2012 Fringe Wrap up
Well, I counted them up and I saw 28 shows at the Fringe this year (I watched one of them twice). The vast majority of them were very good shows. Some of them weren’t.
As a producer, I find myself much more forgiving of a failed work because let’s be fair – none of us are trying to produce bad work. Before we put it in front of an audience, we believe that what we have is something that will speak to them, make them laugh, make them think and, yes, make them like us.
What we discover by putting a show in front of an audience is whether or not we actually succeeded in reaching the audience in the way we envisioned. There is a sense of relief when things work out as we planned and, if we’re smart, a desire to learn what we will do differently if the show fails.
So I have a hard time talking about “bad” shows because I’ve done “bad” shows and it sucks. Plenty of talented people have produced failures. The really talented ones figure out how to turn those failures into future success.
All that is a lead up to my personal Fringe awards. I won’t dwell too much on the failures because I believe it is best to celebrate those who succeed and encourage those who fail.
So here we go:
My Favorite Show
“Best” is a subjective term. I don’t know which show I watched was the “best” but “Billy Beechwood and the Mountain of Terror” was my favorite.
I liked it so much I watched it twice. It was absurd and nihilistic and for some reason, that made me want to give the show a great big hug. I will never look at Herbert Hoover, the Great Depression or mustard in the same way again. It also had the best fringe show ending ever.
I know I’ve mentioned that before. Still true.
Rounding out my five favorites would be “Font of Knowledge, Someone is Wrong on the Internet, The Love Show,” and “Nightmare Without Pants.”
Best Five Minutes of Comedy
“The Improv Comedy Duo” from from “Fringe Orphans.” To describe the act would be a waste. I could never do it justice. Simply know that if you missed “Fringe Orphans,” you missed Phillip Low and Ben San Del creating the most awkwardly funny five minutes the fringe had to offer this year.
Best Line of the Year
“I wish that bothered me more” from “Billy Beechwood and the Mountain of Terror.”
Because yeah, when you realize the secret ingredient in the mustard you love is squirrel and goat poop, it should bother you more.
I didn’t see a lot of dance but I thought Danielle Robinson-Prater and Sara Stevenson Scrimshaw’s duet in “Happy Hour” was the best single dance that I saw at the Fringe this year. The ballet duet in “BOOGIEography” was a close second.
Best Kids’ Show
My two boys were giggling like maniacs for the entire length of “Gentlemen’s Pratfall Club.” I can only conclude that kids love to watch adults fall down.
Rarig Thrust. Yes, I’m biased because my show was in that space. Still, the rock star lineup was pretty amazing. In addition to my show (which did pretty well), the venue featured “Ash Land” (they sold more tickets than any Fringe show ever), Joseph Scrimshaw’s “Nightmare Without Pants,” Four Humor’s “Candide,” “Gay Banditos,” and “Billy Beechwood and the Mountain of Terror.” And those were just the ones I managed to see.
My second favorite venue was Mixed Blood – mostly because I really like the new layout of the space. I’m sure it’ll change for next year. Seems like Mixed Blood always does…
Rarig Proscenium. I only saw one show in that space and it wasn’t because nothing else looked interesting. The space is, quite simply, unsuitable to anything but large dance productions.
The show I saw, “Steampunk Apocalypse,” had a huge cast so they could (on occasion) fill the stage but the acoustics in that space are so horrible, you couldn’t understand the dialogue. I seriously pity anyone who has to mount a show in that space.
And look – I know it’s convenient because the Fringe has three other good spaces in that same building. Why not use the proscenium? I get it. I still don’t like the space at all and the secret fear I harbor every year is that my show will end up there.
Venues in which I saw Shows
I have my little tick sheet of venues every year. My secret goal is to see a show in every venue. I’ve never succeeded.
This year I saw shows in the Rarig Thrust, Proscenium, Arena, Xperimental, The Southern, TRP, Mixed Blood, HUGE, The Theatre Garage, Patrick’s Cabaret and Brave New Workshop.
Venues with doorsteps I never darkened
I never made it to the Gremlin, Intermedia Arts, The BLB or the Playwrights’ Center. I’m sure there were great shows at those locations but I didn’t see any of them.
Still, I only missed four venues. Not bad, right?
Venue in which I totally want to do a show Someday
I just love the hell out of the Southern. Never been in that space and I hope that someday the fates will favor me with a show there. I’d probably write show that’s all about the proscenium arch. I love that arch.
Most Pleasant Surprise
I’ve been doing the Fringe long enough that I know a lot of the quality performers/writers/companies already. Even when a good producer misses the mark, their show will be worth watching. Every now and again, though, I just take a chance on a show I know nothing about. Sometimes it works out. Sometimes not.
“Neverland” was a wonderful surprise. I went to see it on the basis of audience reviews and was treated to a charming kids’ show where the company took original stories written by grade schoolers and staged them in a gently funny way. The stories were anywhere between two and ten minutes in length and almost all of them were cleverly staged.
I just went to the show because it filled a gap in my schedule but I was very happy I did.
“Bohemian RHAPsody” was a disaster of a production. The script was bad, the music was karaoke versions of popular songs with new lyrics. The whole thing was a textbook example of what you shouldn’t do if you want an audience to enjoy your production.
What made it even more disturbing was the sense that I was looking into the mind of someone who had mental health issues and her way of dealing with them was to write this show. I didn’t feel like she’d resolved anything and I left the theatre ever so slightly unsettled by the experience.
The show was a great example of a lot of things you should never do when producing a play.
Best Show Idea
Fringe Orphans was a great concept for a show. The lottery is a fickle mistress and having a show that was devoted to giving producers a few minutes to showcase their work struck me as a great concept. Sure, the show was uneven but so what? The simple fact that you had someplace to see a monologue by Tim Mooney, The Improv Comedy Duo and “Matlock: The One Man Show” as part of the same show was really kind of awesome.
The Anger Pony head from Mr. Scrimshaw’s “Nightmare Without Pants” was a great prop. It also led to a lot of hilarity in the final performance of “Stop Talking” so it wins because it was funny in two different shows!
I liked Kelvin Hatle’s “Death Perception” last year but “Someone is Wrong on the Internet” was a dramatic improvement for him. He had an arc to his show this year that was missing last year. I found myself sympathizing with his character even as he was doing some awful things because Kelvin’s writing helped bridge the gap between the awkward public face and the internet troll.
Kelvin is a funny, clever guy and I’ll go see anything he produces. But he took a big step this year as a writer and I made sure to recommend his show to anyone who asked.
Best Personal Moment
Every fringe producer has anxiety like you wouldn’t believe. Even Joseph Scrimshaw, who seems to effortlessly produce great comedy every year enters the Fringe uncertain if his new show will find an audience. So when those lights dim for the first time, you just have to hope that what you wrote is as funny/dramatic/touching as you thought it was when you wrote it.
So my best moment was probably similar to the best moment of every other producer at the Fringe. It was the moment when the audience laughed at the first joke in our script. And the second. And the third.
And I thought “whew, this show actually is funny.”
Favorite Fringe Buddy
I love Fringing with a lot of people but I enjoy the fact I always end up hanging out with Claire Alexander. I think I see her more at the Fringe than any other time of the year and it’s nice to have someone with whom I can reliably hang out.
I also really enjoy spending time with Joseph and Sara Scrimshaw. Fringe and CONvergence constitute the majority of the time I spend with them.
Best Twitter Hash Tag Game
I know Levi will be unhappy that I’m not going to pick #slapcarson but I enjoyed #FringeSequels the most.
I did slap Carson, though. I hope Levi can take some comfort in that.
Best Reason to do the Fringe
I’ve said it before but the Fringe is the only time during the year that hundreds of producers are putting on shows at the same time. We have the opportunity to talk to each other, to support each other and to learn from each other.
Most important of all, we can share the experience. We can talk about why we made the choices we made with people who understand where those choices come from. We can talk about bad reviews with others who have also received bad reviews.
It is one of the few times of the year when the Twin Cities theatre community actually feels like a community.