Fringe Reviews – Days 2, 3, and 4

AllegraMy Fringe attendance was a bit down over the weekend. Not only was I involved with the opening of three different shows, there was also Guardians of the Galaxy to be considered.

Fringe is a delightfully random experience at times.  Over the weekend, I found myself going to shows simply because they were close to the venue I’d be performing in next.  The result was a few gems and a lot of things that were…OK.

Here’s the reality of the Fringe.  Most of the shows are neither great nor awful.  Most of them are somewhere in the middle.

As a fellow artist, I have great respect for anyone who produces a show at the Fringe.  They are all aiming to produce something of merit and with very few exceptions, there is merit in everything that appears on stage.  Reviewing a show, for me, should be an act of encouraging them to get better rather than tearing down their efforts.

Trying and failing is something we’ve all done.  The best producers at the Fringe have failed.  At something.  I hope.  Otherwise they suck.

So I saw a lot of stuff that didn’t really impress the heck out of me this weekend.  And that’s OK.  If any of the producers read my reviews, I’m sure that you are happy with your show.  If you find something in my review that will help you with your next show, great.  If not, keep writing shows (if you want to) and remember that the best reviewers out there aren’t trying to tear you down – they are trying to make you better.

…which implies I think I’m one of the best reviewers and I don’t think that but anyway on to the reviews…

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Friend a Day – Everyone Else

Crowd of peopleMy Friend a Day commitment was to write 100 installments and today’s blog entry is number 100.

I have a lot more than 100 friends and figuring out who I’m going to write about last has proven to be a rather large challenge.

And so, my friends, I’m copping out.  100 was an arbitrary number.  I could have just as easily written about 10 friends.  Or 50.  Or 99.

I’m not copping out, though.  It was always my plan to make Friend #100 about all the friends I didn’t mention.

If I didn’t get to you, I’m sorry.  The choice wasn’t personal.  It had a lot more to do with who I felt like writing about on a particular day than any desire to write about specific people.

Writing about my friends made me realize how incredibly lucky we all are to have friends.  As I forced myself to focus only on the positive aspects of people I know, I realized how much time we all spend focusing on the negative in ourselves and in others.

How fantastic is it that through such a disparate web of activities – college, Fringe, Renaissance Festival, CONvergence, etc – I have gotten to know so many amazing people?

And how unfair that I only chose to write about 100?  There are literally hundreds more I could write about.  Why didn’t I write about any of them?

Well, I’m writing about all of them now.  Sort of.

All the people in my life matter to me because they are smart, funny, thoughtful, creative, playful, tenacious, talented, friendly, complicated, and mostly because they are present.

Human beings are social animals and while there are certainly times where I don’t need to be social, I’m quite glad that my life has provided me with so many opportunities to be around others.

Everyone has value to someone else.  Everyone.  The trick for me is to figure out what makes them valuable and to celebrate that thing.  If you can, throw out all the rest.

Of a friend, I once said that all the best parts of them were the reason I put up with all parts that drove me nuts.  Over time, I’ve come to realize that the same can be said of all the people I know.  The best parts of all of them are the parts that are important to me.

So my final takeaway from the Friend a Day project is this:  I may not be able to write about every friend I have.  I can still choose to appreciate every friend I have.

And I do.  Thanks for reading.

Fringe Reviews – Day 1

Amateur hourThe Minnesota Fringe has begun.  As is usual, I’m involved in a few shows.  I’m also trying to watch as many of them as possible.

Because I’m involved in my own shows, I tend to avoid writing audience reviews for anything unless it is a more obscure show that I think needs a nice bump.  I have too much respect for any artist’s work to hurt their average star rating on the Fringe Festival site.

That’s why I blog my reviews.  I can speak my mind about the show but in a way that doesn’t harm the producers chances of finding an audience.

Because the Fringe is (at least in part) about taking risks and trying new things.  Even a bad show deserves an audience. They deserve the chance to have people tell them how they can produce a better show the next time around.

I’m not saying “don’t review shows on the Fringe site.”  I’m saying that my own philosophy as an artist results in different choices when it comes to reviewing shows.

So all that said, here are reviews of the shows I saw on the first day of the Fringe Festival.

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Friend a Day – David Traylor

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Photo by Peter Verrant

David is another very new friend.  I’ve known him for less than a year.  He tried out for Vilification Tennis at this year’s amateur show.  He didn’t make it into the cast because I only have room for one person this year but we did invite him to be a part of Fearless and that has proven to be a great choice.

I have so much respect for anyone who tries out for Vilification Tennis through the amateur show.  It’s about the scariest possible proposition I can think of to try out for a show in front of a live audience.  It’s a lot like American Idol without the slightest possibility of achieving any kind of celebrity.

David is well-known in geek circles as Captain America.  He’s got the look and the costume and he clearly exercises a lot more than I do.

As a part of Fearless, he’s been willing to jump into just about anything we need him to do.  When we wrote the halftime show for CONvergence this year, we decided to plug Captain America into the show because we had the perfect Captain America.

His small role underwent a whole lot of changes between first draft and final staging and he was a complete pro about all of it.  As a producer, it is great to have people who you can plug into a small but important role and know that they are going to rock it.

There are a lot of people who try out for Vilification Tennis and only a few make it into the cast.  The ones who don’t make it into the cast are typically pretty gracious and I don’t see much of them ever again.

The cool thing about Fearless is we have an opportunity to bring some of those new people with us into other performing opportunities.  I’m really glad that we made that decision because it has allowed me to get to know David a lot better over the last few months.

Friend a Day – Anna Montgomery

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I just have a few Friend a Day posts left so I’ve saved the last couple for friends I’ve known only a short time.

I met Anna because our sons are in a two kid scout troop.  We met the first night and she thought I looked familiar.  It turned out she was a big fan of Vilification Tennis and I’d actually pulled her up as an audience “volunteer” a few years prior.  Small world.

So while we aren’t the greatest scouting parents ever (due to mutually crazy schedules), we’ve been getting together on a regular basis to hold play dates in scout uniforms.  We’ve even gotten her involved in running Omegacon.  Score!

I’ve slowly learned a lot about Anna over the last couple of years, one scout night at a time.

She knows her way around the kitchen, as I’ve discovered when we have some sort of cooking project for the kids.  That would explain why she’s involved in consuite for Omegacon as well.  I imagine her creativity in the kitchen is why her kids will eat just about everything and mine will…not.

She’s also fluent in Spanish.  I’ve never learned any language except English so I’m always impressed when someone can speak more than one.

Not so long ago, I also learned she’s an artist.  She draws mostly as a hobby but there is a lot of talent there.

Anna is a very open person.  I learn a lot about what’s going on in her life every time I see her.  She’s always got great stories to tell about her work and her family.

I see her mostly for scout nights and a few school functions.  Our kids get along so there is a lot of unstructured time for the adults to hang out.

Nothing wrong with that because I really enjoy that unstructured adult time.

Life brings us new friends in all sorts of ways.  It is always a good idea to step back and appreciate those people and I really appreciate Anna.

Friend a Day – Ronn Bauman

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I’ve known Ronn since I was assistant Artistic Director at the Arizona Festival in 1996.  I knew of him prior to that time but I don’t think we actually met.

We only see each other seven weekends a year and we are both too busy to spend any time together.  Most interactions we have are a quick two sentence exchange in the morning or a conversation via Facebook.

Such is friendship with someone on the circuit.

Ronn is a member of the very Tortuga Twins.  They are one of the most popular acts at the Festival and I have never actually seen them perform.  Too many conflicts.

What I know from watching them at other times and from talking to him about their shows is this:  their comic timing is absolutely stellar and the attention to their writing is admirable.  I don’t think they feel they are owed anything by their audience.  They know that every dollar in their hat is earned and they work hard to earn each and every one.

Ronn and I have bonded a bit over shared opinions on Religion, politics, vaccines, conspiracies, and homeopathy.  Among other things.

He’s not afraid to invite debate about touchy subjects.  Nor is he afraid to express his opinion on those subjects.  In that way, he is a lot like me.

He exudes confidence that should never be mistaken for cockiness.  Being confident is the sign of a professional who knows what he is doing.   Cockiness is the sign of someone who wants to be a professional but doesn’t know what he is doing.

Ronn writes about his daughter a lot and is clearly very invested in his role as a dad.  Raising a child while travelling around the country is a challenge that he seems to have embraced in a way I respect and admire.

He’ll be rolling into town in a couple of weeks and we’ll have our all too brief exchanges once again.  Such is the nature of the community we share.

It’s pretty awesome and at the same time, a little bit disappointing.

 

 

 

Friend a Day – Deborah Johnson

 

Photo by Lena Nicole

Photo by Lena Nicole

 

I’ve known Deborah for about ten years now.  She is Chair of the Entertainment committee at the Siouxland Renaissance Festival so I get to deal with her every year when we work on The Dregs contract.

The first thing I will say about Deb is that she is very patient.  I’m a bit of a flake when it comes to paperwork and she frequently has to gently remind me that mine is overdue.  I know I’m not the only person who has that problem (she is working with artists after all) but I still appreciate that she is able to handle my flaky nature.

She clearly has a love for the Renaissance Festival culture.  Even though she lives in Sioux Falls, she works a shop in Minnesota every fall.  I think my commute from St. Paul is a pain but that is easy when compared to a commute from South Dakota.

You don’t do that sort of thing unless you love it.  There isn’t enough money to do it for any other reason.  It just has to be your passion.

Deb makes working for the Siouxland Festival a dream.  She is communicative and she always makes a performer feel important and welcome.    When it comes to worrying about a show, I never worry about Siouxland.  It is a comfortable and welcoming show.  Deb is a big reason for that.

Because of the nature of the Renaissance World, I see her infrequently and when I do, we are both busy with other things.  She’s always very willing to listen to thoughts or suggestions for her show and I feel like she always has the best interests of her performers in mind.

I also have to appreciate anyone who is a fan of my band and whose two favorite songs are my leads.

On the festival circuit, you get to know all types.  They are all great people and I’m happy that Deb is one of the great people I’ve been fortunate enough to meet.

 

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