Fringe Reviews – Day 1

I haven’t blogged for a few months because, I guess, the shit that has been pissing me off has gotten me down. I felt a need to recharge my batteries. They are mostly recharged and just in time for the Fringe Festival.

I try to review every show I see at the Fringe. This can be tough because I see shows by a lot of friends and sometimes, I don’t enjoy them. Which sucks.

But the thing is, it is all opinion so when I don’t care for a show, I’ll do my best to explain why I didn’t care for a show. Because criticisms aren’t particularly useful if there isn’t anything constructive about them.

In any case, it’s just my opinion. One noisy white dude on the internet who decided to write down his thoughts. So take my opinion however you would like. Use it or don’t. But I hope you go out and see a few Fringe shows because this Brigadoon of theater (yes I know what I just did there) isn’t around for very long and there is something for everyone. You just have to look.

Here’s what I did on day one!

Renaissance of the Dead

I know everyone involved in this show and it is pretty much aimed directly at my strike zone. I’m about to start my 35th season at the Festival and I’m, you know, a nerd. The first scene was really strong and I was totally down for a Renaissance Zombie show. But it never really found its groove and it took me a while to figure out why.

I didn’t feel like the characters grew at all. They were freaked out by the zombies at the beginning. They were freaked out by the zombies at the end. The asshole was always an asshole. He didn’t learn. And the other two didn’t learn to cut him loose. I felt like the show needed to lean in to making fun of the Renaissance Festival, strange as that may sound.

The decision to do the zombie bits as shadow puppets didn’t work for me for a couple of reasons. It took the most dramatic and potentially scary moments of the show and rendered them a little toothless. The puppetry also needed to be better if it was going to be used. Too many characters being manipulated and not enough hands doing the manipulation.

I liked this concept so much and I wanted to like this play. The audience was, even for a Thursday 5:30 crowd, tiny. And that made a difference. When an audience isn’t getting loud and into the show like this, it can really mess with the energy of the show. It needed that energy. A more full audience that is more vocal would definitely help.

The actors did very well. This is a wordy show and Sara Bogomolny is tasked with playing several different roles. The three main characters have a LOT to say and Jason Kruger, Brynn Berryhill, and James Fairbairn were completely committed to squeezing everything they could out of the roles.

Even though I wasn’t sold on the show, I’d recommend it. I feel like a different audience would make for a better experience.

Wilhelmina and Theodore’s Exquisite Victorian Adventure

This show was produced by Fearless Comedy Productions and I am the Artistic Director of Fearless Comedy Productions. I had nothing to do with the writing of the show and the first time I saw any part of it was on opening night.

Now that I’ve gotten those caveats out of the way…I loved this show. The jokes were sharp and made fun of Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure, steampunk, the patriarchy, Stargate, History class, and a great deal more. Things were coming at me so fast, I was concerned the show was going to run over when, in fact, it landed at just around 50 minutes.

The casting on the show is really top notch and the choices for which actors played which characters impressed me a great deal.

I think if you are going to parody something, you can’t be shy about it. I mean, you can try to make sure people who don’t know the source material have a good time (I think they will) but you can’t pretend you aren’t making a parody. The writing team on this one did a really great job. So did the director. So did the actors.

So yeah, everyone did a great job on this show. I really enjoyed the hell out of it.

The Lunch Bunch

News flash! I don’t just write reviews of Fringe show, I also produce and write Fringe shows!

The Lunch bunch is my ninth collaboration with Jami Newstrom and this show was a hard one for me. I was trying some new things, I was writing a character whose voice was far removed from my own, and when I watched the source material, I realized The Breakfast Club isn’t all that funny. It has funny moments but it’s a serious film.

So I had to write a show that reflected that. And it had to acknowledge some things that happen in the original film that were not OK. I couldn’t pretend they didn’t happen so I had to deal with them. And ask myself what those things might have done to those characters.

The cast for this show completely nailed what I was trying to do. Our audience on opening night was fantastic. They laughed at all the right moments and one thing about writing dramatic work is hopefully getting your audience to laugh because they are more emotionally primed to cry.

I’m really proud of this show. But it’s my show. So it’s hard to judge fairly.

Frankenstein: Two Centuries

The Mysterious Old Radio Listening Society has, for the last few years, produced live performances of classic radio drama that is some of the most compelling theater at the Fringe.

I know, I know. It is just actors (very good actors) standing in front of a microphone reading a script and that sounds super boring. Trust me, it isn’t.

This year, rather than reading classic scripts, two of their company (Tim Uren and Joshua English Scrimshaw) wrote original tales inspired by Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein. To make the task more difficult, they each wrote the story in the style of a classic radio series. Because they are inhuman machines and I hate them.

Anyway, the scripts themselves, one more creepy and one more comic, were both great. The two different tones complemented each other well. The introductions showed a reverence for Shelly’s novel as well as the shows to which they were paying tribute. It was both a history lesson and really great theater.

So that’s day one! I’ll try to keep up. If you are Fringing, I hope you have a great time!



Shit that Pissed me Off 5/3/19

Appeals Court Rules that Bde Mke Ska Name Change was Illegal

I’m not pissed at the court. It is entirely likely that their ruling was fully supported by Minnesota Law and their job is to uphold what is legally right. Not was is morally correct. So they did their job.

The lake currently known as Bde Mke Ska was previously named Lake Calhoun. It was named after the 7th Vice President of the United States, John C Calhoun. Calhoun was not from Minnesota (he was from South Carolina) and was a strong proponent of slavery (as I said – he was from South Carolina).

If you’d like to know what he thought about slavery, this just about sums it up:

Calhoun asserted that slavery, rather than being a “necessary evil,” was a “positive good,” benefiting both slaves and slave owners.

Before the lake was named after Calhoun, it was called Bde Mke Ska. That’s what the locals called it before the locals got told they didn’t live here any more and were told to pack up their things and move to land the people with guns didn’t think was worth anything so they were OK with people they didn’t give a shit about living there. They figured if the land turned out to be worth something, they could make the former locals move again. Because they still had most of the guns.

So the DNR and the City of Minneapolis decided the change the name back to Bde Mke Ska. Their reasoning was the name Lake Calhoun was actually a slap in the face to both black people and native Americans. Which it was. It was also kind of a slap in the face to Minnesotans seeing as Calhoun was, as I mentioned, from South Carolina.

Not everyone was thrilled about this change. And that’s OK because you are totally allowed to not give a fuck about black people or Native Americans or Minnesotans because you’ve called it Lake Calhoun for your entire life and why should you have to change?

I know I resent the hell out of all the changes made to my computer over the years!

So a venture Capitalist asshole named Tom Austin decided he hated being “bullied” by “elites” (because black people and Native Americans have historically been super elite) so he filed a lawsuit to change the name back. And he won. Because the court of appeals determined the Legislature needed to make the name change and not the DNR.

Here’s what pissed me off about Tom Austin and all the people who are thrilled that they won this court case – it didn’t fucking matter to them. If the name had never been Lake Calhoun, they wouldn’t have cared that the name was Bde Mke Ska. They just would have called the lake Bde Mke Ska.

And if someone had decided to change the name to Lake Calhoun, they would have fought that because they don’t like it when names change.

But the name Lake Calhoun was hurtful to people. So the decision was made to change it back to a name that was not. Because we’ve figured some shit out and we’re trying to do better.

Austin wasted taxpayer money on a lawsuit that didn’t fucking matter to him. He was just pissed off because he didn’t want to remember a new name and because he didn’t want to be reminded that white people in America have done some really shitty things. I mean, Tom Austin never owned slaves. And he never forced Native Americans off their lands. Why should he have to learn a new name (actually it was an old name but whatever) when none of that was his fault?

So now it is probably up to the legislature to make things right. And they probably won’t. Let me tell you why!

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Shit that Pissed me Off 4/26/19

Washington State Senator Maureen Walsh Says Nurses Probably Just Play Cards all Day

Walsh has apologized for what she said and, of course, claimed that her comments were taken out of context. She’s also been sent nearly 2000 decks of playing cards because you don’t fuck with nurses.

But let’s try to look at what she said in context because it’s actually pretty bad and I’m really sick of the “out of context” excuse anyway.

Walsh was speaking for an amendment to a bill that would have provided nurses in Washington State with uninterrupted meals and rest periods. Basically, if a nurse is on a twelve hour shift and they are on their lunch break, they are on their lunch break. Find another nurse because, you know, there is more than one working that shift and they don’t all take lunch at the same time.

The amendment Walsh was pushing for (that made it into the bill) would except “critical access hospitals” in rural areas from the bill.

Walsh was arguing that outstate hospitals with smaller staffs would be hurt by this law because no nurse would leave her contractually mandated rest period if there was an emergency and they were the only nurse in the building thus possibly risking the life of a patient nurses clearly don’t give a shit about as much as having uninterrupted breaks.

Besides, she said, nurses in rural areas probably already get breaks. They probably, she said, play cards for a “considerable amount of the day.”

This is an actual picture of a Washington State nurse

In context, what she was saying was that nurses in these areas don’t work that hard anyway. She later said she was tired and regretted the comment. Maybe she should have taken an uninterrupted break.

And yeah, Walsh is a Republican. I only bring this up because the bill in question was supported by the nurses union.

In general conservatives don’t like unions. So when a union is in support of a measure, they are probably going to be against it. Unless it’s a police union.

There might be nurses in “critical access hospitals” that play cards during the day. I mean, I have no idea. Maybe they are all playing Minecraft if Minecraft is still a thing. Is Minecraft still a thing?

But no they aren’t. Walsh was pretending she was concerned about patients but really she just wanted to make sure nurses didn’t slack off. When we are tired, we usually say exactly what we mean.

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Shit that Pissed Me Off – 4/19/19

Trump Corner – Twitter

Donald Trump loves Twitter. His followers love him on Twitter. He can say whatever he wants, regardless of actual facts and he can see the love immediately. The likes. The retweets. He lives for that. Every like feeds his ego like krill feed blue whales. And like blue whales, Trump’s ego is one of the largest living things on the planet.

This week, like every week, he’s tweeted some outrageous things but I’d light to highlight a two things on opposite ends of the “fuck this guy” spectrum.

On Friday, he tweeted something that was directly aimed at Minnesota Representative Ilhan Omar. Omar, you may recall, has made some comments recently that were inadvertently anti-Semitic (and which she has apologized for more than once). One has to contextualize all of this by recognizing that Omar, a Muslim, is supportive of Palestine (like a lot of Muslims). Her opinions on the Israeli/Palestinian conflict will more than likely be influenced by that and anyway, she has made some comments there were less than perfectly worded. I assume that is because she is human.

Trump makes such statements all the time. But his supporters love him for it.

He also has noticed that Omar is someone his supporters inherently dislike because she is a Muslim and they really don’t like Muslims. So on Friday, Trump tweeted “we will never forget” and a video of Omar talking about persecution Muslims have faced since 9/11 and then some shots of the burning buildings.

Oops! Wrong burning building! Too soon?

It was a shocking racist embarrassment by a President whose theme song is “Racist Embarrassment” by Kid Rock.

As a result of that tweet, Omar has stated that the number of death threats she has received have increased. The conservative response, by the way? Quit whining – Donald Trump receives all sorts of death threats.

I mean, of course he does. He’s the President of the United States. Even if he weren’t an insufferable prick he would receive more death threats than almost everyone in the world. Not as many, I’ll bet, as Barack Obama received. But a lot.

Thing is, he regularly makes statements that put other people at risk and he doesn’t give a fuck.

So two takeaways here: Trump is using the fact Omar is a Muslim to fire up his base against Muslims and Ilhan Omar is getting more death threats than she used to. Which means she was already getting them all the time. But Trump made it worse. On purpose.

The second tweet I’m highlighting was after Tiger Woods won the Masters golf tournament on Sunday. Woods, once the greatest golfer in the universe (I feel confident saying that since the principles of evolution suggest there is no way any other intelligent species has developed golf), has been through a lot of challenges over the last ten years. Some (a sex scandal) were his own fault. Others (several back injuries requiring surgery) were not. His return to glory was certainly inspirational to some.

Especially Trump, who loves golf almost more than he loves himself. He tweeted out his congratulations to Woods, whom he has golfed with and would probably claim he is better than, and said as a result of Woods’ accomplishments, he was awarding him the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

The Medal of Freedom is the highest civilian honor in our country. It is awarded by Presidents to individuals who, history tells us, share their values.

I have no idea if Woods is a Republican. He’s a golfer and most golfers are conservative. He also comes from a very different background than most golfers. I also think he’s more of a pragmatist in the Michael Jordan vein who keeps his politics to himself because people of all political persuasions buy Nike products.

Like this light up Nike swoosh liberals and conservatives can buy for – this is real – $2,400! Perfect for your politically neutral man cave!

Regardless of his politics, he’s a winner. Again. And Trump likes winners. So even though there is typically a long vetting process for Medal of Freedom winners, Trump just fucking announced he’s giving one to Tiger.

Woods will be one of the youngest people to receive the award (most of the Apollo astronauts were younger).

I can see why Woods, who may be the greatest golfer in history and who has been a pioneer as a person of color in a sport that doesn’t have very many of them, is deserving of recognition.

But I’m not going to deny I’d prefer to see it happen twenty years from now when Woods has retired and, hopefully, used some of those billions he’s earned on philanthropic endeavors. But he’s probably a deserving recipient.

Here’s the thing, though, Trump isn’t giving this award to Woods because of Woods. He is giving it to Woods because in doing so, he gets to share in Woods’ accomplishments. He gets to make Woods’ Masters win, a great individual achievement, about him.

Never forget that this is all about him.

If Woods never won another major golf tournament, Trump wouldn’t have considered giving him the Medal of Freedom. Woods did it while he was President, though, and that means Trump, the President of Golf, gets to recognize him for it.

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Shit that Pissed me Off – 4/12/19

I missed a couple of weeks again! I had really good excuses but never mind that. I’m going to try to hit on a few things that have come to my attention in the last few weeks. Enjoy the rapid fire journey!

South Dakota Schools Required to Display “In God We Trust”

South Dakota lawmakers, in a display of “patriotism” passed a law requiring the national motto “In God We Trust” to be prominently displayed in all public schools.

It may feel like this is a violation of the separation of church and state and no doubt that will be tested. I think it will actually stand because “In God We Trust” is actually our national motto and Donald Trump has been allowed to seat two conservative Christian white dudes on the Supreme Court.

You can argue that “In God We Trust” is a shitty national motto and far worse than the one it replaced (E Pluribus Unim or “Out of Many, One) but it doesn’t matter because it’s still the national motto. You could also argue that the word “God” could be referring to any god and not just the Christian god it clearly refers to.

Maybe it’s referring to Thor! You don’t know!

Hiding behind patriotism is the dodge that really pisses me off. I mean they have to do that because if they admitted their motivation was to put God on every public school wall because Christianity just isn’t enough places in our lives already, even Brett Kavanagh and Clarence Thomas might need to stop hitting on their clerks long enough to strike the law down. But the transparency of the act is galling. Of course this is about religion.

If you wanted it to be about patriotism, you’d just pass some law about posting the bill of rights in every school.

For the record, I’d be 100% behind that one. Kids should know their rights. Read More…

Shit that Pissed me Off – 3/12/19

Men’s Rights Douchebags Bash on Captain Marvel

Whenever a movie comes out that some on the right term a “SJW” movie (yes that’s an actual term), a few things happen.

First, these folks decide the best use of their time is to artificially deflate the movie’s popularity by posting terrible reviews. Until shut down pre-film audience reviews, they were already posting negative reviews of a movie they hadn’t seen. Now that the movie is out, they still haven’t seen the movie but are welcome to review the movie anyway and, as a result, Captain Marvel has a lower audience rating than Alita: Battle Angel.

Part of the butthurt comes from the time Brie Larson said that Captain Marvel wasn’t made for white men (except she didn’t actually say that). And while Arnold Schwarzenegger’s career is littered with films he didn’t make for women or people of color, when one woman suggests not every movie has to appeal to white dudes (although I must reiterate that she never said this), white dudes get angry. And when they get angry, they torpedo the Rottentomatoes audience rating!

Why the FUCK won’t Hollywood make any movies for white guys???

In addition to using their massive power to bork what is, effectively, a poll on the internet, they are also complaining about everything wrong with the film. Included in these complaints are conservative Christians upset by a woman with agency, and at least one person who feels that the film emasculated Nick Fury because he is shown washing dishes.

Me, I see Nick Fury washing dishes and I think “what crazy fool allowed that man access to a fork” immediately followed by “oh shit – he’s also got a knife!”

But hey, if you want to get all upset because Fury, who seems to be single and probably does his own dishes and even his own laundry all the time, is somehow emasculated by cleaning up after dinner, then go ahead and do so. I’m gonna go watch Captain Marvel again to make up for one of these dickbags who isn’t going.

Not that the movie needed my help since it had the third biggest opening of any film in the MCU. Take that, rottentomatoes audience rating!

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Shit that Pissed me Off – 3/8/19

A New Study Indicates Vaccines Don’t Cause Autism

If you understand anything about vaccines, you know that they don’t cause autism. They just don’t. We don’t know what causes autism. But it’s not vaccines.

But here we go – another study is showing that vaccines do not, in fact, cause autism.

So what pisses me off? Why the fuck are we still studying this?

I have an idea, let’s spent more time proving something we already know!

I don’t blame the scientists for doing so. I mean the anti-vaxx movement keeps coming up with bullshit science to link autism and vaccines in the ultimate game of confirmation bias so someone needs to keep doing actual research to counter the constant barrage of bad information.

Anti-vaxxers crawl out of the shadows every time something like this surfaces because they really want to believe big bad pharma is out to kill us all by ensuring we don’t get polio. It is a pretty sinister plot they have uncovered and the only side effects to being wrong are outbreaks of measles and whooping cough.

The other thing that bothers me is this idea that people with autism are somehow more broken than they would have been had they contracted polio. Rather than treating autism as a challenge to be managed and understood, anti-vaxxers want to believe we can just cure it. The implication that being on the spectrum is worse than dying of a preventable disease is about as bad as suggesting we shouldn’t teach blind people how to read braille because what’s the point?

Unlike flat Earthers, who are just stupid, anti-vaxxers are dangerous. They get people killed. And they divert money from studying how to help people live with autism or from determining the actual cause of autism to more studies about how vaccines don’t cause autism.

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