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Putting it Together – Five Fifths

Putting it Together is my Monday “artist talking about art stuff blog”.  The title comes from “Sunday in the Park with George,” the best (and possibly only) musical that is entirely dedicated to an artist talking about his art.  Is that pretentious enough?

Sometimes you get exactly what you want and then you realize all the reasons you may not have wanted it.

The Minnesota Fringe Festival does a big fundraiser every year wherein they invite five producers to write one fifth of a familiar pop culture property.  When it comes to writing comedy, pop culture parody is kind of my wheelhouse.  I have been super hopeful that someday I would be asked to write a fifth because that’s my thing!

So this year, I’ve been asked to write a fifth.  And when I got asked I was really excited and happy because, as I said, this is completely my thing!

The movie in question is The Shining and I love The Shining.  Not in a crazy Room 237 kind of way, you understand. It is a great film that offers so many exciting possibilities for satire.  Some of which haven’t even been featured on “The Simpsons!”

Many of which I can squeeze into the fifteen minutes that shall be mine to bend to my will!

So excited!

What happens after that initial excitement about what I get to do, however, is the realization that I just agreed to actually do it.  Then the doubt creeps in.

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Putting it Together – The Fringe Lottery

Putting it Together is my Monday “artist talking about art stuff blog”.  The title comes from “Sunday in the Park with George,” the best (and possibly only) musical that is entirely dedicated to an artist talking about his art.  Is that pretentious enough?

I sometimes wonder if I got into this game too late.  Most of my friends who are successful are in their early to mid 30′s.  I spent those years putting together a science fiction convention, which is doing OK.

I graduated from college with a theatre degree, but left theatre behind me to do things like work a regular job, have a couple of kids, start a convention…you know, the normal stuff.  I still loved theatre but I guess part of my problem was that I never knew what I wanted to do in theatre.

One thing did happen, though.  I started writing sketches for CONvergence and I was pretty good.  It is possible that writing parodies of popular culture presents very little challenge.  I think it is more likely that I found something that finally re-ignited my interest in the stage.

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Fringe Festival – Day 8 & 9

Seems kind of silly to review shows that are over but since I watched them, I want to make sure I write something about them.

I’m not going to pretend I’m satisfied with my shows at the Fringe this year.  Stop Talking was fun to do but no particular stretch.  I stretched myself by writing “Schrodinger’s Apocalypse” and while I feel the script was not perfect, I was mostly frustrated that the show didn’t draw enough of an audience to really get a feel for what I could have done to improve the work.

See, audience reviews are frustrating but the Fringe is filled with other people trying to do the same thing I’m doing – produce good theatre.  We all want to see each other succeed and, I think, help each other when we don’t.  I wish more people I knew had seen the show and were able to offer their opinions, it would have helped me figure out how to do a better job the next time I write something.

Frustrations with my own work aside, I still had a great time hanging out with friends, watching theatre and coming up with ideas for next year.  There’s always next year.

Here’s what I watched on the last two days of the Festival

Centipede! The Musical

I admire the cheek it took to produce the show.  A musical about The Human Centipede?  Just about the silliest idea ever.

And while the audience really seemed into the show, I was never satisfied with the result.  My problem is probably that I write music and I just felt the lyrics and music didn’t nail it.

If you are going to have characters singing about being turned into a human centipede, you need to go all the way.  I didn’t feel like the show went all the way.

What would I have done differently?  I’m still thinking about that.

I think I’m in the minority in my response to this show.  Most of the audience loved it.  I just didn’t.

Comedy vs. Calories: FIGHT!

The premise for this show was just about as nuts as one might expect from the minds of Andy Kraft, Levi Weinhagen and Joshua English Scrimshaw.  Three guys open the show by slamming a McDonald’s Happy meal and then they have to spend the rest of the show trying to burn those calories.

Thus begins a crazy hour of dodgeball, jump rope and comic monologues.  The show was fast paced, varied and filled with a whole lot more laugh out loud moments than any other show I saw at the Fringe.

I love that these guys are producing family friendly theatre that works for kids and adults.  I’m pretty sure most everyone in that audience had a good time.

They even threw in some serious stuff about body image and parenting.

But I’m not going to hold that against them.

Fringe Orphans 2: Orphan Harder

The structure of Fringe Orphans would suggest a mixed bag but there were a lot more hits than misses in this grab bag  of theatrical shorts.

Last year, Ben San Del and phillip andrew bennett low provided the funniest two minutes of the Fringe with their improv comedy due.  This year, Fringe Orphans delivered again with a series entitled “The sound of Food.”  I’m not going to try explaining the bit.  Either you saw it or you didn’t.

If you saw it, you will never forget it.  They deserve the best slow clap of the Fringe.

Promiscuous Fiction: The Runaway Stories of Jonathan Lethem

I spent so much of the Fringe going to shows that were produced by people I knew, I nearly missed this one and I really enjoyed it.

It was a weird little series of somewhat twisted stories that were all so fascinating I didn’t want them to end.   While there were certainly amusing moments, the show didn’t come off as a comedy because most of the stories were even a bit creepy.

Really well acted and scripted, I wish I’d caught the show earlier in the festival so I could have recommended it to others.

The Critic and the Concubine

I went to this show for two reasons.  First: I had attended a show in every venue of the 2013 Fringe except The Playwrights’ Center and I wanted to fully cover my Fringe venue Bingo card.  Second: this particular show had been ripped apart by the Pioneer Press and I wanted to see if it was really as bad as all that.

No.  It wasn’t.

Mind you, I think the script was a bit of a mess and the idea that a critic would need to apologize for their opinion of a movie or a performer is a bit absurd.  I’ve spent too much time in theatre to believe that a critic can have that much impact on the artist.

But look, this is a young scriptwriter and director who is still learning her craft.  Her idea wasn’t bad but the end result wasn’t quite there.  I can certainly relate to that.

I’ve seen far worse shows in and out of Fringe Festivals.

They Shoot 25 Year-Old Gay Men, Don’t They?

Fearless Comedy sponsored this show and I finally managed to see it in the second to last time slot.

The show was plagued by cast problems (a couple of cast members dropped out at the last minute) and that meant it was never going to be fully formed.

There was some really funny stuff in the script and the writing showed the skills of a guy who knows how to make people laugh.  Unfortunately, it was filled with a lot of people who were clearly not actors and that can cause problems with any script.

Saying they were not actors is different than saying they were horrible actors.  They had no experience doing simple things like finding their light, which was frustrating.  They delivered lines too quickly and too softly.  They didn’t know their lines. That’s what happens when you have no experience.

At the Fringe you cast who you can cast.  Unfortunately, an inexperienced cast can really hurt your show.

I want to see Jakey do more work at the Fringe.  But I think he needs to cut back his cast size and really focus on the writing.  He’s got great potential.

To Mars with Tesla or the Interplanetary Machinations of Evil Thomas Edison

It took an encore slot for me to finally see this show.  I’d missed it twice due to the twin curses of traffic and a sell out.

I played the odds that the encore performance wouldn’t be sold out and while it was popular, it was not sold out.  Score!

I’m a sucker for a live silent movie so it was a guarantee that I was going to like this show.  Especially when you have a cast as talented as this one.  Kelvin Hatle is the perfect choice for evil Thomas Edison.

To be fair, I knew that before I saw the show.

Kelvin was not the only talented person in the cast.  I just single him out because he was playing a role that he was clearly destined to play.  At least he would be if destiny was actually a thing.

It was a great way to close out the 2013 Fringe Festival.

My personal record as a producer may not have been what I wanted it to be this year.  That’s the way things go.  Sometimes you succeed and sometimes you don’t.  Taking chances and stretching oneself as an artist are important.

Every show I saw, whether I liked it or not, were produced by people taking chances.  They put their work out there to be judged by others.  I have nothing but respect for anyone who does that.

And, of course, I already have plans for next year.

So it goes.

Fringe Festival – Day 7

Day seven of the Fringe Festival ended after I was thwarted in my attempts to watch To Mars with Tesla or The Interplanetary Machinations of Evil Thomas Edison.  I found myself at Ping’s eating chicken skewers with Chris Bowlsby, Sharon Stiteler, Levi Weinhagen and Courtney McClean.  Later, Levi and I arm wrestled.  So it was a weird day.

The transient nature of the Fringe can be frustrating at times.  With 30 minutes between shows. You are rushing from one side of Minneapolis to the other in a mad attempt to reach the next theatre.  At times your concern is not a sellout but simply missing opening curtain.  Either way, you may find yourself taking an unexpected dinner break because you were too late.

I dislike that stressful process of getting from here to there.  The best laid plans can be thrown by bad luck with traffic lights or pedestrians.

It is all part of the Fringe experience, though.  It is a mad rush of theatre and it isn’t for the weak of heart.

One Hit Thunder

Josh Carson’s weakness is he is too good at writing jokes.

I know, it isn’t a weakness.  It just means that his shows are just packed with punchlines and you are going to miss a few.  I would argue that it ensures rewatchability.

My frustration with the show came not from Josh’s dense writing but rather from actors who weren’t enunciating ther lines well.  I know they had to speak them in a hurry to squeeze the entire show into an hour but a little bit of diction would have gone a long way.

That’s not a big thing.  I certainly understood enough of the jokes to enjoy the hell out of the show.  I just wanted to understand more of them.

The Nose

I am really in love with the staging of this show.

The story, which was about a politician who loses his Nose, was absurd from the start and the staging complemented the absurdity perfectly.

The actors moved in a way that wasn’t dancing but the inspiration was clear.  They were choreographed meticulously.  Every move had purpose.

Well yeah.  Every move in theatre is supposed to have purpose.  However, the moves were sychronized and the three actors worked together to create a piece that was as much about movement as it was about story.

I thought it was terrific.

Burning Brothels: Sex and Death in Nevada

I didn’t want the show to end.

A fascinating series of stories about the sex trade in Nevada, I felt like I was taking a masters class in prostitution.

Katherine Glover shared stories of why brothels are legal in Nevada and tells us about a few women who work there as a way to, I think, demystify the institution.

Is prostitution OK?  That isn’t really the point here.  The point is that she wants us to understand the industry and the people who are involved in it because those people are interesting.  Their stories are interesting too.

It isn’t that there aren’t judgements to make.  It is that we don’t really know what we’re judging.  This show gives us a glimpse into an industry few of us really understand.

And I walked away wishing I could glimpse a little more.

Well done.

Fringe Festival – Day 6

I dwell on bad reviews.

I know it isn’t healthy or productive but whenever I get a bad review, all I think about is what I could have done to make that show an enjoyable experience to the person who hated it so much.

Of course it is impossible to please everyone all of the time but that doesn’t stop me from wanting to make the attempt.  One horrible review for “A Brief History of Irish Music” is upset that we didn’t play enough Irish music.

The stuff I really take personally is the stuff that makes me question what I did wrong.  We had a pretty uneven show on Wednesday night.

OK.  It was pretty bad.

The reviews reflect that, which is fair.

But they also say that our music was “OK” and that we don’t seem to enjoy the music.

That sucks because I know that our music sounds really good and we do love playing music.  Lots of other reviews for our show say so.  That means we completely failed to sell ourselves to that audience on that particular night.  I want to go back and change that experience for them.  But I can’t.

At the Fringe, I always say I’m trying to write a four star show.  I mean, I like getting five stars but to me, five stars is a great show.  I don’t try to write great shows.  Feels like too much pressure.

I try to write good shows.  But when someone calls my show bad, I dwell on it.

Which is why I have a difficult time panning anything.  I know how it feels.  And it sucks.

Fortunately, I have no plans to pan the three shows I saw last night.

Once Upon a Chalkboard

So here’s where my thoughts about an off night come from.  This improv show has a great premise (the audience draws props on chalkboards and the performers integrate those props into the show) and the performers are very good.

But the show felt a bit off to me last night.  I felt like they weren’t using the chalkboards enough, for one.  With such a great premise, it felt like they needed to do a better job taking advantage of it.

I would bet that nine times out of ten, this show is completely fantastic from beginning to end.  Yesterday it was a little uneven.  Because I know how good it must be most of the time, it still gets a strong recommendation.

Fallsway

I went to this show on word of mouth and while it didn’t connect with me, I can see how it resonated with others.

The show is a dramedy about several people dealing with a recent unexpected loss.  Having been through a similar time in my life, I could certainly relate to the raw pain they were clearly all feeling.

I think that the show may have been done a disservice by the Fringe time limit.  Another fifteen minutes might have helped bring together the disparate story lines.

Now, I didn’t love this show.  I went on the recommendation of someone who thought it was the best show at the fringe.

Conveniently, we can both be right.

Bump in the Night

Best show I saw last night and one of my top five of the Fringe so far.

This show combines very clever dance numbers and stories (told by Courtney McClean) that are all inspired by the horror genre.  Some are funny, some are creepy, all are memorable.

There was not a slow moment in the entire show.  Not a moment I was disengaged or thinking that a dance had gone on just a bit too long.

We had a lot of intriguing choices for our final slot of the night but we settled on this one and boy am I glad we did!

More Fringing tonight! Can’t wait!

Fringe Festival – Days 3, 4 & 5

I only saw a few shows over the last three days so I waited to combine them into one longer post.

Shelly Bachberg Presents: How Helen Keller and Anne Frank Freed the Slaves: The Musical

This is one of the most polished and professional shows you will see at the Fringe.  The performers are uniformly great.  The singing is sharp and precise.  The show satirizes Michele Bachmann with wit and skill.

So why wasn’t I completely satisfied?  I mean, it doesn’t matter really.  Everyone else in the audience loved the show.  It has already sold out one show and will probably sell out two more.  My lingering sense of dissatisfaction is not going to hurt them any.

The reasons the show didn’t rate quite so highly for me were pretty nitpicky.  I felt the music was too repetitive.  In a fifty minute show, I don’t think you need quite so many reprisals.  I thought the final medley went on too long.  I thought the satire of Bachmann didn’t go far enough.  It was like they only scratched the surface of her craziness.

As I said, this is a highly successful show.  My lingering desire to have it be better than it already is will not cost them one ticket.

Between Floors

I’ve seen a lot of good shows at the Fringe Festival but right now, this show is my favorite.

Powered by Joshua Bjoerte’s terrific performance in the central role of Nathan, this comedy about finding love when you have crippling social anxiety is sweet, awkward and very funny.  It finds humor in Nathan’s plight without turning him into a punchline.  That is a tricky balancing act.

I would expect this show is going to start selling out.  I hope it does.  Everyone I talked to who has seen the show has been impressed.  They should be.

Fringe can often be about finding unexpected gems like these.  I expect Four Humors to put on a great show and they don’t disappoint.  When you walk into a theatre thinking “well, I’m going to give this one a try” and you walk out ready to sing the praises of the show to everyone you meet, that is a great feeling.

On the Line

I chose this show because if it’s proximity to where I needed to be at 10:00.  I knew nearly nothing about what I was going to see.  That can be risky.  In this case, it didn’t pay off.

The show was written by a sixteen year old which does not have to be an indication of poor quality.  In fact, Abilene Olson shows a lot of promise.  But she’s not there yet.

The dialogue in this show was awkward and unnatural.  At one point, a character launches into a monologue that lacks any connection to what people would actually say out loud.

Awkward dialogue choices aside, what really sank this show was the conceit of the character being attached by a rope.  Instead of being interesting, this conceit was distracting.  I spent more time paying attention to the rope than I did to the characters.  It was an obvious and clunky metaphor to begin with but at times it became the sole focus of the show, requiring long scene breaks while characters attached themselves to the rope.  It just didn’t work.

My final point is nitpicky but it is important: If you are going to play a guitar on stage, make sure you tune it.

A few other notes from the last few days of Fringing:

OK, I admit it: Matthew Everett actually exists

I’ve been involved in the Fringe since 2007.  That year, Vilfication Tennis did a fringe preview that offended Matthew Everett so much that he wrote an entire blog entry about it.  It surprised me because while we do an offensive show, we didn’t think that particular joke was so awful.  But it was awful to Matthew – which is a completely valid response.

So that was a thing.  It wasn’t a big thing and frankly, his anger at our bad joke helped boost our attendance so I have no reason to complain it took place.  I kept meaning to meet up with Matthew at Fringe central just to say “hi – I’m sorry that we made a joke that you found hurtful.”  I never did.

In the years since, I’ve never managed to talk to him.  I’ve been told we were in the same room at the same time but since I don’t know him, I had no way of making a connection with him.

Heck, he’s seen (and liked) some of my shows.

For me, it had turned into a joke.  I continued to say that I was unconvinced that he actually existed.

Well, I met Matthew on Monday.  He’s a very nice guy.  As a writer, he grapples with the same questions as me.  As a Fringe enthusiast, he shares the unexpected finds with everyone he talks to.

The Fringe brings a hugely disparate artistic community together for a brief time and that is one of the things I find so cool about it.  You are always meeting people who share your enthusiasms.  They are your competitors and your collaborators and your friends.  It is all just so amazing.

Fringe reviews can be helpful and not

I love getting audience reviews when they are helpful.  Take, for instance, the reviews of Schrodinger’s Apocalypse that took us to task for having failed to create a convincing prop for “Action Comics #1.”  Absolutely right.  As the writer, I was frustrated by that myself.  It was fixed by the second show in no small part because an audience member complained.

For A Brief History of Irish Music, we’ve been very conscious of complaints regarding the acoustics on the New Century Theatre.  We have done everything we can to mute instruments so people can hear the lyrics to our songs.  It isn’t enough but at least we are doing what we can.

Reviews of our August 7th show are pretty critical and that’s OK because we weren’t all that good.  Our music was off and we blew a boatload of lines.  The audience noticed.  Not much you can do about that.

One complaint that always bothers me is the “too much swearing” complaint.  What does that mean?  When I have people swear, it is because I think they are people who swear.  I don’t have people swear for shock value.  I have people swear because people swear.

What you are really saying is that you don’t like swearing.  Which is fine.  I’m not sure it is fair to dock a show for your own biases.

People dock shows for their biases all the time.  As an artist, you need to accept that.

But that is what audience reviews are all about.  People get to tell you what they thought and you have to deal with it.  I may not like getting told that I wrote a show with too much swearing but I have put my work out there and told people to tell me what they think.  They get to tell me what they think whether or not I find their comments helpful.

It is remakably Democratic and while it can be frustrating, it is part of the Fringe experience that is irreplaceable.

Fringe Festival – Day 3

I opened two shows yesterday and still managed to fill my day with Fringe-y goodness!  Here’s what I saw and what I thought.

Are you There God? It’s a New Musical Revue!

Blue Umbrella specializes in musical revues so if you like a bunch of good singers performing a series of songs from musicals, this show is exactly what you want.  It is not “Sylvia Plath: The Musical.”

I mention that simply because I think the concept of a musical revue confuses people and they go into a show expecting a narrative.  There is no narrative to the show.  To the individual songs, to be sure, but not the show itself.

Instead, it is a series of songs about childhood and growing up.  The singers are all very talented and your enjoyment of the show will most likely be measured by whether or not you enjoy what they are singing.

I certainly did.

A minor frustration was that I was sitting further back and at times the accompanist overpowered the singers.  This was not a constant issue but it was occasionally frustrating.

Lolita: A Three Man Show

The title alone is enough to attract attention.  The fact this is a Four Humors show made it a must see.

Having recently watched Lolita, I probably got more enjoyment out of this show than the rest of the audience.  And the rest of the audience was loving it.  My wife said that it was probably one of the best shows she’d seen from Four Humors and the bar is already set pretty high.

Special praise needs to be heaped upon the Ryan Learn, who played Humbert Humbert.  Brant Miller may rock the heck out of a polka dot bikini but Miller had some of the most impressive slow takes I’ve ever seen.

Best of all, the show is not just a straight adaptation of the film.  Instead, it frequently follows odd tangents that makes it more than a parody.

The only critique I have for the show is that it has effectively ruined Lolita for me.  Thanks a lot guys!

Schrödinger’s Apocalypse

I wrote the show so it would be inappropriate of me to review it.  I did, however, watch it and I want to say that John, my director and our actors (Cody, Mackenzie and Chris) did an admirable job staging what I wrote.

If you see the show and like it, it is their doing as much as it is my writing.  Probably more.

The Diamond Lens

I love a show that starts out as a comedy and turns darkly tragic.  If you can execute it well.

All the pieces are in place for this show.  Phillip andrew bennet low, Tim Uren and Dawn Krosnowski are three of my favorite Fringe performers.  They execute the script with the skill expected of such gifted professionals.

The script is really good but…

It relied, I think, a bit too heavily on narration.  Writer Steve Schroer spends more time telling the story than he does showing us the story.  That may have been a challenge resultant from adapting the source material.

I still recommend this show, though.  My frustrations with the script are probably more personal preference than anything and the acting is some of the best you will see in any fringe show.

Who’s on First? 50 Years of the Doctor in 60 or Less

Being squarely in my geek wheelhouse, there was no joke that went over my head in this show.

Excepting, I’m afraid, the ones I couldn’t hear because the actors were talking too quickly or too quietly.  Which happened quite a lot.

There were a lot of laughs left strewn about the stage in this show but the humor was very uneven.  Some jokes landed well.  Others never landed but turned into running gags anyway.  The rule of three is tossed out the window in favor of the rule of as many times as possible.

The attempt to create a madcap rush through the eleven doctors involved several curious choices.  Tom Baker received roughly two minutes while the last ten minutes of the show were spent reviewing every Matt Smith episode.

But look, this show is exactly what I expected.  The actors are not great but they are clearly enjoying what they are doing.  The script is super geeky.  Rough edges are what the Fringe is all about.

Fringe Festival – Day 2

I’m opening two shows today so there won’t be much extracurricular Fringing for me this afternoon.  Yesterday, however, I got in a good run of shows that crossed the spectrum from very good to very awful.

How to Date a Werewolf (or Lonesome, Wild and Blue)

I make fun of Matthew A Everett because we’ve never actually met in person.  I’m actually pretty sure I saw him in the lobby before the show but I was with my wife and I didn’t want to abandon her to introduce myself to someone who may or may not have been him.

I may not have met him in person but I do follow him on Twitter so I know he’s been working on this script for quite some time.  His work is evident in a very tight and funny script that isn’t so much about monsters as it is about love, loss and life.

There is a lot to like in the script but one thing I’ll highlight is the way Everett makes his characters lesbians without ever saying “hey look everyone! I wrote a play about lesbians!”  The characters in the play are homosexuals but they don’t talk about homosexuality.  They talk about dating and life and love and being werewolves (or zombies).  Because being a homosexual shouldn’t be different.  A relationship between two men or two women or a man and a woman should be normal.

I don’t know if he thought about that while writing the script.  I noticed it and in a festival filled with people talking about their sexual identity (which is fine), it is nice to see a show where the characters are just living their sexual identity.

The actors in this show do a great job but Joy Dolo steals every scene she’s in.  In fairness to the other actresses in the show, Joy’s part is easily the meatiest and the most fun.  She executes every part she is asked to play with remarkable versatility.

So I don’t know if I’ll ever actually meet Matthew.  But he writes a really good show.

Dating Your Mom

This very short (less than 40 minute) show is a serious of comic vignettes of varying quality.

The cast is decidedly a-list and therin lies the problem.  They are better than the material.  The material isn’t awful, mind you.  I was never bored.  But I was always left feeling like the show should have been better.  It was missing a spark that would have made it brilliant.

There was a languid pace to the proceedings that seemed to undercut the comedy.  Ari Hoptman did a really good piece about memory that felt too slow because he had to wait for the audience to see multi-media elements.  The multi-media elements were funny but did they all need to be there?

As a side note: we went to this show as a replacement for Once Upon a Chalkboard, which sold out.  Selling out a show that early in the run means if you want to see the show, reserving your tickets in advance would be a very good idea.

The Press Conference at the End of the World

Kelvin Hatle is a friend of mine and this is his third year producing a one man show at the Fringe.  He’s getting better each year.

Kelvin has a dry sense of humor that has a tendency to ambush an audience.  You think you know where he’s going but his punch lines tend to catch you completely off guard.

In this case, Kelvin plays a Presidential Press Secretary dealing with the press in what could be a doomsday scenario.  He also plays several other characters commenting on the situation.  He gives us the information in frustratingly short sound bites that ensure that all we really know is that we want to know more.

My one critique of the show (and it isn’t really a critique) is that I was particularly fond of one character in the show and was disappointed he didn’t show up more often.  I think that is more a testament to Kelvin’s ability to create interesting characters than it is to any failure in writing on his part.

So yeah, Kelvin is a friend.  He’s also writes really good comedy.  Go see this show.

What if I’m Dead?

Don’t go see this show.

This one man clown show managed to do something pretty extraordinary.  It managed to offend me.

At first, I felt the show was merely boring.  The character that was at the core of this one man show simply didn’t appeal to me.  He was a clown character with a series of affectations and vocal tics that I was tired of after five minutes.

My issues with his character are my problem.  I wouldn’t rip on a show just because of that.

But when he got to a rather lengthy section of the show where he was talking about vaginas and how you needed to give someone something if they let you see vaginas, all I could think was that he was basically suggesting that all women were prostitutes.  You give money to some of them. You give flowers or chocolates to others.  But basically, you need to pay women to have sex with you.

I don’t know if he even realized that’s what he was saying and that made it even more horrifying.

Later, he said the problem with the world was that nobody loved any babies except their own.  I have a feeling that anyone who has an adopted child (or is an adopted child) might have a real problem with that statement.  I kept hoping he’d clarify, but he never did.

As someone who creates theatre, I recognize that every show at the fringe, good or bad, is a risk by the artist.  I don’t want to see any show fail.  I certainly don’t want to hate a show.

But I really hated this show.

HEATWAVE

I don’t go to a lot of dance shows because they aren’t really my thing.

I go see dance shows that feature Sara Stevenson Scrimshaw because she brings a whimsical sensibility to her dancing that I really enjoy.

HEATWAVE featured seven different dances by a number of choreographers.  A couple of them went on quite a bit longer than I felt was needed but I really enjoyed most of the performances.  Sara’s two brief dances could have easily been longer.  It was clearly pretty tough to dance in red rubber boots but I wish she had.

Sara also did a dance with frequent partner Danielle Robinson-Prater that was beautiful.  Any time I see the two of them on stage, I know that I’m really going to enjoy the work that they create.

My favorite piece of the night, however, was the first one. LQ Hustle was a vibrant, energetic dance work powered by a great song.  It was just a joy to watch.

So that’s five more shows.  Today I’ll be watching my own show from the audience, which is a little strange for me.  If you are Fringing, please come see Schrodinger’s Apocalypse at the New Century Theatre at 7:00 tonight and let me know what you think!  The script is a rather dramatic departure for me and I’m definitely interested to see how it will be received.

Minnesota Fringe – Day 1

As you may (or may not) know, I’m involved in three productions at this year’s fringe Festival.  Somehow, not a single one of them had a performance on opening night so I got to spend the entire evening enjoying shows put on by other people!  It was strange!  And exciting!

Here’s what I saw:

Theatre 101

Co-Produced by the frighteningly talented Dawn Krosnowski, I’m a big fan of the basic concept behind the show.  The history of theatre in 60 minutes? I’m in.  Every member of the cast was a terrific and versatile actor and the overall conceit is executed very well.  I found myself frustrated from time to time because a particular segment of the show would run on a bit longer than I felt was needed.  Perhaps that was just because I really wanted more parodies of theatrical conventions rather than longer ones.  So that’s probably on me.

What is absolutely true is that I really enjoyed the show and I while I think it appeals to audiences of every stripe, there are certainly a great many jokes that are there just for theatre insiders.  I’m totally OK with that.  Find a Fringe Producer and we’ll be happy to explain the stuff you didn’t get.

Hickory Minimum Security Correctional Facility Presents: Hoosiers: The Stage Adaptation

Mike Fotis and Joe Bozic are two of the funniest people in the history of people.  This allows them to gather other funny people around them, resulting in a perfect storm of funny.  Let’s see if I can use the word “funny” a few more times.

Look, the point is this: these guys consistently create some of the best and most intelligent comedy at the Fringe.  I’m fairly certain that if they had written The Happening, it would have been a good movie.  I could possibly be giving them too much credit but until they produce a show about “The Happening” that sucks, I’m going to stand by my prediction.

Please note, you don’t need to know anything about Hoosiers to enjoy this show.  It might help if you knew something about Rudy, though…

The Concept of Anxiety

Phillip Low can write.

I mean, I can write, too.  I’m writing right now.  My point is that he can write very well.  It isn’t that he’s a good storyteller (he is), it is that his stories are engaging.  I’m genuinely sorry when he reaches the end of one of his stories.  Not because I don’t like the ending but because I really liked the story itself.

Phillip is joined by Elizabeth Byrd, who manages to match his intensity, which is no mean trick.

This is only one of something like ten shows that Phillip will be doing at the Fringe this year.  I’m not in a position to say it will be his best but I’m going to say it anyway.

Bidgood to BidGREAT: Bumps and Blunders on the Boulevard to Brilliance

I’ve been producing at the Fringe for a little while now and that leads to the problem of knowing too many people who produce good work.  Inevitably, I spend my entire Fringe trying to figure out how to see one or two shows by companies I haven’t seen before.

And then I like those people and I need to see their shows as well.

It’s exhausting.

I bring all of this up because before this year, I’d not seen one of Laura Bidgood’s shows.  I was, therefore, unaware that I needed to add her to my “must see a show by this person” list.  Until now.

Laura’s storytelling style just appeals to me.  She is sassy and talks so fast, you want to tell her to stop for just a second so you can catch up.  Thing is, you also want her to keep going.  Unless she’s curling.  Then she should stop.

I give this show a resounding slow clap.

Seriously, that’s a compliment.

So yeah, it was a very good night of Fringing.  Everything was at least as good as I expected it to be. Tonight, I’m opening a show and I expect I’ll be unable to see anything else.  If you are doing the Fringe, I hope all of your choices are good ones.  Or at least interesting.

Geeks Without God Talks about the Fringe Festival

Geeks Without GodMy life is about to become all Fringe Festival all the time so it seemed appropriate that this week’s Geeks Without God touched on the theatrical orgy that is the Minnesota Fringe.  We brought back former guest Joshua Humphrey to engage in Fringe Nerd conversation.

To be fair, Josh and I are the fringe nerds.  Molly and Nick patiently listened to what we had to say and asked really good questions.  The conversation covers the origin of the Fringe, the benefits to local theatre companies and some of the challenges as well.

Then Josh got to ask us five questions and they required a fair amount of thought.  I don’t know what it is with guests showing up and making us think, but it needs to stop!

If you would like to listen, you can do so here!

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