The 2018 Minnesota Fringe Festival has begun! This year I find myself involved as a writer in three different shows and an actor in two. I watch as many shows during the Festival as I can, schedule permitting, because I just love the crazy theatrical orgy that takes over the Twin Cities theater scene for these ten days.
A few notes on my reviews:
I don’t use a star rating system. If you got a show on the stage, you are great. Maybe I didn’t like your show and for that, I’m sorry because I honestly want to love everyone’s show. Going to bad theater doesn’t make anyone happy.
If I don’t like a show, I’ll try to be constructive as to why. As a writer, my bias is always going to lean towards what is wrong with the writing. There could be other issues but the writer is likely to experience the bulk of my wrath because that’s what I know about.
So I’ll be as brutally honest as I can. But I can never be that brutal because seriously – they made a show! I just love that Fringe lets anybody make a show.
This would be one of the three shows I wrote. The concept came from the inclusion of a Family Fringe as part of the festival this year. I loved the idea but got to thinking (as I do) “what is the worst conceivable idea for a Family Friendly show?”
I don’t know if a Family Friendly Pulp Fiction is the worst conceivable idea for a Family Friendly show. Debbie Does Dallas might be a little worse.
But starting from that weird idea, I decided to turn Pulp Fiction into a “family friendly” experience.
I knew that just substituting swear words, however, wasn’t going to be more than a five minute gimmick. Fortunately, I was able to add more meat to the bones of that dumb idea and the result is something I’m really proud of.
I’m sure I’ll write more about this show because I’ll be there four more times.
Next show is Sunday at 5:30 PM at Theater in the Round Read More…
I cannot presume every artist has the same Fringe experience as me. Yet it would seem that one of the most common topics for discussion at Fringe central is whatever show everyone is going to do next year.
Having managed to pull together one show, it is time to come up with the craziest of ideas for our follow up. For at least ten minutes last year, I was seriously contemplating “Shark Week: The Musical.”
You get five shows over ten days. Then you’re done and this little slice of theatre Brigadoon evaporates into the mists for another twelve months.
But while we all nurse our beers at the Red Stag, the theatre community of the Twin Cities turns into a gigantic brainstorming session. Ideas are flung about in a (sometimes) drunken frenzy and every single one of them could turn into something spectacular.
Most of them (like “Shark Week: The Musical”) are rejected (or forgotten) and fade into the mists of a sleep deprived hangover, but I can never help but wonder what shows at this year’s fringe were given birth at last year’s Fringe. And what shows will never end up on a stage.
The following reviews are from a long Saturday of Fringing.
I’ve developed a lot of friends at the Fringe over the years. At first, I would try very hard to see all of their shows because that’s what friends do. Over time, I’ve reached the point where watching every show by a friend could mean I’d never see anything by someone I don’t know.
So I reached the point where I realized that everyone I knew was in the same boat as me. Making a choice to miss a friend’s show isn’t personal. You are only going to see so many shows over the course of eleven days.
When you reach that conclusion, it takes a little bit of the pressure off.
So if you are a friend of mine and I missed your show this year, I’m sorry. If you missed mine, that is OK too. I’m sure we can all still be friends.
I’ve been playing a lot of “Fringe Roulette” this year. While there are a lot of shows I want to see, most of them aren’t showing at a time I can see them (this weekend should change that). So instead, I’m just going to a show that is taking place close to where my shows are taking place. Those kinds of choices can result in finding some hidden gems.
So far this year, I haven’t had that kind of luck. I have seen very little that is terrible but I have seen a great deal that is mediocre.
I played Fringe Roulette with my first show yesterday and the result was…well…let’s just say I’m hoping my results are better next time.
I recognize that my choice means there are some shows I won’t get to see this year. That, however, is already to be expected. There are 169 shows in the Fringe and just over 50 potential slots an audience member can fill. I know some people who will Iron man the fringe and try to fill every available slot.
That goal is admirable but I need a night away from the Fringe to recharge my batteries. I’ll miss everyone at Fringe Central this evening. That community of artists is one of my favorite parts of the Fringe experience. But I’ve got to get some sleep!
So no new reviews tomorrow.
I saw three shows last night, though. Here’s my thoughts on those!
I have a lot of friends, old and new, who produce shows at the festival. I’m never sure how to review their shows because I would like them to continue to be my friends even if I didn’t like the show.
I try to remember that most people who write and produce work want to hear honest feedback because it helps them get better. When I wrote “Shroedinger’s Apocalypse” last year, I knew I was working far outside of my comfort zone. While I felt good about a lot of the writing, I also felt that it was an imperfect work and I really wanted my peers to help me explore what I could have done to write a better show.
All this is to say that I saw some shows by friends and I’m going to write reviews. The shows weren’t perfect, but they all had merit.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!