Fringe Reviews – Day 1
The 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.
Putting it Together – The Friend a Day Project is Half Done
I decided to steal the Friend a Day project from Levi Weinhagen fifty days ago. My commitment was to write about 100 friends over 100 days. I’ve reached the halfway mark and it has been such a positive experience so I thought this week I’d talk about the impact it has had on me as a writer.
I have some definite rules about the project. I need to write about 300 – 350 words about each friend. The post must be 100% positive. No backhanded complements allowed. Not even about Mark Lazarchic. If people comment on the post with a backhanded compliment, that’s fine but I will remain positive. This is about doing something nice for someone, not about looking for the opportunity to make fun of them.
If the person is part of a couple, I try to avoid writing about them as a couple. Everyone has their own identity and I’m trying to recognize that identity. Their appearance is irrelevant so I don’t mention it.
While the posts are all about who those people are to me, I try very hard to remain focused on them. If I’m telling a story about our time together, I want to make sure that the story is about something they did that impressed me.
The number of people I write about is arbitrary. I have hundreds of friends and I’m only writing about 100. Part of that is because the commitment of writing that 300 word post is a lot of work and I don’t want it to go on forever.
Additionally, however, is the fact that we all have only so many close friends. At some point, I find myself writing about someone I like but I don’t always know that well. I don’t want to make things up. That means I really have to look at that person to figure out why I like them. I need to remember stories about them.
That angle takes a lot of work. It is tremendously rewarding because when you take the time to figure out why you like someone, you tend to like them more than you did before.
Friend a Day – Levi Weinhagen
What constantly impresses me about Levi is how positive he is about everything. The Friend a Day blog posts, which I borrowed from him, were all about saying great things about people in his life. The internet can frequently be a very negative place and having someone making an effort to actively fight that negativity is refreshing.
Levi is a very talented writer and producer. The shows he produces with Comedy Suitcase (along with Joshua English Scrimshaw) have long been favorites of my kids. There have even been some tears when we arrived at a show too late to purchase tickets.
Not your fault, Levi. You can’t help it if what you produce is so good everyone wants to see it.
In a theater market that is as rich as the Twin Cities, it is great to see Levi and Joshua working so hard to produce comedy that is targeted towards families. I think that has helped inspire me to explore more scripts that my kids could actually watch.
He’s a very devoted dad and that has helped inspire his podcast, Pratfalls of Parenting, a podcast featuring performers who are also parents. He is a gifted interviewer who helps bring out the best in all of his guests.
Watching Levi on stage is a genuine treat because he’s willing to put his body on the line in the most creative ways possible. When he was doing the Pratfall Olympics at Die Laughing, it was as much fun to watch him falling all over the sage as it was to watch his daughter gleefully bounce in her chair.
I don’t get to spend a lot of time with Levi, which is too bad. His positive attitude and intelligence is always worth the time. Someday, perhaps, we’ll end up working on the same project together. That would be all sorts of cool.
I’m pleased that knowing Levi led me directly to this project. I always look forward to what he does next.
Speaking of what he does next – Levi has started up another project called Worth Stealing and you know what? It’s another great and positive idea. You can read all of his friend a day posts on his web site leviweinhagen.com.