healthy heap of help from the audience, this show promises to celebrate all the genders - both old & new.
As we said back in 2019, "don't take Miss Richfield 1981 for granted. (We interviewed her last year.) She is amazingly skilled at working the crowd, a mistress of subversive humor, and smarter than she gets credit for. Also, so so so funny. Oh, how we laughed."

Musical Celebrations

Black Nativity: Let Us Rejoice Together - Penumbra Theatre (Nov 21 - Dec 22)
It’s that time of year again! Penumbra’s timeless holiday tradition returns to light up the stage and your heart. Under the direction of Lou Bellamy and the musical direction of Sanford Moore, our homegrown Christmas show features exceptional lead vocalists, the outstanding Kingdom Life Church Choir, and the stirring choreography of Alanna Morris-Van Tassel. 
It's a holiday classic. My only question is WHEN will they have a sing-along Black Nativity? Please?

All Is Calm - Theater Latte Da (Nov 27 - Dec 29)
"The Western Front, Christmas, 1914. Out of the violence comes a silence, then a song. A German soldier steps into No Man’s Land singing “Stille Nacht.” Thus begins an extraordinary night of camaraderie, music, peace. A remarkable true story, told in the words and songs of the men who lived it. 
After a successful Off-Broadway run (and winning a Drama Desk award), All is Calm returns with its unspeakably gorgeous music and a cast of staggeringly talented singer/actors. Beautiful and restorative to the soul.

Post-apocalyptic Shenanigans (yes, there's TWO)

Dog Act - Fortune's Fool Theatre at Gremlin (Dec 7 - 22)
In this tale, an unnamed disaster has totally fucked America's society, political structure, and environment. Zetta and Dog are vaudevillians traversing the wasteland, singing and dancing their way to a gig with the King of China.

The Ever and After - Theatre Pro Rata (Dec 7 - 22)
A cockroach and an Amazon walk into an apocalypse…A super-intelligent cockroach and his feral human ward discover a robotic woman in the ruins of civilization. Together, they must put aside their differences and venture into the belly of the human settlement to find the truth about this new world.

One Night Only (and Limited Runs)

From Gilbert & Sullivan to Broadway - The Gilbert & Sullivan Very Light Opera Company at Honey (Nov 30 and Dec 1)
The cabaret program will include songs from H.M.S. Pinafore, The Pirates of Penzance, and Gilbert and Sullivan’s other works, as well as music from Godspell, A Little Night Music, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Thoroughly Modern Millie, Candide and Company, and many more!

Turn on that fireplace, hang that mistletoe, and enjoy all the fake soap snowflakes of the season at Strike Theater this December as jorts! and friends take on the timeless tradition of holiday romance movies as seen on the Hallmark Channel, Lifetime, and Netflix - and improvises a brand new one right in front of your eyes!

IMMORTAL | Workshop Performance - Trademark Theater at Camp (Dec 9)
In his first ever solo performance, Tyler Michaels King brings to life a brand-new character with his unique transformative and musical style. Part cabaret act, part storytelling journey, Immortal explores aging, the end of life, and mortality through the eyes of a fading entertainer standing before their final curtain.
Featuring music by Keith Hovis and starring Tyler Michaels King, this performance will highlight two of the most gifted musical theater artists in the Twin Cities. That is all.

The Great Strike Theater Improvised Bake-Off - Strike Theater (Dec 12 - 14)
A mix between the Great British Baking Show and shows like Master Chef, The Great Strike Theater Bake Off will feature be hosted by the amazing, Rita Boersma and Shanan Custer.The Great Strike Theater Bake Off is created and directed by Mike Fotis and Shea Roberts Gyllen.

The Loft Presents If: A Very Star Wars Cabaret - The Loft at Open Book (Dec 14)
The Skywalker Saga of Star Wars ends this Winter. As part of the Loft's fall theme 'If," this cabaret features writers and thinkers who are also fans of the blockbuster series sharing creative work involving Star Wars. Celebrations, critiques, and creature features abound! Featuring Saymoukda Vongsay, Matthew Kessen, Luis Lopez, Shannon Gibney, and Jodi Byrd.
Pro Tip: The Shop at MCBA (at Open Book) has fantastic, unique gifts for all of your creative friends and family. Go early. Bring money.

At long last – the monsters and fantastic creatures of the holiday season. From the resurgently popular Krampus to elves at the North Pole to snow golems animated into a grotesque mockery of life by enchanted headgear, to say nothing of the connection of a mystery ape from the Himalayas to the spirit of Christmas, all of these will be detailed in the Reverend Matt style! Opening entertainment by Nicholas Nelson!

Dan Chouinard's Holiday Sing-Along - Crooners Mainstage (Dec 22-23)
Check out the full Crooners calendar because you can see a fabulous night of holiday music any night in December, including Jennifer Grimm, Erin Schwab and Jay Fuchs, Debbie Duncan, the Steeles, Robert Robinson and Gwen Matthews, and so many more. Also, the best way to spread Christmas cheer is singing loud for all to hear.

Give yourself a present and go see a show this winter!

Friday, November 1, 2019

Twin Cities Horror Festival VIII - Day Four

Incarnate by Special When Lit
Photo by Dan Norman
Today, our takes on Twin Cities Horror Fest are bookended by a lot of love, and a little bit of vexation.

Just to recap: Why We Love TCHFDay OneDay Two, Day Three, and our TCHF archives.

First, the LOVE. Can we just talk about what a gift Dan Norman is to the Twin Cities Theater Community? Go to the Twin Cities Horror Festival page and check out the photo slide show.  We can jabber on about TCHF, but Dan Norman's photos capture theater magic so beautifully that seeing the slideshow gives you a better sense of the wonders of TCHF than we ever could. We were fortunate enough to be in the audience when he was taking photographs--so subtly that you'd never notice if you weren't looking. But I was fascinated by trying to see the show as he sees it. His work is stunning and we're lucky to have him in the Twin Cities.

Sunday. DAY FOUR.

Charcoal Moon
Rogues Gallery Arts

Charcoal Moon by Rogues Gallery Arts
Photo by Dan Norman
Another space story! Compared to Geminae, this is a large-scale production. Filmed segments show communications from Earth and serve as exposition for this story of three spacecraft sent to a distant moon to recover a valuable energy-producing element. I liked that the goal of the mission is clear, and the competition between vessels heightens the tension. When the first ship reaches its destination, they drop out of contact with Earth, and the next ship needs to find out what happened. The interaction of the astronauts was good, but the video sometimes felt like filler. The danger and tension worked, though, and the ending was satisfying.

Special When Lit
Incarnate by Special When Lit
Photo by Dan Norman
Incarnate is an immersive experience, placing the audience in the congregation of a nature-based religious organization. If you're thinking it sounds like a cult, you're right. Of course, things are not as peaceful and loving as they seem, though there's still some shock value to the denouement. Our group was uncomfortable with the interactive element, which encourages the audience to sing and pray with the group. Even as an infrequent churchgoer, that was more than I wanted to commit to the experience. I'd just rather watch them from afar instead of feeling complicit in their actions. That said, this was one of the most visceral experiences at the Festival. Lauren Anderson is great as a church leader, and the cast members really commit to their religious fervor. Nissa Nordland Morgan, who is also the writer, is very convincing acolyte, and her fervent exclamations of "Joyful Harvest!" will stay with me.

Horror Show Hot Dog - Night Two
(Read more about HSHD here.)

Night Two featured: Rewind (dir. Ruben Perez), a film about a college girl which was reminiscent of The House of the Devil; Peephole (dir. Enrique Escamilla), which is about unsavory events glimpsed through an apartment door's peephole and is the reason I mistrust my car's backup camera; Together (dir. Ryan Oksenberg), a fantastically acted and compelling film about a clean-up crew and family secrets; Water Horse (dir. Sara Wisner and Sean Temple), which was very much style over substance; and Midnight (dir. Katie Bonham), a haunting and isolating film with parallel narratives taking place in the same space.

Bug Girl
LIZ Howls

A brilliant shadow puppet show, meticulously created and executed, with an intrepid young heroine at its heart. It's short, only about 40 minutes, but that felt just right. The program mentions future installments. We say, bring them on, Bug Girl!

Bug Girl by LIZ Howls
Photo by Dan Norman
Now for the vexation part. After three days and nine shows of unbelievably responsive and attentive audiences, the theatergoers at Incarnate appeared to have lost their damn minds. We were surrounded by people who were discussing the show at full conversation volume, and two of the talkers actually took out their phones and took pictures and recorded some of the show. I mean, WHAT? We sat behind Dan Norman, who was taking pictures for the festival with his fancy cameras and it was less distracting than these two. Sometimes people are the worst.