Writer In My Humble Opinion

Sharing My Bed

I have to stop and think to remember the last time I shared my bed with someone prior to waking up next to Jeremy yesterday morning.

Over a year. Almost a year and a half.

Guess we should define terms. I’m not saying I haven’t had sex. Sex hasn’t been a problem. There’s even been sex in this particular bed. But sharing the bed - that’s someone staying the night. That’s sleeping next to someone. That’s waking up next to someone and not scrambling for your pants to get out the door. And it’s been a while.

Jeremy and I used to spend a great deal of our free time together. Conversations that would last for hours. On a weekly basis, we’d close the neighborhood bar, walk to my car, leaning against one another for a bit of balance, relieve ourselves in the bushes, then hop in the car, with him in the driver’s seat - since he held his alchohol better than I probably ever will - for the short ride home.

Depending on how I felt when we reached his place, I’d either drive myself the rest of the way home, or crash on his floor - normally the latter.

Occasionally, he’d crash at my place, which had more clutter than open floor space. So we’d both crash on my bed.

Jeremy’s been off at a retreat in the mountains, working as plumber for this colony with no phones, no email, for over half a year now. He plans to stay on another year. We write letters to one another, but the void left by the absence of his companionship is palpable to me. To him, too.

So when he came to town to visit family this weekend, one of the first things he did was call me. We got together that same night. We talked for hours, picking up as if we hadn’t seen each other in days, rather than months. Before we knew it, the waitress was coming by for last call. Then they were flicking the lights to get people to leave. And we still weren’t done with all we had to say.

We made the long walk back to my apartment building, my arm around his shoulders, his arm around my waist.

Jeremy had left town under a personal cloud. His on again-off again, long-term relationship had fallen apart, this time for good. He had spent a number of months living in another friend’s basement, just generally getting drunk and not doing much else.

“Our conversations, you and me closing that bar week after week - that was pretty much all that kept me going, all that got me out and doing something other than just sitting around feeling sorry for myself,” he said. “Flying back into Minneapolis, I realized there’s nothing in this city I miss, nothing I really wanted to come back for, nothing I was looking forward to, but my family. And spending time with you.”

Before we’d struck out that evening for the bar, he asked if it’d be all right to crash at my place - no worries about driving back to his folks’ place or the lateness of the hour that way. Sure, why not?

He was supposed to get up early the next morning and meet some other friends, possibly go rock-climbing. So we set an alarm.

He stripped to his boxer briefs. Me, I pretended to be too out of it to really be able to disrobe. I just kicked off my shoes and flopped into bed, still in my T-shirt, jeans and socks.

We lay there next to one another. I had my back to him.

Then he reached over and pulled me close to him.

And we fell asleep.

Periodically throughout the night, one or the other of us would have to get up to use the toilet (we’d been through several pitchers of beer, after all).

But we’d always settle back in.

The alarm went off, and Jeremy decided he really didn’t need to go anywhere after all. So we slept in about four more hours.

It’s kind of amazing, the level of trust you need to have in a person, or the amount of stuff you have to be willing not to worry about, to let them share your bed.

You’re completely vulnerable.

Watching him sleep that morning, I was struck by how fragile he seemed - even though he’s one of the strongest, most active people I know. In sleep, he was a different creature.

Eventually, we woke. I walked him to his car. We hugged several times, said several goodbyes. It had been too long. And would likely be too long til we saw one another again.

If he wasn’t straight, I’d marry him in a second.

If I were a woman, I’d solve a lot of his problems.

Sharing a bed with someone on a regular basis. I’ve been reminded how nice that could be.

Thanks, Jeremy.

Safe journey, my friend.

 

The Scene That Makes It All Worth It

The movie was almost over. I got it cheap at a Blockbuster Video used movie sale, so I wasn’t going to be too disappointed if it turned out to be, well, not worth much more than the couple of bucks I paid for it. The waste of time bothered me more than anything. But like I said, the movie was almost over. And like everyone else in my family, once I start something, I just need to know how it ends.

The movie was like a lot of Woody Allen movies, but not. All the elements of his recent work, and a lot of the elements of his early work were all thrown together. So half the time it was trying to be a detailed comedy of manners, the other half of the time it was trying to be a madcap screwball farce. Oh, and every few minutes, someone broke into song. So it was, quite frankly, a mess. It was trying too hard and succeeding on no fronts.

But then there was this moment...

Woody Allen and Goldie Hawn, playing ex-husband and wife, in Paris, at night, down by the river, the place where they’d first watched the sun come up as a couple. Goldie launches into this bittersweet song. And then they dance. And then suddenly, she flies. Against all laws of physics, he gives her a twirl and off she glides above the ground for longer than any person obeying gravity could. He rejoins her, they dance, she floats again. Oh sure it was probably cables and blue screen trickery, but I gotta admit, I bought it. I knew it couldn’t be happening, but the magic got to me. The movie didn’t end there (they almost never end where you want them to anymore), but those few minutes redeemed the entire movie.

The song she sang, and that moment in the movie that transported me, they both have been swimming around in my head lately:

“I’m through with love
I'll never fall again.
Said 'Adieu' to love,
'Don't ever call again.'
For I must have you or no one,
and so I'm through with love.”

Love, or that lack of it in my life, used to bug the heck out of me.

Don’t get me wrong. I’ve got my family and friends, and they’re great. I’m talking about that elusive romantic kind we’re always hearing so much about - heck, that I write so much about in my scripts. I’m as guilty as any other purveyor of “happily ever after” out there.

I suppose I could blame it on any number of things. I have always been, and still am, very devoted to my creative work, which I have to sneak in around the edges of the day job. Sometimes I think I might be too focused to bother. Other times, I think that maybe the unconditional love of family and friends has spoiled me. After all, once you’ve had that kind of admiration and devotion floated in your direction, it’s hard to settle for less. Hard to feel like you even should consider settling for less.

“I've locked my heart.
I'll keep my feelings there.
I have stocked my heart
with icy frigid air.
And I mean to care for no one,
because I'm through with love.”

And then there are the times you get your heart ripped out of your chest and drop-kicked across the room by someone you thought you could trust, someone you thought felt the same way you did.

And the times you meet someone that’s such a perfect match, only they don’t think so. They don’t see you that way. Or they have someone else. Or you’re just stuck in the valued friend category, despite all your best efforts to the contrary. And when you’re hung up on the unattainable, well, you don’t see anyone else with potential either, no matter how hard those others might be trying. Unrequited love is a sucker’s game. It seems to be giving you everything you want, but there’s always something missing. And you can’t seem to shake yourself out of it, you just keep hoping they’ll turn around one day and see what a fool they’ve been, how perfect you are. It’s a great way to waste time.

“Why did you lead me
to think you could care?
You didn't need me
for you had your share
of friends around you
to hound you
and swear
with deep emotion
devotion
to you.”

One can always go the personal ad and cup of coffee route, the bar and dance club route, the anonymous sex route. There are any number of things you can try, to keep trying, to not give up.

But often, they just seem like a waste of the time and money you put into them. And no one has an unlimited supply of either anymore.

You almost start to resent the requirements of the chase.

“Goodbye to spring
And all it meant to me.”

And so lately I’ve been thinking, “OK, take a break. Work on yourself. Get your own house in order. If you don’t make room in your life, no one can step through the door. Clear out the clutter.”

And I’m just enjoying the things I know give me pleasure, that make me feel like I’m accomplishing something - like writing, for instance.

“It can never bring the things that used to be.”

Unlike men, writing has never let me down.

“For I must have you or no one...”

So I’m finally learning to be happy with me, for a change.

“...and so I'm through with love.”

I never thought that could be enough. But you know, I think that’s the only way I’m ever going to be in a place where I’ll be ready to be a solid half of a full relationship with another person.

Like a friend of mine said to me once, “If you’re not happy by yourself, you’re not going to be happy with someone else. It doesn’t work that way.”

So look for the thing in your life, not the person, that makes you happy. What activity makes your time and your life seem worthwhile? What are you passionate about? What are you devoted to? It’s different for everyone. But everyone has something. Some of us are lucky enough to know what it is from an early age. Some of us have to search for a long time. But it’s there. You’ll feel it when you find it. It feels right.

And when you find that something, you won’t need anyone else. You will be complete, and whole, and happy all by yourself. And if someone else comes along that you can share it with, great. But you won’t be leaning on them, demanding that they somehow fill a vacuum in your life that you couldn’t fill yourself. (Which is good, because no person can or should be required to do that for somebody else.)

Friends also tell me you’re not supposed to be looking for love. Which I think is a crock. If you’re not looking, it passes you by. If you’re not alert, you might trip over something or someone, but you might not recognize them for who or what they are. So I think a part of you always has to be open to it. Don’t concentrate on it, don’t go about it as some kind of desperate quest, certainly. But don’t shut it out of your thoughts entirely.

Because even though I’m happy the way I am, for the first time in a long time, maybe ever...

There’s still a part of my brain that remembers two people dancing by a river in Paris at night. And a lady who floats.

I’m still waiting for that one scene in the movie that makes all the waiting worth it.

And I’m still writing love stories.

 

Grab What's Important

The fire alarm in my apartment building went off at 2:45 in the morning.

It’s a double-barrelled assault on the ears that has a blaring horn going off in the hallways, and an electronic squealing going off in each of the apartments. Even I couldn’t sleep through it. Which I suppose should be comforting.

So you feel around in the dark for your eyeglasses and your pants and a shirt and some footwear, pull them on as quickly as you can and poke your head out into the deafening hallway, just to be sure.

OK, smoke. Time to go.

I only know two people in my building by name.

Ben, my hunky young neighbor one door down on the opposite side of the hall, is one of them.

Ben appears shirtless - bonus points go to the fire alarm for that one.

I call him Big Ben, for reasons I won’t go into here (hint: it has nothing to do with the clock tower in London).

Fire alarms in the middle of the night seem to be the only time everyone in the building sees one another.

We all dutifully make our way out the front door and stand on the sidewalk, waiting for the fire trucks to arrive.

One lesbian appears with her cat.

One gay guy appears with his cat.

Big Ben emerges with his current boyfriend, an older African-American man with gray in his beard. Bonus points for Big Ben. Bonus points for the boyfriend (er, man-friend).

A portly woman and her pre-high school age son huddle together. Normally these two are screaming at one another with such hatred that, even though I live one floor below them, I feel like calling social services. Yet here they are, clutching one another. Maybe they’re just not awake yet.

Some borderline cute Hispanic guy I’ve never seen before also joins us outside.

I love the tennants who think to bring their cigarettes with them, and then immediately light up without a hint of irony as they wait for the fire trucks.

You wonder about the people who don’t bother to come out of the building.

You wonder about the people who aren’t even home at that hour on a Thursday night/early Friday morning.

You’re glad the alarm works. And that we live very close to the fire station. And that the firemen respond in minutes.

Must be a slow night. One, two, THREE fire trucks. And the fire chief’s jeep as well.

The only other guy I know in our building is Kevin, our super, the young former army recruit who put out the huge American flag (which he “borrowed” from a local family restaurant when he was a kid) right after the attacks on September 11th last year. Normally, he’s the one bounding through the building, trying to find the source of the smoke so he can help the firemen zero in on the problem.

Neither Kevin nor Big Ben brought out their cats. So it must not be that big a deal.

Kevin’s a bit sheepish this evening. Seems he didn’t need to dash through the building. He was the source of the smoke this time. Fell asleep with a pizza in the oven.

At 2:30 in the morning?! Dude, you need to ease up on the pot smoking.

Kevin told the fire chief, and slowly the fire trucks all withdrew.

Kevin and a few of the others went back into the building before the alarm stopped blaring inside.

The rest of us wanted to wait until the noise stopped.

Finally, silence.

I’d forgotten my keys, so I went back in with a group.

A woman from down the hall, whose name I still don’t know, noticed what I was carrying with me.

“I see you grabbed what was important.”

The portly screamer grabbed her son.

Several people grabbed their cats.

Big Ben grabbed his boyfriend.

Me, I grabbed my laptop computer.

Something’s wrong with this picture.

Couldn’t get to sleep after it was over.

Sometimes the alarm goes off again if the smoke hasn’t totally cleared.

Didn’t happen this time.

Still, I couldn’t relax.

Didn’t plug the computer back into the wall. I kept it by my bed. It’s pulsing green light signaled it was in sleep mode. Wish I was.

I opened the computer and typed some notes for a column, trying to empty my brain so it would allow me to sleep.

I still don’t know anyone else in the building by name.

And when the fire alarm went off, the only thing I thought to grab was my computer.

Sure, it makes sense. I’m a writer. All my stuff is on this computer.

Still...

And now it’s 3:45 in the morning.

I’m lying here alone in bed. Unable to sleep. The pulsing green light of the computer nearby.

The clock alarm is set to go off at 5 a.m.

 

Fire and Rain: An Elegy for Pat

I could tell by the sound of her voice on the phone that someone had died.

Still, I hadn’t heard from my good college friend K in, well, a couple of years. So I stalled a bit, wanting to talk to her a bit before reality set in. Whatever it was.

“Matt, I’ve got something kind of icky I need to say, so I’m just gonna get it out. Pat died this week.”

Now I know why K was so upset. Pat was a very important guy in her life. He was important to me because he was important to K.

They dated in K’s and my first year at college.

That is, before Pat came out of the closet.

It helped that we were all in the drama department - we had the skills to process the soap opera.

Pat was a great guy. Very sweet, very smart.

And of course, we all thought of one another all the time.

But we hadn’t been in touch since the department reunion about three years ago.

It wasn’t neglect or willful avoidance. We just didn’t pick up the phone, send the email, write the letter.

Pat and his partner Brad had moved to a little town in North Carolina called Garner - a place of less than 15,000 people near Raleigh.

Seems Pat had lymphoma. But he didn’t want to trouble anyone. So we were all finding out after the fact.

Too late.

“I walked out this morning
And I wrote down this song
I just can’t remember
Who to send it to...”

Pat was a writer, too. Just a few months older than I am.

The obituary that K forwarded to me mentioned, he once wrote: "Of all who have gone before, I shall miss you the most." (Which for some reason keeps reminding me of Dorothy in Oz saying, “Scarecrow, I think I’ll miss you most of all.”)

That was Pat - Scarecrow to K’s Dorothy.

But he definitely had a brain, and nerve, and heart to spare.

K said she often thought of us, sitting on her back porch late at night, smoking, looking at the moon and the stars. And she just hoped that everyone felt her thinking about them, for all those times she didn’t get in touch.

She hoped that Pat thought of her, too. If nothing else, maybe she was a quirky story he told with much laughter at a dinner party. K is, after all, a born eccentric. A stellar waitress, a fabulous bartender, a relentless chain smoker, a part-time standup comic with short spiky hair of ever-evolving colors. K introduced me to many an offbeat songwriter with her ecclectic mix tapes (back before CD burners existed) - including R.E.M., back in the old days before pop stardom when you still couldn’t understand what the hell Michael Stipe was singing. K made me realize that wait staff at restaurants and bars were human beings. And that tipping more than 15% was the least one could do for someone serving you a meal, or a drink.

She hoped that Pat knew she loved him.

And that I knew she loved me.

Pat was outlived by both his parents, his grandfather, his brother, his nieces and nephews, and his partner, Brad.

The biggest city he ever lived in was Indianapolis, not all that much larger than Terre Haute, Indiana, where we all went to college. He grew up in a town so small it wasn’t even marked on my road atlas - which I thought included everything.

Pat and K were both part of my melodramatic first days of coming out.

An actor from out of town wooed me, got what he wanted and moved on.

Pat, like K, introduced me to music artists at just the time I needed to hear them.

Broken-hearted, I listened to tapes he made me of James Taylor, and Jennifer Warnes singing songs by Leonard Cohen --

“I came so far for beauty
I left so much behind,
My patience and my family,
My masterpiece unsigned...”

I found that my tape of “Famous Blue Raincoat” by Jennifer Warnes was nearly worn out the other day. I went online and ordered the CD. Certain music is bound up with certain people, and sometimes that’s all you have left to hang the memories on.

The obituary concluded: “In a final request, showing his wit to the very end, Pat requested ‘in lieuof donations to charitable organizations... send flowers.’ By all who had the pleasure of knowing him, he will be missed the most.”

Indeed.

Pat didn’t reach 40 years old.

Have a friend who you think fondly of, but haven’t talked to in a while?

Pick up the phone.

Make the call.

You never know.

 

Isn't AIDS Over Yet?

“Oh no! Not ANOTHER good cause!”

A couple of months ago, I received a flyer in the mail trumpeting the upcoming Minnesota AIDS Walk. The 15th walk.

It would be my tenth.

And I have to admit, the minute I saw it in my mailbox, I deflated a little. Oh no, not again.

Every May this happens. Isn’t it over yet?

The first May after I moved to Minneapolis, almost eleven years ago now, I went walking with some of my new friends. The next year, with my fellow trainees from the Minnesota AIDS Project. The next year with my second AIDS buddy, and in memory of my first AIDS buddy. The following year, I walked alone, in memory of my second AIDS buddy.

After that, I didn’t feel like I could walk it anymore. I wanted to do something, but the whole exercise seemed hollow after watching two men die in less than two years.

So I started to help with registering the walkers. Signing people in, tallying up their pledges, smiling, welcoming, leading the cheers for people who were doing their part to make things a little better. Sure, I wasn’t out walking. But I had no one to walk with anymore. And everyone I knew was a struggling artist, they didn’t have money to give. So it felt good to cheer on those who were walking, to see as many of them as possible. And it was a place that the Walk seemed to really need help. There were always huge lines of people waiting to be signed in. Hundreds of people needed to be processed, lots of paperwork doublechecked, and cash and checks collected. I felt like I was doing something to make a difference again.

Over the years since then, I only missed one - the year my mother was graduating from the seminary on her way to becoming a minister. But only family trumps the AIDS Walk. Just wanting to stay home isn’t an excuse.

But I have to admit, it was tempting this year. So tempting I kept putting off sending in my confirmation to volunteer. That is, until someone from the Minnesota AIDS Project called and left a message for me, thanking me for last year, hoping I could help this year.

The face of the Walk has been changing.

Used to be, you could meet anyone and everyone from the gay community in Minneapolis, often from all over the state of Minnesota and Wisconsin as well. Gay men don’t show up much anymore. Every year, I see fewer and fewer familiar faces.

They’re not dying. They just don’t come.

Straight people come. Older people come. College kids come. Children come. People from all the communities of color come.

The number of walkers and the amount of money raised each year just keeps going up.

But gay men, for the most part, have checked out.

I imagine, just like me, they’re tired of caring. They’re tired of worrying. They’d like to think it’s over, or that their effort isn’t needed anymore.

The number of men I know who are HIV+ and living with it are starting to outnumber the men I know who have died.

But that number just keeps growing.

The problem hasn’t been solved, it’s just been managed.

And the latest statistics show that the rate of HIV infection in young gay men in Minnesota last year was up 40% over the year before.

40%

The problem’s starting all over again. And it’s getting worse. Fast.

And gay men seem to be deaf, dumb and blind all of a sudden.

So as much as I didn’t want to spend a Saturday morning in training, and as much as I didn’t want to give up most of my Sunday the following week, I called and I signed up to help with registration.

Year 10.

No end in sight.

40%

I wonder who’s going to show up this year.

 

My Inner Racist

There are five minutes every weekday when I cease being a bleeding-heart liberal and turn into a racist.

And it has more to do with me and my dissatisfaction with my life right now than it has to do with the other person.

I’m a writer. But like most writers, and most people with student loans, I have to hold down a full time day job just to keep the creditors at bay.

I’m slowly making the transition out of this situation, but it’s not coming fast enough, though I doubt the speed of any transition would be fast enough right now.

I can see the life I want, but right now, I’m stuck in the life I have.

I spend eight hours a day, that could be better spent writing, doing document generation, filing and database management - oddly enough, so that scholarship money can be raised so other people have less student loans to pay off.

At the end of the day, at the end of a half hour drive home from my day job, I’m caught at the red light at the end of the off ramp from the highway, mere blocks away from my apartment and the writing I’ve put on hold.

And that’s when the drunk Native American woman starts to approach the cars held hostage by the traffic light.

I know, I know, drunken Native Americans are a stereotype. That doesn’t mean they don’t exist. The stereotype came from somewhere. The stereotype is perpetuated by people like this who are trapped in an entirely different cycle.

Like I said, I’m a bleeding-heart liberal. Ring a bell and the white liberal guilt comes crashing down on my head.

Except for this five minutes a day.

My neighborhood is bounded by two things - a monstrosity of a church complex that, among many other good works, runs a soup kitchen; and an assortment of liquor stores.

So this woman, who is still young, has had the whole day free while I’ve been trapped in an office. She’s just had a free meal. And now she’s panhandling so she can go get her liquid dessert.

What does giving this person money accomplish?

I’ll give her credit. She’s smart. She knows if we were just walking by her on a sidewalk, it would be easy to ignore her. Here, at the traffic light, she has a captive audience. She staggers up to the passenger side window of your car and waits for you to acknowledge her. She has nothing but time. She can wait. She’s counting on the fact that you have a car and she has nothing to force you to feel guilty.

So all you can do is ignore her, until she gives up and walks on to the next car, or the light changes, and pray she has the good sense to step back from the car as you hit the gas.

If I were happier with my life, I might feel more charitable.

As it is, she has the time I want. She has no responsibility. And all I want to do is attach a pad of job application forms to the outside of my car window with a sign that says, “Take one. I don’t care how bad the economy is. McDonald’s is always hiring.”

Did this country create this situation? Sure. If my race had been killed in untold numbers, if my country had been stolen by invaders, if the government had herded my people into tiny dead patches of land, killed all my leaders, destroyed my culture and my gods, broken every treaty they made with my people, sure I’d want to get drunk. Sure, I’d feel like I was entitled to play off other people’s guilt and charity for my entire life and feel justified in getting that free ride. Sure, I’d figure what the hell’s the point in trying to better my lot. No one cares. No one’s going to give me a break. No one’s going to keep their word with me.

Do I perpetuate it? Do I build the very trap I complain about being in because I create obligations to a car and an apartment and an education and credit cards and possessions beyond simple food and shelter? Absolutely.

But I am never faced with the situation more plainly, never feel it is more hopeless and inescapable, than I do in those five minutes at the end of a work day - with the work I didn’t care about behind me, the work I do care about squeezed into what few waking hours I have left ahead of me.

And a drunken Native American woman standing at my passenger side window daring me to ignore her.

Which I do.

It’s that five minutes a day I feel trapped in a cycle I can’t seem to break out of.

It’s that five minutes a day that I hate my country.

It’s that five minutes a day that I hate myself.

 

Not My Dog, Not My Husband

I knew I was getting a little too invested in the situation when I found myself almost giddy over the fact that the dog had just taken a dump.

It’s hard to explain to anyone who doesn’t live in a pet-oriented household. I myself don’t have a pet. The dog belonged to a dear friend of mine from graduate school, who I had been staying with for a couple of weeks. It’s strange how quickly you can get caught up in someone else’s life, particularly when it’s a life you discover you want very much for yourself.

Because he wasn’t just a dear friend from grad school, he’s the great unrequited love of my life.

And he doesn’t know it, but he’s my New Year’s Resolution.

The visit, and subsequent bonding with the dog, came about because a play of mine was being produced by the college at which my friend teaches. My friend was the director of the production. So it was only common sense that he put me up in his guest room during the time I was in town. I visited for a week at the beginning of the rehearsal process, and then returned for the end of rehearsals and performances.

During the first visit, he knocked on my door first thing in the morning because he was in pain. A nasty condition causing severe cramping in his legs, for which he needed medication. The pharmacy had just opened. Could I take his car, go to the pharmacy (he talked me through the directions), and pick up the prescription? Mission accomplished, I took his office keys, walked to campus, and worked on rewrites for the play on his computer while he rested. People called and stopped by looking for him, and I redirected them as best I could.

Those early rehearsals required a lot of talking about what was and wasn’t working in the script, what we didn’t need and what was still missing. Often, these after-rehearsal chats led to the neighborhood bar where we commandeered a table and poured over the text, page by page. Eventually, we got to relax, too.

Other days he was working on getting ready for the school year to begin. We reorganized his office. I went on fast food runs while he did set design for two upcoming shows.

That first visit also coincided with both of our birthdays. I knew he didn’t want a fuss, so I quietly passed a card around the cast and crew, who all signed it. I took him out to dinner. We took a little impromptu all-night road trip to another town and back.

I tried to make coffee, which I don’t drink, but he lives on. This was a well-intentioned but failed experiment.

I finally met his husband, a law student currently living and going to school in another city. I was privy to tense moments, financial worries, and talk of the future when the husband graduates - and who moves for whose career.

When my friend picked me up at the airport the second time, the dog was with him. We had to stop at a crafts store for modeling supplies. We toured antique shops downtown. He was tired, so he asked me to take over driving the rest of the way back home. So I drove this route I now knew a little better, with the dog in the back seat, happy to see me, and the great unrequited love of my life sleeping in the seat beside me. It’s the kind of moment you want to freeze, and keep, you don’t want it to end.

Arriving at home, he said with a smile that I’d have to change the sheets on the guest bed myself. “The first time, you’re a guest. Now you’re a roommate.”

The second visit, I got to see my friend teaching, and even got to try my hand at helping, which only reinforced for me how challenging it is, and what a natural he is at doing it. I saw him interacting with the other faculty. I saw him working with the design and technical people on our production. I got a feel for what it must be like to live in this environment. And it made me miss school, and being surrounded by people who are all just as committed to theater as I was. And this was his “day job.” He got to do art for a living.

The dog and I got to know one another’s habits pretty quickly. By my second visit, I was referred to by my friend as “Uncle Matt” for the dog’s benefit. The dog knew he could count on me to always fill his food and water dishes. He knew I was always happy to go outside with him, run around the house, see that he “did his business.” And that I was always a soft touch for a dog biscuit, if he took care of the necessary bodily functions when requested. He also knew that sometimes I needed to sit and work. He was used to that from his master. So he got used to laying down in a patch of sunshine near my feet while I worked at the dining room table on the play.

I learned he wasn’t supposed to eat grass. That he knew to stop before crossing the street, and that I was supposed to help reinforce that. That he liked to jump in water whenever possible. That there were times I needed to keep him on the leash, and certain areas where I could just let him run free. I learned always to keep a plastic bag handy, for cleanup purposes when out for a walk. The routine alert was if he stopped and circled a spot three times. This always indicated a need to get out the plastic bag. There was a day he just didn’t go, despite walks and food and several jaunts around the yard. This became a focus of concern. So when, late at night, on the final walk around the yard for the day, the dog started circling a spot, then squatted, well, I felt something like a sense of pride - in the dog, in myself, really peculiar, but there it was.

The dog quickly learned the sound of my voice, and started paying attention to me. The dog started following me around. When he and his master got ahead of me on walks outside, the dog would turn around to make sure I was still following them.

The second visit also coincided with September 11th. My friend always has CNN on in his bedroom, to lull him to sleep, and to inform him again when he wakes up. I was doing prep work for one of the other theater classes I would be visiting as a guest speaker when my friend walked in and said I needed to come in and see something. The first plane had hit the Twin Towers. He went to take a shower and get himself presentable for design meetings up at school. By the time he emerged from the bathroom, the other tower had been hit. There was word about the crash at the Pentagon, that most of the other government buildings were being evacuated. My friend had to go off and get some work done on campus. The dog and I watched the news, as the towers fell, and the airports were closed, and another plane went down not all that far away from us. Turns out nobody got much done up at school that day. The Audio-Visual people got a news link fed to one of the classrooms and people just kept dropping in there to see what was going on. People worriedly tried to reach their friends in New York. Everyone turned up alive and well, but shaken. My friend came home early and napped on the couch before rehearsal. I tried to concentrate on some script work, but wandered back to see the TV screen playing the same images, over and over again, and my friend asleep, with the dog by his side.

I wasn’t with my family in the place I grew up. I wasn’t in the city I live in now. I was in a quiet college town where my friend doesn’t even lock his back door, or his car, or his office. A town where we were rehearsing a play, getting ready for opening night. And the rest of the world was coming unglued.

Getting on a plane in a few days seemed a little unnerving - assuming, of course, that the airports were open by then.

The play was a success. Everyone needed a laugh, and a happy ending, that week. Standing ovation of a full house on opening night.

When it came time to go, the dog thought we were going on a trip and kept trying to hop in the car and go along. In order to distract him while the trunk of the car was being packed, I took him for one last run around the house. He found a spot he liked in the process and started circling. I went inside and got a plastic bag.

My friend said, “Oh no, you don’t have to do that.”

“I don’t mind. Besides, it’s the last time. When am I going to have to do this again?”

No more stalling. Time to go. My friend looked at me. “I’m lousy at goodbyes, you know that,” he said. I gave him a hug and headed for the door. The dog followed me. “No. Stay. Be good.” The dog stayed at the door and watched me go, not knowing I wasn’t coming back. It was almost more than I could bear.

So, that’s my New Year’s Resolution.

Moving myself more toward a life of writing full-time. No more of this unrelated “day job” stuff. Turn my apartment into more of an organized office space and not just a cluttered wreck that I only come home to sleep and eat in. Make time to meet new people. Date. See what happens.

It’s a tall order. But I’ve seen the results. And it’s a life I want. Sitting around pining for it isn’t going to get the job done.

We’ll see where I am this time next year.

 

Fear of Flying

I’m not afraid of flying. Really. When the plane’s in the air, I’m normally just fine.

It’s taking off and landing I have a problem with.

Taking off and landing remind me of gravity.

And the fact that the plane is several tons of metal - which should not be able to float.

I’m one of those people who always reads the laminated card on the plane and its emergency procedures. I actually watch and listen to the flight crew instructions even though I know them by heart. I even check for the nearest exit, keeping in mind the nearest exit may be behind me.

A copy of Vanity Fair is normally my talisman on such occasions. Particularly around the holidays, Vanity Fair can be counted on to provide some reassuring eye candy for distraction during the flight. Thanksgiving it was Brad Pitt. Christmas, it’s Tom Cruise. However, I find myself gravitating away from the photo spreads and infotainment and over to articles on Pakistan, the CIA, Bin Laden, etc. Something in my brain has definitely shifted. The magazine is distracting, but in a less reassuring way.

I’m sure many people are far more scared of flying now, what with all the planes crashing into buildings the country was subjected to this fall - but that’s more a fear of your fellow passengers and what they might do than being scared of the concept of flying (or rather crashing) itself.

Most people seem to be more annoyed with the act of flying than scared of it.

I’m more annoyed with my fellow passengers than scared of them.

Particularly since the extra safety measures kicked in, a staggering number of my fellow passengers are acting like they’re tremendously bent out of shape, that it’s all such an ordeal, that all these extra security measures were put in place merely to impose upon their God-given rights to be pampered and served (and these aren’t first class passengers, these poor suffering souls are flying coach with me).

Oh, puh-leeze.

The collective groans that go up at the announcement of the slightest delay.

“The crew needs a chance to groom the plane, so we won’t be boarding just yet.”

I’m more amused by that announcement, frankly. Groom the plane? What is that, a couple of guys with bristle brushes in the stable, making sure the plane’s coat is shiny like a freshly scrubbed horse?

The plane is fully loaded and we’re all seated, and then the pilot says they need to order a new computer, because one of the two computers that helps run the plane isn’t talking to the other one. Hey, order and program away, my good man. The grinding and groaning noises beneath the middle of the hull, where I was seated, while they were reprogramming the new computer - not the most reassuring noises in the world. I wish I could be as blase as my fellow passengers about incidents like this, that I could relax enough to feel as put-upon as they do. Me, I’m thinking about take off and landing, as usual, only more so.

The plane is 45 minutes or more away from landing and the guy next to me has his cell phone clutched in one hand, a lighter and pack of cigarettes in the other. Sir, you’re making me nervous - please see somebody about the addictive behavior. I’m sure there’s a 12-step program somewhere. Do they make “the patch” for cell phone junkies?

The four times I’ve flown since September 11th, the airlines I’ve been exposed to have all instituted some kind of randomizer in their computer system, and certain people with certain boarding passes are pulled aside and given the once over.

Personally, I welcome this. I’m sure it’s not catching every potentially threatening passenger, but seeing it in action, right there in front of you as everyone is boarding the aircraft, that’s a visually reassuring sort of deterent for me. I don’t mind people going through my bags. I plan on it.

On my most recent flight, this one woman was seperated from her husband and pulled aside for the bag search and magic wand treatment (and the airline employees are very polite, even apologetic, about it). Several minutes later she huffed on board and took her seat. She would not shut up about the supposed idignity of it all. Well, lady, I’m fairly sure you’re not a terrorist, unless you’re planning on BORING US ALL TO DEATH.

“It’s humiliating! It’s invasive!”

No, a full body cavity search in front of your fellow passengers would be humiliating and invasive.

“These are personal items they’re handling, touching your private things.”

1) see above note on the full body cavity search

2) if you’re that upset by it, remember to put your diaphragm and birth control pills and tampons in the luggage you check at the ticket counter next time

3) if you’re that upset by it, don’t fly

4) SHUT UP

Really, you were warned. This is not the complete dismantling of your right to privacy. The airlines are being CAREFUL. Which they weren’t before. Which is how we all got into this mess.

You think this is bad? Israelis would LAUGH at you, and our airline industry. We’re not even four months out from the most mind-numbing terrorist event ever to take place on American soil and some of us have managed to completely put it out of our heads and make it all about us, and all the inconveniences we have to suffer for “no good reason.”

That’s insulting to so many people - particularly the folks in our armed forces right now, who have been separated from their loved ones for indefinite periods of time, so we have the luxury of continuing our tiny, not all that important, little lives and careers, uninterrupted, and barely ruffled. Or the Afghans, whose country is being turned inside out again for the umpteenth time in as many years - who live under the threat of real violence and death and hunger and homelessness and oppression every single day.

If these extra spot checks, and complainers like that, are ALL I have to put up with in the name of a little more security, even the illusion of security, I consider myself one of the lucky ones.

There are women and their children spending the holidays, and every day, with no husband, no father, because of what happened this past September.

So here’s a hand up, lady, so you can get over yourself.

 

Meeting Josh Hartnett - or Why Does My Brain Always Shut Down Just When I Need It Most?

“Hi. I’m sorry, you probably get this all the time, but are you Josh Hartnett?”

I knew he still lived in Minnesota. I knew he had ties to the theater community in town. Two close friends of mine had worked with him during his days at the Youth Performance Company. Sam Shepard and Jessica Lange live in the area, too. A lot of films get shot in the Twin Cities area. It’s not completely out of the realm of possibility that a person might run into a movie star.

Still, even with the unmistakable face, and the birthmark on his neck, I would have felt like a real dork if I hadn’t qualified my initial greeting and left us both an out. Because, though it’s not out of the realm of possibility - even movie stars have to be somewhere on a Thursday night - well, it just doesn’t happen all that often, does it?

We were both in the lobby of a community center in a bad part of town. Part of the center was a theater. Three times a year, that theater does showcases of short plays written especially for neighborhood kids by professional playwrights. The kids, all less than 15 years old, are the stars of each little show. An adult actor works alongside them. The full resources of the theater - technical, artistic and publicity-wise - are put behind each of these showcases. It’s meant to be a self-esteem-building exercise, giving the kids who go through the acting program a chance to shine, to give them an experience where adults are spending time with them, working with them. It’s gratifying to see what a little applause can do to brighten up a kid’s life, to open up their mind to new possibilities in an often bleak world. Makes one think that theater might not be without purpose after all. I’d participated as a writer before, in last Christmas’ showcase, and now I was back again. There’s very little stress involved for the writers. No one’s really coming to see our work. The focus is all on the kids. The writers come to the show just as moral support, to be another set of clapping hands.

So I was already having a good time that evening, catching up with some friends who came to see the show, meeting both my adult actress and the young girl who did my script. Then I turn around, and there he stands.

Woolen winter cap pulled down over his hair, regulation army green jacket worn against the winter cold. (I’m fast becoming convinced I’m not much of a homosexual, because I didn’t notice the pants or the shoes). I’ll cut myself a little slack, however, because I was sort of fixed on his face at the time. And those sleepy, brown eyes. I’m a sucker for puppy dog eyes.

Though I managed to remain in conversation with a couple of different people over the course of the next ten minutes, my eyes kept wandering over in his direction. Was that really Josh Hartnett?

He might have escaped notice if my brain hadn’t recently logged a number of images of him out of Teen People magazine earlier that day at the supermarket. An interview, a photo spread, a pull-out double-sided poster. And of course, the only thing more embarrassing than admitting that I picked it up and looked at it, is the fact that I also bought a copy. Yes, the checkout guy, and the bag boys all did a double take on that among my groceries. It’s sitting next to me on the desk as I type this.

Pretty soon my friends departed, and I had no real reason to stick around. Except him. And the fact that I’d be kicking myself for a very long time, if I didn’t just walk up to him and say...something.

Autographs never occur to me. I know actors, some of my best friends are actors. I never think of their signatures as being anything out of the ordinary. I even had paper and a pen, but it never crossed my mind. No, I was going to try to initiate a conversation with no props as backup. Man, what an idiot. Brave, perhaps. Idiotic, definitely.

His face was a smooth as a baby’s. You wouldn’t even know he shaved except for a little patch, no doubt deliberate, of light whiskers at the base of his chin. (Me, I’m one of those guys that gets five o’clock shadow starting at noon, so once again I envy him).

Approaching him from the side, I tap him lightly once on the shoulder, not knowing what else to do, not trusting my voice to kick in and grab his attention. I could feel my body language throughout, my body apologizing for entering his personal space, all but backing away even as I tried to stand my ground.

How weird must that be, to have complete strangers walk up to you and want to talk to you?

“Hi. I’m sorry, you probably get this all the time, but are you Josh Hartnett?”

He immediately offered me his hand to shake. Damn, he’s polite. Which, of course, made it twice as hard to speak as when I first opened my mouth. I liked him better, and now those eyes were on me.

Handshake. OK, don’t be all limp and passive about it but don’t overcompensate and try to out-butch the straight guy. A nice normal handshake will do. Standard issue, it’s really not supposed to make a statement or call attention to itself, or, worse yet, feel like some kind of come-on.

These are the things that shoot through your brain to your hand when time seems to be moving very slowly. In truth, the whole encounter lasted a minute, tops.

“I really like your work, man.”

The brain is running down the catalog - PEARL HARBOR (just bought the DVD), O (waiting for the rental), TOWN AND COUNTRY, BLOW DRY (maybe on a slow weekend I’ll catch those two), HERE ON EARTH (only for him and Chris Klein would I sit through that), THE VIRGIN SUICIDES (I still haven’t forgiven Sophia Coppola for ruining GODFATHER III, so I’ve resisted that one, but it’s supposed to be good, and some of his best work, aside from O, so it’s on the rental list now), THE FACULTY (only for him and Elijah Wood), HALLOWEEN H20 (I have it on tape, but I’ve been too scared to watch it at night - need something other than a gray, sunless winter day, too - I admit it, I’m a wuss), the upcoming BLACK HAWK DOWN and FORTY DAYS AND FORTY NIGHTS. (This isn’t just Josh. I do this for everyone. My gray matter is a pop-cultural dumping ground.)

“I actually saw you on a magazine cover today.”

The last shred of self-preservation instinct and dignity rolling around in my suddenly light head manages to stomp on all the other details related to that magazine and keeps me from spilling them.

After all, he can’t read my mind - thank God. He’s not likely to log on to this website. Even if he knew I was gay, I’m sure it wouldn’t matter. But I’m on the high side of 35, and he hasn’t even reached 25. There’s a reason I don’t even consider dating guys that young - it’s embarrassing, it’s ridiculous, it’s doomed to failure - OK, that’s three reasons. But a fairly standard dating rule should always be, don’t date anyone old enough to be your father, don’t date anyone younger than your little brother.

This whole encounter, and the backflips my brain is doing during it, is already way too stalker-like. Slather on a little “chicken hawk” and, well, I’m perceived as one step away from checking out crawlspaces in basements.

“I’m one of the playwrights who worked on this. Mine was the last one. It was nice of you to come.”

“Well, my girlfriend was the director on it...”

“Oh, so you had to come,” I said with a smile, I thought.

(Note to myself - Never try to be witty when you don’t have your wits about you.)

“No, I wanted to come.”

(If you have to explain the joke, it’s not funny, move on.)

He extended a hand again to shake mine. “What’s your name?”

All right, even weirder than having complete strangers walk up and want to talk to you, must be to have complete strangers walk up and want to talk to you who, of course, know your name, but then don’t bother/forget to introduce themselves.

With that deep voice of his being aimed at me, I was lucky to remember my name. But I did, and provided it on request.

As a friend said to me once when I was debating walking up and introducing myself to Rufus Wainwright, “It’s not gonna kill you. Besides, he probably won’t even remember you tomorrow.”

Nothing ventured...

I extricated myself from the conversation as gracefully as I could manage. Went home, read the magazine article. Made it all seem both more and less real.

Went out to see a movie the next day, emerged from the darkened theater after the last of the credits had rolled, and, I kid you not, nearly walked into one of those large 3-D cardboard displays they put up in the lobby for coming attractions. Standing there, staring out at me - not one, not two, but three Josh Hartnetts. FORTY DAYS AND FORTY NIGHTS. On the way out the door, a bright white movie poster, lit from the inside. Same movie. Josh, laid out across the bottom of it, hands behind his head, smiling. The boy should smile more often.

Got home, finally opened the DVD case and watched PEARL HARBOR to cap off my surreal extended weekend.

I read somewhere that when you touch a person, some of them rubs off on you, literally. Skin cells, that sort of thing. It certainly wasn’t an “I’m never washing this hand again” kind of feeling. I have, several times in fact, as hygiene and contact with the outside world require of us all. But I have to say, every now and again, I look at that hand a little differently. The hand I write with, eat with, operate the remote with, etc. Strange, I know. No one’s more surprised than I. This entire article to the contrary, I’m not easily star struck. It seems to take meeting the human being for me, for some reason. The sudden thought that, “Oh, yeah. They’re real. They exist. They’re just living a very different life than I am.” And yet, I guess, overall, in all the ways that matter, not that different at all.

He lives in Minnesota. His parents are here. His girlfriend directed a show. So he dropped by to see it.

In time, I’m sure this feeling will fade. It’s only been a day or so.

But it’s nice to know that there are folks out there, gracious enough to take a stranger’s hand, to take a compliment, to spare a few words.

Makes you more inclined to take the time in “normal” life. With the people around you on a daily basis. Because it does matter. You just never know.

Thanks for the reminder, Josh.

 

Rule #1 - No Nude Women

It was my friend’s stag party, and I was the only gay man there, so we all knew the rule was bound to be broken. Even though the fiancee and the wives of the assembled men were clear in their desire that no nude females be involved in the evening’s plans, they also made it clear that if such a thing did happen, they just didn’t want to know about it. The guys had their out. Personally, I felt like a spy, but the groom-to-be was a very close friend, and I was going to miss the wedding, so there I was, following the heterosexual male tradition.

The evening started calmly enough. A Greek-American restaurant, a chatty waitress. Me, I preferred the tall, dark and hunky busboy. Talk veered dangerously toward politics, with comments in praise of Reagan’s economic policies, and the quote, “If you’re a conservative before the age of 40, you don’t have a heart. If you’re a liberal after the age of 40, you don’t have a brain.” Sports was slightly safer. I didn’t follow sports, but I at least looked interested watching the TV over the bar. I didn’t tell them it was because I thought the lead basketball player on our team was awfully cute.

Next stop, a German beer hall. We got there early, before the real crowds arrived. The dance floor was full of couples twirling and skipping to jaunty German drinking songs. A portly balding old gentleman in white beard and bushy sideburns filled out a bright red German military uniform, complete with pointy metal helmet. The hall’s own Kaiser Wilhem worked the crowds all night - a sort of jovial, militant Father Christmas. The serving girls were all in traditional beer wench outfits. One lady wandered the crowd with a small wooden plate holding a miniature seesaw of sorts, designed to launch snuff right up into one’s nasal passages. She wouldn’t ask, she’d just walk right up into your personal space and stick the thing under your nose. You’d have to be quick and clear to decline or you’d find your nose full of snuff. Other beer wenches wandered the crowd with long planks holding twelve shots a piece. I felt sorriest for the poor guys who worked the restaurant part of the hall as waiters - they were forced to wear lederhausen. The young men behind the bar were spared that uniform. Some young men were drinking from large glass boots. The standard beer mugs were so large I wondered how anyone carried them, much less drank the full contents. The people chugging from the glass boots floored me. Everyone, miraculously, remained standing hour after hour.

When fetching young ladies walked past our group, the men turned as one and watched appreciatively. Me, I was looking at the ladies’ escorts. It was a regular Abercrombie & Fitch catalog, on both sides of the bar. I was perfectly content to let the rest of the group look at their kind of scenery while I looked at mine. One of the group made reference to all the (female) eye candy, and my friend the groom threw an arm around me and paid me a compliment along those lines. The guy with us was kind of thrown. “Come on,” the groom continued, “if you were gay, wouldn’t you go for my friend here?” The guy gamely tried to hold up his end of what was becoming an increasingly weird conversation for him. “Well, uh, I don’t know. If he were George Clooney maybe.” “Well, I ‘m no George Clooney,” I said, letting the poor guy off the hook.

They just assumed I was straight. Still did. Right over their heads. That kind of diversity doesn’t translate well in a German beer hall. I have to give my friend credit for trying.

Next to last stop, of course, the local pub with dancing girls in back. Atrociously blond wood-paneled walls on the bottom, the top half of the walls was all mirrors, with a friendly pastel neon outline of a reclining nude woman and the words, “Party Time Girls” above her.

The groom and I sat off to the side at a table. He was willing to play along and set foot in the place, but he wasn’t going to sit up in front against the catwalk, holding out dollar bills. He sat with his back to the action and asked me to give him the blow by blow, you’ll pardon the expression.

“Well, let’s see. She’s certainly limber. The choreography seems to involve either laying down and hiking her legs in the air, then slapping her own ass a few times. Or squatting in front of a guy and pulling down her top to expose her...oh my...rather ample bosom. Standing, she’s doing the breast moves again, plus she hikes up her slip and slaps her own ass some more. Pretty much a variation on those moves. OK, this other lady, she’ll stick her breasts in your face if you like. She can also lick her own nipples. Oh, did I mention the Catholic school girl outfit?”

“This doesn’t do a thing for you, does it?” the groom asked.

“Nope. I’ve actually seen more flesh in feminist theater. Genitalia, the whole thing. More breasts and vaginas in one performance than I’ll probably see again in my entire life.”

“If it were men?”

“Like this? All look, don’t touch? If I’m going to be that frustrated, I’d rather just rent porn and stay home. It’s more cost effective and no one’ll throw me out for jerking off.”

There was a mix in the clientele of older neighborhood regulars and young college boys. The younger guys in particular seemed to flock around the stage to watch, even if they couldn’t get close enough to get a seat at the runway.

“Well,” the groom said, “Right now, even if I was interested, my view is completely obscured. All I can see is a lot of frat boys’ asses.”

“Best view of the evening, in my opinion,” I said. “Man, what’s the big deal? You’d think they’d never seen a naked woman before.”

My friend just stared at me.

Oh. Right. At that age, most of them still hadn’t.

Which is a shame, because these boys were in their prime. Kind of nice they were so distracted, so I could look without being caught.

An overweight drunk with a miniature top hat strapped to his head, proclaiming him the “Groom To Be” was ushered in by his buddies and seated at the runway. The “Groom To Be” label might was well have been a bright red bulls-eye painted on his shirt. Of course the lady of the house came to visit, while his friends gathered around and cheered. “He’s getting married in two weeks! Sucker!”

“Oh yeah, he’s SO dumb to get married,” I whispered to my friend, “Because, lord knows, if he remained single, he’d have hot naked women coming on to him ALL the time.” My friend doubled over laughing, as Tubby the Tuba got his private lap dance nearby.

We’d nearly escaped when my friend’s group got an idea. If my friend wouldn’t go to the dancing girl, the dancing girl would go to him. At first, I didn’t recognize her. She had a top on. “Hi,” she said to my friend, “your buddies over there wanted me to stop by. They say you’re engaged. Me, too.” She showed off the ring, and had a completely innocent and friendly chat with my friend, while the guys in the back were giggling to themselves, imagining all the naughty talk that must be going on. I rolled my eyes for their benefit, so they’d feel they’d accomplished their mission.

And I kept thinking, “How’d she meet her husband? Is she still going to work after she gets married?”

Last stop, a small neighborhood bar with a polka band singing “Happy Birthday” to a young and very drunk fellow and his pals. We congratulated the birthday boy, knowing full well he probably wouldn’t remember the last few hours of his birthday even though we would. The band struck up “Roll Out The Barrel,” which, judging by the alcohol level of the young patrons around us, had definitely been rolling for a while.

One TV over the bar had an old B-movie with a young Peter Graves, showing a lot of nostril, squaring off against a spooky alien with Marty Feldman-sized, bug-eyes trying, in vain, of course, to take over the black and white world. Clear across the bar, another TV had a re-run of “Profiler” with two men, stripped to the waist and fighting for some unknown reason. Lots of artfully sweaty man flesh. The groom turned, saw the men grappling and asked, “What’s that? ‘Women In Love’?” And people wonder why I like him so much. One last inside joke for my benefit on this very loud hetero night out.

The lights came up in the bar. We all parted company on the sidewalk. I was glad I stayed sober for the evening. It was a lot of fun getting a peek into another world.

And it made me sorry I’d miss the big day, and the reception. With my friend in charge, it’s bound to be interesting. Not your average wedding.

But then that’s me. Always the bridesmaid...

 

The Man That Got Away

I’ve come to believe that friends aren’t so much lost as they are just...misplaced.

For instance, my friend Doug called me the other day, got the machine and said,

“I’m just leaving you a message to let you know I am getting married on December 28th, the year 2001, to a woman you’ve never met. Her name is Marney.”

Needless to say, I was thrilled to hear his news. Doug’s a very good friend and I want him to be happy.

He also said, among other things,

“Let’s try and keep in touch. I know it’s been kind of hard.”

This is a man I used to spend a majority of my free time with. I’d see him two times a week at least. We were part of a couple of writing groups together, and were very important to each other’s growth as writers. There were some days where we felt like we were the only support system one another had. We’d talk late into the night, even though both of us had to report to a “day job” the next morning, just because it was such a relief to be speaking to someone else who understood the struggle.

And now I’m standing next to my answering machine, listening to this message, and I’m trying to remember when was the last time we even talked on the phone, or laid eyes on one another.

Doug has a contentious relationship with his ex-wife, but he also has two kids who he absolutely adores and are always the priority in his life. Difficult jobs refused to end, and dream jobs fell through. Cars died and his kids’ college bills loomed large. Gradually, Doug had to drop out of the groups we were both a part of for life reasons, mostly related to having to work two or three jobs just to make ends meet.

I also had to drop out of the groups as I got presented with artistic opportunities with killer deadlines, and I realized at the same time that I was “grouped out,” putting lots of effort into coordinating creative groups, but not getting much out of them myself anymore.

Doug invested his heart in significant relationships with two women in that span of several years, even moved in with one of them. And it took a lot out of him when both those relationships ultimately just refused to work. I know he put his all into them both. If anyone was at fault or not trying hard enough, it certainly wasn’t my friend Doug.

Doug also invested a lot of hope in the cavalcade of loser guys who crossed my path in the game of love. I’m not sure what caused him more grief - seeing me get hurt time and again, or seeing me essentially give up.

We cried in many a beer together, Doug and I, not finding much solace in either gender, but thankfully finding some much needed refuge in one another’s company.

The last common ground we met on was a theater showcase we both had short works in together.

That was September of 2000.

I haven’t seen him since.

We used to call one another alot, too.

But as we withdrew from the groups and into the focus on our separate lives, those calls dwindled as well.

He worked nights, he didn’t have email. Contact became difficult.

It’s not that one or the other of us stopped trying. Or didn’t care.

I think we both just...forgot.

Then Doug proposed to a woman who made him happy. And she said yes.

And he started thinking of all the people he wanted to tell, and to invite. My name came to mind. And in calling me, he realized just how long it had been since we’d shared anything.

I find myself doing the same thing.

My hopes and fortunes have gone up and down many times in the last year, as I focused my efforts on often solitary writing projects which would not premiere locally, perhaps not be seen locally at all. So even the things that did pan out, I couldn’t share with any of my friends here in the city. These local productions of the recent past had been another chance, like the writing groups, to gather my friends and catch up.

I have a ready catalog of excuses.

And a growing list of friends who mean a great deal to me that collectively seem to be drifting out of my grasp.

Thanks to Doug, I have a second chance to rebuild our camaraderie.

Friends, like gardens, take a bit of tending, some time and attention. The seeds, the people, will grow, with or without your help. And I find myself wanting more and more to be a part of that again. And wondering how to do it. But I realize my share of the work is down to me.

As Oscar Wilde once said, “Losing a parent is tragic. Losing both parents seems like carelessness.”

Who are the people who mean the most to you?

Have you told them so lately?

Make the time.

 

Why I Don't Hate George W. Bush

Hey, I’m as surprised as anyone.

I didn’t vote for W, not even by accident.

I didn’t vote for any of the presidents who selected the Supreme Court justices that voted W into office so they could have an early retirement.

And when the first of the bad (soon to be worse) news started coming in from New York and DC, I turned to a friend and said, “I know this sounds horrible, but at a time like this, I wish we had a real President in the White House.”

There was someone else that day who really ragged on a group of us for saying bad things about Bush 2. Personally, I don’t agree with her. There’s a difference between being supportive and being blindly and unquestioningly devoted. Questioning the words and actions of the President isn’t being disloyal to the United States. I’m all for “rah-rah, let’s all pull together for the greater good” patriotism. Really, I am. But that doesn’t mean I’m going to shut off my brain or turn down the alarm on my common sense early warning system.

Living in a free country means we have the right to question our leaders, and to hold them accountable for the actions they take, supposedly on our behalf. They’re representing us, so we have a right to make sure that they’re doing so in a way we approve.

If all else fails, there’s always the next election.

But even on 9/11/2001, President Bush 2 began to surprise me, and in a good way.

He didn’t have to get back to the White House that same day. He could have tucked himself away in a protective bunker at an undisclosed location. He didn’t have to address the American public at all. The Secret Service didn’t want him to come back to the White House. They couldn’t guarantee the place was secure. But Bush 2 insisted. He gave them the day to do their best, but he felt it was important, to both the U.S. and the world at large, that he address the public seated in the Oval Office. Was his delivery a little wobbly? Sure. But do I give him credit for having the guts to do that? Heck, yeah.

And then there was the speech.

When Bush 2 addressed the Congress, that was truly one of the most moving speeches I’ve heard a President give in a very long time. If you didn’t see it in its entirety, I’m sure the full text is still available on the CNN or New York Times websites. It’s worth reading. News clips and sound bites don’t do it justice. Whoever wrote that speech deserves a raise. Whoever coached him on how to deliver that speech deserves a raise. It was what I, and I imagine a great many people across the country, needed to hear, at the time we most needed to hear it.

And because of it, I’m willing to be patient. I’m willing to cut Bush 2, and his staff, and the military, and the diplomats, and the intelligence community, all the slack I can manage. Will I be watching closely? You bet. I’ve watched more CNN in the last 2 months than I’ve watched in the two years previous to that. But so far, I like the majority of what I’m seeing.

Am I chagrined when the military admits to accidentally bombing the same Red Cross station twice in less than two weeks? Sure.

Do I wish someone would teach Bush 2 how to pronounce the word “terror”? Heck, yeah. Every time he says “age of tara” I think he’s referring to Gone With The Wind.

Are the constant references to “evildoers” and “the evil one” kind of embarrassing? Well, yeah, sort of. Less is more, W.

Is the administration still in thrall to big business over the little guy, and the environment, and just about everything else? Unfortunately, yeah.

Would I consider him a friend to the gay community? Well, he’s certainly not an outspoken advocate, but he also doesn’t seem to judge people by what group they might be a part of. He seems to get to know folks on an individual basis, and like them for who they are and their devotion to the good of the country. Which is a lot better than I expected. If the religious right is nervous about him possibly being perceived as pro-gay, the man must be doing something right, if only by accident.

Will I vote for him in the next election? Not if somebody more capable and enlightened comes along. I’m still waiting for that to happen, however.

But do I think we have a real President in the White House? Surprisingly, yes.

 

Role Model? Me?

“Matthew, I’m bisexual.”

Three words, and the young man sitting across from me changed our relationship forever.

I had no idea that rather substantial piece of information was coming my way.

I knew the guy. We’d been working on a project for a few weeks and got along well. He was intelligent, funny, and not at all hard to look at. Sure, I wondered, and I suppose part of me might be hoping in a silly sort of way, but I never really gave it much thought, or felt comfortable broaching the subject. After all, we hardly knew each other.

But I must have done something right. Because this guy I thought I barely knew felt like he could trust me. Judging by the hushed tones in which he shared it, I was sure we weren’t talking about something that was common knowledge. And here he was, trusting me with it.

Suddenly, I got a little flash of what it must feel like to be a parent. All manner of sexual fantasies evaporated, and I just wanted to let this guy know that everything would be OK. I wanted to make sure that nothing bad ever happened to him. I started feeling...well, paternal.

I remember being where he was at that moment. I told friends long before I told family. To this day, I couldn’t rationally explain why. My mother was ready to talk about it before I was. I even lied to her after I’d pretty much come out to myself. It took me a long time to work up the courage to discuss it. When I told my dad, and he took it well, I had the strange reaction of being upset that he wasn’t more upset about it. After all, it was a big deal to me and really stressing me out all this time, and he just took it in stride. What’s the matter with you people? You’re so accepting!

I’ve heard the horror stories. I realize I have been blessed with the best of all possible family reactions to the news. And in my head, I knew that was how it would turn out. But even secure in their love for me, I couldn’t bring myself to come out to them for what now seems like a ridiculously long time.

So here’s this guy telling me something I know from experience is really difficult.

I’m simply blown away by it. I suddenly realize that no one had ever come out to me before. I was incredibly honored, and I told him so.

And then I listened, and listened some more. In fact, I still am. Because right now, I’m one of the only people he can share certain things with. And not all bad or scary things either. He’s met a guy he likes. It’s not uncomplicated, but it’s good. He’s happy. Somehow it’s even harder, and sadder, that he doesn’t have a lot of people he can share his joy with.

So I listen. I don’t tell him what to do, I just make sure he knows that I hear him. And I’m happy for him, and thinking of him, and wishing him well, even when we can’t see each other daily.

And I say the things I wish someone had said to me when I was where he is now - you’re a good person, trust your instincts, don’t shut yourself off from the people you love, or from happiness. Be patient, things get better and easier with time. PLAY SAFE.

One of my friends, hearing this tale the other day, said it must be great for this guy to have a role model like me.

Role model?!

Holy heck, when did that happen?

Then I realized we’re all role models, all gay men living openly. We make it possible for the other guys, the ones in the closet, to see that it’s OK, that you can live your life without hiding.

Every time I write a play and follow it somewhere, it’s like a sign over my head saying, “Yup, he must be gay.” And the tricky part is, not to flinch from it, not to apologize for it. It is what it is. If someone has a problem with it, we can address that. But it’s silly to pretend that maybe I’m not, when the whole point of my writing about it is to show that it’s no big deal.

We set the standard when we refuse to treat it as a big deal.

I was at a seminar recently about marketing my work, and one of the exercises was to determine what some of the main audiences were for my work, and then discuss how I might get the word out to these groups of people. One the groups was, of course, “the gay and lesbian community.” That’s when I hesitated. When it came to my turn to speak in the group, would I say that? It basically meant I’d be coming out to a group of complete strangers, nearly all of whom I would never see again. What would be the point in coming out to them? And yet, what’s the point of not coming out to them?

Statistics prove, time and again, that people who know someone who’s gay, anyone who’s gay, are more likely to be tolerant or even accepting, of the gay and lesbian community as a whole, and more likely not to go along with anti-gay legislation or rhetoric.

Every person who knows, becomes a potential new ally. But they can’t help if they don’t know their help is needed. And they won’t help if gays and lesbians are just “those other people” who aren’t connected to their daily lives, who aren’t a part of their reality.

We’re a part of everyone’s reality. Time they knew it, don’t you think?

Even after twenty plus years of being out, I still hesitate.

But if I hadn’t been an unapologetically out gay man - not “in-your-face,” just comfortable in my own skin, and not shying away from the written material I create - if I hadn’t been that man, then this young guy would not have sat down and shared his heart with me.

He wouldn’t have known there was one more person out there like himself, one more person he could talk to, one more person who was out and seemed to be doing just fine in his life.

Because this guy isn’t out to the world at large yet, I keep the telling details of our conversations, and his name, to myself for now. It’s out of respect for his privacy, and realizing that he has to take his own path in his own time, just as I did. And does his name really matter? Truth is, he could be anyone who crosses your path as you go about your daily business. Wouldn’t you like him to know he could talk to you, too? Wouldn’t you like him to know there are still more people like him out there? That he’s not alone?

There’s an easy way to do that. Be, fully, who you are, without apology.

I think of this guy often. He keeps me honest. He keeps me open.

And he makes me proud.

And so, once again, I thank him.

Role model? When the heck did that happen?

It can start today. You may already be doing it and not even realize it. Keep up the good work. Someone out there needs you.

 

Burning The American Flag

I want to be able to burn the American flag.

OK, OK, hold onto your keyboards a minute, boys and girls. Don’t go sending me all those hate emails yet, OK?

I didn’t say I wanted to burn the American flag.

I said I want to BE ABLE TO.

There’s a difference.

And it’s the reason this country continues working so well. It’s the reason that, despite all our differences in ethnic origin, religion, political views, age, gender and sexual orientation, this country hands over the reins of power from one person to another on the city, state and national levels every couple of years with no bloodshed.

It’s the Bill of Rights - the first ten amendments to the Constitution of the United States - the first of which guarantees freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom of assembly, and freedom to petition the government if you feel you’ve been wronged by its actions. And that’s just the First Amendment.

Personally, I don’t feel like I want to burn the American flag. I don’t understand the people who do. I’ve been mad about things this country has done from time to time, but I’ve never been so ticked off that I wanted to burn the flag.

Frankly, before September 11th of this year, the flag didn’t mean all that much to me. I knew it was there. I did the Pledge of Allegiance in school every day when I was a kid. My family celebrated the Fourth of July like everyone else. But as a symbol, the flag itself never carried too much weight with me. The country always seemed way too big and diverse for just one symbol to represent us all.

Nowadays, I find myself moved by the sight of the flag. Because it’s come to represent something very real to me - the spirit of people pulling together in the face of adversity, of the country as a whole moving on.

But burning the flag is a way of expressing yourself. And we have freedom of expression in this country, at least for the moment. That’s something I’ve been worried about a lot lately. Just how much freedom of expression we have left, how much we’re willing to give away in the name of safety, and how much we’re going to have taken from us by an atmosphere of fear that is permeating the national consciousness right now.

Ben Franklin once said something to the effect of “Those who give up a little freedom to obtain a little safety, deserve neither freedom, nor safety.”

Freedom isn’t easy. There are a lot of people in this country who would like nothing better than to silence all the people who don’t believe the same things that they do, worship the way they do, act in the bedroom the way they do. So they won’t feel challenged, so they won’t have to think. But that’s not the way America works.

That’s how the people from other countries who attack us work - only one way of viewing the world, only one religion, only one morality, is acceptable.

Right now, in the midst of all this craziness going on in the world, 52 men in Egypt are on trial for being gay. Something a lot of us take for granted in this country - we don’t expect to be arrested simply because of who we are, who we sleep with, what we think and say, who we love, what web sites we visit. We are very, very lucky to live in the country we do. This case in Egypt was getting a lot of attention before September 11th. Now, I fear, it’s getting swept under the carpet because there are larger things calling for the world’s attention. But those men are still on trial for their lives, and their freedom has been taken away.

Yes, we need to rally around our country and its leaders and their cause.

But we still need to be free to question.

We still need to be careful that our right to privacy is not thrown out in the rush to find quicker ways to root out terrorists. One of the other amendments in the Bill of Rights assures people that there will not be unlawful search and seizure of their home and possessions. Right now, the government is trying to undo that, giving law enforcement the power to tap people’s phones at will, with no probable cause, no checks and balances, no need to get a warrant from a judge. Sure, they may not be poking into your phone calls, yet, but that’s not a reason not to be concerned.

Another of the amendments in the Bill of Rights guarantees a person the right to face their accusers and to see the evidence that is being used against them. Right now in this country, there are already many people being held in jail who are not being allowed to see the evidence being used against them. If your freedom has been taken away, but you’re not allowed to see the reasons why, how can you possibly defend yourself? How will you ever regain your freedom? The government is trying to get even broader powers to use secret evidence against its own citizens - and not just foreigners on our soil.

Let’s face it - unless we’re Native Americans, we’re all foreigners here. By virtue of the fact we were born here or went through the process to obtain citizenship, our government considers us Americans. We consider ourselves Americans. But all of that can change, if we’re not careful.

Up until September 11th, we had the illusion of safety in this country. Most other nations have long ago resigned themselves to the fact that random acts of terror are part of daily life. We’ve never really been safe, we’ve just been lucky. We’ll never be totally safe again, even in our minds, but one thing we have always been is free. Do we want to give that up to chase an illusion of safety?

Some of you are probably going to rail at me and accuse me of being a member of the ACLU. I’ll save you the trouble. You’re darn right I’m a card-carrying member of the ACLU. The American Civil Liberties Union is fighting for the Bill of Rights. Fighting the bigots, who want a free pass into your bedroom, and the ability to cart you off to jail if they don’t like what they see, just as an example. The ACLU fights for, just for starters, freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom of the press, the right to bear arms, gay rights, women’s rights, the right to privacy, and equal protection under the law. That means for everyone, even the people I don’t agree with. As another defender of freedom once said, "I disagree with what you say, but I will defend to the death the right to say it."

Someone has draped a huge American flag off the balcony at the front of my apartment building. It hangs down to just above the front door. I am bathed in red, white and blue light when I leave for work each morning, and when I return each evening. And I find myself proud, and comforted, and profoundly moved, in ways that really surprise me, and for which I am grateful.

Do I want to burn this flag?

No.

But I want to wake up every morning in a country where I still have the right to.

Otherwise, what are we fighting for?

 

The Guy Standing Next To Me

“...I envy the rain that falls on your face...”

Lucinda Williams’ smoky voice was crooning the second verse of her bluesy torch song “I Envy The Wind” - full of longing - as the dark hunky stranger standing to my right brushed up against my arm again. And lingered there. Again.

“...that wets your eyelashes...”

He wore a white ribbed tank top. Broad smooth shoulders and lanky well-toned arms were exposed. Just below the base of his neck, centered between those shoulders, was a tattoo - a squat cross with a circular center, lines radiating straight out along each branch of the cross, like the symbol for the flag of New Mexico. Symbolic of something, I’m sure. If only, to this day, I knew what. Would it have made a difference if I could have decoded the surface of his back? The swell of his chest pressed out against the confines of the shirt. He had the kind of build that should be wearing a tank top as often as occasion permitted. Sweat held the shirt to the contours of his torso. I wondered what the salt on his skin tasted like. And he was standing right next to me, and had been for over three hours, as if he were rooted there. But still, eye contact remained peripheral, and sporadic, at best.

“...that dampens your skin...”

The club Lucinda was playing wasn’t set up for concerts where people could actually sit down. If you were there for the show, and especially if you wanted to get close enough to see, you had to stand. In a room the July heat had turned into a sauna. You and a sweaty mass of others, polite but still insistent on having their own vantage point. After the initial jostling of finding your spot, all could co-exist peacefully. My friend Gerry was at my left side. And the handsome stranger planted himself on my right. It wasn’t as if the view was any better right next to me - the view of the stage anyway. It wasn’t as if the guy didn’t have room to move, or even go somewhere else. In fact, there were times I thought he might. But the opening act and the break before the main attraction came and went. Lucinda Williams had played her entire set, come back for an encore, come back for a second encore, and come back one last time for this song, and still, there he stood. Setting off the nerves beneath my skin with the hair of his arm passing over the hair on mine.

“...that touches your tongue...”

If this were a movie, there would have been eye contact. Real eye contact. There would have been a smile, a look. Anything. But this wasn’t a movie, so there wasn’t. Not a single clue that made me feel safe. Sure, he didn’t move away after the repeated accidental contact on both of our parts, like any straight guy would probably have done. But it wasn’t confirmation. Just enough to keep my hopes up.

At one point, he looked over at these two young women dancing near us. OK, he’s one of those guys that fantasizes about watching two chicks together. Straight. Must be, right? My gay friend Gerry later told me even he looked at those two young ladies. They were the only ones anywhere close by who could really dance. (Certainly better than Mr. Balding Bouncy Guy right in front of me, bouncing mindlessly even to the slow songs, like this one - to the point where I felt like reaching out a hand and clamping down on his head, just to keep him still.)

I nearly took the beautiful stranger’s hand once. Another time, a finger of mine all but wrapped around one of his. I even calculated to myself whether or not my friend Gerry would be able to help defend me if I made a move and the stranger took serious offense. But this wasn’t a movie, and I’m not that brave.

“...that soaks through your shirt...”

After all, it’s not like having a woman sidle up next to me. In “normal” society, that would be enough to indicate interest. Returning that sign of interest, with a guy next to me, might not only be unwelcome, but might be considered insulting, even revolting. After all, I’d not only be admitting I’m gay, I’d be implying he was a “pervert,” too. In a club like this, that’d be grounds for decking me - at least - if I was wrong.

“...that drips down your back...”

So I did nothing. But every time that Lucinda Williams song rolls around on my CD player,
I still wonder what one finger of mine wrapped around one finger of his would have done. And wished I lived in a different world.

“...I envy the rain...”

 

Friend of the Groom

The groom whispered in the bride’s ear, then took my hand, ran with me around the wedding tent, climbed into a golf cart made up to look like a Model T Ford, and we rode off together, leaving the bride behind.

And I thought as the bride’s uncle drove the groom and me away, holding hands, “There’s something wrong with this picture.”

Since I was one of the handful of guests the groom, my friend Bruce, was able to invite (the bride had a very large family), I suppose I shouldn’t have been too surprised by the attention, but still, it was a little peculiar.

I’d seen Bruce both in and out of relationships, often looking equally lost or confused in either state. The plays he wrote were all about that quest to find yourself, and to find that someone out there who would fit with the person you were trying to become. It seemed he’d finally found that person in his bride. The vows he wrote for the ceremony even had some of the men getting a little misty (the women were sighing long before he was done).

The breakup of his last long-term relationship, with another friend of mine, had been messy, and the fallout seemed never to end. So we lost touch for a while.

Then I get a phone call, to confirm my address, so even if I couldn’t attend, he could still send me an invitation to the ceremony.

A large tent stood in the middle of a green field at the bottom of a gentle hill, next to a lake that sparkled in the afternoon light. The female minister invoked the spirits of north, south, east and west. Then the spirits of the fathers of the bride and groom (both deceased) were called upon to join us in witnessing the event. Personally I thought the chanting that followed was a bit over the top, and judging by the indulgent smiles around me I wasn’t alone, but we all played along for our friends’ big day. Meanwhile, out on the expanse of grass beyond the tent, a jungle gym, a swing set, and several trampolines stood, waiting patiently for the children to join them once the official business of the day was done. There were signs by the trampolines which stated, “Only one person per tramp. Thanks,” which I found amusing to read on someone’s wedding day.

Once the union was official, and the spirits of the fathers released again to wander the universe, and the receiving line and food line were completed, and the toasts were done, I could tell by the waning light that I needed to be on my way. Day Zero for the AIDS Ride started early the next morning, and I still had a week’s worth of clothes and supplies to fit into a duffel bag. Though the location of the wedding was perfect, it was a bit on the remote side, and I had an hour and a half drive home ahead of me.

Bruce and I had reached my car, and the bride’s uncle waited in the pseudo-Model T Ford to take Bruce back to the reception. “You know what I’m like without someone in my life. I have no direction,” Bruce said. “She’s really good for me.”

She is. I hadn’t seen him this happy, or calm, or centered, in a long time. Particularly now that the ceremony was done, he didn’t seem nervous about anything. Often when he was single, or even seeing someone regularly, three quarters of his attention would be on the person he was with, and the rest of him was scanning around with his eyes for the nearest exit. His eyes were still. And at the moment they were focused on me.

I told him how happy I was for him. He took my hand again. We said our farewells.

As the golf cart pulled away, I felt a certain kinship with the sister of the bride. The sister was our wise-cracking mistress of ceremonies leading up to the vows. Like me, she was also perpetually single. Always the bridesmaid...

I was also reminded of what the pastor said at the memorial service for my AIDS Buddy Jeffrey, that his one great regret in life was that he’d never let anyone close enough to him to be able to fall in love. It’s one of the many ways in which Jeffrey still haunts me, particularly since I’m four years older now than he was when he died.

I wouldn’t mind a ceremony of my own. A tent and my friends and the spirits of the departed by the water. Someone standing beside me with a flower in his lapel.

Only one person per tramp.

And I wondered, I still wonder, whether I’m stronger because I’ve managed to exist so long without needing another person, or whether I’ve just put up so many walls that I’ve made myself all but impossible to reach.

But I had a bag to pack an hour and a half’s drive away.

So I watched the groom disappear over the hill, back to the sunset and the couples dancing and the fireworks over the water.

And I rode off into the gathering dark, alone.

 

AIDS Ride, Day Zero

There’s always a moment on Day Zero, the day before the AIDS Ride begins, when I want to bolt, just cut and run and not look back.

The first year, it was because I had no idea what I was getting myself into.

The last two years, it’s because I DO know what I’m getting myself into.

In a way, I always wish I were riding a bike. The riders have been training for several months, they know what to expect.

Me, I’m on the crew. Bike parking, to be specific. Every day, we see over 1,500 bicyclists off on the road, tear down the bike racks in one camp, load it all on a truck, ride to the next camp site, load it out of the truck and set it up in a completely different configuration, depending on the area we’re given at the school or park or state fair grounds, and welcome all 1,517 of the riders back through the afternoon and evening, seeing that their bike is taken off their hands and safely propped up for the night. Then we shower in a truck, take a dump in the porta-potties, put up our little green six-by-six tents, which we share with another person, and try and get some rest. And then we get up at 4am the next morning and do it all over again. Six days in a row, from St. Paul to Chicago. Rain or shine, hot or cold; humidity, blisters, dirt, sunburn, mud, dehydration, scabs, sweat, hay fever, and insects be damned. And all with a smile on our face, a cheer in our throats, and kindness in our hearts.

And there’s absolutely no way to prepare for it beforehand.

There has to be a better way to spend a week of your vacation time from the day job.

The thing that brings this all rushing back to me each year and makes me want to bolt is always different.

Maybe it’s the Safety Video that everyone, riders and crew, have to watch - detailing each and every one of the ways you could get killed.

Maybe it’s the yellow plastic bracelet they put on your wrist, like the kind they give you in the hospital, with your rider/crew ID number, and an emergency 800 number on it - if you find this corpse, please call and return it to the AIDS Ride.

Maybe it’s when I sign up solo for a tent, knowing that the next male stranger who comes along, also doing this event stag, is going to be my mystery tentmate, sleeping two feet away from me for the next six days - and I probably won’t meet him for at least another day and a half. And he probably snores.

Maybe it’s when I first meet my fellow crewmates, and, just like every year, it’s mostly women - teenage to retirement age - and I look at them, knowing there’s a lot of heavy lifting in our immediate future, and wishing I’d been able to get to the gym more in the last month.

Maybe it’s when I ask, innocently enough I thought, at the group dinner for our team, “So, why is everyone doing this?” and I’m met with uncomfortable silence by the rest of the table. OK, so much for bonding.

I used to be concerned when I read articles about the cost of the AIDS Ride, the overhead, and how it cut into the amount of money that actually went to the AIDS organizations being served. Then I crewed my first ride. And I read some more, and learned that the hospice in Minneapolis, where my AIDS buddy Jeffrey spent the last few months of his life, wouldn’t have been able to keep its doors open if the Ride hadn’t come along. Every year, even with a percentage of the donations going to fund the Ride, the amount of money that hospice receives is the majority of its budget for the year. Now, not only is that hospice thriving financially, but they’ve expanded into a second home, serving more people with AIDS at a time when services are still desperately needed, but people’s attitudes toward the crisis make fundraising more and more of a challenge each year. And the people who donate money to riders and crew for the Ride, most of them wouldn’t give on their own to these AIDS service organizations. We all get asked to give so many times to so many different worthy causes, we start to toss the requests in the trash (I know I do), just like we walk by homeless people on the street, pretending we don’t see. These people who sponsor AIDS riders and crew do so because they are being asked by someone they know. It’s putting a human face on the need and the problem.

In the speeches that send us on our way from St. Paul, and welcome us into Chicago, they call the 2000-plus people on the Ride, “a living, breathing, human monument.” It’s a community of people, taking a break from their regular lives, and uniting in a common purpose - from the people on the bikes, to the people who serve the food, set up the camp, and pick up the trash.

Probably the reason that most makes me want to bolt every year is that I know I’m not going to be the same when I get back. I will have reached my limits and pushed beyond them. I will have witnessed incredible acts of endurance, perserverance, and kindness. I will have met some truly amazing people. I will break down and cry, both alone and in the presence of others, more in this one week, than I will do the rest of the year. I will be reminded of all the people I once knew who are gone - Dennis and Ethyl and Jeffrey and John and Guy - and all the people I know living with the virus stalking their bloodstream - Greg and Lee and Peter and Rob. And I’ll wonder again how I got so lucky.

And I’ll be so completely dissatisfied with my life as it currently is, that I’ll have to transform it into something else. Because I can’t sleepwalk through my days anymore.

The AIDS Ride wakes me up. And I’m sure the other events Pallotta Teamworks orchestrates - from overnight events to fight poverty and raise awareness about suicide, to three day walks to fight breast cancer, to weeklong biking events all around this country and Europe and South Africa to fight AIDS and fund vaccine research - affect people in similar ways.

So the scariest thing becomes not Day Zero right before the Ride begins, but the Day Zero which includes my plane flight back to my everyday life - wondering what I’m going to do with it, knowing I’m not going to be able to settle anymore, because I’ve seen there’s another way to live.

It’s not a vacation, it’s a wake-up call.

 

Gay Dating Blues

I’ve got four words for single gay men trying to date -

Relax. Get a hobby.

Seriously, guys, let’s lower the stakes a little. When did dating become a life or death issue?

Is there no middle ground between casual sex and marriage anymore?

RELAX. The first meeting is not a job interview. I’m not shopping for a husband or looking to move in after only one cup of coffee. Honest. You’re not being graded. There are no wrong answers. Breathe.

Other people seem to be looking for a life partner in fast forward mode. “Do you have a penis? Are you breathing? OK, you’ll do. Marry me.” Eagerness is nice, but I just met you. And I do have a life and friends that existed before you came along, and they need a little of my free time, too. So I can’t just hand it all over to you, Mr. New Guy.

GET A HOBBY. There are lot of guys out there who claim to be “shy.” Well, there’s a line between shy and boring, and most of these guys have crossed it. I don’t mind holding up my end of the conversation, but if I’ve got to hold up both ends of the conversation, well, that’s just exhausting. And then what do I need to have you around for?

If you’re not interesting, the rest of us don’t exist to be interesting for you. The rest of us don’t exist to fill a hole in your life, or to make you complete somehow. You need to be able to bring a whole human being to the table. Someone else is not going to be able to fix what’s wrong with you, nor should they be required to try. That’s your business.

The gym is not a hobby - that’s basic maintenance.

Your favorite things to do in bed are not a hobby - however interesting or unusual they might be.

What can you bring to the CONVERSATION? Because when you leave the dance floor, when the lights come up after the movie or play is over, once your food or coffee order has been filled, after the sex, the conversation has to kick in.

What are you passionate about, outside the bedroom? That’s what makes a guy interesting.

There is a depressing shortage of people out there who have a passion for something. A guy could be passionate about accounting, for all I care, just so he’s passionate about something. Hate your day job? Join the club. Then talking about it isn’t going to be all that interesting to either of us. What do you do with your free time?

Camping, boating, and hiking are perfectly fine, for instance. But WHY do you like them? What is it about nature? What have you seen? Tell me a story.

People pay a lot of lip service to being friends first. If only they’d put a bit of energy into it. Friendship is the foundation on which everything lasting is built. Friendship is by no means the consolation prize. It can be the destination, rather than just a stop on the way on the bedroom. After all, it’s friends who get you through the down periods when you don’t have a boyfriend, and sometimes, the down periods even when you do have a boyfriend. Friends last longer, but they take a little effort.

Oddly enough, I’ve gotten more genuine affection and companionship from straight men than from gay men. These straight friends are the ones who have sustained me. They have no problems with intimacy. Gay men seem to be constantly on guard against contact of any kind - too afraid it MEANS something. Like, if you’re not careful, you could fall into a long term relationship and not notice for a while.

So - Relax. Get a hobby.

Honestly, as hokey as it sounds, I just want to get to know you a little better. Can we just start there?

 

Queer As Folk Jeopardy

No new episodes of “Queer As Folk” until January of 2002.

What’s an addict to do?

Why, play “Queer As Folk” Jeopardy, of course.

**********************
Answer -
Ron Cowen and Daniel Lipman

Question -
Who are the writers it’s hard to believe wrote both the almost unwatchable premiere script, and the surprisingly great first season finale script?

***********************
Answer
- the average looking guy got to live after the drug overdose
- the queeny guy got a real personality and wasn’t just played for laughs
- the addition of an older man, and one living with HIV/AIDS

Question -
What are the three biggest improvements the American version has made on the British original?

************************
Answer
- Vicious, unfunny lesbian “jokes”
- Michael’s voiceovers that began each show

Question -
What annoying/embarrassing script elements diminished after the early episodes, and should stay gone?

***********************
Answer
- drug addiction
- foreign gays needing green cards/asylum
- gay/straight alliances in school
- living with HIV/AIDS
- gays on the internet
- bondage
- drag
- controlling/codependent relationships
- how gay people deal with their immediate and extended biological families
- gay parenting

Question -
What plotlines have the writers only skimmed the surface of, which should be further explored?

***********************
Answer
- HIV scares
- the ex-gay movement

Question -
What plotlines were so horribly botched by the writers that they really have no way to go back and redeem themselves?

***********************
Answer -
- Emmett, an unapologetically effeminate man
- Uncle Vic, an older man living with AIDS
- Debbie, an older, non-anorexic-looking heterosexual woman with a gay son
- Daphne, a young heterosexual girl

Question -
Which characters should be allowed to have a love life that lasts more than ten minutes for only a single episode?

***********************
Answer
- straight people who don’t immediately embrace gay people
- straight men in general (good [were there any?] or bad)

Question -
What characters need three dimensions and personalities, not to get shipped immediately off to TV limbo? (Tracy [Michael’s co-worker], Justin’s dad and Brian’s parents are just four characters with a lot of potential played by talented actors that were squandered)

***********************
Answer
- real religion/spirituality
- real workplace issues

Question -
What topics that must touch all the characters lives in some way haven’t really been addressed at all this year?

***********************
Answer -
It was a story of limited duration (4 hours) plotted out, in advance, by a single writer with amazing talent.

Question -
What advantage did the original British version have over the American version?

***********************
Answer -
A staff of multiple writers, often inventing plotlines on the fly, under punishing deadlines, creating scripts for an ensemble of actors who can take several weeks, even months, to really connect and start working well together.

Question -
Why does it take American TV series half or even a whole season before they really start to click? (see early episodes of “The X-Files,” “St. Elsewhere,” or “Ally McBeal”)

***********************
Answer -
Hour #2 or #3 (out of 22)

Question -
When did most of the gay community and gay press start passing judgment and writing off “Queer As Folk”?

***********************
Answer -
Go write your own TV show! (seriously, we need more)

Question -
What is the only polite thing I have to say to gay people that bitch and moan that “Queer As Folk” doesn’t represent the ENTIRE gay community and darn it, it should?

***********************
Answer -
A gay man allowed to a be a real fully human person, with a sexual dimension (see Melrose Place, Will & Grace, Dawson’s Creek, etc.)

Question -
What are we STILL waiting to see, and probably never will see, on regular network television? (thank goodness for Showtime)

***********************
Answer -
See “The Fast and The Furious” - in which the adorable Paul Walker and the strapping Vin Diesel are SO in love with one another - it’s the homoerotic hunkfest of the summer.

Question -
What can we do to tide ourselves over other than watching reruns til the new episodes arrive in January?

 

Gay Pride Weekend 2001

“So what are you doing for Gay Pride this weekend?”

“Oh, man, you mean I have to be MORE gay this weekend?”

Gay Pride in Minneapolis is about three blocks from my apartment. I can hear it. I’m not going. It’s not that I dislike it or disagree with it. I’m very happy it’s there for everyone else. But I’m out to my family, my fellow writers, my friends, my job, my church - I’ve got gay pride going on 365 days a year.

Not all of us are lucky enough to have landed in large cities with their own gay culture. Outside of the major metro areas, things are harder. My friend Brian calls me from his home up in Fargo/Moorhead - a college town, but still, way out in the hinterlands. If you want to celebrate Gay Pride there, you make the several hour drive down to Minneapolis. When Brian bemoans how hard it is to be a gay man in Fargo/Moorhead, I urge him to move to the big city. “No,” he always replies, “This is my home. It’s where my family is, it’s where I grew up, this is where I want to live. I’m not giving up on it yet.” Brian reminds me that we can make a big difference, no matter where we are, by just being who we are, and not apologizing for it.

Studies show that people who are aware they know someone who is gay are much less likely to be homophobic, or support homophobic causes. Every time we come out to someone, even a casual acquaintance, we put a face on the faceless notion of homosexuality. We make gay people human and real. In the best cases, we also create vocal allies for equality and social justice, gay and straight.

I once worked in a local suburban bookstore, run by a deeply closeted gay man. When an openly lesbian woman was hired as assistant manager, we wondered how the two of them would handle Gay Pride Month. After all, the store had a Gay & Lesbian book section, carried gay magazines, had openly gay people on staff, gay clientele. The year before, a play of mine was read by actors for a Gay Pride event and was the best attended event they’d had all year. So they asked me for another script to read, and they approved it. Then the lesbian assistant manager read it again, and got nervous. And the closeted gay man who ran the store got really nervous. The play was suddenly “too gay” and the event was quickly cancelled. Gay Pride ended up with no public event scheduled, just a little table of books with a tiny rainbow flag tucked in a back corner of the store. I called them on it. They asked for something tamer - basically something where the person reading the narration wouldn’t have to say things like “the two men kiss” - yes, they were reading it, not acting it out, but that was still considered “too gay.” I had another script with no physical contact in it, just a lot of unrequited love and longing between two ex-boyfriends. This was acceptable. They scheduled the script reading for National Coming Out Day. The day of the reading was the day everyone started to hear about a college kid in Wyoming who had been found tied to a fence, beaten into a coma. A few days after the “acceptable” play reading, everyone knew who Matthew Shepard was.

Pride weekend this year I’m sitting at my computer, finishing a play for a college in Pennsylvania. A friend of mine on the faculty collected stories from gay students and fed them to me for use in developing the play. It’s a college coming to terms with the existence of gays, and trying to create a more supportive atmosphere. Before that can happen all across the campus, there needs to be dialogue. We’re all hoping this play starts that conversation. One of the student actors in the cast just came out to the director - before any of his family or friends. Not only has this happened before any rehearsals have begun, it’s taken place before any of the cast has even seen a page of the script, which still isn’t finished. Just knowing that the play is coming, that our stories are going to be told, gives people courage to do the most amazing things. Things like that make me proud to be an out gay man, as well as a writer.

Some people believe they alone can’t make a difference. In response, I’d point to our friend Gary, who’s just living his life, and putting it all out there, both the good and the bad, on his website [www.garyjr.com - where this column was first posted]. If you don’t think you can do something that big, then try volunteering. Or write a check. Refuse to be silent. As the poet Audre Lorde said, “Your silence will not protect you.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “To laugh often and much; to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; to earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; to appreciate beauty, to find the best in others; to leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition; to know that even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded.”

So, what are you doing for Gay Pride? Not just one weekend in June, but the other 51 weekends, and weeks, of the year?

 

Television Bloodbath 2001

OK, I never thought the day would come when I’d say this, but I’m beginning to think there is such a thing as watching too much television. After the windup for the 2000-2001 TV season, I’m afraid I’m suffering from post-traumatic stress syndrome. The body count is getting pretty steep. Characters on some of my favorite series lately seem to have the life expectancy of a new Chris Carter TV show. I’m starting to feel like I’ve been pistol-whipped by my television set. Maybe I should ask for combat pay.

And I’m not talking the kind of slow painful death that everyone in the cast of Roswell is suffering, slouching to absolute career suicide on UPN as the writers wring every last drop of blood out of that premise - clearly making it up week to week as they go along. Please, those young folk have suffered enough. Let them go. Tom Hanks’ son had the right idea.

And I’m not talking about the entire cast of Jack & Jill, who are only wishing they were dead after putting two seasons of that dreck on film. Lucky for them, I think I was one of the only ones watching the finished product.

No, folks, I’m talking bloody, painful, permanent death here. And we got to watch all of it. Over and over again.

Of course we expect this on The Sopranos (being cute apparently isn’t protection on HBO, sorry, Jackie, Jr.). And a shooting rampage and a growing sense of dread is to be expected on ER. But what’s up with the other series?

A drug-addicted gun-toting maniac crashes your party and opens fire? Merry Christmas, Felicity! And viewers? You get to wonder for several months AND watch Jack & Jill while you’re waiting. Enjoy. NOT.

School held hostage on the finale of Third Watch. Oh, then for good measure, let’s blow it up.

Miles Drentell, you’ve served us well on Once And Again. Here’s a little end-stage pancreatic cancer for your trouble. Buh-bye.

Oh, Max on Dark Angel? Meet your clone. BANG.

Show of hands - what was harder to watch on Survivor in the Outback - Mike stabbing that little pig to death, or the flesh peeling off Mike’s hands after he nodded off into the campfire? Sorry, Mike, but where I come from, we call that kharma.

Even Jack’s dad on Will & Grace bit the dust, fer cryin’ out loud.

My thanks go to Aaron Sorkin for at least not placing all the major characters on The West Wing in the middle of a hail of bullets this year for the season finale. But was it really necessary to ship dear old Mrs. Landingham, the President’s secretary, off the show in a pine box?

However, I guess we should be happy we weren’t forced to watch her sent to her heavenly reward by that drunk driver. No such luck with little District Attorney Richard Bay on The Practice. We got to see every second of him being perforated by machine gun fire, right up to the moment where he was fitted for his very own body bag.

Those on the other two David E. Kelley shows got off easier. No one bought the farm on Ally McBeal this year. Guess Billy’s brain tumor’s got to hold us for a while.

But after all the students and teachers that ended up six feet under on Boston Public this year, was anyone else really nervous watching the graduation ceremony in the season finale? Was everyone patted down for weapons on the way in? I was so relieved that the fade out was just Kathy Baker trussed up in her basement. OK, right there, folks. Relieved that it was only a lady, bound and gagged, tied to a chair, sitting in musty darkness. Hey, she was alive, right? That’s one of the big indicators for me that my take on reality has been skewed a little bit here.

That’s not to say it can’t be done to good effect. For instance, let’s look at poor Joyce Summers. Buffy’s mom endures nearly an entire season of headaches, tumor-induced pain and delusions, finally even brain surgery. Survives it all, starts dating again, then pops an aneurysm. Ouch. The episode involving the spread of the news of her death, however, was truly some of the best TV I’ve seen in a very long time, perhaps ever. That series never loses its emotional footing in reality, regardless of how wigged out all the demons get. For me not to feel guilty saying I enjoy watching a show called Buffy The Vampire Slayer, that takes some doing, folks. I won’t comment on Buffy’s death because, well, let’s face it, she’s been dead before. And UPN just signed up for two more seasons. Willow may have visited Angel, but we never heard her say “Buffy’s dead,” now did we? Something tells me there’s a magic spell in somebody’s future, headstone or no headstone. The WB may wish Buffy was really dead, (the network seems to have a death wish in general - see rest of article above - and don’t get me started on the cancellation of Grosse Pointe) but there’s life in the old gal yet. (Memo to Buffy’s little sister, though - EAT SOMETHING. You’re so skinny, you’re creeping me out) (Memo to the writers - I’m still mourning the departure of Riley. Bring him back from South America)

It’s the unnatural extension of what I like to call “the Beaches syndrome” - you’re my closest friend on earth. How may I show the true depth of my friendship? You need to die, so I can “be there” for you, and your little orphan. It’s a cheap shot at the heart strings. Not that it doesn’t work. I just feel like I’ve been jerked around afterwards. People are confronted with a lot more complicated and interesting things than death. Living is a lot harder. Death should be the last resort of a writer, not the first.

Two of the nicest surprises bucking this trend? After all the bloodshed on Angel this year, in the finale only the bad guys get the shaft and we get a lot of comedy out of a talking severed head that was reunited with its body by episode’s end. But my personal favorite was the X-Files. Sure, we were treated to multiple decapitations, rooms full of creepy alien fetuses preserved in jars, and the murder of Krychek (but on that last one, see note on Buffy’s “death” above). But the final family tableau - Mulder and Scully and baby makes three? Who thought they’d sign off a season like that?

And now that the summer has arrived? I’m gonna nurse my worried mind with American High on PBS, and catching up on reruns of The Gilmore Girls. Maybe throw in a little Chris Isaak, various Tales of the City and Queer As Folk to unwind. Watch less TV, you say? Where’s the fun in that?

 

AIDS Turns 20

Are young gay men stupid or do they just hate themselves?

The media marked the 20th anniversary on the first report of what would turn out to be AIDS this week.

22 million dead. It’s about to take the trophy away from bubonic plague as the disease that has killed the most people ever. Took us a few centuries, but we came up with a winner.

At the AIDS Walk last month, my friend who works for the Minnesota AIDS Project said the groups of people affected are radically different. Fastest rising rates of infection? Minorities, women,

and young gay men - who should know better.

Most often heard explanations from the boys - they think the new drugs have taken care of AIDS, or they’re going to get it anyway, so what’s the point in being careful.

The drugs cost $15,000 a YEAR, and you have to take them FOR THE REST OF YOUR LIFE.

The regimen for taking the drugs is complicated and if you don’t do it right, not only won’t they work, they make it easier for a drug-resistant strain of the virus to evolve. And then, to put it mildly, we’re all screwed.

The drugs don’t work for everyone. They work for a third of the people who take them. Another third it works for a while, then their condition plummets again. The final third, they don’t work for at all.

You ever read the list of side effects? Take a second to look away from the buff young HIV+ models in the drug ads and read the fine print. It’s a nightmare.

Good luck trying to get, much less keep, health insurance.

A lot of my friends won’t date men they know are HIV+. I think that’s equally stupid, but that’s a subject for another column.

Do you want to turn into someone you’re afraid to date?

I just trained this past weekend for crew on the AIDS Ride. I’ll do rides, walks, hotlines, AIDS buddy duty and whatever else I can to help until it’s gone. But I’d like to think we’re making progress, not that nothing has changed.

The rates of new infection are the same now as they were back when things were the worst, back in the eighties.

People are still dying - they’re just poor and disenfranchised, so we don’t see them anymore.

Abstinence (and avoiding blood) is the only surefire way to avoid the virus. Personally, if I had to live in a world without sex, you might as well put a gun to my head and pull the trigger now.

But strap on a condom, for crying out loud. Safer - that’s SAFER, not safe - sex guidelines are everywhere. Find them, learn them, know the risk, take precautions.

And don’t try to tell me safer sex is bad sex. I’ve experienced too many things over the last decade to prove you wrong. Bad sex is about the person you’re with, it’s not about using condoms.

Everyone I know who’s HIV+, if they were careless, they tell me at the time, they just didn’t care. They all say they care now.

The only way to truly get rid of the disease once and for all is by preventing it, one person at a time.

Even if you are stupid, even if you hate yourself, I don’t hate you. I want all of you around for a very long time, so we ALL see the end of this.

There is no excuse.

There is no cure.

There is no vaccine.

We’re not even close.

AIDS just turned 20.

How are you going to celebrate?

 

Welcome to the Party, Mr. Helms

If you had said to me twelve months ago that in the coming year I would be writing nice things about both President George W. Bush and Senator Jesse Helms, I would have told you to put down the crack pipe.

But last September I was thinking a few nice thoughts about our President.

And now, God help me, I’m actually having a charitable impulse toward the conservative senator from North Carolina.

No, it’s not just because he’s retiring.

I’ve heard a lot of bickering about Senator Helms’ recent turnaround on the subject of AIDS.

“Too little, too late”
“He still doesn’t like gays”

Well, what do you expect, people?

This is a man who, every chance he got in his three decades in the Senate, voted against any kind of funding for AIDS.

This is an 81 year old man who doesn’t look too kindly on homosexuality - or the art that is often produced by the gay segment of our population.

This is a guy who equated aid to foreign countries with throwing money down a “rat hole.”

Did we think there was going to be some kind of miraculous complete transformation overnight?

In his final months in office, he is pushing for another $500 million in support for African nations so that they can try and stem the increase in HIV infection passed from pregnant women with AIDS to their babies.

This, to me, is absolutely stunning.

Sure, he isn’t pushing to hand out money to people with AIDS in his own country. Sure, he blames homosexuals for spreading the disease in America. Sure, he wishes that people would sing the praises of “normal” marriage in their battle against the virus.

But Africa has been so much more devastated by the disease. One can hardly argue they don’t need the money.

And Jesse Helms, the top Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee until next January, suddenly wants to give it to them?

Not only that, when some people in the medical community raised the issue that the mother-to-child transmission project was too narrow a focus, and wouldn’t need nearly that much money - Senator Helms said if the Bush administration preferred simply to turn the money over to the United Nations Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, that would be acceptable.

Jesse Helms, people! He’s finally admitting, publicly, that AIDS affects everyone - not just gays and drug addicts who he perceives as responsible for bringing it upon themselves.

Some complain that insisting on a dollar-for-dollar match from private donations before the $500 million could be spent is too high a goal to be met. Other foreign aid doesn’t have to make this kind of exact match. However, shouldn’t organizations other than the government be pitching in on this problem? Isn’t raising a total of another one billion dollars in support for the fight against AIDS, of which the government would be willing to put up HALF, an admirable gauntlet to through down before the public?

Bono, from the rock group U2, speaks about the need for foreign aid to help address the AIDS epidemic around the world. And Jesse listens. Elton John comes to testify before Congress, making a plea for the United States to use its considerable resources to help the world end this epidemic. And Jesse Helms backs him up.

Jesse Helms the opening act for Elton John. What’s not to like about that?

Some would argue that Helms is only saying this now that he’s about to step down from power, and he will no longer have influence. But you don’t get to be a Senator, and stay a Senator for 30 years, without making some very powerful and rich friends. That influence isn’t going to be disappearing. And this is a conservative Republican Senator from the South. This man can reach an audience of people that the Human Rights Campaign and all the other gay rights and AIDS service organizations couldn’t get within a hundred miles of. He could make a tremendous difference in an area where others addressing this crisis haven’t even begun to make a foothold.

In front of an audience of 800 Christian AIDS activists, Helms said he had been "too lax, too long in doing something really significant" about AIDS and “I'm so ashamed that I have done so little."

Then he wrote an editorial for the Washington Post, that his conscience was "answerable to God" and said, "Perhaps, in my 81st year, I am too mindful of soon meeting Him." Of AIDS, particularly the situation in Africa, he went on to say, "I know of no more heartbreaking tragedy in the world today than the loss of so many young people to a virus that could be stopped if we simply provided more resources."

Sure, he won’t be going to an exhibit of photographs by Robert Mapplethorpe or viewing films by Marlon Riggs any time soon.

But Mapplethorpe and Riggs are dead.

Helms isn’t.

And in the time he has left on this earth, he wants to do what he can to spread the word about AIDS, and try and change things. Maybe not as much or in exactly the way as some people want, but let’s face it, for a change he isn’t doing any HARM here.

In my opinion, it doesn’t matter how late you come to the party, so long as you do, and when you do, you participate.

So welcome to the party, Mr. Helms. More than fashionably late, and certainly on your own terms, but better late than never.

 

Fringe 2003 - Fringe Festival Blogging Begins

Sun Jul 06, 07:53:21 PM

I feel quite remiss in not starting sooner, yet better late than never.

One project I've been working on should help you sample some of the Fringe.

SPNN, the St. Paul Neighborhood Network, cable access channel 19, will be running a new show on theater called "Cue To Cue." The first six programs spotlight the variety of the Fringe Festival, with Leah Cooper, Exec Director of the Fringe, and I co-hosting.

The first two episodes go into rotation this week on the Channel 19 schedule. Those in the St. Paul area should be able to pick it up.

Episode One features excerpts from the Hunter Marionettes of Sock Puppet Serenade and Amy Solloway, Spoken Fringe goddess, and spoken word performer Lisa Perez.

Episode Two features excerpts from Theatre Unbound and their show The Love Talker, and VISTA Productions with their show The Point, which is headed for the Edinburgh Fringe in Scotland after the first week here with us in Minneapolis.

This week's schedule:

Tuesday, July 8, 2003 - episodes one and two back to back at
3-4pm and 8:30-9:30pm

Thursday, July 10, 2003 - episodes one and two back to back at
2:30-3:30pm and 7-8pm

Friday, July 11, 2003 - episodes one and two back to back at
1:30-2:30pm and 6-7pm

Saturday, July 12, 2003 - episodes one and two back to back at
3:30-4:30pm

Sunday, July 13, 2003 - episodes one and two back to back at
11am-12noon, 6-7pm, 11pm-12midnight

 

Fringe 2003 - Live Nude Fringe

Sun Jul 06, 08:00:47 PM

Well, not really.

Folks, for good or ill, you really don't have to worry about seeing too many naughty bits this year. So you can either relax and enjoy yourselves, or sigh and wish you were enjoying yourselves more.

There are only 3, count 'em, 3, shows with nudity warnings this year.

3 Way at Pillsbury House Theater, courtesy of Filthy Whore Productions, so what did you expect? Guy on guy on guy action (or rather, sorting it all out the morning after), for those of you that care one way or the other (personally I do care, and you can all decide for yourselves which way).

A Regular Night at the Strip Club at the Minneapolis Theatre Garage, a solo woman's show, so you can figure that one out.

and finally

Tyrannous Rex at the Old Arizona from Company C Nana of Australia, so you can rest assured that after the Fringe is over, you won't be running into Rex on the street. This may make things less or more enticing for some.

So take your pick, but remember, "The Fringe. It's not just naked people throwing food." (Now, more than ever)

 

Fringe 2003 - Friends and Family

Sun Jul 06, 10:04:03 PM

When you're wittling down the 162 shows to your own special list of the precious few, consider...

are any friends or family members in shows?

Not sure? Ask them. (Though they've probably already hit you up to come and see them on stage, unless they're the shy type)

Attendance and word of mouth are hard to get going, particularly right at the start. They'll love you even more than they already do.

Going this route nearly always introduces me to some good stuff I would otherwise have missed.

My actor friend Nathan is responsible for introducing me to the Ministry of Cultural Warfare a couple of Fringes ago, and I've hit each Fringe show since, plus some of their regular season outings as well. Intelligent, well-acted, (actually funny) comedy - what a pleasant surprise. And of course, they're back again this year, this time with "Industrials" at Intermedia Arts, which sounds like a hoot.

Not an actor among your friends or family? Go see something by someone you've seen in other productions outside the Fringe, or that comes recommended by friends, family, or... well, anyone making the Fringe rounds. Hang out afterward, pay them a compliment, and if you don't seem like the stalker type, you might have just made a new friend for next Fringe.

 

Fringe 2003 - Sax and Violins

Sun Jul 06, 10:15:45 PM

Violence warnings

May not be as scary the title implies - for example...

Two of the warnings are attached to the classics - Beowulf and Medea

One is attached to a memoir of the Vietnam War

One is related to a zombie show

One has a description which includes "bear eats child" (hopefully not from a family in the audience, but...)

Nothing unexpected there.

A couple are attached to riffs on the Bible (a book known to have a gory passage or two, regardless of the testament) - one show's comedic, the other more serious - and depending on how seriously you take the Bible, and how liberal your sense of humor is - despite or because of your religious leanings - they could be delightful or offensive for reasons completely unrelated to violence.

One warning's tacked on to the Strip Club show that already has a nudity warning - but it's a one woman show, so unless she beats herself up...

One's appended to a production of sketch comedy about love. (Who's been reading my diary?)

One's attached to Ministry of Cultural Warfare's "Industrials" - why, I have no idea - but I trust them.

One's attached to Theatre Unbound's "The Love Talker" - but again, I trust them.

Steel your stomach and take a chance. After all, they can't say they didn't warn us. And let's face it, we see worse on the nightly news to absolutely no purpose but to get us to buy another lock for the door and fear our neighbor. At least, one hopes, these violent interludes have a purpose.

When all else fails, just keep telling yourself, "It's only a play."

 

Fringe 2003 - Location, Location, Location

Sun Jul 06, 10:25:27 PM

When constructing your Fringe schedule, give yourself some breathing room, and don't tempt the traffic and parking gods more than absolutely necessary.

Find a show that's a must-see? See what else is playing at that venue over the course of the festival. Hanging out in the same locale for a couple of shows or more gives you the leisure time to mingle with other Fringers and get their take on other worthwhile shows to see elsewhere. Plus you might get to meet some of the artists while you're at it.

If nothing at the same location strikes your fancy, try something in a venue nearby...

Intermedia Arts and Bryant Lake Bowl are walking distance from one another, you don't even have to move your car. Or you could move your car, but only as far as Old Arizona.

Hey City Theater Upstairs and Downstairs - what's more convenient than that? And Illusion Theater's just up the street.

Loring Playhouse is a leisurely stroll from the MCTC's Whitney Mainstage, which is just down the hall from Whitney Studio, and all three are a quick car ride from the Minneapolis Theater Garage.

You get the idea.

 

Fringe 2003 - Kevin Kling - If You Held A Gun to My Head... (part 1 of 10)...or, If I Could Only Go To Ten Fringe Shows...what would they be and why?

Mon Jul 07, 07:36:57 PM

Baseball, Dogs and Motorcycles
Kevin Kling
Hey City Theater, downstairs

This one's not much of a stretch. It was the first show to cross my mind when the question of 10 and only 10 came up.

Kevin Kling's a great storyteller and a great guy as well.

Spending time in his presence allows me to relax and appreciate life, to laugh at society but especially myself and all the silly things I get hung up on.

The fact that Kevin feels like the Fringe is a community of which he wants to be a part just validates the experience all the more for me. After all, he's not a guy looking for his first break in the entertainment world. He doesn't need to do the Fringe - he wants to.

Above all, after listening to Kevin spin a tale or two, I feel more human, more creatively energized, and feel that the world seems a little more like something I could actually affect for the better.

At just ten bucks, that's not a bargain, it's a steal.

 

Fringe 2003 - Another Fringe TV alert

Mon Jul 07, 07:46:30 PM

For those of you in the St. Paul area...

SPNN, the St. Paul Neighborhood Network, Channel 19

Tomorrow, July 8, 2003

The theater discussion show "Cue to Cue" is running its first two in a series of six episodes on the Minnesota Fringe Festival.

These two programs feature selections from Sock Puppet Serenade by Hunter Marionettes, spoken word artist Lisa Perez, Theatre Unbound's production of The Love Talker, and VISTA Production's musical The Point, as well as an overview of the festival by Executive Director of the Fringe, Leah Cooper.

The two half-hour episodes are run back to back in a hour block of time

3-4pm and 8:30-9:30pm.

A full schedule for this week exists in my first post, but I'll throw out reminders if I remember as well.

Just one of many ways you can preview the Fringe - also, check out the home page of the Fringe site for information on live showcases of local and out of town artists prior to opening night on August 1.

 

Fringe 2003 - Try a little bit of everything...

Wed Jul 09, 11:04:30 PM

More than anything, the Fringe is a place to experiment with expanding your horizons - both cheaply and quickly.

$10 is a lot less than you would normally pay to see a dance performance, or just about any theater performance.

And if you find you don't like something, well, hey, it's only an hour out of your life, at least you tried, now you know, on to the next experience.

I'm not saying, "Go to things just because you think they're good for you (the artistic equivalent of eating all your vegetables.)"

By all means, go to as many things as you possibly can that strike you as fun.

But if there's such a thing as good performance art - and there are days, believe me, when I wonder - you've got a far better shot at finding it here than any other time during the year.

Dance, storytelling, solo pieces, huge ensembles, new plays, spoken word, dramas, musicals, puppets, juggling, comedy, physical feats of sheer daring of all types, improv, variety, vaudeville, cabaret, across the spectrum from "family friendly" to "queer content" and everything in between (often a mix of many of the above in a single show).

It's an embarrassment of riches in an already art-rich city. By all means, dive in. Don't be shy. There's plenty to go around for everyone.

 

Fringe 2003 - Sure Things...

Wed Jul 09, 11:51:27 PM

(or, try ‘Sex with David Mann’)

(or, experience something that someone before you has already tried and liked)

(or, if they decided to mount it again, it's worth your while to show up and watch)

But seriously folks, there are many - many, many, many - shows that are either back for a second helping of the Minneapolis audience because they were so popular the first time, or shows that have been making the Fringe or other theater circuits around the country and around the globe, picking up accolades wherever they go, that have finally landed in our neck of the woods.

Trying something new and untested make you nervous? Try some slightly used, but well loved and highly recommended theater.

For instance, (in no particular order)

the aforementioned Sex With David Mann, back again, this time at In The Heart of the Beast Puppet Theater (I can vouch for this one personally, I saw it the first time)

The Worst Show In The Fringe - last year's most popular Fringe show, one of the City Pages' Top Ten for 2002, also at In The Heart of the Beast.

Around the World In A Bad Mood - which started on the Fringe circuit, came through town, evolved into a one woman off-Broadway hit and is now back on the circuit, here at Hey City Theater Upstairs

Sabotage: in fine form - in its fourth year touring, with good reviews from Seattle to Albuquerque to LA to Montreal, playing at Hey City Theater, downstairs

ZAP! KUNST! or PRESTO! IT'S ART! - a remount of a City Pages Top 10 of 2000 on its first regular theatrical run, by a new Twin Cities troupe, The Theater Gallery, who have been collecting reviews from the Star Tribune that look more like love letters.

A Comment from the Peanut Gallery - trailing good reviews in its wake from places as far flung as New Zealand and Los Angeles, now settling in for a run at Acadia.

Charlie Bethel's Beowulf - a one-man home run at the Jungle Theater

Moby Dick by Herman Melville - also at the Jungle, by way of successful run in New York. As the artist's website says, "One Man. One Hour. One Whale."

War Golems - from Fifty Foot Penguin Theater and Zach Curtis, who has revised the show since its lauded first run. Now to be found at the Loring Playhouse.

Getting It Wrong - at Acadia, by way of LA

Pull Yourself Up By Your Bra Straps Again - over at Brave New Workshop, a sequel to one of the Star Tribune's top picks in 2002

Punk Rock Revisited - also at Brave New Workshop, another sequel, this one to Punk Rock Omaha, already a very buzzed about show.

One-Man Hamlet - wowed 'em all over Scotland and Canada, (with puppets, no less), now housed at our own Bryant Lake Bowl

Weaverville Waltz - also at the BLB, after bringing in praise in San Francisco as well as the Canadian Fringe circuit.

Pretty much anything involving the Scrimshaw Brothers (and they've got their hands in four, count 'em, four shows this year). They've been involved in nine of the first ten years of the Fringe. It wouldn't be a Fringe without them - Look Ma No Pants, or A One Woman Show featuring the Scrimshaw Brothers, etc. Can't go wrong.

The Point by Harry Nilsson - a VISTA productions remount at MCTC Whitney Mainstage, playing here before heading off as one of the selected acts at the Edinburgh Fringe in Scotland.

Medea - the company Eyewitness Theatre comes to us from England, and recently won the International Theatre Festival in Frankfurt, now at the Minneapolis Theater the Garage

Selling Blood - also at the Garage, also from England, this show was also a winner at the International Theater Festival, in Manchester in 2002.

69 Moments of Life by Terry Costa - one a roll from previous productions in Canada, now at our Old Arizona.

Emily Dickinson: My Letter to the World - back again at the Fringe after a popular initial run, labeled a "must see" by the Pioneer Press, also housed at Old Arizona

Tyrannous Rex - getting good press from Australia and Canada, now also setting up shop in Old Arizona

I Hate This - (no, really, that's the title) - on display at Red Eye Collaboration, after successful touring starting in Ohio.

So put a few of these in the mix, to put your mind at ease, and then try something brand new as well. Who knows, that new show this year could be next year's highly anticipated returning production.

 

Fringe 2003 - Staggering Toward America - If You Held A Gun To My Head (part 2 of 10)...or, If I Could Only Go To Ten Fringe Shows... what would they be and why?

Thu Jul 10, 12:04:28 AM

Staggering Toward America
Bryant Lake Bowl

The buzz on this show is that the script is simply amazing. A solo 90-minute show from L.A. about a man in search of post 9/11 America that has been hailed as both hilarious and heartwarming.

So if, like me, you're feeling a little strange about the world these days, and our country's place in it - and you don't feel like bombing every nation that looks at you cross-eyed and have run out of people who scare you to throw in prison - well, this might be the place for an intelligent and entertaining respite from the madness.

This one caught my eye when I first saw the initial Fringe listings and I've only gotten more excited about it. Can't wait.

 

Fringe 2003 - Yet Another Fringe TV alert

Thu Jul 10, 12:10:28 AM

SPNN, St. Paul Neighborhood Network, public access cable, Channel 19

Thursday, July 10, 2003
2:30-3:30pm and 7-8pm

"Cue to Cue" looks at the Fringe Festival - each hour holds a replay of the first two of six episodes spotlighting the Fringe - with commentary from Exec Director Leah Cooper and samplings of Sock Puppet Serenade, some Spoken Word Fringe, The Love Talker, and the musical The Point.

 

Fringe 2003 - Illusion - Friendly Persuasion (first in a series)...or, Which Friends' Shows are actually worth seeing?

Sun Jul 13, 02:33:02 PM

Don't forget the Fresh Fringe.

Illusion Theater is extending its annual Fresh Ink series of new work into Fringe territory to give us even more new material to sample.

It's a little hard to find these shows on the website because they have only the most basic information attached to them - no genre markers, no listing of the artists involved - so they won't turn up on most normal searches.

Quickest way to find them, just run a search with Illusion Theater as the identifier and nothing else. That'll turn them all up at once.

Why are they worth it? Here's the lowdown (in no particular order)

Six Steps by Brent Doyle
Brent's an incredibly talented Twin Cities actor who's popping up everywhere lately, on both stage and screen (having just finished a run in the world premiere of Craig Lucas' new play "Small Tragedy" and seen in the local film festival in Patrick Coyle's movie "Detective Fiction" - the first Minnesota film ever to make it to Sundance). But Brent is also a very talented playwright. Last year's Fringe featured his play "Ellen's Empty Chair." This year, it's "Six Steps," a tale of superheroes afraid of sitting idle too long. However, the use of the phrase "evildoer" in the blurb makes me think there's more going on here than standard comic book fare. Definitely worth checking out.

Tell Me On A Sunday - Patty Nieman has one of the most pure and beautiful voices currently working in the Cities. She has been involved in a number of projects on the Illusion and History Theater stages (Vanishing Point, Cocoanuts, The Christmas Schooner and Sisters of Swing, just to name a few). She has such a lovely voice and such engaging stage presence that I'm even going to see this show - a one woman show by, shudder, Andrew Lloyd Webber. This is a testament to her drawing power with me like none other.

Buy Me A Mockingbird - Tod Petersen, Patty's male counterpart in the fine singing voice category, brings another new show, full of his signature humor and showmanship. Queer content, for those of you who get nervous about that kind of thing. But give him a shot. Great voice, great laughs, the most family friendly kind of gay artist I can think of.

If You Don't Really Want To Know - Then Don't Ask Me - Kim Hines reprises her role as Mae-Belle (from Don't Let 'Em Catch You), a psychic who can't stay out of everyone else's business. Sure to be a hoot.

So check out the Fresh Fringe. Illusion Theater has all winners in this year's Fringe.

 

Fringe 2003 - Still More Fringe TV alerts

Sun Jul 13, 04:29:34 PM

Week of July 13, 2003

To avoid clutter, future alerts will just refer back to this list for the week.

Coming soon, if technology cooperates, the ability to view these shows from the web. More details as they become available, one way or the other.

Also, one of the episodes will be aired on August 3rd on the St. Paul Public TV station, channel 17, so anyone in the Cities should be able to access that. Time and content of that show still being determined. More to follow.

In the meantime, those of you in the St. Paul area who have access to Channel 19, SPNN St. Paul Neighborhood Network cable access --

"Cue to Cue" spotlights the Fringe...
All shows feature Executive Director Leah Cooper giving us an overview of the Fringe from various angles.

Guests for each show...

Episode 1 - Sock Puppet Serenade from Hunter Marionettes, Spoken Word Fringe artist Lisa Perez

Episode 2 - Theater Unbound's "The Love Talker", VISTA Productions' "The Point"

Episode 3 - Visible Fringe curator Yuri Arajs and artist Amy Rice, Theatre Gallery's "Zap! Kunst! or Presto! It's Art!"

Episode 4 - Spoken Word/Visible Fringe/solo show and chalk artist multi-tasker Tom Cassidy of "The Hanging of Pollyana," KaBenco's blend of tap and music in "...and now for something completely different"

Episode 5 - Fifteen Head's "Oil On Canvas," Ministry of Cultural Warfare's "Industrials"

Episode 6 - Kirsten Frantzich and Josette Antomarchi in "Marlene Dietrich and Edith Piaf: The Kamikaze and The Chameleon", storyteller Kevin Kling

Schedule

Sunday, July 13, 2003
6-7pm, 11pm-12midnight - Episodes 1 and 2 in both slots

Monday, July 14, 2003
12noon-3pm - Episodes 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6
9-10pm - Episodes 3 and 4

Tuesday, July 15, 2003
3-4pm - Episodes 3 and 4
8:30-9:30pm - Episodes 5 and 6

Thursday, July 16, 2003
12noon-2pm - Episodes 6, 1, 2 and 3
6-7pm - Episodes 3 and 4
8:30-9:30pm - Episodes 5 and 6

Friday, July 18, 2003
2:30-4pm - Episodes 1, 2 and 3
8:30-10pm - Episodes 4, 5, and 6

Sunday, July 20, 2003
3:30-6:30pm - Episodes 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6

The shows will continue to be in heavy rotation until the Fringe Festival. Further schedules to follow as I receive them.

 

Fringe 2003 - Voice In Head - If You Held A Gun To My Head (part 3 of 10)...or, If I Could Only Go To Ten Fringe Shows...what would they be, and why?

Sun Jul 13, 05:30:50 PM

Voice-In-Head: Improv Headphone-Guided Futurismo
The Theatrical Music Company at Minneapolis Theater Garage

This is just one of those things that's so odd, and frankly (delightfully) insane, that I have to go at least once just to see if it works. I'll probably go more than once, since it's a new experience with a new cast each evening. Every night of the Fringe, after all the other shows have been put to bed (11:20pm all nights but Sundays, when it's 9:50pm), 13 different volunteer performers from other Fringe shows are chosen at random - right before showtime, costumed and given a set of headphones and a MP3 player to strap on. The cast all hit their Play buttons at the same time, and they're off, creating a show as instructed by their individual set of directions over the headphones. And sometimes, the headphones just tell them to cut loose and improv something - so we may be getting selections from a number of other shows woven into this one. Sound like fun? Hit the website that's linked to their Fringe listing and sign up as a volunteer performer. I, and many others, will happily watch the magical marvelous highwire act that results.

 

Fringe 2003 - The Theater of Me

Sun Jul 13, 07:55:29 PM

Grain of Salt
...My personal prejudices, so you can consider the source...

(a little Fringe-inspired op ed on theater in general)

There are certain shows that probably aren't going to show up in my discussions of things I'm excited about. Doesn't mean they're not valid. They're just not for me.

"Don't Quit Your Day Job"
or
Just because it happened to you, doesn't mean it's interesting

There's a whole school of theater that would be better confined to a psychiatrist's office.

People seem compelled to purge all their feelings about their daily lives and particularly their day jobs in their art, if you can call it that.

Just because it happened to a human being doesn't automatically make it relevant or universal to the rest of us. Now, there are exceptions, and notable ones, to this. The specificity of detail able to be provided by someone who has literally done a certain job can ground a piece in reality and create a different world that many of us have not experienced. And the "workplace as alternative family" genre of storytelling has given us some really facinating art - theatre, TV, movies, you name it. But it's one of those things that can very easily be done badly. If the artist isn't reaching for something more than ranting against the injustice of the fact that they have to work for a living with people who don't appreciate art, well, that's not terribly interesting to me.

So if a blurb on a show has something to do with "recounting the artist's personal experiences...," chances are I probably won't be lining up for it. There are too many other things to choose from that I do have an interest in seeing. But that's just me...


(And, after some rather vehement emails back and forth with a solo artist who took issue with my opinion, I felt the need to post the following...)


Mon Jul 14, 11:20:02 PM

Hey folks, that thing I said about the "theater of me"? It's my own personal prejudice. I said as much. If you like and/or perform autobiographical material, more power to you. I mentioned my bias so you could ignore me in regard to those shows and make up your own mind.

I'm not telling anyone not to see anything. I respect the hard work that goes into a show too much to dismiss anyone's work sight unseen.

I lean toward the familiar. The world of solo shows is relatively foreign to me. Like I said before, consider the source.

Also, if I recommend a storytelling/autobiographical/solo show, then you know it has to have overcome some serious reservations on my part.

Kevin Kling and Tod Petersen (at Illusion Theater) fall into that category.

Take it with the grain of salt with which I titled it, and move on.

Thanks.

 

Fringe 2003 - Artists' Websites

Sun Jul 13, 08:57:01 PM

On many of the listings for the shows, there is a small button saying, "View Artist's Website" right under the description of the show.

Click on it.

A lot of artists have enthusiastic and funky websites, full of information. You can learn more about both them and the show.

Chances are, if you're on the fence about their show, that website will push you over the edge, to one side or another. Some shows just don't lend themselves well to a short description, and the fuller explanation makes things clearer. Some artists don't sound like someone you'd want to spend even an hour with, but most do. Just like on first dates, a sense of humor is always a plus for setting one at ease.

So don't think of it as homework, think of it as touring the inside of someone else's head. And all you have to do is point and click.

 

Fringe 2003 - Take a local theater for a test drive

Mon Jul 14, 07:19:12 AM

One of the many great things about the Fringe is that it allows you to sample the work of a theater company with which you're not already familiar.

Theater's expensive. During the course of a theater's regular season, you're lucky if you can find a ticket for $15, more likely it's $18, $20 or $25. If you don't know a company's work, I can understand the reluctance to blow that kind of money and a whole evening of your life on that.

Here at the Fringe, you can sample them for just an hour or 90 minutes of your time, and $10, tops. If you get a Fringe Ultrapass and see more than ten shows (which I highly recommend as an unrepentant Fringe junkie myself), the cost of shows just keeps going down.

Ballet of the Dolls is doing their own unique take on the legend of "Beauty and the Beast."

Fifteen Head is doing "Oil on Canvas," an exploration of the wild life and times of the artist Modigliani in Paris before World War I.

Theater Gallery is remounting a production hailed as one of the top ten of 2001, "Zap! Kunst! or Presto! It's Art!" They've been getting consistently good reviews for all their productions but they've only been in town a couple of years, so you might have missed them.

Theater Unbound is a new company just kicking into gear that does quality work.

Gremlin Theater, Ministry of Culutural Warfare, there are so many more that I know I'm overlooking. This is just off the top of my head.

Check the websites of the local shows. If they're an ongoing theater company throughout the year, this is a great opportunity to introduce yourself to a theater company that could become your own personal addiction, and a source of entertainment till the next Fringe comes around.

Now's your chance to try any or all of them for a fraction of their normal cost. Under these conditions, I'd suggest "all."

 

Fringe 2003 - And Again, Fringe TV Alert

Mon Jul 14, 07:23:35 AM

See this week's schedule in an earlier post from yesterday for broadcast times on "Cue to Cue" for Monday, July 14, 2003

 

Fringe 2003 - It's Only My Opinion

Mon Jul 14, 11:20:02 PM

Hey folks, that thing I said about the "theater of me"? It's my own personal prejudice. I said as much. If you like and/or perform autobiographical material, more power to you. I mentioned my bias so you could ignore me in regard to those shows and make up your own mind.

I'm not telling anyone not to see anything. I respect the hard work that goes into a show too much to dismiss anyone's work sight unseen.

I lean toward the familiar. The world of solo shows is relatively foreign to me. Like I said before, consider the source.

Also, if I recommend a storytelling/autobiographical/solo show, then you know it has to have overcome some serious reservations on my part.

Kevin Kling and Tod Petersen (at Illusion Theater) fall into that category.

Take it with the grain of salt with which I titled it, and move on.

Thanks.

 

Fringe 2003 - Gilgamesh, Iowa - If You Held A Gun To My Head (4 of 10)...or, If I Could Only See Ten Fringe Shows...what would they be, and why?

Mon Jul 14, 11:29:18 PM

Gilgamesh, Iowa
Bryant Lake Bowl

A 90-minute paean to male friendship, here after a sold-out run in Seattle - comedy, drama, monkeys, tiny houses, cryptozoologist, zombie prom, Irish grave diggers. Personally, I think the women's volleyball team and the wild west whores is trying too hard. I'm a sucker for tales of male bonding. I love a title that puts Gilgamesh and Iowa together. And, frankly, they had me at the name of the theater company. How can you not be a little curious about a band of theatre people who call themselves The Ethereal Mutt, Limited? I'm swinging wild on this one, but it's just too many quirky bits drawing me in. See you in Gilgamesh, Iowa.

 

Fringe 2003 - Do The Math

Mon Jul 14, 11:42:41 PM

The Fringe lasts 10 days. Each day has multiple shows.

Even if you don't want to go to more than one show on a weeknight, there's still two Saturdays and two Sundays with 12 hours of programming in 20 different locations.

1 show a day is nothing, particularly if you're just going to an early evening one-hour show. Easily done. You have the rest of the evening and the bulk of the weekend to hang out and socialize with your friends around the Fringe venues all over the city.

If you just did a single show every other day of the festival - that's a Five Show Pass.

If you did just one show each day of the festival - that's an Ultrapass. $100 may seem like an expensive ticket - but it's not one ticket, it's ten tickets. Ten? Did I say ten? You can go to as many shows as you want. The more shows you see, the less they cost you and the more that Ultrapass pays for itself. Heck, I'm having to imagine someone putting a gun to my head to try and limit myself to *only* ten (which ultimately will not happen)

Too much good stuff. The Fringe is the one time of year that I treat myself to theater in bulk. Raw, uncensored, big, sloppy theater in all its live imperfect glory. I can coast on that for weeks, until the fall theater seasons kick in. It's a fun-filled vacation for my mind, and a most welcome one (right in my neighborhood). All for much less than the cost of a plane ticket.

 

Fringe 2003 - More and More Fringe TV Alerts

Mon Jul 14, 11:45:11 PM

See the 7/13/2003 post titled "Fringe TV Alert - Week of July 13, 2003" for show content and times for "Cue to Cue's" look at the Fringe, broadcasting Tuesday, July 15, 2003

 

Fringe 2003 - Cowbeach - Friendly Persuasion... (2nd in a series)...or Some Friends' Shows I Can Recommend That Are Worth A Look...

Tue Jul 15, 11:28:27 PM

Mrs. Cowbeach's Profession
Pillsbury House Theater

I've seen Stuart Holland developing the character of Mrs. Entwhistle Cowbeach in various outings at Patrick's Cabaret.

Yes, it's a man in a dress, but it's not a drag show. And it's more Family Friendly than it is Queer Content.

It's also very funny stuff. Mrs. Cowbeach is a dear old lady, obsessed with etiquette, and completely oblivious to the double, triple and quadruple entendres that spill from her mouth in a near continuous stream.

If you need a good dry laugh, this is your show. I know I'll be there.

 

Fringe 2003 - Theater of the Evil P vs. Theater of the Happy V

Tue Jul 15, 11:52:39 PM

Grain of Salt
...My personal prejudices, so you can consider the source...

(a little Fringe-inspired op ed on theater in general)

- and I'm owning up to, rather than dodging, my prejudices here. So take this into account and then consider the source and go make up your own mind about shows that might fall into this genre...

Theater of the Evil P
vs.
Theater of the Happy V

Since I don't want this to turn into an essay on genitalia, assume for the sake of argument that P represents a certain male sex organ, and V the female. All will hopefully become clear as I proceed.

Ladies, I sympathize. Sometimes men are jerks. I should know. I am one. I'm also gay and have to date them.

But can we please agree on the use of "sometimes"?

I'm all for theater of the oppressed. People need to express themselves, particularly when they feel (correctly) that they've been wronged. Some incredibly powerful art throughout the ages has come from the disenfranchised among us.

There comes a time, however, when "angry" all by itself is no longer getting the job done.

If we can't celebrate our own uniqueness without feeling compelled at the same time to denigrate someone else, then we're not getting any closer to common ground. We're putting up walls rather than making progress.

(and queer theater has the same dang problem half the time, so don't think I'm letting myself or my queer brothers and sisters off the hook for a second - Gay "Good", Straight "Evil"? Please. Turn on your brain and look around. Sustitute "Straight" for P and "Gay" for V, make the necessary adjustments, and you get two essays for the price of one here)

For instance, there's Theater of the Evil P. In this genre of theater, women decry the evils of men. All men. If it's got a P, there can't be anything good about the person.

I'm not pretending that men don't *sometimes* (perhaps even often) do bad things. Of course they do.

(Heck, I'm a card carrying member of the "White Liberal Guilt" Brigade - it's a Pavlovian response, I've been conditioned. Ring a bell, wag a finger, shake your head, look at me cross-eyed, I'll feel bad about the fact that I don't live in a refrigerator box on the street. However...)

Theater of the Evil P is not thinking person's theater. By definition, it does not feel the need to make its case. In the world according to Theater of the Evil P - "Woman good. Man bad." You agree, or you get out. There is no discussion. There is no debate. It's a screaming match. It doesn't want you to respond to it. It just wants you to sit there and let it berate you. You're a bad person, you should sit there and take it. No thanks.

And hey, that may be it's purpose, just to get the ranting out of your system. Fine. But I don't think I'm your audience then. And maybe I'm not. I've learned to stay away from places I'm not wanted.

(Please read to the end before flaming me)

Theater of the Happy V - theater that celebrates woman and feminity without also feeling the need to use the male of the species as a whipping boy. The best (and perhaps most extreme) example of this would be somethting like the Psychic Slutz production of "The Once And Future Whore" a few years back. Prior to its Fringe run, it was birthed (quite literally) at Bedlam Theater. After paying for your ticket, you proceded down a long tunnel, parted a slit in some red fabric, and you were in the womb. After stepping into the theater space, you realized that you had just entered through a vagina. Well, were it not for the fact that a daughter of a friend of mine was in the show and I was attending with him that night, I might have just turned around and headed straight for the nearest therapist. But I stayed. And I'm glad I did. Yes, I probably saw more breasts and... uh, other things, live and in person, of all body types, than I will likely ever see again in the totality of my life as a gay man. But the overall atmosphere of welcome and celebration was quite intoxicating. Wouldn't it be great if we lived in a world where (well, with more clothes perhaps, but...) a world in which we all interacted with respect for one another and embraced the feminine side of ourselves and weren't afraid of it? Heck, the cast and audience even all joined hands and sang together at the end of the show. A very unusual, but nonetheless very potent evening of theater. And years later, I remember it still. Because it embraced not only my heart and my mind, but also me, as a person, regardless of whether I had a third leg or not.

This is not an indictment of feminist theater or women's theater.

A number of very good friends of mine founded and continue to run Theater Unbound, a collective for women theater artists that is mounting a production of "The Love Talker" for this year's Fringe. And I'll stand in line and see this and every other production they do, and heartily endorse them to all who will listen (as I'm doing now). I feel what they're doing is very important and necessary work. They are helping to fill a void in the theater community, providing another artistic home for female artists. And creating great theater while they're at it.

I enjoy Fifteen Head - though sometimes it skates pretty close to the edge of Theater of the Evil P, it always pulls itself back at the last moment. Strong female characters do not preclude interesting characters for men as well.

Point me toward some Theater of the Happy V, and I'm there.

But I'll skip Theater of the Evil P, if it's all the same to you. Chances are, I wouldn't be welcome anyway.

If theater's about dialogue, shouldn't the other person at least be allowed in the room?

(Hey, it's only my opinion)

 

Fringe 2003 - Fringe Fashions

Sat Jul 19, 10:55:27 AM

My Fringe T-shirt and bag arrived in the mail the other day. Very spiffy, and practical as well.

There's a list of the entire catalog of shows on the back of the shirt and one side of the bag. And little check boxes you can check off as you see all the shows on your list.

Or you could get a friendly stranger to help you with the back of the T-shirt. "Here, I'll bend over..." (But enough about picking up men at the Fringe...)

Personally, I think boxer shorts is going overboard, but if you like that sort of thing, you can order a pair and keep the Fringe very close to your...heart.

Also mugs with very tiny print (but again, all the shows are there for the squinting), traveling coffee containers, baseball-style shirts, etc.

Only available online, folks, so don't go looking for them at the Fringe venues during the festival. If you want to get them, the time is now and the place is the website.

So celebrate the Fringe's 10th Birthday and get a little souvenoir of the largest Fringe Festival in the United States.

They're like my own little website databases in one shot. I can scan over the list and see who I've neglected to mention.

Speaking of which...

 

Fringe 2003 - 3 Way & 5 Women - Friendly Persuasion (3rd in a series)...or Some Friends' Shows I Know That Are Worth A Look

Sat Jul 19, 11:11:57 AM

3 Way
Filthy Whore Productions
Pillsbury House Theater

5 Women On A Hill In Spain
Outward Spiral Theater
Loring Playhouse

3 Way - it apparently started as a bet at a party to create a Fringe show. 3 guys try to sort out their couplings, and socks, the morning after. Sounds kind of like Rashamon on poppers, but what the heck. Nudity warning, naturally. But if I had a short list of actors in the Twin Cities I wouldn't mind seeing naked, John Trones would be on it. Let's face it, he had plenty of practice in "Party" a year or so ago. Very sweet guy, too. Even though he's taking my money, I won't consider him a filthy whore.

5 Women - In talking about established, ongoing theater companies hitting the Fringe, I totally forgot to mention Outward Spiral Theater Company. Eek, major oversight. They do great work and I'm sure this will be no exception. And while I tend to get nervous about plays with lesbian content turning into "Theatre of the Evil P," the cast includes Kate Eifrig, who I just adore. I'd see her in, literally, anything. And you should, too.

 

Fringe 2003 - Numbers Game

Sat Jul 19, 11:17:40 AM

Funky search trick #1

Shows like "3 Way" and "5 Women on a Hill In Spain" don't show up where you think they will on the list.

Because they have numbers in the title, they get booted to the front of the alphabet and the top of any list of all shows.

Which is a crafty way to set yourself apart from the pack, I must admit. (Particulary the other number show, using the ever popular 69, second only to "3 Way" in arousing prurient interesting without actually using the word "sex" in the title.)

But you have to enter the number, rather than spell it out, if you want to find them with a specific search.

Typing in "Five" gets you only a blank stare and an error message.

5 is the password to Outward Spiral this year - or you can catch them by doing a "Queer Content" search - same with 3 and 69 (shocking, I know)

"Three" gets you "Three on a Seesaw", not "3 Way."

And so it goes...

 

Fringe 2003 - The Problem with

Sat Jul 19, 11:23:17 AM

If you want to find The Hobbit, The Love Talker, The Point or The Seussification of Romeo and Juliet...

You can in indeed find them by typing in Hobbit, Love, Point or Seussification (if you can spell it, I'm not sure I can)

But if in a full list of shows on the site search, for some reason they end up clumped together in the "T" section with the other dozen or so shows beginning with "The"

So don't let it throw you. They're in there somewhere.

 

Fringe 2003 - The Hobbit - If You Held A Gun To My Head (5 of 10)...or, If I Could Only See 10 Fringe Shows...what would they be and why?

Sat Jul 19, 11:33:50 AM

The Hobbit
Rhino Productions
MCTC Whitney Mainstage

I have to admit, I'm coming late to the whole "Middle Earth" mania thing. Never read the books. That was my younger brother's obsession. But Peter Jackson's trilogy of films has won me over. His enthusiasm, and that of his collaborators, for this story is infectious. So I was already predisposed to want to see this "prequel" - pardon the blasphemy, Mr. Tolkien - to the "Lord of the Rings" cycle. But this particular production has me intrigued for a number of other reasons. Someone from Heart of the Beast Puppet Theater is constructing the dragon, so that should be great fun to see. The show itself is in one of the larger venues in the Fringe, so the epic has room to breathe and go all out. And yet it's only three people. One for the Hobbit, and only two other guys to play all the other roles. I love the theatricality of that kind of highwire act on stage. Just the thing to tide me over til the next DVD comes out, while I'm waiting for the end of the trilogy (and no, I still haven't read the books, so I have no idea how it ends, so don't go saying "The butler did it" and spoil the surprise)

 

Catch Him While You Still Can...or, Patrick Scully says goodbye to the Twin Cities, and the USA

Sat Jul 19, 04:26:01 PM

So it's not Fringe, strictly speaking, but if anyone embodies the spirit of the Fringe, it's Patrick Scully, making of art (and waves) for 32 years, founder and long-time head of Patrick's Cabaret.

Patrick's Cabaret will, of course, go on. It already has. But Patrick won't be dropping by as often.

For one last look, and I strongly encourage it, go to Patrick's Cabaret and see "Making Lemonade"

Friday, Saturday and Sunday, July 25, 26 & 27, 2003, at 8pm
Tickets are $15
Reservations (also strongly encouraged) - 612-721-3595, ext. 3

It's our very own local "Glory Box," sad to say.

Patrick fell in love overseas, but unlike his heterosexual counterparts, he can't bring his mate to the US. No marriage, no green card, not even a chance of a student visa. Rejected at every turn, he has only one option, to take his life and his art across the ocean, to Germany, where he and his husband can live and be creative in a place that doesn't put up multiple roadblocks to their union. Pat Robertson may be turning purple over the Supreme Court's recent sodomy ruling, but the fact that the U.S. is still forcing bi-national gay and lesbian couples to make impossible choices (home or heart?) must help him rest easier. And even if Patrick does someday come back to visit, his husband can't come along.

Catch Patrick while you can, folks. This time, he's really gone.

 

Fringe 2003 - Mini's Shows - Friendly Persuasion (4th in a series)...or Some Friends' Shows I Know that are Worth a Look

Sat Jul 19, 06:45:53 PM

A double feature, courtesy of a friend of mine that's looking to bulk up her resume and apparently can't say no to a Fringe show

Cafe Delphi
Minneapolis Theater Garage

The Sugardaddy Project
Old Arizona

Delphi is being presented by local company Nimbus. They've done good and varied work thus far - both new work and established plays. This one is apparently by a playwright named Cockroach. And anyone willing to mix ancient Greek prophecy with fast food has to be given points for the non sequitur. Hey, I'm curious, whether it killed the cat or not (besides, I'm not a cat person)

Sugardaddy is being presented by 2 Desperate Chicks (no, that's the name of the company, I'm not making fun of them). One of the sugardaddies is Ari Hoptman. That alone is worth the price of admission.

 

Fringe 2003 - Large Economy Size Shows

Sat Jul 19, 06:55:19 PM

The praise and perils of 90 minute shows

When you're scheduling, be aware (not beware) of the 90 minute show.

I realize this is mainly short attention span theater the week of the festival, but there are about two dozen shows on the docket that run for 90 minutes, rather than just under an hour like the rest of the festival offerings.

Just make sure you know how long your show is. You don't want to be overlapping with, or making a mad dash for, your next Fringe fix.

The nice thing about the 90 minute shows is they're a nice way to break up the pace of a breakneck day of theatergoing. First, you get to settle in and enjoy a slightly longer tale - and if it's a good story, I rarely am anxious for it to end.

2nd, it's really only half an hour longer. So it's still shorter than your standard issue full-length play experience. You're in and out in fine time.

3rd, because most shows run on the hour and half hour, you probably have an imposed break to catch your breath before the next show you planned to see (either before or after a 90-minute one) starts up. Plenty of time to even get from one end of town to the other.

So, 90 minute shows are your friend. Program a few in to mix things up.

 

Fringe 2003 - Sample Someone Just Passing Through Town

Sat Jul 19, 07:09:59 PM

(or, Nothing More Attractive Than Someone You Know You Won't Have To See Again for a While)

In addition to offering some of the finest and most varied performance work available in the Twin Cities, our Fringe being the largest in America also draws a lot of people from both out of town and out of state who work the Fringe circuit and want to be sure they hit our fair city.

Shows from California, Florida, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Massachusetts, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Texas, Washington, and Wisconsin.

And a little closer to home, everything from right next door in Stillwater to off in Duluth, Rockford, Mora, Barrett, Winona and St. Peter, Minnesota.

So do an "Out of Town" show search and take a look at some work you won't have the chance to see every day of the week, even in a theater-rich town such as our own.

 

Fringe 2003 - A Little International Flavor

Sat Jul 19, 07:17:13 PM

Yes, people actually do come from not just all over the country, but all over the world, to take part in our Fringe Festival.

So let's give them an audience worth making the trip for.

After all, how often do you normally get to see award-winning theater ensembles from England the rest of the year? For $10 a show?

And not only our mother country, but our neighbor up north, Canada, is shipping them in.

Not to be outdone, several companies have hopped a plane from Australia. For battling jet lag alone, they deserve a hand.

There's also a dance company all the way from Nigeria.

So, utilize that "Out of Town" search on the website and expand your horizons across the border, and even a few oceans, to see how they create theater on other continents.

It's more than a bargain. Whether it shows you something completely different or shows you that we're not all that far apart after all in this scary world, it could change your whole outlook, very much for the better.

 

Fringe 2003 - I Hate This - If You Put A Gun To My Head (6 of 10)...or, If I Could Only See Ten Fringe Shows...what would they be and why?

Sat Jul 19, 07:24:23 PM

I Hate This
Bad Epitaph Theater Company
Red Eye Collaboration

OK, when I saw the title, I thought, "Man, is this guy asking for it from the critics. He's handing them their headline if..." Then I saw what it was about. Ouch. "An honest, horrible and humorous look at stillbirth" That may be too much for some of you. But I go to the Fringe to see something I don't see every day. And this playwright/performer's got guts. Check out the website. The picture of the artist, sitting with a pair of baby shoes, is both heartbreaking and compelling. And with a time hopping structure, promised laughter among the tough stuff, and a proven track record in Ohio where it comes with praise from several critics (who apparently didn't take the title up on its offer), I'm willing to risk it. I'm pretty certain it's going to be worth it, and that this is an artist I'm going to want to know better.

 

Fringe 2003 - The Programs are Coming! The Programs are Coming!

Mon Jul 21, 11:38:55 PM

Actually, they're here.

Like Johnny Appleseed, the Fringe is planting stacks of Fringe Festival program booklets all over the city, immediately ripe for the picking.

So great to see all the shows and the pictures and the codes, and oh that heavenly grid of a performance schedule - waiting to be scribbled on and highlighted in the quest for the perfect, and humanly doable, schedule.

Next week, they hit the City Pages as well.

So grab one and dive in.

 

Fringe 2003 - Mailing Lists

Mon Jul 21, 11:45:12 PM

Ah, summer at Fringe time - when the show cards are in bloom.

My mailbox sees more and more little, and no so little, show cards from a variety of artists, all plugging their Fringe shows each day.

That's the other great thing the Fringe is for, giving you an opportunity to get on all sorts of theater's mailing lists. If you're worried about felling one too many trees with all this paper, then hit the websites that the Fringe site has links to for the various artists and take your mailing lists on line into the ether ("no trees were harmed during the making of this e-mail"). And if they only have your email address, they still don't know where you live.

Once you're on mailing lists, there's sure to be a steady flow of info about theater beyond the Fringe coming your way for the rest of the year. You're always plugged into the scene. As Martha would say, "That's a good thing." (Well, it beats getting your hand caught in the stock exchange's cookie jar, anyway)

So sign up when and where you can.

 

Fringe 2003 - Sock Puppet Serenade - If You Held a Gun To My Head (7 of 10)...or, If I Could Only See 10 Fringe Shows...what would they be and why?

Mon Jul 21, 11:57:01 PM

Sock Puppet Serenade
Hunter Marionettes
Old Arizona

Some of you may have seen the titular sock puppet on strings and his friend the skeletal marionette narrator at Balls' Fringe Preview Night at the Southern Theater this past weekend.

If not, I can tell you, having met both puppets and their master first hand, that this show is sure to be a delight. A puppet show that even adults can revel in.

Kurt Hunter has studied with, among others, the guy who did the amazing marionette work seen in the movie "Being John Malkovich."

And when else can during the year can you say, "I'm going to see a puppet show" and not feel a little silly, except at Fringe time? So get out your old jokes about Pinocchio and strings, kick back and enjoy the serenade. I know some sweatsocks that will be happy you came.

 

Fringe 2003 - Spring Awakening - Friendly Persuasion (5th in a series)...or, Some Friends' Shows I Know that are Worth a Look...

Tue Jul 22, 12:06:23 AM

Actually, this time I'm lobbying for a script that's something of an old friend.

Spring Awakening
Virginia L. Anderson
Red Eye Collaboration

I know it may seem odd to form a sentimental attachment to a German expressionist play that features sexual repression (and abandon), abortion, suicide, and a creepy (and oddly funny) climax (the structural kind) in a graveyard, but there you have it.

The plays you get exposed to (no pun intended) in college sometimes follow you like stray puppies on the street into adulthood.

And it's not just the end that's kind of amusing. The play is rife with both comfortable and uncomfortable humor.

And they've managed to work in puppets as well.

So I'm going to revisit an old friend. And I'd urge you, whether you've seen it in the past or not, to join me. A large ensemble piece just doesn't get done every day anymore, even in a theater town like this one. Just one more thing the Fringe makes possible.

 

Fringe 2003 - Get a Word in Edgewise...

Tue Jul 22, 11:08:33 PM

Spoken Word, that is

Something new I'm trying this year, and I recommend you do the same, is to sample a little of the Spoken Word Fringe.

Unlike the other shows at the Fringe, there are no tickets or buttons required, just a $3 suggested donation.

There are two showcases each day/night of the festival, all at Dunn Brothers coffee house on Loring Park, each focused on a particular theme. There's a wide variety of spoken word artists participating - both from in and out of town - and there's probably something for everyone with that kind of scope involved.

The Spoken Word Fringe is more informal than standard Fringe offerings. You can just kick back with coffee and a snack, stay for as much or as little as you like, take a break from running around between theaters. Sounds like the perfect respite from sitting in a darkened theater all day and all night.

So give Spoken Word Fringe a try.

 

Fringe 2003 - Dietrich & Piaf - Friendly Persuasion (6th in a series)...or Some Friends' Shows I Know that are Worth a Look

Tue Jul 22, 11:17:07 PM

Marlene Dietrich and Edith Piaf: The Kamikaze and the Chameleon
Hey City Theater Downstairs

Kirsten Frantzich and Josette Antomarchi are Marlene and Edith, respectively. Both are absolutely charming ladies and just as talented as they are charming. The Dietrich/Piaf double bill is made all the more interesting by the fact that these two icons were once very close friends, and, for a time, perhaps more. But of course, it's also all about the music, and music there shall be. I got a taste of it during the taping of the "Cue to Cue" shows on the Fringe for SPNN Channel 19. Fresh Ink audiences at Illusion Theater have sampled a workshop version just recently. And now, on to the Fringe. A refreshing change of pace, highly recommended.

 

Fringe 2003 - Beauty and the Beast - If You Put A Gun to My Head (8 of 10)...or, If I Could Only See 10 Fringe Shows...what would they be and why?

Tue Jul 22, 11:22:32 PM

Beauty and the Beast
Ballet of the Dolls
Intermedia Arts

I have a shameful confession to make. I've lived in the Cities for over a decade and never seen Ballet of the Dolls. And the longer I live here and the more I hear about the company, the more I realize I've been missing out, big time. Thankfully, they are participating in the Fringe this year, so I can finally correct this error. Whether you've seen them before or not, Ballet of the Dolls always provide the kind of vibrant and innovative performance that the Fringe is all about. So, for goodness sake, go. I finally am.

 

Fringe 2003 - Silly Names - OK, I'm Curious (first in a series)

Wed Jul 23, 07:59:06 PM

Calling Something By Its Proper Silly Name

There are some shows that had me at, "Hello" - that hello being their very peculiar names. Sometimes they're outright nutty, sometimes they're just intriguing. Sometimes it's the name of the show, sometimes the name of its makers. To wit...

1.
Bette, My Fraudulent Welfare Queen: A Comic Bluegrass Opera In One Act
courtesy of Gaucho Gar
at the Brave New Workshop

2.
The company, Texas Red Liquid Players
The play, Better Being Bad
The place, Hey City Theater Upstairs

3.
James Berry, The Reluctant Hangman
Topsy-Turvy Theater
Hey City Theater, Downstairs

4.
The company, Fifty Foot Penguin Theater
The play, War Golems
The place, Loring Playhouse

and finally...

5.
Swing This: A Professor, an Orangutan and 15 Dancers
Rhythmn & Swing
In The Heart of the Beast Puppet Theater

Just five examples of oddities that say so right up front, and then dare you to look away.

Could be fun. Some of them will definitely find their way onto my final schedule. Always remember, a silly name will never hurt you at the Fringe Festival. Catching someone's attention is half the battle.

 

Fringe 2003 - One Man Hamlet - If You Held A Gun To My Head (9 of 10)...or, If I Could Only See 10 Fringe Shows...what would they be and why?

Wed Jul 23, 11:07:34 PM

One Man Hamlet
Theatre Inconnu
Bryant Lake Bowl

Why? Well, it's a one man Hamlet, for starters. Gotta love it when an actor jumps off a cliff like that. And apparently he's landed safely in Scotland and all across Canada. And now he's playing it in our local bowling alley/bar/restaurant/black box theater space. Don't make him do it all by himself. Give this man an audience. I know I will.

 

Fringe 2003 - Dance - OK, I'm Curious (2nd in a series)

Thu Jul 24, 10:48:25 PM

I Won't Dance, Don't Ask Me

but I will watch others

Still, having two left feet, no adequate vocabulary for movement, and being shamed by others' superior grace and agility, dance shows tend to make me feel stupid.

Not wanting to feel stupid, I tend to stay away from them.

This is probably more stupid.

So thankfully, once a year, the Fringe allows me to get my head out of my own uncoordinated butt and thrusts me into a world filled with dance.

Apart from Ballet of the Dolls, about which I have already made a shameful confession (see If You Put A Gun To My Head, #8) here are a couple of dance shows that are calling out to me...

1.
Exposure
Noah Bremer
Minneapolis Theater Garage

"...inspired by Buster Keaton, Pilobolus and Salvador Dali"
"You got your Keaton on my Pilobolus!"
"Well, you got your Pilobolus on my Dali!"
Three great tastes that taste great together.
Besides, the guy in the photo looks cute. (Hey, whatever gets 'em in the seats, that's what I say)

2.
The Rules of the Land
Ijeoma Performing Group
Minneapolis Theater Garage

They came all the way from Nigeria. I'm not gonna see that every day.

Probably more dance than I'll see all the rest of the year, but hey, it's something.

 

Fringe 2003 - Industrials - If You Put A Gun To My Head (10 of 10)...or, If I Could Only See 10 Fringe Shows...what would they be and why?

Thu Jul 24, 10:55:24 PM

Well, let's face it. They hardly need my help. They've been lodged in the top five shows scheduled by others since the Fringe site went live this year. However, my Fringe experience wouldn't be complete without...

Industrials
Ministry of Cultural Warfare
Intermedia Arts

I have my actor friend Nathan to blame for my addiction to this particular company. And once again, they're serving up something that promises to be both intelligent AND funny as hell. Old education and defense films from the 50's, reimagined for today's society. I need this particular kind of laugh very, very badly right now. I quite literally can't wait.

 

Fringe 2003 - Our story thus far...

Thu Jul 24, 11:07:58 PM

So, my top ten "must sees", in the order I rhapsodized about them

1. Baseball, Dogs and Motorcycles - Kevin Kling
2. Staggering Toward America - Rip Rekke
3. Voice In Head - The Theatrical Music Company
4. Gilgamesh Iowa - The Ethereal Mutt, Limited
5. The Hobbit - Rhino Productions
6. I Hate This - Bad Epitaph Theater Company
7. Sock Puppet Serenade - Hunter Marionettes
8. Beauty and the Beast - Ballet of the Dolls
9. One Man Hamlet - Theater Inconnu
10. Industrials - Ministry of Cultural Warfare

Phew.

Now I just have to schedule them - and all my other friends' shows. Good thing I can get in more than one a night.

 

Fringe 2003 - Can’t Get Enough Fringe TV Alerts

Thu Jul 24, 11:19:02 PM

These episodes of "Cue to Cue" will soon be streaming to the web as well, but meanwhile, if you're in the St. Paul area, and get SPNN (St. Paul Neighborhood Network) Channel 19, you can see it on a TV screen rather than a computer screen.

Weekend Schedule

Friday, July 25, 2003
7pm-10pm - Episodes 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6 (detailed below)

Sunday, July 27, 2003
1:30pm - Episode 6
Kevin Kling's Baseball, Dogs and Motorcycles; Marlene Dietrich and Edith Piaf: The Kamikaze and The Chameleon

3-4pm - Episodes 5 and 4
Ministry of Cultural Warfare's Industrials, 15 Head's Oil On Canvas, Tom Cassidy and The Hanging of Pollyana, KaBobenco's ...and now for something completely different

6-7pm - Episodes 3 and 2
Visible Fringe and Zap Kunst or Presto! It's Art!, Spoken Word Fringe and Hunter Marionettes' Sock Puppet Serenade

7pm - Episode 1
Theater Unbound's The Love Talker and VISTA Productions' The Point

 

Fringe 2003 - Despair

Thu Jul 24, 11:27:54 PM

Just the briefest skim of the blogs of other Extraordinary Fringers in the League convinces me that I am, most probably, the dullest of the bloggers.

Useful, perhaps. But definitely "Fringing for Dummies" rather than the quotable Dorothy Parker.

In fact someone was just gushing about my blog recently, which was nice until I realized they were talking about Matthew Foster's blog, not mine.

Sigh.

I think I like theater too much to be publicly nasty.

In order to be amusing, perhaps I should adopt more of the attitude of the old guys, Statler and Waldorf, in the balcony on The Muppet Show.

To this day, one of the best movie reviews I've ever heard was Statler and Waldorf's assessment of the first Muppet Movie.

"I've seen DETERGENTS that leave better film than this!"

Perhaps I should get out the carving knives. We shall see. I'd rather just go see theater.

Oh well. It's not easy being green.

 

Fringe 2003 - Fringing With My Mom

Fri Jul 25, 06:57:38 PM

My mom's coming to visit the second weekend of the Fringe, arriving (sometime) Saturday afternoon on August 9th.

For some people, this would help narrow things down scheduling wise. (Uh oh, mom's here, better look up those Family Friendly Fringe shows)

However, my mom is up for anything.

My mom would probably love "3 Way." After all, I can sadly say with a fair amount of certainty that it's probably the first time in a long while that either of us has seen a naked man up close and personal. Sigh. At least we can go out and comiserate over ice cream together afterwards.

Plus, there's a side of me that would take great glee in walking up to the actors I know in that show and saying, "Hi, I'd like you to meet my mom." (And she'd get a kick out of it, too.)

Theatre addicts are raised, not born. I didn't fall far from the tree, to put it another way.

So, of course, I want her to see as many of my top ten as possible.

Now instead of scheduling forward, like a normal person, I'm scheduling backward.

Instead of winding down and giving myself breathing room, I'm gonna be cramming them in.

Good thing mom had her knee replacement surgery over Christmas. She's gonna need that new knee to help her sprint through the last two days of the Fringe Festival with me.

 

Review - Patrick Scully's Farewell Performance

Sat Jul 26, 12:21:41 PM

Folks, I saw Patrick Scully's "Making Lemonade" last night at Patrick's Cabaret and I was reminded again why I love theatre, and why I continue to try creating it against all common sense.

"Making Lemonade" was funny and angry, romantic and incredibly sad, and ultimately, hopeful.

Go to Patrick's Cabaret and see "Making Lemonade" tonight or tomorrow night, because after that, he's gone. He steps on a plane August 4th, and August 5th he starts his new life, in Germany, with his husband by his side at last after yet another 4 month separation.

Saturday and Sunday, July 26 & 27, 2003, at 8pm
Tickets are $15
Reservations (the place was packed last night) - 612-721-3595, ext. 3

Even though Scully has to go overseas in order to live with the man he loves, because the United States will have no part of it, there will be life and love beyond Minneapolis. It's just sad that he has been forced to leave home in order to make a home.

Watching him take the stage at Patrick's Cabaret one last time, looking over every inch of it, knowing that it will be a long time, if ever, before he sees it again, and that his husband has never and can never see it, is just part of the incredibly moving subtext that suffuses the evening.

But damn, what an amazing story.

By the the end, he's shared his heart and mind and body, not to mention both lemons and lemonade, with the audience. Such a gracious and graceful man, such a powerful artist.

It's our loss.

It's a topsy-turvy world when Germany is more progressive than the land that promises life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Just a little more incentive in my mind to find a decent presidential candidate and vote these bastards out of office. Because until they're gone and we get our country back, nothing changes.

Farewell, Patrick.

 

Fringe 2003 - My Fringe Schedule

Sun Jul 27, 09:38:37 PM

My oh my but that online scheduling thing is handy.

And not just because I can print out a clean copy, which, believe me, is sorely needed after I scribbled all over my Fringe program.

But I can now just send the whole darn thing via email to my friend Dave and see if he wants to join me on my Fringe binging jaunt. The site does that for you. All you've got to do is point it in the right direction and off it goes.

Hmmm, better print an extra copy for Mom.

 

Fringe 2003 - Stop and Smell the Art

Sun Jul 27, 09:45:31 PM

Visual art, that is...

I have to admit, the first two years of the Visible Fringe I was too busy running around to stop and look.

This year, I'm leaving myself some breathing room at as many of the venues as possible so I can stop and smell the art.

20 different artists, themselves on the fringe, self-taught or with non-traditional training, all creating vital new art that fits the Fringe to a T. And it's for sale, too.

Programs of all the art will be available at all the venues where the art is on display. Still more of the art is showcased in a couple of local galleries. So pick up some info and take a look while you're waiting for them to open the house for that mad dash to general admission seating.

There's a sampling and statements from each of the artists on the this website, too.

There's a discussion of the Visible Fringe in the "Cue to Cue" shows available online. Give it a listen. Doing the show opened my eyes to a whole other dimension of the Fringe Festival. I'm looking forward to catching my breath and taking in still more art while I'm at it in the coming weeks.

And yes, Mom's gonna see some, too, and I'm sure she won't be shy about expressing her opinion.

Wonder if we'll buy anything? Stranger things have happened. Maybe I'll send Mom back to Pennsylvania with something she can't fit in her suitcase.

 

Fringe 2003 - Hook, Line and Sinker

Mon Jul 28, 11:11:11 PM

Sometimes, a show has an idea so fascinating that I feel compelled to go see it just because I want to see how it all turns out.

Three plays that fit this category would be...

Apologetic Killer
Acadia Cafe
A woman reflects on her participation as a juror in a death penalty case. She is traumatized by her experience and visits the man she helped send to death row.

The German Socialites
Red Eye
Germany 1937 - enter the home of a young writer and his wife as he is commissioned to write a novel for the Nazi Party.

A Room of Angels
Loring Playhouse
A homeless man and a doctor. One has the cure for AIDS and one sees a cure for his salvation.

Thought they were worth a mention. Curious? Go find out.

 

Fringe 2003 - A Schedule Only A Mother Could Love, Part 1 of 2

Tue Jul 29, 09:43:04 PM

or is it, *Even* a Mother Could Love?

In any case, here's what my Mom gets to see, Fringe-wise, when she gets into town, Saturday August 9th...

Much as it pains me, I'm not scheduling myself for Fringe activities in the afternoon that day.

I picture my mother waiting around in a car on a hot day for me to get home from a show, and it's not a pretty thought.

So, I'll clean the bathroom or something until she arrives, get her settled in, get a bite to eat, and then...

5:30pm
Old Arizona
Emily Dickinson: My Letter to the World

I missed this one last year. Elizabeth Dickinson, who does the show, is actually a descendant of the titular poet. And much as some of my fellow writers dismiss Emily, I'm quite fond of her. Her poems sit in a well-worn book on a shelf with my other favorites - Auden and cummings and Lorde. She inspires me just as much as they or Shakespeare. I can't think of a better way to ease mom into the Fringe than to spend an hour in the company of Ms. Dickinson.

Then perhaps a spot of dinner at...

8pm
Bryant Lake Bowl
One Man Hamlet

For all the reasons stated before, I'm looking forward to this. And I'm sure Mom will get a kick out of it, too. (If You Held A Gun To My Head #9, 7/23/03)

10pm
Intermedia Arts (just around the corner and down the block, a nice evening's walk)
Industrials

Can't think of a better way to end mom's first evening in the Cities than taking her to the Ministry of Cultural Warfare's latest bit of uber-camp. (If You Held A Gun To My Head #10, 7/24/03)

And so my mom and I end our broadcast day...

 

Fringe 2003 - A Schedule Only A Mother Could Love, Part 2 of 2

Tue Jul 29, 09:58:28 PM

or is it, *Even* a Mother Could Love?

Mom at the Minneapolis Fringe, Day 2

Sunday, August 10th

Well, she's had an easy first day to settle in. She's gotten a decent night's sleep. We've had a chance to sit and chat a bit. Now it's off to the races. We got us some theatre to see before the weekend, and the 10th Annual Fringe, is over...

Grab some lunch *and* some theater at

12noon
Bryant Lake Bowl
Staggering Toward America

For all the reasons stated before (If You Held A Gun To My Head #2, 7/10/03), I'm really looking forward to this one. And I got my bleeding heart liberal genes from Mom's side of the family, so she's up for a journey through post 9/11 America.

2pm
Red Eye
I Hate This

OK, it's tight. The noon show is 90 minutes, but it's not that far to drive, there's a school parking lot right down the block from Red Eye, and mom got that bad knee replaced over Christmas, so we should be able to make it. And it says a lot about my mom that I think she's also up for back-to-back, one-man, 90-minute shows - this second one about the playwright/performer's life after the still birth of his child. (for more, see If You Held A Gun to My Head #6, 7/19/03)

Time off for good behavior downtown to get a bite to eat, then...

5:30pm
Hey City Theater, downstairs
Baseball, Dogs and Motorcycles

My mom can't miss Kevin Kling. And neither can I. (If You Held A Gun To My Head #1, 7/7/03)

Then just a couple of blocks further downtown to...

7pm
Illusion Theater
Tell Me On A Sunday

With the right set of vocal chords, even (shudder) Andrew Lloyd Webber can be beautiful. Patty Nieman has those vocal chords. (Friendly Persuasion #1, 7/13/03)

8:30pm
Illusion Theater
Buy Me A Mockingbird

After a long day of one-person shows, my mom deserves to end her Fringe experience with some laughter and music. Tod Petersen, take us home. (Friendly Persuasion #1, 7/13/03)

And mom's whirlwind tour of Twin Cities' theater is complete.

Farewell, fellow Fringers.

On to binge at the movie theaters, Mom!

 

Fringe 2003 - Opening Weekend Schedule, Part 1

Wed Jul 30, 10:05:34 PM

Friday, August 1, 2003

In a strange position. Having scheduled six of my top ten at the far end of the Fest to see with my mom, I'm not seeing any of the remaining four, nor any of my friend's shows in the lineup. Hmmm...

Also, I work a day job in St. Paul. No way I'm making a 5:30 or even 6pm curtain time.

So we're looking at 7pm. And the rest of the evening.

It's been a long week already and it's only Wednesday. I'd prefer to stay close to home.

Aha.

It's a Minneapolis Theater Garage night!

7pm - Selling Blood
8:30pm - Exposure
11:20pm - Voice In Head

Selling Blood made the cut because
1) it's a remount
2) it's from England
3) the theater company doing it has won their fair share of acclaim - it's probably not comedy, but it won't be dull

Exposure
some dance, some attractive manflesh, it starts right after the other one in the same venue so I don't have to start running around right away - sold (OK, I'm Curious #2, 7/24/2003)

My apartment's close enough that I can go home, do some other things that need doing, and then go back to close out the night with...

Voice in Head
the last minute casting high-wire act aspect of it all has me intrigued - again, sure to not be dull, plus there's puppets, what's not to like - and I get in a top ten show after all on opening night (so it was a long week, I can sleep in tomorrow) (If You Put A Gun To My Head #3, 7/13/2003)

 

Fringe 2003 - Opening Weekend Schedule, Part 2

Wed Jul 30, 10:36:30 PM

Saturday, August 2, 2003

...well, I can't sleep in too late

It is the Fringe after all. Let the running around begin...

12noon
The Book of Names
Bryant Lake Bowl

I know, I haven't mentioned this at all. However, I'm a sucker for plays that weave religion and interpersonal relationships together. And being a playwright, I've got a soft spot for new plays, too. I'm gonna take a chance on this one. 90 minutes.

2:30pm
3 Way
Pillsbury House Theater

Sorry, mom. I'm keeping the naked gay guys to myself. Besides, even though I know she'd get a kick out of it, I have to admit I feel a little weird about the idea of going with my mom to that. Whether I'm worried about her seeing me enjoy it too much, or vice versa, I'm not sure. Best to play it safe. (Live Nude Fringe 7/6/2003, Friendly Persuasion #3 7/19/2003)

4pm
Oil On Canvas
Intermedia Arts

Fifteen Head's take on Modigliani and the Paris art scene prior to World War I. I've talked about Fifteen Head before. They're a theater company that's taking chances and always worth seeing. Even more so for just an hour for $10.

7pm
Sock Puppet Serenade
Old Arizona

It's in my top ten. It's the Fringe. I must see puppets. (If You Put A Gun To My Head #7, 7/21/2003)

10pm
Love Talker
Loring Playhouse

Theater Unbound. I've said it before. I like 'em. I'll go along for the ride.

Phew. Day over.

 

Fringe 2003 - Opening Weekend Schedule, Part 3

Wed Jul 30, 10:57:02 PM

Sunday, August 3, 2003

Dang. Got a prior commitment during the afternoon. I volunteer at the Quatrefoil Library one Sunday a month and this is that Sunday. Check it out some time if you haven't already - www.qlibrary.org

Anyway, after I'm sprung from the library at 5...

Time to get in a top ten show

6pm
Gilgamesh, Iowa
Bryant Lake Bowl

Seattle import. The Ethereal Mutt, Limited. Monkeys, Irish grave diggers, tiny houses, zombie prom, wild west whores. All that and so much more in only 90 minutes. Let the male bonding begin. (If You Held A Gun To My Head #4, 7/14/2003)

8:30pm
War Golems
Loring Playhouse

I missed this one the first time around. A late father's experiences in the Vietnam War in the hands of his actor son. Nice to end the weekend with a Fifty Foot Penguin, I always say.

Back to the day job grind.

 

Fringe 2003 - Work Week Fringe - Monday

Thu Jul 31, 08:59:42 PM

August 4, 2003

7pm
The Hobbit
MCTC Whitney Mainstage

A three man, one dragon puppet extravaganza in the Tolkien tradition. If that doesn't get me out of my workaday funk, nothing will. And my top ten tour (sans Mom on the weekend) is nearly complete (If You Held A Gun To My Head #5, 7/19/2003)

8:30pm
The Art of Ruth Draper
MCTC Whitney Studio

Right next door, same building. I haven't talked about this one before, but the monologues of Ruth Draper were revered by my actress friends as far back as my undergraduate college days. Even Kevin Kling mentioned recently that he loves these stories, and seeks them out, trying to complete his own personal collection of the scripts. In the hands of an actress who's done it before, directed by a respected local actor. Can't be a bad way to spend an hour.

10pm
Medea
Minneapolis Theater Garage

Well, it's one way to purge some pent-up day job rage, right? It's another award-winning company from England. A classic script. Heavy sledding? Sure. But I don't go to the Fringe exclusively for puppets and naked gay guys. Besides, my life will seem light and airy by comparison after this one.

 

Fringe 2003 - Workweek Fringe - Tuesday

Thu Jul 31, 09:09:03 PM

August 5, 2003

A slightly lighter evening schedule today...

8:30pm
Beauty and the Beast
Intermedia Arts

Finally, I see Ballet of the Dolls and make up for a gap in my theatregoing resume. And my top ten is complete. (If You Held A Gun To My Head #8, 7/22/2003)

11pm
The Captain and the Dog-faced Boy
Jungle Theater

Got a very nice personal invite from the playwright this afternoon, who I actually knew through a new play reading series I used to run. He also is the writer who collaborated with 15 Head for "Oil on Canvas," so he's been busy. He described Captain/Dog to me as, in its way, very traditional - hints of Shakespeare, Cervantes and Robert Louis Stevenson - and yet there is also an enormous pair of pants that represent pure evil. Hmmm... I'm intrigued.

 

Fringe 2003 - Workweek Fringe - Wednesday

Thu Jul 31, 09:15:06 PM

August 6, 2003

Very light so far for Hump Day...

7pm
James Berry: The Reluctant Hangman
Hey City Theater, Downstairs

Well, there's that title for starters (OK, I'm Curious #1, 7/23/2003). Then there's the description..."A junk opera and magic lantern show highlighting the life and exploits of a Victorian hangman" I'm not gonna see that particular combo anywhere else this week.

 

Fringe 2003 - Workweek Fringe - Thursday

Thu Jul 31, 09:22:49 PM

August 7, 2003

A couple of sentimental favorites, the first a play, the second an actress...

8pm
Spring Awakening
Red Eye

90 minutes of German expressionism, good and bad spirits, and oversexed schoolchild teenage angst. (Friendly Persuasion #5, 7/22/2003)

10pm
5 Women On A Hill In A Spain
Loring Playhouse

Kate Eifrig and Outward Spiral draw me to this one. (Friendly Persuasion #3, 7/19/2003) The recent Lavender write-up on the Fringe (see the link on the Fringe's home page) reminded me that Suzy Messerole is directing. One of the best directors in town. Only makes me want to see it more. Haven't a clue what it's about, but I'm in good hands so I'll just go with it.

 

Fringe 2003 - Workweek Fringe - Friday at last!

Thu Jul 31, 09:30:07 PM

I'm sure I'll be in frantic cleaning mode, Mom arrives the next day. But I have to see something to celebrate the arrival of the weekend at long last.

August 8, 2003

7pm
Six Steps by Brent Doyle
Illusion Theater

I'm here for Brent. His writing never fails to get me thinking. Since I haven't seen any summer movie blockbusters yet, this will help with my superhero quota for the summer. (Friendly Persuasion #1, 7/13/2003)

 

Fringe 2003 - Review - Selling Blood - 4 stars

Selling Blood
Minneapolis Theater Garage
Opening Night - Part 1

A delightful little trifle. Just the way to ease oneself into the Fringe after a long day at work. The two young ladies involved were bright and energetic and very funny - although I'm sure the Union Jack boxer shorts and British accents (real, not affected) helped.

Crowd of about 25 but they were in the mood to laugh, and laugh they did. A predominance of grey hair, which was particularly amusing when the performers launched into their own version of the Beatles' ditty "When I'm 64." Sex among the senior set has rarely been so graphically and hilariously detailed. You'll be slightly embarassed, but still laugh your tuccus off. Similarly endearing is their ode to masturbation set to the tune of "Bicycle Built for Two" - just don't take it personally if they single you out on the short end of the penis scale when pointing at the audience. After all, they have no way of knowing for sure, or do they?

These ladies are also in the production of "Medea," and I'm wondering if I should have seen that first, because when I see them hereafter, it's going to be very hard to keep a straight face.

Good fun, if you're not a prude. And hey, if you are, loosen up. It's the Fringe, after all.

Mini-review
Selling Blood - 4 stars (out of 5)

If you like naughty bits...

...and charming young ladies with British accents, you'll enjoy this little trifle. Be warned, in addition to the literary excerpts there are some hilarious, but rather off color, song and dance numbers. The lyrics to "When I'm 64" and "Bicycle Built for Two" will never be the same, but hey, it's about time they had some new life breathed into them. These ladies are also involved in the Fringe production of "Medea." So there's an idea of their range for ya'. Enjoy. (I did.)

Fri Aug 01, 09:53:13 PM

 

Fringe 2003 - Review - Exposure - 5 stars

Exposure
Minneapolis Theater Garage
Opening Night - Part 2

Wow.

Short version - If you're wondering whether or not to see this, "SEE IT."

I've admitted it, I don't "get" dance most of the time. The language of movement is often beyond me (and that's a slam on me, not dance. I wish I were more conversant in the form). I certainly can't dance myself. But this was a sort of amazing hybrid of dance and theater that was completely accessible to me.

Standard linear narrative? No. But could I follow the "characters" of the four performers- 3 female, 1 male - absolutely.

It was stunning to see, or I guess be reminded again, of just what the human body is capable of doing. Time and again I was bowled over by the things these people could do. There are very few words of dialogue in the opening half of this, and yet the smallest movements conveyed volumes.

Ultimately, the longing they conveyed, the need for physical contact with a fellow human being, however simple, was incredibly moving. Sometimes funny, sometimes heartbreaking - from the tiniest movement of the eyes or fingers, to the full involvement of the whole body - just filled with yearning.

I will admit, there were moments when they nearly lost me. It teeters on the edge of "Fringe-iness" (pretentiousness disguised as art), but it never goes over. Just when I was afraid they were gone, something incredibly sweet or sad and always human would happen. The sounds and the images stick with me.

Oh, and don't let the loud, heavy metal pre-show music put you off. The show couldn't be more unlike that opening impression. I'm glad I kept an open mind and you will be, too.

The creator of this piece, Noah Bremer (I think he danced once in some performance piece at Red Eye involving a remote controlled toy car, he seemed familiar, even without auto mechanic clothes) - at any rate, Noah also directed "Six Steps," which is over at Illusion right now. Glad I already have it on my schedule or I'd need to find a way to squeeze it in. I liked this show that much.

Also, the program says he's involved in a group called "Works/Plays," doing some new work again in the fall. Check it out. I will.
www.worksplays.org

But first, see "Exposure."

Mini-review
Exposure - 5 stars (out of 5)

Amazing piece of physical theater

If nothing else, go to be reminded what the human body is capable of. The performers are very impressive. Precious little dialogue, but the slightest movements convey volumes. It was really quite touching. The longing for intimate connection, just for simple physical contact, is conveyed so clearly, even without words. There are words, streams of them, toward the end, and they have their place as well. A really intriguing bit of live performance. The creator of this is also directing Brent Doyle's "Six Steps." Based on this, even if I didn't know Brent's writing, I'd be lining up for that show, too. I don't know much about dance, but this, I got. Highly recommended.

Fri Aug 01, 10:08:16 PM

 

Fringe 2003 - Oh, the Publicity! - Opening Night - Part 3

Fri Aug 01, 10:23:58 PM

The Publicity

You can't swing a dead cat without running into some kind of show advertisement.

I spent the bulk of the evening at Minneapolis Theater Garage, and the artists just kept on coming. There's a table in the corner literally filled with show cards. And more kept getting placed there as the night wore on and more actors, writers, directors and other assorted show reps dropped by and then were off to paper the next venue. Also, posters all over the inside and outside of the doors.

Brilliant Marketing Move #1 - The one man of "One Man Hamlet" and his female stage manager both came to a show I was at wearing T-shirts with the name and image of the show on the front, and the name and one word glowing reviews of the show on the back. Crafty.

Mystifying Audience Moment #1 - Two well-meaning theater-going ladies were chatting up the female stage manager in the "One-Man Hamlet" T-shirt and asked (I'm not making this up),"So, are you in the show?" Uh...do the math. (And while you're at it, check the gender)

Hint to show-pluggers - Color helps. Even the tiniest bookmark-size show ad, if it had color, drew my attention more effectively than a black and white copy. Same holds true for posters. Doesn't need to be a photo, doesn't even need to be a picture. One card just had alternating stripes of nearly flourescent green and black, in which were spelled out the title of the show. In this case, size doesn't matter. Appearance does.

Plea to show-pluggers - Leave some room for your fellow Fringers. A couple of shows laid out huge posters taking up all kinds of table space that might have held cards for six shows instead of just one. One show had both cards *and* 8 1/2"x11" flyers out on the same table. That makes me like you less, not more. There's persistence, and then there's gluttony.

Brilliant Marketing Move #2 - A photographer that does headshots had a stack of her cards on the show table. Simple business cards with a couple of images of quality, interesting head shots on them. Way to drum up business. I don't even need a headshot and I almost took one because the photos were so nice.

 

Fringe 2003 - Art - Opening Night - Part 4

Fri Aug 01, 10:36:44 PM

Visible Fringe Artists

Minneapolis Theater Garage has three rather intriguing artists on display.

Kyle Fokken - three metal sculptures that at first I mistook for headless horses. Upon closer examination of the tails, and a rudimentary stab at translating the German titles, I realized to my chagrin that they were dogs. This artist also has two delightfully transmogrified tricycles on display at the Visible Fringe exhibit in the gallery at Calhoun Square in Uptown. Every time I see them, the wave of nostalgia hits me and I yearn to both buy and ride them.

Charlie Kraft - large swaths of canvas hung on the wall. Bright colored backgrounds. Elongated heads, sometimes just noses. Square-bodied birds, all dripping paint (dried, of course). Sayings and slogans etched into the pictures. All untitled. But they make me wish I had a wall big enough to hold them.

Tom Cassidy - Mixed media, mostly consisting of Keith Haring-esque paintings of figures and buildings on top of pages ripped from magazines from the 1920's and 1930's. Also an art box full of plastic figures, 50's catch phrases spelled out in Scrabble tiles, all surrounding an actual thank you letter from J. Edgar Hoover on FBI stationery, thanking a woman for her fruitcake. J. Edgar Hoover. Fruitcake. I'm sure all double meanings there are intentional.

There are tiny foldout Visible Fringe programs at every box office. Pick one up and look them over. It's a great way to pass the time while you're waiting for the house to open.

Oh to have a bank account that could afford such knick knacks.

 

Fringe 2003 - Degrees of Separation - Opening Night - Part 5

Fri Aug 01, 10:42:49 PM

It's A Small, Small World...

We're officially down to less than one degree of separation at this point.

The ladies in SELLING BLOOD are also in MEDEA.

The creator of EXPOSURE is also directing SIX STEPS.

And perusing a show card for SIX STEPS, I found out an actor friend of mine, William T. Leaf, is in that show. He's done a production and a workshop of two of my plays over the years. Happy to see him on stage yet again, even if I have to wait til Friday.

 

Fringe 2003 - Matthew Foster - Opening Night - Part 6

Sat Aug 02, 09:52:02 AM

Oh to be Matthew Foster, Now That Fringe Is Here...

I'd like to be flattered, but really the flattery extends to Mr. Foster.

Someone introduces me as a blogger and a playwright to some Fringe staffer or theater person I don't know, and they smile broadly and say, "Oh, I love your blog. Great stuff. Especially the part where..."

And as the compliment continues, I become painfully aware that they don't mean my blog, or even my playwriting, but Matthew Foster.

I try to interject this fact into the conversation before I have been reduced to under three feet tall in my mind. I don't always succeed. And so I slink awkwardly away.

And this has happened more than once, and the Fringe has only begun.

Here's to you, Matthew. People love you, dude.

Once the Fringe is over I can cease to bask in your reflective glory and go create some of my own.

Sigh.

 

Fringe 2003 - Review - Voice In Head - 3 stars

Voice In Head
Minneapolis Theater Garage
Opening Night - Part 7

Maybe it's better if you have the free beer.

Don't get me wrong. It was fun enough.

The whole company gets a big 10 for "Degree of Difficulty"

It was a real kick to see so many artists from so many different shows - mine had people from - "The Art of Ruth Draper," "I Hate This," "Tour Bus From Hell," "War Golems," "Jungular Tics," "Beowulf," "Park-N-Ride," "A Woman's Place" (and they all get to plug/do excerpts from their shows throughout the performance - so it's a great Fringe sampler) and even several innocent bystanders plucked from the audience.

And it was fun to be interrogated by cast members taking notes to be used later in the show.

And the Pepto-Bismol pink outfits that the staff wore were quite distinctive.

The mock releases they want you to sign prior to the show let you know you're in for a different kind of experience.

But in the end, it felt MUCH longer than it actually was. It's only an hour but I could have sworn it was 90 minutes until someone looked at their watch and corrected me.

Maybe I'm just in need of more structure. But it was really just a very long Shaggy Dog story. And I tend to be one of those people sitting in the audience who wants the experience to add up to something in the end. In the end, it just kind of...well, ended.

Am I glad I went? Yeah. The cast and producers are to be commended. It's pretty amazing to watch come together (warning - come late or close to curtain at your own risk, you may get dragged into the middle of something)

Do I recommend it? Sure. Just not as strongly as some others. The idea of it is fabulous. The execution, I'm guessing, requires free beer. So drink up.

Mini-review
Voice In Head - 3 stars (out of 5)

Come for the Beer, Stay for the Strangeness

They all get a 10 for "Degree of Difficulty" It's a great late night way to unwind after Fringeing elsewhere. It's also a great sampler of a dozen Fringe shows, since it's a variety of artists, and they all get a chance to put in a plug for their own show during the mayhem.

Sat Aug 02, 10:00:25 AM

 

Fringe 2003 - Unfortunate Juxtapositions - Opening Night - Part 8

Sat Aug 02, 10:11:10 AM

Unfortunate Juxtapositions

I'm glad they shuffle the schedule around.

EXPOSURE had the amusing misfortune of following SELLING BLOOD opening night in the same space.

They both use the song "Bicycle Built For Two"

EXPOSURE is trying to use the tune to invoke romantic nostalgia.

However, SELLING BLOOD, not 30 minutes prior, closes with this song, with new lyrics, in a charming ode to masturbation.

Gives the second show a whole new subtext. Gotta admit, it was fun to snicker, though I may have been the only one in the audience who got it.

So mix and match your Fringe shows for fun today.

 

Fringe 2003 - Spread the Word

Sat Aug 02, 10:15:49 AM

The Fringe is one of those unusual places where it's OK to talk to strangers.

The first time it happened to me last night, I was kind of taken aback. But then I warmed to my subject. It was nice to be asked what I'd seen, what I'd heard good things about. And it was good to hear in return about shows that others had seen.

So don't keep the good news to yourself. Spread the word.

Shy though I be, I'm going to try to be more pro-active and interactive about it. So, ladies, I'm not hitting on you. I'm gay. Gentlemen, heck, I may be hitting on you, but just humor me, tell me about a Fringe show you loved or hated and I'll go away without asking for a phone number.

Talk to strangers, people. Otherwise, you might miss something.

 

Fringe 2003 - Regrets, I've Had (Quite) A Few...

Sat Aug 02, 10:51:57 AM

But then again, almost too many to mention.

Leah Cooper tells me that, even if you went to every single appointed curtain time for the whole ten days, you could still only see 48 shows, tops.

Given the commute from, and existence of, the day job in St.Paul, the weekend time already spoken for in volunteering and waiting for Mom to arrive, and the conflicting schedules of the critical shows I feel I really want to see, or that have good friends in them...well...

I managed 27.

Plus I'm still figuring out which of 3 Spoken Word events at Dunn Brothers that I could work into the existing schedule I'm going to try and get to. So that's 28.

And I'm missing almost as many as that which I also really want to see. So here, in something approximating alphabetical order, is the list of shows that I'm sorry I'll probably miss. (I'm still working on it, but it doesn't look good)

I recommend them. So if you can go give them an audience when I can't, please do. And then taunt me by telling me what I missed...

Apologetic Killer
Acadia Cafe
(covered in Hook, Line and Sinker, 7/28/2003)

Bette, My Fraudulent Welfare Queen: A Comic Bluegrass Opera In One Act
Brave New Workshop
(covered in OK, I'm Curious #1, 7/23/2003)

Better Being Bad
Texas Red Liquid Players
a Machiavellian musical
Hey City Theater Upstairs
(covered in OK, I'm Curious #1, 7/23/2003)

The Bitter Festie Play
In The Heart of the Beast Puppet Theater
Renaissance Festival actors get bumped off. What's not to like?

Cafe Delphi
Minneapolis Theater Garage
(covered in Friendly Persuasion #4, 7/19/2003)

Charlie Bethel's Beowulf
Jungle Theater
A remount of a popular one-man interpretation of a classic text.

Climax - The Final Fourplay
Loring Playhouse
A local theater, Gremlin Theater, doing ten minute plays by local playwrights.

The German Socialites
Red Eye
(covered in Hook, Line and Sinker, 7/28/2003)

The Hanging of Pollyana
Tom Cassidy
Intermedia Arts
(available for sampling online through the Fringe site in "Cue to Cue")

Long Ago and Far Away by David Ives
Pillsbury House Theater
David Ives is one of the most inventive and unusual playwrights working in theater today.

Marlene Dietrich and Edith Piaf: The Kamikaze and The Chameleon
Hey City Theater Downstairs
(covered in Friendly Persuasion #6, 7/22/2003, and available for sampling online through the Fringe site in "Cue to Cue" or this Sunday, August 3rd, St. Paul public TV, Channel 17, at 7:30pm)

Moby Dick
Another remount of a popular one-man interpretation of a classic text. As the website trumpets, One Man. One Hour. One Whale.

Mrs. Cowbeach's Profession
Pillsbury House Theater
(covered in Friendly Persuasion #2, 7/15/2003)

The Point
MCTC Whitney Mainstage
(available for sampling online through the Fringe site in "Cue to Cue")

A Room of Angels
Loring Playhouse
(covered in Hook, Line and Sinker, 7/28/2003)

The Rules of the Land
Minneapolis Theater Garage
Dance troup from Nigeria
(covered in OK, I'm Curious #2, 7/24/2003, and A Little International Flavor, 7/19/2003)

The Sugardaddy Project
Old Arizona
(covered in Friendly Persuasion #4, 7/19/2003)

That's MR. Benchley To You, Mrs. Parker
Loring Playhouse
What's not to like about anything that resurrects the wit of Dorothy Parker and someone from her vicious circle?

The Very Persistent Gappers of Frip
MCTC Whitney Mainstage
Leah Cooper's description of this tale fascinated me. A kid's show with an adult metaphor lurking just beneath the surface. Fun and challenging stuff.

The Worst Show In The Fringe
In The Heart of the Beast Puppet Theater
Well, they don't need me, but I'd still like to see it. Last year's most popular Fringe show.

Zap! Kunst! or Presto! It's Art!
Hey City Theater Upstairs
A remount of a much-lauded and very funny look at performance "art"
(available for sampling online through the Fringe site in "Cue to Cue")

 

Fringe 2003 - You will lose your mind...when Fringe shows are two of a kind!

Sat Aug 02, 11:10:21 AM

Actually, it's a boon to Fringe viewers, I just couldn't resist the Patty Duke reference.

I know I've been plugging SELLING BLOOD just a bit since I saw it, and I do recommend it, but...

as the savvy marketer handing out cards after the show reminded me...

if you can't somehow fit SELLING BLOOD into your schedule, there's another Fringe show that takes all the sexy bits from respected literature and puts them all in one place.

It's Hardcover Theater's
THE GOOD PARTS - a celebration of literary sex
also playing at the Minneapolis Theater Garage

so if you can't catch one, catch the other

or if you just can't get enough, you can go back for seconds

 

Fringe 2003 - Review - The Book of Names - 4-1/2 stars

The Book of Names
Bryant Lake Bowl
Day 2 - Part 1

I liked this show. I wanted to like it more. Still, I highly recommend it.

The performers were all quite good and very committed to the reams of dialogue they had to recite. The sheer volume of talk in this play (and the fact that it remained interesting throughout) was quite an achievement, both for actors and playwright.

And what a relief to see a play that actually deals with religion and issues of faith intelligently.

Most of the time, the entertainment industry paints all those with any kind of religious belief with the same brush - religious people are two things - fanatical and stupid. If you have faith in anything, you must not have a functioning adult brain in your head. This is so dismissive and reductive that it makes me want to scream.

This play, however, for the most part, treats its characters with respect. Yes, there's the token cynic. Yes, there's the fallen believer. But the two characters who cling to their beliefs are not portrayed as simpletons who just haven't woken up and smelled the coffee yet.

These are deeply flawed people and religion, or the absence of it, isn't the root of their problems. It's a passive-aggressive extravaganza! They are all desperately trying to believe in something, most especially other people and the possibility of happiness.

The thing I think I admire most about the play, other than its even-handedness in the above regard, is that it refuses to tie things up in a neat little package. It leaves you to think. It requires you to think.

Is it perfect? No. I'd like to sit the playwright down and talk about the fact that if they're going to give us a finely detailed story, they might want to just put the action on stage instead of continually talking about the past. It's a testament to the cast and direction that a play full of dwelling on the past rather than acting in the present is still something that gives one a feeling of forward motion.

Are the scene shifts a little clunky? Sure. But it's the Bryant Lake Bowl. And what happens when the scenes are up and running makes you forget the wait you endured for them to begin.

This is such an intimate play that I'd urge you to sit down on the main floor, even if that means you're fighting the pole or tall people's heads in front of you for a good sight line. The seats on risers will probably give you a better view, but I think the closer you are to these characters, the more you believe in them. Don't allow yourself the possibility of detachment. The play's too important for that.

Mini-review
Book of Names - 4 and a half stars (out of 5)

A lot to chew on

This is exactly the kind of show I wish we saw more of outside of the Fringe. If the mere mention of the word God, or discussions of faith and the lack of it, and how it affects human relationships, makes you uneasy, then maybe this isn't your show. But I liked it, a lot. For the most part it doesn't take sides one way or the other, and leaves the audience to sort it out. Funny, intelligent, well-acted. Time well spent.

Sun Aug 03, 11:01:58 AM

 

Fringe 2003 - Review - 3 Way - 3 stars

3 Way
Pillsbury House Theater
Day 2 - Part 2

Were they naked? Sure. Briefly.

Is the acting good? Most definitely.

Is it amusing? Yes.

Warning - if you're over 5 feet tall, you may want to sit in the front row or on the aisles. Much as I love Pillsbury House, there is no leg room for anyone much taller than a munchkin.

(If that's all you need to know and you don't want to listen to me rant about the sorry state of queer theater, then just hop on over and order your ticket - because this show will sell out, you can't just show up and be guaranteed a seat at this one, people will be turned away)

Was I hoping it would do more? Of course. And I'm not talking about, "Hey, why isn't there more nudity? Why aren't their simulated sex acts?"

Really, if I wanted to see that, I'd stay home and rent a porn video, not sit in a nearly sold out theater with 80 other people.

I just left an intelligent, well-crafted script having to do with issues of faith and human relationships that had less than twenty people in the audience.

Here, I can't even stop and look at the art in the lobby because it's overcrowded with, gee, what a surprise, gay men.

And it just made me a little sad. Because we all got exactly what we came for and no more.

I'm not ragging specifically on the people of "3 Way." I think they're great. They did a great job. They're going to have a very successful run at the Fringe. They could probably take it on the road and pack the houses in cities from coast to coast.

Because most gay men won't bother to go to theater in large numbers unless you promise them a musical, or hot nude guys, or both.

Frankly, if I didn't have a friend in the show to whom I wanted to lend my support, I wouldn't have gone. (After he reads this, maybe he'll wish I hadn't). He didn't need me there to pad the house certainly.

Yes, I know we're hungry to see stories of ourselves on stage. Gay people have had their lives marginalized for so very long, almost any story that puts gay people front and center is worthwhile. And the Fringe is the one place where new gay theater can really take flight.

But, damn, if you have an audience, however you got them in the seats, DO something with that. Take a risk.

As a playwright who happens to be gay, I often despair that I'll never be successful unless I can work in plenty of nudity.

I pray to be proven wrong.

Mini-review
3 Way - 3 stars (out of 5)

Pretty much what you'd expect

It was cute. If you're going for some of the reasons I think you're going - nice-looking men, good actors, sex comedy - you won't be disappointed. If, however, you're going in hopes of wall-to-wall nudity and actual simulated sex acts - c'mon, guys, it's the Fringe, not Falcon Studios. It was a calculated advertising ploy to get you in the door - and judging by the nearly full audience at the opening performance, it worked. It's fun. It's not dirty. Nevertheless, enjoy.

Sun Aug 03, 11:18:20 AM

 

Fringe 2003 - Review - Oil On Canvas - 4 stars

Oil On Canvas
Intermedia Arts
Day 2 - Part 3

Somehow, despite the strictures of Fringe producing, they've done it again. 15 Head brought the visual, musical, physical and verbal prowess they bring to all their other productions to this stripped-down, Fringe-ready show, "Oil On Canvas."

It's a pretty remarkable feat, and they're to be commended. Acting, design, direction, execution by the crew, all great. As always, some of the stage pictures they create continue to stick in my mind long after the show is over.

It's a well-done capsule view of the life and times of Modigliani in France.

(If that's all you need to know and you don't want to listen to me rant about "art about artists," then go buy a ticket. Despite all I'm about to say, "Oil on Canvas" is very much worth seeing, because it shows what can happen when people really push the boundaries of what the Fringe is capable of doing)

But, frankly, I don't like Modigliani. At least not the Modigliani in this show. I'm not saying I didn't like the performance. The actor was great, very compelling. It was clear why he was chosen to be the center of this show. He can carry the focus of a story. You want to watch what happens to him.

But, geez, the trials and tribulations of being an artist. A genius.

Boo hoo. Suck it up, get a day job and stop feeling so put-upon and superior to everybody else.

Just because you decided to be an artist doesn't mean the world is required to kiss your ass.

And it doesn't give you cart blanche to be mean and abusive to people, particularly women.

I had no sympathy for this guy. He couldn't die soon enough. I felt bad that he dragged so many other people down with him.

I'd rather spend some time with "real" people any day.

I'm an artist. But the people I want to see least on stage are other artists.

But, hey, it's only my opinion.

Mini-review
Oil On Canvas - 4 stars (out of 5)

15 Head Comes To The Fringe...

...and brings the bag of tricks we've come to expect and admire them for. It's quite a feat but they manage to bring much of the visual spectacle from their regular productions into this stripped down, Fringe-style theater on wheels version. Evocative stage pictures, music, stretching the limits of physical and verbal performance. Once again, they create another time, another place, another culture - one well worth visiting. If you haven't yet sampled what 15 Head has to offer, now's your chance.

Sun Aug 03, 11:31:56 AM

 

Fringe 2003 - Review - Sock Puppet Serenade - 5 stars

Sock Puppet Serenade
Old Arizona
Day 2 - Part 4

The most fun you'll have at the Fringe.

For God's sake and your own, see this show.

You'll leave with a big goofy grin on your face warbling like Maurice Chevalier (I kid you not, children who don't even know who he was were doing it. So were their parents. So was everyone on the age spectrum in between)

What a fabulous, funny, great little show.

And the cutest little foldout program I've seen in ages.

And this ain't no kids puppet show, though the place was packed with them. (which had me a little worried, since I was at the end of a whole row of them, but they were all very well-behaved. This probably has to do with the fact that they were so very well-entertained.)

And Wendell, the skeletal marionette host of the show (who was a little miffed at being told that his nudity required no warning in the program), made the best plea for tipping the Fringe I've yet seen or heard. Bravo, Wendell!

A dancing box. A shirt that plays with balloons. An insect ballet dancer. A wild ball of feathers that sprouts limbs in the most unlikely places. An ostrich that finds a way to take flight. A marionette that has his own marionette to manipulate. A cube that gets down to Sinatra singing "Fly Me To The Moon." And the sock puppet serenader of the title. Words cannot express how fascinating, lovely, intelligent, funny and delightful they all were to have as theater companions for an hour.

Bravo to Kurt and Kathy Hunter of Hunter Marionettes. They're a couple of the best performers in this year's Fringe Festival. We're lucky to have them.

If there's any justice, this show will be sold out for the full run. So go, and don't be bashful. Sit in the front row. You won't want to miss a thing.

Mini-review
Sock Puppet Serenade - 5 stars (out of 5)

Most Fun I've Had At The Fringe

You will believe a box can dance. And a sock can sing. And so many other delightful things. It's magic. Yes, the kids loved it, too. But the adults, like myself, were equally enchanted. This is top-of-the-line, funny, intelligent puppetry at its very best. And Wendell the skeletal host puppet made the most compelling plea for Tipping The Fringe I've yet heard. (Hey, it got me to open my wallet). If you see nothing else at the Fringe, see this. You'll leave with a smile on your face.

Sun Aug 03, 11:42:59 AM

 

Fringe 2003 - Review - Apologetic Killer - 3 stars

Apologetic Killer
Acadia Cafe
Day 2 - part 5

I'm glad I wedged this one into my schedule after all.

After "Sock Puppet Serenade," I was in such a good Fringey mood, I looked at the program, saw that I could just squeeze this show in and thought, hell, you want to see it, go see it. Why clean your apartment when there's theater out there to be seen? (Which, unfortunately, is an explanation for why my apartment isn't fit for man nor beast, and yet somehow I still live there. But my mom's coming. Argh)

Anyway, on to the show.

I was suddenly reminded what a lily-white Fringe experience I'd been having up till now. African-Americans made up a sizeable portion of the audience.

And yet, Johnny Cash music was playing.

I loved the lead peformer and playwright from the moment I read the program because instead of a standard bio, she used her space normally reserved for talking about oneself to say the following...

"'Apologetic Killer' was inspired by a friend who challenged me to write a play with a message. I hope this piece has done that. I am against the death penalty and against most policies this government implements. As Americans it is our right, our duty to be critical, active and (when earned) supportive citizens. We deserve so much more and I refuse to accept this is as good as it gets."

Amen, sister!

I kept waving this program like a banner in front of my friends' faces and urging them to read it.

Go see this show. Is is perfect? No. Is it good? Yes. Is it struggling with something we should all be struggling with in between the puppet shows and sketch comedy and nude guys on stage? Absolutely.

Go.

Mini-review
Apologetic Killer - 3 stars (out of 5)

Worth A Look

An important subject. A mixed bag. Some great acting, some not so great acting. Some good writing, some not so good writing. But overall a production that deserves to be seen and talked about. I'm glad I squeezed it into my schedule after all.

Sun Aug 03, 12:01:23 PM

 

Fringe 2003 - Review - The Love Talker - 4 stars

The Love Talker
Loring Playhouse
Day 2 - Part 6

This is the sexiest damn show in the Fringe.

(and yes, I've seen "3 Way")

I am deeply conflicted about this play. And so, I endorse it wholeheartedly. Go see it. Tell me I'm wrong. Help me understand what I'm missing.

Because the production values, for both a Fringe show, and a Theater Unbound show, were amazing. It's a real leap forward for them.

The cast is uniformly great. Even if sometimes you couldn't understand what the hell they were saying, their actions made things crystal clear.

The text is gorgeous. It's chock full of poetic language and imagery and passion.

If I may take a moment to drool, the guy who plays the Love Talker, Jonathan Weber, is probably one of the hottest men I've seen on stage in a long time. And he spends the show dressed in the equivalent of some very flattering drawstring pants and some leaves painted on his otherwise completely exposed torso. (Gulp) And those eyes... Oh, and yes, he can act, too. They didn't just cast him for his looks, though I'm sure they didn't hold him back any. Of course, now I read his bio and find out he's just a senior in college and feel like a complete troll, but what the hell.

The kiss at the end is...well... phew!

It is a very sexy show. Way sexier than "3 Way," and about ten times darker.

(If that's all you need to know to make up your mind that it's worth seeing, then go. What follows are the reasons I'm conflicted about the show, and in no way detract from my endorsement of it. I'm very glad I saw it, but...)

Ultimately, it's the message the script is sending that drives me up a wall.

John Ashcroft couldn't have written a more puritan play.

Sex is bad. Sex makes you lose your mind. Sex leads to murder. Sex will have you running around the forest in a dirty nightgown and a crown of thorns.

I mean, at least in this play we get the sex. (Suggestion of sex, I hasten to clarify. No naughty bits were exposed in the making of this play, though they come mighty close).

But, ladies and gentlemen, don't let a man into your house, between your legs, under your skin, into your head, because nothing good will ever come of it.

I realize this is based on an established folk tale. But if you can't update the folk tale to say anything useful, why bother?

Love the production, hate the play.

Artistic schizophrenia has never hit me more acutely.

So see it. And help me.

Mini-review
The Love Talker - 4 stars (out of 5)

Quite Possibly The Sexiest Show In The Fringe

The production values are a big leap forward for Theatre Unbound - on a par with 15 Head. The cast and performances are compelling. The script itself is full of beautiful language and images and poetry and moves right along at a fast clip. I'm torn. What do you do when you love the theatre company, love the production, but hate the play? It's sexier than anything I've seen at the Fringe, including "3 Way," but ten times darker. The message of the play makes it possibly the most depressing thing I've seen in a long time. And yet, maybe it's just me. I strongly encourage people to see it and judge for themselves. It's easily one of the best shows you'll see at this year's Fringe.

Sun Aug 03, 12:22:17 PM

 

Fringe 2003 - Review - Look Ma, No Pants - 5 stars

Look Ma, No Pants
Loring Playhouse
Day 2 - Part 7

I finally popped my Scrimshaw cherry.

Just another one of those things I've missed that I've been embarrassed to admit - never seen a Scrimshaw Brothers show.

And oh, how I needed to.

Damn, they're funny.

That's not easy.

Often the last thing I want to do is drag myself somewhere when there's the threat of sketch comedy involved.

Like performance art and playwrighting and acting and, well, you pick it. Anything that's part of the arts, people think they can do it. "If I can walk and talk, I can act. If I pick up a pen I can write. If I think I'm funny, then others must also find me funny." Oh, nothing could be further from the truth.

But I was out anyway, I had just done three Fringe shows in a row. I was even already at the Loring Playhouse and had an ultra-pass. I really had no excuses left. What the hell. I don't have to get up early tomorrow. It's only sleep.

Man, am I glad I did.

If you haven't seen the Scrimshaw Brothers, you really should. They have four shows - this one, "Shut Your Joke Hole," "A One Woman Show starring the Scrimshaw Brothers," and "The Worst Show In The Fringe." Now I have three more shows to try and cram into my schedule. Thank God they do "No Pants" year round. We all need a laugh these days.

Music, dance, improv, sketch comedy, social commentary, and some hardy souls even checked their pants at the beginning of the show and picked them up at the end of the night.

The two "episodes" of Comedian Biographies were some of the nastiest, meanest, funniest damn stuff I've seen in years.

And in closing, may I add that comedians who are actually funny, well, they're kinda hot (and I don't think that's just the sleep deprivation talking)

Mini-review
Look Ma No Pants - 5 stars (out of 5)

Confessions of a Scrimshaw Virgin

I admit it. I've never seen anything by the Scrimshaw Brothers. Well, thank God my laughter-deficient life is now a little better. I'm not a person that laughs out loud at shows, even when they're funny. But this show, and this crowd, had me laughing out loud. Comedy that's actually funny is so very rare these days. The Scrimshaws have their reputation for a reason. They're damn good. And despite the rubber chickens, you're not just checking your brain at the door either. This is smart and funny stuff. Stay up late and join the fun.

Sun Aug 03, 01:41:51 PM

 

Fringe 2003 - Racial and Gender Confusion - Day 2 - Part 8

Racial and Gender Confusion

I found it amusing that the show music for "The Book of Names," with its all white cast, was all early African-American blues singers, while the largely African-American cast of "Apologetic Killer" did scene shifts to old Johnny Cash standards. Yes, the former were looking for soul and the latter were in prison, but still, amusing.

Though I have to admit I felt an added pang during the pre-show when I heard the late June Carter Cash singing a duet with Johnny (and I don't even like country music that much)

I don't think I could use the excuse of "Duh, I'm gay" for the fact that the ticket lady at one of the venues had to lean in and repeat herself before I realized she was flirting with me. Hmmm, that hasn't happened in a while.

The men's room at Acadia was closed, so we all had to line up for the ladies room. A guy in front of us told a woman to please remember to leave the seat up. And since it was a spacious restroom, I have to admit I certainly wouldn't have minded a little flirting from the tan young gentleman in line just ahead of me whose blue eyes matched his shirt. Sigh. Straight boys. So clueless sometimes. Of course, it does make fantasizing safer.

On the other end of the Kinsey Scale, at "3 Way," one of the young ushers was all about the eye contact. Given that the fellow knew how to fill out a tank top, I didn't mind the grin as he handed me my program. Made my day, actually.

However, the "3 Way" show cards on the coffee table at the Old Arizona, surrounded by young children waiting for "Sock Puppet Serenade" to open the house made me a little nervous - prude that I am about appearances, sometimes. Oh heck, the kids probably knew more about that show than I give them credit for. Plus, smack dab in the middle of the waiting crowd, were a leather daddy and a statuesque transexual. So I'm sure there were plenty of questions for mommy and daddy in the car on the way home anyway. Ah, the Fringe, such an inclusive definition of "family."

Sun Aug 03, 02:46:36 PM

 

Fringe 2003 - Heard Offstage - Day 2 - Part 9

Sun Aug 03, 03:02:47 PM

Heard Offstage

The restrooms at Acadia are behind the stage. One gentleman waiting in line was quite tickled by the fact he was backstage. Felt like a celebrity. We even heard a sound check, and a frustrated actress with a thick accent on her cell phone pacing up and down berating someone about tickets. A show before the show.

If you're cramming shows in back to back, like me, don't be foolish, like me and leave yourself at the mercy of clocks on the wall at the different venues. Carry a timepiece. One of the clocks had either stopped at quarter to the hour, or was just fifteen minutes fast, so I thought my show had run long and made a mad dash on foot for the next venue, only to find when I got there I was still 25 minutes early. Oh well, God knows I can use the exercise.

"Sock Puppet Serenade" treated me to the preshow chatter of children. One thread of conversation revolved around remembrance of pet gerbils past, and their litany of rather gruesome deaths. One apparently had to be put to sleep because of a brain tumor that had him so addled, he would get on the wheel and just keep tripping over himself and falling off.

Finally, a salute to my dark Fringe doppelganger. If I'm still attending the Fringe solo in a few years, this could be my fate. (shudder) The man sat alone, with a piece of paper with his tiny scrawled handwriting all over it, and a Fringe program in his lap and a highlighter. As he studied his program before the show, I realized the only real difference between us was a couple of years, a shave, and the fact he hadn't washed his hair in a few days. It's images like this that send me screaming back into the dating pool. eek.

 

Fringe 2003 - Review - Gilgamesh, Iowa - 5 stars

Gilgamesh, Iowa
Bryant Lake Bowl
Day 3 - Part 1

I couldn't talk to enough people about how good this show is. Hopefully, I've steered a few of my friends in its direction because if they miss it, they're really missing something beautiful.

When I first read the litany of bizarre things supposedly contained in this play, I thought, "How the heck can all that really be in one play, and still be coherent?" Here's how - the laundry list of oddities passing through this play do so by being channeled through the vivid, hilarious, and slightly naughty imaginations of two young men reunited and reliving their imaginary childhood adventures when they built their own tiny cardboard city, known as Gilgamesh. One stayed in their hometown, the other went off and built a life in the big city. Now the city boy has returned in his friend's time of need, and the subtext underlying their reunion tour of Gilgamesh is powerful, and heartbreaking. When night comes to Gilgamesh, I nearly cried. And then they saved me by making me laugh one last time before they wandered back off into the dark.

Rarely have I seen male friendship in all its complexities portrayed so honestly and humorously. Normally there's a girl involved that they're both fighting over, or there is a war going on. What a relief to find a play that doesn't shy away from the intimacy possible between two men on an emotional level, and having it be about life and death of a very different kind.

The actors, Tim Gouran and Jonah Von Spreecken, are truly amazing. I quickly lost count of the number of roles they were taking on, and yet all the while, underneath the playacting, were the core characters of these two young men. Subtle stuff, but they never let you forget who the story was really about, and what was at stake. Really fine work. A nod, of course, has to go to the director Keri Healey, who put them through their paces and drew such great and funny performances out of them.

The greatest compliment I can give a playwright is to say that the play is so good that I wish I'd written it. That certainly applies here. Often a play is so good it makes me despair that I could ever do as well. But I try instead to let it be fuel to spur my own writing engine along. Thanks for the fuel, Scot Augustson, and for setting the bar just a little higher for the rest of us.

When leaving grad school, my decisions of places to live got narrowed down to Minneapolis and Seattle. Though I'm happy I settled here for so many reasons, a group like Ethereal Mutt makes me a little wistful for what I may be missing.

This is the joy and the pain of the Fringe, to run across a show so great you want to see it again, and then there's still all the other shows you haven't even seen once yet. While I'd gladly chuck the rest of my schedule if I had to in order to find room to see this show again, it seems I lucked out. There's a show Wednesday night at 10pm and my schedule's open. I am so there.

Also, it's not really a full 90 minute show. It runs just a little over an hour. So it's not gonna take as big a bite out of your Fringe schedule as you might first suspect. It's well worth whatever time you have to give it, and the fact that it doesn't take that much makes it all the more remarkable.

See this show. I don't have words to recommend it highly enough.

Mini-review
Gilgamesh, Iowa - 5 stars (out of 5)

A Play So Good I Wish I Wrote It

Actors so talented and inventive, I wish I knew them. Directors and design and support staff so good I wish I could work with them. I hated the fact that the show came to an end and I had to leave their company. I have no higher compliments. A show so funny and human it made my heart ache. If we don't have friends like this, we should. And if we do, and we haven't talked to them lately, it's time to pick up the phone.

Mon Aug 04, 07:30:02 AM

 

Fringe 2003 - Review - War Golems - 5 stars

War Golems
Loring Playhouse
Day 3 - Part 2

This should really be required viewing for anyone who has to make decisions to send soldiers into harm's way. Or any of us who live in freedom and safety because of the protection that these military men and women provide for us.

Don't get me wrong. It's not that the show's unrelentingly grim or anything. It's actually got a lot of humor in it. And not all of it is dark humor by any means.

But war, not just the Vietnam War, but any war, carries a very real human price that the survivors pay just as dearly for as those who go home in flag-draped coffins. Very likely, those who live to tell these stories, those who are forced to carry them the rest of their lives, and make some kind of peace with them, pay the highest price of all.

The clear human portrait the audience is left with when the show is over is that of a young man, not even 20 years old, thrust into an inhuman situation and forced to make decisions that ultimately made him less of a human being. And it was something from which he never recovered.

The fact that this person we're introduced to actually lived, and was the father of the actor who now uses slides, clippings, letters and personal stories to take on his persona, makes the whole thing that much more immediate, and real, and horrible, and touching.

We should all be blessed with the sort of talent and insight to pay tribute to our fathers and mothers the way Zach Curtis is doing here, under the always able direction of Matt Sciple. Maybe we could finally learn all they have to teach us, and find a way to make the world a better place for our own children.

Among the many one-person shows in the Fringe, this stands out as one of the best. Go meet Rob Curtis. He was an amazing man.

Mini-review
War Golems - 5 stars (out of 5)

The Mind of a Soldier

What I found so surprising was all the humor. Gallows humor often, but laugh out loud funny nonetheless. If you want to see even a little of what our troops must be going through, here's your window into what war is really like. If only I knew my own father this well. Zach Curtis has done it again.

Mon Aug 04, 09:43:36 AM

 

Fringe 2003 - Review - The Hobbit - 4 stars

The Hobbit
MCTC Whitney Mainstage
Day 4 - Part 1

It was great to see old friends like Gandolf and Golem again, and to see how the hobbits got mixed up in this whole "Lord of the Rings" business in the first place.

There are a lot of things to admire about the production. Foremost would be the sheer breakneck speed and skill of the storytelling. Clocking in at standard Fringe show length, it nonetheless gave the story enough room to breathe that the audience could keep up. This was no small feat, as two of the cast (with the able assistance of an onstage crew person) were playing a multitude of roles, often in the same scene, surrounding the other actor who played the title character that we followed through this series of adventures.

Just like the actors, the set pieces did more than double duty - forests, mountains, caves, country roads, and home sweet hobbit home at the beginning and end, the journey completed. Flipping, folding, falling down or standing up, the nicely painted cardboard cutouts combined to provide a variety of looks that covered a lot of territory in Middle Earth.

Special mention must be given to the dragon. The monster puppet was a lot of fun to watch in action.

My only quibble, and it's a small one, is that I found myself wishing the whole thing were in a slightly more intimate venue. I'd encourage folks to arrive early and sit close to the action if you can, the better to get caught up in the fantasy. The Whitney mainstage is so large that it can sometimes overwhelm or distract from what is essentially an intimate story with a small number of players.

That said, this is still a fine way to get your Tolkien fix while you wait for the next movie to come out. It was great to see this story take flight live on stage.

Mini-review
The Hobbit - 4 stars (out of 5)

An Imaginative Tour of Middle Earth

The production does the key thing needed to transfer a story like this to the stage - fully engage the audience's imagination. Simple but colorfully painted cardboard cutouts turn and fold, lay down and stand up, each time creating a different look - from hobbit home to mountain top to country road to dragon's lair. One actor portrays the hobbit and two others, with a host of accents, hats, wigs noses, and puppets - and the able assistance of their onstage crew/puppeteer - portray ALL the others roles in the story, of which there are many. The dragon also merits special mention. The tale buzzes along at a lightning fast clip but never so fast that the audience gets lost. It's quite a feat and very entertaining.

Wed Aug 06, 10:50:40 AM

 

Fringe 2003 - Review - The Art of Ruth Draper - 4 stars

The Art of Ruth Draper
MCTC Whitney Studio
Day 4 - Part 2

It's always great to see good material in the hands of an actress who really loves and relishes playing it. That's what we have here with Kathleen Douglass taking on four of Ruth Draper's characters.

High society or low, life of leisure or mired in a thankless job, Kathleen Douglass finds the essential humanity at the center of each of these women and brings them fully to life. More often than not, their character quirks inspire the audience to smile and laugh - the congested and harried German language teacher or the society matron trying to run a meeting and her children's lives in the way she thinks they should behave. Even the southern belle, working her way through a series of potential suitors, greatly amuses us with her bag of tricks. But there is also an underlying poignancy that makes you catch your breath. The Irish cleaning lady just trying to get through her lot in life as best she can is a touching portrait. And when the southern belle meets up with a suitor who truly engages her passions against all commonsense and propriety, her longing to be swept away is quite lovely.

The only thing one could find fault with is that it is over far too soon. Hopefully the success of this Fringe show will provide Kathleen with some leverage with the Draper Company so they'll release some more of Draper's characters for her to share with us in the future. It's a great match of material and artist.

Mini-review
Art of Ruth Draper- 4 stars (out of 5)

A Classy Actress and Classic Monologues

The Draper estate holds very tightly to Ruth Draper's storytelling legacy. Because of this, audiences don't often get to see these monologues get the full treatment. This makes any chance to catch a collection of Draper's work an event. Kathleen Douglass' insightful portrayal of four of Draper's characters, under Peter Moore's skilled direction, makes this production even more into something not to be missed. With nothing more than a couple of tables, a chair, and a handful of costumes pieces, Douglass' acting takes us into the world of four very different women. Frequently hilarious, often touching, always fully human, the stories of these women, and the evening, were over far too soon.

Wed Aug 06, 11:03:47 AM

 

Fringe 2003 - Review - Medea - 4 stars

Medea
Minneapolis Theater Garage
Day 4 - Part 3

"Do they kill their children? Do they send their sons off to war?"

This isn't the "Medea" I was expecting, and I couldn't be happier with the surprise. For some reason, I completely missed the advance word on this one. I knew it had garnered a lot of attention and an award elsewhere on the Fringe circuit, but I was still expecting some kind of large cast, standard interpretation of Euripides. Having seen these ladies in "Selling Blood" on Friday, I should have known better.

A two person reinterpretation of the story, and not just the expected "mother kills her children" story we know so well. It's the whole story of Jason and Medea's unfortunate love affair. Steeped in blood from the start but still full of hope, at least at the beginning. Circumstance and human frailty cause the whole thing to unravel and give Medea's actions their true context. This full story is the one that many writers, myself included, keep coming back to and struggling to wrangle into some kind of manageable text, trying to explain the unexplainable, and also trying at the same time to touch on the ways we all still, to this day, murder our children.

The Eyewitness Theatre Company has found an adaptation that manages this trick skillfully, and with a large and welcome dose of humor, which, rather than undercutting the tragedy, actually casts it in sharper relief. Joanne Haydock and Sophie Partington prove once again to be the only two people an audience needs to deliver the goods. Truly an amazing display of acting chops. Entertaining, hilarious, sad, and mesmerizing.

Mini-review
Medea - 4 stars (out of 5)

Laughing with Medea

I went in expecting something completely different and was so delighted to be wrong. Only two women? The whole story? And funny? This is the kind of surprise I go to the Fringe to see. These actresses, so amusing in their other show, "Selling Blood," pull out all the stops here. Oh yes, there's tragedy, but it's all the more real because they pull you in and enchant you with their humor first. A cross between the high tragedy of the classic tale of Medea, standup comedy, and "No Exit" - these actresses are spirits in an eternal road show of "Medea," unable to leave the stage until the tragic acts are performed, and yet reluctant to do the deed. Propping one another up, egging one another on, shifting blame and responsibility in a comic dance that's intriguing to behold, the evening just flies by. And the conclusion, invested with all the power, and far more than that in most "standard" productions of the tale, leaves you a little breathless. This is a Medea you need to see.

Wed Aug 06, 11:19:39 AM

 

Fringe 2003 - Review - Teechers - 4 stars

Teechers
Pillsbury House Theater
Day 5 - Part 1

You know the Fringe has you by the scruff of the neck when you start adjusting your work schedule.

Went in a half hour early to the day job so I could make it back to Minneapolis in time to see "Teechers." The Shortened Coffin Productions people, seemingly everywhere and so supportive of the rest of the Fringe family, chipped away at the last of my flimsy resistance and I found myself signing on to see yet another show. Very glad I did.

We've seen the "play within a play" before and we've seen the "teachers and students play" before, but not like this. Part of what makes it so much fun to watch is seeing three young performers not only playing multiple roles with gusto, but also to see them trading off some of those roles over the course of the play - and the characters never miss a beat. Also, the cast reaches past the cliche, creating the characters with broad strokes but then filling in the outlines with details that make them fully human. The vulnerability, both of the teenage and adult characters in this show, is what keeps you watching and invested in the outcome. Of course, this is only helped by the fact that these characters have a healthy sense of humor - about their situation, each other, and especially themselves.

The other major thing that makes this show so refreshing is that it doesn't cheat and hand the audience an unrealistically happy ending. People leave, people fail, people deal with the fallout of both abandoning others and being those left behind. Yet still there are slivers of hope invading even this reality - not the least of which is that these characters are resilient. So the problem isn't cheapened by an easy fix, but it also isn't portrayed as insurmountable.

Thanks, Brian and Paul, for believing so much in your show that you convinced me to attend. You're right. You've got something special.

Mini-review
Teechers - 4 stars (out of 5)

Idealistic, Realistic and Wacky All At Once

The most pleasant surprise about this show was that is wasn't just another way out Fringe comedy. Oh, it was funny, and the switching off of multiple roles between the three actors was a real kick to watch. But it was the undercurrent of idealism, running smack into the realities of life, and not getting tied up in a neat little happy ending, which really sold me on this show. And yet for all its clear-eyed realism, it ends on a very up note, one that holds out the hint of hope for the future, even for these supposedly dead-end kids. Well worth your time.

Wed Aug 06, 03:38:36 PM

 

Fringe 2003 - Review - Beauty And The Beast - 5 stars

Beauty and the Beast
Intermedia Arts
Day 5 - Part 2

Uh...wow.

I'm left kind of stunned, still, almost a day later.

One of the many great things about the Fringe is that it makes it so very easy to explore different performance genres that might be outside of your normal viewing patterns.

I know zippo about dance.

I had, I'm embarrassed to admit still, never seen Ballet of the Dolls, despite living in this town well over a decade.

So many have already commented on the athleticism of the dancers, but it bears repeating. The Dolls do some amazing things, creating some bizarre and beautiful stage pictures as they do so.

The costumes crank up the visual spectacle several more notches.

The ecclectic soundtrack, mixing Tom Waits, David Bowie and other contemporary musicians with show tunes from (naturally) "Beauty and the Beast," but also, quite appropriately, "My Fair Lady," built on itself song by song, backing up the narrative of the dancers' actions and creating a haunting yet fun and ultimately romantic atmosphere.

The aerial work, building off a simple setup, was just amazing.

Sadly, I lack the vocabulary of movement to give the show its full due, but trust me when I say it was stunning spectacle that deserved the sold out crowd it got and gave them all more than their money's worth. See it, if you can be among the lucky crowd to get in.

Mini-review
Beauty and the Beast - 5 Stars (out of 5)

The Best Kind of Spectacle

Let's just say, for starters, that any show that can mix Tom Waits and Broadway show tunes is OK in my book. The added spectacle of the dance itself, in all its variety, coupled with vivid costumes and some truly stunning aerial work made this the perfect sort of introduction to the Dolls and their art. Thank goodness they're based here in the Cities year round and I won't have to wait long to see them again. Dazzling stuff, highly recommended.

Wed Aug 06, 03:50:57 PM

 

Fringe 2003 - Review - The Captain and the Dog-Faced Boy - 3 stars

The Captain and the Dog-Faced Boy
Jungle Theater
Day 5 - Part 3

The late hour did not keep the crowd away, nor did it dampen their enthusiasm. They laughed loudly and often and applauded wildly, and not just at the end of the show.

It's hard to state clearly and succinctly what this show is about because there's really very little plot. It's more of a character study, particularly of the relationship between the title characters, two fish very much out of water in the modern world.

The script is a very assured work of poetry. The language flows quite beautifully, and often hilariously, from start to finish - and exclusively from the mouth of one character, that of the Captain. But John Middleton, the playwright as well as the actor playing the Captain, knows his words well and gets the full effect from them at every turn of the story. While the Dog-Faced Boy is all but mute, the physical comedy he performs makes him a more than equal partner in the tale. His dancing is, well, it has to be seen to be believed. John Middleton is to be commended for handing over Dog-Face to another actor, who frequently threatens to steal the show. Thankfully, it's very good-natured theft going on here.

The play, in addition to being about the title characters, is very much about the potential of theater, which it shows to be all but limitless. Engaging the audience's imagination is key, and this production does that in spades. The characters emerge onto a bare stage, with precious few props, and through the actors' reactions to their unseen surroundings, and some changes in light and sound, everything from dance club to hotel to grocery store to open street are fully realized. In addition, the Captain and Dog-Face perform on the street for spare change from passersby - creating what turns out to be a photo-negative-image of Shakespeare's "The Tempest," with a touch of "Hamlet" thrown in for good measure, skipping ahead to the good bits when their spectators begin to get restless.

There's also an ominous pair of huge green pants that wanders into the action at various turns in the story which may represent the modern day equivalent of pure evil, but I'll leave that one for you to figure out for yourselves.

Suffice it to say, this is a show, like many at the Fringe, that you aren't likely to see anywhere else.

And as the program says, if you like this show, go see 15 Head's "Oil on Canvas," also written by the same playwright.

And if you don't like it, well, go see 15 Head's "Oil on Canvas," written by the same playwright, but completely different from the adventures of the Captain and the Dog-Faced Boy.

Mini-review
Captain and the Dog-Faced Boy - 3 stars (out of 5)

Look Ma, Really Big Pants

One of two plays John Middleton has on display at the Fringe (the other is 15 Head's "Oil On Canvas") and in this one John's love of language really gets room to run free. The script is both lyrical and funny. The performances are polished. The bare stage is transformed with just light and sound and the reactions of the actors to their unseen surroundings into a variety of locales. And then there's the dancing, and fighting, and a two-man delightfully low-tech special effects extravaganza that turns out to be an evil twin version of "The Tempest" in miniature. Oh, and those menacing giant green pants. The audience surrounding me was enjoying themselves tremendously.

Wed Aug 06, 04:08:09 PM

 

Fringe 2003 - Community

Wed Aug 06, 04:33:30 PM

One of the nice side effects of the Fringe completely taking over my life is that I've met and gotten a chance to converse with so many interesting people.

I'm afraid I'm a bit behind in replying to email, so forgive me. I do appreciate the responses I'm getting from participants in the various shows (even if some of them don't agree with me - in fact, those are sometimes the most interesting discussions). I'll be getting back to you if I haven't already, I promise. If nothing else, it's just nice to know that people are actually reading this thing.

When I really felt like I'd fallen down the rabbit hole was when I called Uptown Tix yesterday to make a couple of reservations and the person on the other end of the line pulled up my name, and she said, "Oh, I've been reading your blog." Apparently it's been helpful, so I feel like I'm earning my keep.

It's great to run into familiar faces while waiting for the house to open, and then again on the way out as acting and producing friends await their turn to take over the space I've just left.

While standing in line for tickets the other day, I ran into one of the actors and the playwright of a play I like quite a lot

(OK, why be coy - GILGAMESH, IOWA - and I say again, SEE IT)

and it was nice to have a chance to tell them so in person. We sat with each other in the audience, and then I had the pleasure of playing Fringe taxi and dropping them off at their next destination.

I have to say, it was, oddly enough, the most useful I've felt all week.

Strange to just be a spectator for a change while everyone else is frantically creating art all around me. I feel positively, well, lazy, having everyone serve me their wares day after theater-stuffed day, and not having anything to offer in return but compliments and applause and funneling as many people as will listen to the next performance of their play.

The up side is that it will doubtless propel me into my next script with more vigor.

After all, seeing what everyone else is up to, I feel the need to catch up and join in the conversation.

 

Fringe 2003 - Review - James Berry, The Reluctant Hangman - 3-1/2 stars

James Berry, The Reluctant Hangman
Hey City Theater, downstairs
Day 6 - Part 1

I have to say I really enjoy the thought of the Fringe setting up temporary digs in the hallowed halls of "Tony 'N Tina's Wedding."

Never set foot in Hey City Theater myself before tonight so I have the Fringe to thank once again for expanding my horizons.

(If all goes well, I'll hopefully be back again soon. The poster for "Marlene Dietrich and Edith Piaf" says that "Troops are Welcome." This soldier plans to attend on Friday evening.)

Hey City is VERY well air-conditioned, so if you catch a chill easily, you may want to bring a wrap of some sort, as they say. It is a nice way to beat the heat just to stand in the lobby, or just outside the open door, however, so it cuts both ways.

Between "James Berry" and "Teechers," I'm getting such a dose of Gilbert and Sullivan's "The Mikado" that it's giving me flashbacks to that Goldie Hawn/Chevy Chase film, "Foul Play" (or that creepy internet killer episode of "Millenium") (yes, my brain is a pop culture dumping ground). What my good friends at the Yale Cabaret once did with the "Tit Willow" song really can't be detailed on a family friendly Fringe website (we'll leave it at that). What it really makes me want to do is go rent the Mike Leigh film, "Topsy Turvy," which I never saw, but thought I would like.

Oh, the play? Sorry, got sidetracked for a moment there.

It's a shame we didn't have programs or a website or something. I'd like to find out more about this crew. Any group of folks that are having this much fun with such unusual subject matter deserve to be followed in their other endeavors. In any case, my hat is off to them (would that I had as nice a set of hats as they)

They use the full space of Hey City downstairs to fine effect. Not every director would, so "good show!" on that count.

This show looks really good for a traveling period musical. The costumes are quite nice and very evocative of the time period. The use of light and shadow is highly inventive. I admire the way they resist watering down the seriousness of the subject, even as they go about making it the butt of jokes. Not an easy thing to do. And of course to sing about it...well, there's a whole other degree of difficulty right there.

The accompaniast is great, and she does double duty with the old fashioned slide show which is put to particularly amusing use in establishing locations and in backing up that old standby of comedy routines, the unreliable translator.

Even the nightmare of being on the head-chopping block is a stitch, thanks to a string of "headless guy" jokes.

Anyone who makes a "Theater in the (G)Round" joke is also OK in my book.

Making Madame Tussaud's House of Wax into the Victorian equivalent of E-bay was an inspired bit of whimsy.

And I challenge anyone to get that silly ditty "Billy The Rat-Catching Dog" out of their head, particularly after they turn it into "Billy The Fringe-Tipping Dog" at the end of the show.

In short, this was fun. The cast looks like they're having fun and that translates to the audience (and by the way, they deserve bigger crowds than they're getting. Stop by Hey City and help 'em out.)

Mini-review
James Berry, The Reluctant Hangman - 3 and a half stars (out of 5)

Charming Little Ditty

A musical about a hangman who serves as the homework for an actor about to play the role of the executioner in "The Mikado." Why the heck not? This was a very pleasant diversion. The cast was having a lot of fun and that translated to the audience. The accompaniast did a fine job. The Fringe is always a challenge for things like set and lights but this production does a number of highly inventive and amusing things that land it a cut above the standard show that has to travel in a suitcase. Looks good, sounds good, an entertaining time with unusual subject matter.

Wed Aug 06, 09:13:20 PM

 

Fringe 2003 - Tip The Fringe

Wed Aug 06, 09:26:05 PM

There was much talk of buttons and tipping the Fringe as I waited in the Hey City lobby this evening.

Really, folks, it's a shame that the Fringe took just as big a hit as nearly every other arts organization in the state, but the money's not going to magically reappear. If anything, things are just going to get worse.

So drop some spare change, or better yet bills, into those little silver lunch boxes by the door. Every venue has one. If the governor doesn't value the Fringe enough to help fund it, then it's up to us to step up and do our bit. Helping the Fringe helps the artists who need the Fringe to continue its good work.

And if you need further convincing, see "Sock Puppet Serenade" and get the host marionette Wendell's take on the situation, or go see "James Berry: The Reluctant Hangman" and hear a rousing refrain of the song, "Billy The Fringe-Tipping Dog" (I'm not kidding when I say, you really have to be there to get the joke)

Even with the addition of the button, tickets to these shows, and the overall high quality of these shows, make the Fringe a bargain (and the quality of the shows goes up every year, while ticket prices remain well below normal theater prices). Chip in a few extra bucks. The Fringe is well worth it.

 

Fringe 2003 - Review - Gilgamesh, Iowa - 2nd viewing

Thu Aug 07, 09:32:43 AM

Gilgamesh, Iowa
Bryant Lake Bowl
Day 6 - Part 2

So nice, I saw it twice.

Sold out house this time, and well-deserved.

8 reviews on the Fringe site, all 5 star and voluminous. No one can find enough good things to say about this show.

SEE. IT. NOW.

More on the Gilgamesh crew later...

 

Fringe 2003 - Shows So Good, I'm Saving Them for My Mom

Thu Aug 07, 09:38:10 AM

(hence, they're at the end of the schedule and you'll probably be spared my reviews. So here's one last plug for the remainder of my top ten...)

Mom's never been to a Fringe before, so I wanted to be sure she saw...

Baseball, Dogs and Motorcycles
Kevin Kling
Hey City Theater downstairs

I Hate This
Bad Epitaph Theater
Red Eye

Industrials
Ministry of Cultural Warfare
Intermedia Arts

One-Man Hamlet
Theatere Inconnu
Bryant Lake Bowl

Staggering Toward America
Rik Reppe
Bryant Lake Bowl

other shows I saved to see with Mom...

Buy Me A Mockingbird
Tod Petersen
Illusion Theater

Emily Dickinson: My Letter to the World
Elizabeth Dickinson
Old Arizona

Tell Me On A Sunday
Patty Nieman
Illusion Theater

 

Fringe 2003 - The Must Avoid List

Thu Aug 07, 09:45:44 AM

Frankly, I think a "must avoid" list is a mean-spirited sort of thing.

Sure, there are so many shows, you have to give people some guidance or they'd go mad looking at the epic-sized program.

But everyone works too hard on their shows, even less than stellar ones, to have somebody say, "Whatever you do, run, don't walk, away from the theater showing this turkey."

I don't think this is an occasion where the only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about.

Use your space to laud more of the positive shows.

If you don't like a show, sure, warn your friends, but in a public forum at least have the courtesy to lend them your silence, rather than brand them as putrid.

After all, not every show is for everyone. Something I'm not too fond of, people could be falling all over themselves to say glowing things about (it's already happened several times this year, in fact). So what does any one person know, anyway?

It's not like we're spending gobs and gobs of money or blowing an entire day or evening on any one show. $10 (and don't forget your button), an hour, 90 minutes tops, and it's over. In most cases, it's over far too soon. In no case has it grievously injured anyone.

Can't we all just get along?

So the only thing on my "must avoid" list, is a "must avoid list."

 

Fringe 2003 - Getting the full review picture...

Thu Aug 07, 09:54:03 AM

OK, I'm dense.

It wasn't til this morning that I figured out something key about how the reviews are listed on the website.

The reviews with the highest number of stars wind up on top and are always the first thing you see when you visit the page for a show.

What a fabulous idea for a default setting.

This way, people just scanning the site see the reviews from the people who really enjoyed the show and are pulling for it to succeed.

The fewer number of stars, the further down the list the review is placed.

To get a full, warts and all, picture of a show - click on the "see all reviews" button.

Check out the full number of reviews a show has gotten, see what the balance of the reviews look like, take note of the things they liked and didn't like and see if it's a good fit for you. Even someone who didn't like a show may have not liked it for a reason that makes it something you just have to see for yourself (stranger things have happened - this is the Fringe after all)

If a show has a lot of reviews, one of the things you might infer is that a lot of people not only saw it, but cared enough about the experience that they felt compelled to say something. Even if a show has only one or two reviews, that means someone out there was inspired by what they saw. And that's never a bad recommendation.

 

Fringe 2003 - 5 Star Theater

Thu Aug 07, 10:00:47 AM

OK, I just hit the 20 show mark (well, 19 if you don't count the second time I went back to see GILGAMESH, IOWA)

Seemed like a good time to check in.

Shows that rated 5 stars from me thus far

It's a dead heat for top spot between...

Gilgamesh, Iowa
The Ethereal Mutt, Limited
Bryant Lake Bowl

and

Sock Puppet Serenade
Hunter Marionettes
Old Arizona

In fact, 5 stars don't do either of these shows full justice.

I need more stars!

At least 7 or so.

Both the above shows are hands down (no pun intended, my puppet friends) the best theater I've seen at the Fringe, and perhaps all year to date.

Other 5 star notables, alphabetically...

Beauty and the Beast
Ballet of the Dolls
Intermedia Arts

Exposure
Noah Bremer
Minneapolis Theater Garage

Look Ma, No Pants
Scrimshaw Brothers
Loring Playhouse

War Golems
Fifty Foot Penguin
Loring Playhouse

honorable mention must go to...

The Book of Names
Jarvismundi Productions
Bryant Lake Bowl

(the only show I gave 4 and a half stars to, so far)

Mini reviews can be found on the show pages, more detail can be found within my blog on the days on which I saw them.

 

Fringe 2003 - 4 Star Theater

s+s#P10:10:09 AM

It's down to the home stretch, folks. The fact is, some shows are gonna be sold out.

So if you can't get into my 5 star recommendations, or the shows I'm saving up for my mom (thank heavens for reservations - with no extra charge - on the ultra pass - well, mom's cost, but at least mine were "freebies")

Here are the 4 star notables from my list, in alphabetical order...

The Art of Ruth Draper
Kathleen Douglass
MCTC Whitney Studio

The Hobbit
Rhino Productions
MCTC Whitney Mainstage

The Love Talker
Theatre Unbound
Loring Playhouse

Medea
Eyewitness Theater Company
Minneapolis Theater Garage

Oil On Canvas
15 Head
Intermedia Arts

Selling Blood
Manchester Central Theater Company
Minneapolis Theater Garage

Teechers
Shortened Coffin Productions
Pillsbury House Theater

an honorable mention must go to...

James Berry: The Reluctant Hangman
Topsy-Turvy Theater Company
Hey City Theater downstairs

which is the only show to which I've given 3 and a half stars, so far

Mini reviews can be found on the show pages, more detail can be found within my blog on the days on which I saw them.

 

Fringe 2003 - Bowling for Gilgamesh

Thu Aug 07, 12:15:40 PM

At the risk of needing to retitle this blog "Single White Gilgamesh Iowa Geek," I share the following...

The terrible thing about theater is the fact it's so damn ephemeral. When it's over, it's gone, leaving nary a trace except on my, admittedly, unreliable memory synapses.

The great thing about theater is that it's live. And while a show is running, you have a chance to return and make that connection with it again.

I don't do this for many shows, but I did it for "Gilgamesh, Iowa." A couple of friends also came to be part of the sold-out house (I flatter myself in thinking my enthusiasm for the show might have swayed them a bit).

Having given a couple of the Gilgamesh tribe a lift in my car the other day, I hung around afterward to chat. Met the rest of the clan. I happily paid for a round of drinks in order to extend the time I got to spend with them.

The other great thing about theater is the connections it forges, even as ensembles are formed and split apart every few weeks for the purposes of a new production. Seems the Gilgamesh boys, Tim and Jonah, got along so well, and Scot Augustson, the playwright, enjoyed their work so much on another production they did together, he wrote "Gilgamesh" especially for them. These are the kind of collaborators you want on your team. The actors give the playwright credit, the playwright keeps throwing the credit back to the actors. Obviously a mutual admiration society.

Sadly, the society's going to have to split up shortly. Tim has a gig waiting in Seattle after they finish with our Fringe run. So Jonah gets a new onstage partner and heads across the border to the Vancouver Fringe. So Minneapolis is getting an extra special visit to Gilgamesh - all the more reason to see it, as if I needed to come up with another angle to send you in their direction at this point.

A couple of them saw "Sock Puppet Serenade," and agree with my raving about it. When I told them it was a tie for them with best show in my opinion, they began to plot comical missions to take out their non-human competition. Scissors to strings, anyone? "Have a little FIRE, sock puppet!" cackled the Wicked Witch of the West.

Well, we were in Bryant Lake Bowl, what else is there to do but get in a little bowling before splitting for the night. Certainly not ready for tournament play, but we all at least cleared 100 and, more importantly, had fun. (Thankfully, Jonah knew how to keep score. The rest of us were clueless on that count).

Too soon, we were on the sidewalk, saying our farewells. Off went Doob-I, Chou Chou, and Carolyn Sue (their bowling names) with Your Mama, the young lady who helps run the hostel where the Gilgamesh boys are staying during their sojourn here on the Fringe circuit.

They kept telling me I should follow them to the Vancouver Fringe. To tell you the truth, I still haven't had enough of "Gilgamesh, Iowa." I'm tempted.

 

Fringe 2003 - Things I crammed in at the last minute...

Fri Aug 08, 09:29:18 PM  .  Matthew Everett

Marlene Dietrich and Edith Piaf: The Kamikaze and The Chameleon
Hey City Downstairs (sold out and now over)

Wind Up Toys
Acadia Cafe
(still one show left after tonight (Friday, 10pm), you can also catch it Saturday at 5:30pm - review to follow after I've seen it)

 

Fringe 2003 - Review - Spring Awakening - 3 stars

Spring Awakening
Red Eye
Day 7 - Part 1

Any show that starts out using Philip Glass' soundtrack for the movie "The Hours" has me on its side going in.

I'm torn. I'm almost hoping this production is a dry run and they're going to remount it fully later on. (It's this company's premiere production and a gutsy choice at that)

At the center of it all is a really fine performance by John Heimbuch as Melchior (the one student of three that the play focuses on who isn't six feet under by the final scene)

The decision to have all the adult and authority figures be puppets was actually really interesting. But I'd urge the company to consider taking it even farther. By the time the play really got going, I understood that the adults were not just to be seen as inhuman, but also as grotesque. But because the puppet who was Wendla's mother in the opening scene was the first that I saw, and she wasn't outrageously grotesque, I thought she was just a really badly made puppet. That obviously wasn't the intent. She was meant to be less of a monster than the shoolmasters, but I didn't see that except in retrospect, which was a little too late. The monstrous schoolmaster puppets could also be taken further. Seriously, why not go all out, make them not just ugly but also HUGE and menacing figures. And I think leaving the abortionist offstage was an opportunity missed. She should be be, in this context, the most menacing puppet of all. We shouldn't be surprised to find that Wendla is later dead. It should make a strange kind of sense. It should be something we dread and then sadly have confirmed for us.

The actors need to work more with the puppets. They either need training or to spend more time with their puppet alter egos, or both. Greater skill with the puppets would have made them seem more like actual cast members, and thus even creepier, driving the point home more strongly.

The space in Red Eye is so generous and the set pieces for this production so simple, that I found myself wishing they had done more to push the boundaries of the audience's imagination and had scenes existing more simultaneously on stage. We would have accepted it as a theatrical convention and it would have helped keep the pace of the evening up, avoided blackouts and kept the episodic nature of the script from breaking the evening up into too many little pieces that sometimes seemed disconnected from one another.

It's a vital text, and one that in this time in our particular society we really need to see. I applaud them for taking it on, and for not being afraid to find some of the humor in it.

Might I suggest a puppet that looks vaguely like John Ashcroft?

Mini-review
Spring Awakening - 3 stars (out of 5)

Some Interesting Stuff Going On Here

I'm fond of the text itself, so I have to give credit to anyone willing to tackle it. The cuts they made didn't harm the narrative, and actually isolated the boys a little more than in the original, which was a useful byproduct, adding to the pressure on their characters. There's a very strong central performance by John Heimbuch as Melchior. I liked the idea of the puppets more than the execution - the idea that these adult and authority figures are inhuman mutants undoing the inherent humanity of the children in their care is completely in keeping with the message of the play. I actually wished they'd taken it further.

Fri Aug 08, 09:40:36 PM

 

Fringe 2003 - Review - Five Women On A Hill In Spain - 3 stars

Five Women On A Hill In Spain
Loring Playhouse
Day 7 - Part 2

Here I have a hard time saying one way or another, "good show!" Some theater just isn't for everyone, or is more for some audiences than others.

For instance, certain shows that are primarily character-driven rather than plot-driven in this Fringe, my actor friends just love 'em. My writer friends aren't as fond of the same shows because, like me, they tend to be looking for plot and forward movement in addition to character. Audiences in general, well, it depends on the skills of the performers and the likeability of the characters. If they enjoy it, they enjoy it, dramaturgy be damned.

It's obvious from the reviews and the audience reaction to "Five Women On A Hill In Spain" that people are divided on this one.

The most glowing reviews rave about the language and composition of the stage pictures. They love the actresses and design and direction.

And I have to go along with such folks, up to a point. You couldn't ask for a better cast or director for this script. They do their level best and then some to really make "Five Women" work as an active piece of theater. Their work is great, no question.

But I wasn't compelled at all by the script itself, even though I found much to admire in it. This script, no doubt, read very well on the page. The beautiful turns of phrase and the fluid way the story (such as it is) moves from one set of characters to the next are admirably done. But ultimately, nothing really happens. Some of the characters just speak, and at the same time don't say much. We don't get to know them as people, or what they want, or to care about them. They are simply a way for the author to get her words spoken aloud. The characters we get more glimpses of in what passes for action in this play, well, that's pretty much all we get. Glimpses. They don't really lead anywhere or add up to anything.

All that said, the language is lovely, the actors are fabulous, the direction and design top notch. If you happen to have some time, there are far worse ways to spend an hour in the theater.

Mini-review
Five Women on a Hill in Spain - 3 stars (out of 5)

Great actresses, great director, if only...

...they had better material. Suzy Messerole is one of the most talented directors in the Twin Cities, and here she has an ensemble of some of the best local actresses you're likely to see in the Fringe. The design is great. The stage composition tries to pull this all together into something coherent, but fails. And if these people can't pull it off, the fault must lie at the author's feet. Don't get me wrong, it's a lyrical script, full of lovely turns of phrase and the actresses deliver them with conviction. I'm sure this looks great on paper and reads like a dream. But nothing's really going on here. Some of the characters we never really get to know at all, and those we get more of a glimpse into, well, they give the appearance of movement and growth, but it's a picture, not action in even the most philosophical or spiritual sense of the word. There's a line in the midst of all this from a character who is herself a writer that crystallizes the play for me (I paraphrase), "I can see my characters. I know who they are. I just can't imagine them saying anything to one another." That about sums it up.

Sat Aug 09, 11:11:52 AM

 

Fringe 2003 - Review - Gilgamesh, Iowa - 3rd viewing

Sat Aug 09, 11:18:15 AM

Gilgamesh, Iowa
Bryant Lake Bowl
Day 8 - Part 1

So nice, I saw it...thrice.

Yes, the cast and playwright have filed the necessary restraining orders.

I will be stopped at the Canadian border and not allowed anywhere near the Vancouver Fringe.

You, however, still have one last chance to see it on Sunday, August 10th at 4pm, and I heartily encourage you to do so.

Still the best show I've seen in the Fringe so far, with Sock Puppet Serenade running a close second.

 

Fringe 2003 - Review - Marlene Dietrich & Edith Piaf - 4 stars

Marlene Dietrich and Edith Piaf: The Kamikaze and the Chameleon
Hey City downstairs
Day 8 - Part 2

I'm very glad I got I chance to see this after all.

The music, as you might expect, was lovely and fun in equal measure.

The two actresses obviously admire the women they are portraying and deliver their performances with great heart and gusto.

Hopefully, this isn't the last we've seen of this production. It was done in slightly longer form in the Illusion Theater's Fresh Ink series last month, and there is such a wealth of material about these women, both their songs and how they lived, that we could easily have spent twice the time with them and still only begun to scratch the surface.

It was fun to see these two very different lives intersect and affect one another so deeply. There's both a lot of humor and heart.

And the ladies earned every flower that was thrown their way for singing, particularly Josette Antomarchi as Piaf.

Heck, even the program had a sense of fun and whimsy about it.

I feel a little bad for the guy who wrote the one poor review for this show. He obviously wasn't enjoying himself, but in leaving so soon after the show began, he missed the peaks of emotion and humor that were the show's high points. There's some very moving and amusing stuff going on in the latter half of this production.

Is it perfect? No. But it's still growing. And even in its newborn state, it brought audience members to their feet, not to leave, but to applaud and cheer the performances. That has to count for something.

As I say, hopefully we haven't seen the last of what is quite clearly a labor of love, and we'll get to share a little strudel with Kirsten Frantzich and Josette Antomarchi again soon.

Mini-review
Marlene Dietrich and Edith Piaf - The Kamikaze and the Chameleon - 4 stars (out of 5)

I want more, give me more...

These ladies do a fine job of bringing two very different icons and the intersections of their lives and art to life. It was lovely, but a real sprint through their lives, loves and songs. It was longer during the original Fresh Ink run and cries out for further exploration, and a full production. Still, for what it was, it was quite nice and rich with potential.

Sat Aug 09, 11:27:34 AM

 

Fringe 2003 - Review - Six Steps - 3 stars

Six Steps
Illusion Theater
Day 8 - Part 3

Dying is easy, comedy is hard.

But Brent Doyle's script, Noah Bremer's direction and the energetic performances of the cast turn what could have been just an overlong sketch on superheroes in therapy into a very funny way to spend an hour at the Fringe.

Superheroes are also hard to do well, both to create and perform, and there was a lot of clever and inventive character work going on in this production that kept it fresh and fast-moving. Even the therapist, which could have been a thankless supporting role among so odd and ecclectic a group of patients, was a wild and unpredictable comic delight.

It's an amusing diversion that doesn't run out of steam. And, even in a Fringe as great and varied as this one, a production like that can be hard to come by.

There are still two performances left, Saturday evening and Sunday afternoon.

Mini-review
Six Steps - 3 stars (out of 5)

Goofy Fun

Nice to see Brent Doyle let loose with a really goofy play. The full cast takes advantage of the opportunity to go over the top with gusto. It moved at a fast clip, had a lot of amusing moments, and didn't overstay its welcome. You can't ask much more of Fringe entertainment. Superheroes are almost overexposed in the culture at the moment, but this show takes advantage of even that circumstance and mines it for all the fun you might expect.

Sat Aug 09, 11:35:40 AM

 

Fringe 2003 - Review - Wind-Up Toys - 3 stars

Wind-Up Toys
Acadia Cafe
Day 8 - Part 4

This is a nice opportunity for Gustavus grads and current students to gather and watch a couple of Gustavus playwrights spread their wings and experiment with new ideas.

Neither "Toy Boat Scenes and Monologues" nor "Wind-Up Toys" could yet be called a polished script. But there are seeds of interesting plays lurking in both.

Amy Seham's script, "Toy Boat Scenes and Monologues," I think was a victim of its own structure. It was designed to be episodic. While all the scenes have to do in some fashion with toys, their place in our lives and what they reflect about our society, they didn't add up to a greater whole in the end. It was simply a series of short bits. There were many interesting things going on here - dealing with relationships, prejudice, and often how hard it is just to get through the day. Many were alternately touching or hilarious, some simply thought-provoking. But I kept wishing the author would have taken the extra step of literally tying them all together. It's not all that far away from having a single plot tie humans and toys together into something that is much larger than just the sum of its parts. Hopefully the playwright sees that, too, and the rewrites will take it to the next level. Because some of the ideas in this piece deserve to be part of more than just a collection of sketches on toys.

"Wind-up Toys," by Nathan Morse, isn't quite a whole piece yet either, though it's obviously designed to have its three interwoven plotlines add up to a single story. What that story is, I couldn't tell you. The most interesting and compelling part of the story was the character of Buzzsaw, portrayed by S. Randall Schmeling (who gets the prize for biggest laugh of the evening with his bio, of all things - "Randy is a Gustavus graduate. He is an actor. He works at Starbucks." [There's life in American theater in a nutshell, folks] But back to his character... Buzzsaw has the evening's most intriguing structural device in that his monologues seem to come out of nowhere, but eventually all fold back in on themselves. In getting the end of his speeches, we are able to piece together the beginning. It's the most effective writing and acting of the evening.

There's one more chance to catch this double bill, Saturday evening.

Mini-review
Wind-Up Toys - 3 stars (out of 5)

A Good Group of People Trying out their Wings 

One of the many things the Fringe is good for is getting artists out there on stage, stretching their muscles. Both actors and playwrights get a workout in this double bill. There are highs and lows, but overall some nice laughs and quite a bit to mull over. To use a movie quote, altered to fit one of the evening's plotlines, "Life is like a box of poisoned chocolates, you never know what you're going to get."

Sat Aug 09, 11:51:53 AM

 

Fringe 2003 - Mom - Fringe - Day 9

Sat Aug 09, 11:56:35 AM

Mom arrives shortly, and will soon be drafted as guest reviewer for our two day sprint toward the end of the festival

Today
Emily Dickinson at Old Arizona
One Man Hamlet at Bryant Lake Bowl
Industrials at Intermedia Arts

Tomorrow
Staggering Toward America at Bryant Lake Bowl
I Hate This at Red Eye
Baseball, Dogs and Motorcycles at Hey City downstairs
Tell Me On A Sunday at Illusion Theater
Buy Me A Mockingbird at Illusion Theater

And they're off...

 

Fringe 2003 - Review - Emily Dickinson - 4 stars

Emily Dickinson: My Letter to the World
Old Arizona
Closing the Fringe with Mom - Part 1

Mom says, "It was like a piece of lace. Very delicate and beautiful. I feel as if I saw the outline of someone's entire life. I know so much more about her, who she was, because of this than I ever did before, simply reading her poetry"

We both agreed that shows, particularly one person shows, where a person is doing material based on letters can often be deadly dull. But this show is hardly that. Certainly, if you have no interest in Emily in particular or poets or women writers in general, this may not be your cup of tea. Emily Dickinson led a very introspective life. But Elizabeth Dickinson breathes life into both her subject and those letters. We see her love of family and friends, and others, informing each passage. We see her sense of humor, as well as her near crippling doubts about her own abilities as an artist. It's an interesting look into the mind and heart of a woman from another time, a woman who still speaks to our time through the poetry she left behind.

Mini-review
Emily Dickinson: My Letter to the World - 4 stars (out of 5)

My Mom Loved It

As did I. It was a great way to introduce my visiting mother to her first, and long overdue, Fringe Festival experience. A well-done, one-person show on an interesting topic. All that is said in other reviews, I would agree with, more or less. My mother raved, and she's not one to gush.

Sun Aug 10, 08:10:39 AM

 

Fringe 2003 - Review - One Man Hamlet - 5 stars

One Man Hamlet
Bryant Lake Bowl
Closing the Fringe with Mom - Part 2

Mom says, "I'm exhausted just watching him do all that."

Indeed, no doubt the man collapses entirely after the show is over. And a well-earned collapse it is. Just getting through a condensed Hamlet in an hour and a half all by oneself would certainly be feat enough to warrant applause. But Clayton Jevne does something more. He makes it, dare I say, fun to watch. I'm sure some purists might be appalled at the cast of characters in Hamlet being approximated by a series of balloons of various colors wearing hats attached to music stands. Jevne's love of the text, and of performing it, is clear. Only someone who knows and respects the text so well could wring from it all the humor that he does, while still not losing the sense of it. Turning the "to be or not to be" soliloquy over to the audience to perform in order to give him a break was a fun bit of audience participation. Certainly watching the balloons pop one by one as the body count of the play rises was a hoot. Revisiting the text in this fashion actually makes me appreciate Shakespeare's play more, not less. Far from mocking the play, it is an homage of the best kind, bringing audiences to a new understanding and closer relationship to the story. Good night, sweet Prince. And bravo, Mr. Jevne.

Mini-review
One Man Hamlet - 5 stars (out of 5)

Hamlet Over Easy

What? Only two reviews of this show? Did people stay away because they saw the word "Hamlet" in the title? Certainly not the night I went, because it was packed to the gills. And rightly so. This thing is a hoot. Yes, one of Shakespeare's greatest tragedy's is funny. So, should this show or this actor come round again, by all means, GO! If that doesn't intrigue you, how about mentioning the cast of characters played by ballons wearing hats? or the soiled handpuppets? or the sheer lunacy of a man literally talking to himself in iambic pentameter and never missing a beat? I don't give just anything five stars, people. It has to entertain the hell out of me to the point where I'm bugging people to see it, or saving it to see with my Mom, who deserves only the best.

Sun Aug 10, 08:22:31 AM

 

Fringe 2003 - Review - Industrials - 5 stars

Industrials
Intermedia Arts
Closing the Fringe with Mom - Part 3

Mom says, "All I'm thinking right now is: MST3K"

(Mystery Science Theater 3000, for the uninitiated - and that's a high compliment, not a criticism.)

If you couldn't get into this sold-out show, don't despair. It's coming back.

See the bottom of this post for details.

The Ministry of Cultural Warfare has done it again. Not that I'm surprised.

Taking the text of 1950's American "propoganda" films - covering everything from personal habits and dating to how to survive a nuclear attack - and performing them onstage was an inspired bit of mischief. Like everything the Ministry does, it was both smart and funny. And the audience was feeling bad for these cardboard cutouts of human beings in spite of themselves, laughing with them, rather than at them.

As with many good Fringe shows I've seen, there was even a puppet show included. Atomic bombs have never been so entertaining before, and I'm sure they never will be again.

And if no one's dropped one on us in the meantime, the extension of the run will be

September 9-12, 2003

to Intermedia Arts

And check out the rest of Ministry of Cultural Warfare's season on their website at www.mocw.org.

Mini-review
Industrials - 5 stars (out of 5)

The Best Kind of Summer Camp

Gotta say I love the idea of Pat Boone pushing gay porn, even subliminally, and with Dinah Shore, no less. The mind boggles. So many have said so much, I won't repeat, I'll just say, catch it in September if you weren't able to get in the door during the Fringe. Heck, even if you saw it once, it's worth seeing again. Lord knows we can use a laugh these days. As my Mom said, "When we originally saw these films, we believed them. We thought they were real." Makes you wonder about the bill of goods society is foisting on us nowadays and what will be subjected to parody a few decades hence, if we're all still here. Just like in "Far From Heaven," the cast rides the razor's edge of camp without tipping over into full-blown mockery. Great balancing act, which makes the result all the funnier.

Sun Aug 10, 08:33:42 AM

 

Fringe 2003 - The Mad Dash

Closing the Fringe with Mom - Part 4

The Mad Dash

It's a jungle out there, people.

Again I plead, can't we all just get along?

A number of people in line for some of these shows are downright testy. Even if you look like the most bewildered person on earth regarding where the heck the line begins and ends and who has tickets and who doesn't and where you go to get them, well, if someone thinks you're trying to get ahead of them, they get more than a little snippy about it.

Welcome to Minnesota, Mom.

Is it just because there isn't assigned seating that everyone gets so nervous and uptight? Geez. I can think of a lot worse situations to be in like - oh, Liberia, Afghanistan, Iraq. Have another glass of wine and calm down, madam. (Not you, Mom. You still have your sense of humor, and common courtesy)

And of course, after hearing me and all my friends we've met along the way gush about "Gilgamesh, Iowa," she wants to see that, too. Otherwise, she feels she's not getting the full Fringe experience (and I have to say, I found it hard to argue with her on that point). So, bravely we set forth, without reservations this time, trying to make our way into a show wedged between the five others we're already seeing on the final day of the Fringe.

And so the sprint begins...

Sun Aug 10, 08:41:44 AM

 

Fringe 2003 - Review - Staggering Toward America - 5 stars

Mom - Day 2

(As you might imagine from the schedule, there wasn't a lot of down time between shows to actually stop and comment. And yesterday was spent returning to the day job, paying bills and then spending time with Mom. So...back at it)

Staggering Toward America
Rik Reppe
Closing the Fringe with Mom - Part 5

Mom says, "That was amazing."

I think, like most of the audience, we were truly stunned by how consistently Rik was able to move us from laughter to tears and back again. Perhaps the national wound that is September 11th will always be a sore spot which can't help but evoke a reaction in the right hands. But I don't think so. We might be more willing to be moved, but not just anyone can move us. Rik moved us. He is the best kind of storyteller. While he is present in these stories, he is never the point of them. The point is always to share the rogues gallery of misfits and unexpected heroes he met on his journey. Thanks to the portraits he paints of these people, the detail with which he recreates them for us, we truly come to know them and care for them, and in many cases, wish we were more like them. It reminds us, in this dark time, why we still love this country and why we shouldn't give up on trying to make it better. The United States needs the help of all its citizens in order to heal and grow again. Based on the cross section of citizens that people Rik's story, I think we have the raw material to make that happen. This show is the kind of powerful stuff that reminds me why the art of live theater is still relevant.

As an added tip of my hat, I have to say that Rik was doubly impressive given the circumstances of this final performance. He joked when he met my mom the other day that he normally doesn't get up before noon, much less perform. He woke up on the final day of the Fringe sick as a dog. When we met him outside the Bryant Lake Bowl and had a quick pre-show chat, he was fortifying himself with tea, bottled water, and mini powdered sugar donuts. He even warned the audience at the start that he might have to take an unscheduled break for about five minutes in the middle somewhere to replenish the tea supply (and that if he suddenly slipped into some kind of fevered hallucination, tore off his clothes and ran out of the theater screaming, "Ba-boo, ba-boo!" we should understand it wasn't a regular part of the performance).

However, with all that warning in place, he never faltered, and never took that break. Like his audience, he was consumed and propelled forward by the power of the story he was sharing.

Mom says this one is tied for first place in her mind of all the shows she ended up seeing (9). We'll get to the other first place contender in just a bit.

Rik often says he has all the subtlety of a brick when performing. I beg to differ, but if it's true, it's a brick we should all be hit with, repeatedly, until we wake up and take our country back.

Mini-review
Staggering Toward America - 5 stars (out of 5)

This kind of show is the reason the Fringe exists

This show deserves every single five star review it's gotten, and more. I'm tempted to echo Matthew Foster's compliment, "There is no other Fringe show this year." I'll second every complimentary thing said in all the other reviews on this page and go further. It's beyond talking about. It needs to be experienced.

Tue Aug 12, 07:15:45 AM

 

Fringe 2003 - Review - I Hate This - 4-1/2 stars

Mom - Day 2

I Hate This
Bad Epitaph Theater
Closing the Fringe with Mom - Part 6

Mom says, "I'm sure it was very cathartic for him. Maybe it's a guy thing."

Rik Reppe gave this a glowing review, and everything I'd read about it was equally praiseworthy. Maybe following Staggering Toward America is simply an impossible task. But neither Mom nor I was as engaged by this piece.

However, there is much to admire here, and it's certainly in the upper echelon of Fringe shows this year. It portrays, with blessedly generous portions of (dark) humor, the male side of the experience of having a baby arrive stillborn. That is both its greatest strength, and perhaps where its weakness lies.

Strength - we don't see men talking about this subject. Few are both articulate enough to convey the experience and also open to sharing that kind of ordeal, reliving the pain with others. So in this sense it was unique. Also, the structure was helpful in getting the audience through the event and its fallout. Since the story wasn't told in strictly linear fashion, we didn't have to dwell in any one particular uncomfortable spot for very long. In addition, there were riffs - certain characters and situations - which evolved as he returned to them, yet were familiar enough to the audience that we could use them as anchors to pull us through the story.

Weakness - the only character who was fully realized was that of the playwright/performer himself. That, in and of itself, given the subject matter, is quite a feat. However, I think the thing missing for mom, and I know the thing missing for me, was the man's wife in all this. After all, she was going through this experience, too. Revealing more of her character, her pain and her journey, would have balanced and filled out the picture. Maybe he didn't feel it was his place to speak for her. Maybe that's literally a place that a man can't go. But I don't think including her in a more active fashion would have negated or diminished the presentation of any of the things he was going through.

Also, there was, understandably, a lot of anger in this play. It bordered on being unsympathetic. The central character seemed to have no time or patience for anyone else. As I say, this is understandable. But the good people they no doubt ran across rate barely a mention, while the often jaw-droppingly insensitive characters get plenty of stage time.

As I write this, I realize that it sounds foolish to ask this play about a dark subject to lighten up. It's probably as light as it can be. The focus of the play was chosen for a reason. The world I am invited into, and I am invited in, not merely preached at - again, no small feat, given the subject matter and legitimate causes for anger involved - that world makes me think, and to see my own world in a very different light. Perhaps that's all we can really ask of any play. And this brave, honest and frequently funny work does that. It's a great deal more than most plays do these days.

Mini-review
I Hate This - 4 and a half stars (out of 5)

Resistance is futile

You could come up with any number of reasons to try and talk yourself out of seeing a show like this. Forget them. Go. To say this is important theater is to curse it by making it sound like the entertainment equivalent of eating your vegetables. It is funny, it is painful, it is honest, it is angry, it is hopeful. It is the kind of theater that is done too rarely and that we even more rarely get the chance to see. Seek out theater like this. If people are saying positive things about a show such as this, it's worth your time to check out. It was, and remains, in my top ten must see shows of this festival. Glad I saved it to share with my mom.

Tue Aug 12, 11:17:08 PM

 

Fringe 2003 - Review - Gilgamesh, Iowa - 4th viewing

Mom - Day 2

Gilgamesh, Iowa
Ethereal Mutt
Closing the Fringe with Mom - Part 7

Mom says, "Of the shows I've seen, Staggering Toward America and Gilgamesh, Iowa are tied for first place."

You all know how I feel about this play by now.

And yet, there will be more later.

Right now, after dashing from Bryant Lake Bowl to Red Eye and back to Bryant Lake Bowl again, we are headed for the real sprint of the day - getting all the way to Hey City Theater for Kevin Kling.

Tue Aug 12, 11:25:26 PM

 

Fringe 2003 - Review - Kevin Kling's Baseball, Dogs and Motorcycles - 5 stars

Mom - Day 2

Baseball, Dogs and Motorcycles
Kevin Kling
Closing the Fringe with Mom - Part 8

Mom says, "He has a very unique and positive view of the world."

Had Gilgamesh actually been 90 minutes, there would have been no way we could have done this. But I managed to get us downtown, dump Mom off in front of Hey City ("I'll slow down, now, quick! Jump! Tuck your shoulder and roll, Mom!"), ditch the car in the Block E parking ramp, and link up with Mom in line (the VERY LONG line) on the sidewalk outside of Kevin Kling's last performance in the Fringe for this year.

This is where reservations are a must - it's worth buying a pass and/or paying the reservation fee. The line moved fast because those hoping to get in without a reservation had their hopes quickly dashed by the fact that pretty much the only folks getting in as the house doors opened were those already on the will-call list (a list of many pages attached to a clipboard in the hands of a very patient, apologetic and yet nonetheless efficient Fringe staffer - a list that had nowhere near enough room for the scores of people waiting on the sidewalk).

Of course, once in, you had to find a seat. A tough assignment. We ended up sitting off to the right of the stage, with a fine view of the back of Kevin's head, and a little profile now and again. But it really didn't matter. Those stories would have been great entertainment even if all we could do was hear him, like on the radio. Still, it was great to see Kevin on a Fringe stage again from any angle, after the accident that cut short his run of 21A in the 2001 Fringe. Greater still to hear the laughter and participate in the well-deserved standing ovation he received at the end of the adult equivalent of story hour.

Couldn't give my Mom the full Fringe experience if she didn't see Kevin Kling in action.

Mini-review
Baseball, Dogs and Motorcycles - 5 stars (out of 5)

Wouldn't be the Fringe without Kevin Kling

Not much more I can add to the lovefest that is these reviews. I was just as enamored, just as entertained, and so was my mom. Her Fringe, and Minnesota, experience would have been incomplete without the storytelling magic and whimsy of Kevin Kling. Worth standing in long lines and weaving through the crowd to find the few remaining seats in a corner just to listen to him spin his tales.

Tue Aug 12, 11:35:54 PM

 

Fringe 2003 - Review - Tell Me On A Sunday - 3 stars

Tell Me On A Sunday
Patty Nieman
Closing the Fringe with Mom - Part 9

Mom says, "She has a truly beautiful voice. It would be a pleasure to listen to her sing just about anything."

After the relay race we'd run for the first two-thirds of the day, having the luxury to just stroll down the block to Illusion Theater, where we'd be for the last two shows of our Fringe marathon, was a welcome respite.

Mom and I had similar reactions to this one. Love Patty. Love her accompaniast. The music? Bleh.

Yes, it's easy to take shots at Andrew Lloyd Webber. But there's a reason for that. His recent work is needlessly repetitive to the point of being maddening.

However, Patty and the music did manage to create a fully-formed human character. We could also discern what was taking place with the unseen characters she sang to and about throughout. Some of the songs are not without their charms.

Any chance to hear Patty sing is a treat. She's an amazing performer. But I found myself wishing I'd been able to find a way to take Mom to see "Sisters of Swing" at the History Theater instead.

Mini-review
Tell Me On A Sunday - 3 stars (out of 5)

What a voice!

Patty Nieman is one of those performers I will gladly see in anything, even in an evening of Andrew Lloyd Webber tunes. Such is her talent, such is my admiration. The material is frankly beneath her but she raises it to her level. Can't say I loved the show itself, but she was fabulous. My mom echoes the sentiment. Here's hoping she gets more, and better, showcases for her talent in the near future. She's one of the best singers in the Cities and we would be fortunate indeed to hear her more often.

Tue Aug 12, 11:47:27 PM

 

Fringe 2003 - Review - Buy Me A Mockingbird - 3 stars

Mom - Day 2

Buy Me A Mockingbird
Tod Petersen
Closing the Fringe with Mom - Part 10

Mom says, "It was really good up to a point, and then I found myself checking my watch about 45 minutes in."

One of the many great things about the Fringe is that works very much still in progress can test their wings.

The wings on this show are very strong. They just lack a little direction.

No one can argue that Tod Petersen isn't a charming performer. He can hold his own on stage with nothing more than a music stand. And the crowd loved him. In fact, a large part of the reason this show ran long is that people just couldn't stop laughing.

It was great to see Carole Petersen emerge again from Tod's repetoire. While he wrings much humor out of portraying his mother, he never mocks her. This is imitation born of love and it shows.

A still greater revelation was Tod's portrayal of his father. Mr. Petersen is a fun and fascinating character, and couldn't be more different from his colorful wife. Putting mother and father together on stage painted a very enjoyable portrait of a marriage. We see in the father the upbringing in musical theater that shaped the son who stands before us. It is in the characters of his parents that the greatest strength, and the best material, of Tod's show lies.

When the show veers into Tod's personal life, we get into more problematic territory. There is still humor, and memorable secondary characters - hot Mona, young TJ, among others.

But Tod doesn't bring to life those people who appear to be the major players in the second half of the production - his exes. We get details, but all filtered exclusively through Tod and how he reacted to them. The other men aren't allowed to live fully in the same way that Tod's parents - and minor characters like Mona and TJ - do. Consequently, the whole thing feels a little lopsided, as if we're only hearing one person's side of an argument. Tod's journey to self-respect and self-acceptance is compelling, but it could be much more so if we really understood and experienced the obstacles (in this case, people) he had to overcome to get there. While learning to love oneself is important, I'd hate to think it's the end of the journey.

All that said, the building blocks of another Tod Petersen entertainment are clearly in evidence. I look forward to seeing the next steps in its evolution.

Mini-review
Buy Me A Mockingbird - 3 stars (out of 5)

Such potential, even rough around the edges

Tod Petersen is a great performer. His portrait of his father is a wonderful piece of character work. It rivals his deservedly successful portrayal of his mother he has shared with us before. When this show is in the mode of a valentine to his two parents and their marriage is when it is at its strongest, most entertaining and most skillful. The reason Fresh Ink and the Fringe exist is to encourage the creation of new theater. This one's early in its journey but the audience was loving it, warts and all. Glad I got a chance to meet Tod's father, if only by proxy.

Wed Aug 13, 12:04:45 AM

 

Fringe 2003 - Nighttime in Gilgamesh

It was great to see this show have a sold out house for its final performance.

I was sorry to see a great many people, friends among them, turned away. They missed something special.

Even being an usher for this show was a privilege. (And I say that about... uh, pretty much nothing else I can think of)

One of the things that pleased me most was my Mom getting a seat right down in front where she could see the tiny town of Gilgamesh being built. (Crappy seat for me? Who cares? I already know what's going on. I got a full vicarious thrill via Mom's report of it afterward.)

Like all good moms, she was quick to say, "You've written plays that good, too." (Oh, to continue to live up to that compliment)

Of course, while waiting in line, it was when Mom made a quick run to the ladies room that the Gilgamesh troupe walked through the front door. I could only wave sheepishly. They weren't really expecting to see me yet again. "Sure your mother's here. Right. Likely story."

"No. Honest. She's a six foot invisible rabbit" (which, considering the fact that my father's name actually happens to be Harvey, was an unusual bit of vamping on my part)

Then one of the nicest theater family type moments I've had in a long time caught me completely off guard - Scot, the playwright; and Tim and Jonah, the actors; each walked up to me in turn and gave me a hug.

It occurred to me that I'd been there at the beginning, and now at the end, of their Fringe run.

The show was great, as always. And Mom and I still had three shows ahead of us. But that moment was closure on the Fringe for me. I was reminded why I value being a part of, and not just watching, the creation of theater. My experience, my immersion in that mad rush, was complete.

Thanks, guys.

Wed Aug 13, 12:23:03 AM

 

Fringe 2003 - Top 3 from Mom and Me - The Fringe

Mom's top 3 is actually a top 4

Tied for #1
Staggering Toward America
Gilgamesh, Iowa

#2
Emily Dickinson: My Letter to the World

#3
Industrials

My top three

Well, I'd like to say it's a tie, but when you choose to see a show four times because it moves and inspires you (even when there are plenty of other shows out there waiting to be seen), you can't call it a tie

#1
Gilgamesh, Iowa

#2
Staggering Toward America

#3
Sock Puppet Serenade

Wed Aug 13, 06:54:00 AM

 

Fringe 2003 - Best of the Fest

Well, if I'd remembered to turn in my ballot at the end of the Fringe, here's what would have been tabulated...

(Of the 32 shows I ended up seeing, 35 if you count the three times I went back again to Gilgamesh, Iowa...)

Best Visible Fringe Artist
Tom Cassidy

Best Musical
I only saw a handful but of what I saw, I'd have to say...
Marlene Dietrich and Edith Piaf: The Kamikaze and the Chameleon

Best Dance
Again, I only saw a couple, but...
Beauty and the Beast by Ballet of the Dolls

Spirit of the Fringe
Staggering Toward America
This show embodies the Fringe Spirit in so many ways - a really amazing solo show that was written and performed by a gifted storyteller, about a topic that needs discussing, that really moved its audiences, even cynics, to tears as well as laughter, that might not find its deservedly wider audience were it not for a festival (series of festivals) like our Fringe.

Best Show
say it with me...
Gilgamesh, Iowa

Wed Aug 13, 07:03:29 AM

 

Notes from a Wandering Laptop

The big news of the week would be that the site is, at long last, up and running. More improvements and new looks to appear in upcoming weeks, and I'll point those out as we go.

Right now, feel free to browse through the plays, scenes and monologues (click on the menu over there to the left), and sample what they have to offer. Use the scenes and monologues for auditions or classes if you like (and drop me a note (LINK) and let me know how it goes). If you're interested in producing one of the plays, please contact me. (LINK)

Since I've been dreadfully out of touch with folks in the past year or so, here are some highlights:

Studpuppy (LINK) is scheduled for a production at Edinboro University of Pennsylvania in February of 2004.

I participated as a writer for Pillsbury House Theater's Chicago Avenue Project in May of 2003 here in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The result, Dr. Worm (LINK) featured budding young actor/playwright Jordan Allen and his adult acting partner Josh Hartnett (yes, that Josh Hartnett - who was a very good sport about being dressed up as a giant talking worm).

Blight (LINK) was part of the Short Attention Span Theater's Ten Minute Play Festival in July 2003, also in Minneapolis.

And fond memories still linger from the production process for the musical The Hopes and Fears of All The Years (LINK), which premiered at California State University in Fullerton, CA, in Decmember 2002.

So, take a look around and tell me what you think. I'm going to get to work on those upgrades.

Thanks for stopping by.

 

Fringe 2003 - If You Put A Gun To My Head...

...or, If I Could Only See 10 Fringe Shows...what would they be and why?

Thu Jul 24, 11:07:58 PM

So, my top ten "must sees", in the order I rhapsodized about them (details below...)

1. Baseball, Dogs and Motorcycles - Kevin Kling
2. Staggering Toward America - Rip Rekke
3. Voice In Head - The Theatrical Music Company
4. Gilgamesh Iowa - The Ethereal Mutt, Limited
5. The Hobbit - Rhino Productions
6. I Hate This - Bad Epitaph Theater Company
7. Sock Puppet Serenade - Hunter Marionettes
8. Beauty and the Beast - Ballet of the Dolls
9. One Man Hamlet - Theater Inconnu
10. Industrials - Ministry of Cultural Warfare


Mon Jul 07, 07:36:57 PM

Baseball, Dogs and Motorcycles
Kevin Kling
Hey City Theater, downstairs

This one's not much of a stretch. It was the first show to cross my mind when the question of 10 and only 10 came up.

Kevin Kling's a great storyteller and a great guy as well.

Spending time in his presence allows me to relax and appreciate life, to laugh at society but especially myself and all the silly things I get hung up on.

The fact that Kevin feels like the Fringe is a community of which he wants to be a part just validates the experience all the more for me. After all, he's not a guy looking for his first break in the entertainment world. He doesn't need to do the Fringe - he wants to.

Above all, after listening to Kevin spin a tale or two, I feel more human, more creatively energized, and feel that the world seems a little more like something I could actually affect for the better.

At just ten bucks, that's not a bargain, it's a steal.


Thu Jul 10, 12:04:28 AM

Staggering Toward America
Bryant Lake Bowl

The buzz on this show is that the script is simply amazing. A solo 90-minute show from L.A. about a man in search of post 9/11 America that has been hailed as both hilarious and heartwarming.

So if, like me, you're feeling a little strange about the world these days, and our country's place in it - and you don't feel like bombing every nation that looks at you cross-eyed and have run out of people who scare you to throw in prison - well, this might be the place for an intelligent and entertaining respite from the madness.

This one caught my eye when I first saw the initial Fringe listings and I've only gotten more excited about it. Can't wait.


Sun Jul 13, 05:30:50 PM

Voice-In-Head: Improv Headphone-Guided Futurismo
The Theatrical Music Company at Minneapolis Theater Garage

This is just one of those things that's so odd, and frankly (delightfully) insane, that I have to go at least once just to see if it works. I'll probably go more than once, since it's a new experience with a new cast each evening. Every night of the Fringe, after all the other shows have been put to bed (11:20pm all nights but Sundays, when it's 9:50pm), 13 different volunteer performers from other Fringe shows are chosen at random - right before showtime, costumed and given a set of headphones and a MP3 player to strap on. The cast all hit their Play buttons at the same time, and they're off, creating a show as instructed by their individual set of directions over the headphones. And sometimes, the headphones just tell them to cut loose and improv something - so we may be getting selections from a number of other shows woven into this one. Sound like fun? Hit the website that's linked to their Fringe listing and sign up as a volunteer performer. I, and many others, will happily watch the magical marvelous highwire act that results.


Mon Jul 14, 11:29:18 PM

Gilgamesh, Iowa
Bryant Lake Bowl

A 90-minute paean to male friendship, here after a sold-out run in Seattle - comedy, drama, monkeys, tiny houses, cryptozoologists, zombie proms, Irish grave diggers. Personally, I think the women's volleyball team and the wild west whores is trying too hard. I'm a sucker for tales of male bonding. I love a title that puts Gilgamesh and Iowa together. And, frankly, they had me at the name of the theater company. How can you not be a little curious about a band of theatre people who call themselves The Ethereal Mutt, Limited? I'm swinging wild on this one, but it's just too many quirky bits drawing me in. See you in Gilgamesh, Iowa.


Sat Jul 19, 11:33:50 AM

The Hobbit
Rhino Productions
MCTC Whitney Mainstage

I have to admit, I'm coming late to the whole "Middle Earth" mania thing. Never read the books. That was my younger brother's obsession. But Peter Jackson's trilogy of films has won me over. His enthusiasm, and that of his collaborators, for this story is infectious. So I was already predisposed to want to see this "prequel" - pardon the blasphemy, Mr. Tolkien - to the "Lord of the Rings" cycle. But this particular production has me intrigued for a number of other reasons. Someone from Heart of the Beast Puppet Theater is constructing the dragon, so that should be great fun to see. The show itself is in one of the larger venues in the Fringe, so the epic has room to breathe and go all out. And yet it's only three people. One for the Hobbit, and only two other guys to play all the other roles. I love the theatricality of that kind of highwire act on stage. Just the thing to tide me over til the next DVD comes out, while I'm waiting for the end of the trilogy (and no, I still haven't read the books, so I have no idea how it ends, so don't go saying "The butler did it" and spoil the surprise)


Sat Jul 19, 07:24:23 PM

I Hate This
Bad Epitaph Theater Company
Red Eye Collaboration

OK, when I saw the title, I thought, "Man, is this guy asking for it from the critics. He's handing them their headline if..." Then I saw what it was about. Ouch. "An honest, horrible and humorous look at stillbirth" That may be too much for some of you. But I go to the Fringe to see something I don't see every day. And this playwright/performer's got guts. Check out the website. The picture of the artist, sitting with a pair of baby shoes, is both heartbreaking and compelling. And with a time hopping structure, promised laughter among the tough stuff, and a proven track record in Ohio where it comes with praise from several critics (who apparently didn't take the title up on its offer), I'm willing to risk it. I'm pretty certain it's going to be worth it, and that this is an artist I'm going to want to know better.


Mon Jul 21, 11:57:01 PM

Sock Puppet Serenade
Hunter Marionettes
Old Arizona

Some of you may have seen the titular sock puppet on strings and his friend the skeletal marionette narrator at Balls' Fringe Preview Night at the Southern Theater this past weekend.

If not, I can tell you, having met both puppets and their master first hand, that this show is sure to be a delight. A puppet show that even adults can revel in.

Kurt Hunter has studied with, among others, the guy who did the amazing marionette work seen in the movie "Being John Malkovich."

And when else during the year can you say, "I'm going to see a puppet show" and not feel a little silly, except at Fringe time? So get out your old jokes about Pinocchio and strings, kick back and enjoy the serenade. I know some sweatsocks that will be happy you came.


Tue Jul 22, 11:22:32 PM

Beauty and the Beast
Ballet of the Dolls
Intermedia Arts

I have a shameful confession to make. I've lived in the Cities for over a decade and never seen Ballet of the Dolls. And the longer I live here and the more I hear about the company, the more I realize I've been missing out, big time. Thankfully, they are participating in the Fringe this year, so I can finally correct this error. Whether you've seen them before or not, Ballet of the Dolls always provide the kind of vibrant and innovative performance that the Fringe is all about. So, for goodness sake, go. I finally am.


Wed Jul 23, 11:07:34 PM

One Man Hamlet
Theatre Inconnu
Bryant Lake Bowl

Why? Well, it's a one man Hamlet, for starters. Gotta love it when an actor jumps off a cliff like that. And apparently he's landed safely in Scotland and all across Canada. And now he's playing it in our local bowling alley/bar/restaurant/black box theater space. Don't make him do it all by himself. Give this man an audience. I know I will.


Thu Jul 24, 10:55:24 PM

Well, let's face it. They hardly need my help. They've been lodged in the top five shows scheduled by others since the Fringe site went live this year. However, my Fringe experience wouldn't be complete without...

Industrials
Ministry of Cultural Warfare
Intermedia Arts

I have my actor friend Nathan to blame for my addiction to this particular company. And once again, they're serving up something that promises to be both intelligent AND funny as hell. Old education and defense films from the 50's, reimagined for today's society. I need this particular kind of laugh very, very badly right now. I quite literally can't wait.

 

Fringe 2003 - Friendly Persuasion at The Fringe (a series)

...or, Which Friends' Shows are actually worth seeing?

Sun Jul 13, 02:33:02 PM

Don't forget the Fresh Fringe.

Illusion Theater is extending its annual Fresh Ink series of new work into Fringe territory to give us even more new material to sample.

It's a little hard to find these shows on the Fringe website because they have only the most basic information attached to them - no genre markers, no listing of the artists involved - so they won't turn up on most normal searches.

Quickest way to find them, just run a search with Illusion Theater as the identifier and nothing else. That'll turn them all up at once.

Why are they worth it? Here's the lowdown (in no particular order)

Six Steps by Brent Doyle
Brent's an incredibly talented Twin Cities actor who's popping up everywhere lately, on both stage and screen (having just finished a run in the world premiere of Craig Lucas' new play "Small Tragedy" and been seen in the recent Twin Cities' International Film Festival in Patrick Coyle's movie "Detective Fiction" - the first Minnesota film ever to make it to Sundance). But Brent is also a very talented playwright. Last year's Fringe featured his play "Ellen's Empty Chair." This year, it's "Six Steps," a tale of superheroes afraid of sitting idle too long. However, the use of the phrase "evildoer" in the blurb makes me think there's more going on here than standard comic book fare. Definitely worth checking out.

Tell Me On A Sunday - Patty Nieman has one of the most pure and beautiful voices currently working in the Cities. She has been involved in a number of projects on the Illusion and History Theater stages (Vanishing Point, Cocoanuts, The Christmas Schooner and Sisters of Swing, just to name a few). She has such a lovely voice and such engaging stage presence that I'm even going to see this show - a one woman show by, shudder, Andrew Lloyd Webber. This is a testament to her drawing power with me like none other.

Buy Me A Mockingbird - Tod Petersen, Patty's male counterpart in the fine singing voice category, brings another new show, full of his signature humor and showmanship. Queer content, for those of you who get nervous about that kind of thing. But give him a shot. Great voice, great laughs, the most family friendly kind of gay artist I can think of.

If You Don't Really Want To Know - Then Don't Ask Me - Kim Hines reprises her role as Mae-Belle (from Don't Let 'Em Catch You), a psychic who can't stay out of everyone else's business. Sure to be a hoot.

So check out the Fresh Fringe. Illusion Theater has all winners in this year's Fringe.


Tue Jul 15, 11:28:27 PM

Mrs. Cowbeach's Profession
Pillsbury House Theater

I've seen Stuart Holland developing the character of Mrs. Entwhistle Cowbeach in various outings at Patrick's Cabaret.

Yes, it's a man in a dress, but it's not a drag show. And it's more Family Friendly than it is Queer Content.

It's also very funny stuff. Mrs. Cowbeach is a dear old lady, obsessed with etiquette, and completely oblivious to the double, triple and quadruple entendres that spill from her mouth in a nearly continuous stream.

If you need a good dry laugh, this is your show.


Sat Jul 19, 11:11:57 AM

3 Way
Filthy Whore Productions
Pillsbury House Theater

5 Women On A Hill In Spain
Outward Spiral Theater
Loring Playhouse

3 Way - it apparently started as a bet at a party to create a Fringe show. 3 guys try to sort out their couplings, and socks, the morning after. Sounds kind of like "Rashamon" on poppers, but what the heck. Nudity warning, naturally. But if I had a short list of actors in the Twin Cities I wouldn't mind seeing naked, John Trones would be on it. Let's face it, he had plenty of practice in "Party" a year or so ago. Very sweet guy, too. Even though he's taking my money, I won't consider him a filthy whore.

5 Women - In talking about established, ongoing theater companies hitting the Fringe, I totally forgot to mention Outward Spiral Theater Company. Eek, major oversight. They do great work and I'm sure this will be no exception. And while I tend to get nervous about plays with lesbian content turning into "Theatre of the Evil P," the cast includes Kate Eifrig, who I just adore. I'd see her in, literally, anything. And you should, too.


Sat Jul 19, 06:45:53 PM

A double feature, courtesy of a friend of mine who's looking to bulk up her resume and apparently can't say no to a Fringe show

Cafe Delphi
Minneapolis Theater Garage

The Sugardaddy Project
Old Arizona

Delphi is being presented by local company Nimbus. They've done good and varied work thus far - both new work and established plays. This one is apparently by a playwright named Cockroach. And anyone willing to mix ancient Greek prophecy with fast food has to be given points for the non sequitur. Hey, I'm curious, whether it killed the cat or not (besides, I'm not a cat person)

Sugardaddy is being presented by 2 Desperate Chicks (no, that's the name of the company, I'm not making fun of them). One of the sugardaddies is Ari Hoptman. That alone is worth the price of admission.


Tue Jul 22, 12:06:23 AM

Actually, this time I'm lobbying for a script that's something of an old friend.

Spring Awakening
Virginia L. Anderson
Red Eye Collaboration

I know it may seem odd to form a sentimental attachment to a German expressionist play that features sexual repression (and abandon), abortion, suicide, and a creepy (and oddly funny) climax (the structural kind) in a graveyard, but there you have it.

The plays you get exposed to (no pun intended) in college sometimes follow you like stray puppies on the street into adulthood.

And it's not just the end that's kind of amusing. The play is rife with both comfortable and uncomfortable humor.

And they've managed to work in puppets as well.

So I'm going to revisit an old friend. And I'd urge you, whether you've seen it in the past or not, to join me. A large ensemble piece just doesn't get done every day anymore, even in a theater town like this one. Just one more thing the Fringe makes possible.


Tue Jul 22, 11:17:07 PM

Marlene Dietrich and Edith Piaf: The Kamikaze and the Chameleon
Hey City Theater Downstairs

Kirsten Frantzich and Josette Antomarchi are Marlene and Edith, respectively. Both are absolutely charming ladies and just as talented as they are charming. The Dietrich/Piaf double bill is made all the more interesting by the fact that these two icons were once very close friends, and, for a time, perhaps more. But of course, it's also all about the music, and music there shall be. I got a taste of it during the taping of the "Cue to Cue" shows on the Fringe for SPNN Channel 19. Fresh Ink audiences at Illusion Theater have sampled a workshop version just recently. And now, on to the Fringe. A refreshing change of pace, highly recommended.

 

Fringe 2003 - Fringe Tips 1

Broadening Your Mind, Narrowing Your Choices

Do The Math

Mon Jul 14, 11:42:41 PM

The Fringe lasts 10 days. Each day has multiple shows.

Even if you don't want to go to more than one show on a weeknight, there's still two Saturdays and two Sundays with 12 hours of programming in 20 different locations.

1 show a day is nothing, particularly if you're just going to an early evening one-hour show. Easily done. You have the rest of the evening and the bulk of the weekend to hang out and socialize with your friends around the Fringe venues all over the city.

If you just did a single show every other day of the festival - that's a Five Show Pass.

If you did just one show each day of the festival - that's an Ultrapass. $100 may seem like an expensive ticket - but it's not one ticket, it's ten tickets. Ten? Did I say ten? You can go to as many shows as you want. The more shows you see, the less they cost you and the more that Ultrapass pays for itself. Heck, I'm having to imagine someone putting a gun to my head to try and limit myself to *only* ten (which ultimately will not happen)

Too much good stuff. The Fringe is the one time of year that I treat myself to theater in bulk. Raw, uncensored, big, sloppy theater in all its live imperfect glory. I can coast on that for weeks, until the fall theater seasons kick in. It's a fun-filled vacation for my mind, and a most welcome one (right in my neighborhood). All for much less than the cost of a plane ticket.


Try a little bit of everything...

Wed Jul 09, 11:04:30 PM

More than anything, the Fringe is a place to experiment with expanding your horizons - both cheaply and quickly.

$10 is a lot less than you would normally pay to see a dance performance, or just about any theater performance.

And if you find you don't like something, well, hey, it's only an hour out of your life, at least you tried, now you know, on to the next experience.

I'm not saying, "Go to things just because you think they're good for you (the artistic equivalent of eating all your vegetables.)"

By all means, go to as many things as you possibly can that strike you as fun.

But if there's such a thing as good performance art - and there are days, believe me, when I wonder - you've got a far better shot at finding it here than any other time during the year.

Dance, storytelling, solo pieces, huge ensembles, new plays, spoken word, dramas, musicals, puppets, juggling, comedy, physical feats of sheer daring of all types, improv, variety, vaudeville, cabaret, across the spectrum from "family friendly" to "queer content" and everything in between (often a mix of many of the above in a single show).

It's an embarrassment of riches in an already art-rich city. By all means, dive in. Don't be shy. There's plenty to go around for everyone.


Friends and Family

Sun Jul 06, 10:04:03 PM

When you're wittling down the 162 shows to your own special list of the precious few, consider...

are any friends or family members in shows?

Not sure? Ask them. (Though they've probably already hit you up to come and see them on stage, unless they're the shy type)

Attendance and word of mouth are hard to get going, particularly right at the start. They'll love you even more than they already do.

Going this route nearly always introduces me to some good stuff I would otherwise have missed.

My actor friend Nathan is responsible for introducing me to the Ministry of Cultural Warfare a couple of Fringes ago, and I've hit each Fringe show since, plus some of their regular season outings as well. Intelligent, well-acted, (actually funny) comedy - what a pleasant surprise. And of course, they're back again this year, this time with "Industrials" at Intermedia Arts, which sounds like a hoot.

Not an actor among your friends or family? Go see something by someone you've seen in other productions outside the Fringe, or that comes recommended by friends, family, or... well, anyone making the Fringe rounds. Hang out afterward, pay them a compliment, and if you don't seem like the stalker type, you might have just made a new friend for next Fringe.


Artists’ Websites

Sun Jul 13, 08:57:01 PM

On the main Fringe website - www.fringefestival.org, on many of the individual detail pages for the shows , there is a small button saying, "View Artist's Website" right under the description of the show.

Click on it.

A lot of artists have enthusiastic and funky websites, full of information. You can learn more about both them and the show.

Chances are, if you're on the fence about their show, that website will push you over the edge, to one side or another. Some shows just don't lend themselves well to a short description, and the fuller explanation makes things clearer. Some artists don't sound like someone you'd want to spend even an hour with, but most do. Just like on first dates, a sense of humor is always a plus for setting one at ease.

So don't think of it as homework, think of it as touring the inside of someone else's head. And all you have to do is point and click.


Mailing Lists

Mon Jul 21, 11:45:12 PM

Ah, summer at Fringe time - when the show cards are in bloom.

My mailbox sees more and more little, and no so little, show cards from a variety of artists, all plugging their Fringe shows each day.

That's the other great thing the Fringe is for, giving you an opportunity to get on all sorts of theater's mailing lists. If you're worried about felling one too many trees with all this paper, then hit the websites that the Fringe site has links to for the various artists and take your mailing lists on line into the ether ("no trees were harmed during the making of this e-mail"). And if they only have your email address, they still don't know where you live.

Once you're on mailing lists, there's sure to be a steady flow of info about theater beyond the Fringe coming your way for the rest of the year. You're always plugged into the scene. As Martha would say, "That's a good thing." (Well, it beats getting your hand caught in the stock exchange's cookie jar, anyway)

So sign up when and where you can.


Location, Location, Location

Sun Jul 06, 10:25:27 PM

When constructing your Fringe schedule, give yourself some breathing room, and don't tempt the traffic and parking gods more than absolutely necessary.

Find a show that's a must-see? See what else is playing at that venue over the course of the festival. Hanging out in the same locale for a couple of shows or more gives you the leisure time to mingle with other Fringers and get their take on other worthwhile shows to see elsewhere. Plus you might get to meet some of the artists while you're at it.

If nothing at the same location strikes your fancy, try something in a venue nearby...

Intermedia Arts and Bryant Lake Bowl are walking distance from one another, you don't even have to move your car. Or you could move your car, but only as far as Old Arizona.

Hey City Theater Upstairs and Downstairs - what's more convenient than that? And Illusion Theater's just up the street.

Loring Playhouse is a leisurely stroll from the MCTC's Whitney Mainstage, which is just down the hall from Whitney Studio, and all three are a quick car ride from the Minneapolis Theater Garage.

You get the idea.


Large Economy-Size Shows

Sat Jul 19, 06:55:19 PM

The praise and perils of 90 minute shows

When you're scheduling, be aware (not beware) of the 90 minute show.

I realize this is mainly short attention span theater the week of the festival, but there are about two dozen shows on the docket that run for 90 minutes, rather than just under an hour like the rest of the festival offerings.

Just make sure you know how long your show is. You don't want to be overlapping with, or making a mad dash for, your next Fringe fix.

The nice thing about the 90 minute shows is they're a nice way to break up the pace of a breakneck day of theatergoing. First, you get to settle in and enjoy a slightly longer tale - and if it's a good story, I rarely am anxious for it to end.

2nd, it's really only half an hour longer. So it's still shorter than your standard issue full-length play experience. You're in and out in fine time.

3rd, because most shows run on the hour and half hour, you probably have an imposed break to catch your breath before the next show you planned to see (either before or after a 90-minute one) starts up. Plenty of time to even get from one end of town to the other.

So, 90 minute shows are your friend. Program a few in to mix things up.


Fringe Fashions

Sat Jul 19, 10:55:27 AM

My Fringe T-shirt and bag arrived in the mail the other day. Very spiffy, and practical as well.

There's a list of the entire catalog of shows on the back of the shirt and one side of the bag. And little check boxes you can check off as you see all the shows on your list.

Or you could get a friendly stranger to help you with the back of the T-shirt. "Here, I'll bend over..." (But enough about picking up men at the Fringe...)

Personally, I think boxer shorts is going overboard, but if you like that sort of thing, you can order a pair and keep the Fringe very close to your...heart.

Also mugs with very tiny print (but again, all the shows are there for the squinting), traveling coffee containers, baseball-style shirts, etc.

Only available online, folks, so don't go looking for them at the Fringe venues during the festival. If you want to get them, the time is now and the place is the website.

So celebrate the Fringe's 10th Birthday and get a little souvenir of the largest Fringe Festival in the United States.

They're like my own little website databases in one shot. I can scan over the list and see who I've neglected to mention.

 

Fringe 2003 - Fringe Tips 2

Artists From Around the Corner and Around the World

Take a local theater for a test drive

Mon Jul 14, 07:19:12 AM

One of the many great things about the Fringe is that it allows you to sample the work of a theater company with which you're not already familiar.

Theater's expensive. During the course of a theater's regular season, you're lucky if you can find a ticket for $15, more likely it's $18, $20 or $25. If you don't know a company's work, I can understand the reluctance to blow that kind of money and a whole evening of your life on that.

Here at the Fringe, you can sample them for just an hour or 90 minutes of your time, and $10, tops. If you get a Fringe Ultrapass and see more than ten shows (which I highly recommend as an unrepentant Fringe junkie myself), the cost of shows just keeps going down.

Ballet of the Dolls is doing their own unique take on the legend of "Beauty and the Beast."

Fifteen Head is doing "Oil on Canvas," an exploration of the wild life and times of the artist Modigliani in Paris before World War I.

Theater Gallery is remounting a production hailed as one of the top ten of 2001, "Zap! Kunst! or Presto! It's Art!" They've been getting consistently good reviews for all their productions but they've only been in town a couple of years, so you might have missed them.

Theater Unbound is a new company just kicking into gear that does quality work.

Gremlin Theater, Ministry of Culutural Warfare, there are so many more that I know I'm overlooking. This is just off the top of my head.

Check the websites of the local shows. If they're an ongoing theater company throughout the year, this is a great opportunity to introduce yourself to a theater company that could become your own personal addiction, and a source of entertainment till the next Fringe comes around.

Now's your chance to try any or all of them for a fraction of their normal cost. Under these conditions, I'd suggest "all."


Sample Someone Just Passing Through Town

Sat Jul 19, 07:09:59 PM

(or, Nothing More Attractive Than Someone You Know You Won't Have To See Again for a While)

In addition to offering some of the finest and most varied performance work available in the Twin Cities, our Fringe being the largest in America also draws a lot of people from both out of town and out of state who work the Fringe circuit and want to be sure they hit our fair city.

Shows from California, Florida, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Massachusetts, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Texas, Washington, and Wisconsin.

And a little closer to home, everything from right next door in Stillwater to off in Duluth, Rockford, Mora, Barrett, Winona and St. Peter, Minnesota.

So do an "Out of Town" show search and take a look at some work you won't have the chance to see every day of the week, even in a theater-rich town such as our own.


A Little International Flavor

Sat Jul 19, 07:17:13 PM

Yes, people actually do come from not just all over the country, but all over the world, to take part in our Fringe Festival.

So let's give them an audience worth making the trip for.

After all, how often do you normally get to see award-winning theater ensembles from England the rest of the year? For $10 a show?

And not only our mother country, but our neighbor up north, Canada, is shipping them in.

Not to be outdone, several companies have hopped a plane from Australia. For battling jet lag alone, they deserve a hand.

There's also a dance company all the way from Nigeria.

So, utilize that "Out of Town" search on the website and expand your horizons across the border, and even a few oceans, to see how they create theater on other continents.

It's more than a bargain. Whether it shows you something completely different or shows you that we're not all that far apart after all in this scary world, it could change your whole outlook, very much for the better.


Sure Things...

Wed Jul 09, 11:51:27 PM

(or, try ‘Sex with David Mann’)

(or, experience something that someone before you has already tried and liked)

(or, if they decided to mount it again, it's worth your while to show up and watch)

But seriously folks, there are many - many, many, many - shows that are either back for a second helping of the Minneapolis audience because they were so popular the first time, or shows that have been making the Fringe or other theater circuits around the country and around the globe, picking up accolades wherever they go, that have finally landed in our neck of the woods.

Trying something new and untested make you nervous? Try some slightly used, but well loved and highly recommended theater.

 

Fringe 2003 - Fringe Tips 3

Content Warnings - Nudity, Sex and Violence

Live Nude Fringe

Sun Jul 06, 08:00:47 PM

Well, not really.

Folks, for good or ill, you really don't have to worry about seeing too many naughty bits this year. So you can either relax and enjoy yourselves, or sigh and wish you were enjoying yourselves more.

There are only 3, count 'em, 3, shows with nudity warnings this year.

3 Way at Pillsbury House Theater, courtesy of Filthy Whore Productions, so what did you expect? Guy on guy on guy action (or rather, sorting it all out the morning after), for those of you that care one way or the other (personally I do care, and you can all decide for yourselves which way).

A Regular Night at the Strip Club at the Minneapolis Theatre Garage, a solo woman's show, so you can figure that one out.

and finally

Tyrannous Rex at the Old Arizona from Company C Nana of Australia, so you can rest assured that after the Fringe is over, you won't be running into Rex on the street. This may make things less or more enticing for some.

So take your pick, but remember, "The Fringe. It's not just naked people throwing food." (Now, more than ever)


Sax and Violins

Sun Jul 06, 10:15:45 PM

Violence warnings

May not be as scary the title implies - for example...

Two of the warnings are attached to the classics - Beowulf and Medea

One is attached to a memoir of the Vietnam War

One is related to a zombie show

One has a description which includes "bear eats child" (hopefully not from a family in the audience, but...)

Nothing unexpected there.

A couple are attached to riffs on the Bible (a book known to have a gory passage or two, regardless of the testament) - one show's comedic, the other more serious - and depending on how seriously you take the Bible, and how liberal your sense of humor is - despite or because of your religious leanings - they could be delightful or offensive for reasons completely unrelated to violence.

One warning's tacked on to the Strip Club show that already has a nudity warning - but it's a one woman show, so unless she beats herself up...

One's appended to a production of sketch comedy about love. (Who's been reading my diary?)

One's attached to Ministry of Cultural Warfare's "Industrials" - why, I have no idea - but I trust them.

One's attached to Theatre Unbound's "The Love Talker" - but again, I trust them.

Steel your stomach and take a chance. After all, they can't say they didn't warn us. And let's face it, we see worse on the nightly news to absolutely no purpose but to get us to buy another lock for the door and fear our neighbor. At least, one hopes, these violent interludes have a purpose.

When all else fails, just keep telling yourself, "It's only a play."

 

Notes from a Wandering Laptop

Notes from a Wandering Laptop

Week of November 23, 2003

The big news of the week would be that the site is, at long last, up and running. More improvements and new looks to appear in upcoming weeks, and I'll point those out as we go.

Since I've been dreadfully out of touch with folks in the past year or so, here are some highlights:

Studpuppy is scheduled for a production at Edinboro University of Pennsylvania (www.edinboro.edu), February 12-14 and 19-21 of 2004. (The original production was commissioned by Allegheny College in September 2001).

I participated as a writer in Pillsbury House Theater's Chicago Avenue Project in May of 2003 here in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The result, Dr. Worm, featured budding young actor/playwright Jordan Allen and his adult acting partner Josh (Black Hawk Down, Pearl Harbor) Hartnett (who was a very good sport about being dressed up as a giant talking worm).

Blight was part of the Short Attention Span Theater's Ten Minute Play Festival in July 2003, also in Minneapolis.

And fond memories still linger from the production process for the musical The Hopes and Fears of All The Years, which premiered at California State University in Fullerton, CA, in Decmember 2002.

Feel free to browse through the plays, scenes and monologues (click on the menu over there to the left), and sample what they have to offer.

Currently, the Scenes and Monologues are accessible through the pages for the individual plays with which they are associated. Click on Scenes or Monologues on each Play's home page and a list of scenes will appear. Click on the representative quote to view the scene or monologue in its entirety.

Shortly there will be two fully searchable databases, one for Monologues and one for Scenes, integrating material from all the plays listed.

If you're interested in producing one of the plays, please contact me. Use the scenes and monologues for auditions or classes if you like (and drop me a note and let me know how it went).

Also associated with many of the plays are Photo Galleries of rehearsal and production. Soon there will be an all-encompassing photo gallery option through which you can access the full range of images available through a single spot on the site. The same holds true for centralized listings of Awards and Honors, and Production History. Currently, those items can be found via the plays with which they are associated.

In addition, information on my writing and consulting services, as well as samples of my critical and editorial writing, are available through the menu on the left side of the screen.

So, take a look around and tell me what you think. I'm going to get to work on those upgrades.

Thanks for stopping by.

 

Notes from a Wandering Laptop

Notes from a Wandering Laptop

Week of January 25, 2004

UPCOMING PRODUCTION

Studpuppy

Wednesday through Saturday, February 11, 12, 13, 14, 2004

Thursday and Friday, February 19 and 20, 2004

at Edinboro University of Pennsylvania (www.edinboro.edu)

Edinboro is close to Allegheny College, where the original production was commissioned and produced in the fall of 2001. The director of the new production is also a close friend of one of the original cast. I'm looking forward to making new connections and renewing old acquaintances on the two campuses when I travel east to attend the opening weekend of this latest incarnation of the dog boy. Come join us for the fun if you happen to be in the northwestern corner of Pennsylvania next month.

Meantime, take a tour of the material (photos, scenes and monologues) from Studpuppy, and the other plays, screenplays and TV scripts sampled on this site.

Pending upgrades will provide a centralized searchable database for all the scenes and monologues available on the site, but for now you can access all that material through the sections on the individual plays themselves (hit the Plays & Musicals menu item to the left for a full list of what's available). Click on Scenes or Monologues on each Play's home page and a list of scenes will appear. Click on the representative quote to view the scene or monologue in its entirety.

A central photo gallery for all the plays, as well as sample songs from the Christmas musical, The Hopes and Fears of All the Years (commissioned and produced by California State University - Fullerton's Department of Theatre and Dance in the winter of 2002), are also on the way.

If you're interested in producing one of the plays, please contact me. Use the scenes and monologues for auditions or classes if you like (and drop me a note and let me know how it went).

In addition, information on my writing and consulting services, as well as samples of my critical and editorial writing, are available through the menu on the left side of the screen.

So, take a look around and tell me what you think. I'm going to get back to work on those upgrades.

Thanks for stopping by.

 

Notes from a Wandering Laptop

Notes from a Wandering Laptop

Week of February 1, 2004

UPCOMING PRODUCTION

(less than two weeks away)

Studpuppy

Wednesday through Saturday, February 11, 12, 13, 14, 2004

Thursday and Friday, February 19 and 20, 2004

at Edinboro University of Pennsylvania (www.edinboro.edu)

I'm currently burning some CD's for the cast and crew, and doing the usual harried rush one always does before leaving town and the day job for a few days. Getting in touch with the original cast members, some of whom are coming to town for the occasion. I'll be hanging my hat at the home of the director of the first production as well, so it should make for a nice reunion in addition to the pleasure of seeing the characters come to life on stage in front of an audience again. Come join us for the fun if you happen to be in the northwestern corner of Pennsylvania on one of the performance dates.

Meantime, take a tour of the material (photos, scenes and monologues) from Studpuppy, and the other plays, screenplays and TV scripts sampled on this site.

Another recent development is forward movement on a production of Heaven and Home in New York City, now slated for sometime in the winter of 2004-2005. The details are yet to be finalized but it looks as though it is definitely happening. Heather Cunningham, who was instrumental in making the script part of a new play reading series at Hedgerow Theatre, has carried her affection for the play with her to the Big Apple, where she currently resides. I'm grateful that the play and I have such a tireless advocate working on our behalf. I'll keep you posted as things firm up.

Pending upgrades will provide a centralized searchable database for all the scenes and monologues available on the site, but for now you can access all that material through the sections on the individual plays themselves (hit the Plays & Musicals menu item to the left for a full list of what's available). Click on Scenes or Monologues on each Play's home page and a list of scenes will appear. Click on the representative quote to view the scene or monologue in its entirety.

A central photo gallery for all the plays, as well as sample songs from the Christmas musical, The Hopes and Fears of All the Years (commissioned and produced by California State University - Fullerton's Department of Theatre and Dance in the winter of 2002), are also on the way.

If you're interested in producing one of the plays, please contact me. Use the scenes and monologues for auditions or classes if you like (and drop me a note and let me know how it went).

In addition, information on my writing and consulting services, as well as samples of my critical and editorial writing, are available through the menu on the left side of the screen.

So, take a look around and tell me what you think. I'm going to get back to work on those upgrades.

Thanks for stopping by.

 

Notes from a Wandering Laptop

Notes from a Wandering Laptop

Week of February 8, 2004

CURRENT PRODUCTION

(opening this week)

Studpuppy

Wednesday through Saturday, February 11, 12, 13, 14, 2004

Thursday and Friday, February 19 and 20, 2004

at Edinboro University of Pennsylvania (www.edinboro.edu)

Well, the bags are nearly packed, and I'm collecting my notes for a scheduled chat I'll be making on playwrighting at the Edinboro campus this coming Friday, February 13th. (This bit of singing for my supper reminds me to plug my writing and consulting services, as well as samples of my critical and editorial writing, which one can view by accessing the menu on the left side of the screen.) It will be good to get out of town, take a break from the day job, just wear my writer's hat and catch up with my friends and collaborators from the first production while getting to know the ensemble responsible for this latest incarnation of the play.

Come join us for the fun if you happen to be in the northwestern corner of Pennsylvania on one of the performance dates.

Meantime, take a tour of the material (photos, scenes and monologues) from Studpuppy, and the other plays, screenplays and TV scripts sampled on this site.

BREAKING NEWS - FAST FRINGE is nearly here...

This week a new component of the Minnesota Fringe Festival was born. As if being the largest Fringe Festival in the United States wasn't enough, they want to launch a showcase as part of the Minnesota Fringe to highlight plays running under ten minutes. After sitting in on a pair of organizational meetings, it seems I've signed on as a producing partner for this experimental dry run in August. In the next two weeks, an application form will be finalized and a call for applications will be sent out. In addition to providing a link to the application in the e-mail announcements, I will be sure to provide a link here on my front page. Details are still being hammered out. You'll know more when I do. So watch this space for the latest on the new Fast Fringe. (Meantime, you can check out my writings on Fringe 2003 or visit the Minnesota Fringe Festival's site.)

MAKING A SCENE (or rather, making a scene look better...)

The scene listings available on this site have a new, more user friendly look this week - including the gender, age and name of the characters involved. The monologues will soon follow suit. The centralized searchable database for all the scenes and monologues on the site should be live by the end of the month. For now you can access all that material through the sections on the individual plays themselves (hit the Plays & Musicals menu item to the left for a full list of what's available). Click on Scenes or Monologues on each Play's home page and a list of scenes will appear. Click on the representative quote to view the scene or monologue in its entirety.

A central photo gallery for all the plays, as well as sample songs from the Christmas musical, The Hopes and Fears of All the Years (commissioned and produced by California State University - Fullerton's Department of Theatre and Dance in the winter of 2002), are also on the way.

If you're interested in producing one of the plays, please contact me. Use the scenes and monologues for auditions or classes if you like (and drop me a note and let me know how it went).

So, take a look around and tell me what you think. I'm going to get back to work on those upgrades.

On a personal note, Happy Birthday to my mother, who I get to see this week when we converge on the play in Edinboro.

Thanks for stopping by.

 

Notes from a Wandering Laptop

Notes from a Wandering Laptop

Week of February 15, 2004

CURRENT PRODUCTION

(continues this week)

Studpuppy

Thursday and Friday, February 19 and 20, 2004

at Edinboro University of Pennsylvania (www.edinboro.edu)

The laptop was indeed wandering last week as I attended last week's opening performances. It's a delightful little production. Though my time with them was brief, it was great to have a chance to meet the new cast, and to see a different take on the script. (New photos should be available shortly.) Skippy the Wonder Dog was working hard to plug the show, making appearances in the campus cafeteria as well as participating in a weekly improv series the students run called "Deviant Behavior." This trip was also a wonderful opportunity to reunite and catch up with my friends from the first production.

If you happen to be in the northwestern corner of Pennsylvania on one of the remaining performance dates, drop by the theater in Compton Hall and see the results of their hard work. In addition, while you're out that way, there's a production of "Children of Eden," a musical directed by my friend and host, Martin Scott Marchitto, continuing its run at the Academy Theater in Meadville, PA, not far from Edinboro. It's quite a dazzling spectacle and well worth your time.

Meantime, take a tour of the material (photos, scenes and monologues) from Studpuppy, and the other plays, screenplays and TV scripts sampled on this site.

Latest on the FAST FRINGE...

The application form is nearly ready for this new component of the Minnesota Fringe Festival. Polish off your short plays, folks. The Fringe's new showcase for plays running under ten minutes - the Fast Fringe - is here. The producers have beaten the details into shape and we'll be going public with our call for scripts as early as next week. I'll include a link to the application form here on the front page once the Fringe has it up and running. Meantime, you can e-mail questions to fast@fringefestival.org. (While you wait for the application to go live, check out my writings on Fringe 2003 or visit the Minnesota Fringe Festival's site to learn more about all things Fringe.)

MAKING A SCENE (or rather, making a scene look better...)

The scene listings available on this site have a new, more user friendly look - including the gender, age and name of the characters involved. The monologues will soon follow suit. The centralized searchable database for all the scenes and monologues on the site should be live by the end of the month. For now you can access all that material through the sections on the individual plays themselves (hit the Plays & Musicals menu item to the left for a full list of what's available). Click on Scenes or Monologues on each Play's home page and a list of scenes will appear. Click on the representative quote to view the scene or monologue in its entirety.

A central photo gallery for all the plays, as well as sample songs from the Christmas musical, The Hopes and Fears of All the Years (commissioned and produced by California State University - Fullerton's Department of Theatre and Dance in the winter of 2002), are also on the way.

If you're interested in producing one of the plays, please contact me.

Feel free to use the scenes and monologues for auditions or classes if you like (and drop me a note and let me know how it went).

So, take a look around and tell me what you think. I'm going to get back to work on those upgrades.

On a personal note, Happy Birthday to my father, my young nephew Eric, and friend Galway - all of whom happen to have been born the same day, though several decades apart.

Thanks for stopping by.

 

Notes from a Wandering Laptop

Notes from a Wandering Laptop

Week of February 22, 2004

CURRENT PROJECT

Fast Fringe has arrived!

My latest producing gig is off and running - read on...

Fast Fringe is calling for scripts:


New to the Minnesota Fringe Festival this year, Fast Fringe is a showcase for plays under ten minutes long. Two different programs with five plays each. It's even more theater in a standard Fringe-sized package. Fast Fringe is accepting submissions from now through Friday, April 2, 2004.


To download complete details and the application form go to:
http://www.fringefestival.org/pdf/fastfringe_application-04.pdf


To download the script format guidelines, go to:
http://www.fringefestival.org/pdf/fastfringe_example.pdf


Questions? Email us at fast@fringefestival.org

You can also access these links via the front page of the website for the Minnesota Fringe Festival.

(If you're curious for a taste of Fringes past, check out my writings on Fringe 2003.)

There's been some nibbles of interest from a theater in Chicago for my play The Surface of the World.

There's also been some interest expressed by a theater company in Australia in Heaven and Home, Studpuppy, and The Bronze Bitch Flies At Noon.

Don't know yet what may come of all that, but while we're waiting, why not give them a look, as well as the other plays, screenplays and TV scripts sampled on this site.

MAKING A SCENE (or rather, making a scene look better...)

The scene listings available on this site have a new, more user friendly look - including the gender, age and name of the characters involved. The monologues will soon follow suit. The centralized searchable database for all the scenes and monologues on the site should be live by the end of the month. For now you can access all that material through the sections on the individual plays themselves (hit the Plays & Musicals menu item to the left for a full list of what's available). Click on Scenes or Monologues on each Play's home page and a list of scenes will appear. Click on the representative quote to view the scene or monologue in its entirety.

A central photo gallery for all the plays, as well as sample songs from the Christmas musical, The Hopes and Fears of All the Years (commissioned and produced by California State University - Fullerton's Department of Theatre and Dance in the winter of 2002), are also on the way.

If you're interested in producing one of the plays, please contact me.

Feel free to use the scenes and monologues for auditions or classes if you like (and drop me a note and let me know how it went).

So, take a look around and tell me what you think. I'm going to get back to work on those upgrades.

On a personal note, Happy Birthday to my young niece Natalie and co-worker Ann.

Thanks for stopping by.

 

Notes From A Wandering Laptop

Notes from a Wandering Laptop

Week of February 29, 2004

SMILE FOR THE CAMERA, STUDPUPPY

The pictures from the recent Edinboro University production are up and in the mix with the pictures of Allegheny College's original production. My thanks to B.J. Ellis, who took the Edinboro pics, and to the director Joshua Mizikowski, who linked me up with B.J. so quickly.

You can see the pictures at random while browsing through the different parts of the Studpuppy section, or go straight for the photo gallery and see them all. Production information on Edinboro has also been posted.

THE PLAY'S IN THE MAIL

There must be something in the water. I've sent out more plays already in the first two months of 2004 than I did in all of 2003.

This week's trip to the post office was due to a tip from my actor/director/writer friend, Jeffrey Simpson, who holds the dubious title of "the original Studpuppy." Jeff told me about the Pittsburg Pride Fest, a new short play festival coordinated by Penn Theatre for Gay Pride month this year. Who knows what will come of it but it can't hurt to try.

If you want to see some of what I sent them, take a look at The Bronze Bitch Flies At Noon, Dandelion Snow, Across Their River, and Extra Cheese.

FAST FRINGE

Speaking of sending in plays...

Submissions are being accepted now through April 2, 2004 for the Minnesota Fringe Festival's new short play showcase, the Fast Fringe (of which I am one of the producers).


To download complete details and the application form go to:
http://www.fringefestival.org/pdf/fastfringe_application-04.pdf


To download the script format guidelines, go to:
http://www.fringefestival.org/pdf/fastfringe_example.pdf


Questions? Email us at fast@fringefestival.org

We're meeting with a potential director for the project this week. Cross your fingers.

You can also access these links via the front page of the website for the Minnesota Fringe Festival, the Classifeds section of TC Theatre and Film (search "Items Wanted" or "Other" - posted 2/27/2004), the weekly e-bulletins of Writers Opportunities sent out by The Playwrights' Center, and shortly in the "Opportunities and Deadlines" section of "Available Space, Want Ads, Classifieds, and Class Listings" accessible from the front page of Minnesota Artists Online.

(If you're curious for a taste of Fringes past, check out my writings on Fringe 2003.)

THE GRIM REAPER

This is the nickname my fellow playwright Anne Bertram has for herself, particularly as it pertains to trimming a play in the rewrite process (often radically, but always wisely, with an eagle eye toward telling a story in the most economical way possible.) I mentioned that I was contemplating the rewrites for The Surface of the World, and that no matter what strategies I came up with, it always came back to focusing the story on the three primary characters - Nicholas, Seth and Emma - and cutting away the distractions. "Try writing it with just the three of them." Hmmm... And so the experiment begins.

MONOLOGUES AND SCENES

Now Gender, Age, Name and Number of Characters are included in the listings for scenes and monologues alike. In addition, when you view the individual scenes and monolgues themselves, this information is listed again at the beginning. This should help actors and directors looking for material to narrow down their searches quickly and save time. The centralized searchable database for all the scenes and monologues on the site is next on the "To Do" list for my web designer and me. For now you can access all that material through the sections on the individual plays themselves (hit the Plays & Musicals menu item to the left for a full list of what's available). Click on Scenes or Monologues on each Play's home page and a list of scenes will appear. Click on the representative quote to view the scene or monologue in its entirety.

A central photo gallery for all the plays, as well as sample songs from the Christmas musical, The Hopes and Fears of All the Years (commissioned and produced by California State University - Fullerton's Department of Theatre and Dance in the winter of 2002), are also on the way.

If you're interested in producing one of the plays, please contact me.

Feel free to use the scenes and monologues for auditions or classes if you like (and drop me a note and let me know how it went).

So, take a look around and tell me what you think. I'm going to get back to work on those upgrades.

ON A PERSONAL NOTE...

Many thanks to the hosts with the most, Kyle and Steven, who throw the best Oscar Night party, and give me a reason to get out of the house. It's sort of like Christmas - we may not see each other much the rest of the year, but that one day is always a heck of a lot of fun.

Thanks for stopping by.

 

Notes from a Wandering Laptop

Notes from a Wandering Laptop

Week of March 7, 2004

FAST FRINGE - an experimental Fringe Festival showcase for plays under ten minutes long

We have a director for the project - Bryan Bevell, who recently directed "Lobby Hero" for The Jungle Theater. He'll be helping us make the decisions on which ten short plays make the final cut. And speaking of the final cut...

Less than four weeks to go...

Submissions are being accepted now through April 2, 2004 for the Minnesota Fringe Festival's new short play showcase, the Fast Fringe (of which I am one of the producers).


To download complete details and the application form go to:
http://www.fringefestival.org/pdf/fastfringe_application-04.pdf


To download the script format guidelines, go to:
http://www.fringefestival.org/pdf/fastfringe_example.pdf


Questions? Email us at fast@fringefestival.org

You can also access these links via the front page of the website for the Minnesota Fringe Festival, the Classifeds section of TC Theatre and Film (search "Items Wanted" or "Other" - posted 2/27/2004), the weekly e-bulletins of Writers Opportunities sent out by The Playwrights' Center, and shortly in the "Opportunities and Deadlines" section of "Available Space, Want Ads, Classifieds, and Class Listings" accessible from the front page of Minnesota Artists Online.

(If you're curious for a taste of Fringes past, check out my writings on Fringe 2003.)

MONOLOGUES AND SCENES FOR ACTORS AND DIRECTORS

Now Gender, Age, Name and Number of Characters are included in the listings for scenes and monologues alike. In addition, when you view the individual scenes and monolgues themselves, this information is listed again at the beginning. This should help actors and directors looking for material to narrow down their searches quickly and save time.

The long-promised centralized searchable database for all the scenes and monologues on the site is nearly programmed and with luck will go live this week or next.

For now you can access all that material through the sections on the individual plays themselves (hit the Plays & Musicals menu item to the left for a full list of what's available). Click on Scenes or Monologues on each Play's home page and a list of scenes will appear. Click on the representative quote to view the scene or monologue in its entirety.

A central photo gallery for all the plays, as well as sample songs from the Christmas musical, The Hopes and Fears of All the Years (commissioned and produced by California State University - Fullerton's Department of Theatre and Dance in the winter of 2002), are also on the way.

If you're interested in producing one of the plays, please contact me.

Feel free to use the scenes and monologues for auditions or classes if you like (and drop me a note and let me know how it went).

So, take a look around and tell me what you think. I'm going to get back to work on those upgrades.

ON A PERSONAL NOTE...

Major kudos to my friend Alex, who did an amazing job opening this week in his first major role on the Guthrie Theater mainstage as Tybalt in "Romeo & Juliet." Larger than life characters and passions, multiple fight scenes, and a death scene, all in iambic pentameter - all of which he handles just a brilliantly as I knew he would. (A note of thanks to my friend Gigi, who allowed me to tag along with one of her comp tickets, the only way I can afford to go to the theater at present. I would have been very sorry to miss this.)

And happy birthday wishes to my cyber-friend Gary in Boston. He still doesn't look anywhere near his age, bless his hunky little heart. (and if he's feeling old, just remember I've got almost a decade on you, Gary. Some of us will always be older. Sigh.)

Thanks for stopping by.

 

Notes from a Wandering Laptop

Notes from a Wandering Laptop

Week of March 14, 2004

My latest endeavours...

THE CHICAGO AVENUE PROJECT

I just signed on for my fourth go-round on this worthy programming supported by Pillsbury House Theatre. Their website says it best...

"The Chicago Avenue Project brings together professional adult playwrights, actors and directors who volunteer to work one-on-one with neighborhood youth on the creation and production of an original play. The project is not about teaching youth how to act, though they do learn acting. Nor is it about teaching them how to write plays, though they learn that as well. It is about giving every child an opportunity to prove that he or she has something of value to offer, something that comes from within, something that cannot be taken away."

We have our first meeting this Monday to begin the project. This one's collective theme is "Breakfast of Champions" and will be performed

Monday and Tuesday, April 26 and 27, 2004 at 7pm

So mark your calendars and get there early. The theatre is always filled to capacity with friends and family and is the best kind of experience you could ask for. Admission is free, though donations for this great cause are always appreciated.

Last time around was a little surreal (if you wonder why, check the cast list). Past scripts are available for viewing here on the site: Bethesda, Snowball's Chance, and Dr. Worm.

CUE TO CUE

My producer/playwright friend Carol Critchley and I met this week to begin the discussion on what the next round of episodes of our local cable TV show on Twin Cities theatre should look like. We learned a lot in our first season, and the St. Paul public TV station, Channel 17, is interested in continuing to give a handful of episodes a shot at their wider audience base as well. With the Minnesota Fringe Festival approaching, we're starting to make decisions on what that sampler showcase of six episodes should include. Meanwhile, speaking of the Fringe...

FAST FRINGE

Less than three weeks to go...

Submissions are being accepted now through April 2, 2004 for the Minnesota Fringe Festival's new short play showcase, the Fast Fringe (of which I am one of the producers).


To download complete details and the application form go to:
http://www.fringefestival.org/pdf/fastfringe_application-04.pdf


To download the script format guidelines, go to:
http://www.fringefestival.org/pdf/fastfringe_example.pdf


Questions? Email us at fast@fringefestival.org

You can also access these links via the front page of the website for the Minnesota Fringe Festival, the Classifeds section of TC Theatre and Film (search "Items Wanted" or "Other" - posted 2/27/2004), and the weekly e-bulletins of Writers Opportunities sent out by The Playwrights' Center.

(If you're curious for a taste of Fringes past, check out my writings on Fringe 2003.)

MONOLOGUES AND SCENES FOR ACTORS AND DIRECTORS

The long-promised centralized searchable database for all the scenes and monologues on the site is nearly programmed and with luck will go live this week or next.

For now you can access all that material through the sections on the individual plays themselves (hit the Plays & Musicals menu item to the left for a full list of what's available). Click on Scenes or Monologues on each Play's home page and a list of scenes will appear. Click on the representative quote to view the scene or monologue in its entirety.

A central photo gallery for all the plays, as well as sample songs from the Christmas musical, The Hopes and Fears of All the Years (commissioned and produced by California State University - Fullerton's Department of Theatre and Dance in the winter of 2002), are also on the way.

If you're interested in producing one of the plays, please contact me.

Feel free to use the scenes and monologues for auditions or classes if you like (and drop me a note and let me know how it went).

So, take a look around and tell me what you think. I'm going to get back to work on those upgrades.

ON A PERSONAL NOTE...

Hearty congratulations to my friends Jeremy and Miriam, who just announced they'll be making it "official" by getting married at the end of June. With luck, I'll be able to be present as one of the witnesses to the big event. This is exactly the kind of good news we could all use more of these days.

Thanks for stopping by.

 

Notes from a Wandering Laptop

Notes from a Wandering Laptop

Week of March 21, 2004

My latest endeavours...

THE CHICAGO AVENUE PROJECT

Pillsbury House Theatre's website says it best...

"The Chicago Avenue Project brings together professional adult playwrights, actors and directors who volunteer to work one-on-one with neighborhood youth on the creation and production of an original play. The project is not about teaching youth how to act, though they do learn acting. Nor is it about teaching them how to write plays, though they learn that as well. It is about giving every child an opportunity to prove that he or she has something of value to offer, something that comes from within, something that cannot be taken away."

We writers met all the young performers this week in their afterschool acting classes and we'll get our assignments shortly. We'll have one on one time with our actor, and then it will be time to compose a mini-play for them. This showcase's collective theme is "Breakfast of Champions" and will be performed:

Monday and Tuesday, April 26 and 27, 2004 at 7pm

So mark your calendars and get there early. The theatre is always filled to capacity with friends and family and is the best kind of experience you could ask for. Admission is free, though donations for this great cause are always appreciated.

The coordinator of the project still has a laugh every time he sees me, due to the curve ball he threw me last time and my amusing, if stunned, reaction to it. He promises, no surprises this time. (For last year's surprise, check the cast list.) Past scripts are available for viewing here on the site: Bethesda, Snowball's Chance, and Dr. Worm.

FAST FRINGE

Less than two weeks to go...

We're having our first meeting to review scripts this week to start whittling down the possible finalists for production. But there's still plenty of time to get your script in for consideration.

Submissions are being accepted now through April 2, 2004 for the Minnesota Fringe Festival's new short play showcase, the Fast Fringe (of which I am one of the producers).


To download complete details and the application form go to:
http://www.fringefestival.org/pdf/fastfringe_application-04.pdf


To download the script format guidelines, go to:
http://www.fringefestival.org/pdf/fastfringe_example.pdf


Questions? Email us at fast@fringefestival.org

You can also access these links via the front page of the website for the Minnesota Fringe Festival, the Classifeds section of TC Theatre and Film (search "Items Wanted" or "Other" - items sumbmitted within the last four weeks), and the weekly e-bulletins of Writers Opportunities sent out by The Playwrights' Center.

(If you're curious for a taste of Fringes past, check out my writings on Fringe 2003.)

MONOLOGUES AND SCENES FOR ACTORS AND DIRECTORS

Due to some programming issues, the centralized searchable database for all the scenes and monologues on the site has been delayed, but we're still hoping to get it live by month's end. I'll keep you posted.

For now you can access all that material through the sections on the individual plays themselves (hit the Plays & Musicals menu item to the left for a full list of what's available). Click on Scenes or Monologues on each Play's home page and a list of scenes will appear. Click on the representative quote to view the scene or monologue in its entirety.

A central photo gallery for all the plays, as well as sample songs from the Christmas musical, The Hopes and Fears of All the Years (commissioned and produced by California State University - Fullerton's Department of Theatre and Dance in the winter of 2002), are also on the way.

If you're interested in producing one of the plays, please contact me.

Feel free to use the scenes and monologues for auditions or classes if you like (and drop me a note and let me know how it went).

So, take a look around and tell me what you think. I'm going to get back to work on those upgrades.

REMEMBRANCE OF ACTORS PAST

Last Sunday's basketball-themed episode of the TV show "Cold Case" (The Lost Soul of Herman Lester) had more than plot twists to pleasantly surprise me. One of the guest stars was Jamison Haase, an actor who was central to the success of the workshop production of my play "The Surface of the World" back in 1999. It's good to see him doing so well in LA. The move out west has been good to him. If you missed the episode, try to catch it in reruns. Til then, you can get a look at Jamison in the Photo Gallery for "Surface."

ON A PERSONAL NOTE...

Many happy returns of the day to my Grandma, who turns 91 this week. She's still sharp as a tack, with a mischievous streak, and is nearly impossible to beat at Scrabble. Wish I could be there for the big day like I was last year.

Also, congrats to my Yalie compatriot Rob Campbell, who recently opened in the New York premiere of Craig Lucas' new play "Small Tragedy" which got its launch here in Minneapolis last year. It's a great play. If you're in the New York area, I highly recommend it.

Thanks for stopping by.

 

Notes from a Wandering Laptop

Notes from a Wandering Laptop

Week of March 28, 2004

My latest endeavours...

First, apologies, as my wandering laptop had to go wandering off to the shop for repairs and just got shipped off to the manufacturer for more of same. Hence, I'm grabbing some borrowed time on a computer that is not my own for a quick update.

FAST FRINGE

Less than a week to go...

And the scripts just keep on coming...

Our first two meetings to review scripts are already behind us, but there's still time to get your script in for consideration.

Submissions are being accepted now through April 2, 2004 for the Minnesota Fringe Festival's new short play showcase, the Fast Fringe (of which I am one of the producers).


To download complete details and the application form go to:
http://www.fringefestival.org/pdf/fastfringe_application-04.pdf


To download the script format guidelines, go to:
http://www.fringefestival.org/pdf/fastfringe_example.pdf


Questions? Email us at fast@fringefestival.org

You can also access these links via the front page of the website for the Minnesota Fringe Festival, the Classifeds section of TC Theatre and Film (search "Items Wanted" or "Other" - items submitted within the last two months), and the weekly e-bulletins of Writers Opportunities sent out by The Playwrights' Center.

(If you're curious for a taste of Fringes past, check out my writings on Fringe 2003.)

THE CHICAGO AVENUE PROJECT

Pillsbury House Theatre's website says it best...

"The Chicago Avenue Project brings together professional adult playwrights, actors and directors who volunteer to work one-on-one with neighborhood youth on the creation and production of an original play. The project is not about teaching youth how to act, though they do learn acting. Nor is it about teaching them how to write plays, though they learn that as well. It is about giving every child an opportunity to prove that he or she has something of value to offer, something that comes from within, something that cannot be taken away."

Thankfully,I managed to meet my young actress and get her script written and off to the theater before the latest computer crash, so that process continues uninterrupted. Next week, all the grown-up actors, writers and directors meet with their kids and rehearsals begin in earnest.

This showcase's collective theme is "Breakfast of Champions" and will be performed:

Monday and Tuesday, April 26 and 27, 2004 at 7pm

So mark your calendars and get there early. The theatre is always filled to capacity with friends and family and is the best kind of experience you could ask for. Admission is free, though donations for this great cause are always appreciated.

Past scripts are available for viewing here on the site: Bethesda, Snowball's Chance, and Dr. Worm.

MONOLOGUES AND SCENES FOR ACTORS AND DIRECTORS

Due to some programming issues, the centralized searchable database for all the scenes and monologues on the site has been delayed, but we're still hoping to get it live by month's end. I'll keep you posted.

For now you can access all that material through the sections on the individual plays themselves (hit the Plays & Musicals menu item to the left for a full list of what's available). Click on Scenes or Monologues on each Play's home page and a list of scenes will appear. Click on the representative quote to view the scene or monologue in its entirety.

A central photo gallery for all the plays, as well as sample songs from the Christmas musical, The Hopes and Fears of All the Years (commissioned and produced by California State University - Fullerton's Department of Theatre and Dance in the winter of 2002), are also on the way.

If you're interested in producing one of the plays, please contact me.

Feel free to use the scenes and monologues for auditions or classes if you like (and drop me a note and let me know how it went).

So, take a look around and tell me what you think. I'm going to get back to work on those upgrades.

ON A PERSONAL NOTE...

A hearty welcome to my new nephew Wesley Randolph Claman, who I just learned joined us in this world on March 22nd.

And congrats to my friend Abigail Garner, who kicks off her national book tour this week for her first book, "Families Like Mine.". As always, her special brand of compassionate common sense comes ato the wider reading publicg just when we need it the most. Both her book and her website are highly recommended reading.

Thanks for stopping by.

 

Notes from a Wandering Laptop

Notes from a Wandering Laptop

Week of April 4, 2004

My latest endeavours...

The laptop of the title is still in the shop, but my backup has been upgraded just enough to help me get the basic work done in the interim. So on we go...

FAST FRINGE


The deadline has come and gone. The last of the scripts are making their way to us. The director, the other producers and I have a meeting set for next week to review the latest candidates. And then the real work of whittling it down to just ten begins. The next phase of the Minneasota Fringe Festival's new short play showcase experiment, the Fast Fringe, is under way. If you have any questions for us, contact us at fast@fringefestival.org.

FRINGE BLOGGING

Last year, the blog I wrote for the Minnesota Fringe Festival went over so well that they invited me back this year to do it again. After receiving some preliminary information on the roster of productions, I've begun contacting artists and learning more about what they're up to. Some early buzz entries will be posted shortly.

And if you're curious for a taste of Fringes past while you wait, check out my writings on Fringe 2003.

A TALE OF TWO TEN MINUTE PLAY FESTIVALS

The Playwrights' Center just put out a call for scripts for its annual ten minute play festival on June 30, 2004. Once the ten scripts are selected for that official festival by the end of May, the remaining entrants will form the roster for the Second Annual Alternative Ten Minute play festival on July 7, 2004, so that all writers' works can be heard, as they have been in the past. More details as that event takes shape. In the meantime, let's get writing. Ten minute plays both official and alternative from years past can be viewed on this site in the Plays & Musicals section - including the Dandelion Snow cycle of short plays (Dandelion Snow, Across Their River, Extra Cheese, and Tools) and Blight, as well as longer plays that grew from shorter beginnings - The Surface of the World, For Jeffrey, and The Bronze Bitch Flies at Noon.

THE CHICAGO AVENUE PROJECT

Pillsbury House Theatre's website says it best...

"The Chicago Avenue Project brings together professional adult playwrights, actors and directors who volunteer to work one-on-one with neighborhood youth on the creation and production of an original play. The project is not about teaching youth how to act, though they do learn acting. Nor is it about teaching them how to write plays, though they learn that as well. It is about giving every child an opportunity to prove that he or she has something of value to offer, something that comes from within, something that cannot be taken away."

The adult actors get paired up with our child thespians this week, and rehearsals begin.

This showcase's collective theme is "Breakfast of Champions" and will be performed:

Monday and Tuesday, April 26 and 27, 2004 at 7pm

So mark your calendars and get there early. The theatre is always filled to capacity with friends and family and is the best kind of experience you could ask for. Admission is free, though donations for this great cause are always appreciated.

Past scripts are available for viewing here on the site: Bethesda, Snowball's Chance, and Dr. Worm.

MONOLOGUES AND SCENES FOR ACTORS AND DIRECTORS

I'm happy to report that the programming issues which delayed the centralized searchable database for all the scenes and monologues on the site are all but resolved. That feature should go live sometime this month. More details, and a more accurate timetable, once I've had my next meeting with my site designer.

For now you can access all that material through the sections on the individual plays themselves (hit the Plays & Musicals menu item to the left for a full list of what's available). Click on Scenes or Monologues on each Play's home page and a list of scenes will appear. Click on the representative quote to view the scene or monologue in its entirety.

A central photo gallery for all the plays, as well as sample songs from the Christmas musical, The Hopes and Fears of All the Years (commissioned and produced by California State University - Fullerton's Department of Theatre and Dance in the winter of 2002), are also on the way.

If you're interested in producing one of the plays, please contact me.

Feel free to use the scenes and monologues for auditions or classes if you like (and drop me a note and let me know how it went).

So, take a look around and tell me what you think. I'm going to get back to work on those upgrades.

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

Now playing every Friday and Saturday in April at the Bryant Lake Bowl in Minneapolis is the lastest from The Ministry of Cultural Warfare, Vaclav Havel's Vanek Trilogy of plays - "Audience," "Protest" and "Unveiling." I saw the first production of "Unveiling" a few years back in a double bill with Steve Martin's play "WASP." In the context of the full trilogy, it's even more entertaining. Hilarious with a dark underbelly that evokes sympathy and laughter in equal measure. Leah Cooper's direction is even sharper this time around and the performances by Reid Knuttila, Leigha Horton and Nathan Surprenant are a pleasure to watch.

ON A PERSONAL NOTE...

Belated but still heartfelt birthday wishes go out to my Uncle Ted and best friend Bob (see, this is what happens when you get too dependent on your computer for reminders), and a happy 4th Anniversary this week to my stepbrother David and his wife Deborah.

Bon Voyage and Safe Journey to my friend Abigail Garner, who kicks off her national book tour this week for her first book, "Families Like Mine.". The book launch party last week was an inspiring event, but I expected no less. As always, her special brand of compassionate common sense comes to the wider reading public just when we need it the most. Both her book and her website are highly recommended reading.

Thanks for stopping by.

 

Notes from a Wandering Laptop

Notes from a Wandering Laptop

Week of April 11, 2004

My latest endeavours...

The laptop of the title was returned to me as a beautiful amnesiac - the hard drive could not be recovered. Thankfully, I had a fairly recent backup and am currently in the process of rebuilding it from scratch. That's slowing me down a bit in terms of getting things done overall. But the speed of this laptop vs. the backup is most welcome for the web updating work I must do. So, on with it...

MY OWN FRINGE SHOW

Well,it's official. The Dandelion Snow cycle of short plays (Dandelion Snow, Across Their River, Extra Cheese, and Tools) will be on display at the Minnesota Fringe Festival this year. The Fringe staff steered a director my way who was in search of a script, and Dandelion Snow fit the bill. So now the Fringe has completely taken over my life for the next five months (see below if you don't believe me). It will be performed on the Whitney Mainstage at Minneapolis Community and Technical College - which is enormous, so please come and bring a few dozen of your friends and family along with you. The dates and times are:

Saturday, August 7, 2004 at 8:30pm

Wednesday, August 11, 2004 at 2:30pm

Thursday, August 12, 2004 at 5:30pm

Friday, August 13, 2004 at 8:30pm

Satruday, August 14, 2004 at 4:00pm

Tickets go on sale July 1st through Uptown Tix (www.uptowntix.com or 612-604-4466). Meantime, the director and I will be meeting in the next week or so to talk details and get the process underway.

THE CHICAGO AVENUE PROJECT

We had a great first read-through of the script last week, and rehearsals have begun.

This showcase's collective theme is "Breakfast of Champions" and will be performed:

Monday and Tuesday, April 26 and 27, 2004 at 7pm

Pillsbury House Theatre's website says it best...

"The Chicago Avenue Project brings together professional adult playwrights, actors and directors who volunteer to work one-on-one with neighborhood youth on the creation and production of an original play. The project is not about teaching youth how to act, though they do learn acting. Nor is it about teaching them how to write plays, though they learn that as well. It is about giving every child an opportunity to prove that he or she has something of value to offer, something that comes from within, something that cannot be taken away."

So mark your calendars and get there early. The theatre is always filled to capacity with friends and family and is the best kind of experience you could ask for. Admission is free, though donations for this great cause are always appreciated.

Past scripts are available for viewing here on the site: Bethesda, Snowball's Chance, and Dr. Worm.

FAST FRINGE

The times and place are set!

Fast Fringe 1 and 2 will be performed at the Loring Playhouse. Each program will have five scripts in it, for a total of ten for this first experimental run of a short play mini-fest within the Minnesota Fringe Festival:

Sunday, August 8, 2004 - 1pm, Fast Fringe 2; 2:30pm, Fast Fringe 1

Monday, August 9, 2004 - 8:30pm, Fast Fringe 2

Tuesday, August 10, 2004 - 8:30pm, Fast Fringe 1

Wednesday, August 11, 2004 - 8:30pm, Fast Fringe 1; 10pm, Fast Fringe 2

Friday, August 13, 2004 - 1pm, Fast Fringe 2; 2:30pm, Fast Fringe 1

Saturday, August 14, 2004 - 2:30pm, Fast Fringe 2

Sunday, August 15, 2004 - 4pm, Fast Fringe 1

Tickets go on sale July 1st through Uptown Tix (www.uptowntix.com or 612-604-4466).

The Spanish Ladies (that's me with fellow producers Roy Close & Dan Pinkerton, as well as director Bryan Bevell) will be meeting this week to review the final dozen or so scripts that came in at the deadline, and then look at all the submissions to start narrowing it down toward that final ten which will become the first Fast Fringe. If you have any questions for us, contact us at fast@fringefestival.org.

CUE TO CUE GOES TO THE FRINGE

"Cue to Cue," the cable access TV show about theater in the Twin Cities which I host, started its run last July with a six episode series featuring a cross section of the wide variety of acts which make up the Minnesota Fringe Festival. Now, a year later, we're back to do it again. In addition to broadcast on SPNN (St. Paul Neighborhood Network), two episodes will also be broadcast on St. Paul's public TV station, Channel 17, July 4th and 11th at 10pm, to the Twin Cities nine county area. Planning is already afoot to line up guests and start shooting in early June. More details as I have them.

FRINGE BLOGGING

I met so many great artists who are participating in the Fringe at a recent producers informational meeting, that I almost don't know where to begin. But begin I shall, with luck and cooperation from my recuperating computer, sometime yet this coming week. Once my second year of blogging for the Minnesota Fringe Festival begins, I'll post a notice here on the front page.

If you're interested in a taste of Fringes past while you wait, check out my writings on Fringe 2003.

A TALE OF TWO TEN MINUTE PLAY FESTIVALS

The Playwrights' Center has put out a call for scripts for its annual ten minute play festival on June 30, 2004. Once the ten scripts are selected for that official festival by the end of May, the remaining entrants will form the roster for the Second Annual Alternative Ten Minute play festival on July 7, 2004, so that all writers' works can be heard, as it has been in the past. More details as that event takes shape. In the meantime, let's get writing. Some of my ten minute plays, both official and alternative, from years past can be viewed on this site in the Plays & Musicals section - including the Dandelion Snow cycle of short plays (Dandelion Snow, Across Their River, Extra Cheese, & Tools), which are now part of the Fringe Festival, and Blight, as well as longer plays that grew from shorter beginnings - The Surface of the World, For Jeffrey, and The Bronze Bitch Flies at Noon.

MONOLOGUES AND SCENES FOR ACTORS AND DIRECTORS

I'm happy to report that the programming issues which delayed the centralized searchable database for all the scenes and monologues on the site are all but resolved. That feature should go live sometime this month. More details, and a more accurate timetable, once I've had my next meeting with my site designer.

For now you can access all that material through the sections on the individual plays themselves (hit the Plays & Musicals menu item to the left for a full list of what's available). Click on Scenes or Monologues on each Play's home page and a list of scenes will appear. Click on the representative quote to view the scene or monologue in its entirety.

A central photo gallery for all the plays, as well as sample songs from the Christmas musical, The Hopes and Fears of All the Years (commissioned and produced by California State University - Fullerton's Department of Theatre and Dance in the winter of 2002), are also on the way.

If you're interested in producing one of the plays, please contact me.

Feel free to use the scenes and monologues for auditions or classes if you like (and drop me a note and let me know how it went).

So, take a look around and tell me what you think. I'm going to get back to work on those upgrades.

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

George Bernard Shaw's "Saint Joan" at Park Square Theater in St. Paul,starring Kate Eifrig, one of the best young actresses in the Twin Cities, as Saint Joan. Well worth the price of admission.

Thanks for stopping by.

 

Fringe 2004 - The Minnesota Fringe Festival - A Love Story

I go to the Fringe to fall in love.

It didn't start out that way.

I guess I have Bruce Abas to blame for exposing me to this.

The Fringe Festival wasn't even on my radar for the first few years of its existence, even though I had already been living in Minneapolis for two years by the time it began.

The reason I even crossed paths with the Fringe of 1998 was because of a play my friend Bruce had written called "Freak" that was being produced in the Loring Playhouse. I went because it was his play and because I wanted to support him, and his little dating psycho-drama - emphasis on the psycho - it wasn't called "Freak" for nothing.

The Fringe had 41 shows that year, its 5th, and the advertising slogan was "Theater as Big as Your Head." None of the other 40 shows got me in the door. I didn't get that "larger festival community" thing, went right over my head.

The next year, Bruce was back with another play, "Happy Meal," as well as an actor friend of mine, Jamison, so I was back to the Fringe yet again, at the Loring, yet again. Number 6, "Plays With Fire," 70 shows in all. This time, I had some other friends, Dash Productions, doing a Whitman compendium called, "Walt Whitman in the Great Supermarket Odyssey," at Red Eye. Walt's poetry and writing in general, plus a hunky supermarket bag boy type, what's not to like? For some reason I also crossed the threshold of the Phoenix Theater's black box space - remember the Phoenix? - for a new play double feature "Sure Thing/Making Love." Can't remember why. While I was thankful there seemed to be a lot of theater handy to my neighborhood, I still hadn't quite succumbed to the Fringe's charms. The other 67 shows went unsampled.

Then came year 7, "Theatre on a Stick," Fringe 2000, and, at the request of a playwright friend, I had auditioned for and somehow landed the part of Jimmy Olson, making out with a guy who wore those fabled Superman tights, all summer long. Nice blocking if you can get it. A strange little play, but the Artist's Fringe Pass gave me no more excuses not to root around and see what other theater I could find. The Fringe had me locked in for a week and a half, might as well see what was up. 100 shows, and as near as I can figure, aside from my own, I saw eight. And this is where the love started. I became intoxicated by the sheer scope and possibility of theater and live performance. I saw my friend Alex, first time out of the box, hit a home run with his first play, "DNA and the Dancing Fool" (which ended up getting an award as well as sell out crowds). I experienced severe playwriting envy and joy upon seeing my friend Todd's time-tripping, role-swapping delight of a script, "Love's Lines, Angles and Rhymes," brought to fabulous life by his partner Robert and what would become their own little ensemble of actor/friends over the next few years. Best show I saw that year, in the Fringe or out. I went back for repeat viewings and wouldn't shut up about it to my friends, insisting they had to see it. Learning after the fact that the whole thing was written in iambic pentameter and still felt like natural modern dialogue, well, floored me. The half-dozen other plays I saw, mostly involving friends in some aspect of the production - including a play written by now Executive Director of the Fringe Leah Cooper, were a mixed bag, some great, some good, some "eh." But I was hooked.

2001, The Fringe That 8 Minnesota, 120 shows, this time I was but a silent observer. Again, 8 shows seen, again mostly friends involved. My love affair that year was again a Todd Hughes script, the sequel to "Love's Lines..." entitled "Midnight Train to Georgia." To see one's reality reflected back at one from the stage, with affection and humor and unrepentant optimism, well, it gives one hope for one's own writing and the world in general. How could I not love something that inspired me so? The Ministry of Cultural Warfare finally drew me in (and has yet to let go). Most of all, I saw the Fringe as a haven for new plays in particular, something that the rest of the year most theaters couldn't afford to take a risk on. Before it was even over, I was already looking forward to the Fringe returning next year.

2002 was the year I realized how far gone I was because I was going through withdrawal pangs. The workshop phase of the production of a new musical I was collaborating on had me headed out of town shortly after the Fringe's opening weekend. I missed the vast majority of that year's 135-plus shows, barely having enough time to catch the five that were being put on by close friends. Since I was already in love with a lot of the writing on display in "Liability," "A Postcard from the Corn Palace," "No Smoking, No Pets, No Loud Sex, " and the latest from the Ministry, "Slaughterhouse Warming," it didn't seem like the rush of first love so much as it was a reaffirmation of all the things I valued in my relationships with those playwrights as a loyal audience member. But the larger "flurry of artistic adventures" was out of my reach that year, maddeningly so. Still, I took comfort in the fact that at least I witnessing plenty of creativity firsthand, just on a much smaller scale, in my workshop halfway across the country. That was a year I was very glad I could count on the Fringe to return.

The Fringe's 10th Birthday, I was lovestruck with a vengeance. Being asked to see and comment upon as much of the Fringe as possible, and also to arrange to share the best of it with my mother - the theater junkie apple didn't fall far from that tree - it was the best of all possible worlds. The 32 of the 162 shows I was able to see did not disappoint. And of course, I fell so deeply in love with "Gilgamesh, Iowa," I returned and saw nearly all their performances.

The Fringe renews my faith in the viability and creativity and community and necessity of theater. All of its best and worst concentrated in one 10 day stretch, much of it not far from my front door. It reminds me why I keep sitting down at my laptop and typing, "Lights up..." It's a shot of adrenalin directly into my creative heart that makes it beat a little faster, and then gives it the fuel and impulse to keep beating and creating the other 11 months of the year.

Staring down the gun barrel of over 175 shows - 2 of which I'm helping produce (at, of all things, the Loring), another of which I wrote (just around the corner on the MCTC Whitney Mainstage), all of which I'm gathering information on for blogging and TV hosting purposes - I couldn't be more delightfully overwhelmed this year.

And there's a show, out there somewhere, waiting for me. With luck, once more, I'll find it.

You'll see a lot of my best guesses as to where and what it might be over the coming weeks, but there's really no telling. Once the curtain goes up, all bets are off. My only nagging regret is that it's not humanly possible to see them all - or even half of them.

I go to the Fringe to fall in love.

Guess we'll see...

 

Fringe 2004 - previous Dandelion Snow notice

My "Dandelion Snow" cycle of short plays will be on display at the Minnesota Fringe Festival in Minneapolis this year.

Excerpts from all four parts of the romantic misadventures of nearly reunited lovers Ash and Dana:

Dandelion Snow

Across Their River

Extra Cheese

Tools

are all available for viewing in the "Short Plays" section of the "Plays & Musicals" portion of this site - just click over in the left hand column.

The Fringe staff steered a director my way from the new company Out On Stage Productions. He was in search of a script, and "Dandelion Snow" fit the bill. So now the Fringe has completely taken over my life for the next five months. (See notes on Fast Fringe, Fringe Blogging and the TV show "Cue to Cue" spotlighting the Fringe elsewhere on the site for further proof.)

"Dandelion Snow" will be performed on the Whitney Mainstage at Minneapolis Community and Technical College (1424 Yale Place, Minneapolis, Minnesota) - which is enormous, so please come and bring a few dozen of your friends and family along with you.

The dates and times are:

Saturday, August 7, 2004 at 8:30pm

Wednesday, August 11, 2004 at 2:30pm

Thursday, August 12, 2004 at 5:30pm

Friday, August 13, 2004 at 8:30pm

Satruday, August 14, 2004 at 4:00pm

Tickets go on sale July 1st through Uptown Tix (www.uptowntix.com or 612-604-4466).

Meantime, the director and I will be meeting in the next week or so to talk details and get the process underway.

Updates can be found here as I receive them.

 

Fringe 2004 - Fast Fringe at the 2004 Minnesota Fringe Festival

FAST FRINGE

The times and place are set!

Fast Fringe 1 and Fast Fringe 2 will be performed at the Loring Playhouse (1635 Hennepin Avenue, Minneapolis, MN).

Each program will have five scripts in it, for a total of ten for this first experimental run of a short play mini-fest within the Minnesota Fringe Festival:

Sunday, August 8, 2004
- 1pm, Fast Fringe 2
- 2:30pm, Fast Fringe 1

Monday, August 9, 2004
- 8:30pm, Fast Fringe 2

Tuesday, August 10, 2004
- 8:30pm, Fast Fringe 1

Wednesday, August 11, 2004
- 8:30pm, Fast Fringe 1
- 10pm, Fast Fringe 2

Friday, August 13, 2004
- 1pm, Fast Fringe 2
- 2:30pm, Fast Fringe 1

Saturday, August 14, 2004
- 2:30pm, Fast Fringe 2

Sunday, August 15, 2004
- 4pm, Fast Fringe 1

Tickets go on sale July 1st through Uptown Tix (www.uptowntix.com or 612-604-4466).

The Spanish Ladies (that's me with fellow producers Roy Close & Dan Pinkerton, as well as director Bryan Bevell) have met and reviewed all entries for this year's mini-play fest and are close to a decision on the final ten plays and playwrights to be showcased. As soon as the full roster is finalized, I'll post it here. Another meeting this week will hopefully get us there.

Why "The Spanish Ladies," some have asked?

After all, only one of us is gay (me), the other three are all married men with children. Why the gender-bending?

Blame it on an accordion joke gone horribly wrong. Dan is taking accordion lessons. A "Lady of Spain" reference was inevitable. And the joke kept running so long that we finally just succumbed to the whimsy of it all. Further extrapolation in search of appropriately Spanish names yielded:

The Nina, The Pinta, and the Santa Maria

Once Byran was hired he became Queen Isabella.

So Nina (me), Tia Pinta (Roy), Santa Maria (Dan) and Izzy (Bryan) head off into the uncharted waters of new play development together. 5 shows in 1, 10 shows in 2 - here be dragons indeed.

If you have any questions for us, contact us at fast@fringefestival.org.

(You can also drop me a line through this website as well, and I'll share it with the Ladies)

 

Notes from a Wandering Laptop

Notes from a Wandering Laptop

Week of April 18, 2004

My latest endeavours...

FRINGE BLOGGING

My second year of blogging for the Minnesota Fringe Festival as one of The League of Extraordinary Fringers ("The Professor" aka "Single White Fringe Geek" has begun.

Check out "Minnesota Fringe Festival 2004 - A Love Story."

If you're also interested in a taste of Fringes past, check out my writings on Fringe 2003.

THE CHICAGO AVENUE PROJECT

We tech the playlets this week, and next week the curtain goes up!

This showcase's collective theme is "Breakfast of Champions" and will be performed:

Monday and Tuesday, April 26 and 27, 2004 at 7pm

Pillsbury House Theatre's website says it best...

"The Chicago Avenue Project brings together professional adult playwrights, actors and directors who volunteer to work one-on-one with neighborhood youth on the creation and production of an original play. The project is not about teaching youth how to act, though they do learn acting. Nor is it about teaching them how to write plays, though they learn that as well. It is about giving every child an opportunity to prove that he or she has something of value to offer, something that comes from within, something that cannot be taken away."

So mark your calendars and get there early. The theatre is always filled to capacity with friends and family and is the best kind of experience you could ask for. Admission is free, though donations for this great cause are always appreciated.

Past scripts are available for viewing here on the site: Bethesda, Snowball's Chance, and Dr. Worm.

MY OWN FRINGE SHOW

As if I weren't already Fringe-happy enough, the Dandelion Snow cycle of short plays is now being produced as part of the 2004 Minnesota Fringe Festival this August. You can check out excerpt from the four parts of the cycle - Dandelion Snow, Across Their River, Extra Cheese, and Tools - the Plays & Musicals section of this site. For further Fringe details, including dates, times and location, click here.

FAST FRINGE

The final ten have nearly been decided upon. For the latest details, click here.

MONOLOGUES AND SCENES FOR ACTORS AND DIRECTORS

Programming of the centralized searchable database for all the scenes and monologues on the site has been jumpstarted and is near completion. That feature should go live sometime yet this month. Once that happens, I'll let you know.

For now you can access all that material through the sections on the individual plays themselves (hit the Plays & Musicals menu item to the left for a full list of what's available). Click on Scenes or Monologues on each Play's home page and a list of scenes will appear. Click on the representative quote to view the scene or monologue in its entirety.

A central photo gallery for all the plays, as well as sample songs from the Christmas musical, The Hopes and Fears of All the Years (commissioned and produced by California State University - Fullerton's Department of Theatre and Dance in the winter of 2002), are also on the way.

CUE TO CUE GOES TO THE FRINGE

"Cue to Cue" creator and producer Carol Critchley, and Leah Cooper, my very able and lovely guest co-host, not to mention Executive Director of the Minnesota Fringe Festival, met me for lunch last week to brainstorm on the roster of 12 guests to be culled out of the Fringe's 175-plus productiions as a representative sampling of the Fringe's wares for another six episode spotlight. We're scheduled to shoot the first two weekends in June.

St. Paul's public TV station, Channel 17, has already picked up two of the as yet unshot episodes to be rebroadcast to the full Twin Cities nine county area on July 4th and 11th, 2004, at 10pm. All six episodes will also see repeated broadcasts on SPNN (St. Paul Neighborhood Network). More details as I have them.

A TALE OF TWO TEN MINUTE PLAY FESTIVALS

The Playwrights' Center has put out a call for scripts for its annual ten minute play festival on June 30, 2004. Once the ten scripts are selected for that official festival by the end of May, the remaining entrants will form the roster for the Second Annual Alternative Ten Minute play festival on July 7, 2004, so that all writers' works can be heard, as it has been in the past. More details as that event takes shape. In the meantime, let's get writing. Some of my ten minute plays, both official and alternative, from years past can be viewed on this site in the Plays & Musicals section - including the Dandelion Snow cycle of short plays (Dandelion Snow, Across Their River, Extra Cheese, & Tools), which are now part of the Fringe Festival, and Blight, as well as longer plays that grew from shorter beginnings - The Surface of the World, For Jeffrey, and The Bronze Bitch Flies at Noon.

If you're interested in producing one of the plays sampled on this site, please contact me.

Feel free to use the scenes and monologues for auditions or classes if you like (and drop me a note and let me know how it went).

So, take a look around and tell me what you think. I'm going to get back to work on those upgrades.

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED...

George Bernard Shaw's "Saint Joan" at Park Square Theater in St. Paul,starring Kate Eifrig, one of the best young actresses in the Twin Cities, as Saint Joan. Well worth the price of admission.

ON A PERSONAL NOTE...

Hearty congratulations to my friend Doug Huisken, who announced this week the happy news that his wife Marnie is expecting their first child, due in October.

A birthing of a completely different kind took place this past weekend as my playwright friend Anne Bertram unveiled the results of a workshop of her script, "Limits." Well-deserved congratulations on that welcome delivery, too.

Thanks for stopping by.

 

Fringe 2004 - Fast Fringe Plays and Playwrights Chosen

FAST FRINGE

The line-up of plays has been decided upon at last!

They are:

Fast Fringe 1

Exit Interview by Gigi Jensen
Manhandled by Mic Weinblatt
Paper Trail by Dominic Orlando
Das Ewig Weibliche by Tim Cope
Milk by Amanda Thompson

Fast Fringe 2

All About Words by Michelle Pett
Limbo Lounge by Betty Liedtke
Mud On A Little Girl’s Dress by Jason Connors
Infinite Justice by Mike Peroz
Your Call Is Very Important To Us by Roy Close

Fast Fringe 1 and Fast Fringe 2 will be performed at the Loring Playhouse (1635 Hennepin Avenue, Minneapolis, MN).

Each program will have five scripts in it, for a total of ten for this first experimental run of a short play mini-fest within the Minnesota Fringe Festival:

Sunday, August 8, 2004
- 1pm, Fast Fringe 2
- 2:30pm, Fast Fringe 1

Monday, August 9, 2004
- 8:30pm, Fast Fringe 2

Tuesday, August 10, 2004
- 8:30pm, Fast Fringe 1

Wednesday, August 11, 2004
- 8:30pm, Fast Fringe 1
- 10pm, Fast Fringe 2

Friday, August 13, 2004
- 1pm, Fast Fringe 2
- 2:30pm, Fast Fringe 1

Saturday, August 14, 2004
- 2:30pm, Fast Fringe 2

Sunday, August 15, 2004
- 4pm, Fast Fringe 1

Tickets go on sale July 1st through Uptown Tix (www.uptowntix.com or 612-604-4466).

The director, the other producers and I meet next week to firm up details around auditions, rehearsals and publicity.

If you have any questions for us, contact us at fast@fringefestival.org.

(Or you can drop me a line through this website and I'll pass it on)

 

Fringe 2004 - Early Buzz - Sure Things and The Return of Mom

Fringe 2004 Early Buzz - Sure Things and The Return of Mom

As I scan the advance listings of information on the continually evolving 2004 Minnesota Fringe Festival, a number of productions jump out at me.

Last year, I mused about what I would do if someone put a gun to my head and I was only allowed to chose ten Fringe shows to attend, what would they be?

This year, 3 of those top 10 artists are back. It seemed a little unfair to the other 170+ shows to have 3 slots of the top ten already filled up. So to clear the decks for a brand new top 10 prospects, I figured I'd set aside those 3 vets - sort of grandfather them in, if you will, give them their very own category.

Sure Things

Not the same old things by any stretch of the imagination. In fact, they're all striking out in new directions.

Just shows that are sure to be very popular, and deservedly so.

Shows that will almost certainly sell out, and deservedly so.

So when the reservation lines open and the Fringe Festival site goes live on July 1st, these are three shows for which it would be well worth taking the trouble to make advance reservations. Or get in line early for one of their first performances. For the lines, they shall be long, and the performances, they shall be turning people away. Don't be one of them.

Sure Thing #1

Plants and Animals
by Scot Augustson of Seattle, WA
at the Bryant Lake Bowl

Scot wrote the play I fell in love with last year, "Gilgamesh, Iowa."

I've had the pleasure of reading a number of Scot's plays since Fringe 2003. Naughty puppet shows, lesbian christmas film noirs, crackpot tours of ancient mythologies, or gay Cold War espionage tales - they all reaffirmed my delight in his singular talent - hilarious, inventive, intelligent, and above all, intensively humane and sympathetic. Makes me doubly sad that he lives and usually works clear over on the West Coast, and we get to see him and his plays but once a year. But that "once a year" has at last come round again.

This new script he brings to the Fringe is a bit of whimsy telling the tale of the day when the plants join forces with the animals of the earth and rise up against humanity. Another familiar returning face with this show is Jonah Von Spreeken, one-half of last year's stellar Gilgamesh cast.

I'm looking so forward to it that I plan to be there on opening night, Friday, August 6th (and quite likely for some of the performances that follow as well). Perhaps I'll see you there.

Sure Thing #2

In Defense of Sin (My Friends' Best Stories)
from the Ministry of Cultural Warfare
at Intermedia Arts

One of the many things I like about the Ministry of Cultural Warfare (and there are a great many) is that they're always trying something new and intriguing.

Always it's funny. Quite often, it's just plain great.

My first exposure to MoCW was Fringe 2001's "Into the Acid Fountain" - a bizarro-world Fellini-esque variety hour. Fringe 2002 found the standard of the one-set front porch play turned inside out to present us with "Slaughterhouse Warming." Fringe 2003 brought the "pharmaceutical grade kitsch" of "Industrials." And now the multimedia staging of real-life stories of Matthew Foster's non-theater friends - weird, funny, horrifying and stupid, sometimes all four at once. Potential tales range from having parasites removed with only a bottle of rum handy for anesthetic all the way to finding oneself at a birthday party for the self-appointed queen of the Denver Ku Klux Klan. All the stories are real - and deeply funny. As the folks associated with MoCW say, "It's like reality TV. Except it's live on stage. And also doesn't bite."

Learn more about them at
www.mocw.org

Sure Thing #3

Whoppers
from Kevin Kling
Woman's Club of Minneapolis

A new one person show from Kevin Kling, one of our very best storytellers - an evening of whoppers, big lies he insists are true.

Even with old material, I'd line up to see Mr. Kling. To get in on the ground floor as he crafts brand new stories? One of the treasures of the Fringe.

The Return of Mom

A number of people have asked, and I was afraid I was going to have to disappoint you. But she's baaack...

Yes, Mom's coming to town for another Fringe. She was originally scheduled to come visit in June only. But because I've got a script of my own being done in the Fringe now (more on that shortly), she felt she had to come back again in August, if only for a weekend. So my Mom will be a guest reviewer once more, this time in the Fringe's opening weekend, so you can put her opinions to good use for the remainder of the festival. Just like last year, Fringing with a fellow theatre junkie should be twice the fun. Just the way to kick off Fringe 2004.

 

Fringe 2004 - Early Buzz - Honorable Mentions

Fringe 2004 Early Buzz - Honorable Mentions

My objectivity on these shows is probably a wee bit skewed, as they have very direct personal connections, and are close to my heart. I'm not going to front-load the top 10 prospects with them, but they come very highly recommended. After all, why would I be involved otherwise?

Dandelion Snow
by Matthew A. Everett
Out on Stage Productions
MCTC Whitney Mainstage

It was not my original intent to actually have a script of my own in the Fringe. I was helping to produce an entirely different Fringe show that would showcase the work of other writers. But the producer/director of Out on Stage had their original choice of script fall through due to scheduling. A good friend steered them my way. After reading a copy of my scripts, Dandelion Snow was chosen. It's a script that evolved over the course of three years, three Ten Minute Play Festivals and a Great American Play Bakeoff, all sponsored by The Playwrights' Center. The characters of Dana and Ash, two high school sweethearts who meet again in their 30's in the ruins of their old elementary school, burned to the ground by a freak lightning strike, are creations who stuck with me, and whose circle of acquaintances and family continued to grow in both fun and touching directions. Mothers, sisters, husbands, even potential new boyfriends delivering pizza. Love revived, love requited and unrequited, love that won't let you go unless you send it packing. The first segment was a finalist in the national ten minute play contest at the Actors Theater of Louisville, and was fully produced as part of the Original Theatre Company's ten minute play showcase "Ten By Ten" at the Theatre Garage for an extended run back in the fall of 2000. But the full four parts of it - the title sequence, Across Their River, Extra Cheese, and Tools - have never been produced before. I've been lucky enough to have commissions and productions the past four years running, but never in town, or even in state. I'd be on one coast or the other but my friends in the Midwest haven't had a chance to see my work lately. Now, thanks to Out on Stage, the Fringe 2004 is about to change all that. So, join the homecoming, and meet Ash, Dana, Julian, Abigail, Grace, Claire, and Aidan. I personally vouch for them, one and all.


Fast Fringe 1
and
Fast Fringe 2
produced by The Spanish Ladies
Loring Playhouse

Short play festivals are cropping up all over the country, so why shouldn't the country's largest Fringe Festival have one of its very own?

That was the question and challenge spurring us on as we created the Fringe's first foray into short play showcase experimentation, Fast Fringe.

2 slots, 5 playwrights each, for a total of 10 short plays ranging across all manner of styles and subject matter.

The plays and playwrights are as follows:

Exit Interview by Eugenia Jensen
Manhandled by Mic Weinblatt
Paper Trail by Dominic Orlando
Das Ewig Weibliche by Timothy Cope
Milk by Amanda Thompson
All About Words by Michelle Pett
Limbo Lounge by Betty Liedtke
Mud On A Little Girl's Dress by Jason Connors
Infinite Justice by Mike Peroz
Your Call Is Very Important To Us by Roy Close

A tabloid tale come to life. Super-sized maternal instincts. A homeland security pas de deux. Something that may or may not be incest. A meditation on the virtues of manual vs. battery-operated breast pumps. A gun on the kitchen table. A look at where discarded characters wind up. A hitman in the family. A vengeful father who may or may not be worse that the terrorist he stalks. A trip through the looking glass of a customer service phone bank. Hilarious and terrifying. Thought-provoking but always entertaining. This is a collection of playwrights, most of them local, whose way with words captured our attention. 5 plays each, collected in two Fringe-sized hour-long packages. That's ten shows for the price of two. How can you lose?

The producers, The Spanish Ladies (thanks to a Lady of Spain acordion joke gone horribly awry), are myself, Daniel Pinkerton and Roy Close. Our director for all ten plays is Bryan Bevell, a San Diego transplant who recently directed Lobby Hero for the Jungle Theater. Come see what we've cooked up for you.

 

Fringe 2004 - Dandelion Snow - My very own Fringe show - an update

My "Dandelion Snow" cycle of short plays will be on display at the Minnesota Fringe Festival in Minneapolis this year, thanks to Out On Stage Productions.

Excerpts from all four parts of the romantic misadventures of nearly reunited lovers Ash and Dana:

Dandelion Snow

Across Their River

Extra Cheese

Tools

are all available for viewing in the "Short Plays" section of the "Plays & Musicals" portion of this site - just click over in the left hand column.

And more details on this evolving production opportunity are chronicled in the column "Fringe Early Buzz - Honorable Mentions" also in this section.

"Dandelion Snow" will be performed on the Whitney Mainstage at Minneapolis Community and Technical College (1424 Yale Place, Minneapolis, Minnesota) - which is enormous, so please come and bring a few dozen of your friends and family along with you.

The dates and times are:

Saturday August 7, 2004 - 8:30pm

Wednesday August 11, 2004 - 2:30pm

Thursday August 12, 2004 - 5:30pm

Friday August 13, 2004 - 8:30pm

Saturday August 14, 2004 - 4pm

Tickets go on sale July 1st through Uptown Tix (www.uptowntix.com or 612-604-4466).

Hope to see you there.

 

Notes from a Wandering Laptop

Notes from a Wandering Laptop

Week of April 25, 2004

My latest endeavours...

THE CHICAGO AVENUE PROJECT - Performances this week!

And the script "Champion of Breakfast" is now live on the website. Go give it a look among the Short Plays in Plays & Musicals or just click here.

This showcase's collective theme is "Breakfast of Champions" and will be performed:

Monday and Tuesday, April 26 and 27, 2004 at 7pm

Pillsbury House Theatre's website says it best...

"The Chicago Avenue Project brings together professional adult playwrights, actors and directors who volunteer to work one-on-one with neighborhood youth on the creation and production of an original play. The project is not about teaching youth how to act, though they do learn acting. Nor is it about teaching them how to write plays, though they learn that as well. It is about giving every child an opportunity to prove that he or she has something of value to offer, something that comes from within, something that cannot be taken away."

Past scripts are also available for viewing here on the site: Bethesda, Snowball's Chance, and Dr. Worm.

FRINGE BLOGGING

My second year of blogging for the Minnesota Fringe Festival as one of The League of Extraordinary Fringers ("The Professor" aka "Single White Fringe Geek" has begun, and can be found in the section "In My Humble Opinion" until the official Fringe Festival website to go live on July 1..

Check out:

"Minnesota Fringe Festival 2004 - A Love Story"

"Fringe 2004 Early Buzz - Sure Things and The Return of Mom" and

"Fringe 2004 Early Buzz - Honorable Mentions."

If you're also interested in a taste of Fringes past, check out my writings on Fringe 2003.

MY OWN FRINGE SHOW

My Dandelion Snow cycle of short plays is now being produced as part of the 2004 Minnesota Fringe Festival this August. You can check out excerpts from the four parts of the cycle - Dandelion Snow, Across Their River, Extra Cheese, and Tools - in the Plays & Musicals section of this site. For further Fringe details, including dates, times and location, click here, and also see "Fringe 2004 Early Buzz - Honorable Mentions."

FAST FRINGE

The ten play line-up for Fast Fringe has been finalized. For the latest details, click here, and also see "Fringe 2004 Early Buzz - Honorable Mentions."

MONOLOGUES AND SCENES FOR ACTORS AND DIRECTORS

The centralized searchable database for all the scenes and monologues on the site is nearly completed. I have a meeting with the website designer next week to finish it off and we hope to go live the following weekend.

For now you can access all that material through the sections on the individual plays themselves (hit the Plays & Musicals menu item to the left for a full list of what's available). Click on Scenes or Monologues on each Play's home page and a list of scenes will appear. Click on the representative quote to view the scene or monologue in its entirety.

A central photo gallery for all the plays, as well as sample songs from the Christmas musical, The Hopes and Fears of All the Years, are also on the way.

CUE TO CUE GOES TO THE FRINGE

The next round of six "Cue to Cue" episodes on the Minnesota Fringe Festival are scheduled to shoot the first two weekends in June.

St. Paul's public TV station, Channel 17, has already picked up two of the as yet unshot episodes to be rebroadcast to the full Twin Cities nine county area on July 4th and 11th, 2004, at 10pm. All six episodes will see repeated broadcasts on SPNN (St. Paul Neighborhood Network) and perhaps also be available (as they were last year) as streaming video on the Minnesota Fringe Festival website. More details on guest line-ups and broadcast schedules as I have them.

A TALE OF TWO TEN MINUTE PLAY FESTIVALS

The Playwrights' Center has put out a call for scripts for its annual ten minute play festival on June 30, 2004. Once the ten scripts are selected for that official festival by the end of May, the remaining entrants will form the roster for the Second Annual Alternative Ten Minute play festival on July 7, 2004. More details on the latter event as they evolve.

INTERESTED IN PRODUCING ONE OF THESE PLAYS?

Please contact me.

Feel free to use the scenes and monologues for auditions or classes if you like (and drop me a note and let me know how it went).

So, take a look around and tell me what you think. I'm going to get back to work on those upgrades.

ON A PERSONAL NOTE...

Still not quite up to speed with my reconstituted calendar on the computer, I send belated happy first birthday wishes to my nephew Eric, and a more timely happy birthday shout-out to my brother-in-law Joe.

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED...

George Bernard Shaw's "Saint Joan" at Park Square Theater in St. Paul,starring Kate Eifrig, one of the best young actresses in the Twin Cities, as Saint Joan. Well worth the price of admission.

Thanks for stopping by.

 

Cue To Cue - a TV show covering theatre in the Twin Cities

"Cue to Cue" returns to the Fringe.

The next round of six "Cue to Cue" episodes on the Minnesota Fringe Festival are scheduled to shoot the first two weekends in June.

St. Paul's public TV station, Channel 17, has already picked up two of the as yet unshot episodes to be rebroadcast to the full Twin Cities nine county area on July 4th and 11th, 2004, at 10pm.

All six episodes will see repeated broadcasts on SPNN (St. Paul Neighborhood Network) and perhaps also be available (as they were last year) as streaming video on the Minnesota Fringe Festival website.

More details on guest line-ups and broadcast schedules as I have them.

"Cue To Cue" was launched last year with a six episode series spotlighting the wide variety of acts in the 2003 Minnesota Fringe Festival (speaking with representatives of 15 Head, Ministry of Cultural Warfare, Theatre Unbound, Hunter Marionettes, Theatre Gallery, VISTA Productions, Kabobenco, and individual artists Kevin Kling, Kirsten Frantzich, Josette Antomarchi and Tom Cassidy, as well as profiles of the Spoken Word Fringe and Visible Fringe).

Since then, we've talked to still more individual theater artists (director/choreographer Noah Bremer, musical theatre collaborators Gary Rue, Ann Schulman, Daniel Pinkerton and Chris Gennaula) as well as cross-section of established and up-and-coming theatre companies (Mixed Blood, Margolis Brown, Stepping Stone, Starting Gate, Mama Mosaic, Skewed Visions)

 

Fringe 2004 - Dandelion Snow - Schedule for 2004 Minnesota Fringe Festival

My "Dandelion Snow" cycle of short plays will be on display at the Minnesota Fringe Festival in Minneapolis this year, thanks to Out On Stage Productions.

Auditions will be held this coming week on Sunday, May 9, 2004, from 6pm to 8pm in the Sun Room at the Center for Performing Arts - 3754 Pleasant Avenue in Minneapolis. See Audition Notice column for further details.

Excerpts from all four parts of the romantic misadventures of nearly reunited lovers Ash and Dana:

Dandelion Snow

Across Their River

Extra Cheese

Tools

are all available for viewing in the "Short Plays" section of the "Plays & Musicals" portion of this site - just click over in the left hand column.

And more details on this evolving production opportunity are chronicled in the column "Fringe Early Buzz - Honorable Mentions" also in this section.

"Dandelion Snow" will be performed on the Whitney Mainstage at Minneapolis Community and Technical College (1424 Yale Place, Minneapolis, Minnesota) - which is enormous, so please come and bring a few dozen of your friends and family along with you.

The dates and times are:

Saturday August 7, 2004 - 8:30pm

Wednesday August 11, 2004 - 2:30pm

Thursday August 12, 2004 - 5:30pm

Friday August 13, 2004 - 8:30pm

Saturday August 14, 2004 - 4pm

Tickets go on sale July 1st through Uptown Tix (www.uptowntix.com or 612-604-4466).

Hope to see you there.

 

Fringe 2004 - Dandelion Snow - Audition Notice

Auditions for "Dandelion Snow"

are being held

Sunday, May 9, 2004

6pm - 8pm

in the Sun Room at

Center for Performing Arts

3754 Pleasant Avenue, Minneapolis, Minnesota

There are:

4 roles for men

3 roles for women

If you have questions not answered above or below, feel free to contact me (mail@matthewaeverett.com)

Male Roles

Ash - 30's to 40's

Dana - 30's to 40's

Julian - 30's to 40's

Aidan - 20's

Female Roles

Abigail - 50's to 60's

Grace - 30's to 40's

Claire - 20's

Auditions will consist of cold readings from the script, and prepared monologues if the actors would like to pull something out of their auditioning repetoire.

For those of you who would like a slightly less cold read, portions of the script are already available for viewing on this site.

"Dandelion Snow" is a cycle of four short plays:

Dandelion Snow

Across Their River

Extra Cheese

Tools

The full text of Dandelion Snow, Across Their River, and Tools are available, as well as an excerpt from Extra Cheese.

Just click on "Plays & Musicals" in the menu on the left and you'll find all four plays are listed in the Short Play section. Click on each of their links for full information on the four parts of the cycle.

A list of information on all the characters except Julian can be found in the section on Extra Cheese. Julian's information is listed both in Across Their River, and Tools.

A character breakdown of the material follows:

Ash can be found in
Dandelion Snow, Across Their River, Extra Cheese, and Tools

Dana can be found in
Dandelion Snow, Across Their River, and Tools
(he also figures prominently in Extra Cheese, but not in the excerpt available on this site)

Julian can be found in
Across Their River, and Tools

Aidan can be found in
Tools
(he also figures prominently in Extra Cheese, but not in the excerpt available on this site)

Abigail can be found in
Extra Cheese

Grace
and
Claire
both figure prominently in Extra Cheese, but not in the excerpt available on this site.

 

Fringe 2004 - Fast Fringe - Auditions coming soon

FAST FRINGE

The director, the other producers and I meet this week to firm up details around auditions, rehearsals and publicity.
The line-up of plays for the Fringe Festival's short play showcase is as follows:

Fast Fringe 1

Exit Interview by Gigi Jensen
Manhandled by Mic Weinblatt
Paper Trail by Dominic Orlando
Das Ewig Weibliche by Tim Cope
Milk by Amanda Thompson

Fast Fringe 2

All About Words by Michelle Pett
Limbo Lounge by Betty Liedtke
Mud On A Little Girl’s Dress by Jason Connors
Infinite Justice by Mike Peroz
Your Call Is Very Important To Us by Roy Close

Fast Fringe 1 and Fast Fringe 2 will be performed at the Loring Playhouse (1635 Hennepin Avenue, Minneapolis, MN).

Each program will have five scripts in it, for a total of ten for this first experimental run of a short play mini-fest within the Minnesota Fringe Festival:

Sunday, August 8, 2004
- 1pm, Fast Fringe 2
- 2:30pm, Fast Fringe 1

Monday, August 9, 2004
- 8:30pm, Fast Fringe 2

Tuesday, August 10, 2004
- 8:30pm, Fast Fringe 1

Wednesday, August 11, 2004
- 8:30pm, Fast Fringe 1
- 10pm, Fast Fringe 2

Friday, August 13, 2004
- 1pm, Fast Fringe 2
- 2:30pm, Fast Fringe 1

Saturday, August 14, 2004
- 2:30pm, Fast Fringe 2

Sunday, August 15, 2004
- 4pm, Fast Fringe 1

Tickets go on sale July 1st through Uptown Tix (www.uptowntix.com or 612-604-4466).

If you have any questions for us, contact us at fast@fringefestival.org.

(Or you can drop me a line through this website and I'll pass it on)

 

Notes from a Wandering Laptop

Notes from a Wandering Laptop

Week of May 2, 2004

My latest endeavours...

AUDITIONS

for my show, "Dandelion Snow," part of the 2004 Minnesota Fringe Festival...

This coming Sunday, May 9, 2004 - 6pm - 8pm

in the Sun Room at the Center for Performing Arts

3754 Pleasant Avenue in Minneapolis, Minnesota

4 roles for men

3 roles for women

For further details on auditions, including where to find excerpts of the script you can preview on this site, click here.

For further details about the show, see below.

(so take mom out for Mother's Day and then come by and audition for us)

MY OWN FRINGE SHOW

My Dandelion Snow cycle of short plays is now being produced as part of the 2004 Minnesota Fringe Festival this August. You can check out excerpts from the four parts of the cycle - Dandelion Snow, Across Their River, Extra Cheese, and Tools - in the Plays & Musicals section of this site. For further Fringe details, including dates, times and location, click here, and also see "Fringe 2004 Early Buzz - Honorable Mentions."

FRINGE BLOGGING

My second year of blogging for the Minnesota Fringe Festival as one of The League of Extraordinary Fringers ("The Professor") has begun, and can be found in the section "In My Humble Opinion" until the official Fringe Festival website to go live on July 1..

Check out:

"Minnesota Fringe Festival 2004 - A Love Story"

"Fringe 2004 Early Buzz - Sure Things and The Return of Mom" and

"Fringe 2004 Early Buzz - Honorable Mentions."

If you're also interested in a taste of Fringes past, check out my writings on Fringe 2003.

MONOLOGUES AND SCENES FOR ACTORS AND DIRECTORS

The centralized searchable database for all the scenes and monologues on the site is nearly completed. I have a meeting with the website designer this week to finish it off and we hope to go live this coming weekend.

For now you can access all that material through the sections on the individual plays themselves (hit the Plays & Musicals menu item to the left for a full list of what's available). Click on Scenes or Monologues on each Play's home page and a list of scenes will appear. Click on the representative quote to view the scene or monologue in its entirety.

PLAYS FOR YOUNG ACTORS

Check out this new category of plays in the listings of Plays & Musicals.

All the scripts I wrote for Pillsbury House Theatre's Chicago Avenue Project can be found there, including the most recent outing, "Champion of Breakfast," as well as Bethesda, Snowball's Chance, and Dr. Worm.

FAST FRINGE

For the latest details on this showcase of short plays for the 2004 Minnesota Fringe Festival, click here, and also see "Fringe 2004 Early Buzz - Honorable Mentions."

"CUE TO CUE" GOES TO THE FRINGE

For information on the TV show I host, covering theater in Minnesota, see the section "In My Humble Opinion" or click here.

A TALE OF TWO TEN MINUTE PLAY FESTIVALS

The Playwrights' Center has put out a call for scripts for its annual ten minute play festival on June 30, 2004. Once the ten scripts are selected for that official festival by the end of May, the remaining entrants will form the roster for the Second Annual Alternative Ten Minute play festival on July 7, 2004. More details on the latter event as it evolves.

INTERESTED IN PRODUCING ONE OF THESE PLAYS?

Please contact me.

Feel free to use the scenes and monologues for auditions or classes if you like (and drop me a note and let me know how it went).

So, take a look around and tell me what you think. I'm going to get back to work on those upgrades.

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED...

George Bernard Shaw's "Saint Joan" at Park Square Theater in St. Paul, MN, starring Kate Eifrig, one of the best young actresses in the Twin Cities, as Saint Joan. Well worth the price of admission.

ALSO RECOMMENDED (theatre in Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minnesota)...

"Bits and Pieces" from Theatre Unbound, at The Playwrights' Center in Minneapolis (www.theatreunbound.org, www.pwcenter.org) through May 15, 2004

"The Winter's Tale" from Ten Thousand Things, at various locations around the Twin Cities (www.tenthousandthings.org) through May 23, 2004

"Unhinged" from Bedlam Theatre (612-341-1038) at 514-1/2 Cedar Street in Minneapolis through May 8, 2004

"Oil On Canvas" from 15 Head at The Red Eye (www.15Head.org) through May 15, 2004 - this play was developed during the 2003 Minnesota Fringe Festival. See my review of that incarnation of the story in the section of this site titled "In My Humble Opinion" or click here.

"Living Out" from Mixed Blood Theatre (www.mixedblood.com) through May 15, 2004.

ON A PERSONAL NOTE...

The current Broadway production of the musical "Little Shop of Horrors" has, as the understudy for both Seymour and The Dentist, my friend Jonathan Rayson. Over the last couple of weeks, there have been several performances in which he's gone on in the lead role of Seymour. My one great regret these days is that I can't just drop everything, hop a plane and go see him. I'm sure he's great. And this isn't even his Broadway debut. That was last year when his understudy duties had him onstage for 15 performances as the titular Frog in the Tony-nominated musical "A Year With Frog and Toad." Congratulations, Jonathan!

Thanks for stopping by.

 

Fringe 2004 - Dandelion Snow - Audition Notice Update

Additional excerpts from the play have been added online so that actors may preview material involving any of the seven characters. See below for information on where to look for material for each character.

Auditions for "Dandelion Snow"

are being held

Sunday, May 9, 2004

6pm - 8pm

in the Sun Room at

Center for Performing Arts

3754 Pleasant Avenue, Minneapolis, Minnesota

There are:

4 roles for men

3 roles for women

If you have questions not answered above or below, feel free to contact me (mail@matthewaeverett.com)

Male Roles

Ash - 30's to 40's

Dana - 30's to 40's

Julian - 30's to 40's

Aidan - 20's

Female Roles

Abigail - 50's to 60's

Grace - 30's to 40's

Claire - 20's

Auditions will consist of cold readings from the script, and prepared monologues if the actors would like to pull something out of their auditioning repetoire.

For those of you who would like a slightly less cold read, portions of the script are already available for viewing on this site.

"Dandelion Snow" is a cycle of four short plays:

Dandelion Snow

Across Their River

Extra Cheese

Tools

The full text of Dandelion Snow, Across Their River, and Tools are available, as well as an excerpt from Extra Cheese.

Just click on "Plays & Musicals" in the menu on the left and you'll find all four plays are listed in the Short Play section. Click on each of their links for full information on the four parts of the cycle.

A list of information on all the characters except Julian can be found in the section on Extra Cheese. Julian's information is listed both in Across Their River, and Tools.

A character breakdown of the material follows:

Ash can be found in
Dandelion Snow, Across Their River, Extra Cheese, and Tools

Dana can be found in
Dandelion Snow, Across Their River, Extra Cheese, and Tools

Julian can be found in
Across Their River, and Tools

Aidan can be found in
Extra Cheese, and Tools

Abigail can be found in
Extra Cheese

Grace can be found in
Extra Cheese

Claire can be found in
Extra Cheese

 

Notes from a Wandering Laptop

Notes from a Wandering Laptop

Week of May 2, 2004

My latest endeavours...

AUDITIONS


(updated the evening of May 3, 2004)

for my show, "Dandelion Snow," part of the 2004 Minnesota Fringe Festival...


This coming Sunday, May 9, 2004 - 6pm - 8pm


in the Sun Room at the Center for Performing Arts


3754 Pleasant Avenue in Minneapolis, Minnesota


4 roles for men


3 roles for women


For further details on auditions, including where to find excerpts of the script you can preview on this site, check out the audition notice in the section "In My Humble Opinion" or just click here.


UPDATE AS OF MAY 3RD - Excerpts from the plays featuring each of the characters have been added on the site so actors can preview material for any character prior to auditions.

For further details about the show, see below.


If you have questions, feel free to contact me at mail@matthewaeverett.com.

(so take mom out for Mother's Day and then come by and audition for us)

MY OWN FRINGE SHOW

My Dandelion Snow cycle of short plays is now being produced as part of the 2004 Minnesota Fringe Festival this August. You can check out excerpts from the four parts of the cycle - Dandelion Snow, Across Their River, Extra Cheese, and Tools - in the Plays & Musicals section of this site. For further Fringe details, including dates, times and location, click here, and also see "Fringe 2004 Early Buzz - Honorable Mentions."

FRINGE BLOGGING

My second year of blogging for the Minnesota Fringe Festival as one of The League of Extraordinary Fringers ("The Professor") has begun, and can be found in the section "In My Humble Opinion" until the official Fringe Festival website to go live on July 1..

Check out:

"Minnesota Fringe Festival 2004 - A Love Story"

"Fringe 2004 Early Buzz - Sure Things and The Return of Mom" and

"Fringe 2004 Early Buzz - Honorable Mentions."

If you're also interested in a taste of Fringes past, check out my writings on Fringe 2003.

MONOLOGUES AND SCENES FOR ACTORS AND DIRECTORS

The centralized searchable database for all the scenes and monologues on the site is nearly completed. I have a meeting with the website designer this week to finish it off and we hope to go live this coming weekend.

For now you can access all that material through the sections on the individual plays themselves (hit the Plays & Musicals menu item to the left for a full list of what's available). Click on Scenes or Monologues on each Play's home page and a list of scenes will appear. Click on the representative quote to view the scene or monologue in its entirety.

PLAYS FOR YOUNG ACTORS

Check out this new category of plays in the listings of Plays & Musicals.

All the scripts I wrote for Pillsbury House Theatre's Chicago Avenue Project can be found there, including the most recent outing, "Champion of Breakfast," as well as Bethesda, Snowball's Chance, and Dr. Worm.

FAST FRINGE


For the latest details on this showcase of short plays for the 2004 Minnesota Fringe Festival, click here, and also see "Fringe 2004 Early Buzz - Honorable Mentions."

"CUE TO CUE" GOES TO THE FRINGE

For information on the TV show I host, covering theater in Minnesota, see the section "In My Humble Opinion" or click here.

A TALE OF TWO TEN MINUTE PLAY FESTIVALS

The Playwrights' Center has put out a call for scripts for its annual ten minute play festival on June 30, 2004. Once the ten scripts are selected for that official festival by the end of May, the remaining entrants will form the roster for the Second Annual Alternative Ten Minute play festival on July 7, 2004. More details on the latter event as it evolves.

INTERESTED IN PRODUCING ONE OF THESE PLAYS?

Please contact me.

Feel free to use the scenes and monologues for auditions or classes if you like (and drop me a note and let me know how it went).

So, take a look around and tell me what you think. I'm going to get back to work on those upgrades.

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED...

George Bernard Shaw's "Saint Joan" at Park Square Theater in St. Paul, MN, starring Kate Eifrig, one of the best young actresses in the Twin Cities, as Saint Joan. Well worth the price of admission.

ALSO RECOMMENDED (theatre in Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minnesota)...

"Bits and Pieces" from Theatre Unbound, at The Playwrights' Center in Minneapolis (www.theatreunbound.org, www.pwcenter.org) through May 15, 2004

"The Winter's Tale" from Ten Thousand Things, at various locations around the Twin Cities (www.tenthousandthings.org) through May 23, 2004

"Unhinged" from Bedlam Theatre (612-341-1038) at 514-1/2 Cedar Street in Minneapolis through May 8, 2004

"Oil On Canvas" from 15 Head at The Red Eye (www.15Head.org) through May 15, 2004 - this play was developed during the 2003 Minnesota Fringe Festival. See my review of that incarnation of the story in the section of this site titled "In My Humble Opinion" or click here.

"Living Out" from Mixed Blood Theatre (www.mixedblood.com) through May 15, 2004.

ON A PERSONAL NOTE...

The current Broadway production of the musical "Little Shop of Horrors" has, as the understudy for both Seymour and The Dentist, my friend Jonathan Rayson. Over the last couple of weeks, there have been several performances in which he's gone on in the lead role of Seymour. My one great regret these days is that I can't just drop everything, hop a plane and go see him. I'm sure he's great. And this isn't even his Broadway debut. That was last year when his understudy duties had him onstage for 15 performances as the titular Frog in the Tony-nominated musical "A Year With Frog and Toad." Congratulations, Jonathan!

Thanks for stopping by.

 

Fringe 2004 - Early Buzz - Top 10 - Death Penalty Puppetry

Fringe 2004 Early Buzz - Death Penalty Puppetry

If You Held A Gun To My Head (1 of 10)

...or If I Could Only See Ten Fringe Shows...

...what would they be, and why?

Yes, I know it's a little early to be holding forth on a top ten list. After all, most shows are still very much in the coming together stage. Some may yet add on, some may still drop out. Nothing is certain. But hey, that's why I'm calling it *Early* Buzz. I've been skulking about, gathering information on shows that intrigue me. And this a sampling of the ones that float to the top...

Death Penalty Puppetry
The Chameleon Theatre Circle
Loring Playhouse

"Finally, two topics that have divided the nation collide before our eyes: the death penalty and puppetry."

Between the title and the hook, they had me at "hello."

And the more I learn about the project, and The Chameleon Theatre Circle, the more intrigued I become, and the more anxious I get to finally see the finished project. That's a long time to hold my attention in the barrage of 175-plus other shows, but they continue to do it.

Serious topic. Offbeat execution (you'll pardon the pun).

The Chameleons have been to the Fringe before, in 2001, with "New and Nobler Life," and learned a lot of lessons they're applying to this year's entry.

First, catchy title. Check.

Second, advertise the heck out of it - don't just expect their core audience to follow them into the Twin Cities.

Which brings me to the other reason they fascinate me. These are avid theater artists who not only live in the southern suburbs (Apple Valley, Lakeville, Burnsville, Eagan and Savage) but decided to create and present their art to a surburban audience, rather than trek to the cities. After six seasons and 37 productions, they are making a shift in their mission. Their company is branching out their efforts in two directions. Their regular season will endeavour to cater to their audience's desires more directly, with the object of bringing in as much revenue as possible, while still providing the artists involved with challenges that interest them. The other initiative is to take that revenue from the primary theater season and do company-developed, more cutting-edge work, using the Fringe and other production deadlines to spur creation of these projects. These productions would push the envelope and the comfort zone for both audiences and performers, allowing for greater development of skills and exploration of topics that are not typical community theater fare.

The first project in this new company-developed production initiative? Death Penalty Puppetry.

I sat in on their first workshop as they discussed both the topic and the puppetry aspects of the project and it was all I could do not to join them for rehearsals and production myself. Discussions are lively, irreverent, but respectful, full of ideas and humor and tough questions.

They don't plan to create a show with either a pro or anti-death penalty stance. (After all, one of the company members grew up in Texas, and until they reached junior high school, they didn't know there was anything to debate - the death penalty was just part of life in America the way they were raised - they figured all states had it and used it as regularly as the Lone Star State.)

The company would be happiest if the audience left the show with a lot to mull over and discuss amongst themselves. There are no easy answers to this one, and they aren't going to kid us by trying to provide one. Instead they'll provide several and it's up to us in the audience to sort it out.

Puppets, and human/puppet interaction, will allow them the latitude to "get away with" saying things you might not accept hearing from a human, rather than a felt, mouth.

Even the ideas they were batting around - a puppet strapped into an electric chair, a puppet politician calling for insitution of the death penalty, a musical number - are fascinating and full of potential - and, forgive me, kind of hilarious - before I've seen a word of script.

With new laws enabling us to carry guns around in public places (and the flurry of signs on buildings that followed), the erosion of civil liberties since 9/11, war and war crimes cropping up more and more every day, and real-life politicians calling for the death penalty here in Minnesota...damn, bring on the puppets! Please!

 

Fringe 2004 - Dandelion Snow - an update on my play in the 2004 Minnesota Fringe Festival

My "Dandelion Snow" cycle of short plays will be on display at the Minnesota Fringe Festival in Minneapolis this year, thanks to Out On Stage Productions.

Auditions were held this past Sunday, May 9, 2004, and with luck we'll be able to announce a cast shortly.

Excerpts from all four parts of the romantic misadventures of nearly reunited lovers Ash and Dana:

Dandelion Snow

Across Their River

Extra Cheese

Tools

are all available for viewing in the "Short Plays" section of the "Plays & Musicals" portion of this site - just click over in the left hand column.

And more details on this evolving production opportunity are chronicled in the column "Fringe Early Buzz - Honorable Mentions" also in this section.

"Dandelion Snow" will be performed on the Whitney Mainstage at Minneapolis Community and Technical College (1424 Yale Place, Minneapolis, Minnesota) - which is enormous, so please come and bring a few dozen of your friends and family along with you.

The dates and times are:

Saturday August 7, 2004 - 8:30pm

Wednesday August 11, 2004 - 2:30pm

Thursday August 12, 2004 - 5:30pm

Friday August 13, 2004 - 8:30pm

Saturday August 14, 2004 - 4pm

Tickets go on sale July 1st through Uptown Tix (www.uptowntix.com or 612-604-4466).

Hope to see you there.

 

Fringe 2004 - Early Buzz - While You're At It...try Outward Spiral Theatre Company

While You're At It...

...or Shows In A Similar Vein That Are Worth A Look

If you removed the gun from my head and allowed me a top 20 instead of a top 10, here's a look at other shows that will likely be on my schedule in August.

Amused and intrigued by
Plants & Animals by Scot Augustson?

Try
The Valets, or How Little It Matters
Outward Spiral Theatre Company
Loring Playhouse

Also an "actors playing multiple roles" show, an original work being developed by one of the Twin Cities GLBT (insert your own favorite variation of all the gay community initials here) theater companies specifically for the Fringe Festival. The idea goes something like this...

"A cheap hotel. Hoping to repair their broken relationship, Jim and Dan play a game where they masquerade as gay archetypes of the 20th century, but when another couple stumbles in, the game becomes all too real. As the four men relive invented pasts, they soon realize their dependence on these constructed identities and discover how these roles have shaped the community's destiny and their own."

New play, local company, reality/time-tripping element, multiple levels of role playing, and a little food for thought also in the mix. I'm there.

Learn more about them at
www.outwardspiral.org

 

Fringe 2004 - Early Buzz - While You're At It...try Ferrari McSpeedy

While You're At It...

...or Shows In A Similar Vein That Are Worth A Look

Laughing like an idiot at
In Defense of Sin (My Friends' Best Stories)
from Ministry of Cultural Warfare?

Try
Punk Rock Awesome
Ferrari McSpeedy
Brave New Workshop

The final installment of the Punk Rock thrillogy.

I missed the first two installments and am, frankly, kicking myself, given the rabid and enthusiastic following Ferrari McSpeedy has among other Fringe artists I admire.

I went to Improv-A-Go-Go last month to get a peek at Ferrari McSpeedy in their element.

"Well, I guess I've got a sh-tload of elephants to blow."

And yes, when you have an improv setup based in a glass-blowing business, and they have an order for dozens of glass elephants, the line above almost becomes inevitable. But dang if it wasn't still funny as hell when it was finally spoken aloud.

These two improv artists are amazing when they're completely unscripted. With a script of their own devising backing them up, as in the Punk Rock plays, they must be pretty damn brilliant.

They're one of four improv groups who were invited to the Chicago Improv Festival this year. Four groups from Minneapolis is quite a coup. Just goes to prove what those in the improv community in the Twin Cities already know - just like so many other forms of art, our improv community is thriving and getting noticed far outside the city, and even state, limits.

I've been assured that you don't have to have been privy to Punk Rock Omaha or Punk Rock Revisited to understand and enjoy the last installment of the trilogy. Though longtime Fringe fans will no doubt get an extra charge out of the latest from Ferrari McSpeedy, new initiates like myself will still have plenty to enjoy as well.

Learn more about them at
www.ferrarimcspeedy.com

 

Fringe 2004 - Early Buzz - While You're At It...try Ari Hoptman

While You're At It...

...or Shows In A Similar Vein That Are Worth A Look

Charmed and amused by
Whoppers from Kevin Kling?

Try
Delaware and Other Lies
Ari Hoptman
Red Eye

Ari is another storyteller with an unusual sense of humor and whimsy and a long history with the Fringe.

To hear him tell it...

"In some ways, the show will be like previous one-person shows I've done: there will be stories, bad poetry, songs and sketches.

In some ways, it will be different. There will probably be more storytelling than usual. There may even be some short filmed segments. And I may have a guest star or two (still working on that part).

My intention is to make the show all-new, though I may bring back one or two short items that I want to resurrect. I am already trying out new stuff at Balls Cabaret [at the Southern Theatre] and it has been going very well.

For two years (2001-2) I was away from the Fringe,...so it is good to be back."

Like Kevin, Ari is the definition of a great one-person show.

 

Fringe 2004 - Live Nude Fringe Revisited

Live Nude Fringe Revisited

Well, someone must have missed the naughty bits.

Last year, there were only 3 Fringe shows with Nudity warnings (even though there was also a skeletal marionette who was kind of disappointed he didn't qualify)

This year, 11.

Some of it would appear obvious; others, I guess it's just as well we were forewarned.

A Year In The Life of Slippery Goodstuff (if the title weren't enough of a tip-off) is about an amnesiac who reinvents himself as a porn star - something like that almost requires nudity, doesn't it?

Axis Mundi - two men, nudity, but no queer content - rough and tumble physical theatre, the company's name is Aggravated Assault, they also have a violence warning and the publicity photo shows one man strangling the other with some cord or rope, so I'm guessing sensuality isn't the point here.

City Pagez: The Show doesn't immediately cry out "Look! We're Nude!" but their publicity image does include some vaguely S&M headgear so that's a clue. Oh those wacky dominatrixes (dominatrii?)

Donuts & Bow-Ties - again, the title isn't a dead giveaway, but this is brought to us by someone whose 2002 Fringe show was called "Mr. God and the Walrus Taint" (and if you don't know why "taint" is a giveaway, I really shouldn't go into it here)

Dressing Room - well, it's set in a dressing room at Via's Vintage Wear. It could be salacious, but more likely it's just part of the site specific nature of the beast.

In Defense of Sin (My Friends' Best Stories)- sin, the Ministry of Cultural Warfare, need we say more? 'Bout time they flirted with a nudity warning. As our presidential candidates are so fond of droning, "Bring it on."

Nightwatches - description includes both dark passion *and* deep secrets. Plus a little night and a little watching in the title

Tasteless - here we have a claim of being "the most dangerously seductive show in the Fringe" plus references to pulsating, the exposed female form, pelvic gyration and all things oral, so they can't say they didn't warn us.

The 7 Project - what would a film showcase ruminating on the Seven Deadly Sins be without a little nudity? Sadly, Brad Pitt is not involved this time. But I'm still going because I like the concept.

The Devils - possessed nuns, tailor-made for a nudity warning

The Lost Vegas Series (How Not To Get F***** In The City of Sin) - Take your pick - a riff on the name of our country's "go-to" city for forensic science and legal hookers, Sin or F****** in the title.

Most of them, not too surprising nudity might be involved. However, it's very nice of the Fringe and the artists to warn us it's coming.

And if you were looking for a little R or NC-17 style stagecraft, this year the Fringe is packing plenty to go around.

 

Notes from a Wandering Laptop

Notes from a Wandering Laptop

Week of May 9, 2004

My latest endeavours...

MY OWN FRINGE SHOW

Well, despite tornado sirens, pounding rain, rather impressive lightning, and bone-rattling thunder, the auditions for my Dandelion Snow cycle of short plays, slated to be part of the 2004 Minnesota Fringe Festival, did indeed take place as planned. Once the director and I have confirmed everything, I can say more, but things are most definitely looking up. With luck, we'll be set to move into the rehearsal phase of production in the next couple of weeks. Cross your fingers, light a candle, say a prayer, or whatever seems appropriate for a play in search of a cast.

For further Fringe details, including dates, times and location, click here, and also see "Fringe 2004 Early Buzz - Honorable Mentions."

Meanwhile, if you're interested in a preview of some of what you'll be seeing at the Fringe, you can check out excerpts from the four parts of the cycle - Dandelion Snow, Across Their River, Extra Cheese, and Tools - in the Plays & Musicals section of this site.

A WORK IN PROGRESS

"The Surface of the World" is currently undergoing a complete rewrite to better reflect the new world we live in these days. The working title is "Leave" and I used a few upcoming deadlines for ten minute play competitions and short play showcases as an impetus to jumpstart the rewrite process and get me to produce a ten minute excerpt as a beginning. Since I've printed it out and put it in the mail three times already, I figured it couldn't hurt to put it out in the ether as well, a web-based landmark as I continue on the journey of rewriting. You can find it in the "Scenes" section of "The Surface of the World" in "Plays & Musicals" under the quote link "I kill to protect you, I kill to come home. That’s how much I love you" or just click here.

FRINGE BLOGGING

My second year of blogging for the Minnesota Fringe Festival as one of The League of Extraordinary Fringers ("The Professor") has begun, and can be found in the section "In My Humble Opinion" until the official Fringe Festival website to go live on July 1..

Check out this week's new entries of Fringe Early Buzz, covering:

the first of my picks for the Top Ten Shows sure to be on my Fringe-going schedule:

Death Penalty Puppetry

plus notes on the latest from

Outward Spiral Theatre Company, Ferrari McSpeedy, and Ari Hoptman

and take a look three Sure Things, and three shows I'm way too close to, plus

"Minnesota Fringe Festival 2004 - A Love Story"

And if you're interested in a taste of Fringes past, check out my writings on Fringe 2003.

FAST FRINGE

For the latest details on this showcase of short plays for the 2004 Minnesota Fringe Festival, click here, and also see "Fringe 2004 Early Buzz - Honorable Mentions."

"CUE TO CUE" GOES TO THE FRINGE

For information on the TV show I host, covering theater in Minnesota, see the section "In My Humble Opinion" or click here.

MONOLOGUES AND SCENES FOR ACTORS AND DIRECTORS

The centralized searchable database for all the scenes and monologues on the site is almost debugged and quite lovely. I've been running multiple searches on it to proof that the results are coming out right and we're nearly there. After yet another meeting with the website designer this week to finish it off, we hope to at last go live with this feature this coming weekend. (I know I keep saying that but now the end truly is in site, er...sight. Soon I won't have to talk about it any more, it'll be part of the regular menu of options.)

In the meantime, you can access all that material through the sections on the individual plays themselves (hit the Plays & Musicals menu item to the left for a full list of what's available). Click on Scenes or Monologues on each Play's home page and a list of scenes will appear. Click on the representative quote to view the scene or monologue in its entirety.

A TALE OF TWO TEN MINUTE PLAY FESTIVALS

Once the ten scripts are selected for The Playwrights' Center's annual Ten Minute Play Festival (set for Wednesday, June 30, 2004, 6:30pm), the remaining entrants will form the roster for the Second Annual Alternative Ten Minute play festival on July 7, 2004. More details on the latter event as it evolves.

INTERESTED IN PRODUCING ONE OF THESE PLAYS?

Please contact me.

Feel free to use the scenes and monologues for auditions or classes if you like (and drop me a note and let me know how it went).

So, take a look around and tell me what you think. I'm going to get back to work on those upgrades.

RECOMMENDED VIEWING (theatre in Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minnesota)...

"Rough Cuts" from Nautlius Music Theater, Monday and Tuesday, May 10 and 11, 2004. This month's offering, "Finding Home - Songs of Ricky Ian Gordon."

"Bits and Pieces" from Theatre Unbound, at The Playwrights' Center in Minneapolis (www.theatreunbound.org, www.pwcenter.org) through May 15, 2004. (I'll be ushering for them on the 15th, so come say hi and see a good show).

"The Winter's Tale" from Ten Thousand Things, at various locations around the Twin Cities (www.tenthousandthings.org) through May 23, 2004

"Oil On Canvas" from 15 Head at The Red Eye (www.15Head.org) through May 15, 2004 - this play was developed during the 2003 Minnesota Fringe Festival. See my review of that incarnation of the story in the section of this site titled "In My Humble Opinion" or click here.

"Living Out" from Mixed Blood Theatre (www.mixedblood.com) through May 15, 2004.

"Talking Masks" from Carlyle Brown & Company and Pillsbury House Theatre, running May 14-29, 2004.

"Tuesdays with Morrie," based on the popular book - which I freely admit I fell for, hook, line and sinker - from the Great American History Theatre (www.historytheatre.com), through June 20, 2004. (My thanks to Gigi Jensen, who allowed me to tag along with her and use one of her comp tickets).

ON A PERSONAL NOTE...

Happy Mother's Day to my mom Beverlee, my grandma Dorothy, my stepmom Debbie, and my sisters Carolyn (who just had her third child), Kathryn and Deborah (with one tyke apiece).

Also, don't forget the upcoming Minnesota AIDS Walk on Sunday, May 16, 2004. It's a good cause. So if you're walking in it, good for you. If you know some who's walking, support them. And if you're unable to do the walk or don't know anyone doing the walk, the Minnesota AIDS Walk is more than happy to take your money directly. See them online via the Minnesota AIDS Project (MAP) (www.mnaidsproject.org) or call them at 612-341-2060 or toll free 1-800-243-7321.

Thanks for stopping by.

 

Craig Lucas and the Modern Tragedy

Sitting in the audience for the first public reading of Craig Lucas’ new play “Small Tragedy,” I was filled again with excitement about the possibility of theatre. Though still early in its life, the play was strong and daring. More importantly, you could see the great play it would become in the shape of what was presented that night. Just as he had done before with his play “The Dying Gaul,” Lucas had again created a compelling and truly modern tragedy.

Though both “Small Tragedy” and “The Dying Gaul” are modern tragedies in the fullest sense of the phrase, and only separated by the span of five years, the times in which they were created, and the vision of America which they reflect back to an audience, are radically different.

Tragedy is a word and concept that has been thrown around quite liberally in recent years. Its effect has been diluted. Tragedy has become something almost routine. Anything bad that happens, any unfortunate event, whether real or fictional, is immediately labeled a tragedy. In its original theatrical sense, tragedy was meant for something greater, almost therapeutic. The effect of a tragedy was to be cathartic, to purge the emotions by presenting an audience with a situation - the fall of a person, an unraveling of their fortunes - which was meant to inspire pity and a sense of dread.

Above all, tragedy was not something which simply happened to a person. Tragedy was something a person brought upon themselves. The seeds of tragedy were present in the person’s inner makeup. The engine of tragedy was something that the person’s own actions set in motion. Tragedy was not something set upon people by outside forces (though, clearly, the gods always played their part in the proceedings). If people could control their own worst impulses, tragedy could perhaps have been avoided. The tragedy, in part, was that the person could not rise above their instincts until it was too late. The audience was thus chastened, even as they were released from the horror on stage and returned to their real lives. Grateful they were not the ones who had incurred the gods’ wrath, audience members were reminded to behave in moderation, and to conduct their lives with concern for others. A person’s actions had consequences, often quite dire ones.

It was in 1998 that Craig Lucas first translated the true essence of tragedy to a modern story for the stage in “The Dying Gaul.” “The Dying Gaul” was set amidst the Los Angeles film industry of the mid-1990’s in all its avarice, a microcosm of the extremes of America’s consumer-driven society. Like America at that time, the characters in the play dealt with one another in isolation, concerned primarily with their own individual needs, not thinking of any larger societal consequences. In fact, the story is focused so tightly, the audience can easily forget the three main characters are not the only people in existence. The larger world beyond them is not their, nor our, concern. The influence they work upon each other, and its consequences, is what is being examined. The characters in “The Dying Gaul” are all disconnected - from each other, from their own emotions, from society as a whole. In reaching out to one another, they hope for some kind of salvation, relief from their loneliness and isolation. It is in becoming too closely involved with one another, on a foundation built of lies, that the tragedy is set in motion.

Robert, the central character, is a struggling screenwriter thrust into a world of privilege. Robert’s agent and lover, Malcolm, has recently died of AIDS. Robert is feeling very much alone in the world, bereft of the love of his life. He feels guilty for still being alive, and regularly entertains suicidal thoughts. Robert also carries a great deal of anger at society for marginalizing the plague, in essence allowing Malcolm to die through denial and neglect.

Jeffrey, the married producer who buys Robert’s script, also initiates a sexual affair with Robert. However, Jeffrey’s wife, Elaine isn’t stupid. She knows of, and tolerates, the affair, but she also goes in search of answers for what her husband really wants, to perhaps shore up her faltering marriage. Elaine seeks out Robert in chat rooms on the internet and initiates contact in the guise of another gay man.

Gathering, and stealing, more private information on Robert from his therapist and from her own husband, Elaine crosses a line she from which cannot retreat. She impersonates the spirit of Robert’s dead lover, Malcolm, online. Robert, desperate to believe in and regain this connection despite initial anger and disbelief, falls completely under Elaine’s spell. Even as Elaine grows fond of Robert, and tries to give him comfort, she learns more of her husband’s affair and Jeffrey’s lack of esteem for her and their marriage than she can bear.

Elaine arranges for a face-to-face confrontation with Robert as she packs to leave Jeffrey for good, taking their children with her. When Robert uses “Malcolm’s” words of comfort to place some of the responsibility for the situation at Elaine’s feet, Elaine can no longer continue the charade. Elaine reveals her secret identity, and essentially kills Malcolm a second time. Robert turns his initial suicidal impulse outward, planting shavings of a poisonous plant from Elaine’s own garden in a container of salad she takes with her when she leaves. What happens next - whether the poison was ingested or not - is uncertain, but the result is fatal. Elaine drives a car, carrying both her and the children, into a concrete divider on the highway, killing them all.

Jeffrey is now the one bereft. Robert is once again the one left standing. Now, however, he feels more in control of the events of his existence, of the power over life and death. As with the plague of AIDS, people are dying senselessly, with no one to blame. Yet this time, Robert is in the position of god, rather than victim. Though Robert is clearly no longer suicidal, arguments can be made on both sides as to whether this transformation is a good one.

Only five years later, in 2003, “Small Tragedy” has been born into a very different America and a more expansive, and ominous, world. The economy, far from being on an upward curve, appears to be coming apart at the seams. America’s troubles, and the troubles of other nations, no longer respect our borders. The actions of all nations have far-reaching consequences. The people of the world are more directly connected, for better or worse, than they have ever been before. Isolation is no longer the problem. Learning to cope with an overcrowded world of mingling cultures and ideas is the primary obstacle to happiness.

Has the rest of the world and all its problems always been there? Of course. Is America being forced to confront its place in the world, and the consequences of its actions, in a way in which it had not previously felt the need? Certainly. America’s illusion of inviolable security is forever shattered. The need to find ways to peacefully coexist with those who disagree with and are different from us has never been as vital as it is today. It is from this new America that “Small Tragedy” emerged.

Instead of the film industry, “Small Tragedy” is rooted in the theater - a group of artists rehearsing and performing a production of a new translation of “Oedipus Rex.” Far from well-to-do, these characters are scraping by, either trying to make their way in the world, or to rebuild their world. Instead of focusing primarily on three characters, the play casts its nets over an ensemble of six. In this play, AIDS is no longer an overwhelming plague, but a non-fatal subplot, and it is a heterosexual woman, not a gay man, who is living with HIV.

The outsider who enters the world of this theater community is not another American, but a male Bosnian refugee named Hakija.

“Small Tragedy” ultimately revolves around the character of Jen, an aspiring American actress. Like Robert in “The Dying Gaul,” Jen is our narrator. Also like Robert, she quotes the source of another world view as she struggles to find her way in life. In Robert’s case, it was the basic tenets of Buddhism. In Jen’s case, it is the tragedies of Ancient Greece, notably “Oedipus Rex” and “Ajax.” Jen also shares Robert’s fate of feeling abandoned by someone she loved. Jen’s former lover, however, is still alive somewhere. He simply used Jen to support himself, and moved on when he no longer needed her and found someone else with whom he wanted to have a relationship. Jen decides to give her deferred dream of theatre another try. She and her roommate Fanny audition and are cast in “Oedipus,” where they both encounter Hakija, an actor cast in the title role who is also a refugee of the Bosnian war.

This outsider is harder to read. Hakija assumes other identities, both on and off stage, much like Elaine in “Gaul.” While Hakija’s storytelling does not seem inherently malicious, it still proves unsettling. His practical joke on Fanny at auditions, telling her a tale of childhood trauma that he soon after reveals to be completely fictitious, seems outrageous but not unwarranted. Fanny’s nervous prattling at auditions was distracting Hakija, so he found a way to get her to shut up and leave him alone. But when Hakija becomes romantically involved with Jen, Fanny can’t shake her bad feelings about him. The fervor Hakija brings to the proud and hot-headed character of Oedipus in the beginning of the play is matched by the ease with which he inflicts the character’s self-mutilation and self-loathing on himself at the end. There is always a sense that something lies beneath the raw emotions Hakija channels through this stage role.

When Hakija and another young actor, Chris, are left behind at a bar together at the act break of “Small Tragedy,” the audience has no idea what might happen. Chris is gay, and as much as he is smitten with the director of the play, he also finds Hakija attractive. Hakija is deliberately non-responsive to direct questions about his sexuality, but is always friendly and ready with an inviting smile. After an introductory address to the audience from Jen, Act Two of “Small Tragedy” begins in rehearsals the next day. Chris sits alone off to the side of the theatre, crying, inconsolable. But it is not something Hakija did to Chris which has caused the emotional turmoil, but rather things that he said. Chris recounts to Jen fragments of Hakija’s stories of life, specifically torture, in war-ravaged Bosnia. It is Chris’ fragile state and inability to speak the horrors fully which makes them that much more terrifying. The audience’s imagination is allowed to fill in the blanks, guided by the level of evil at work in the things we are allowed to hear. “Why would you ever tell another person things like that?!” Chris gasps out between sobs.

We, as a country, and as a people in America, used to be insulated from tales of horror such as these. We did not have to live in a world where such things took place. If we could find a way to ignore poverty, hunger and homelessness within our own borders, we could certainly find a way to avoid having to deal with things much worse that happened to people we didn’t know overseas. In order to receive news of such atrocities, we had to seek it out. Very little information was forced upon us. Such troubling images seemed disconnected from our daily lives. Americans did not see themselves as being part of this larger world’s problems, because we did not have to suffer the full consequences of the actions of our government and business interests in other countries. Protected by our size, our geographical isolation, and our military, we could convince ourselves that all was essentially peaceful.

Hakija puts forth a thesis to his fellow actors that America is like Oedipus. America impulsively acts out, then tries to avoid the fate of the consequences of its actions. It seeks a solution to the troubles brought against it, not seeing that it is often the source of most of its troubles. Finally, it blinds itself to things it considers too painful to see. Hakija disowns this thesis when Jen insists on bringing it to the director. The director, also the author of this new translation, is appalled. He wants no political interpretation layered on top of this ancient story. Yet, just as with Hakija, Lucas has spoken the words and there is no taking them back. The interpretation is floating out there for the audience to infer.

One of the things which Lucas does most skillfully, almost invisibly, in “Small Tragedy” is to replicate the experience of Ancient Greek audiences for modern American audiences. Greek tragedies were telling stories with which most of their original audiences were already familiar. It wasn’t the story, but the interpretation, that was new. There wasn’t suspense in the sense of an audience not knowing what was going to happen next. The audience knew the end of the story before they took their seats. There was, however, often a sense of dread, knowing the fate that was to befall the characters by the close of the play. Even those not familiar with the details of the legend of Oedipus at the beginning of “Small Tragedy” get enough of a sampling to prepare them for what is to unfold. Those more knowledgeable about Greek tragedy begin appreciating the play, and feeling that sense of dread, on multiple levels early on.

The conventions of Greek tragedy are also in full use in Lucas’ new play. Just as with Oedipus, Hakija’s true identity and the consequences of his past actions are revealed with a vengeance as the play draws to its close. The information is brought to Jen by the friends who portrayed the chorus and the messenger/prophet in their production of “Oedipus.” One of the few things that keeps the play from having the same ending as “Medea,” is the deus ex machina of a baby-sitting neighbor down the hall. Speaking of “Medea,” that play is the not the only one invoked to plant a sense of dread in the audience of “Small Tragedy.” By putting the words of the characters of “Oedipus” in the mouths of the modern day characters telling the story of “Small Tragedy,” particularly when Jen addresses the audience at the opening of the second act, Lucas gives the play a more ominous context than the surface story might imply. The audience is never allowed to forget that something may be lurking just underneath the stories on which these people are building their lives and future expectations.

“Small Tragedy” exists in a much larger, and darker, world than “The Dying Gaul.” But it is, strangely enough, somehow more hopeful. In talking with an actor friend who had auditioned for the play, I discovered one significant way in which the play had already changed in early drafts:

“The guy stabs himself in the heart with a kitchen knife at the end, right?”
“What? No.”
“He used to.”

At the end of “The Dying Gaul,” Robert visits upon his newfound friends the horror of the sudden indiscriminate kind of death he has had to live with for many years. While it might seem just to force people to see or experience the kind of unpleasantness they have been working so hard to ignore or deny, and thus also not lend a hand to help alleviate, it is perhaps not the most constructive choice.

At the end of “Small Tragedy,” Jen visits a kind of horror upon Hakija in return for the lies he told to her and the misdeeds he directed against others in his previous, pre-American, life. However, Jen also offers redemption. She offers mercy where he showed no mercy. She does not abandon him as she had been abandoned. Instead, she gives him the gift of forgiveness. Jen does not forget, nor does she deny the reality of the things Hakija once did. But she chooses, in her words, “to be happy.” Jen chooses to allow the life and family she has built with Hakija to continue.

Some might call this choice foolish. However, somewhere the cycle of blood and vengeance has to stop, or it could go on indefinitely. If no one is permitted a second chance, if all must pay, then there can be no happiness without ignorance. If we choose knowledge and truth, we must also find a way to deal with the unpleasantness that comes with it. Some things are unforgivable, but this is often a personal, rather than a societal choice.

Moral relativism is a dangerous and tricky thing. There are no uncomplicated happy endings anymore. Neither are there clear-cut tragedies. The choice to be happy, to continue, in the face of a staggering, horrible truth may be the best we can do. Some would argue that it is better than giving up, or sticking one’s head in the sand. Some would argue it is not.

That is the central, troubling question Craig Lucas’ new play “Small Tragedy” leaves the audience to decide for itself. It is the essence of modern tragedy.

 

Theatre-going Recommendations - Twin Cities and beyond

DON’T FORGET...

June 9 - 13, 2004
First, I have to put in another plug for the Bedlam Theatre Ten Minute Play Festival, of which my script “Leave” is a part. All the details are available in another column in this section, or by accessing them through the links on the front page.

OK, now that shilling for myself and the wonderful work my director and actors are doing is taken care of...

NOW PLAYING...

thru June 13th - Hardcover Theater’s adaptation of Jules Verne’s story “Dr. Ox’s Experiment” - Fridays thru Sundays at the Playwrights’ Center, 2301 Franklin Avenue East, Minneapolis. Call 612-581-2229 and for more information on Hardcover, visit www.hardcovertheater.org

thru June 5th - Pigs Eye Theatre presents Steve Martin’s “Picasso at the Lapin Agile” with the always amusing Ari Hoptman as Einstein, and another of my favorite comic actors Dale Pfeilsticker. Thursday thru Saturday at the Cedar Riverside People’s Center, 425 - 20th Avenue, Minneapolis (the corner of 20th and Riverside, third floor). Call 1-800-370-4920 and for more information about Pigs Eye, visit www.pigseyetheatre.org

thru June 20th - Great American History Theatre’s presents the adaptation of Mitch Albom’s bestseller “Tuesdays with Morrie,” which a lovely performance by Clyde Lund as Morrie - 30th East 10th Street, St. Paul. My review of the show is available here in this section. Call 651-292-4323, and for more information on the History Theatre, visit www.historytheatre.com

thru June 20th - Park Square Theatre revives the modern (well, more recent than most) farce “Noises Off” - Thursdays thru Sundays at Park Square, 408 St. Peter Street, St. Paul. Call 651-291-7005 and for more information on Park Square, visit www.parksquaretheatre.org

UPCOMING BENEFITS...

June 4, 2004, 7:00pm
for New Breath Productions, which help bring new musical theater to the Twin Cities - concert and reception at The Minnesota Opera Center, 620 North First Street, Minneapolis - silent auction, performances by their student company, special guest artists, and a preview of the fall production - Handel’s Acis and Galatea. Call 612-343-3390 or go to Ticketworks.com, and for more information on New Breath, visit www.newbreath.org

June 6, 2004, 6pm-10pm
for the Minnesota Fringe Festival - A Taste of the Tonys, at the Metropolitan Ballroom - watch the 58th Annual Tony Awards while sampling signature dishes from some of the Twin Cities’ best chefs - and instead of commercials, you get entertainment from John Trones, Erin Schwab, Rene Foss, Jodi Kellogg (as Mae West), the casts of “Beehive” and “A Class Act.” For tickets, go to Ticketworks.com or call 612-343-3390. For more on the Fringe Festival, visit www.fringefestival.org

UPCOMING SHOWS...

June 3-5, 2004
Seattle dance -theater iconoclasts 33 Fainting Spells present “Our Little Sunbeam” - a multimedia blending of the first U.S. moon landing and Chekhov’s play “Ivanov” at the Walker Art Center, 725 Vineland Place in Minneapolis. Call 612-375-7622 or visit www.walkerart.org/tickets

June 3-13, 2004
Mizna presents the new play, “With Love From Ramallah” - two intertwined stories covering the same twelve hour period in Minneapolis and Ramallah, Palestine in 2002 - immigration, isolation, occupation, and the strength of the human spirit to survive - directed by Pangea Theatre’s Dipankar Mukherjee. Thursdays thru Sundays at the Mixed Blood Theatre, 1501 South 4th Street on the West Bank in Minneapolis. Call 612-338-6131 and for more information on Mizna, visit www.mizna.org

June 4-12, 2004
Zeitgeist presents new music under the title “Shape Shifting: Shades of Transformation ...resistance is futile” - at the Zeitgeist Studio, 275 East Fourth Street, Suite 100, St. Paul (across from the St. Paul Farmer’s Market) - call 651-755-1600 and for more on Zeitgeist, visit www.spiritofthetimes.org

June 4-27, 2004
Community theater juggernaut Theatre In The Round Players (TRP) dusts off the farce “See How They Run” (which I played a role in myself back in my Pennsylvania community theater days) - Fridays thru Sundays at TRP, 245 Cedar Avenue, Minneapolis - call 612-333-3010 and for more info on TRP visit www.theatreintheround.org (and remember, “It can’t amount to tantamount to slaughter!”)

June 11-26, 2004
The Red Eye Collaboration adapts Charles L. Mee, Jr.’s script “Requiem” - compiling fragments of Sophocles’ lost plays and other found text - mostly weekends but performance days vary throughout the run - call 612-870-0309, and for more info on Red Eye, visit www.theredeye.org

June 11-July 3, 2004
Illusion Theater presents “Vanishing Point” by, among several others, my composer friend Rob Hartmann, with whom I collaborated on the musical “The Hopes and Fears of All the Years” (available for preview on this site in “Plays & Musicals”). I’ve seen the “Vanishing Point” several times during its development in recent years (it seems to have followed us around as we developed “Hopes and Fears...”) and highly recommend it, particularly since this go-round features a cast of truly amazing actresses - Beth Gilleland, Aimee K Bryant, and Patty Nieman - in the roles of Aimee Semple McPherson, Amelia Earhart and Agatha Christie respectively. The musical revolves around the concept that when these three famous women disappeared mysteriously - two of them only for a short time, one of them permanently - they all met up in a mysterious sort of limbo, and their lives were altered because of this encounter. An amusing brain teaser of a musical that features some great work by all concerned. I’d gladly go again just to see Patty Nieman reprising her turn as Agatha Christie. Wonderful stuff. Call 612-339-4944, and for more info on Illusion, visit www.illusiontheater.org

June 18, 2004, 4-11pm
David Byrne of the Talking Heads joins the festivities as part of the Walker Art Center’s 5th Rock the Garden street party in the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden on Vineland Place at Lyndale Avenue South in Minneapolis. For tickets, call 612-375-7540 or visit www.walkerart.org/rock

IN THE NOT TOO DISTANT FUTURE...

July 14-August 8, 2004
Park Square presents what the New York Times called the “best new American play of the year,” the Mae West-inpsired (and haunted) romantic comedy, “Dirty Blonde” - directed by the gifted Joel Sass and starring the also impressive talents of Jodi Kellogg as Mae West - Thursdays thru Sundays at Park Square, 408 St. Peter Street, St. Paul. Call 651-291-7005 and for more information on Park Square, visit www.parksquaretheatre.org

July 22-25, 2004
The Playwrights’ Center’s annual PlayLabs new play development workshops have a number of notable names and collaborations in store. The highlights, to my eyes, are Vincent Delaney’s “Perpetua” on July 23rd (in collaboration with Commonweal Theatre Company) and Lee Blessing’s new play “A Body of Water” on July 24th, destined for the Guthrie Lab stage next year. I saw an earlier reading of “Perpetua” and was impressed by the way Vince spins words like poetry, all the while creating a series of complex relationships, rife with both conflict and humor. Great stuff. There are also collaborations afoot with The Children’s Theatre Company, Mixed Blood Theatre, and yet another Guthrie project. For tickets, call 612-332-7481, ext. 14, and for the full scoop on the festival visit www.pwcenter.org

EVENTS IT’S GOING TO KILL ME TO MISS...

June 28, 2004
The Actors Center Benefit, honoring four great American acting teachers - among them two leaders from my days at the Yale School of Drama, Earle Gister and Lloyd Richards - at The Public Theatre on Lafayette Street in New York City. A veritable who’s who of the “Yale Mafia” will be in attendance, but sadly my budget doesn’t allow me to be one of them.

July 16-18, 2004
Indiana State University (ISU) Theatre Department is holding a reunion in Terre Haute, IN, to honor another of my former professors, self-proclaimed “dirty old man” Lew Hackleman, for whom I stage managed several plays in my undergrad days. He’s transitioning into a well-deserved retirement. Again, I wish I could be there to tease him in person, but being there in spirit will have to suffice.

AND DON’T FORGET...

The Minnesota Fringe Festival, August 6-15, 2004, 175+ shows in locations in and around downtown Minneapolis, including my own projects...

Dandelion Snow, at the Minneapolis Community and Technical College’s Whitney Mainstage space

Fast Fringe, at the Loring Playhouse

See other columns in this section for details, or follow the links from the front page of this site to full coverage on Dandelion Snow and Fast Fringe.

 

Review - WASP/Unveiling - Ministry of Cultural Warfare - 5 stars

Two Wild and Crazy Guys Revisited

Comedy that’s actually funny. Now THERE’S a rarity.

The Ministry of Cultural Warfare has done it again with their double bill of one acts - WASP by Steve Martin, and UNVEILING by Vaclav Havel.

If you need a laugh, and who doesn’t these days, get your butt over to the Bryant Lake Bowl one of the Fridays or Saturdays prior to this production’s last performance on November 24th.

Looking just at his work in the movies or on SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE, one wouldn’t expect Steve Martin’s writing to have much depth beneath the laughter (though anyone who’s seen his play PICASSO AT THE LAPIN AGILE would know better). Havel’s biography - former political prisoner who rid his country of communist rule and became its president - doesn’t exactly scream “wacky hijinks.” But these two satirists of the prisoners of middle class values couldn’t be a better fit to share the same evening

Steve Martin is a poet. Whoever thought I’d be putting that subject, verb and object together in the same sentence? Certainly not me. But it’s true. A scathingly funny poet, but a poet nonetheless. His words in WASP soar the highest when he cracks open the humanity of his hilariously damaged characters in this series of bizarre snapshots of life in 1950’s suburbia.

Mom (Carin Leonard) speaks to the voices in her head when she’s alone. The Voice (Leigha Horton) is so accomodating, it even stops by for a visit in the flesh later on. The Son (Levi Weinhagen), though hopelessly unprepared for life in the real world, gets some words of wisdom on the horrors of love from the alien Premier (Kevin McLaughlin) who he contacts through his ham radio set. Though her father can’t remember her name, even with a sign taped to her back, Sis (Jennifer Strick) has some major religious delusions of grandeur which she shares with the audience as asides during church choir practice (If only the choirmaster who pay some attention and molest her). Even Dad (Matthew Kessen), a distant yet menacing presence throughout the play, gets his due from the author. The final moment of revelation is his, a man so alone in his role at the head of the family that even the voices in his head won’t talk to him. While the satire is always razor-sharp, Martin never forgets that his characters are human. His sympathy for them, deluded as they are, comes through loud and clear - and makes WASP all the funnier.

Vaclav Havel has no such mercy for his characters in UNVEILING. Vera (Leigha Horton) and Michael (Nathan Surprenant) are aggressively perfect hosts, and unrelentingly caring friends. They are determined to see that their political dissident friend Frederic (Reid Knuttila) not only has a good time in their newly furnished home, but that he shape up his own life as well. They are full of advice on his job, his wife (both her appearance AND her cooking), his apartment, parenting, and even sexual habits (the last of which they are all too eager to demonstrate). Despite Frederic’s repeated attempts to escape or change the subject, actually every subject, Vera and Michael are equally insistent on prevailing. Though progessively more discomfitting, the play is also more hilarious as the couple wears down their guest’s resistance.

To single out one performance over the others would be ludicrous. The cast of these two plays is truly an ensemble, each one of them in their own way, quite frankly, brilliant. They are all at the same time both very funny and almost unbearably painful to watch, so clearly do they make their ridiculous characters human and recognizable.

Director Leah Cooper not only gets the most from her cast and the scripts, she also gets a great one-two punch out of her design team - Brett Baldwin (Props), Lara Brown (Costumes), Michael Wells and Matthew Foster (Sets). [Whoever did the uncredited work on sound deserves a pat on the back as well. The music and sound effects were a nice touch.] Where WASP is cartoonish and surreal, UNVEILING is detailed and realistic. Both plays get the full treatment. The look of each piece fully supports the performances. The tiny Bryant Lake Bowl stage, always a challenge for any company, is used in highly inventive ways.

The Ministry of Cultural Warfare is on a roll. Producers Matthew Foster and Leigha Horton are to be commended for following up their popular Fringe show, INTO THE ACID FOUNTAIN, with such a winning double feature.

Do your funny bone a favor. Spend part of your weekend with these sick puppies.

 

Review - Collected Stories - Eye of the Storm Theatre - 5 stars

As lights came up in the house for intermission, I turned to my companion and said, “There’s nothing better than a good script in the hands of good actors.”

So if that’s all you need to know, that you’re in a for a really fine evening of theater, then skip down to the bottom of this article, get the box office number and call in your reservations now for COLLECTED STORIES, produced by Eye of the Storm Theatre at the Minneapolis Theatre Garage. It only runs until November 18th, and if you miss it, you’ll be missing something quite special.

For those of you that need just a little more to go on, I’ll simply say, Shirley Venard and Larissa Kokernot, two of the Twin Cities’ best actresses, in a script that was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in 1997, written by playwright Donald Margulies, who won the Pulitzer last year for his drama DINNER WITH FRIENDS.

I run the risk of sounding like Larissa Kokernot’s character, Lisa Morrison, gushing in the presence of her idol and mentor, Ruth Stein, played by Shirley Venard. COLLECTED STORIES is a play I should have had all kinds of problems with, but the production overcame all my reservations, to point where I have to think hard to come up with anything I didn’t like about it.

I dislike plays about the trials and tribulations of writers. Yet this script, and the actresses, under the capable guidance of director Casey Stangl, wisely make these women fully human first, and artists second. We care about what happens to Lisa and Ruth, and we delight in hearing them spin their tales.

I also lose patience with two person plays. It seems so unlikely no one else would ever walk on stage, and often the characters quickly run out of surprises. Not so here.

The continually evolving relationship between Lisa and Ruth, spanning six years in the first half of the 1990’s in only six scenes, is a fascinating dissection of the changing balance of power over time - between writer and fan, teacher and student, even mother and daughter, and finally friends of vastly different age - one at the beginning of adult life, the other approaching the end.

Watching Kokernot’s character Lisa grow in stature as a writer, and yet never quite able to shake her lack of self-confidence, made one feel for her and even root for her, even as she ultimately was betraying the woman she respected most. Special mention must be made of Shirley Venard’s work as Ruth, particularly when speaking of Ruth’s ill-fated love affair with a brilliant but mad poet. That story is, both literally and figuratively, the centerpiece of the play, for everything unravels from the sharing of this most personal of tales. And when Venard was in the midst of telling it, I couldn’t take my eyes off her. The talent of these actresses, and their evenly matched characters, and the welcome thread of intelligent humor woven throughout the play, makes the final confrontation between Ruth and Lisa both painful and riveting.

The set for the production, designed by Mark Hauck and dressed by the work of prop designer Robert-Bruce Brake, is practically a character itself. It looks truly lived in, believably cluttered. My only quibble would be that perhaps the clutter on the stage was perhaps a bit too real. The attention to detail, though admirable in theory, slowed down the telling of the actual story. The scene shifts often became all about placing and removing quantities of “things,” many of which had little to do with the action of the scene that followed. Though I realize some time needs to be allowed for costume changes, the blackouts were often hijacked and lengthened by unnecessary changes of the detritus around the apartment (not the crew’s fault - they were quick and efficient under the circumstances). I found myself wishing that the production would take its cue from the bookshelves that were the downstage boundary of the set. Facing out, these green bookshelves had only the suggestion of books on them, also painted the same shade of green. Not strictly realistic, they got the visual point across. Less sometimes is indeed more.

But that’s a minor point. There are just as many small moments that made the audience realize they were in experienced hands. Something as simple as the preshow music becoming a song on the boombox in the apartment as the lights rose on the first scene, the change in quality of the sound in that transition being only one example of the superior sound design by Martin Gwinup. The costumes by Sara Wilcox both established the characters and evolved with them, and helped reinforce the change of seasons and change in the lives of Ruth and Lisa. Barry Browning’s lighting design further reinforced the reality onstage with its subtlety. There are so many wonderful, deft touches to this production, no one review can encompass them all. But that’s as it should be. Theatre like this was meant to be experienced in person. Please do.

 

Craig Lucas and the Modern Tragedy

Sitting in the audience for the first public reading of Craig Lucas’ new play “Small Tragedy,” I was filled again with excitement about the possibility of theatre. Though still early in its life, the play was strong and daring. More importantly, you could see the great play it would become in the shape of what was presented that night. Just as he had done before with his play “The Dying Gaul,” Lucas had again created a compelling and truly modern tragedy.

Though both “Small Tragedy” and “The Dying Gaul” are modern tragedies in the fullest sense of the phrase - and only separated by the span of five years - the times in which they were created, and the vision of America which they reflect back to an audience, are radically different.

Tragedy is a word and concept that has been thrown around quite liberally in recent years. Its effect has been diluted. Tragedy has become something almost routine. Anything bad that happens, any unfortunate event, whether real or fictional, is immediately labeled a tragedy. In its original theatrical sense, tragedy was meant for something greater, almost therapeutic. The effect of a tragedy was to be cathartic, to purge the emotions by presenting an audience with a situation - the fall of a person, an unraveling of their fortunes - which was meant to inspire pity and a sense of dread.

Above all, tragedy was not something which simply happened to a person. Tragedy was something a person brought upon themselves. The seeds of tragedy were present in the person’s inner makeup. The engine of tragedy was something that the person’s own actions set in motion. Tragedy was not something set upon people by outside forces (though, clearly, the gods always played their part in the proceedings). If people could control their own worst impulses, tragedy could perhaps have been avoided. The tragedy, in part, was that the person could not rise above their instincts until it was too late. The audience was thus chastened, even as they were released from the horror on stage and returned to their real lives. Grateful they were not the ones who had incurred the gods’ wrath, audience members were reminded to behave in moderation, and to conduct their lives with concern for others. A person’s actions had consequences, often quite dire ones.

It was in 1998 that Craig Lucas first translated the true essence of tragedy to a modern story for the stage in “The Dying Gaul.” “The Dying Gaul” was set amidst the Los Angeles film industry of the mid-1990’s in all its avarice, a microcosm of the extremes of America’s consumer-driven society. Like America at that time, the characters in the play dealt with one another in isolation, concerned primarily with their own individual needs, not thinking of any larger societal consequences. In fact, the story is focused so tightly, the audience can easily forget the three main characters are not the only people in existence. The larger world beyond them is not their, nor our, concern. The influence they work upon each other, and its consequences, is what is being examined. The characters in “The Dying Gaul” are all disconnected - from each other, from their own emotions, from society as a whole. In reaching out to one another, they hope for some kind of salvation, relief from their loneliness and isolation. It is in becoming too closely involved with one another, on a foundation built of lies, that the tragedy is set in motion.

Robert, the central character, is a struggling screenwriter thrust into a world of privilege. Robert’s agent and lover, Malcolm, has recently died of AIDS. Robert is feeling very much alone in the world, bereft of the love of his life. He feels guilty for still being alive, and regularly entertains suicidal thoughts. Robert also carries a great deal of anger at society for marginalizing the plague, in essence allowing Malcolm to die through denial and neglect.

Jeffrey, the married producer who buys Robert’s script, also initiates a sexual affair with Robert. However, Jeffrey’s wife, Elaine isn’t stupid. She knows of, and tolerates, the affair, but she also goes in search of answers for what her husband really wants, to perhaps shore up her faltering marriage. Elaine seeks out Robert in chat rooms on the internet and initiates contact in the guise of another gay man.

Gathering, and stealing, more private information on Robert from his therapist and from her own husband, Elaine crosses a line she from which cannot retreat. She impersonates the spirit of Robert’s dead lover, Malcolm, online. Robert, desperate to believe in and regain this connection despite initial anger and disbelief, falls completely under Elaine’s spell. Even as Elaine grows fond of Robert, and tries to give him comfort, she learns more of her husband’s affair and Jeffrey’s lack of esteem for her and their marriage than she can bear.

Elaine arranges for a face-to-face confrontation with Robert as she packs to leave Jeffrey for good, taking their children with her. When Robert uses “Malcolm’s” words of comfort to place some of the responsibility for the situation at Elaine’s feet, Elaine can no longer continue the charade. Elaine reveals her secret identity, and essentially kills Malcolm a second time. Robert turns his initial suicidal impulse outward, planting shavings of a poisonous plant from Elaine’s own garden in a container of salad she takes with her when she leaves. What happens next - whether the poison was ingested or not - is uncertain, but the result is fatal. Elaine drives a car, carrying both her and the children, into a concrete divider on the highway, killing them all.

Jeffrey is now the one bereft. Robert is once again the one left standing. Now, however, he feels more in control of the events of his existence, of the power over life and death. As with the plague of AIDS, people are dying senselessly, with no one to blame. Yet this time, Robert is in the position of god, rather than victim. Though Robert is clearly no longer suicidal, arguments can be made on both sides as to whether this transformation is a good one.

Only five years later, in 2003, “Small Tragedy” has been born into a very different America and a more expansive, and ominous, world. The economy, far from being on an upward curve, appears to be coming apart at the seams. America’s troubles, and the troubles of other nations, no longer respect our borders. The actions of all nations have far-reaching consequences. The people of the world are more directly connected, for better or worse, than they have ever been before. Isolation is no longer the problem. Learning to cope with an overcrowded world of mingling cultures and ideas is the primary obstacle to happiness.

Has the rest of the world and all its problems always been there? Of course. Is America being forced to confront its place in the world, and the consequences of its actions, in a way in which it had not previously felt the need? Certainly. America’s illusion of inviolable security is forever shattered. The need to find ways to peacefully coexist with those who disagree with and are different from us has never been as vital as it is today. It is from this new America that “Small Tragedy” emerged.

Instead of the film industry, “Small Tragedy” is rooted in the theater - a group of artists rehearsing and performing a production of a new translation of “Oedipus Rex.” Far from well-to-do, these characters are scraping by, either trying to make their way in the world, or to rebuild their world. Instead of focusing primarily on three characters, the play casts its nets over an ensemble of six. In this play, AIDS is no longer an overwhelming plague, but a non-fatal subplot, and it is a heterosexual woman, not a gay man, who is living with HIV.

The outsider who enters the world of this theater community is not another American, but a male Bosnian refugee named Hakija.

“Small Tragedy” ultimately revolves around the character of Jen, an aspiring American actress. Like Robert in “The Dying Gaul,” Jen is our narrator. Also like Robert, she quotes the source of another world view as she struggles to find her way in life. In Robert’s case, it was the basic tenets of Buddhism. In Jen’s case, it is the tragedies of Ancient Greece, notably “Oedipus Rex” and “Ajax.” Jen also shares Robert’s fate of feeling abandoned by someone she loved. Jen’s former lover, however, is still alive somewhere. He simply used Jen to support him, and moved on when he no longer needed her and found someone else with whom he wanted to have a relationship. Jen decides to give her deferred dream of theatre another try. She and her roommate Fanny audition and are cast in “Oedipus,” where they both encounter Hakija, an actor cast in the title role who is also a refugee of the Bosnian war.

This outsider is harder to read. Hakija assumes other identities, both on and off stage, much like Elaine in “Gaul.” While Hakija’s storytelling does not seem inherently malicious, it still proves unsettling. His practical joke on Fanny at auditions, telling her a tale of childhood trauma that he soon after reveals to be completely fictitious, seems outrageous but not unwarranted. Fanny’s nervous prattling at auditions was distracting Hakija, so he found a way to get her to shut up and leave him alone. But when Hakija becomes romantically involved with Jen, Fanny can’t shake her bad feelings about him. The fervor Hakija brings to the proud and hot-headed character of Oedipus in the beginning of the play is matched by the ease with which he inflicts the character’s self-mutilation and self-loathing on himself at the end. There is always a sense that something lies beneath the raw emotions Hakija channels through this stage role.

When Hakija and another young actor, Chris, are left behind at a bar together at the act break of “Small Tragedy,” the audience has no idea what might happen. Chris is gay, and as much as he is smitten with the director of the play, he also finds Hakija attractive. Hakija is deliberately non-responsive to direct questions about his sexuality, but is always friendly and ready with an inviting smile. After an introductory address to the audience from Jen, Act Two of “Small Tragedy” begins in rehearsals the next day. Chris sits alone off to the side of the theatre, crying, inconsolable. But it is not something Hakija did to Chris which has caused the emotional turmoil, but rather things that he said. Chris recounts to Jen fragments of Hakija’s stories of life, specifically torture, in war-ravaged Bosnia. It is Chris’ fragile state and inability to speak the horrors fully which makes them that much more terrifying. The audience’s imagination is allowed to fill in the blanks, guided by the level of evil at work in the things we are allowed to hear. “Why would you ever tell another person things like that?!” Chris gasps out between sobs.

We, as a country, and as a people in America, used to be insulated from tales of horror such as these. We did not have to live in a world where such things took place. If we could find a way to ignore poverty, hunger and homelessness within our own borders, we could certainly find a way to avoid having to deal with things much worse that happened to people we didn’t know overseas. In order to receive news of such atrocities, we had to seek it out. Very little information was forced upon us. Such troubling images seemed disconnected from our daily lives. Americans did not see themselves as being part of this larger world’s problems, because we did not have to suffer the full consequences of the actions of our government and business interests in other countries. Protected by our size, our geographical isolation, and our military, we could convince ourselves that all was essentially peaceful.

Hakija puts forth a thesis to his fellow actors that America is like Oedipus. America impulsively acts out, then tries to avoid the fate of the consequences of its actions. It seeks a solution to the troubles brought against it, not seeing that it is often the source of most of its troubles. Finally, it blinds itself to things it considers too painful to see. Hakija disowns this thesis when Jen insists on bringing it to the director. The director, also the author of this new translation, is appalled. He wants no political interpretation layered on top of this ancient story. Yet, just as with Hakija, Lucas has spoken the words and there is no taking them back. The interpretation is floating out there for the audience to infer.

One of the things which Lucas does most skillfully, almost invisibly, in “Small Tragedy” is to replicate the experience of Ancient Greek audiences for modern American audiences. Greek tragedies were telling stories with which most of their original audiences were already familiar. It wasn’t the story, but the interpretation, that was new. There wasn’t suspense in the sense of an audience not knowing what was going to happen next. The audience knew the end of the story before they took their seats. There was, however, often a sense of dread, knowing the fate that was to befall the characters by the close of the play. Even those not familiar with the details of the legend of Oedipus at the beginning of “Small Tragedy” get enough of a sampling to prepare them for what is to unfold. Those more knowledgeable about Greek tragedy begin appreciating the play, and feeling that sense of dread, on multiple levels early on.

The conventions of Greek tragedy are also in full use in Lucas’ new play. Just as with Oedipus, Hakija’s true identity and the consequences of his past actions are revealed with a vengeance as the play draws to its close. The information is brought to Jen by the friends who portrayed the chorus and the messenger/prophet in their production of “Oedipus.” One of the few things that keeps the play from having the same ending as “Medea,” is the deus ex machina of a baby-sitting neighbor down the hall. Speaking of “Medea,” that play is the not the only one invoked to plant a sense of dread in the audience of “Small Tragedy.” By putting the words of the characters of “Oedipus” in the mouths of the modern day characters telling the story of “Small Tragedy,” particularly when Jen addresses the audience at the opening of the second act, Lucas gives the play a more ominous context than the surface story might imply. The audience is never allowed to forget that something may be lurking just underneath the stories on which these people are building their lives and future expectations.

“Small Tragedy” exists in a much larger, and darker, world than “The Dying Gaul.” But it is, strangely enough, somehow more hopeful. In talking with an actor friend who had auditioned for the play, I discovered one significant way in which the play had already changed in early drafts:

“The guy stabs himself in the heart with a kitchen knife at the end, right?”
“What? No.”
“He used to.”

At the end of “The Dying Gaul,” Robert visits upon his newfound friends the horror of the sudden indiscriminate kind of death he has had to live with for many years. While it might seem just to force people to see or experience the kind of unpleasantness they have been working so hard to ignore or deny, and thus also not lend a hand to help alleviate, it is perhaps not the most constructive choice.

At the end of “Small Tragedy,” Jen visits a kind of horror upon Hakija in return for the lies he told to her and the misdeeds he directed against others in his previous, pre-American, life. However, Jen also offers redemption. She offers mercy where he showed no mercy. She does not abandon him as she had been abandoned. Instead, she gives him the gift of forgiveness. Jen does not forget, nor does she deny the reality of the things Hakija once did. But she chooses, in her words, “to be happy.” Jen chooses to allow the life and family she has built with Hakija to continue.

Some might call this choice foolish. However, somewhere the cycle of blood and vengeance has to stop, or it could go on indefinitely. If no one is permitted a second chance, if all must pay, then there can be no happiness without ignorance. If we choose knowledge and truth, we must also find a way to deal with the unpleasantness that comes with it. Some things are unforgivable, but this is often a personal, rather than a societal choice.

Moral relativism is a dangerous and tricky thing. There are no uncomplicated happy endings anymore. Neither are there clear-cut tragedies. The choice to be happy, to continue, in the face of a staggering, horrible truth may be the best we can do. Some would argue that it is better than giving up, or sticking one’s head in the sand. Some would argue it is not.

That is the central, troubling question Craig Lucas’ new play “Small Tragedy” leaves the audience to decide for itself. It is the essence of modern tragedy.

 

Review - Talking Masks - Carlyle Brown & Company and Pillsbury House Theatre - 5 stars

One of the more daunting tasks for a male writer, at least this male writer, is to take on the assignment of writing roles for women. Not just our perception of women, but as true an approximation as we can muster, never having lived in their skin. Something that a skilled actress would find worthy of her time and talents. At the root of it, there’s always something else as well. I was reminded of it by an actress during a workshop of a musical I was working on recently. On a break she came up to me and said, “As I was reading the script, getting ready for rehearsal today, it struck me, ‘This guy must have been raised by some pretty remarkable women.’” On some level, when men write female characters well, it is a tribute to the women who gave us life and the women who raised us, the women we admire, the women without whom we wouldn’t be men at all.

Carlyle Brown’s play "Talking Masks," receiving its world premiere at Pillsbury House Theatre as a joint production with Carlyle Brown & Company, is such a tribute, and a very fine tribute at that.

The evening is collection of six very different scenes, all spotlighting the talents of Obie Award-winning actress Louise Smith in a half-dozen widely disparate roles - the abandoned “other woman,” an escaped slave masquerading as a white man, a white woman who identifies as black, a burlesque diva, a meek but murderous mother, and a woman coming to grips with her true face as she begins to age.

Though the script was written with her in mind, Ms. Smith is not alone on stage by any means. Only one of the scenes is a solo piece. In all others, she is part of an adept trio which features the wide range of skills offered by James A. Williams and Gwendolyn Schwinke.

There’s a reason that Pillsbury House Theatre was recently lauded as the Best Theatre for New Work in the City Pages. They give a play the kind of staging it needs. The play just previous to this in their current season, Caryl Churchill’s "Far Away," asked its audience to fully enter the dark and peculiar world which was presented. Carlyle Brown’s direction of his play "Talking Masks" takes the opposite approach.

The audience is never allowed to forget that they are observing theater, that they are taking part in a collaborative experience. The scaled down production values put the words and the actors on full display, and insists that the audience be equal participants, bringing their imagination to bear to fill out the details of the world presented on a black stage floor, with only dark curtains as a backdrop. The title of each sequence is presented on a sign resting on an easel, always in view as the action takes place. The play has its own live soundtrack, composed for the production, ably performed by Molly Sue McDonald on violin in full view of the audience. Again, we are not encouraged to lose ourselves in the music and merely listen, we must observe. Even the scene changes are performed. Stage hand Lori M. Neal is not a faceless worker scurrying around in the dark who we are not supposed to see. She takes her time, in half light, and we sense even her personality in the time between each episode. In the burlesque sequence, the black curtain is deliberately parted and left open so we can see the unadorned backstage world of the theater as well. The idea of theater as an art form is stripped down to its essence and laid before us. Rather than feeling cheated by a “lack” of production values, this approach makes the evening that much more engaging.

Nothing is what you expect it to be. “The Human Voice,” which opens the evening, seems as if it will be a one-sided phone call monologue. Before it is over, the call has been handed back and forth between two characters, and interrupted by a third party, before returning again to where it started. During that time, we get a clear picture of two fractured relationships, and the inklings of a third. All accomplished with almost no instances in which any character responds to another directly.

The high comedy of the next segment, “Runaway Honeymoon,” never quite lets you forget that the audience is also being presented with a quite clever take on the roles played by white and black, man and woman, husband and wife, master and slave. The liberal use of the word “nigger” prompted an unusual response in this audience member. Even though I knew that the two white actresses had full “permission” to use the word, coming as it did from the hands of an African-American writer and director, it was never something I was comfortable with, despite the comedy which still allowed me to laugh. The word remained loaded. Still, this scene was one of the most charming, funny and uplifting of the evening - a strange mix indeed.

“White Girl From the Projects,” Ms. Smith’s solo turn of the evening, was full of brash and surprising humor, and humanity. The title says it all. It’s the theatrical equivalent of jumping off a cliff without a net, and Louise Smith not only lands squarely on her feet, she does it in grand style.

“The Diva Makes Her Entrance” is most notable for the trick of carrying on two plays simultaneously. While our primary attention is focused backstage on the two burlesque performers preparing to go on, at the same time James A. Williams, as master of ceremonies, is performing a piece of his own onstage, and never misses a beat. Though I couldn’t tell you exactly what he was doing, as I was seated on the opposite end of the auditorium from him, I’ve no doubt that those seated in front of him were enjoying an entirely different show.

The apparent police interrogation which is the setup for “Mother Love” turns out not to be quite the point of the scene at all. It is the one piece of the evening that I couldn’t quite figure out, and yet it’s the one that I continue to mull over a day later.

The close of the evening, “The Talking Mask,” is perhaps the most theatrical turn of all - all three cast members in dark clothing, and a mask which seems to have a life of its own. Louise Smith’s manipulation of the mask often seems to defy gravity, and James A. Williams and Gwendolyn Schwinke interact with the mask in a way that makes us believe it, too, is human. It is a wonder to watch.

By setting the bare bones of theatre and all its tricks out in front of the audience, Carlyle Brown & Company make our appreciation of it that much greater.

“I was raised by three women, my mother and my grandmother and my aunt, and if these stories came from anywhere, they came from them,” Carlyle writes in the program, concluding with, “And so it is my hope, as a writer and a son, that all of these short plays will have something to say to every woman.”

I can’t speak for women, but the playwright/director and his collaborators certainly said something to me - and I’m glad I had the chance to hear it. I recommend you do, too.

"Talking Masks" runs Wednesdays through Saturdays until May 29, 2004 at Pillsbury House Theatre (3501 Chicago Avenue South in Minneapolis). Tickets are $15 Thursdays through Saturdays; Wednesdays are pay what you can performances. Call 612-825-0459.

 

Review - Tuesdays With Morrie - History Theatre - 3 stars

I was grateful for a number of things about the stage adaptation of "Tuesdays With Morrie." I was grateful for a wonderful performance by Clyde Lund. I was grateful that co-adaptor Jeffrey Hatcher hadn’t taken the voice and charm of the book and its central character and converted them to his own particular style of writing completely. Don’t get me wrong, I love a Jeff Hatcher play. He’s a great craftsman and knows how to write a witty, intelligent script. But his style is quite specific, and I feared it might overpower the source material. I should have known better. Hatcher certainly did. He did what he had to in order to help dramatize the book, but he basically stayed out of its way.

What I wasn’t grateful for was the fact that I had read the book before seeing the play.

I’m one of the many who loved the book - a lot. It is a moving and revelatory book, and I’m not ashamed to admit I cried while reading it. I’ve earmarked pages. It was a book my father loved so much he insisted I get a copy, while it was still in hardcover, and paid for it so he could be sure I’d get it and read it as soon as possible. It’s a wonderful book. Because of this, even the memory of this book, which I last read six years ago, eclipsed the attempt to stage it as I watched the opening night performance unfold. Normally, I don’t feel this kind of disappointment so acutely, even with movie adaptations of books I love. I understand that it’s not possible to replicate the feelings exactly when one translates a story from one medium to another. Certain things are bound to get lost. But the intense personal feelings connected to the reading of this book were probably what warned me off watching the TV movie version (though I like Jack Lemmon, Hank Azaria, and yes, even Oprah). Maybe I just knew, in the back of my mind, I was in for a letdown.

It’s not the play’s fault. It’s a perfectly serviceable play. Though I do tire of obvious penny-pinching behind the idea of two-person, ninety-minute plays that theatres still charge you full price for presenting. While two people seems like the right cast size for this project, and has already and will doubtless continue to insure that this play is produced repeatedly for many years, relentlessly in its first few years of existence - only an hour and a half feels like cheating. Yes, the book was less than 200 pages long, and small pages at that, but the material is so rich, what’s the harm of an intermission and a little more time with Morrie? Maybe they felt it would be too repetitive to replicate the structure of the book, but as it was, it felt rushed. It was the Reader’s Digest condensed version of Morrie. One felt as if they barely got a chance to know him, so it made it a little hard to miss him when he was gone.

It’s not the actor’s fault either. As I said, Clyde Lund’s turn as Morrie is delightful. He warrants being the title character and center of attention in this production. However, he has strong competition for the spotlight and that may be part of the problem.

One of the interesting oddities of opening night was to have the author in the house. Mitch Albom himself, with wife in tow, sat on stage for a little Q & A prior to the show, with Artistic Director Ron Peluso moderating. Mitch the person is a genuinely funny, intelligent and likable guy. It took a while for the evening to get going. After the Q & A, the wine and snacks, the reseating, the plugging of the show, the town hall meeting, the upcoming season, the introduction of the author and his wife (again), the introduction of the Pioneer Press’ critic (?!), and the introduction of the St. Paul mayor who then presented Mitch with a book, I felt like we were already in the middle of Wednesday with Morrie. After the show, Mitch was invited onstage and got to embrace his actor-doppelganger. I turned to my theatergoing companion next to me and said, “Do you suppose he’s thanking the actor for portraying him as such an unrepentant a--hole?”

Mitch the person, as I said, seems quite nice. Mitch the character onstage, not so much. Christopher Gabriel is a fine actor. I’ve seen him do a lot of very good work. Here, he has the thankless task the script hands him of being a complete jerk. He never really changes. His old college mentor, Morrie, is dying a slow lingering death, and somehow that still translates to Mitch as being all about him. I agree Mitch, you are unworthy. So would you shut up and let us get back to Morrie?

The play does channel Morrie’s voice and spirit, but in an effort to balance the evening and give the other actor something to do, I think it gives us a bit too much Mitch. Mitch was always the conduit. The important story being told was always Morrie’s. Yes, Morrie’s example helped change Mitch for the better, and yes, Mitch is the one telling the story. But in the book, Morrie was central, Mitch a bystander. The play puts them on a literally equal footing, in terms of stage time and material. In fact there’s so much Mitch that poor Morrie often gets lost.

Perhaps they didn’t think a dying old man was enough of an incentive to keep people in their seats. Maybe that’s why there’s no intermission. We know the end, why come back? It’s likely the reason that the book had such a hard time initially finding a publisher. But Mitch kept coming back. So would we, I dare say. After all, I wasn’t waiting for Morrie to die, I was reveling in his company, however much of it I was allowed to have. Mitch was the one for whom less would have been more, at least with me.

So, see "Tuesdays With Morrie," by all means. It’s a nice little show. And they’re running it for a month and a half, so the History Theatre is obviously counting on it being a cash cow. But whatever you do, don’t read the book first.

The last thing I’m grateful for? The play makes me want to pull that book off my shelf and read it again. With luck, it’ll do the same for you.

"Tuesdays With Morrie" runs through June 20, 2004, at the Great American History Theatre (30 East 10th Street, St. Paul), box office 651-292-4323. Learn more about them and their upcoming season, which includes an intriguing new works festival called Raw Stages in October, at www.historytheatre.com.

 

Fringe 2004 - Dandelion Snow - The latest on my Fringe show

Despite tornado sirens, sheets of rain, window-rattling thunder and some very impressive displays of lightning, the auditions for the play netted us a really talented, and fearless, array of actors.

The cast of "Dandelion Snow" is as follows:

Ash - William T. Leaf

Dana (Ash's oldest friend and former lover) - David Schlosser

Julian (Dana's husband) - Christopher O. Kidder

Aidan (pizza boy and potential boyfriend to Ash) - Grant Henderson

Abigail (Ash's mother) - Carol Vnuk

Grace (Dana's sister) - Renee Karen Werbowski

Claire (Aidan's co-worker) - Adeola Ogunwole

The story:
When Dana and Ash, two high school sweethearts now in their thirties, meet again in the ruins of their old elementary school, the undertow of old emotional ties threatens to undo their current relationships with others. Will Dana be able to resolve his conflicts with his lover Julian over the long-distance relationship into which their connection is evolving? Will Ash find love with Aidan the pizza boy? Will Dana and Ash find their way back to each other? Should they?

Many happy returns:
William and Renee are veterans of two other productions of mine - "Heaven and Home," and "The Surface of the World" (which you can also view on this site). I'm extremely happy to be reunited with them once again.

Chris Kidder and I collaborated on the short play "Carnival of the Damned" for one of Theatre Unbound's 24-Hour Play Projects. That bizarre little snippet can also be found here on the site.

And speaking of bizarre, and another welcome reunion, David Schlosser was the original titular simian in "Hunt for the Bus Monkey," another 24-Hour Play Project for Theatre Unbound, this one a collaboration with Anne Bertram. And yes, it, too, can be found on the site. His "Dandelion Snow" character has, as one of its many virtues, the advantage of having evolved to walk upright.

The "Dandelion Snow" cycle of short plays will be on display at the Minnesota Fringe Festival in Minneapolis this year, thanks to Out On Stage Productions and producer/director Brendan Perry.

Excerpts from all four parts of the romantic misadventures of nearly reunited lovers Ash and Dana:

Dandelion Snow

Across Their River

Extra Cheese

Tools

are all available for viewing in the "Short Plays" section of the "Plays & Musicals" portion of this site - just click over in the left hand column.

And more details on this evolving production opportunity are chronicled in the column "Fringe Early Buzz - Honorable Mentions" also in this section.

"Dandelion Snow" will be performed on the Whitney Mainstage at Minneapolis Community and Technical College (1424 Yale Place, Minneapolis, Minnesota) - which is enormous, so please come and bring a few dozen of your friends and family along with you.

The dates and times are:

Saturday August 7, 2004 - 8:30pm

Wednesday August 11, 2004 - 2:30pm

Thursday August 12, 2004 - 5:30pm

Friday August 13, 2004 - 8:30pm

Saturday August 14, 2004 - 4pm

Tickets go on sale July 1st through Uptown Tix (www.uptowntix.com or 612-604-4466).

Hope to see you there.

 

Fringe 2004 - Fast Fringe - Casting Continues

We had our first round of auditions on Sunday, May 16, 2004, and have probably locked down three-quarters of our ensemble. All that is needed now is a man in his late 30's/early 40's to take on the more mature of the male roles in the ten plays, and we should be set. Our director and casting person are meeting this week to review options in that regard. Once the cast is finalized, I'll list it here. For now, we have a dozen or so talented actors and actresses who have already read for us to contact.

The line-up of plays for the Fringe Festival's short play showcase is as follows:

Fast Fringe 1: The Agony

Dead employees, suffocating mamas, G-Men, and breast pumps.  All this and more in just one hour!  Five plays by five authors! It's fast, Fast, FAST!

Exit Interview by Gigi Jensen
Manhandled by Mic Weinblatt
Paper Trail by Dominic Orlando
Das Ewig Weibliche by Tim Cope
Milk by Amanda Thompson

Fast Fringe 2: The Ecstasy

Virgins in limbo, killer daddies, malapropisms, and... your call is very important to us.  All this and more in just one hour!  Five plays by five authors! It's fast, Fast, FAST!

All About Words by Michelle Pett
Limbo Lounge by Betty Liedtke
Mud On A Little Girl’s Dress by Jason Connors
Infinite Justice by Mike Peroz
Your Call Is Very Important To Us by Roy Close

Fast Fringe 1 and Fast Fringe 2 will be performed at the Loring Playhouse (1635 Hennepin Avenue, Minneapolis, MN).

Each program will have five scripts in it, for a total of ten for this first experimental run of a short play mini-fest within the Minnesota Fringe Festival:

Sunday, August 8, 2004
- 1pm, Fast Fringe 2
- 2:30pm, Fast Fringe 1

Monday, August 9, 2004
- 8:30pm, Fast Fringe 2

Tuesday, August 10, 2004
- 8:30pm, Fast Fringe 1

Wednesday, August 11, 2004
- 8:30pm, Fast Fringe 1
- 10pm, Fast Fringe 2

Friday, August 13, 2004
- 1pm, Fast Fringe 2
- 2:30pm, Fast Fringe 1

Saturday, August 14, 2004
- 2:30pm, Fast Fringe 2

Sunday, August 15, 2004
- 4pm, Fast Fringe 1

Tickets go on sale July 1st through Uptown Tix (www.uptowntix.com or 612-604-4466).

If you have any questions for us, contact us at fast@fringefestival.org.

(Or you can drop me a line through this website and I'll pass it on)

 

Notes from a Wandering Laptop

Notes from a Wandering Laptop

Week of May 16, 2004

My latest endeavours...

REVIEWS OF CURRENT TWIN CITIES THEATRE...

Check out my thoughts on "Talking Masks" from Pillsbury House Theatre and Carlyle Brown & Comapny, or "Tuesdays with Morrie" at the Great American History Theatre in the section, "In My Humble Opinion."

DANDELION SNOW - MY FRINGE SHOW

The play is cast!

For the latest details, including cast, dates, times and location, click here, and also see "Fringe 2004 Early Buzz - Honorable Mentions."

Meanwhile, if you're interested in a preview of some of what you'll be seeing at the Fringe, you can check out excerpts from the four parts of the cycle - Dandelion Snow, Across Their River, Extra Cheese, and Tools - in the Plays & Musicals section of this site.

LEAVE - A WORK IN PROGRESS

"Leave," the working title of the post 9/11 revisions of "The Surface of the World," is on display as it evolves. You can find it in the "Scenes" section of "The Surface of the World" in "Plays & Musicals" under the quote link "I kill to protect you, I kill to come home. That’s how much I love you" or just click here.

FRINGE BLOGGING

My second year of blogging for the Minnesota Fringe Festival as one of The League of Extraordinary Fringers ("The Professor") has begun, and can be found in the section "In My Humble Opinion" until the official Fringe Festival website to go live on July 1.

Check out Fringe Early Buzz, covering: the first of my picks for the Top Ten Shows sure to be on my Fringe-going schedule: Death Penalty Puppetry, plus notes on the latest from Outward Spiral Theatre Company, Ferrari McSpeedy, and Ari Hoptman - and take a look three Sure Things, and three shows I'm way too close to, plus "Minnesota Fringe Festival 2004 - A Love Story"

And if you're interested in a taste of Fringes past, check out my writings on Fringe 2003.

FAST FRINGE

Casting has begun. For the latest details on this showcase of short plays for the 2004 Minnesota Fringe Festival, click here, and also see "Fringe 2004 Early Buzz - Honorable Mentions."

"CUE TO CUE" GOES TO THE FRINGE

"Cue to Cue," the TV show I host covering theater in Minnesota, is lining up this year's slate of twelve acts from the Minnesota Fringe Festival. See the latest in the section "In My Humble Opinion" or click here.

MONOLOGUES AND SCENES FOR ACTORS AND DIRECTORS

The centralized searchable database for all the scenes and monologues on the site has had one last slight cosmetic delay, but should be up and running this week. The programming end of things is all squared away.

In the meantime, you can access all that material through the sections on the individual plays themselves (hit the Plays & Musicals menu item to the left for a full list of what's available). Click on Scenes or Monologues on each Play's home page and a list of scenes will appear. Click on the representative quote to view the scene or monologue in its entirety.

A TALE OF TWO TEN MINUTE PLAY FESTIVALS

What had once been ten slots is now down to eight in The Playwrights' Center's annual Ten Minute Play Festival (set for Wednesday, June 30, 2004, 6:30pm). Once the lucky eight are chosen, the remaining entrants will form the roster for the Second Annual Alternative Ten Minute play festival on July 7, 2004. More details on the latter event as it evolves.

INTERESTED IN PRODUCING ONE OF THESE PLAYS?

Please contact me.

Feel free to use the scenes and monologues for auditions or classes if you like (and drop me a note and let me know how it went).

So, take a look around and tell me what you think. I'm going to get back to work on those upgrades.

ON A PERSONAL NOTE...

A belated birthday wish to my stepbrother David, and an up and coming happy birthday this week to my friend Leah Cooper, playwright and Executive Director of the Minnesota Fringe Festival.

Thanks for stopping by.

 

In My Humble Opinion...

In My Humble Opinion...

This is a collection of critical writing and lifestyle columns from a number of sources.

Items dated July through August 2003 were created through my role as roving critic and reporter for the 10th annual Minnesota Fringe Festival, originally avaiable through their website - www.fringefestival.org - as a blog called "Single White Fringe Geek" in the League of Extraordinary Fringers. Because of my Yalie leanings, I was dubbed "The Professor."

Items dated June 2001 through May 2002 were created as editorials under the banner "Straight Talk" for the website www.garyjr.com.

All other entries are original content created exclusively for this website.

 

In My Humble Opinion...

In My Humble Opinion...

Early Buzz and same day reporting on the 2004 Minnesota Fringe Festival. Current Twin Cities theatre reviews and recommendations. The latest on my own Fringe shows in progress. And, of course, the occasional opinion piece.

Coverage on this year's Fringe Festival started in April 2004 and will extend through the end of the festival in the middle of August. Once the Fringe's official website goes live on July 1, these pieces can also be found there (www.fringefestival.org) - that blog is titled "Fringing with Mom" (for reasons which will become apparent).

Coverage of the 2003 Minnesota Fringe Festival covers dates in July and August 2003. That blog, for lack of imagination and perhaps self-esteem, was entitled "Single White Fringe Geek" (and ended up being the most popular of the blogs on the Fringe site that year).

The majority of items dated June 2001 through May 2002 were created as editorials under the banner "Straight Talk" for the website www.garyjr.com.

Browse around. Enjoy. And of course feel free to let me know if you disagree.

 

Leave - Replacement Audition - Looking for Gay (or Gay-Friendly) Actors

Talk about a short-term commitment!

We've got an offer for you gay or gay-friendly actors out there.

I found out this past Wednesday night (?!) (5/19/04) that Bedlam Theatre wants to use my ten minute play "Leave" in their Ten Minute Play Festival.

There's a direct link from the front page to the text of "Leave" or you can find it by going to:
"Plays & Musicals"
"The Surface of the World"
"Scenes"

The quote link for the scene is:
"I kill to protect you, I kill to come home. That’s how much I love you."

"Leave" is the start of a full rewrite I'm doing on my play formerly titled "The Surface of the World," which was workshopped as part of the Minnesota State Arts Board Fellowship I received back in 1999.

I'm rewriting it to reflect the post-9/11 world, foreign policy and military policy we're living with these days.

Bedlam already thinks this snippet shows enough promise to include in their festival, so we're on our way.

Here's the catch,

the Festival is on June 9-13, 2004

(Wednesday-Sunday, three weeks hence)

(full tech and performance schedule below)

Now, we're not as behind the other plays in the festival as you might think, since they just had their auditions last Monday night and probably didn't cast til Tuesday, and maybe started rehearsals the same night I found out they wanted to add my play to the mix (or later)

It's two people, ten minutes. There won't be much rehearsal time required and I think it's fairly easy to memorize. You can take a look at it on the site here and see if you agree.

The play could best be marketed with the following two words

Gay Marine

A synopsis
Seth, a Marine, and Nicholas, his civilian lover, spend their final moments of Seth’s leave together before he must return to the battlefield.  The merits and necessity of war, the secrecy required by the “don’t ask / don’t tell” military policy, and the often opposing pulls of loyalty and love of country and those closest to us, are discussed but not entirely resolved.

So we need two guys who aren't afraid to kiss and make it look real (tongue not required of course, just a decent stage kiss so we believe these two characters love each other).

William Leaf, who played the Marine the first time around in my workshop, has agreed to direct, since he knows the characters well from their previous incarnations.

What we need are two guys.

The scene is written for guys in their late 20's, but we could go as high as late 30's, early 40's, depending on the mix of respondents we get.

If you're reading this and it doesn't sound like your cup of tea, or you're not available in this time frame, but you might know someone who could be interested, feel free to forward a link or copy and paste this text into an email to them.

To save time, just get in touch with me directly, as I'm in close contact with the director and we're both working our networks at this point to find this couple.

My home number is 612-872-4538

if you or someone you recommend wants to call.

Email - mail@matthewaeverett.com

(I’m maniacal about checking e-mail so this may be the quickest and best way to ready me, but there’s an answering machine on the phone so that works, too)

Website - www.matthewaeverett.com

Since it's a ten minute play and only two characters and one sound cue, we're not talking a lot of rehearsal needed.  We can be flexible up to a point, within the framework of getting the thing ready by the time of the festival to join them for their tech.

Bedlam Theatre’s Ten Minute Play Festival
Tech and performance dates and times

The plays are divided into two sets: a and b

At this point my play has not yet been assigned to either slot. I’m working with the director to determine whether A or B fits his schedule better at the moment.

Saturday June 5: A tech (one hour slot at your convienience)

Sunday June 6: B tech (same)

Monday June 7: Set A Dress - call 6, run at 7

Tuesday June 8: Set B Dress - same

Wednesday June 9: Set A perform at 8

Thursday June 10: Set B perform at 8

Friday June 11: Set A at 8, Set B at 10

Saturday June 12: Set B at 8, Set A at 10

Sunday June 13: Set A at 2, Set B at 4

If you're interested and available, my contact information is above and I'll work on getting you set up for a meeting with the director.

Thanks for your interest, or your help in getting the word out.

 

Fringe 2004 - Dandelion Snow - my Fringe Show

Our official publicity blurb, courtesy of our producer/director, Brendan Perry:

"Oh, the pizza boy adds extra sausage,
And big tools are manly,
But when love burns like a schoolhouse on fire,
Three men come to grips with a certain, fated love."

We've had our first meetings with the cast members and passed out scripts. Rehearsals are scheduled to begin in mid-June. Our lead actor lent his visage to our photo shoot for publicity images, and we think we have a winner, to be unveiled shortly.

The cast of "Dandelion Snow" is as follows:

Ash - William T. Leaf

Dana (Ash's oldest friend and former lover) - David Schlosser

Julian (Dana's husband) - Christopher O. Kidder

Aidan (pizza boy and potential boyfriend to Ash) - Grant Henderson

Abigail (Ash's mother) - Carol Vnuk

Grace (Dana's sister) - Renee Karen Werbowski

Claire (Aidan's co-worker) - Adeola Ogunwole

The story:
When Dana and Ash, two high school sweethearts now in their thirties, meet again in the ruins of their old elementary school, the undertow of old emotional ties threatens to undo their current relationships with others. Will Dana be able to resolve his conflicts with his lover Julian over the long-distance relationship into which their connection is evolving? Will Ash find love with Aidan the pizza boy? Will Dana and Ash find their way back to each other? Should they?

The "Dandelion Snow" cycle of short plays will be on display at the Minnesota Fringe Festival in Minneapolis this year, thanks to Out On Stage Productions and producer/director Brendan Perry.

Excerpts from all four parts of the romantic misadventures of nearly reunited lovers Ash and Dana:

Dandelion Snow

Across Their River

Extra Cheese

Tools

are all available for viewing in the "Short Plays" section of the "Plays & Musicals" portion of this site - just click over in the left hand column.

And more details on this evolving production opportunity are chronicled in the column "Fringe Early Buzz - Honorable Mentions" also in this section.

"Dandelion Snow" will be performed on the Whitney Mainstage at Minneapolis Community and Technical College (1424 Yale Place, Minneapolis, Minnesota) - which is enormous, so please come and bring a few dozen of your friends and family along with you.

The dates and times are:

Saturday August 7, 2004 - 8:30pm

Wednesday August 11, 2004 - 2:30pm

Thursday August 12, 2004 - 5:30pm

Friday August 13, 2004 - 8:30pm

Saturday August 14, 2004 - 4pm

Tickets go on sale July 1st through Uptown Tix (www.uptowntix.com or 612-604-4466).

Hope to see you there.

 

Fringe 2004 - Fast Fringe - Preparations for Rehearsals continue...

The producers and director aren't meeting this week, due to the impending workshop performance of a Typhoid Mary musical co-written by our own producer friend Daniel Pinkerton, "The Ballad of Mary Mallon."

(See info links on the front page of this site or go directly to www.gennaula.com for details - one night only, Monday, March 24, 2004, at Theatre Latte Da's home in the Loring Playhouse)

In the meantime, we're finalizing our publicity and other forms to deliver to the main Fringe offices; finalizing revisions to a couple of the scripts; and finalizing our cast in preparations for upcoming rehearsals. More details on all of this as they congeal.

The line-up of plays for the Fringe Festival's short play showcase is as follows:

Fast Fringe 1: The Agony

Dead employees, suffocating mamas, G-Men, and breast pumps.  All this and more in just one hour!  Five plays by five authors! It's fast, Fast, FAST!

Exit Interview by Gigi Jensen
Manhandled by Mic Weinblatt
Paper Trail by Dominic Orlando
Das Ewig Weibliche by Tim Cope
Milk by Amanda Thompson

Fast Fringe 2: The Ecstasy

Virgins in limbo, killer daddies, malapropisms, and... your call is very important to us.  All this and more in just one hour!  Five plays by five authors! It's fast, Fast, FAST!

All About Words by Michelle Pett
Limbo Lounge by Betty Liedtke
Mud On A Little Girl’s Dress by Jason Connors
Infinite Justice by Mike Peroz
Your Call Is Very Important To Us by Roy Close

Fast Fringe 1 and Fast Fringe 2 will be performed at the Loring Playhouse (1635 Hennepin Avenue, Minneapolis, MN).

Each program will have five scripts in it, for a total of ten for this first experimental run of a short play mini-fest within the Minnesota Fringe Festival:

Sunday, August 8, 2004
- 1pm, Fast Fringe 2
- 2:30pm, Fast Fringe 1

Monday, August 9, 2004
- 8:30pm, Fast Fringe 2

Tuesday, August 10, 2004
- 8:30pm, Fast Fringe 1

Wednesday, August 11, 2004
- 8:30pm, Fast Fringe 1
- 10pm, Fast Fringe 2

Friday, August 13, 2004
- 1pm, Fast Fringe 2
- 2:30pm, Fast Fringe 1

Saturday, August 14, 2004
- 2:30pm, Fast Fringe 2

Sunday, August 15, 2004
- 4pm, Fast Fringe 1

Tickets go on sale July 1st through Uptown Tix (www.uptowntix.com or 612-604-4466).

If you have any questions for us, contact us at fast@fringefestival.org.

(Or you can drop me a line through this website and I'll pass it on)

 

Cue To Cue - a TV show covering theatre in the Twin Cities

"Cue to Cue" returns to the Fringe.

St. Paul's public TV station, Channel 17, has picked up two more episodes of "Cue to Cue" and its coverage of this year's Fringe Festival, for a total of four out of the six new shows we're shooting in the coming weeks. Nice to have such a vote of confidence on something that doesn't yet technically exist.

The two episodes already on TPT-17's schedule are slated to be broadcast to the full Twin Cities nine county area on July 4th and 11th, 2004, at 10pm.

Further broadcast details will be posted as I receive them.

The next round of six "Cue to Cue" episodes on the Minnesota Fringe Festival are scheduled to shoot the first two weekends in June.

Our guest list includes:

Amala Dance's "On The Beaded Fringe II"

Calibanco Theatre re-imagining a classic text with "Feeling Faust"

Chameleon Theatre Circle's "Death Penalty Puppetry"

Fast Fringe - the Festival's two part short play showcase

Ferrari McSpeedy with the conclusion of their wacky but beloved thrillogy, "Punk Rock Awesome"

It's About Time Theatre and their all-female take on the two person comedy, "Stones In His Pockets"

Nautilus Music Theatre - represented by several pieces at this year's Fringe - "John and Jen, Act One," "John and Jen, Act Two," and "From the Diary of Virginia Woolf"

Protest Productions offering "Comedy Against Racism"

Janelle Ranek and her one woman show "Road Kill"

Claire Simonson's multi-media offering "The Origins of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind"

Theatre Latte Da, with Jim Lichtscheidl's new musical comedy creation, "Knock!"

Top Hat Theatre's performance by and for kids, "Peter Pan"

All six episodes will see repeated broadcasts on SPNN (St. Paul Neighborhood Network) and perhaps also be available (as they were last year) as streaming video on the Minnesota Fringe Festival website.

"Cue To Cue" was launched last year with a six episode series spotlighting the wide variety of acts in the 2003 Minnesota Fringe Festival (speaking with representatives of 15 Head, Ministry of Cultural Warfare, Theatre Unbound, Hunter Marionettes, Theatre Gallery, VISTA Productions, Kabobenco, and individual artists Kevin Kling, Kirsten Frantzich, Josette Antomarchi and Tom Cassidy, as well as profiles of the Spoken Word Fringe and Visible Fringe).

Since then, we've talked to still more individual theater artists (director/choreographer Noah Bremer, musical theatre collaborators Gary Rue, Ann Schulman, Daniel Pinkerton and Chris Gennaula) as well as cross-section of established and up-and-coming theatre companies (Mixed Blood, Margolis Brown, Stepping Stone, Starting Gate, Mama Mosaic, Skewed Visions)

 

The Ballad of Mary Mallon - a new musical about the life and times of the woman better known to us as Typhoid Mary

This is a project by a couple of good friends of mine. Well worth your time and money to see.

The Ballad of Mary Mallon

Book & Lyrics by Daniel Pinkerton
Music by Chris Gennaula

Directed by Peter Rothstein
Music Director: Denise Prosek

Featuring Ruth MacKenzie
as Mary Mallon

with

Gary Briggle, Adena Brumer, Wendy Gennaula, Bradley Greenwald, Roy Kallemeyn, Joseph Leary, Vera Mariner, and Jonathan Niel

LORING PLAYHOUSE
MONDAY, MAY 24, 7:30 PM
$5 suggested donation

funded in part by a grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board and support from the
Playwrights' Center and Theatre Latte Da.

The Loring Playhouse is located in Minneapolis on Hennepin Ave. between Loring Park
and the Basilica of St. Mary.

Mary Mallon is better know to history as "Typhoid Mary".  Although Mary has been portrayed as an ignorant immigrant cook who willfully spread disease, this is not the truth.  Mary was an intelligent woman who was stripped of her civil rights and fought to have them restored. 

In 1907, at the time of her imprisonment the concept of a "healthy carrier" was new and not completely understood.  Not all of the medical tests administered to her showed that she was a carrier.  Through the help of William Randoph Hearst she able to use this information and public opinion to win her release, but at a two-fold Faustian price:  she would be known to history as Typhoid Mary and she would never be able to cook again.

For an Irish immigrant woman with limited resources, this proved impossible.  Without any form of a soceital safety net, and doubting that she was ever truly "sick", Mary resumed cooking under an assumed name.  Unfortunately that led to a Typhoid outbreak and her second imprisonment--for the rest of her life until her death in 1938.

Was Mary a healthy carrier?  Yes.  Did she kill thousands of people?  No, the number is a small fraction of a 1000.  Was she the only healthy carrier that was being tracked?  No.  Did she deserve her fate?  The best answer for that is the fact that no other person in the history of the United States has been locked away in prison because they had a disease.

SYNOPSIS:

The Ballad of Mary Mallon is a musical based on the life of the only person in the history of the United States to be incarcerated for having a disease. It is the story of a strong woman who unknowingly endangered society, chose to oppose authorities, and lost her reputation and her freedom.

The Prologue, “The Ballad of Mary Mallon,” is Mary’s song about her roots, her apprenticeship as a cook, and her pride in the strength it took to survive the harrowing Atlantic crossing from Ireland to New York City.

In Act I, amateur epidemiologist George Soper is hired to track down the cause of a typhoid outbreak at an Oyster Bay summer mansion on Long Island. He becomes convinced that a former cook, Mary Mallon, is responsible, despite the fact that she appears healthy. She becomes the first “healthy carrier” identified in the United States (and the second in the entire world). At Soper’s urging, the New York Department of Health arrests and incarcerates her. She fights them, and with the help of newspaper publisher William Randolph Hearst—who sees her story as a guaranteed circulation booster—she gets her own lawyer and independent laboratory, both of whom present evidence asserting her innocence. At the end of the act, a beleaguered commissioner of public health releases Mary, setting her free on one condition: that she never cook for a living again. Mary, who takes great pride in her identity as a professional cook, reluctantly agrees.

In Act II, Mary struggles with a series of demeaning, low-paying jobs, but is able to survive financially by continuing to live and pool resources with her lover, Albert Briehof. When he dies, she is desperate; after a fruitless search for a job that will pay her a living wage—and constant rejection due to her class, Irish ethnicity, and gender—she takes a job as a cook at Sloan Maternity Hospital under an assumed name. A typhoid outbreak ensues, and Mary realizes that she almost certainly caused it. This causes her to completely reassess her character and the pride that led to preventable deaths. When she is arrested again, she offers no resistance and endures Soper’s taunts, knowing she has broken her bargain with the city. She allows herself to be the only one of over a hundred known healthy carriers in New York City to be placed in permanent isolation.

In the Epilogue, a reprise of “The Ballad of Mary Mallon,” Mary tells of her fate—of the last 23 years of her life spent on North Brother Island in New York harbor, and of her notoriety, long after death, as “Typhoid Mary.”

------------------------------------------------------------------------
This work follows actual events in the history of the United States. Most major characters are based on historical figures, some of whom we have quoted. However, the work as a whole is still a dramatization of history. We have compressed time, combined characters, and altered events in small ways. Yet we hope we have captured the spirit of the characters and events; in particular, we hope that we have given Mary an authentic voice and rehabilitated her image without whitewashing her.
—Daniel Pinkerton and Chris Gennaula

 

Bedlam Theatre's Ten Minute Play Festival

Bedlam Theater is located at

514 1/2 Cedar Avenue
Minneapolis, MN 55454

(around back of the bars which face Cedar Avenue)

For more information call
612-341-1038

The plays in the festival are divided into two sets: A and B

At this point my play, "Leave," has not yet been assigned to one slot or the other. I’m working with the director to determine whether A or B fits his schedule better. Once I know, I'll post it.

Performanc Schedule

Wednesday June 9, 2004
Set A performs at 8pm

Thursday June 10, 2004
Set B performs at 8pm

Friday June 11, 2004
Set A at 8pm
Set B at 10pm

Saturday June 12, 2004
Set B at 8pm
Set A at 10pm

Sunday June 13, 2004
Set A at 2pm
Set B at 4pm

 

Notes from a Wandering Laptop

Notes from a Wandering Laptop

Week of May 23, 2004

My latest endeavours...

AUDITION (ish) - Looking for gay and/or gay-friendly actors in the Twin Cities

If it weren't for short notice, we'd have no notice at all.

Right now we're looking for two male actors - the pair would both need to be in the same age range, open to between 20 and 40 years of age - to perform my short play "Leave" as part of Bedlam Theatre's Ten Minute Play Festival, June 9-13, 2004.

For more information, go to the section "In My Humble Opinion" or just click here.

BEDLAM THEATRE'S TEN MINUTE PLAY FESTIVAL

June 9 - 13, 2004 - My play "Leave" will be part of festival.

For more details see the section, "In My Humble Opinion" or just click here.

LEAVE - A WORK IN PROGRESS

"Leave," the working title of the post 9/11 revisions of "The Surface of the World," is on display as it evolves. You can find it in the "Scenes" section of "The Surface of the World" in "Plays & Musicals" under the quote link "I kill to protect you, I kill to come home. That’s how much I love you" or just click here.

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

Monday, May 24 - ONE NIGHT ONLY - 7:30pm at the Loring Playhouse - Theatre Latte Dark will host a workshop performance of the new musical "The Ballad of Mary Mallon" - regarding the life and times of the woman better known to most of us as Tyhpoid Mary. For further details see the section, "In My Humble Opinion" or click here. Information is also available at www.gennaula.com.

Closing this week - "Talking Masks" from Pillsbury House Theatre and Carlyle Brown & Comapny - Wednesday through Saturday, May 26-29, 2004. See my review in the section "In My Humble Opinion" or just click here. Information also available on the Pillsbury House Theatre website.

MONOLOGUES AND SCENES FOR ACTORS, ACTRESSES, AND DIRECTORS

The centralized searchable database for all the scenes and monologues on the site is up and running at last!

Monologues for men. Monologues for women. Scenes for men. Scenes for women. Scenes for men and women together. It's all here for your perusal. Click on the "Monologue Search" or "Scene Search" functions in the menu at the left, or just click here.

"CUE TO CUE" GOES TO THE FRINGE

"Cue to Cue," the TV show I host covering theater in Minnesota, is on a roll. St. Paul's public TV station, Channel 17, has picked up two more Fringe episodes for broadcast (four in all) and we have our guests from this year's Minnesota Fringe Festival all lined up and ready to go.

See the latest in the section "In My Humble Opinion" or click here.

DANDELION SNOW - MY FRINGE SHOW

Meetings with the cast and script distribution have taken place, and rehearsals begin in mid-June.

For the latest details, including cast, dates, times and location, click here, and also see "Fringe 2004 Early Buzz - Honorable Mentions."

Meanwhile, if you're interested in a preview of some of what you'll be seeing at the Fringe, you can check out excerpts from the four parts of the cycle - Dandelion Snow, Across Their River, Extra Cheese, and Tools - in the Plays & Musicals section of this site.

FRINGE BLOGGING

My second year of blogging for the Minnesota Fringe Festival as one of The League of Extraordinary Fringers ("The Professor") has begun, and can be found in the section "In My Humble Opinion" until the official Fringe Festival website to go live on July 1.

Check out Fringe Early Buzz, covering: the first of my picks for the Top Ten Shows sure to be on my Fringe-going schedule: Death Penalty Puppetry, plus notes on the latest from Outward Spiral Theatre Company, Ferrari McSpeedy, and Ari Hoptman - and take a look three Sure Things, and three shows I'm way too close to, plus "Minnesota Fringe Festival 2004 - A Love Story"

And if you're interested in a taste of Fringes past, check out my writings on Fringe 2003.

FAST FRINGE

For the latest details on this showcase of short plays for the 2004 Minnesota Fringe Festival, click here, and also see "Fringe 2004 Early Buzz - Honorable Mentions."

A TALE OF TWO TEN MINUTE PLAY FESTIVALS

What had once been ten slots is now down to eight in The Playwrights' Center's annual Ten Minute Play Festival (set for Wednesday, June 30, 2004, 6:30pm). Once the lucky eight are chosen, the remaining entrants will form the roster for the Second Annual Alternative Ten Minute play festival on July 7, 2004. More details on the latter event as it evolves.

INTERESTED IN PRODUCING ONE OF THESE PLAYS?

Please contact me.

Feel free to use the scenes and monologues for auditions or classes if you like (and drop me a note and let me know how it went).

So, take a look around and tell me what you think. I'm going to get back to work on those upgrades.

ON A PERSONAL NOTE...

A belated birthday wish to my friend and collaborator Gregg A. Peterson, who shepherded two of my plays, "Heaven and Home" and "The Surface of the World," into production. I am forever in his debt.

Thanks for stopping by.

 

CUE TO CUE - a TV show covering theatre in Minnesota

"Cue to Cue" returns to the Fringe.

St. Paul's public TV station, Channel 17, has picked up four of the six new episodes of "Cue to Cue" on the artists in this year's Fringe Festival.

TPT 17’s shedule for “Cue to Cue” is as follows:

July 4th - 9:00 pm  (105)

July 11th - 9:00 pm  (106)

August 1 - 10:00 pm   (107)

August 22nd - 10:00 pm  (108)

Which guests will be in which episode, I don’t yet know. Once that has been determined by the producer and editors, I’ll post it.

We begin shooting these episodes next Sunday, June 6th, concluding the following Sunday, June 13th.

Our guest list includes:

Amala Dance's "On The Beaded Fringe II"

Calibanco Theatre re-imagining a classic text with "Feeling Faust"

Chameleon Theatre Circle's "Death Penalty Puppetry"

Fast Fringe - the Festival's two part short play showcase

Ferrari McSpeedy with the conclusion of their wacky but beloved thrillogy, "Punk Rock Awesome"

It's About Time Theatre and their all-female take on the two person comedy, "Stones In His Pockets"

Nautilus Music Theatre - represented by several pieces at this year's Fringe - "John and Jen, Act One," "John and Jen, Act Two," and "From the Diary of Virginia Woolf"

Protest Productions offering "Comedy Against Racism"

Janelle Ranek and her one woman show "Road Kill"

Claire Simonson's multi-media offering "The Origins of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind"

Theatre Latte Da, with Jim Lichtscheidl's new musical comedy creation, "Knock!"

Top Hat Theatre's performance by and for kids, "Peter Pan"

All six episodes will see repeated broadcasts on SPNN (St. Paul Neighborhood Network) and perhaps also be available (as they were last year) as streaming video on the Minnesota Fringe Festival website.

"Cue To Cue" was launched last year with a six episode series spotlighting the wide variety of acts in the 2003 Minnesota Fringe Festival (speaking with representatives of 15 Head, Ministry of Cultural Warfare, Theatre Unbound, Hunter Marionettes, Theatre Gallery, VISTA Productions, Kabobenco, and individual artists Kevin Kling, Kirsten Frantzich, Josette Antomarchi and Tom Cassidy, as well as profiles of the Spoken Word Fringe and Visible Fringe).

Since then, we've talked to still more individual theater artists (director/choreographer Noah Bremer, musical theatre collaborators Gary Rue, Ann Schulman, Daniel Pinkerton and Chris Gennaula) as well as cross-section of established and up-and-coming theatre companies (Mixed Blood, Margolis Brown, Stepping Stone, Starting Gate, Mama Mosaic, Skewed Visions)

 

LEAVE in Bedlam Theatre's Ten Minute Play Festival, June 9-13, 2004

June 9-13, 2004 - My short play LEAVE is among the scripts which are part of Bedlam Theatre’s Ten Minute Play Festival next week.

In the space of thirty-six hours this week, we had an actor, we lost an actor, we auditioned three more actors, and we gained a new actor. Emergency auditions and instant casting - we literally read three actors back to back with our one stalwart cast member, conferred, walked across the street to the coffee shop where all three auditionees were waiting, made our apologies to two, and brought the chosen actor back to the rehearsal room to immediately begin work for the remaining hour of our possession of the space we’d rented. Unusual, certainly. But I’m a firm believer in the addage that things work out the way they’re supposed to work out. The cast we have now is talented, devoted and hard-working. There’s something to be said for bonding in the face of adversity. But I wouldn’t recommend it as a steady diet.

The cast of “Leave” is:

Seth - Nathan Tylutki
Nicholas - Bob Kundrat

They are being directed by William Leaf, and I’m learning volumes by just sitting in the room with them and watching them work through the text line by line. The growing rewrite of “The Surface of the World” morphing into a full-length version of “Leave” is going to be the better for this ten minute version having spent time in their hands.

The plays in the festival are divided into two sets: A and B - as you can see below, my play “Leave” is in Set B, but I encourage you to see the rest of the fest as well, so I’m including the full schedule.

Bedlam Theater is located at

514 1/2 Cedar Avenue
Minneapolis, MN 55454

(around the side and back of the bars which face Cedar Avenue)

For more information call
612-341-1038

Performance Schedule

Wednesday June 9, 2004
Set A premieres at 8pm
- West Bank Proverb
- Car Talk
- What If...
- Sometimes I Like to Avoid Confilct
- John's Gash
- Iron Mermaiden

Thursday June 10, 2004
Set B premieres at 8pm
- i have touched the velvet jungles of mars and they have wept at my passing
- Bloody Hell
- Kaarina's Piece
- Mutiny!
- Leave
- Repulsar presents Carmen

Friday June 11, 2004
Set A at 8pm
Set B at 10pm

Saturday June 12, 2004
Set B at 8pm
Set A at 10pm

Sunday June 13, 2004
Set A at 2pm
Set B at 4pm

 

Fringe 2004 - FAST FRINGE - the Fringe Festival's short play fest within a fest

Publicity and paperwork completed, check. Meeting this week to finalize revisions to a couple of the scripts, prep for TV appearance; and firm up our cast in anticipation of the first rehearsals. More details on all of this as they congeal.

Fast Fringe 1: The Agony

Dead employees, suffocating mamas, G-Men, and breast pumps!  All this and more in just one hour!  Five plays by five authors! It's fast, Fast, FAST!

Exit Interview by Gigi Jensen
Manhandled by Mic Weinblatt
Paper Trail by Dominic Orlando
Das Ewig Weibliche by Tim Cope
Milk by Amanda Thompson

Fast Fringe 2: The Ecstasy

Virgins in limbo, killer daddies, malapropisms, and... your call is very important to us!  All this and more in just one hour!  Five plays by five authors! It's fast, Fast, FAST!

All About Words by Michelle Pett
Limbo Lounge by Betty Liedtke
Mud On A Little Girl’s Dress by Jason Connors
Infinite Justice by Mike Peroz
Your Call Is Very Important To Us by Roy Close

Fast Fringe 1 and Fast Fringe 2 will both be performed at the Loring Playhouse (1635 Hennepin Avenue, Minneapolis, MN).

Sunday, August 8, 2004
- 1pm, Fast Fringe 2
- 2:30pm, Fast Fringe 1

Monday, August 9, 2004
- 8:30pm, Fast Fringe 2

Tuesday, August 10, 2004
- 8:30pm, Fast Fringe 1

Wednesday, August 11, 2004
- 8:30pm, Fast Fringe 1
- 10pm, Fast Fringe 2

Friday, August 13, 2004
- 1pm, Fast Fringe 2
- 2:30pm, Fast Fringe 1

Saturday, August 14, 2004
- 2:30pm, Fast Fringe 2

Sunday, August 15, 2004
- 4pm, Fast Fringe 1

Tickets go on sale July 1st through Uptown Tix (www.uptowntix.com or 612-604-4466).

If you have any questions for us, contact us at fast@fringefestival.org.

(Or you can drop me a line through this website and I'll pass it on)

 

Fringe 2004 - DANDELION SNOW - my Fringe show, August 6-15, 2004

First readthrough and rehearsal has been scheduled for June 16, 2004. Meantime, the prodcuer's getting all the paperwork and publicity in order.

As for me, I'm hoping to master my scanner so I can post the headshots of the cast members not in the official publicity photo and give everyone equal face time.

"Oh, the pizza boy adds extra sausage,
And big tools are manly,
But when love burns like a schoolhouse on fire,
Three men come to grips with a certain, fated love."

(our official publicity blurb, courtesy of our producer/director, Brendan Perry)

The cast of "Dandelion Snow" is as follows:

Ash - William T. Leaf

Dana (Ash's oldest friend and former lover) - David Schlosser

Julian (Dana's husband) - Christopher O. Kidder

Aidan (pizza boy and potential boyfriend to Ash) - Grant Henderson

Abigail (Ash's mother) - Carol Vnuk

Grace (Dana's sister) - Renee Karen Werbowski

Claire (Aidan's co-worker) - Adeola Ogunwole

The story:
When Dana and Ash, two high school sweethearts now in their thirties, meet again in the ruins of their old elementary school, the undertow of old emotional ties threatens to undo their current relationships with others. Will Dana be able to resolve his conflicts with his lover Julian over the long-distance relationship into which their connection is evolving? Will Ash find love with Aidan the pizza boy? Will Dana and Ash find their way back to each other? Should they?

The "Dandelion Snow" cycle of short plays will be on display at the Minnesota Fringe Festival in Minneapolis this year, thanks to Out On Stage Productions and producer/director Brendan Perry.

Excerpts from all four parts of the romantic misadventures of nearly reunited lovers Ash and Dana:

Dandelion Snow

Across Their River

Extra Cheese

Tools

are all available for viewing in the "Short Plays" section of the "Plays & Musicals" portion of this site - just click over in the left hand column.

And more details on this evolving production opportunity are chronicled in the column "Fringe Early Buzz - Honorable Mentions" also in this section.

"Dandelion Snow" will be performed on the Whitney Mainstage at Minneapolis Community and Technical College (1424 Yale Place, Minneapolis, Minnesota) - which is enormous, so please come and bring a few dozen of your friends and family along with you.

The dates and times are:

Saturday August 7, 2004 - 8:30pm

Wednesday August 11, 2004 - 2:30pm

Thursday August 12, 2004 - 5:30pm

Friday August 13, 2004 - 8:30pm

Saturday August 14, 2004 - 4pm

Tickets go on sale July 1st through Uptown Tix (www.uptowntix.com or 612-604-4466).

Hope to see you there.

 

Notes from a Wandering Laptop

Notes from a Wandering Laptop

Week of May 30, 2004

My latest endeavours...

BEDLAM THEATRE'S TEN MINUTE PLAY FESTIVAL

June 9 - 13, 2004 - My play "Leave" will be part of the festival. Performances will be:

Thursday, June 10: 8pm; Friday, June11: 10pm; Saturday, June12: 8pm; Sunday, June 13: 4pm

For more details see the section, "In My Humble Opinion" or just click here.

MONOLOGUES AND SCENES FOR ACTORS, ACTRESSES, AND DIRECTORS

The centralized searchable database for all the scenes and monologues on the site is up and running at last!

Monologues for men. Monologues for women. Scenes for men. Scenes for women. Scenes for men and women together. It's all here for your perusal. Click on the "Monologue Search" or "Scene Search" functions in the menu at the left, or just click here.

THEATRE RECOMMENDATIONS FOR THE TWIN CITIES

As ever, you can't swing a dead cat without hitting a theatre company mounting a show in this town. Go to the section "In My Humble Opinion" or just click here to see what the cat hit this week.

LEAVE - A WORK IN PROGRESS

"Leave," the working title of the post 9/11 revisions of "The Surface of the World," is on display as it evolves. You can find it in the "Scenes" section of "The Surface of the World" in "Plays & Musicals" under the quote link "I kill to protect you, I kill to come home. That’s how much I love you" or just click here.

"CUE TO CUE" GOES TO THE FRINGE

"Cue to Cue," the TV show I host covering theater in Minnesota, is on a roll. St. Paul's public TV station, Channel 17, has picked up two more Fringe episodes for broadcast (four in all) and we have our guests from this year's Minnesota Fringe Festival all lined up and ready to go.

See the latest in the section "In My Humble Opinion" or click here.

DANDELION SNOW - MY FRINGE SHOW

Meetings with the cast and script distribution have taken place, and rehearsals begin in mid-June.

For the latest details, including cast, dates, times and location, click here, and also see "Fringe 2004 Early Buzz - Honorable Mentions."

Meanwhile, if you're interested in a preview of some of what you'll be seeing at the Fringe, you can check out excerpts from the four parts of the cycle - Dandelion Snow, Across Their River, Extra Cheese, and Tools - in the Plays & Musicals section of this site.

FRINGE BLOGGING

My second year of blogging for the Minnesota Fringe Festival as one of The League of Extraordinary Fringers ("The Professor") has begun, and can be found in the section "In My Humble Opinion" until the official Fringe Festival website to go live on July 1.

Check out Fringe Early Buzz, covering: the first of my picks for the Top Ten Shows sure to be on my Fringe-going schedule: Death Penalty Puppetry, plus notes on the latest from Outward Spiral Theatre Company, Ferrari McSpeedy, and Ari Hoptman - and take a look three Sure Things, and three shows I'm way too close to, plus "Minnesota Fringe Festival 2004 - A Love Story"

And if you're interested in a taste of Fringes past, check out my writings on Fringe 2003.

FAST FRINGE

For the latest details on this showcase of short plays for the 2004 Minnesota Fringe Festival, click here, and also see "Fringe 2004 Early Buzz - Honorable Mentions."

A TALE OF TWO TEN MINUTE PLAY FESTIVALS

What had once been ten slots is now down to eight in The Playwrights' Center's annual Ten Minute Play Festival (set for Wednesday, June 30, 2004, 6:30pm). Once the lucky eight are chosen, the remaining entrants will form the roster for the Second Annual Alternative Ten Minute play festival on July 7, 2004. More details on the latter event as it evolves.

INTERESTED IN PRODUCING ONE OF THESE PLAYS?

Please contact me.

Feel free to use the scenes and monologues for auditions or classes if you like (and drop me a note and let me know how it went).

So, take a look around and tell me what you think. I'm going to get back to work on those upgrades.

ON A PERSONAL NOTE...

A birthday wish to my friend Joel, who continues to be one of the most delightful people I know, and who keeps me up on his many moves around the country, and a social live to rival any soap opera. His unflappably upbeat demeanor and bawdy sense of humor is a constant inspiration to me. Many happy returns, my friend!

Thanks for stopping by.

 

LEAVE in Bedlam Theatre's Ten Minute Play Festival, June 9-13, 2004

June 9-13, 2004 - My short play LEAVE is among the scripts which are part of Bedlam Theatre’s Ten Minute Play Festival this week.

The cast of “Leave” is:

Seth - Nathan Tylutki
Nicholas - Bob Kundrat

They are being directed by William Leaf, and I can’t say enough good things about all their hard work on this project. I am indebted to them.

The plays in the festival are divided into two sets: A and B - as you can see below, my play “Leave” is in Set B. I’m including the official Bedlam Theatre press release here, which should have all the info you need. (I’m flattered they featured me and the play a bit). Please read on, and I hope to see you at the performances.

Bedlam Theatre
presents
The 3rd Annual Bedlam Community Ten Minute Play
Festival

Wednesday through Sunday, June 9-13, 2004
at
Bedlam Studio
514 1/2 Cedar Ave South in Minneapolis
(around the side and back of Palmer’s Bar)

For information and reservations call 612-341-1038

Tickets for all shows $5-$15 Sliding Scale

Wednesday, June 9th at 8PM - SET A

Thursday, June 10th at 8PM - SET B

Friday, June 11th at 8PM - SET A
Friday, June 11th at 10PM - SET B

Saturday, June 12th at 8PM - SET B
Saturday, June 12th at 10PM - SET A

Sunday, June 13th at 2PM - SET A
Sunday, June 13th at 4PM - SET B

Bedlam Theatre presents a new set of wild and
imaginative short theatrical works by members of the
West Bank community and beyond.

The Third Annual Ten Minute Play Festival includes a
provocative new work by cabaret luminary Melissa Birch,
an intimate post 9-11 look at "don't ask, don't tell"  by
Matthew Everett, a dark and twisted multi-media piece by
Kristi Ternes, naughty pirates, feminist ninjas,
commercialized Martians, and more!

(see below)

SET A includes:

John's Gash - reminisces of attachment, disattachment,
sensuality and stitches- written by Melissa Birch  and
directed by John Bueche.

West Bank Proverb - strangely familiar characters at a
strangely familiar bar discussing strangely familiar topics-
written by Mike Harris and directed by Kristi Ternes.

Car Talk written by Elissa Mautner whose play "Lovers
and Traitors" will premier this month  at the Minnesota
Jewish Theater. Directed by Todd O'Dowd, Car Talk is
about awoman who at the worst possible time, has a
vision  forcing her to reexamine her life and her romantic
entanglements.

What If? - a one woman mask piece created by Katie
Kaufmann

Sometimes I Like To Avoid Conflict - The presider of the
Marcy Open School Library solicits help from Circulation
and Charles Bronson to ward off an invasion of feminist
ninjas - written by Joe Evans and directed by Jason Misik

The IronMermaiden and other Tales of Automatron - an
excerpt from a dark and twisted multi-media piece by
Kristi Ternes

SET B includes:

Leave, by Matthew Everett: Seth, a Marine, and Nicholas,
his civilian lover, spend their final moments of Seth's
leave together before he must return to the battlefield

Mutiny! - A rowdy band of lurid pirates invades a young
woman's tormented soul - created by Nikki Williams and
Maren Ward

i have touched the velvet jungles of mars and they have
wept at my passing - An exiled scientist reunited with ex-
wife and son - wackiness ensues -lives are forever
changed by Johann Hauser-Ulrich and directed by Jon
Cole

Bloody Hell - Aussie womanizer meets American goth -by
Vicki Joan Keck and directed by Nate Krantz

A new work by REPULSAR - last year they brought us
2012 - a ten minute version of the RUSH classic 2112.
This year it's........a surprise.

Bedlam Theatre:

"No one else in town is quite this giddily, raggedly
original" -City Pages, 2004

Smell the Magic

 

Fringe 2004 - DANDELION SNOW - my Fringe show, August 6-15, 2004

First readthrough and rehearsal has been scheduled for next week, June 16, 2004. Looking forward to meeting the cast and setting to work learning from them about the script and the future work to be done.

This week’s project for me is to master my scanner so I can post the headshots of the cast members not in the official publicity photo and give everyone equal face time. Official publicity photos to be added soon as well.

"Oh, the pizza boy adds extra sausage,
And big tools are manly,
But when love burns like a schoolhouse on fire,
Three men come to grips with a certain, fated love."

(our official publicity blurb, courtesy of our producer/director, Brendan Perry)

The cast of "Dandelion Snow" is as follows:

Ash - William T. Leaf

Dana (Ash's oldest friend and former lover) - David Schlosser

Julian (Dana's husband) - Christopher O. Kidder

Aidan (pizza boy and potential boyfriend to Ash) - Grant Henderson

Abigail (Ash's mother) - Carol Vnuk

Grace (Dana's sister) - Renee Karen Werbowski

Claire (Aidan's co-worker) - Adeola Ogunwole

The story:
When Dana and Ash, two high school sweethearts now in their thirties, meet again in the ruins of their old elementary school, the undertow of old emotional ties threatens to undo their current relationships with others. Will Dana be able to resolve his conflicts with his lover Julian over the long-distance relationship into which their connection is evolving? Will Ash find love with Aidan the pizza boy? Will Dana and Ash find their way back to each other? Should they?

The "Dandelion Snow" cycle of short plays will be on display at the Minnesota Fringe Festival in Minneapolis this year, thanks to Out On Stage Productions and producer/director Brendan Perry.

Excerpts from all four parts of the romantic misadventures of nearly reunited lovers Ash and Dana:

Dandelion Snow

Across Their River

Extra Cheese

Tools

are all available for viewing in the "Short Plays" section of the "Plays & Musicals" portion of this site - just click over in the left hand column.

And more details on this evolving production opportunity are chronicled in the column "Fringe Early Buzz - Honorable Mentions" also in this section.

"Dandelion Snow" will be performed on the Whitney Mainstage at Minneapolis Community and Technical College (1424 Yale Place, Minneapolis, Minnesota) - which is enormous, so please come and bring a few dozen of your friends and family along with you.

The dates and times are:

Saturday August 7, 2004 - 8:30pm

Wednesday August 11, 2004 - 2:30pm

Thursday August 12, 2004 - 5:30pm

Friday August 13, 2004 - 8:30pm

Saturday August 14, 2004 - 4pm

Tickets go on sale July 1st through Uptown Tix (www.uptowntix.com or 612-604-4466).

Hope to see you there.

 

Fringe 2004 - FAST FRINGE - the Fringe Festival's short play fest within a fest

The cast of Fast Fringe has been finalized. Our actors are:

Colleen Barrett

Elliot Eustis

Dana Erin Horst

Steven Meek

each will be playing numerous roles among the plays listed below - roles are still be assigned.

The script polishing has been completed and we're ready to get started.

First rehearsal is scheduled for June 21, 2004.

Next weekend, representatives of Fast Fringe will tape a guest segment for the TV show "Cue to Cue" which is currently spotlighting the Fringe. More details on the broadcast schedules as they become available. To learn more about the show "Cue to Cue," see the column on it in this same section, "In My Humble Opinion."

Fast Fringe 1: The Agony

Dead employees, suffocating mamas, G-Men, and breast pumps!  All this and more in just one hour!  Five plays by five authors! It's fast, Fast, FAST!

Exit Interview by Gigi Jensen
Manhandled by Mic Weinblatt
Paper Trail by Dominic Orlando
Das Ewig Weibliche by Tim Cope
Milk by Amanda Thompson

Fast Fringe 2: The Ecstasy

Virgins in limbo, killer daddies, malapropisms, and... your call is very important to us!  All this and more in just one hour!  Five plays by five authors! It's fast, Fast, FAST!

All About Words by Michelle Pett
Limbo Lounge by Betty Liedtke
Mud On A Little Girl’s Dress by Jason Connors
Infinite Justice by Mike Peroz
Your Call Is Very Important To Us by Roy Close

Fast Fringe 1 and Fast Fringe 2 will both be performed at the Loring Playhouse (1635 Hennepin Avenue, Minneapolis, MN).

Sunday, August 8, 2004
- 1pm, Fast Fringe 2
- 2:30pm, Fast Fringe 1

Monday, August 9, 2004
- 8:30pm, Fast Fringe 2

Tuesday, August 10, 2004
- 8:30pm, Fast Fringe 1

Wednesday, August 11, 2004
- 8:30pm, Fast Fringe 1
- 10pm, Fast Fringe 2

Friday, August 13, 2004
- 1pm, Fast Fringe 2
- 2:30pm, Fast Fringe 1

Saturday, August 14, 2004
- 2:30pm, Fast Fringe 2

Sunday, August 15, 2004
- 4pm, Fast Fringe 1

Tickets go on sale July 1st through Uptown Tix (www.uptowntix.com or 612-604-4466).

If you have any questions for us, contact us at fast@fringefestival.org.

(Or you can drop me a line through this website and I'll pass it on)

 

CUE TO CUE - a TV show covering theatre in Minnesota

"Cue to Cue" returns to the Fringe.

This past weekend we taped guest segements with the following Fringe artists:

Calibanco Theatre re-imagining a classic text with "Feeling Faust"

Janelle Ranek and her one woman show "Scrawl: 2nd Draft Still Not Approved"

Claire Simonson's multi-media offering "The Origins of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind"

Theatre Latte Da, with Jim Lichtscheidl's new musical comedy creation, "Knock!"

Top Hat Theatre's performance by and for kids, "Peter Pan"

St. Paul's public TV station, Channel 17, has picked up four of the six new episodes of "Cue to Cue" on the artists in this year's Fringe Festival.

TPT 17’s shedule for “Cue to Cue” is as follows:

July 4th - 9:00 pm  (105)

July 11th - 9:00 pm  (106)

August 1 - 10:00 pm   (107)

August 22nd - 10:00 pm  (108)

Which guests will be in which episode, I don’t yet know. Once that has been determined by the producer and editors, I’ll post it.

Next weekend our guest roster of tapings includes:

Amala Dance's "On The Beaded Fringe II"

Chameleon Theatre Circle's "Death Penalty Puppetry"

Fast Fringe - the Festival's two part short play showcase

Ferrari McSpeedy with the conclusion of their wacky but beloved thrillogy, "Punk Rock Awesome"

It's About Time Theatre and their all-female take on the two person comedy, "Stones In His Pockets"

Protest Productions offering "Comedy Against Racism"

and probably one more artist, yet to be determined, along with guest host Leah Cooper, Executive Director of the Minnesota Fringe Festival.

All six episodes will see repeated broadcasts on SPNN (St. Paul Neighborhood Network) and perhaps also be available (as they were last year) as streaming video on the Minnesota Fringe Festival website.

"Cue To Cue" was launched last year with a six episode series spotlighting the wide variety of acts in the 2003 Minnesota Fringe Festival (speaking with representatives of 15 Head, Ministry of Cultural Warfare, Theatre Unbound, Hunter Marionettes, Theatre Gallery, VISTA Productions, Kabobenco, and individual artists Kevin Kling, Kirsten Frantzich, Josette Antomarchi and Tom Cassidy, as well as profiles of the Spoken Word Fringe and Visible Fringe).

Since then, we've talked to still more individual theater artists (director/choreographer Noah Bremer, musical theatre collaborators Gary Rue, Ann Schulman, Daniel Pinkerton and Chris Gennaula) as well as cross-section of established and up-and-coming theatre companies (Mixed Blood, Margolis Brown, Stepping Stone, Starting Gate, Mama Mosaic, Skewed Visions)

 

Theatre-going Recommendations - Twin Cities and beyond

DON’T FORGET...

June 9 - 13, 2004
First, I have to put in another plug for the Bedlam Theatre Ten Minute Play Festival, of which my script “Leave” is a part. All the details are available in another column in this section, or by accessing them through the links on the front page.

OK, now that shilling for myself and the wonderful work my director and actors are doing is taken care of...

NOW PLAYING...

thru June 12th
Zeitgeist presents new music under the title “Shape Shifting: Shades of Transformation ...resistance is futile” - at the Zeitgeist Studio, 275 East Fourth Street, Suite 100, St. Paul (across from the St. Paul Farmer’s Market) - call 651-755-1600 and for more on Zeitgeist, visit www.spiritofthetimes.org

thru June 13th
Mizna presents the new play, “With Love From Ramallah” - two intertwined stories covering the same twelve hour period in Minneapolis and Ramallah, Palestine in 2002 - immigration, isolation, occupation, and the strength of the human spirit to survive - directed by Pangea Theatre’s Dipankar Mukherjee. Thursdays thru Sundays at the Mixed Blood Theatre, 1501 South 4th Street on the West Bank in Minneapolis. Call 612-338-6131 and for more information on Mizna, visit www.mizna.org

thru June 13th
Hardcover Theater’s adaptation of Jules Verne’s story “Dr. Ox’s Experiment” - Fridays thru Sundays at the Playwrights’ Center, 2301 Franklin Avenue East, Minneapolis. Call 612-581-2229 and for more information on Hardcover, visit www.hardcovertheater.org

thru June 13th
The Guthrie Theatre’s rollicking production of that old Gilber and Sullivan standard, “The Pirates of Penzance.” 725 Vineland Place in Minneapolis. Call 612-377-2224 or toll free at 1-877-44-STAGE. Learn more at www.guthrietheater.org

thru June 19th
Starting Gate Productions Proudly Presents our 2nd Summer Project - “Akespeareshay” - the Bard of Stratford-on-Avon...as you've never heard him before. A humorous primer for American audiences' appreciation and understanding of Shakespeare by Baltimore playwright, Kimberley Lynne. At the Loading Dock Theater, 10th and Sibley just off I94 in St. Paul. Call (651) 645-3503. For more information, visit www.startinggate.org

thru June 20th
Great American History Theatre’s presents the adaptation of Mitch Albom’s bestseller “Tuesdays with Morrie,” which a lovely performance by Clyde Lund as Morrie - 30th East 10th Street, St. Paul. My review of the show is available here in this section. Call 651-292-4323, and for more information on the History Theatre, visit www.historytheatre.com

thru June 20th
Park Square Theatre revives the modern (well, more recent than most) farce “Noises Off” - Thursdays thru Sundays at Park Square, 408 St. Peter Street, St. Paul. Call 651-291-7005 and for more information on Park Square, visit www.parksquaretheatre.org

thru June 27th
Jungle Theater revives its popular production of the A.R. Gurney’s play “Sylvia” - about a dog who comes between a man and his wife. Kirsten Frantzich, so delightful as Marlene Dietrich in last year’s Fringe Festival, reprises her role of the titular dog in this production. On the corner of Lake Street and Lyndale Avenue in Minneapolis (2951 Lyndale Avenue South, to be exact). Call 612-822-7063 and learn more about the Jungle at www.jungletheater.com

thru June 27th
Community theater juggernaut Theatre In The Round Players (TRP) dusts off the farce “See How They Run” (which I played a role in myself back in my Pennsylvania community theater days) - Fridays thru Sundays at TRP, 245 Cedar Avenue, Minneapolis - call 612-333-3010 and for more info on TRP visit www.theatreintheround.org (and remember, “It can’t amount to tantamount to slaughter!”)

UPCOMING SHOWS...

June 11-26, 2004
The Red Eye Collaboration adapts Charles L. Mee, Jr.’s script “Requiem” - compiling fragments of Sophocles’ lost plays and other found text - mostly weekends but performance days vary throughout the run - call 612-870-0309, and for more info on Red Eye, visit www.theredeye.org

June 11-July 3, 2004
Illusion Theater presents “Vanishing Point” by, among several others, my composer friend Rob Hartmann, with whom I collaborated on the musical “The Hopes and Fears of All the Years” (available for preview on this site in “Plays & Musicals”). I’ve seen the “Vanishing Point” several times during its development in recent years (it seems to have followed us around as we developed “Hopes and Fears...”) and highly recommend it, particularly since this go-round features a cast of truly amazing actresses - Beth Gilleland, Aimee K Bryant, and Patty Nieman - in the roles of Aimee Semple McPherson, Amelia Earhart and Agatha Christie respectively. The musical revolves around the concept that when these three famous women disappeared mysteriously - two of them only for a short time, one of them permanently - they all met up in a mysterious sort of limbo, and their lives were altered because of this encounter. An amusing brain teaser of a musical that features some great work by all concerned. I’d gladly go again just to see Patty Nieman reprising her turn as Agatha Christie. Wonderful stuff. Call 612-339-4944, and for more info on Illusion, visit www.illusiontheater.org

June 18, 2004, 4-11pm
David Byrne of the Talking Heads joins the festivities as part of the Walker Art Center’s 5th Rock the Garden street party in the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden on Vineland Place at Lyndale Avenue South in Minneapolis. For tickets, call 612-375-7540 or visit www.walkerart.org/rock

IN THE NOT TOO DISTANT FUTURE...

July 14-August 8, 2004
Park Square presents what the New York Times called the “best new American play of the year,” the Mae West-inpsired (and haunted) romantic comedy, “Dirty Blonde” - directed by the gifted Joel Sass and starring the also impressive talents of Jodi Kellogg as Mae West - Thursdays thru Sundays at Park Square, 408 St. Peter Street, St. Paul. Call 651-291-7005 and for more information on Park Square, visit www.parksquaretheatre.org

July 22-25, 2004
The Playwrights’ Center’s annual PlayLabs new play development workshops have a number of notable names and collaborations in store. The highlights, to my eyes, are Vincent Delaney’s “Perpetua” on July 23rd (in collaboration with Commonweal Theatre Company) and Lee Blessing’s new play “A Body of Water” on July 24th, destined for the Guthrie Lab stage next year. I saw an earlier reading of “Perpetua” and was impressed by the way Vince spins words like poetry, all the while creating a series of complex relationships, rife with both conflict and humor. Great stuff. There are also collaborations afoot with The Children’s Theatre Company, Mixed Blood Theatre, and yet another Guthrie project. For tickets, call 612-332-7481, ext. 14, and for the full scoop on the festival visit www.pwcenter.org

EVENTS IT’S GOING TO KILL ME TO MISS...

June 8-10, 2004
My friend Jonathan Rayson stars in the lead role of Seymour in the Broadway production of “Little Shop of Horrors.” Tony-nominated Hunter Foster leaves “Little Shop” on June 6.  'N Sync's Joey Fatone (oy) will take over as Seymour on June 24.  In the interim two weeks, Jonathan Rayson will star. That interim two weeks, New York theatergoers, is the time to see the show. Trust me. Jonathan is an amazing performer, and won’t be an understudy in Broadway musicals much longer. There’s a role with his name on it, and I’m sure it’s coming soon. Break a leg, Jonathan!

June 28, 2004
The Actors Center Benefit, honoring four great American acting teachers - among them two leaders from my days at the Yale School of Drama, Earle Gister and Lloyd Richards - at The Public Theatre on Lafayette Street in New York City. A veritable who’s who of the “Yale Mafia” will be in attendance, but sadly my budget doesn’t allow me to be one of them.

July 16-18, 2004
Indiana State University (ISU) Theatre Department is holding a reunion in Terre Haute, IN, to honor another of my former professors, self-proclaimed “dirty old man” Lew Hackleman, for whom I stage managed several plays in my undergrad days. He’s transitioning into a well-deserved retirement. Again, I wish I could be there to tease him in person, but being there in spirit will have to suffice.

AND DON’T FORGET...

The Minnesota Fringe Festival, August 6-15, 2004, 175+ shows in locations in and around downtown Minneapolis, including my own projects...

Dandelion Snow, at the Minneapolis Community and Technical College’s Whitney Mainstage space

Fast Fringe, at the Loring Playhouse

See other columns in this section for details, or follow the links from the front page of this site to full coverage on Dandelion Snow and Fast Fringe.

 

Notes from a Wandering Laptop

Notes from a Wandering Laptop

Week of June 6, 2004

My latest endeavours...

BEDLAM THEATRE'S TEN MINUTE PLAY FESTIVAL

June 9 - 13, 2004 - My play "Leave" will be part of the festival. Performances will be:

Thursday, June 10: 8pm

Friday, June11: 10pm

Saturday, June12: 8pm

Sunday, June 13: 4pm

Tickets on a sliding scale - $5-$15.

Bedlam Theatre is at 514 1/2 Cedar Ave South in Minneapolis (around the side and back of Palmer’s Bar).

For information and reservations call 612-341-1038.

For more details see the section, "In My Humble Opinion" or just click here.

MONOLOGUES AND SCENES FOR ACTORS, ACTRESSES, AND DIRECTORS

The centralized searchable database for all the scenes and monologues on the site is up and running at last!

Monologues for men. Monologues for women. Scenes for men. Scenes for women. Scenes for men and women together. It's all here for your perusal. Click on the "Monologue Search" or "Scene Search" functions in the menu at the left, or just click here.

"CUE TO CUE" GOES TO THE FRINGE

"Cue to Cue," the TV show I host covering theater in Minnesota, is on a roll. St. Paul's public TV station, Channel 17, has picked up two more Fringe episodes for broadcast (four in all) and we have our guests from this year's Minnesota Fringe Festival all lined up and ready to go.

See the latest in the section "In My Humble Opinion" or click here.

THEATRE RECOMMENDATIONS FOR THE TWIN CITIES

A friend takes over the lead in a Broadway musical in New York City, plus the usual embarrassment of riches in Twin Cities theatre. For details, go to the section "In My Humble Opinion" or just click here.

LEAVE - A WORK IN PROGRESS

"Leave," the working title of the post 9/11 revisions of "The Surface of the World," is on display as it evolves. You can find it in the "Scenes" section of "The Surface of the World" in "Plays & Musicals" under the quote link "I kill to protect you, I kill to come home. That’s how much I love you" or just click here.

DANDELION SNOW - MY FRINGE SHOW

Rehearsals begin next week. New pictures soon. Meanwhile, for the latest details, including cast, dates, times and location, click here, and also see "Fringe 2004 Early Buzz - Honorable Mentions."

Meanwhile, if you're interested in a preview of some of what you'll be seeing at the Fringe, you can check out excerpts from the four parts of the cycle - Dandelion Snow, Across Their River, Extra Cheese, and Tools - in the Plays & Musicals section of this site.

FRINGE BLOGGING

My second year of blogging for the Minnesota Fringe Festival as one of The League of Extraordinary Fringers ("The Professor") has begun, and can be found in the section "In My Humble Opinion" until the official Fringe Festival website to go live on July 1.

Check out Fringe Early Buzz, covering: the first of my picks for the Top Ten Shows sure to be on my Fringe-going schedule: Death Penalty Puppetry, plus notes on the latest from Outward Spiral Theatre Company, Ferrari McSpeedy, and Ari Hoptman - and take a look three Sure Things, and three shows I'm way too close to, plus "Minnesota Fringe Festival 2004 - A Love Story"

And if you're interested in a taste of Fringes past, check out my writings on Fringe 2003, dated July 13 through August 13, 2003.

FAST FRINGE

For the latest details on this showcase of short plays for the 2004 Minnesota Fringe Festival, click here, and also see "Fringe 2004 Early Buzz - Honorable Mentions."

A TALE OF TWO TEN MINUTE PLAY FESTIVALS

The Playwrights' Center's annual Ten Minute Play Festival (set for Wednesday, June 30, 2004, 6:30pm) has chosen its scripts. We're in the process of gathering the remaining entrants to form the roster for the Second Annual Alternative Ten Minute play festival on July 7, 2004. More details on the latter event as it evolves.

INTERESTED IN PRODUCING ONE OF THESE PLAYS?

Please contact me.

Feel free to use the scenes and monologues for auditions or classes if you like (and drop me a note and let me know how it went).

So, take a look around and tell me what you think. I'm going to get back to work on those upgrades.

ON A PERSONAL NOTE...

A birthday wish to my stepmother Debbie, and a huge and hearty "Break a leg!" to my friend Jonathan Rayson, who takes over the lead role of Seymour in "Little Shop of Horrors" for the next two weeks. Further details can be found in my theatre recommendations in the "In My Humble Opinion" section, on Jonathan's website (www.jonathanrayson.com), or take a look at the write-up in Playbill by clicking here.

Thanks for stopping by.

 

Fringe 2004 - DANDELION SNOW - my Fringe show, August 6-15, 2004

First readthrough of the script is this week. Details shortly. Meanwhile, here’s what I know...

"Oh, the pizza boy adds extra sausage,
And big tools are manly,
But when love burns like a schoolhouse on fire,
Three men come to grips with a certain, fated love."

(our official publicity blurb, courtesy of our producer/director, Brendan Perry)

The cast of "Dandelion Snow" is as follows:

Ash - William T. Leaf

Dana (Ash's oldest friend and former lover) - David Schlosser

Julian (Dana's husband) - Christopher O. Kidder

Aidan (pizza boy and potential boyfriend to Ash) - Grant Henderson

Abigail (Ash's mother) - Carol Vnuk

Grace (Dana's sister) - Renee Karen Werbowski

Claire (Aidan's co-worker) - Adeola Ogunwole

The story:
When Dana and Ash, two high school sweethearts now in their thirties, meet again in the ruins of their old elementary school, the undertow of old emotional ties threatens to undo their current relationships with others. Will Dana be able to resolve his conflicts with his lover Julian over the long-distance relationship into which their connection is evolving? Will Ash find love with Aidan the pizza boy? Will Dana and Ash find their way back to each other? Should they?

The "Dandelion Snow" cycle of short plays will be on display at the Minnesota Fringe Festival in Minneapolis this year, thanks to Out On Stage Productions and producer/director Brendan Perry.

Excerpts from all four parts of the romantic misadventures of nearly reunited lovers Ash and Dana:

Dandelion Snow

Across Their River

Extra Cheese

Tools

are all available for viewing in the "Short Plays" section of the "Plays & Musicals" portion of this site - just click over in the left hand column.

And more details on this evolving production opportunity are chronicled in the column "Fringe Early Buzz - Honorable Mentions" also in this section.

"Dandelion Snow" will be performed on the Whitney Mainstage at Minneapolis Community and Technical College (1424 Yale Place, Minneapolis, Minnesota) - which is enormous, so please come and bring a few dozen of your friends and family along with you.

The dates and times are:

Saturday August 7, 2004 - 8:30pm

Wednesday August 11, 2004 - 2:30pm

Thursday August 12, 2004 - 5:30pm

Friday August 13, 2004 - 8:30pm

Saturday August 14, 2004 - 4pm

Tickets go on sale July 1st through Uptown Tix (www.uptowntix.com or 612-604-4466).

Hope to see you there.

 

Fringe 2004 - FAST FRINGE - the Fringe Festival's short play fest within a fest

First rehearsal is set for next week. The cast is:

Colleen Barrett

Elliot Eustis

Dana Erin Horst

Steven Meek

Each will be playing numerous roles among the plays listed below - roles are still be assigned.

Fast Fringe 1: The Agony

Dead employees, suffocating mamas, G-Men, and breast pumps!  All this and more in just one hour!  Five plays by five authors! It's fast, Fast, FAST!

Exit Interview by Gigi Jensen
Manhandled by Mic Weinblatt
Paper Trail by Dominic Orlando
Das Ewig Weibliche by Tim Cope
Milk by Amanda Thompson

Fast Fringe 2: The Ecstasy

Virgins in limbo, killer daddies, malapropisms, and... your call is very important to us!  All this and more in just one hour!  Five plays by five authors! It's fast, Fast, FAST!

All About Words by Michelle Pett
Limbo Lounge by Betty Liedtke
Mud On A Little Girl’s Dress by Jason Connors
Infinite Justice by Mike Peroz
Your Call Is Very Important To Us by Roy Close

Fast Fringe 1 and Fast Fringe 2 will both be performed at the Loring Playhouse (1635 Hennepin Avenue, Minneapolis, MN).

Sunday, August 8, 2004
- 1pm, Fast Fringe 2
- 2:30pm, Fast Fringe 1

Monday, August 9, 2004
- 8:30pm, Fast Fringe 2

Tuesday, August 10, 2004
- 8:30pm, Fast Fringe 1

Wednesday, August 11, 2004
- 8:30pm, Fast Fringe 1
- 10pm, Fast Fringe 2

Friday, August 13, 2004
- 1pm, Fast Fringe 2
- 2:30pm, Fast Fringe 1

Saturday, August 14, 2004
- 2:30pm, Fast Fringe 2

Sunday, August 15, 2004
- 4pm, Fast Fringe 1

Tickets go on sale July 1st through Uptown Tix (www.uptowntix.com or 612-604-4466).

If you have any questions for us, contact us at fast@fringefestival.org.

(Or you can drop me a line through this website and I'll pass it on)

 

CUE TO CUE - a TV show covering theatre in Minnesota

The tapings are done, the editing’s begun. Soon the latest episodes will be assembled and broadcasts will commence

"Cue to Cue" returns to the Fringe. Our guests from this year’s festival include:

Amala Dance and Music's "On The Beaded Fringe II"

Calibanco Theatre re-imagining a classic text with "Feeling Faust"

Chameleon Theatre Circle's "Death Penalty Puppetry"

Leah Cooper, Executive Director of the Minnesota Fringe Festival

Fast Fringe - the Festival's two part short play showcase

Ferrari McSpeedy with the conclusion of their wacky but beloved thrillogy, "Punk Rock Awesome"

It's About Time Theatre and their all-female take on the two person comedy, "Stones In His Pockets"

Protest Productions offering "Comedy Against Racism"

Janelle Ranek and her one woman show "Scrawl: 2nd Draft Still Not Approved"

Claire Simonson's multi-media offering "The Origins of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind"

Theatre Latte Da, with Jim Lichtscheidl's new musical comedy creation, "Knock!"

Top Hat Theatre's performance by and for kids, "Peter Pan"

St. Paul's public TV station, Channel 17, has picked up four of the six new episodes of "Cue to Cue" on the artists in this year's Fringe Festival.

TPT 17’s shedule for “Cue to Cue” is as follows:

July 4th - 9:00 pm  (105)

July 11th - 9:00 pm  (106)

August 1 - 10:00 pm   (107)

August 22nd - 10:00 pm  (108)

Which guests will be in which episode, I don’t yet know. Once that has been determined by the producer and editors, I’ll post it.

All six episodes will see repeated broadcasts on SPNN (St. Paul Neighborhood Network) and perhaps also be available (as they were last year) as streaming video on the Minnesota Fringe Festival website.

"Cue To Cue" was launched last year with a six episode series spotlighting the wide variety of acts in the 2003 Minnesota Fringe Festival (speaking with representatives of 15 Head, Ministry of Cultural Warfare, Theatre Unbound, Hunter Marionettes, Theatre Gallery, VISTA Productions, Kabobenco, and individual artists Kevin Kling, Kirsten Frantzich, Josette Antomarchi and Tom Cassidy, as well as profiles of the Spoken Word Fringe and Visible Fringe).

Since then, we've talked to still more individual theater artists (director/choreographer Noah Bremer, musical theatre collaborators Gary Rue, Ann Schulman, Daniel Pinkerton and Chris Gennaula) as well as cross-section of established and up-and-coming theatre companies (Mixed Blood, Margolis Brown, Stepping Stone, Starting Gate, Mama Mosaic, Skewed Visions)

 

Theatre-going Recommendations - Twin Cities and beyond

NOW PLAYING...

June 18, 2004, 4-11pm
David Byrne of the Talking Heads joins the festivities as part of the Walker Art Center’s 5th Rock the Garden street party in the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden on Vineland Place at Lyndale Avenue South in Minneapolis. For tickets, call 612-375-7540 or visit www.walkerart.org/rock

thru June 19th
Starting Gate Productions Proudly Presents our 2nd Summer Project - “Akespeareshay” - the Bard of Stratford-on-Avon...as you've never heard him before. A humorous primer for American audiences' appreciation and understanding of Shakespeare by Baltimore playwright, Kimberley Lynne. At the Loading Dock Theater, 10th and Sibley just off I94 in St. Paul. Call (651) 645-3503. For more information, visit www.startinggate.org

thru June 20th
Great American History Theatre’s presents the adaptation of Mitch Albom’s bestseller “Tuesdays with Morrie,” which a lovely performance by Clyde Lund as Morrie - 30th East 10th Street, St. Paul. My review of the show is available here in this section. Call 651-292-4323, and for more information on the History Theatre, visit www.historytheatre.com

thru June 20th
Park Square Theatre revives the modern (well, more recent than most) farce “Noises Off” - Thursdays thru Sundays at Park Square, 408 St. Peter Street, St. Paul. Call 651-291-7005 and for more information on Park Square, visit www.parksquaretheatre.org

thru June 26th
The Red Eye Collaboration adapts Charles L. Mee, Jr.’s script “Requiem” - compiling fragments of Sophocles’ lost plays and other found text - mostly weekends but performance days vary throughout the run - call 612-870-0309, and for more info on Red Eye, visit www.theredeye.org

thru June 27th
the Guthrie Lab presents Joe Penhall’s “Blue/Orange” (winner of the 2001 Olivier Award for Best New Play), directed by Casey Stangl (of the much-missed Eye of the Storm Theater). 700 North First Street in the Minneapolis Warehouse District. Thanks to my friend Dan Pinkerton, I got to tag along with one of his comps to a recent performance. Great acting, sharp script. A young doctor and his mentor clash over the treatment of an impenetrably confused patient who swears oranges are blue and insists that Idi Amin is his father. Call 612-377-2224 (toll free 1-877-44STAGE), and for more information visit www.guthrietheater.org

thru June 27th
Jungle Theater revives its popular production of the A.R. Gurney’s play “Sylvia” - about a dog who comes between a man and his wife. Kirsten Frantzich, so delightful as Marlene Dietrich in last year’s Fringe Festival, reprises her role of the titular dog in this production. On the corner of Lake Street and Lyndale Avenue in Minneapolis (2951 Lyndale Avenue South, to be exact). Call 612-822-7063 and learn more about the Jungle at www.jungletheater.com

thru June 27th
Community theater juggernaut Theatre In The Round Players (TRP) dusts off the farce “See How They Run” (which I played a role in myself back in my Pennsylvania community theater days) - Fridays thru Sundays at TRP, 245 Cedar Avenue, Minneapolis - call 612-333-3010 and for more info on TRP visit www.theatreintheround.org (and remember, “It can’t amount to tantamount to slaughter!”)

thru July 3rd
Illusion Theater presents “Vanishing Point” by, among several others, my composer friend Rob Hartmann, with whom I collaborated on the musical “The Hopes and Fears of All the Years” (available for preview on this site in “Plays & Musicals”). I’ve seen the “Vanishing Point” several times during its development in recent years (it seems to have followed us around as we developed “Hopes and Fears...”) and highly recommend it, particularly since this go-round features a cast of truly amazing actresses - Beth Gilleland, Aimee K Bryant, and Patty Nieman - in the roles of Aimee Semple McPherson, Amelia Earhart and Agatha Christie respectively. The musical revolves around the concept that when these three famous women disappeared mysteriously - two of them only for a short time, one of them permanently - they all met up in a mysterious sort of limbo, and their lives were altered because of this encounter. An amusing brain teaser of a musical that features some great work by all concerned. I’d gladly go again just to see Patty Nieman reprising her turn as Agatha Christie. Wonderful stuff. Call 612-339-4944, and for more info on Illusion, visit www.illusiontheater.org

IN THE NOT TOO DISTANT FUTURE...

July 14-August 8, 2004
Park Square presents what the New York Times called the “best new American play of the year,” the Mae West-inpsired (and haunted) romantic comedy, “Dirty Blonde” - directed by the gifted Joel Sass and starring the also impressive talents of Jodi Kellogg as Mae West - Thursdays thru Sundays at Park Square, 408 St. Peter Street, St. Paul. Call 651-291-7005 and for more information on Park Square, visit www.parksquaretheatre.org

July 22-25, 2004
The Playwrights’ Center’s annual PlayLabs new play development workshops have a number of notable names and collaborations in store. The highlights, to my eyes, are Vincent Delaney’s “Perpetua” on July 23rd (in collaboration with Commonweal Theatre Company) and Lee Blessing’s new play “A Body of Water” on July 24th, destined for the Guthrie Lab stage next year. I saw an earlier reading of “Perpetua” and was impressed by the way Vince spins words like poetry, all the while creating a series of complex relationships, rife with both conflict and humor. Great stuff. There are also collaborations afoot with The Children’s Theatre Company, Mixed Blood Theatre, and yet another Guthrie project. For tickets, call 612-332-7481, ext. 14, and for the full scoop on the festival visit www.pwcenter.org

MARK YOUR CALENDARS...

The Minnesota Fringe Festival, August 6-15, 2004, 175+ shows in locations in and around downtown Minneapolis, including my own projects...

Dandelion Snow, at the Minneapolis Community and Technical College’s Whitney Mainstage space

Fast Fringe, at the Loring Playhouse

See other columns in this section for details, or follow the links from the front page of this site to full coverage on Dandelion Snow and Fast Fringe.

EVENTS IT’S GOING TO KILL ME TO MISS...

June 8-20, 2004
My friend Jonathan Rayson stars in the lead role of Seymour in the Broadway production of “Little Shop of Horrors.” Tony-nominated Hunter Foster leaves “Little Shop” on June 6.  'N Sync's Joey Fatone (oy) will take over as Seymour on June 24.  In the interim two weeks, Jonathan Rayson will star. That interim two weeks, New York theatergoers, is the time to see the show. Trust me. Jonathan is an amazing performer, and won’t be an understudy in Broadway musicals much longer. There’s a role with his name on it, and I’m sure it’s coming soon. Break a leg, Jonathan!

June 28, 2004
The Actors Center Benefit, honoring four great American acting teachers - among them two leaders from my days at the Yale School of Drama, Earle Gister and Lloyd Richards - at The Public Theatre on Lafayette Street in New York City. A veritable who’s who of the “Yale Mafia” will be in attendance, but sadly my budget doesn’t allow me to be one of them.

July 16-18, 2004
Indiana State University (ISU) Theatre Department is holding a reunion in Terre Haute, IN, to honor another of my former professors, self-proclaimed “dirty old man” Lew Hackleman, for whom I stage managed several plays in my undergrad days. He’s transitioning into a well-deserved retirement. Again, I wish I could be there to tease him in person, but being there in spirit will have to suffice.

 

Notes from a Wandering Laptop

Notes from a Wandering Laptop

Week of June 13, 2004

My latest endeavours...

NEW THIS WEEK...

Sample songs from the Christmas musical, "The Hopes and Fears of All the Years"

Find them in the "Hopes and Fears..." section of the "Plays and Musicals" area of this site or just click here.

MONOLOGUES AND SCENES FOR ACTORS, ACTRESSES, AND DIRECTORS

The centralized searchable database for all the scenes and monologues on the site is up and running!

Monologues for men. Monologues for women. Scenes for men. Scenes for women. Scenes for men and women together. It's all here for your perusal. Click on the "Monologue Search" or "Scene Search" functions in the menu at the left, or just click here.

DANDELION SNOW - MY FRINGE SHOW

Rehearsals begin this week. New pictures soon. Meanwhile, for the latest details, including cast, dates, times and location, click here, and also see "Fringe 2004 Early Buzz - Honorable Mentions."

Meanwhile, if you're interested in a preview of some of what you'll be seeing at the Fringe, you can check out excerpts from the four parts of the cycle - Dandelion Snow, Across Their River, Extra Cheese, and Tools - in the Plays & Musicals section of this site.

LEAVE - A WORK IN PROGRESS

"Leave," the working title of the post 9/11 revisions of "The Surface of the World," is on display as it evolves. This first ten minute segement was part of the recent Bedlam Theatre Ten Minute Play Festival. Go to the "Scenes" section of "The Surface of the World" in "Plays & Musicals" under the quote link "I kill to protect you, I kill to come home. That’s how much I love you" or just click here.

"CUE TO CUE" GOES TO THE FRINGE

The twelve Minnesota Fringe Festival guest segements for the latest six episodes of "Cue to Cue," the TV show I host covering theater in Minnesota, have all been taped and are now in the editing processs. See the latest in the section "In My Humble Opinion" or click here.

FAST FRINGE

Rehearsals begin next week. For the latest details on this showcase of short plays for the 2004 Minnesota Fringe Festival, click here, and also see "Fringe 2004 Early Buzz - Honorable Mentions."

THEATRE RECOMMENDATIONS FOR THE TWIN CITIES

A friend takes over the lead in a Broadway musical in New York City, plus the usual embarrassment of riches in Twin Cities theatre. For details, go to the section "In My Humble Opinion" or just click here.

FRINGE BLOGGING

My second year of blogging for the Minnesota Fringe Festival as one of The League of Extraordinary Fringers ("The Professor") has begun, and can be found in the section "In My Humble Opinion" until the official Fringe Festival website to go live on July 1.

Check out Fringe Early Buzz, covering: the first of my picks for the Top Ten Shows sure to be on my Fringe-going schedule: Death Penalty Puppetry, plus notes on the latest from Outward Spiral Theatre Company, Ferrari McSpeedy, and Ari Hoptman - and take a look three Sure Things, and three shows I'm way too close to, plus "Minnesota Fringe Festival 2004 - A Love Story"

And if you're interested in a taste of Fringes past, check out my writings on Fringe 2003, dated July 13 through August 13, 2003.

INTERESTED IN PRODUCING ONE OF THESE PLAYS?

Please contact me.

Feel free to use the scenes and monologues for auditions or classes if you like (and drop me a note and let me know how it went).

So, take a look around and tell me what you think. I'm going to get back to work on those upgrades.

ON A PERSONAL NOTE...

Birthday wishes for my writer friend Roy as he logs the big 6-0. Belated birthday wishes to my cousin Robert and former co-workers John and Melanie. And another hearty "Break a leg!" to my friend Jonathan Rayson, who takes over the lead role of Seymour in "Little Shop of Horrors" for the next two weeks. Further details can be found in my theatre recommendations in the "In My Humble Opinion" section, on Jonathan's website (www.jonathanrayson.com), or take a look at the write-up in Playbill by clicking here.

Thanks for stopping by.

 

Fringe 2004 - DANDELION SNOW - my Fringe show, August 6-15, 2004

Notes on the first readthrough:

Rehearsals are a strange thing for a playwright. One feels like one doesn’t belong, because one doesn’t really have a role, if the script is set going in. It’s stranger still with a director the writer is working with for the first time. Both writer and director are still negotiating their relationship with one another and their roles in the rehearsal room at the same time. The director is the captain of the ship. They need to be in charge. The playwright builds the ship, but doesn’t pilot it. He’s not even one of the crew.

The one thing you don’t want to do is accidentally become someone that everyone looks to in order to see if they’re doing things wrong. As if with a play there’s a right and wrong answer, and somehow you’re the only authority. Everyone worried about failing you in some way. One wants to make sure everyone feels like the have the freedom to play around, to experiment. Without exception, a director and actors always manage to find great things in a script I didn’t even know were there, and to accentuate the script’s strengths and somehow mask a number of its weaknesses. The last thing one wants to do is cut that process off, to get in the way.

This is one of the many reasons that theatre people tend to like playwrights best who are either dead or at least absent. And the long dead playwrights like Chekhov and Shakespeare have the added bonus of not requiring pesky things like royalties.

So one sits there, being friendly, but not inserting oneself too deeply in the process, because it’s everyone else who has to band together and get down to work. The playwright is just an observer, if there are no rewrites to be done. I want to hang back, but not seem too distant. I want to react encouragingly, but not so enthusiastically as to inadvertantly set something in stone, certainly not at the first readthrough. I want to remain welcome as an observer, to learn as much as I can about the play as the group begins to shape it into a three-dimensional story on the stage. For rewrites, beyond the Fringe.

We were one actor short. The readthrough date had been changed a few weeks back and one of the cast didn’t pick up on that second notice. So they showed up on the original night and wondered where everyone else was. A call to the director cleared up the mystery, but of course the actor wasn’t available for the next night. In a way it was kind of comforting, like that tradition of a lousy dress rehearsal making for a great opening night. The fact that the readthrough wasn’t quite perfect, with all parties present and accounted for, insured that it all still had someplace to go, that there was still an element yet to fall into place. The director filled in gamely, even though it was a female role he was reading.

Stage directions - always a mine field. Because the director was playing a role, and wanted to be able to listen to the flow of the script just as much as I, the first plan was to just read the dialogue, not the stage directions on the first go round. The director wanted to time it as well, see if it (please, Lord...) fit nicely, but not too snugly into the Fringe’s one hour (and one hour only) time slot.

I often wonder why people might think I’m attached to my stage directions. I’m not Shaw. The stage directions aren’t in and of themselves supposed to be fine essays on stagecraft. They’re basically there just to stitch together the dialogue so it makes sense as a story you can read before it pops up and comes to life in the hands of human beings who act and design and build. Stage directions are my best attempt to convey how I see it in my head, but I’m not a director, I’m not an actor, I’m not a designer. The way I see it in my head is a sketch, a blueprint. It’s not filled in. Just like I don’t want people to think my enjoyment of an early choice means that the choice is the one and only right choice, I don’t intend for my stage directions to hem in anyone’s process either.

But they help a little bit, if only in a first readthrough. After that, by all means forget them unless you get lost. (Sort of the theatrical equivalent of “If all else fails, read the instructions.”) The plan was to read just the dialogue the first time, but then to read it again with stage directions after, to clear up any possible confusion or basic questions. One of the actors asked to just go ahead and have them read the first time through. So we did. Or rather, I did. That became my role for the evening. Narrator. Once again, the aim was to help the story along but not to get in the way. It gave me something to focus on, so I didn’t miss something or trip anyone up by not picking up my cues.

But it made me grateful for the fact I hadn’t put all that many stage directions in after all. There were large stretches were I could just sit back and listen to the words flow.

And no one was more grateful than I that they did indeed flow. Very little stumbling over the odd word, and nothing that seemed symptomatic of the fact that maybe the words were out of place or too difficult to speak aloud in casual conversation. Just the expected misunderstanding or two that comes with not being familiar with the text yet - it being, after all, just the first rehearsal.

The reading concluded with plenty of time to spare in that magical sixty minute block. Lots of room in which to grow and play.

There was laughter, which was a tremendous relief, since the play is supposed to be a romantic comedy. And there was a literal “aaaww” - and not a completely ironic or mocking one - when the happy ending arrived. Also a relief. They liked it, they had fun. Chances are, the fun would continue even as the work began in earnest.

The old Irving Berlin tune “What’ll I Do?” plays a part in the third sequence out of the four. Thankfully, one of the actors knew the tune as well and sang it for the others (so I didn’t need to do so). The song also provided the perfect setup for the small gesture of thanks I wanted to present to everyone. Someone asked if there was a way they could get a copy of the tune, to learn the song. “Funny you should mention that...” and I produced a pile of mix CD’s from my bag and passed them out to everyone. Two versions of “What’ll I Do?” (one by an opera singer, one by Frank Sinatra) bookended another of my own peculiar mix of songs about unrequited love, lost love, and most of the feelings that lay in between. There were some amused comments of recognition - “This song got me through a few breakups” - so hopefully that, too, would be enjoyable as well as helpful when they all reached their own personal CD players after they got to the car or got home. As with the stage directions, I felt had to offer reassurance that this was not in any way the soundtrack I intended to actually be used. It was a tool, a thank you, not a set of orders or boundaries I was trying to imprint on the process.

And we broke up for the evening. The director gave me a ride home, since I’d walked downtown to the rehearsal space, and so we could chat a bit about what happens next.

The bulk of the rehearsals begin right after the 4th of July holiday, four days a week. Even now, listening to the actors begin to make the words their own, I have an almost giddy sense of anticipation about how great it will all turn out to be. I feel like both the script and I are in very good hands.

Most of the cast headshots and our official publicity photo have been added to the site. More to follow.

"Oh, the pizza boy adds extra sausage,
And big tools are manly,
But when love burns like a schoolhouse on fire,
Three men come to grips with a certain, fated love."

(our official publicity blurb, courtesy of our producer/director, Brendan Perry)

The cast of "Dandelion Snow" is as follows:

Ash - William T. Leaf

Dana (Ash's oldest friend and former lover) - David Schlosser

Julian (Dana's husband) - Christopher O. Kidder

Aidan (pizza boy and potential boyfriend to Ash) - Grant Henderson

Abigail (Ash's mother) - Carol Vnuk

Grace (Dana's sister) - Renee Karen Werbowski

Claire (Aidan's co-worker) - Adeola Ogunwole

The story:
When Dana and Ash, two high school sweethearts now in their thirties, meet again in the ruins of their old elementary school, the undertow of old emotional ties threatens to undo their current relationships with others. Will Dana be able to resolve his conflicts with his lover Julian over the long-distance relationship into which their connection is evolving? Will Ash find love with Aidan the pizza boy? Will Dana and Ash find their way back to each other? Should they?

The "Dandelion Snow" cycle of short plays will be on display at the Minnesota Fringe Festival in Minneapolis this year, thanks to Out On Stage Productions and producer/director Brendan Perry.

Excerpts from all four parts of the romantic misadventures of nearly reunited lovers Ash and Dana:

Dandelion Snow

Across Their River

Extra Cheese

Tools

are all available for viewing in the "Short Plays" section of the "Plays & Musicals" portion of this site - just click over in the left hand column.

And more details on this evolving production opportunity are chronicled in the column "Fringe Early Buzz - Honorable Mentions" also in this section.

"Dandelion Snow" will be performed on the Whitney Mainstage at Minneapolis Community and Technical College (1424 Yale Place, Minneapolis, Minnesota) - which is enormous, so please come and bring a few dozen of your friends and family along with you.

The dates and times are:

Saturday August 7, 2004 - 8:30pm

Wednesday August 11, 2004 - 2:30pm

Thursday August 12, 2004 - 5:30pm

Friday August 13, 2004 - 8:30pm

Saturday August 14, 2004 - 4pm

Tickets go on sale July 1st through Uptown Tix (www.uptowntix.com or 612-604-4466).

Hope to see you there.

 

Fringe 2004 - FAST FRINGE - the Fringe Festival's short play fest within a fest

First readthrough of all ten plays takes place this week. The cast is:

Colleen Barrett

Elliot Eustis

Dana Erin Horst

Steven Meek

Each will be playing numerous roles among the plays listed below - roles are still be assigned.

Fast Fringe 1: The Agony

Dead employees, suffocating mamas, G-Men, and breast pumps!  All this and more in just one hour!  Five plays by five authors! It's fast, Fast, FAST!

Exit Interview by Gigi Jensen
Manhandled by Mic Weinblatt
Paper Trail by Dominic Orlando
Das Ewig Weibliche by Tim Cope
Milk by Amanda Thompson

Fast Fringe 2: The Ecstasy

Virgins in limbo, killer daddies, malapropisms, and... your call is very important to us!  All this and more in just one hour!  Five plays by five authors! It's fast, Fast, FAST!

All About Words by Michelle Pett
Limbo Lounge by Betty Liedtke
Mud On A Little Girl’s Dress by Jason Connors
Infinite Justice by Mike Peroz
Your Call Is Very Important To Us by Roy Close

Fast Fringe 1 and Fast Fringe 2 will both be performed at the Loring Playhouse (1635 Hennepin Avenue, Minneapolis, MN).

Sunday, August 8, 2004
- 1pm, Fast Fringe 2
- 2:30pm, Fast Fringe 1

Monday, August 9, 2004
- 8:30pm, Fast Fringe 2

Tuesday, August 10, 2004
- 8:30pm, Fast Fringe 1

Wednesday, August 11, 2004
- 8:30pm, Fast Fringe 1
- 10pm, Fast Fringe 2

Friday, August 13, 2004
- 1pm, Fast Fringe 2
- 2:30pm, Fast Fringe 1

Saturday, August 14, 2004
- 2:30pm, Fast Fringe 2

Sunday, August 15, 2004
- 4pm, Fast Fringe 1

Tickets go on sale July 1st through Uptown Tix (www.uptowntix.com or 612-604-4466).

If you have any questions for us, contact us at fast@fringefestival.org.

(Or you can drop me a line through this website and I'll pass it on)

 

Theatre-going Recommendations - Twin Cities and beyond

NOW PLAYING...

thru June 26th
The Red Eye Collaboration adapts Charles L. Mee, Jr.’s script “Requiem” - compiling fragments of Sophocles’ lost plays and other found text - mostly weekends but performance days vary throughout the run - call 612-870-0309, and for more info on Red Eye, visit www.theredeye.org

thru June 27th
the Guthrie Lab presents Joe Penhall’s “Blue/Orange” (winner of the 2001 Olivier Award for Best New Play), directed by Casey Stangl (of the much-missed Eye of the Storm Theater). 700 North First Street in the Minneapolis Warehouse District. Thanks to my friend Dan Pinkerton, I got to tag along with one of his comps to a recent performance. Great acting, sharp script. A young doctor and his mentor clash over the treatment of an impenetrably confused patient who swears oranges are blue and insists that Idi Amin is his father. Call 612-377-2224 (toll free 1-877-44STAGE), and for more information visit www.guthrietheater.org

thru June 27th
Jungle Theater revives its popular production of the A.R. Gurney’s play “Sylvia” - about a dog who comes between a man and his wife. Kirsten Frantzich, so delightful as Marlene Dietrich in last year’s Fringe Festival, reprises her role of the titular dog in this production. On the corner of Lake Street and Lyndale Avenue in Minneapolis (2951 Lyndale Avenue South, to be exact). Call 612-822-7063 and learn more about the Jungle at www.jungletheater.com

thru June 27th
Community theater juggernaut Theatre In The Round Players (TRP) dusts off the farce “See How They Run” (which I played a role in myself back in my Pennsylvania community theater days) - Fridays thru Sundays at TRP, 245 Cedar Avenue, Minneapolis - call 612-333-3010 and for more info on TRP visit www.theatreintheround.org (and remember, “It can’t amount to tantamount to slaughter!”)

thru July 3rd
Illusion Theater presents “Vanishing Point” by, among several others, my composer friend Rob Hartmann, with whom I collaborated on the musical “The Hopes and Fears of All the Years” (available for preview on this site in “Plays & Musicals”). I’ve seen the “Vanishing Point” several times during its development in recent years (it seems to have followed us around as we developed “Hopes and Fears...”) and highly recommend it, particularly since this go-round features a cast of truly amazing actresses - Beth Gilleland, Aimee K Bryant, and Patty Nieman - in the roles of Aimee Semple McPherson, Amelia Earhart and Agatha Christie respectively. The musical revolves around the concept that when these three famous women disappeared mysteriously - two of them only for a short time, one of them permanently - they all met up in a mysterious sort of limbo, and their lives were altered because of this encounter. An amusing brain teaser of a musical that features some great work by all concerned. I’d gladly go again just to see Patty Nieman reprising her turn as Agatha Christie. Wonderful stuff. Call 612-339-4944, and for more info on Illusion, visit www.illusiontheater.org

thru the end of July
A double bill of musicals from Gaydar Productions - Bed Boys and Beyond, & A My Name Is Alice - all male, all female - the new and the long-established - at the Loring Playhouse, 1633 Hennepin Avenue in Minneapolis. Call 612-604-4466 or go to www.UpTownTix.com for tickets and more information.

IN THE NOT TOO DISTANT FUTURE...

July 3rd & 4th, 2004
The Great American History Theatre presents a concert reading of “Grand Excursion - The Musical” - St. Paul, 1854, Gateway to the Wild, Wild West - the grand flotilla steamed up the Mississippi with a former president, his daughter and a boatload of celebrities to celebrate the opening of the West - 30th East 10th Street, St. Paul. Call 651-292-4323, and for more information on the History Theatre, visit www.historytheatre.com

Fridays and Saturdays, July 2nd-31st, 2004
Filthy Whore Productions remounts (pardon the pun) “3 Way” - one of the top-selling shows from the 2003 Minnesota Fringe Festival - at the Bryant Lake Bowl, 810 West Lake Street, Minneapolis. What happnes when three friends wake up together in bed after a night of drunken revelry? It’s a case of he said/he said...he said as Alex, Ethan and Matt attempt to sort out their stories and their socks. As you might expect, adult themes and brief nudity in this clever comedy. Call 612-825-8949 or check out www.bryantlakebowl.com and/or www.johntrones.com

July 14-August 8, 2004
Park Square presents what the New York Times called the “best new American play of the year,” the Mae West-inpsired (and haunted) romantic comedy, “Dirty Blonde” - directed by the gifted Joel Sass and starring the also impressive talents of Jodi Kellogg as Mae West - Thursdays thru Sundays at Park Square, 408 St. Peter Street, St. Paul. Call 651-291-7005 and for more information on Park Square, visit www.parksquaretheatre.org

July 16-25, 2004
“Momentum: New Dance Works” presented at the Southern Theatre by the Southern and Walker Art Center - a showcase of the Twin Cities’ most promising choreographers - 1420 Washington Avenue South, Minneapolis. Call 612-340-1725 or see www.walkerart.org for more information.

July 22-25, 2004
The Playwrights’ Center’s annual PlayLabs new play development workshops have a number of notable names and collaborations in store. The highlights, to my eyes, are Vincent Delaney’s “Perpetua” on July 23rd (in collaboration with Commonweal Theatre Company) and Lee Blessing’s new play “A Body of Water” on July 24th, destined for the Guthrie Lab stage next year. I saw an earlier reading of “Perpetua” and was impressed by the way Vince spins words like poetry, all the while creating a series of complex relationships, rife with both conflict and humor. Great stuff. There are also collaborations afoot with The Children’s Theatre Company, Mixed Blood Theatre, and yet another Guthrie project. For tickets, call 612-332-7481, ext. 14, and for the full scoop on the festival visit www.pwcenter.org

July 24th thru October 3rd, 2004
The Great American History Theatre presents John B. Davidson’s musical tragedy, “The Last Minstrel Show” - On June 16th, 1920, three black men were lynched in the city of Duluth, Minnesota. This is their story - 30th East 10th Street, St. Paul. Call 651-292-4323, and for more information on the History Theatre, visit www.historytheatre.com

MARK YOUR CALENDARS...

The Minnesota Fringe Festival, August 6-15, 2004, 175+ shows in locations in and around downtown Minneapolis, including my own projects...

Dandelion Snow, at the Minneapolis Community and Technical College’s Whitney Mainstage space

Fast Fringe, at the Loring Playhouse

See other columns in this section for details, or follow the links from the front page of this site to full coverage on Dandelion Snow and Fast Fringe.

EVENTS IT’S GOING TO KILL ME TO MISS...

June 28, 2004
The Actors Center Benefit, honoring four great American acting teachers - among them two leaders from my days at the Yale School of Drama, Earle Gister and Lloyd Richards - at The Public Theatre on Lafayette Street in New York City. A veritable who’s who of the “Yale Mafia” will be in attendance, but sadly my budget doesn’t allow me to be one of them.

July 16-18, 2004
Indiana State University (ISU) Theatre Department is holding a reunion in Terre Haute, IN, to honor another of my former professors, self-proclaimed “dirty old man” Lew Hackleman, for whom I stage managed several plays in my undergrad days. He’s transitioning into a well-deserved retirement. Again, I wish I could be there to tease him in person, but being there in spirit will have to suffice.

 

CUE TO CUE - a TV show covering theatre in Minnesota

The tapings are done, the editing’s begun. Soon the latest episodes will be assembled and broadcasts will commence

"Cue to Cue" returns to the Fringe. Our guests from this year’s festival include:

Amala Dance and Music's "On The Beaded Fringe II"

Calibanco Theatre re-imagining a classic text with "Feeling Faust"

Chameleon Theatre Circle's "Death Penalty Puppetry"

Leah Cooper, Executive Director of the Minnesota Fringe Festival

Fast Fringe - the Festival's two part short play showcase

Ferrari McSpeedy with the conclusion of their wacky but beloved thrillogy, "Punk Rock Awesome"

It's About Time Theatre and their all-female take on the two person comedy, "Stones In His Pockets"

Protest Productions offering "Comedy Against Racism"

Janelle Ranek and her one woman show "Scrawl: 2nd Draft Still Not Approved"

Claire Simonson's multi-media offering "The Origins of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind"

Theatre Latte Da, with Jim Lichtscheidl's new musical comedy creation, "Knock!"

Top Hat Theatre's performance by and for kids, "Peter Pan"

St. Paul's public TV station, Channel 17, has picked up four of the six new episodes of "Cue to Cue" on the artists in this year's Fringe Festival.

TPT 17’s shedule for “Cue to Cue” is as follows:

July 4th - 9:00 pm  (105)

July 11th - 9:00 pm  (106)

August 1 - 10:00 pm   (107)

August 22nd - 10:00 pm  (108)

Which guests will be in which episode, I don’t yet know. Once that has been determined by the producer and editors, I’ll post it.

All six episodes will see repeated broadcasts on SPNN (St. Paul Neighborhood Network) and perhaps also be available (as they were last year) as streaming video on the Minnesota Fringe Festival website.

"Cue To Cue" was launched last year with a six episode series spotlighting the wide variety of acts in the 2003 Minnesota Fringe Festival (speaking with representatives of 15 Head, Ministry of Cultural Warfare, Theatre Unbound, Hunter Marionettes, Theatre Gallery, VISTA Productions, Kabobenco, and individual artists Kevin Kling, Kirsten Frantzich, Josette Antomarchi and Tom Cassidy, as well as profiles of the Spoken Word Fringe and Visible Fringe).

Since then, we've talked to still more individual theater artists (director/choreographer Noah Bremer, musical theatre collaborators Gary Rue, Ann Schulman, Daniel Pinkerton and Chris Gennaula) as well as cross-section of established and up-and-coming theatre companies (Mixed Blood, Margolis Brown, Stepping Stone, Starting Gate, Mama Mosaic, Skewed Visions)

 

Notes from a Wandering Laptop

Week of June 20, 2004

My latest endeavours...

DANDELION SNOW - MY FRINGE SHOW

Rehearsals begin this week. New pictures soon. Meanwhile, for the latest details, including cast, dates, times and location, click here, and also see "Fringe 2004 Early Buzz - Honorable Mentions."

Meanwhile, if you're interested in a preview of some of what you'll be seeing at the Fringe, you can check out excerpts from the four parts of the cycle - Dandelion Snow, Across Their River, Extra Cheese, and Tools - in the Plays & Musicals section of this site.

MONOLOGUES AND SCENES FOR ACTORS, ACTRESSES, AND DIRECTORS

The centralized searchable database for all the scenes and monologues on the site is up and running!

Monologues for men. Monologues for women. Scenes for men. Scenes for women. Scenes for men and women together. It's all here for your perusal. Click on the "Monologue Search" or "Scene Search" functions in the menu at the left, or just click here.

SAMPLE SONGS...

from the Christmas musical, "The Hopes and Fears of All the Years"

Find them in the "Hopes and Fears..." section of the "Plays and Musicals" area of this site or just click here.

LEAVE - A WORK IN PROGRESS

"Leave," the working title of the post 9/11 revisions of "The Surface of the World," is on display as it evolves. This first ten minute segement was part of the recent Bedlam Theatre Ten Minute Play Festival. Go to the "Scenes" section of "The Surface of the World" in "Plays & Musicals" under the quote link "I kill to protect you, I kill to come home. That’s how much I love you" or just click here.

"CUE TO CUE" GOES TO THE FRINGE

The twelve Minnesota Fringe Festival guest segements for the latest six episodes of "Cue to Cue," the TV show I host covering theater in Minnesota, have all been taped and are now in the editing processs. See the latest in the section "In My Humble Opinion" or click here.

FAST FRINGE

Rehearsals begin this week. For the latest details on this showcase of short plays for the 2004 Minnesota Fringe Festival, click here, and also see "Fringe 2004 Early Buzz - Honorable Mentions."

THEATRE RECOMMENDATIONS FOR THE TWIN CITIES

A musical that's been stalking me for the last two years, among other options for a night at the theater. For details, go to the section "In My Humble Opinion" or just click here.

FRINGE BLOGGING

My second year of blogging for the Minnesota Fringe Festival as one of The League of Extraordinary Fringers ("The Professor") has begun, and can be found in the section "In My Humble Opinion" until the official Fringe Festival website to go live on July 1.

Check out Fringe Early Buzz, covering: the first of my picks for the Top Ten Shows sure to be on my Fringe-going schedule: Death Penalty Puppetry, plus notes on the latest from Outward Spiral Theatre Company, Ferrari McSpeedy, and Ari Hoptman - and take a look three Sure Things, and three shows I'm way too close to, plus "Minnesota Fringe Festival 2004 - A Love Story"

And if you're interested in a taste of Fringes past, check out my writings on Fringe 2003, dated July 13 through August 13, 2003.

INTERESTED IN PRODUCING ONE OF THESE PLAYS?

Please contact me.

Feel free to use the scenes and monologues for auditions or classes if you like (and drop me a note and let me know how it went).

So, take a look around and tell me what you think. I'm going to get back to work on those upgrades.

ON A PERSONAL NOTE...

HAPPY FATHER'S DAY to my Dad, as well as the more recently minted fathers in my family - stepbrother David and brothers-in-law Tim and Joe.

And birthday wishes to my sister-in-law Deborah.

Thanks for stopping by.

 

Fringe 2004 - DANDELION SNOW - The Basics on my Fringe show, August 6-15, 2004

First readthrough of the script was two weeks ago (for my thoughts on that, see Dandelion Snow - The Readthrough, also in this section)

Rehearsals begin in earnest after the 4th of July holiday. In the meantime, here are the basics about time, place and cast, so you can plan to join us, and help spread the word.

Most of the cast headshots and our official publicity photo have been added to the site. More to follow.

"Oh, the pizza boy adds extra sausage,
And big tools are manly,
But when love burns like a schoolhouse on fire,
Three men come to grips with a certain, fated love."

(our official publicity blurb, courtesy of our producer/director, Brendan Perry)

The cast of "Dandelion Snow" is as follows:

Ash - William T. Leaf

Dana (Ash's oldest friend and former lover) - David Schlosser

Julian (Dana's husband) - Christopher O. Kidder

Aidan (pizza boy and potential boyfriend to Ash) - Grant Henderson

Abigail (Ash's mother) - Carol Vnuk

Grace (Dana's sister) - Renee Karen Werbowski

Claire (Aidan's co-worker) - Adeola Ogunwole

The story:
When Dana and Ash, two high school sweethearts now in their thirties, meet again in the ruins of their old elementary school, the undertow of old emotional ties threatens to undo their current relationships with others. Will Dana be able to resolve his conflicts with his lover Julian over the long-distance relationship into which their connection is evolving? Will Ash find love with Aidan the pizza boy? Will Dana and Ash find their way back to each other? Should they?

The "Dandelion Snow" cycle of short plays will be on display at the Minnesota Fringe Festival in Minneapolis this year, thanks to Out On Stage Productions and producer/director Brendan Perry.

Excerpts from all four parts of the romantic misadventures of nearly reunited lovers Ash and Dana:

Dandelion Snow

Across Their River

Extra Cheese

Tools

are all available for viewing in the "Short Plays" section of the "Plays & Musicals" portion of this site - just click over in the left hand column.

And more details on this evolving production opportunity are chronicled in the column "Fringe Early Buzz - Honorable Mentions" also in this section.

"Dandelion Snow" will be performed on the Whitney Mainstage at Minneapolis Community and Technical College (1424 Yale Place, Minneapolis, Minnesota) - which is enormous, so please come and bring a few dozen of your friends and family along with you.

The dates and times are:

Saturday August 7, 2004 - 8:30pm

Wednesday August 11, 2004 - 2:30pm

Thursday August 12, 2004 - 5:30pm

Friday August 13, 2004 - 8:30pm

Saturday August 14, 2004 - 4pm

Tickets go on sale July 1st through Uptown Tix (www.uptowntix.com or 612-604-4466).

Hope to see you there.

 

Fringe 2004 - DANDELION SNOW - The Readthrough

Rehearsals are a strange thing for a playwright. One feels like one doesn’t belong, because one doesn’t really have a role, if the script is set going in. It’s stranger still with a director the writer is working with for the first time. Both writer and director are still negotiating their relationship with one another and their roles in the rehearsal room at the same time. The director is the captain of the ship. They need to be in charge. The playwright builds the ship, but doesn’t pilot it. He’s not even one of the crew.

The one thing you don’t want to do is accidentally become someone that everyone looks to in order to see if they’re doing things wrong. As if with a play there’s a right and wrong answer, and somehow you’re the only authority. Everyone worried about failing you in some way. One wants to make sure everyone feels like the have the freedom to play around, to experiment. Without exception, a director and actors always manage to find great things in a script I didn’t even know were there, and to accentuate the script’s strengths and somehow mask a number of its weaknesses. The last thing one wants to do is cut that process off, to get in the way.

This is one of the many reasons that theatre people tend to like playwrights best who are either dead or at least absent. And the long dead playwrights like Chekhov and Shakespeare have the added bonus of not requiring pesky things like royalties.

So one sits there, being friendly, but not inserting oneself too deeply in the process, because it’s everyone else who has to band together and get down to work. The playwright is just an observer, if there are no rewrites to be done. I want to hang back, but not seem too distant. I want to react encouragingly, but not so enthusiastically as to inadvertantly set something in stone, certainly not at the first readthrough. I want to remain welcome as an observer, to learn as much as I can about the play as the group begins to shape it into a three-dimensional story on the stage. For rewrites, beyond the Fringe.

We were one actor short. The readthrough date had been changed a few weeks back and one of the cast didn’t pick up on that second notice. So they showed up on the original night and wondered where everyone else was. A call to the director cleared up the mystery, but of course the actor wasn’t available for the next night. In a way it was kind of comforting, like that tradition of a lousy dress rehearsal making for a great opening night. The fact that the readthrough wasn’t quite perfect, with all parties present and accounted for, insured that it all still had someplace to go, that there was still an element yet to fall into place. The director filled in gamely, even though it was a female role he was reading.

Stage directions - always a mine field. Because the director was playing a role, and wanted to be able to listen to the flow of the script just as much as I, the first plan was to just read the dialogue, not the stage directions on the first go round. The director wanted to time it as well, see if it (please, Lord...) fit nicely, but not too snugly into the Fringe’s one hour (and one hour only) time slot.

I often wonder why people might think I’m attached to my stage directions. I’m not Shaw. The stage directions aren’t in and of themselves supposed to be fine essays on stagecraft. They’re basically there just to stitch together the dialogue so it makes sense as a story you can read before it pops up and comes to life in the hands of human beings who act and design and build. Stage directions are my best attempt to convey how I see it in my head, but I’m not a director, I’m not an actor, I’m not a designer. The way I see it in my head is a sketch, a blueprint. It’s not filled in. Just like I don’t want people to think my enjoyment of an early choice means that the choice is the one and only right choice, I don’t intend for my stage directions to hem in anyone’s process either.

But they help a little bit, if only in a first readthrough. After that, by all means forget them unless you get lost. (Sort of the theatrical equivalent of “If all else fails, read the instructions.”) The plan was to read just the dialogue the first time, but then to read it again with stage directions after, to clear up any possible confusion or basic questions. One of the actors asked to just go ahead and have them read the first time through. So we did. Or rather, I did. That became my role for the evening. Narrator. Once again, the aim was to help the story along but not to get in the way. It gave me something to focus on, so I didn’t miss something or trip anyone up by not picking up my cues.

But it made me grateful for the fact I hadn’t put all that many stage directions in after all. There were large stretches were I could just sit back and listen to the words flow.

And no one was more grateful than I that they did indeed flow. Very little stumbling over the odd word, and nothing that seemed symptomatic of the fact that maybe the words were out of place or too difficult to speak aloud in casual conversation. Just the expected misunderstanding or two that comes with not being familiar with the text yet - it being, after all, just the first rehearsal.

The reading concluded with plenty of time to spare in that magical sixty minute block. Lots of room in which to grow and play.

There was laughter, which was a tremendous relief, since the play is supposed to be a romantic comedy. And there was a literal “aaaww” - and not a completely ironic or mocking one - when the happy ending arrived. Also a relief. They liked it, they had fun. Chances are, the fun would continue even as the work began in earnest.

The old Irving Berlin tune “What’ll I Do?” plays a part in the third sequence out of the four. Thankfully, one of the actors knew the tune as well and sang it for the others (so I didn’t need to do so). The song also provided the perfect setup for the small gesture of thanks I wanted to present to everyone. Someone asked if there was a way they could get a copy of the tune, to learn the song. “Funny you should mention that...” and I produced a pile of mix CD’s from my bag and passed them out to everyone. Two versions of “What’ll I Do?” (one by an opera singer, one by Frank Sinatra) bookended another of my own peculiar mix of songs about unrequited love, lost love, and most of the feelings that lay in between. There were some amused comments of recognition - “This song got me through a few breakups” - so hopefully that, too, would be enjoyable as well as helpful when they all reached their own personal CD players after they got to the car or got home. As with the stage directions, I felt had to offer reassurance that this was not in any way the soundtrack I intended to actually be used. It was a tool, a thank you, not a set of orders or boundaries I was trying to imprint on the process.

And we broke up for the evening. The director gave me a ride home, since I’d walked downtown to the rehearsal space, and so we could chat a bit about what happens next.

The bulk of the rehearsals begin right after the 4th of July holiday, four days a week. Even now, listening to the actors begin to make the words their own, I have an almost giddy sense of anticipation about how great it will all turn out to be. I feel like both the script and I are in very good hands.

 

CUE TO CUE - a TV show covering theatre in Minnesota

First broadcast of one of the four episodes of “Cue To Cue” spotlighting this year’s Minnesota Fringe Festival on

TPT-17, St. Paul’s public TV station,

serving the greater Twin Cities area, will be this
Sunday, July 4th at 9pm.

Our guests for episode 105 will be:

- Leah Cooper, Executive Director of the Minnesota Fringe Festival
- Theatre Latte Da, with Artistic Director Peter Rothstein, and a preview of performer/creator Jim Lichtscheidl's new physical/musical/comedy hybrid, "Knock!"

Future TPT-17 broadcasts are as follows:

July 11th - 9:00 pm
Episode 106
- Calibanco Theatre re-imagining a classic text with "Feeling Faust"
- Ferrari McSpeedy with the conclusion of their wacky but beloved thrillogy, "Punk Rock Awesome"

August 1 - 10:00 pm
Episode 107
- Fast Fringe - the Festival's two part short play showcase
- Janelle Ranek and her one woman show "Scrawl: 2nd Draft Still Not Approved"

August 22nd - 10:00 pm  (108)
Episode 108
- Amala Dance and Music's "On The Beaded Fringe II: Traveling In Hip Circles"
- Claire Simonson's multi-media offering "The Origins of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind"

All the above episodes will also have repeated broadcasts on SPNN, the St. Paul Neighborhood Network (St. Paul cable access) throughout the months of July and August. That schedule is yet to be determined and once I have it, I’ll get it posted.

There are two additional episodes which will be seen exclusively on SPNN. They are:

Episode 109
- Chameleon Theatre Circle's "Death Penalty Puppetry"
- Protest Productions offering "Comedy Against Racism"

Episode 110
- It's About Time Theatre and their all-female take on the two person comedy, "Stones In His Pockets"
- Top Hat Theatre's performance by and for kids, "Peter Pan"

All six episodes may also be broadcast via streaming video (as they were last year) on the Minnesota Fringe Festival website. Details on that still pending.

"Cue To Cue" was launched last year with a six episode series spotlighting the wide variety of acts in the 2003 Minnesota Fringe Festival (speaking with representatives of 15 Head, Ministry of Cultural Warfare, Theatre Unbound, Hunter Marionettes, Theatre Gallery, VISTA Productions, Kabobenco, and individual artists Kevin Kling, Kirsten Frantzich, Josette Antomarchi and Tom Cassidy, as well as profiles of the Spoken Word Fringe and Visible Fringe).

Since then, we've talked to still more individual theater artists (director/choreographer Noah Bremer, musical theatre collaborators Gary Rue, Ann Schulman, Daniel Pinkerton and Chris Gennaula) as well as cross-section of established and up-and-coming theatre companies (Mixed Blood, Margolis Brown, Stepping Stone, Starting Gate, Mama Mosaic, Skewed Visions)

 

Theatre-going Recommendations - Twin Cities and beyond

OPENING THIS WEEK...

July 3rd & 4th, 2004
The Great American History Theatre presents a concert reading of “Grand Excursion - The Musical” - St. Paul, 1854, Gateway to the Wild, Wild West - the grand flotilla steamed up the Mississippi with a former president, his daughter and a boatload of celebrities to celebrate the opening of the West - 30th East 10th Street, St. Paul. Call 651-292-4323, and for more information on the History Theatre, visit www.historytheatre.com

Fridays and Saturdays, July 2nd-31st, 2004
Filthy Whore Productions remounts (pardon the pun) “3 Way” - one of the top-selling shows from the 2003 Minnesota Fringe Festival - at the Bryant Lake Bowl, 810 West Lake Street, Minneapolis. What happnes when three friends wake up together in bed after a night of drunken revelry? It’s a case of he said/he said...he said as Alex, Ethan and Matt attempt to sort out their stories and their socks. As you might expect, adult themes and brief nudity in this clever comedy. Call 612-825-8949 or check out www.bryantlakebowl.com and/or www.johntrones.com

NOW PLAYING...

thru July 3rd
Illusion Theater presents “Vanishing Point” by, among several others, my composer friend Rob Hartmann, with whom I collaborated on the musical “The Hopes and Fears of All the Years” (available for preview on this site in “Plays & Musicals”). I’ve seen the “Vanishing Point” several times during its development in recent years (it seems to have followed us around as we developed “Hopes and Fears...”) and highly recommend it, particularly since this go-round features a cast of truly amazing actresses - Beth Gilleland, Aimee K Bryant, and Patty Nieman - in the roles of Aimee Semple McPherson, Amelia Earhart and Agatha Christie respectively. The musical revolves around the concept that when these three famous women disappeared mysteriously - two of them only for a short time, one of them permanently - they all met up in a mysterious sort of limbo, and their lives were altered because of this encounter. An amusing brain teaser of a musical that features some great work by all concerned. I’d gladly go again just to see Patty Nieman reprising her turn as Agatha Christie. Wonderful stuff. Call 612-339-4944, and for more info on Illusion, visit www.illusiontheater.org

thru July 25th
Joking Apart Theatre presents the Twin Cities premiere of the Alan Ayckbourn’s trilogy, “The Norman Conquests,” at the Cedar Riverside People's Center, 425 - 20th Avenue South, Minneapolis. All three plays - "Table Manners," "Living Together," "Round and Round the Garden" - run in repertory (with a chance on July 24 for audiences to see all three plays in the same day). When Norman devises a dirty weekend in the country with his sister-in-law Annie, he doesn't count on the arrival of her brother Reg and another sister-in-law, Sarah, to put a stop to it. With the occasional interference from Tom, Annie's would-be boyfriend, and the unexpected appearance of Norman's own wife and Annie's sister, Ruth, the illicit rendezvous is cancelled, and they all try to make the best of a weekend together in the country. Each play dissects the disastrous weekend from a different angle, in a different part of the same house. Call 612-728-3839 for reservations, and to learn more visit www.

thru the end of July
A double bill of musicals from Gaydar Productions - Bed Boys and Beyond, & A My Name Is Alice - all male, all female - the new and the long-established - at the Loring Playhouse, 1633 Hennepin Avenue in Minneapolis. Call 612-604-4466 or go to www.UpTownTix.com for tickets and more information.

IN THE NOT TOO DISTANT FUTURE...

Thursdays through Sundays, July 8th-25th, 2004
Red Eye Collaboration presents “The Cult of Dorian Gray” - a multimedia performmance where dancers flaunt gravity, walk on walls and hurl briefcases with razor-sharp precision. They seduce, betray and tango their way to the top, creating a cynical circus that manages to turn moral bankruptcy into beautiful acrobatic art. Call 612-870-0309 or visit www.theredeye.org for reservations.

July 14-August 8, 2004
Park Square presents what the New York Times called the “best new American play of the year,” the Mae West-inpsired (and haunted) romantic comedy, “Dirty Blonde” - directed by the gifted Joel Sass and starring the also impressive talents of Jodi Kellogg as Mae West - Thursdays thru Sundays at Park Square, 408 St. Peter Street, St. Paul. Call 651-291-7005 and for more information on Park Square, visit www.parksquaretheatre.org

July 16-25, 2004
“Momentum: New Dance Works” presented at the Southern Theatre by the Southern and Walker Art Center - a showcase of the Twin Cities’ most promising choreographers - 1420 Washington Avenue South, Minneapolis. Call 612-340-1725 or see www.walkerart.org for more information.

July 22-25, 2004
The Playwrights’ Center’s annual PlayLabs new play development workshops have a number of notable names and collaborations in store. The highlights, to my eyes, are Vincent Delaney’s “Perpetua” on July 23rd (in collaboration with Commonweal Theatre Company) and Lee Blessing’s new play “A Body of Water” on July 24th, destined for the Guthrie Lab stage next year. I saw an earlier reading of “Perpetua” and was impressed by the way Vince spins words like poetry, all the while creating a series of complex relationships, rife with both conflict and humor. Great stuff. There are also collaborations afoot with The Children’s Theatre Company, Mixed Blood Theatre, and yet another Guthrie project. For tickets, call 612-332-7481, ext. 14, and for the full scoop on the festival visit www.pwcenter.org

July 24th thru October 3rd, 2004
The Great American History Theatre presents John B. Davidson’s musical tragedy, “The Last Minstrel Show” - On June 16th, 1920, three black men were lynched in the city of Duluth, Minnesota. This is their story - 30th East 10th Street, St. Paul. Call 651-292-4323, and for more information on the History Theatre, visit www.historytheatre.com

MARK YOUR CALENDARS...

The Minnesota Fringe Festival, August 6-15, 2004, 175+ shows in locations in and around downtown Minneapolis, including my own projects...

Dandelion Snow, at the Minneapolis Community and Technical College’s Whitney Mainstage space

Fast Fringe, at the Loring Playhouse

See other columns in this section for details, or follow the links from the front page of this site to full coverage on Dandelion Snow and Fast Fringe.

EVENTS IT’S GOING TO KILL ME TO MISS...

June 28, 2004
The Actors Center Benefit, honoring four great American acting teachers - among them two leaders from my days at the Yale School of Drama, Earle Gister and Lloyd Richards - at The Public Theatre on Lafayette Street in New York City. A veritable who’s who of the “Yale Mafia” will be in attendance, but sadly my budget doesn’t allow me to be one of them.

July 16-18, 2004
Indiana State University (ISU) Theatre Department is holding a reunion in Terre Haute, IN, to honor another of my former professors, self-proclaimed “dirty old man” Lew Hackleman, for whom I stage managed several plays in my undergrad days. He’s transitioning into a well-deserved retirement. Again, I wish I could be there to tease him in person, but being there in spirit will have to suffice.

 

Fringe 2004 - FAST FRINGE - the Fringe Festival's short play fest within a fest

First readthrough of all ten plays took place last week. Rehearsals begin in earnest after the 4th of July holiday. In the meantime, we’ve had a cast change (ah, Fringe). Elliot Eustis unfortunately had to bow out due to a summer job opportunity in New England that was just too tempting to pass up. Joining the cast in is place is Alex Needham. The talented (now veteran) cast members he will be working with are: Colleen Barrett, Dana Erin Horst, and Steven Meek

More pictures and samples of each of the ten plays (along with who has been cast as what) will be posted to this website shortly. In the meantime, here are the basics...

Fast Fringe 1: The Agony

Dead employees, suffocating mamas, G-Men, and breast pumps!  All this and more in just one hour!  Five plays by five authors! It's fast, Fast, FAST!

Exit Interview by Gigi Jensen
Manhandled by Mic Weinblatt
Paper Trail by Dominic Orlando
Das Ewig Weibliche by Tim Cope
Milk by Amanda Thompson

Fast Fringe 2: The Ecstasy

Virgins in limbo, killer daddies, malapropisms, and... your call is very important to us!  All this and more in just one hour!  Five plays by five authors! It's fast, Fast, FAST!

All About Words by Michelle Pett
Limbo Lounge by Betty Liedtke
Mud On A Little Girl’s Dress by Jason Connors
Infinite Justice by Mike Peroz
Your Call Is Very Important To Us by Roy Close

Fast Fringe 1 and Fast Fringe 2 will both be performed at the Loring Playhouse (1635 Hennepin Avenue, Minneapolis, MN).

Sunday, August 8, 2004
- 1pm, Fast Fringe 2
- 2:30pm, Fast Fringe 1

Monday, August 9, 2004
- 8:30pm, Fast Fringe 2

Tuesday, August 10, 2004
- 8:30pm, Fast Fringe 1

Wednesday, August 11, 2004
- 8:30pm, Fast Fringe 1
- 10pm, Fast Fringe 2

Friday, August 13, 2004
- 1pm, Fast Fringe 2
- 2:30pm, Fast Fringe 1

Saturday, August 14, 2004
- 2:30pm, Fast Fringe 2

Sunday, August 15, 2004
- 4pm, Fast Fringe 1

Tickets go on sale July 1st through Uptown Tix (www.uptowntix.com or 612-604-4466).

If you have any questions for us, contact us at fast@fringefestival.org.

(Or you can drop me a line through this website and I'll pass it on)

 

Fringe 2004 - DANDELION SNOW Rehearsal Update for cast

Per Brendan Perry, director/producer, Out On Stage Productions:

Rehearsals will be Monday through Thursday, each week in July, starting Monday July 5th.

Rehearsals will be held at the Minneapolis YWCA on the Nicollet Mall - 1100 Nicollet Ave, Minneapolis, MN - the corner of 12th Street and Nicollet Avenue (on the Nicollet Mall - walking only on Nicollet except for cabs and buses, cars can pass by on 11th or 12th streets one way)

Rehearsal times are 6:45pm to 8:45pm (they close the building at 9pm)

You will need a photo ID, for security purposes, to enter the building for rehearsal.

Brendan said he’d be sending out directions and a more detailed schedule of who is called for July 5th and beyond shortly, so watch your email boxes. When I receive the info, I’ll also post it here as a backup, in case you misplace your copy.

 

Fringe 2004 - FAST FRINGE Rehearsal Update for cast and playwrights

The director, Bryan Bevell, is currently out of town. What we do know is as follows:

First rehearsal is Monday, July 5th - 7pm - 10pm

We will be rehearsing the plays in Fast Fringe 1, which are:

Exit Interview by Gigi Jensen
Manhandled by Mic Weinblatt
Paper Trail by Dominic Orlando
Das Ewig Weibliche by Tim Cope
Milk by Amanda Thompson

Next rehearsal is Tuesday, July 6th, 7pm-10pm, which will be the plays of Fast Fringe 2:

All About Words by Michelle Pett
Limbo Lounge by Betty Liedtke
Mud On A Little Girl’s Dress by Jason Connors
Infinite Justice by Mike Peroz
Your Call Is Very Important To Us by Roy Close

The location of both these rehearsals is yet to be determined. We’ll update as soon as we know. We do know that it most likely be one of two locations:

The Traffic Zone - 250 North Third Avenue (just west of
Washington Avenue in Minneapolis)

or

The Calhoun Building at 711 West Lake Street, Minneapolis - near the corner of Lyndale and Lake (for those of you needing a theatre-related landmark, The Jungle is nearby, as is the Bryant Lake Bowl)

In general rehearsals will be:

Sundays - 4pm-7pm
Mondays - 7pm-10pm
Tuesdays - 7pm-10pm
Wednesdays - 7pm-10pm

More details when Bryan gets back to town, and we have the space locked down.

A reminder, Bryan will also be out of town July 15-19, so there will be no rehearsals on those dates.

For the curious, here's an unscientific listing of the run times from the readthrough (understand that, of course, we've had a cast change - we even had it in the middle of the readthrough, and we haven't begun working it on its feet yet, and doubtless everyone's watch says something different, but approximate timings do give us some idea of what we're working with.)

Fast Fringe 1

Exit Interview by Gigi Jensen - 7 minutes
Manhandled by Mic Weinblatt - 12 minutes
Paper Trail by Dominic Orlando - 7 minutes
Das Ewig Weibliche by Tim Cope - 8 minutes
Milk by Amanda Thompson - 13 minutes
Total - Fast Fringe 1 - 47 minutes

Fast Fringe 2

All About Words by Michelle Pett - 8 minutes
Limbo Lounge by Betty Liedtke - 8 minutes
Mud On A Little Girl’s Dress by Jason Connors - 8 minutes
Infinite Justice by Mike Peroz - 8 minutes
Your Call Is Very Important To Us by Roy Close - 10 minutes
Total - Fast Fringe 2 - 42 minutes

 

Notes from a Wandering Laptop

Week of June 27, 2004

My latest endeavours...

[drag dandelion snow pic here]

"CUE TO CUE" GOES TO THE FRINGE

The first Fringe 2004 episode of "Cue to Cue," the TV show I host covering theater in Minnesota, is scheduled for broadcast this coming Sunday...

July 4th at 9pm on TPT-17, St. Paul's public TV station, covering the greater Twin Cities area.

The guests are Leah Cooper - Executive Director of the Minnesota Fringe Festival, and Theatre Latte Da's Peter Rothstein and Jim Lichtsheidl, previewing their physical/musical/comedy hybrid "Knock!" For more on this, as well as information on content and broadcast times of other upcoming episodes, see the section "In My Humble Opinion" or click here.

MONOLOGUES AND SCENES FOR ACTORS, ACTRESSES, AND DIRECTORS

The centralized searchable database for all the scenes and monologues on the site is up and running!

Monologues for men. Monologues for women. Scenes for men. Scenes for women. Scenes for men and women together. It's all here for your perusal. Click on the "Monologue Search" or "Scene Search" functions in the menu at the left, or just click here.

DANDELION SNOW - MY FRINGE SHOW

Rehearsals are on a break until after the 4th of July holiday. New pictures have been added, with more to follow. Meanwhile, for the latest details, including cast, dates, times and location, click here. For some thoughts on our first readtrhough of the script, click here, and also see "Fringe 2004 Early Buzz - Honorable Mentions."

And if you're interested in a preview of some of what you'll be seeing at the Fringe, you can check out excerpts from the four parts of the cycle - Dandelion Snow, Across Their River, Extra Cheese, and Tools - in the Plays & Musicals section of this site.

SAMPLE SONGS...

from the Christmas musical, "The Hopes and Fears of All the Years"

Find them in the "Hopes and Fears..." section of the "Plays and Musicals" area of this site or just click here.

FAST FRINGE

First readthrough of all ten scripts took place last week. Rehearsals are on break until after the 4th of July holiday. For the latest details on this showcase of short plays for the 2004 Minnesota Fringe Festival, including dates, times, location and cast, click here, and also see "Fringe 2004 Early Buzz - Honorable Mentions."

LEAVE - A WORK IN PROGRESS

"Leave," the working title of the post 9/11 revisions of "The Surface of the World," is on display as it evolves. This first ten minute segement was part of the recent Bedlam Theatre Ten Minute Play Festival. Go to the "Scenes" section of "The Surface of the World" in "Plays & Musicals" under the quote link "I kill to protect you, I kill to come home. That’s how much I love you" or just click here.

THEATRE RECOMMENDATIONS FOR THE TWIN CITIES

The Twin Cities premiere of a comic trilogy running in repertory, and one last week for that musical that's been stalking me for the last two years, among other options for a night at the theater. For details, go to the section "In My Humble Opinion" or just click here.

FRINGE BLOGGING

My second year of blogging for the Minnesota Fringe Festival as one of The League of Extraordinary Fringers ("The Professor") has begun, and can be found in the section "In My Humble Opinion" until the official Fringe Festival website goes live this week on July 1. (Future entries will also be copied on this site on a daily basis.)

Check out Fringe Early Buzz, covering: the first of my picks for the Top Ten Shows sure to be on my Fringe-going schedule: Death Penalty Puppetry, plus notes on the latest from Outward Spiral Theatre Company, Ferrari McSpeedy, and Ari Hoptman - and take a look three Sure Things, and three shows I'm way too close to, plus "Minnesota Fringe Festival 2004 - A Love Story"

And if you're interested in a taste of Fringes past, check out my writings on Fringe 2003, dated July 13 through August 13, 2003.

INTERESTED IN PRODUCING ONE OF THESE PLAYS?

Please contact me.

Feel free to use the scenes and monologues for auditions or classes if you like (and drop me a note and let me know how it went).

So, take a look around and tell me what you think. I'm going to get back to work on those upgrades.

ON A PERSONAL NOTE...

Birthday wishes to my good friend and former Yale roommate Anthony, one of the most brilliant and deeply funny people I know.

Also, all my gratitude and good wishes to everyone involved in the wedding celebration for my friends Jeremy and Miriam this past weekend, including the happy couple themselves. It was a warmly quirky and communal event, both very funny and deeply moving at the same time - hands down the best wedding I've ever attended. I'll be writing some more on that to share with you shortly.

Thanks for stopping by.

SIDE BARS

For a closer look one of my scripts - click on the picture or quote above.

FAST FRINGE Rehearsal Update for cast and playwrights - click here or go to "In My Humble Opinion" section

For a closer look at one of my scripts - click on the picture or quote above.

DANDELION SNOW Rehearsal Update for cast - click here or go to "In My Humble Opinion" section

 

Fringe 2004 - FAST FRINGE rehearsal time, place, content updates for cast and playwrights

LOCATION

Monday's rehearsal -- and all subsequent rehearsals through the end of July at least -- will be at  the Calhoun Building, 711 West Lake Street in Minneapolis, just west of Lyndale on the  south side of the street.

We will be in the former Minnesota  Photography Center (a.k.a. pARTS Gallery) space on the first floor --  enter directly from the street.

Monday's rehearsal begins at 7pm.

NEED FOR CHAIRS

Please note: there are not likely to be any chairs there. Roy Close will bring six folding chairs, enough for the director, actors, and whichever  Spanish Lady offers him the biggest bribe.

If you have folding chairs  and can get them there, please bring them.

CONTENT

First rehearsal is Monday, July 5th - 7pm - 10pm

We will be rehearsing the plays in Fast Fringe 1, which are:

Exit Interview by Gigi Jensen
Manhandled by Mic Weinblatt
Paper Trail by Dominic Orlando
Das Ewig Weibliche by Tim Cope
Milk by Amanda Thompson

Next rehearsal is Tuesday, July 6th, 7pm-10pm, which will be the plays of Fast Fringe 2:

All About Words by Michelle Pett
Limbo Lounge by Betty Liedtke
Mud On A Little Girl’s Dress by Jason Connors
Infinite Justice by Mike Peroz
Your Call Is Very Important To Us by Roy Close

REHEARSAL DAYS AND TIMES

In general rehearsals will be:

Sundays - 4pm-7pm
Mondays - 7pm-10pm
Tuesdays - 7pm-10pm
Wednesdays - 7pm-10pm

 

CUE TO CUE - a TV show covering theatre in Minnesota

The second of four “Cue to Cue” episodes to be broadcast on

TPT-17, St. Paul’s public TV station,

serving the greater Twin Cities area, will be this

Sunday, July 11th - 9:00 pm

Our spotlight on this year’s Fringe Festival continues in Episode 106 with performances from and conversations with:

- Calibanco Theatre re-imagining a classic text with "Feeling Faust"
and
- Ferrari McSpeedy with the conclusion of their wacky but beloved thrillogy, "Punk Rock Awesome"

I’ve seen a preview tape of the episode and it’s a lot of fun.

The above episode plus:

Episode 105:
- Leah Cooper, Executive Director of the Minnesota Fringe Festival
- Theatre Latte Da, with Artistic Director Peter Rothstein, and a preview of performer/creator Jim Lichtscheidl's new physical/musical/comedy hybrid, "Knock!"

which was just broadcast this past Sunday, July 4th on TPT

will be broadcast in rotation beginning this week on SPNN, the St. Paul Neighborhood Network, Channel 19, as follows:

Monday and Tuesday, July 5th and 6th at 6:30pm
Episode 105

Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, July 7th, 8th and 9th at 6:30pm
Episode 106

Saturday and Sunday, July 10th and 11th
this time at 9:30pm
Episode 105

It’s likely that the following week will begin with re-broadcasts of Episode 106, but two more episodes are currently being edited and may get put in the mix next week as well. Once I know more about the official SPNN schedule, I’ll post it.

Meanwhile, two more future TPT-17 broadcasts are as follows:

August 1 - 10:00 pm
Episode 107
- Fast Fringe - the Festival's two part short play showcase
- Janelle Ranek and her one woman show "Scrawl: 2nd Draft Still Not Approved"

August 22nd - 10:00 pm  (108)
Episode 108
- Amala Dance and Music's "On The Beaded Fringe II: Traveling In Hip Circles"
- Claire Simonson's multi-media offering "The Origins of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind"

There are two additional episodes which will be seen exclusively on SPNN. They are:

Episode 109
- Chameleon Theatre Circle's "Death Penalty Puppetry"
- Protest Productions offering "Comedy Against Racism"

Episode 110
- It's About Time Theatre and their all-female take on the two person comedy, "Stones In His Pockets"
- Top Hat Theatre's performance by and for kids, "Peter Pan"

All six episodes may also be broadcast via streaming video (as they were last year) on the Minnesota Fringe Festival website. Details on that still pending.

"Cue To Cue" was launched last year with a six episode series spotlighting the wide variety of acts in the 2003 Minnesota Fringe Festival (speaking with representatives of 15 Head, Ministry of Cultural Warfare, Theatre Unbound, Hunter Marionettes, Theatre Gallery, VISTA Productions, Kabobenco, and individual artists Kevin Kling, Kirsten Frantzich, Josette Antomarchi and Tom Cassidy, as well as profiles of the Spoken Word Fringe and Visible Fringe).

Since then, we've talked to still more individual theater artists (director/choreographer Noah Bremer, musical theatre collaborators Gary Rue, Ann Schulman, Daniel Pinkerton and Chris Gennaula) as well as cross-section of established and up-and-coming theatre companies (Mixed Blood, Margolis Brown, Stepping Stone, Starting Gate, Mama Mosaic, Skewed Visions)

 

Fringe 2004 - DANDELION SNOW - The Basics on my Fringe show, August 6-15, 2004

With the 4th of July behind us, and the August 6th opening of the Fringe Festival not all that far away, we begin regular rehearsals this week.

We had an unexpected cast change. Adeola Ogunwole got transferred by her job down to Atlanta, and so isn’t able to be in the production anymore. Taking her place is Laura Weibers, an actress who’s a great friend of new works. She’s performed in a number of plays by other friends of mine, but this is the first time we’ll be working together on one of my scripts. I’m looking forward to it.

Cast headshots, Fringe Festival and Cue to Cue TV logos have been added to the photo galleries, along with our official publicity pictures. Still a few more to be added in the days ahead.

Here are the basics about time, place and cast, so you can plan to join us, and help spread the word.

"Oh, the pizza boy adds extra sausage,
And big tools are manly,
But when love burns like a schoolhouse on fire,
Three men come to grips with a certain, fated love."

(our official publicity blurb, courtesy of our producer/director, Brendan Perry)

The cast of "Dandelion Snow" is as follows:

Ash - William T. Leaf

Dana (Ash's oldest friend and former lover) - David Schlosser

Julian (Dana's husband) - Christopher O. Kidder

Aidan (pizza boy and potential boyfriend to Ash) - Grant Henderson

Abigail (Ash's mother) - Carol Vnuk

Grace (Dana's sister) - Renee Karen Werbowski

Claire (Aidan's co-worker) - Laura Weibers

The story:
When Dana and Ash, two high school sweethearts now in their thirties, meet again in the ruins of their old elementary school, the undertow of old emotional ties threatens to undo their current relationships with others. Will Dana be able to resolve his conflicts with his lover Julian over the long-distance relationship into which their connection is evolving? Will Ash find love with Aidan the pizza boy? Will Dana and Ash find their way back to each other? Should they?

The "Dandelion Snow" cycle of short plays will be on display at the Minnesota Fringe Festival in Minneapolis this year, thanks to Out On Stage Productions and producer/director Brendan Perry.

Excerpts from all four parts of the romantic misadventures of nearly reunited lovers Ash and Dana:

Dandelion Snow

Across Their River

Extra Cheese

Tools

are all available for viewing in the "Short Plays" section of the "Plays & Musicals" portion of this site - just click over in the left hand column.

And more details on this evolving production opportunity are chronicled in the column "Fringe Early Buzz - Honorable Mentions" also in this section.

First readthrough of the script was three weeks ago (for my thoughts on that, see Dandelion Snow - The Readthrough, also in this section)

"Dandelion Snow" will be performed on the Whitney Mainstage at Minneapolis Community and Technical College (1424 Yale Place, Minneapolis, Minnesota) - which is enormous, so please come and bring a few dozen of your friends and family along with you.

The dates and times are:

Saturday August 7, 2004 - 8:30pm

Wednesday August 11, 2004 - 2:30pm

Thursday August 12, 2004 - 5:30pm

Friday August 13, 2004 - 8:30pm

Saturday August 14, 2004 - 4pm

Tickets go on sale July 1st through Uptown Tix (www.uptowntix.com or 612-604-4466).

Hope to see you there.

 

Fringe 2004 - FAST FRINGE - the Fringe Festival's short play fest within a fest

New this week, a section on “Plays & Musicals” devoted to excerpts and photos from the 10 scripts making up the Fast Fringe. Browse around and see a sampling of the variety of what’s coming to the Loring Stage next month.

With the 4th of July behind us and the August 6th opening night of the Fringe Festival not all that far away, rehearsals with the newly configured cast - Colleen Barrett, Dana Erin Horst, Steven Meek and Alex Needham - playing the 26 roles across 10 plays - have begun.

The official publicity photos, plus headshots, Fringe Festival and Cue to Cue TV logos, have all been added to the photo galleries, with a few more things still to be added.

Here are the basics on the production itself...

Fast Fringe 1: The Agony

Dead employees, suffocating mamas, G-Men, and breast pumps!  All this and more in just one hour!  Five plays by five authors! It's fast, Fast, FAST!

Exit Interview by Gigi Jensen
Manhandled by Mic Weinblatt
Paper Trail by Dominic Orlando
Das Ewig Weibliche by Tim Cope
Milk by Amanda Thompson

Fast Fringe 2: The Ecstasy

Virgins in limbo, killer daddies, malapropisms, and... your call is very important to us!  All this and more in just one hour!  Five plays by five authors! It's fast, Fast, FAST!

All About Words by Michelle Pett
Limbo Lounge by Betty Liedtke
Mud On A Little Girl’s Dress by Jason Connors
Infinite Justice by Mike Peroz
Your Call Is Very Important To Us by Roy Close

Fast Fringe 1 and Fast Fringe 2 will both be performed at the Loring Playhouse (1635 Hennepin Avenue, Minneapolis, MN).

Sunday, August 8, 2004
- 1pm, Fast Fringe 2
- 2:30pm, Fast Fringe 1

Monday, August 9, 2004
- 8:30pm, Fast Fringe 2

Tuesday, August 10, 2004
- 8:30pm, Fast Fringe 1

Wednesday, August 11, 2004
- 8:30pm, Fast Fringe 1
- 10pm, Fast Fringe 2

Friday, August 13, 2004
- 1pm, Fast Fringe 2
- 2:30pm, Fast Fringe 1

Saturday, August 14, 2004
- 2:30pm, Fast Fringe 2

Sunday, August 15, 2004
- 4pm, Fast Fringe 1

Tickets go on sale July 1st through Uptown Tix (www.uptowntix.com or 612-604-4466).

If you have any questions for us, contact us at fast@fringefestival.org.

(Or you can drop me a line through this website and I'll pass it on)

 

Theatre-going Recommendations - Twin Cities and beyond

OPENING THIS WEEK...

Thursdays through Sundays, July 8th-25th, 2004
Red Eye Collaboration presents “The Cult of Dorian Gray” - a multimedia performmance where dancers flaunt gravity, walk on walls and hurl briefcases with razor-sharp precision. They seduce, betray and tango their way to the top, creating a cynical circus that manages to turn moral bankruptcy into beautiful acrobatic art. Call 612-870-0309 or visit www.theredeye.org for reservations.

NOW PLAYING...

thru July 25th
Joking Apart Theatre presents the Twin Cities premiere of the Alan Ayckbourn’s trilogy, “The Norman Conquests,” at the Cedar Riverside People's Center, 425 - 20th Avenue South, Minneapolis. All three plays - "Table Manners," "Living Together," "Round and Round the Garden" - run in repertory (with a chance on July 24 for audiences to see all three plays in the same day). When Norman devises a dirty weekend in the country with his sister-in-law Annie, he doesn't count on the arrival of her brother Reg and another sister-in-law, Sarah, to put a stop to it. With the occasional interference from Tom, Annie's would-be boyfriend, and the unexpected appearance of Norman's own wife and Annie's sister, Ruth, the illicit rendezvous is cancelled, and they all try to make the best of a weekend together in the country. Each play dissects the disastrous weekend from a different angle, in a different part of the same house. Call 612-728-3839 for reservations, and to learn more visit www.

Fridays and Saturdays thru July 31st, 2004
Filthy Whore Productions remounts (pardon the pun) “3 Way” - one of the top-selling shows from the 2003 Minnesota Fringe Festival - at the Bryant Lake Bowl, 810 West Lake Street, Minneapolis. What happnes when three friends wake up together in bed after a night of drunken revelry? It’s a case of he said/he said...he said as Alex, Ethan and Matt attempt to sort out their stories and their socks. As you might expect, adult themes and brief nudity in this clever comedy. Call 612-825-8949 or check out www.bryantlakebowl.com and/or www.johntrones.com

thru the end of July
A double bill of musicals from Gaydar Productions - Bed Boys and Beyond, & A My Name Is Alice - all male, all female - the new and the long-established - at the Loring Playhouse, 1633 Hennepin Avenue in Minneapolis. Call 612-604-4466 or go to www.UpTownTix.com for tickets and more information.

IN THE NOT TOO DISTANT FUTURE...

July 14-August 8, 2004
Park Square presents what the New York Times called the “best new American play of the year,” the Mae West-inpsired (and haunted) romantic comedy, “Dirty Blonde” - directed by the gifted Joel Sass and starring the also impressive talents of Jodi Kellogg as Mae West - Thursdays thru Sundays at Park Square, 408 St. Peter Street, St. Paul. Call 651-291-7005 and for more information on Park Square, visit www.parksquaretheatre.org

July 9-August 1, 2004
SteppingStone Theatre presents a musical adaptation of the popular children’s book, “The Stinky Cheese Man,” adapted by local theatre luminaries Kent Stephens and Gary Rue. Performances are at the F.K. Weyerhaeuser Auditorium at the Landmark Center in downtown St. Paul, Minnesota (75 West 5th Street). For tickets, call 651-225-9265, and for more information visit www.steppingstonetheatre.org

July 15-August 1, 2004
Illusion Theatre’s Fresh Ink is back...
July 15-18 - Promise Ring by Doug Collins. I’m a big fan of Doug’s work - it’s both hilarious and heartbreaking all at the same time. He’s a truly gifted writer.
July 22-25 - Pieces of Eight, from the Sossy Mechanics who brought their popular Trick Boxing show to a past Minnesota Fringe Festival
July 19-August 1 - Whatever Happened to Alice James? directed by Ellen Fenster (who once directed one of my recent Chicago Avenue Project scripts for Pillsbury House Theatre, entitled “Dr. Worm” - available for viewing on this site in the “Plays for Young Actors” category.)
Call 612-339-4944, and for more info on Illusion, visit www.illusiontheater.org

July 16-25, 2004
“Momentum: New Dance Works” presented at the Southern Theatre by the Southern and Walker Art Center - a showcase of the Twin Cities’ most promising choreographers - 1420 Washington Avenue South, Minneapolis. Call 612-340-1725 or see www.walkerart.org for more information.

July 16-August 28, 2004
Jungle Theater presents Tony Award-winning playwright Richard Greenberg’s play, “The Dazzle,” about two eccentric brothers living in an East Harlem mansion barricaded behind 136 tons of junk (which sounds depressingly like the disarray of my apartment, but without the grandeur of space to spread out in). On the corner of Lake Street and Lyndale Avenue in Minneapolis (2951 Lyndale Avenue South, to be exact). Call 612-822-7063 and learn more about the Jungle at www.jungletheater.com

July 22-25, 2004
The Playwrights’ Center’s annual PlayLabs new play development workshops have a number of notable names and collaborations in store. The highlights, to my eyes, are Vincent Delaney’s “Perpetua” on July 23rd (in collaboration with Commonweal Theatre Company) and Lee Blessing’s new play “A Body of Water” on July 24th, destined for the Guthrie Lab stage next year. I saw an earlier reading of “Perpetua” and was impressed by the way Vince spins words like poetry, all the while creating a series of complex relationships, rife with both conflict and humor. Great stuff. There are also collaborations afoot with The Children’s Theatre Company, Mixed Blood Theatre, and yet another Guthrie project. For tickets, call 612-332-7481, ext. 14, and for the full scoop on the festival visit www.pwcenter.org

July 24, 2004
A benefit for Ragamala Music and Dance Theatre - over the last 12 years, Ragamala has presented more than 100 original works rooted in Bharatanatyam, a classical style from southern India. They blend dance, music and poetry, collaborating with renowned local, national and international choreographers, composers and musicians of diverse cultural and artistic backgrounds. Their Soiree Madras will be at Grande Salle, Alliance Francaise, 113 North First Street in the Warehouse District of Minneapolis, MN. An Indian buffet dinner, live music from Twin Cities jazz artist Charmin Michelle, and a silent auction. Call 612-824-1968 and for more information visit www.ragamala.net

July 24th thru October 3rd, 2004
The Great American History Theatre presents John B. Davidson’s musical tragedy, “The Last Minstrel Show” - On June 16th, 1920, three black men were lynched in the city of Duluth, Minnesota. This is their story - 30th East 10th Street, St. Paul. Call 651-292-4323, and for more information on the History Theatre, visit www.historytheatre.com

MARK YOUR CALENDARS...

The Minnesota Fringe Festival, August 6-15, 2004, 175+ shows in locations in and around downtown Minneapolis, including my own projects...

Dandelion Snow, at the Minneapolis Community and Technical College’s Whitney Mainstage space

Fast Fringe, at the Loring Playhouse

See other columns in this section for details, or follow the links from the front page of this site to full coverage on Dandelion Snow and Fast Fringe.

ONE MORE EVENT IT’S GOING TO KILL ME TO MISS...

July 16-18, 2004
Indiana State University (ISU) Theatre Department is holding a reunion in Terre Haute, IN, to honor another of my former professors, self-proclaimed “dirty old man” Lew Hackleman, for whom I stage managed several plays in my undergrad days. He’s transitioning into a well-deserved retirement. Again, I wish I could be there to tease him in person, but being there in spirit will have to suffice.

 

Fringe 2004 - DANDELION SNOW Rehearsal Update for cast

From Brendan Perry, director/producer, Out On Stage Productions:

The rehearsal times are from 6:45pm to 9pm at the downtown YWCA. The address is:

Downtown YWCA
1130 Nicollet Mall
Minneapolis, MN 55403
612/332-0501

That is on the corner of 12th and Nicollet. I will
have passes (or something) for you at the front desk.

There is onsite parking for a dollar, or free metered
parking nearby.

Next, I am going to try to arrange for space for some more
rehearsal time on Saturdays, which I need to secure,
and am waiting to hear back about.

Monday, July 5th
- Part 3 (Extra Cheese)
- Ash, Dana, Aidan, Abigail, Grace, Claire

Tuesday, July 6th
- Part 2 (Across Their River)
- Ash, Dana, Julian

Wednesday, July 7th
- Part 4 (Tools)
- Ash, Dana, Aidan, Julian

Thursday, July 8th
- Part 1 (Dandelion Snow)
- Ash, Dana

Monday, July 12th
- Part 4 (Tools)
- Ash, Dana, Aidan, Julian

Tuesday, July 13th
- Part 3 (Extra Cheese)
- Ash, Dana, Aidan, Abigail, Grace, Claire

Wednesday, July 14th
- Part 3 (Extra Cheese)
- Ash, Dana, Aidan, Abigail, Grace, Claire

Thursday, July 15th
- Part 1 (Dandelion Snow)
- Ash, Dana
and
- Part 2 (Across Their River)
- Ash, Dana, Julian

Monday, July 19th
- Part 4 (Tools)
- Ash, Dana, Aidan, Julian

Tuesday, July 20th
- Part 3 (Extra Cheese)
- Ash, Dana, Aidan, Abigail, Grace, Claire

Wednesday, July 21st
- Part 3 (Extra Cheese)
- Ash, Dana, Aidan, Abigail, Grace, Claire

Thursday, July 22nd
- Part 1 (Dandelion Snow)
- Ash, Dana
and
- Part 2 (Across Their River)
- Ash, Dana, Julian

Monday, July 26th
- Part 3 (Extra Cheese)
- Ash, Dana, Aidan, Abigail, Grace, Claire
and
- Part 4 (Tools)
- Ash, Dana, Aidan, Julian

Tuesday, July 27th
- Part 1 (Dandelion Snow)
- Ash, Dana
and
- Part 2 (Across Their River)
- Ash, Dana, Julian

Wednesday, July 28th
All Called, running Parts 1-4

Thursday, July 29th
All Called, running Parts1-4

As opening approaches, we have one rehearsal in the space, the Whitney Mainstage at Minneapolis Community and Technical College (1424 Yale Place, Minneapolis)
TECH REHEARSAL Monday, August 2nd from 6-9pm

I've numbered the days with the parts of the play, that we will be working on. I want to work with you solo, in pairs, and groups. As you will notice, I am heavy on Part 3 (Extra Cheese), which is the longest part, and the most complicated.

 

Fringe 2004 - FAST FRINGE Rehearsal Update for cast and playwrights

LOCATION

Monday's rehearsal -- and all subsequent rehearsals through the end of July at least -- will be at  the Calhoun Building, 711 West Lake Street in Minneapolis, just west of Lyndale on the  south side of the street.

We will be in the former Minnesota  Photography Center (a.k.a. pARTS Gallery) space on the first floor --  enter directly from the street.

Monday's rehearsal begins at 7pm.

NEED FOR CHAIRS

Please note: there are not likely to be any chairs there. Roy Close will bring six folding chairs, enough for the director, actors, and whichever  Spanish Lady offers him the biggest bribe.

If you have folding chairs  and can get them there, please bring them.

CONTENT

First rehearsal is Monday, July 5th - 7pm - 10pm

We will be rehearsing the plays in Fast Fringe 1, which are:

Exit Interview by Gigi Jensen
Manhandled by Mic Weinblatt
Paper Trail by Dominic Orlando
Das Ewig Weibliche by Tim Cope
Milk by Amanda Thompson

Next rehearsal is Tuesday, July 6th, 7pm-10pm, which will be the plays of Fast Fringe 2:

All About Words by Michelle Pett
Limbo Lounge by Betty Liedtke
Mud On A Little Girl’s Dress by Jason Connors
Infinite Justice by Mike Peroz
Your Call Is Very Important To Us by Roy Close

TECH REHEARSALS - Mark your calendars!

We have a two back to back Tech Rehearsal slots, one for Fast Fringe 1, the other for Fast Fringe 2, which is great because it gives us a lot of flexibility - due to the fact that we have the same cast and director for both slots.

We have the option of doing each block individually:
- first hours to set cues
- second hour to run through the show going just cue to cue
- third hour to do an actual run through of the show

Or perhaps tech the whole thing (both Fast Fringe 1 and 2) in the first block of time, and then run and maybe even rehearse in the space in the second block.

That, of course, is up to the director to make a final decision on, in conjunction with the technical staff and cast, as to what will benefit everyone and the shows best. We’ll keep you posted as that gets finalized.

Right now, here’s the schedule and who’s assigned to what:

Wednesday, August 4th
2pm-5pm Fast Fringe 1 Tech
6pm-9pm Fast Fringe 2 Tech

Both techs take place at the Loring Playhouse (1635 Hennepin Avenue, Minneapolis)

REHEARSAL DAYS AND TIMES

In general rehearsals will be:

Sundays - 4pm-7pm
Mondays - 7pm-10pm
Tuesdays - 7pm-10pm
Wednesdays - 7pm-10pm

 

Notes from a Wandering Laptop

Week of July 4, 2004

My latest endeavours...

"CUE TO CUE" GOES TO THE FRINGE

The second Fringe 2004 episode of "Cue to Cue," the TV show I host covering theater in Minnesota, is scheduled for broadcast this coming Sunday...

July 11th at 9pm on TPT-17, St. Paul's public TV station, covering the greater Twin Cities area.

The guests are Calibanco Theatre and Ferrari McSpeedy. For more on this, as well as information on content and broadcast times of other upcoming episodes, see the section "In My Humble Opinion" or click here.

FAST FRINGE

An expanded section on Fast Fringe - featuring photos and excerpts from all ten of the plays - is now on display in the "Short Plays" listing of the "Plays & Musicals" section of this site. Want a short cut? Click here. Rehearsals are well under way. For the latest details on this showcase of short plays for the 2004 Minnesota Fringe Festival, including dates, times, location and cast, click here, and also see "Fringe 2004 Early Buzz - Honorable Mentions."

DANDELION SNOW - MY FRINGE SHOW

Rehearsals are on a break until after the 4th of July holiday. New pictures have been added, with more to follow. Meanwhile, for the latest details, including cast, dates, times and location, click here. For some thoughts on our first readtrhough of the script, click here, and also see "Fringe 2004 Early Buzz - Honorable Mentions."

And if you're interested in a preview of some of what you'll be seeing at the Fringe, you can check out excerpts from the four parts of the cycle - Dandelion Snow, Across Their River, Extra Cheese, and Tools - in the Plays & Musicals section of this site.

MONOLOGUES AND SCENES FOR ACTORS, ACTRESSES, AND DIRECTORS

The centralized searchable database for all the scenes and monologues on the site is up and running!

Monologues for men. Monologues for women. Scenes for men. Scenes for women. Scenes for men and women together. It's all here for your perusal. Click on the "Monologue Search" or "Scene Search" functions in the menu at the left, or just click here.

SAMPLE SONGS...

from the Christmas musical, "The Hopes and Fears of All the Years"

Find them in the "Hopes and Fears..." section of the "Plays and Musicals" area of this site or just click here.

THEATRE RECOMMENDATIONS FOR THE TWIN CITIES

Dance, comedy, Fresh Ink, it's all here. For details, go to the section "In My Humble Opinion" or just click here.

FRINGE BLOGGING

The Fringe website is live but the blogs are yet to come. For now, check out the beginnings of my second year of blogging for the Minnesota Fringe Festival as one of The League of Extraordinary Fringers ("The Professor") here, in the section "In My Humble Opinion." (Future entries for the Fringe site will also be copied to this site on a daily basis.)

Check out Fringe Early Buzz, covering: the first of my picks for the Top Ten Shows sure to be on my Fringe-going schedule: Death Penalty Puppetry, plus notes on the latest from Outward Spiral Theatre Company, Ferrari McSpeedy, and Ari Hoptman - and take a look three Sure Things, and three shows I'm way too close to, plus "Minnesota Fringe Festival 2004 - A Love Story"

And if you're interested in a taste of Fringes past, check out my writings on Fringe 2003, dated July 13 through August 13, 2003.

INTERESTED IN PRODUCING ONE OF THESE PLAYS?

Please contact me.

Feel free to use the scenes and monologues for auditions or classes if you like (and drop me a note and let me know how it went).

So, take a look around and tell me what you think. I'm going to get back to work on those upgrades.

ON A PERSONAL NOTE...

Birthday wishes to my friend and inspiration Glenn (web designer, singer/songwriter, and just all around decent human being).

Thanks for stopping by.

 

Fringe 2004 - FAST FRINGE - a rehearsal update for actors and playwrights

Due to the availability of actors and Bryan's wish to keep actors from having to sit around too much, the rehearsal schedule is already evolving.

Bryan decided pretty early on that each play needed an hour at the start.

Last night we got through Exit Interview, Manhandled, and Das Ewig, a.k.a. the German Play.

Here is the tentative order of the next two rehearsals:

Tonight (Tuesday, 7/6):
7pm -- Words
8pm -- Limbo Lounge
9pm -- Paper Trail

Wednesday (7/7):
7pm -- Your Call
8pm -- Mud
9pm -- Milk

Because it requires only one actor, Infinite Justice will have its first rehearsal outside the regular schedule.

Reminder to all: Rehearsals are in the Minnesota Photography Center space, which is to the left of the lobby as you enter the building. However, do
not use the main entrance; the space has its own entrance from the street, and that's the one we have keys for.

Playwrights are welcome to attend, but should be prepared to sit on the floor unless they bring their own chair or cushion.

There is ample on-street parking on Lake Street within a block or two of the Calhoun Building (711 W. Lake Street, just west of Lyndale).

TECH REHEARSALS - Mark your calendars!

We have a two back to back Tech Rehearsal slots, one for Fast Fringe 1, the other for Fast Fringe 2, which is great because it gives us a lot of flexibility - due to the fact that we have the same cast and director for both slots.

We have the option of doing each block individually:
- first hours to set cues
- second hour to run through the show going just cue to cue
- third hour to do an actual run through of the show

Or perhaps tech the whole thing (both Fast Fringe 1 and 2) in the first block of time, and then run and maybe even rehearse in the space in the second block.

That, of course, is up to the director to make a final decision on, in conjunction with the technical staff and cast, as to what will benefit everyone and the shows best. We’ll keep you posted as that gets finalized.

Right now, here’s the schedule and who’s assigned to what:

Wednesday, August 4th
2pm-5pm Fast Fringe 1 Tech
6pm-9pm Fast Fringe 2 Tech

Both techs take place at the Loring Playhouse (1635 Hennepin Avenue, Minneapolis)

REHEARSAL DAYS AND TIMES

In general rehearsals will be:

Sundays - 4pm-7pm
Mondays - 7pm-10pm
Tuesdays - 7pm-10pm
Wednesdays - 7pm-10pm

 

Fringe 2004 - FAST FRINGE Rehearsal Update for Actors and Playwrights

Sorry for the late notice. Bryan needed to confirm a change in time for rehearsal with the actors and only recently wrapped that up.

Here's what we know of the upcoming week's rehearsals:

Sunday, July 11th will be 6pm-9pm
(NOT 4-7pm as in previous weeks)

6pm - Milk
6:45ish - Infinite Justice

Monday, July 12th - 7-10pm
7pm - Exit Interview
8pm - Your Call...
9pm - Mud...

Tuesday, July 13th - 7-10pm
7pm - All About Words
8pm - Das Ewig Weibliche
9pm - Manhandled

Wednesday, July 14th - 7-10pm
7pm - Limbo Lounge
8:30ish - Paper Trail

Reminder to all: Rehearsals are in the Minnesota Photography Center space, which is to the left of the lobby as you enter the building. However, do
not use the main entrance; the space has its own entrance from the street, and that's the one we have keys for.

Playwrights are welcome to attend, but should be prepared to sit on the floor unless they bring their own chair or cushion.

There is ample on-street parking on Lake Street within a block or two of the Calhoun Building (711 W. Lake Street, just west of Lyndale).

REMINDER - DIRECTOR OUT OF TOWN JULY 15-19

Consequently there will be no rehearsal on Sunday, July 18th or Monday, July 19th. We should have an idea what Tuesday and Wednesday the 20th and 21st look like before Bryan leaves on Thursday. We'll post as soon as we know.

TECH REHEARSALS - Mark your calendars!

We have a two back to back Tech Rehearsal slots, one for Fast Fringe 1, the other for Fast Fringe 2, which is great because it gives us a lot of flexibility - due to the fact that we have the same cast and director for both slots.

We have the option of doing each block individually:
- first hours to set cues
- second hour to run through the show going just cue to cue
- third hour to do an actual run through of the show

Or perhaps tech the whole thing (both Fast Fringe 1 and 2) in the first block of time, and then run and maybe even rehearse in the space in the second block.

That, of course, is up to the director to make a final decision on, in conjunction with the technical staff and cast, as to what will benefit everyone and the shows best. We’ll keep you posted as that gets finalized.

Right now, here’s the schedule and who’s assigned to what:

Wednesday, August 4th
2pm-5pm Fast Fringe 1 Tech
6pm-9pm Fast Fringe 2 Tech

Both techs take place at the Loring Playhouse (1635 Hennepin Avenue, Minneapolis)

REHEARSAL DAYS AND TIMES MAY BE SHIFTING

In the past, rehearsals have been:
Sundays - 4pm-7pm
Mondays - 7pm-10pm
Tuesdays - 7pm-10pm
Wednesdays - 7pm-10pm

However due to conflicts, things may be shifting to an elimination of Mondays, compensating with longer rehearsals on Sunday (perhaps a 5 hour block of time). Tuesday and Wednesday evenings would remain the same. Once Bryan has had a chance to work through a tentative rehearsal schedule for the coming weeks with the cast, he'll let me know and we'll post an update.

 

CUE TO CUE - A TV show covering Theatre in Minnesota

The second of four “Cue to Cue” episodes to be broadcast on

TPT-17, St. Paul’s public TV station,

serving the greater Twin Cities area, will be this

Sunday, July 11th - 9:00 pm

Our spotlight on this year’s Fringe Festival continues in Episode 106 with performances from and conversations with:

- Calibanco Theatre re-imagining a classic text with "Feeling Faust"
and
- Ferrari McSpeedy with the conclusion of their wacky but beloved thrillogy, "Punk Rock Awesome"

I’ve seen a preview tape of the episode and it’s a lot of fun.

The above episode plus:

Episode 105:
- Leah Cooper, Executive Director of the Minnesota Fringe Festival
- Theatre Latte Da, with Artistic Director Peter Rothstein, and a preview of performer/creator Jim Lichtscheidl's new physical/musical/comedy hybrid, "Knock!"

which was just broadcast on Sunday, July 4th on TPT

will be broadcast in rotation beginning this week on SPNN, the St. Paul Neighborhood Network, Channel 19, as follows:

Monday and Tuesday, July 5th and 6th at 6:30pm
Episode 105

Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, July 7th, 8th and 9th at 6:30pm
Episode 106

Saturday and Sunday, July 10th and 11th
this time at 9:30pm
Episode 105

Monday and Tuesday, July 12th and 13th
back to 6:30pm

then a new episode!
Episode 107
- Fast Fringe - the Festival's two part short play showcase
- Janelle Ranek and her one woman show "Scrawl: 2nd Draft Still Not Approved"

Wednesday, Thursday, Friday - July 14, 15 & 16, 2004
at 6:30pm
Episode 107

Further scheduling is still being firmed up (and three more episodes are currently being edited). Once I receive more of the official SPNN schedule, I'll be sure to post it.

Meanwhile, two more future TPT-17 broadcasts are as follows:

August 1 - 10:00 pm
Episode 107
- Fast Fringe - the Festival's two part short play showcase
- Janelle Ranek and her one woman show "Scrawl: 2nd Draft Still Not Approved"

August 22nd - 10:00 pm  (108)
Episode 108
- Amala Dance and Music's "On The Beaded Fringe II: Traveling In Hip Circles"
- Claire Simonson's multi-media offering "The Origins of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind"

There are two additional episodes which will be seen exclusively on SPNN. They are:

Episode 109
- Chameleon Theatre Circle's "Death Penalty Puppetry"
- Protest Productions offering "Comedy Against Racism"

Episode 110
- It's About Time Theatre and their all-female take on the two person comedy, "Stones In His Pockets"
- Top Hat Theatre's performance by and for kids, "Peter Pan"

All six episodes may also be broadcast via streaming video (as they were last year) on the Minnesota Fringe Festival website. Details on that still pending.

"Cue To Cue" was launched last year with a six episode series spotlighting the wide variety of acts in the 2003 Minnesota Fringe Festival (speaking with representatives of 15 Head, Ministry of Cultural Warfare, Theatre Unbound, Hunter Marionettes, Theatre Gallery, VISTA Productions, Kabobenco, and individual artists Kevin Kling, Kirsten Frantzich, Josette Antomarchi and Tom Cassidy, as well as profiles of the Spoken Word Fringe and Visible Fringe).

Since then, we've talked to still more individual theater artists (director/choreographer Noah Bremer, musical theatre collaborators Gary Rue, Ann Schulman, Daniel Pinkerton and Chris Gennaula) as well as cross-section of established and up-and-coming theatre companies (Mixed Blood, Margolis Brown, Stepping Stone, Starting Gate, Mama Mosaic, Skewed Visions)

 

Fringe 2004 - DANDELION SNOW Rehearsal update for cast

PARKING ALERT

For those of you who haven't yet had the pleasure of needing to struggle to find parking near the Y, trust us when we say, leave yourself *plenty* of extra time. There's a lot of construction and Sommerfesting going on in the surrounding area and it's playing havoc with parking availability.

There is onsite parking (the YW's lot) for a dollar.

We need to be able to start on time, because we *have* to leave on time (the building closes at 9pm sharp)

TIME AND PLACE

The rehearsal times are from 6:45pm to 9pm at the downtown YWCA. The address is:

Downtown YWCA
1130 Nicollet Mall
Minneapolis, MN 55403
612/332-0501

That is on the corner of 12th and Nicollet.

You'll need to sign in at the front desk.

We may be moving from our downstairs space next to the noisy gym. We'll keep you posted, and also, ask at the front desk. They should know where we are, whether it be up or down.

CHANGE IN REHEARSAL SCHEDULE

Monday, July 12th
ALL CALLED
to run the full play (Parts 1-4 in order)
and to work Part 3 (Extra Cheese)

There may be future changes, but for right now, the rest of the schedule is as follows:

Tuesday, July 13th
- Part 3 (Extra Cheese)
- Ash, Dana, Aidan, Abigail, Grace, Claire

Wednesday, July 14th
- Part 3 (Extra Cheese)
- Ash, Dana, Aidan, Abigail, Grace, Claire

Thursday, July 15th
- Part 1 (Dandelion Snow)
- Ash, Dana
and
- Part 2 (Across Their River)
- Ash, Dana, Julian

Monday, July 19th
- Part 4 (Tools)
- Ash, Dana, Aidan, Julian

Tuesday, July 20th
- Part 3 (Extra Cheese)
- Ash, Dana, Aidan, Abigail, Grace, Claire

Wednesday, July 21st
- Part 3 (Extra Cheese)
- Ash, Dana, Aidan, Abigail, Grace, Claire

Thursday, July 22nd
- Part 1 (Dandelion Snow)
- Ash, Dana
and
- Part 2 (Across Their River)
- Ash, Dana, Julian

Monday, July 26th
- Part 3 (Extra Cheese)
- Ash, Dana, Aidan, Abigail, Grace, Claire
and
- Part 4 (Tools)
- Ash, Dana, Aidan, Julian

Tuesday, July 27th
- Part 1 (Dandelion Snow)
- Ash, Dana
and
- Part 2 (Across Their River)
- Ash, Dana, Julian

Wednesday, July 28th
All Called, running Parts 1-4

Thursday, July 29th
All Called, running Parts1-4

The rehearsal schedule for the first week in August, other than Tech Rehearsal, is still being determined.

As opening approaches, we have one rehearsal in the space, the Whitney Mainstage at Minneapolis Community and Technical College (1424 Yale Place, Minneapolis)

TECH REHEARSAL Monday, August 2nd from 6-9pm

Thanks for all your hard work.

 

Fringe 2004 - DANDELION SNOW - The Interview

The following are some of John Townsend's questions and my answers about "Dandelion Snow" in the larger context of my other work...

1. Does Dandelion Snow deal with your past concepts of gay and straight friendship?

Oddly enough, not as much as nearly all my other plays.  Even the plays I've written on commission for colleges since "Dandelion Snow" - "Studpuppy" for Allegheny College, and the Christmas musical "The Hopes and Fears of All the Years" for Cal State Fullerton - have had gay and straight friendship as a central element in the story, mostly, as in my own life, just to say that it exists and that it's really no big deal - a healthy, normal thing and not some wild aberration.  However, I guess you could say that "Dandelion Snow" is one of my "gayer" plays because straight men and the ever-changing notions of what it means to "be a man" these days don't really enter the scene.  All the male characters on stage are gay, and the central questions are romantic ones, rather than ones of identity.  The three female characters are straight, but two of them are related to the male characters - a mother and a sister - and the last one is a co-worker who's nursing a bit of a crush on her gay friend, so again, romance is paramount.

2. How has the show developed from its shorter beginning phase of 10 min plays?

Over the three years that the four segments of the story came to be first written, I actually tried to resist going back to the central characters of Ash and Dana.  I like to use ten minute play festivals as a jumpstart for new ideas whenever possible.  My full-length play that nabbed me a Minnesota State Arts Board Fellowship, "The Surface of the World," grew from a start as a ten minute play.  But though I tried to move on after the original, opening sequence of "Dandelion Snow" to another story, those characters just kept resurfacing. They obviously had a larger story they wanted me to tell and weren't going to leave me alone until I finished it.  The great thing about this Fringe Festival opportunity with this new company that approached me, Out On Stage Productions, is that I'll have a chance to focus more closely on the characters and their story and learn where they want to go next.  For instance, the female characters, though important and a lot of fun in the current version, don't get a lot of stage time. I'm looking to this rehearsal process, with actors and director, for a chance to look at the characters and their stories from different angles.  Beyond the Fringe, I'd like to see the insights I gain here, sitting in on rehearsals, to help me expand this into a full-length play, exploring the ramifications of all the many overlapping relationship connections between the seven characters - and give them all a chance live fully.

The first scene, which spawned the title "Dandelion Snow," has been fully produced before, as part of "Ten By Ten," Patrick and Lily Baber Coyle's Original Theatre Company ten minute play showcase at the Minneapolis Theatre Garage back in the fall of 2000 for an extended run.  That initial chunk of "Dandelion Snow" was also a year 2000 finalist for the Hiedeman Award which is
part of the Actor Theater of Louisville's National Ten Minute Play Competition.  But the Fringe this year is the first time all four parts of the cycle are being produced together as a complete story.

3. How does it compare/contrast with MOUNTAINS OF INSTEAD (the production title of the play back in 1998 now listed on this site as "The Bronze Bitch Flies At Noon")?

"Mountains of Instead" ("The Bronze Bitch Flies At Noon") - where the characters were both on the verge of graduating from college - was a play about having the guts to take that first chance, acknowledge who you are and what you want.  "Dandelion Snow" is about older, but not necessarily wiser characters.  Each of them has seen relationships come and go and had to deal with the fallout.  This play is more about having the guts to take a second chance, knowing what you know now.  Do you take a risk, knowing full well it may not work out, and you may get hurt,
in order for the potential payoff of a new, working relationship?  Or do you linger in the familiar - do you hide out among the intimacy of old friends and unrequited love, and make do, avoiding the big hurts, but also avoiding the big
gains life has to offer in the process?

4. How is this play a reflection of where you're at right now in your life?

Oh my.  It's not strictly autobiographical, though my mother may recognize a version of herself onstage.  All the things the characters, even the women, are feeling, I've felt.  All the things they've been through and are afraid of going through, I've tussled with.  They're probably more evolved than I am.

Part of this play's genesis was dealing with what I sensed as a lack of plays dealing with gay characters (or straight characters, for that matter) that dealt with the idea of romance, rather than sex.  Don't get me wrong, I like sex, and the messy dramatic consequences of sex on stage, as much as anyone. In the past, I've been as guilty as anyone else of just looking for the quick fix.  Of mistaking sex for intimacy.  Of running away from or not putting the necessary effort into nurturing real relationships.  I'd hope we all get a second chance, but as you get older, it gets more complicated.  It becomes easier to settle than to risk.  We tend to guard our emotions more than we guard our bodies and that disconnect of body and soul makes it difficult both to reach other people, and to allow other people to reach us.  As one of the characters says, "How do you know when *not* to give up?"  How does one know when to let go of the past and move on into an unknown, but possibly promising future?  My straight friends often comment, slightly amused, after reading my latest script, "So you basically go through all the same stuff we have to deal with."  A minor revelation, but an important one.  I think anyone can recognize themselves among the "Dandelion Snow" characters up on stage, and I hope that means they'll come to root for them regardless of whether they're gay or straight.

5. And any comments on how rehearsal is going.

We've just begun but I'm already quite excited about our ensemble.  Brendan Perry, the producer/director of Out On Stage Productions, has chosen a great cast, several of whom I've worked with before.  

William Leaf and Renee Werbowski, who've been with me from the very beginning with my first Minneapolis production of "Heaven and Home," are back again.  (William just got through directing something else for me, a short piece called "Leave," as part of Bedlam Theatre's Ten Minute Play Festival last month).  

David Schlosser, who's acted in a couple of my scripts as part of Theatre Unbound's "24 Hour Play Projects," is now one of the leads in this lengthier script.  

And one of those "24 Hour plays" David was in was co-written by me with yet another of our cast members, Christopher Kidder.  It's going to be a lot of fun working with a fellow playwright as an actor.  

I'm sure none of these "veterans" of my work is going to let me get away with anything.  They'll be asking the hard questions I need to hear in order to take an already good script and make it a great one in the days beyond the Fringe.  

We even just had one of those typical Fringe-related casting changes (someone got transferred by their day job down south to a place well beyond commuting distance).  The person taking over that role will be Laura Wiebers, a real friend of new work in general and my former duties at the weekly Roundtable new play reading series in particular.  We've never worked together on one of my plays before so I've very excited to have her on board.  

The other members of the ensemble (standup comedienne Carol Vnuk, and a talented newcomer named Grant Henderson), new to me, are also great and I'm looking forward to working with and learning from them as well.

I can't say enough good things about Brendan Perry, the producer/director, who is launching Out On Stage Productions in order to get more gay stories out there.  I'm flattered he likes my script enough to make it his company's maiden voyage.

First readthrough everyone laughed a lot, and the humor was intentional, so that's always a good sign.  They also really liked the happy ending - even got a couple of "awwww's" - so that's a very good start.  Now the real work begins.

(A writeup on the first readthrough is also available for viewing in this "In My Humble Opinion" section or you can follow the link from the front page of the site.)

 

Theatre-going Recommendations - Twin Cities and beyond

OPENING THIS WEEK...

July 14-August 8, 2004
Park Square presents what the New York Times called the “best new American play of the year,” the Mae West-inpsired (and haunted) romantic comedy, “Dirty Blonde” - directed by the gifted Joel Sass and starring the also impressive talents of Jodi Kellogg as Mae West - Thursdays thru Sundays at Park Square, 408 St. Peter Street, St. Paul. Call 651-291-7005 and for more information on Park Square, visit www.parksquaretheatre.org

July 15-August 1, 2004
Illusion Theatre’s Fresh Ink is back...
July 15-18 - Promise Ring by Doug Collins. I’m a big fan of Doug’s work - it’s both hilarious and heartbreaking all at the same time. He’s a truly gifted writer.
July 22-25 - Pieces of Eight, from the Sossy Mechanics who brought their popular Trick Boxing show to a past Minnesota Fringe Festival
July 19-August 1 - Whatever Happened to Alice James? directed by Ellen Fenster (who once directed one of my recent Chicago Avenue Project scripts for Pillsbury House Theatre, entitled “Dr. Worm” - available for viewing on this site in the “Plays for Young Actors” category.)
Call 612-339-4944, and for more info on Illusion, visit www.illusiontheater.org

July 16-25, 2004
“Momentum: New Dance Works” presented at the Southern Theatre by the Southern and Walker Art Center - a showcase of the Twin Cities’ most promising choreographers - 1420 Washington Avenue South, Minneapolis. Call 612-340-1725 or see www.walkerart.org for more information.

July 16-August 15, 2004
Theatre In The Round Players presents “Angel Street,” a new stage version of the classic Ingrid Bergman movie “Gaslight” - New owners have moved into the house on Angel Street in London, where a grisly, unsolved murder was committed 15 years earlier. And now, in its gloomy atmosphere, Mrs. Manningham suffers more and more from forgetfulness and anxiety, until she’s afraid her hallucinations will drive her insane. 245 Cedar Avenue in Minneapolis (the Seven Corners area). Call 612-333-3010 and for more information visit www.theatreintheround.org

July 16-August 28, 2004
Jungle Theater presents Tony Award-winning playwright Richard Greenberg’s play, “The Dazzle,” about two eccentric brothers living in an East Harlem mansion barricaded behind 136 tons of junk (which sounds depressingly like the disarray of my apartment, but without the grandeur of space to spread out in). On the corner of Lake Street and Lyndale Avenue in Minneapolis (2951 Lyndale Avenue South, to be exact). Call 612-822-7063 and learn more about the Jungle at www.jungletheater.com

ONE MORE EVENT IT’S GOING TO KILL ME TO MISS...

July 16-18, 2004
Indiana State University (ISU) Theatre Department is holding a reunion in Terre Haute, IN, to honor another of my former professors, self-proclaimed “dirty old man” Lew Hackleman, for whom I stage managed several plays in my undergrad days. He’s transitioning into a well-deserved retirement. Again, I wish I could be there to tease him in person, but being there in spirit will have to suffice.

NOW PLAYING...

thru July 25th, 2004
Red Eye Collaboration presents “The Cult of Dorian Gray” - a multimedia performmance where dancers flaunt gravity, walk on walls and hurl briefcases with razor-sharp precision. They seduce, betray and tango their way to the top, creating a cynical circus that manages to turn moral bankruptcy into beautiful acrobatic art. Call 612-870-0309 or visit www.theredeye.org for reservations.

thru July 25th
Joking Apart Theatre presents the Twin Cities premiere of the Alan Ayckbourn’s trilogy, “The Norman Conquests,” at the Cedar Riverside People's Center, 425 - 20th Avenue South, Minneapolis. All three plays - "Table Manners," "Living Together," "Round and Round the Garden" - run in repertory (with a chance on July 24 for audiences to see all three plays in the same day). When Norman devises a dirty weekend in the country with his sister-in-law Annie, he doesn't count on the arrival of her brother Reg and another sister-in-law, Sarah, to put a stop to it. With the occasional interference from Tom, Annie's would-be boyfriend, and the unexpected appearance of Norman's own wife and Annie's sister, Ruth, the illicit rendezvous is cancelled, and they all try to make the best of a weekend together in the country. Each play dissects the disastrous weekend from a different angle, in a different part of the same house. Call 612-728-3839 for reservations, and to learn more visit www.

thru July 31st, 2004
Filthy Whore Productions remounts (pardon the pun) “3 Way” - one of the top-selling shows from the 2003 Minnesota Fringe Festival - at the Bryant Lake Bowl, 810 West Lake Street, Minneapolis. What happnes when three friends wake up together in bed after a night of drunken revelry? It’s a case of he said/he said...he said as Alex, Ethan and Matt attempt to sort out their stories and their socks. As you might expect, adult themes and brief nudity in this clever comedy. Call 612-825-8949 or check out www.bryantlakebowl.com and/or www.johntrones.com

thru July 31st, 2004
A double bill of musicals from Gaydar Productions - Bed Boys and Beyond, & A My Name Is Alice - all male, all female - the new and the long-established - at the Loring Playhouse, 1633 Hennepin Avenue in Minneapolis. Call 612-604-4466 or go to www.UpTownTix.com for tickets and more information.

thru August 1, 2004
SteppingStone Theatre presents a musical adaptation of the popular children’s book, “The Stinky Cheese Man,” adapted by local theatre luminaries Kent Stephens and Gary Rue. Performances are at the F.K. Weyerhaeuser Auditorium at the Landmark Center in downtown St. Paul, Minnesota (75 West 5th Street). For tickets, call 651-225-9265, and for more information visit www.steppingstonetheatre.org

IN THE NOT TOO DISTANT FUTURE...

July 22-25, 2004
The Playwrights’ Center’s annual PlayLabs new play development workshops have a number of notable names and collaborations in store. The highlights, to my eyes, are Vincent Delaney’s “Perpetua” on July 23rd (in collaboration with Commonweal Theatre Company) and Lee Blessing’s new play “A Body of Water” on July 24th, destined for the Guthrie Lab stage next year. I saw an earlier reading of “Perpetua” and was impressed by the way Vince spins words like poetry, all the while creating a series of complex relationships, rife with both conflict and humor. Great stuff. There are also collaborations afoot with The Children’s Theatre Company, Mixed Blood Theatre, and yet another Guthrie project. For tickets, call 612-332-7481, ext. 14, and for the full scoop on the festival visit www.pwcenter.org

July 24, 2004
A benefit for Ragamala Music and Dance Theatre - over the last 12 years, Ragamala has presented more than 100 original works rooted in Bharatanatyam, a classical style from southern India. They blend dance, music and poetry, collaborating with renowned local, national and international choreographers, composers and musicians of diverse cultural and artistic backgrounds. Their Soiree Madras will be at Grande Salle, Alliance Francaise, 113 North First Street in the Warehouse District of Minneapolis, MN. An Indian buffet dinner, live music from Twin Cities jazz artist Charmin Michelle, and a silent auction. Call 612-824-1968 and for more information visit www.ragamala.net

July 24th thru October 3rd, 2004
The Great American History Theatre presents John B. Davidson’s musical tragedy, “The Last Minstrel Show” - On June 16th, 1920, three black men were lynched in the city of Duluth, Minnesota. This is their story - 30th East 10th Street, St. Paul. Call 651-292-4323, and for more information on the History Theatre, visit www.historytheatre.com

MARK YOUR CALENDARS...

The Minnesota Fringe Festival, August 6-15, 2004, 175+ shows in locations in and around downtown Minneapolis, including my own projects...

Dandelion Snow, at the Minneapolis Community and Technical College’s Whitney Mainstage space

Fast Fringe, at the Loring Playhouse

See other columns in this section for details, or follow the links from the front page of this site to full coverage on Dandelion Snow and Fast Fringe.

 

Fringe 2004 - DANDELION SNOW - the Basics on My Fringe Show - August 6-15, 2004

More of Brendan Perry's dandelion-themed photos with William T. Leaf, our lead and cover boy, have been sprinkled throughout the site. They rotate through on the front page along with images from other scripts, and they can all be seen in the individual photo galleries for the four different sections of the cycle in the "Plays & Musicals" section.

Here are the basics about time, place and cast, so you can plan to join us, and help spread the word.

"Oh, the pizza boy adds extra sausage,
And big tools are manly,
But when love burns like a schoolhouse on fire,
Three men come to grips with a certain, fated love."

(our official publicity blurb, courtesy of our producer/director, Brendan Perry)

The cast of "Dandelion Snow" is as follows:

Ash - William T. Leaf

Dana (Ash's oldest friend and former lover) - David Schlosser

Julian (Dana's husband) - Christopher O. Kidder

Aidan (pizza boy and potential boyfriend to Ash) - Grant Henderson

Abigail (Ash's mother) - Carol Vnuk

Grace (Dana's sister) - Renee Karen Werbowski

Claire (Aidan's co-worker) - Laura Weibers

The story:
When Dana and Ash, two high school sweethearts now in their thirties, meet again in the ruins of their old elementary school, the undertow of old emotional ties threatens to undo their current relationships with others. Will Dana be able to resolve his conflicts with his lover Julian over the long-distance relationship into which their connection is evolving? Will Ash find love with Aidan the pizza boy? Will Dana and Ash find their way back to each other? Should they?

The "Dandelion Snow" cycle of short plays will be on display at the Minnesota Fringe Festival in Minneapolis this year, thanks to Out On Stage Productions and producer/director Brendan Perry.

Excerpts from all four parts of the romantic misadventures of nearly reunited lovers Ash and Dana:

Dandelion Snow

Across Their River

Extra Cheese

Tools

are all available for viewing in the "Short Plays" section of the "Plays & Musicals" portion of this site - just click over in the left hand column.

And more details on this evolving production opportunity are chronicled in the column "Fringe Early Buzz - Honorable Mentions" also in this section.

First readthrough of the script was last month (for my thoughts on that, see Dandelion Snow - The Readthrough, also in this section)

"Dandelion Snow" will be performed on the Whitney Mainstage at Minneapolis Community and Technical College (1424 Yale Place, Minneapolis, Minnesota) - which is enormous, so please come and bring a few dozen of your friends and family along with you.

The dates and times are:

Saturday August 7, 2004 - 8:30pm

Wednesday August 11, 2004 - 2:30pm

Thursday August 12, 2004 - 5:30pm

Friday August 13, 2004 - 8:30pm

Saturday August 14, 2004 - 4pm

Tickets go on sale July 1st through Uptown Tix (www.uptowntix.com or 612-604-4466).

Hope to see you there.

Reflections on the first full week of rehearsals --

My admiration for everyone begins in seeing them focus. I know how hard it is to shake off the day. And the surroundings are hardly sound proof, and large windows make up one wall the room. The world continually finds ways to try and intrude. And yet, the cast and director focus, the rest of the world drops away, and a fictional world begins to take shape.

The primary focus this week was on the interlocking relationships of the four guys in parts 2, 4 and 1 (Across Their River, Tools, and Dandelion Snow), rehearsed in that order.

With all men in the room, I found it amusing that we weren't at the YMCA but the YWCA. With new carpet renovations being done that we had to detour around on our way to the basement studio. With a wall that got painted blue over the course of our stay. With the ever-present sound of basketball and exercise classes leaking in from the gym next door, and the sight of folks going to and from the swimming pool just across the hall.

It was interesting, and I think helpful, to rehearse out of sequence. The spectre of Dana's current relationship with Julian, which is a very real presence in part 1, was helped by the fact that we'd previously worked two sections of the play that included Julian's character before we got to that opening sequence where he's not present. The actors playing Ash and Dana, having spent time with a human Julian, could conjure the idea of him and the obstacle he presented, more clearly than they might have been able to if we'd taken the different parts of the cycle in order.

It's always a struggle for me to keep my mouth shut in rehearsals (playwrights should be seen and not heard, except through their script, in rehearsal - it's a motto I try to live by). Even though my comments are often welcome, the last thing I want to do is inadvertantly cut off any avenues of exploration the director and cast want to take with the characters and the story. I feel the weight of being perceived as the one with the "right" answer - after all, I wrote the thing.

But I don't act, and don't direct, at least not anymore. My job is to give them the best script I can, and then get out of the way and watch, to see if I gave them all the tools they needed.

It's also hard not to jump in and try and help - which is analogous to, but different from, just speaking up in general. I know the script, and the characters. I've lived with them for several years. The cast and director have had them in hand for anywhere from a few weeks to only a few days. It's hard to trust that the words alone are enough, and yet I have to. Every word of dialogue is there for a reason, often several reasons. The whole thing's been shaped to within an inch of its life, cutting out the fat, the things that might lead folks off in the wrong direction.

That's not to say it's done. One of the main reasons I said yes to the production was so that I'd have a rehearsal process to sit in on, and see first hand where the holes in the text were. See where the actors and director had to help me out and paper over the rough spots for the time being. Learn what other things the characters were aching to say and do by watching actors bring them to life, each of them focused on an individual, while the director focused on the full canvas of the story. Finally, to see how an audience responded to it all, and to see whether the experience would generate any word of mouth in the crowded, overstuffed week of the Fringe.

The main challenge is that the set of four short plays were developed individually, several months if not a year apart from each other. Each has a slightly different style, a slightly different pace, a slightly different emphasis. Molding them into one continuously flowing piece is largely going to fall to this crew of artists. I'm hoping to learn from them were to capitalize on the differences, and where a sameness needs to be injected. Part 1 is more contemplative, establishing the two main characters and the unrequited yearning that binds them. Part 2 is a slightly dry comedy of manners - I'm not Noel Coward, but that's the way it's leaning. Part 3 is more screwball romantic comedy, with six characters involved in overlapping conversations and interlocking relationships. Part 4 hopefully offers some kind of resolution - a sense that a new order is established and life goes on - good for some, maybe not so good for others - but the world continues to spin forward, and possibilities for happiness are present. It's a mix, and a tricky one to pull together. Even I don't think I've fully wrestled it into place.

But for the most part, it's all there already, or at least I hope it is. Don't get me wrong. It ain't Ibsen or Chekhov or Shakespeare. It is, at its heart, a romantic comedy. While not every word is freighted with deep meaning and significance, neither is anything a throwaway which could be easily cut. My hope is that the currents bubbling under the surface will peek out, even as the story essentially moves toward a positive end - for most, if not all, of the characters involved.

So it's hard to bite my tongue and not give the game away. It's there. They'll find it. It's already well on its way. Slow does not equal boring. Fast does not equal good. The story will find its rhythm, and the way it wants to breathe, in time.

And there is time.

Perhaps it's good, too, that I'm going to be out of town for much of next week's work (training for the day job). I told them to get all the nasty thoughts about me and the script out of their system next week, for I would return. With the playwright out of the room, maybe they can breathe easier and feel freer to comment (though they certainly haven't seemed shy so far).

It's always educational to watch actors work their way up to the intimacy required in a text. Some just treat it as blocking and start up right away. Others have to sidle up to it sideways, kidding around and not going all the way - at the same time always acknowledging that there's a beat missing here that they'll have to go back for. More awkward than a first date, more like an arranged marriage. But everyone knew what they were signing up for. And they all seem game to try, in their own time.

And there is time yet.

As the director said, the audience knows when you're just "acting" - faking it. They came to get immersed in the story, not to wonder the actors' issues are.

An amusing recurring theme for our lead, William, is that in all my plays, the actor opposite him, playing his love interest, is always straight. Friendly, open-minded, talented, but straight. Good thing he's not counting on me and my scripts to introduce him to new dating possibilities.

It's gratifying to watch as each of the actors and the director all do their homework, come together in rehearsal with often very different ideas, and ways of discussing those ideas, and over the course of a couple of hours, everything slowly begins to meld into a common understanding that none of them could have come to on their own. And it's tremendously instructive to me - to see how each actor views the play through the lens of their character, and how the director sees the script as a whole, and starts to guide the different interpretations so all these people fit in the same world together.

The one night of rehearsal this coming week that I'll be sitting in on touches on Part 3, and a rough stumblethrough of the whole thing. I'm looking forward to it.

 

Fringe 2004 - FAST FRINGE - the Fringe Festival's short play fest within a fest

More updates have been made to the Fast Fringe section in the “Short Plays” listing in the “Plays & Musicals” section of the site. More information, more photos (including an image of the oft-invoked but rarely seen Spanish Ladies), and an excerpt from each of the ten plays making up this year’s Fast Fringe. Go give it a look.

Since I’ve been sitting in on the rehearsals for my own Fringe play, “Dandelion Snow,” I haven’t been able to attend the Fast Fringe rehearsals. Having seen Bryan Bevell’s able directing skills in auditions, however, I’m comfortable that he’s whipping each of the ten plays into shape with the invaluable assistance of our very hardworking, multi-tasking, multi-talented, multi-character ensemble of four actors.

The other two Spanish Ladies (my fellow producers) are watching over this next phase of production. We’ll have a meeting when I return from my trip to Boston next week, and focus on the home stretch as we approach tech rehearsal and opening with July’s days dwindling and August fast upon us.

Here are the basics on the production itself...

Fast Fringe 1: The Agony

Dead employees, suffocating mamas, G-Men, and breast pumps!  All this and more in just one hour!  Five plays by five authors! It's fast, Fast, FAST!

Exit Interview by Gigi Jensen
Manhandled by Mic Weinblatt
Paper Trail by Dominic Orlando
Das Ewig Weibliche by Tim Cope
Milk by Amanda Thompson

Fast Fringe 2: The Ecstasy

Virgins in limbo, killer daddies, malapropisms, and... your call is very important to us!  All this and more in just one hour!  Five plays by five authors! It's fast, Fast, FAST!

All About Words by Michelle Pett
Limbo Lounge by Betty Liedtke
Mud On A Little Girl’s Dress by Jason Connors
Infinite Justice by Mike Peroz
Your Call Is Very Important To Us by Roy Close

The ensemble cast of four plays 26 roles in 10 plays, as follows:

Colleen Barrett
Edy in EXIT INTERVIEW, Big Mother in MANHANDLED, The Woman in DAS EWIG WEIBLICHE, Vicki in MILK, Mother in ALL ABOUT WORDS, Rowena in LIMBO LOUNGE, Penny in YOUR CALL IS VERY IMPORTANT TO US

Dana Erin Horst
Danielle in EXIT INTERVIEW, Kim in PAPER TRAIL, Patty in MILK, Laura in LIMBO LOUNGE, Chelsy in MUD ON A LITTLE GIRL'S DRESS, Joyce in YOUR CALL IS VERY IMPORTANT TO US

Steven Meek
Mervyn in MANHANDLED, Crespo in PAPER TRAIL, Rick in MILK, Charlie in LIMBO LOUNGE, Father in MUD ON A LITTLE GIRL'S DRESS, Fahey in INFINITE JUSTICE, Kelly in YOUR CALL IS VERY IMPORTANT TO US

Alex Needham
Trevor in MANHANDLED, Playwright in PAPER TRAIL, Richard in DAS EWIG WEIBLICHE, Son in ALL ABOUT WORDS, Billy in LIMBO LOUNGE, Muzak in YOUR CALL IS VERY IMPORTANT TO US

Fast Fringe 1 and Fast Fringe 2 will both be performed at the Loring Playhouse (1635 Hennepin Avenue, Minneapolis, MN).

Sunday, August 8, 2004
- 1pm, Fast Fringe 2
- 2:30pm, Fast Fringe 1

Monday, August 9, 2004
- 8:30pm, Fast Fringe 2

Tuesday, August 10, 2004
- 8:30pm, Fast Fringe 1

Wednesday, August 11, 2004
- 8:30pm, Fast Fringe 1
- 10pm, Fast Fringe 2

Friday, August 13, 2004
- 1pm, Fast Fringe 2
- 2:30pm, Fast Fringe 1

Saturday, August 14, 2004
- 2:30pm, Fast Fringe 2

Sunday, August 15, 2004
- 4pm, Fast Fringe 1

Tickets go on sale July 1st through Uptown Tix (www.uptowntix.com or 612-604-4466).

If you have any questions for us, contact us at fast@fringefestival.org.

(Or you can drop me a line through this website and I'll pass it on)

 

Notes from a Wandering Laptop

Week of July 11, 2004

My latest endeavours...

FAST FRINGE

An expanded section on Fast Fringe - featuring photos and excerpts from all ten of the plays - is now on display in the "Short Plays" listing of the "Plays & Musicals" section of this site. Want a short cut? Click here. Rehearsals are well under way. For the latest details on this showcase of short plays for the 2004 Minnesota Fringe Festival, including dates, times, location and cast, click here, and also see "Fringe 2004 Early Buzz - Honorable Mentions."

"CUE TO CUE" GOES TO THE FRINGE

The second Fringe 2004 episode of "Cue to Cue," the TV show I host covering theater in Minnesota, is scheduled for broadcast today

Sunday, July 11th, at 9pm on TPT-17

St. Paul's public TV station, covering the greater Twin Cities area.

The guests are Calibanco Theatre and Ferrari McSpeedy. For more on this, as well as information on content and broadcast times of other upcoming and currently running episodes, see the section "In My Humble Opinion" or click here.

DANDELION SNOW - MY FRINGE SHOW

Rehearsals are well underway. Multiple new pictures have been added (you’ll notice a recurring dandelion motif with our lead actor William T. Leaf), with still more to follow. For the latest details, including cast, dates, times and location, click here. For a look at the answers I gave to an inquiry from Lavender magazine for their Fringe coverage, click here. For some thoughts on our first readtrhough of the script, click here, and also see "Fringe 2004 Early Buzz - Honorable Mentions."

And if you're interested in a preview of some of what you'll be seeing at the Fringe, you can check out excerpts from the four parts of the cycle - Dandelion Snow, Across Their River, Extra Cheese, and Tools - in the Plays & Musicals section of this site.

FRINGE BLOGGING

The Fringe website is live and the blogs are due to launch sometime this week. For now, check out the beginnings of my second year of blogging for the Minnesota Fringe Festival as one of The League of Extraordinary Fringers ("The Professor") here, in the section "In My Humble Opinion." (Future entries for the Fringe site will also be copied to this site on a daily basis.) Time to get off my duff and do some more advance work on the latest embarrassment of riches the Fringe has to offer.

Check out Fringe Early Buzz, covering: the first of my picks for the Top Ten Shows sure to be on my Fringe-going schedule: Death Penalty Puppetry, plus notes on the latest from Outward Spiral Theatre Company, Ferrari McSpeedy, and Ari Hoptman - and take a look three Sure Things, and three shows I'm way too close to, plus "Minnesota Fringe Festival 2004 - A Love Story"

And if you're interested in a taste of Fringes past, check out my writings on Fringe 2003, dated July 13 through August 13, 2003.

MONOLOGUES AND SCENES FOR ACTORS, ACTRESSES, AND DIRECTORS

The centralized searchable database for all the scenes and monologues on the site is up and running!

Monologues for men. Monologues for women. Scenes for men. Scenes for women. Scenes for men and women together. It's all here for your perusal. Click on the "Monologue Search" or "Scene Search" functions in the menu at the left, or just click here.

SAMPLE SONGS...

from the Christmas musical, "The Hopes and Fears of All the Years"

Find them in the "Hopes and Fears..." section of the "Plays and Musicals" area of this site or just click here.

THEATRE RECOMMENDATIONS FOR THE TWIN CITIES

Mae West, Gaslight, Fresh Ink, another “old home week” and more. For details, go to the section "In My Humble Opinion" or just click here.

INTERESTED IN PRODUCING ONE OF THESE PLAYS?

Please contact me.

Feel free to use the scenes and monologues for auditions or classes if you like (and drop me a note and let me know how it went).

So, take a look around and tell me what you think. I'm going to get back to work on those upgrades.

ON A PERSONAL NOTE...

Happy 17th Anniversary to my Dad and stepmother Debbie. The summer they got married was also the summer I first came out, so it was momentous all around. Egad, doesn’t seem possible it could have been that long, a lifetime or so ago passes by mighty quick. Happy housewarming to them as well, since they just made a big move up to Martha’s Vineyard. Time for some holiday visits to the extended clan up in New England. Also belated birthday wishes to my stepsister Kathryn. Since Mom was out here helping me whip my apartment into shape over the 4th of July holiday, my neglected computer wasn’t able to remind me in time.

Thanks for stopping by.

 

Fringe 2004 - Save This Show From Its Title - Boldly Going Nowhere

(first in a series)

Seriously, in this case, don't judge a book by its cover.

Titles are hard.

And perhaps I have little room to talk, having once written a play with a catchy title (The Bronze Bitch Flies At Noon) only to change it to something rather opaque in a production setting (Mountains of Instead - I mean, sure it was from a poem by Auden but c'mon). At least I had the good sense to change it back again, but still...

And my show in the Fringe this year (Dandelion Snow) also doesn't have a title that screams "this is what our play is about"

But you also don't want a title that's gonna give people the wrong idea.

Hypocratic Oath for Titles - First, do no harm.

Boldly Going Nowhere

eek

Tod Peterson is a gifted comic actor and musical talent. He's truly one of the top guys in town for either or both. A show of his where he's sharing new material is something to see.

And for his fan base, and Illusion Theatre's fan base, and anyone who gets a look at his charming headshot, it's probably a no-brainer. They'll be there.

But if I didn't know better...

I'd think the person was going to ramble on to no particular purpose - or that it had something to do with Klingons and tribbles. If you've got over 175 shows to choose from, and only so many hours in the day, do you want to hand over an hour to someone who doesn't know where they're going? Flipping through just the titles, my brain said, "No" - but then I found out who it was...

I'm here to say that you should boldly go, and see it. Tod never fails to entertain. You won't be wasting your time. Get beyond the title and join the many people already mentally lined up to see this show.

 

Fringe 2004 - Hidden Gem - Mary Kelley Sunshine Box

(first in a series)

[a show that might not be on your radar, but should be...]

Mary Kelley Sunshine Box
In the Heart of the Beast Puppet & Mask Theatre
Presented by Topsy-Turvy Theatre
No Shakespeare. No Scrimshaws. No Seuss. Probably fewer aerials than Cirque du Soleil. Think dark, comic, off-off-off-broadway.
(Genres and warnings: Adult language)

These are the folks that did James Berry: The Reluctant Hangman last year at the Fringe, a show I was quite charmed by.

I haven't a clue what it's about. But it has a cheeky (but not mean-spirited) description and a goofy picture of an elephant on their show page.

I like their work, based on past experience. I'm more than willing to take a chance and squeeze them onto my schedule. And, sight unseen, I recommend them to you as well.

 

Fringe 2004 - Sax and Violins Revisited

Don't know whether it's because we're at war or there's a presidential election going on this year (or maybe it's more nervous handwringing because of Janet Jackson's boob) but there are about twice as many violence warnings in this year's Fringe compared to last year. Still, just like last year, not all of them seem frighteningly hardcore. Just a warning for the faint of heart. Which my heart appreciates...

Assassins - well, the title's a good clue. Having seen a production of this at the History Theatre many moons ago, I can say that it's probably the most enjoyable meditation on presidential assassins you're likely to see (there's quite a bit of humor, and no presidents were harmed in the making of this musical). An amusing choice for an election year. And not all of us can get to Broadway to see the Sondheim showcase there. I'll be going again, and probably bringing Mom.

Axis Mundi - The theatre company's name - Aggravated Assault - certainly isn't being coy either. There's also a bit of violence just in the publicity photograph, so this one's probably on the high end of the violence scale, though that's not necessarily a bad thing. Just a coupla' white guys sitting around beating the crap out of each other. As Marge said in The Talented Mr. Ripley, "Why is it when boys play, they always play at killing each other?" Still, all that said, the little devil on my shoulder is whispering in my ear saying this might be guilty pleasure territory.

Death Penalty Puppetry - OK, it's about the death penalty. But, c'mon, it's puppets. And since I quite literally laughed out loud the first time I saw their puppet mug shot, you'll probably be all right here. One of the many reasons it's in my top ten this year.

Donuts & Bow-Ties - there's a reference to "a sweet tale of terrorism and breakfast" and a gun in the publicity photo - so while there's a potential for nastiness (not to mention nudity and adult language), they seem good natured about it.

Fast Fringe #1: The Agony and Fast Fringe #2: The Ecstasy - Since I'm one of the producing Spanish ladies, I can vouch for these two. First, they're short plays, so they kind of have to get right to it and make their point. Second, what's a smattering of dark comedy without a little talk of death and brandishing of firearms. I can reassure you that only one gun is actually fired, offstage, and, if you're curious, yes, he hits his mark. Other than that, I reveal nothing. Unless you want to browse through some excerpts. There's a lot of comedy, not all of it violent by any means, so there's balance. And if you don't like a playlet in the showcase, hey, it's over in ten minutes and on to the next. We're hoping there's a little something for everyone.

In Defense of Sin (My Friends' Best Stories) - it's the Ministry of Cultural Warfare. Whatever it is, I know I'll be laughing. I trust them. That's why they're one of my Sure Things this year.

Jaws: The Musical! - whether there's a Land Shark involved or not, we can be pretty sure that this was no boating accident. The premise - people making a musical version of the film without actually having seen the film - tickles me. So I'm probably going, chum in the water or not.

Lokasenna - Wine! Women! And nanny goats! How bad could it be? I'm a sucker for ancient myths, and there seems to be a lot of humor, much of it bawdy, here, so again, I think we're safe.

Look Ma No Pants: The Last One - It's the Scrimshaw Brothers, people. They're parodying the shower scene from Psycho in their publicity photo. There was a fair amount of violence in last year's show and, rather than being traumatized by it, I was laughing my butt off. Don't let the violence scare you here. Go!

Plants & Animals - This is more from Scott Augustson, whose "Gilgamesh, Iowa" was a Fringe show last year I loved so much I could not shut up about it. Can't have mankind pitted against nature without breaking a few eggs. It's another of my Sure Things this year, so I'm there. And with luck, I'll get to buy the playwright another beer.

Prodigal - a celebrity actress confronting her estranged family in the suburbs at a birthday party - a recipe for violence if ever I heard one. This is from the same folks who brought you "A Regular Night At The Strip Club" last year, so they're no strangers to violence warnings.

Punk Rock Awesome - another play with music and assassins in it. These guys are a hoot. No qualms here, I trust them not to hurt me, only make me laugh - a lot. I highly recommend them. See you there.

RomAntic aGE - well, here's where my hormones trip me up. Of course, I could just say that, hey, they're from out of state, let's be polite and neighborly and go see their show. Or I could say that I'm fond of Blake's poetry and will brave a violence warning and the fact that the capitalized letters in the title spell "R-A-G-E." But, honestly, the thing that tips me over the edge into the "I'm probably going to go see them" category - the guys are cute. I'm sure heterosexuals are often subject to similar weaknesses. Just one more thing we have in common.

Searchingly Patient - between the warning for gunshots, the picture of a woman strangling a doctor with a stethescope, and the description of a battle of wills between a hypochondriac and her doctor, I'm a little worried - (*gulp*)

Tape - Ah, high school reunions - if you managed to survive high school, there's plenty of residual anger to fuel the violence later for old time's sake.

The 7 Project - Again, 7 Deadly Sins with no violence? Not possible.

The Devils - with a company called Medea's Children and a story of demonic possession in a nunnery, yeah, I'm expecting violence.

The Great Masturbators - Violent masturbation?! Oh, this is actually a show about Dali, Lorca and Bunuel - I can see where the violence comes from. But here's another candidate for "Save this show from its title!" Once I get past the title, I'm actually interested in the subject matter. Geez.

The Judas Cradle - when you're fighting for the future of the human race, things can get ugly. And that woman in the picture is looking at those little clay spacepeople figures in her hands a little too gleefully for my taste. However, my taste being mentioned, I like me some sci fi, and this one's going in my Top Ten, for reasons I'll get to shortly.

The Lives of the Most Notorious Highwaymen - Highway robbery can sometimes get messy. But this is another show in hands I trust, and I'll be writing it up as another Hidden Gem shortly.

The Lost Vegas Series (How not to get f***** in the City of Sin) - well, when your title mentions "how not to get f*****," chances are there will be a little self-defense, and offense, involved.

The Writings on the Bathroom Stall - after just seeing Gus Van Sant's "Elephant," I'm a little nervous about violence and high schools again, but since this is being written, produced, performed, you name it by a group of eager high school girls turned Fringe junkies, I'll just hope it's a major catfight.

So as with life, sometimes in art violence also has its uses. We have been warned. Still, don't let it scare you off. After all, keep saying to yourself, "It's just a play, it's just a play."

 

Fringe 2004 - While You're At It...try Tom Cassidy

While You're At It...

...Or Shows In A Similar Vein

Reveling in the political incorrectness of
Death Penalty Puppetry

Try
Osama Kincaid, Painter of Terror
Tom Cassidy
Pillsbury House Theatre

I don't have the right words to do Tom Cassidy justice.

His own words would be a start.

He has a poet's way of bending language to his will that I truly envy.

Words seem to work harder and reveal more under his ministrations.

Crochety yet charming doesn't cover it.

Befuddled yet bemused isn't right.

Somewhere between wise and wise-ass.

Opinionated, even belligerent, and yet benevolent, compassionate in his own way even to those with whom he's violently opposed.

Scathingly funny. Emitting a perpetual stream of images and sound bites that are food for thought of the most satisfying and human variety. I see myself clearly in his rants, for better and for worse, and I imagine many others do, too.

He's got two shows each weekend of the Fringe, plus a Thursday night performance. Work him into your plans for a full day of theatre. You'll be glad you did.

 

Fringe 2004 - Brush Up Your Shakespeare

One of the many things I love about Fringe: even the Bard is considered Fringe, or at least Fringe material...

Notable past successes that spring to my mind include Calibanco Theatre's take on "Two Noble Kinsmen" (which got them their start both in and out of the Fringe, and now they're back with "Feeling Faust") and "Love's Lines, Angles and Rhymes" from the wonderful local playwright Todd Hughes (who, among others, I wax rhapsodic about in Minnesota Fringe Festival 2004: A Love Story) and of course last year's hilariously exhausting and yet somehow also reverent treatment of "One Man Hamlet."

This year, we've got a hat trick of Shakespearean fun:

Akespeareshay
Starting Gate Productions
Hey City Upstairs
First, they superimpose a piglet head on Shakespeare's torso, then there's "incest, battles, suicide, patricide, 7 languages, iambic pentameter and how we receive The Bard" *and* it's still "Family-Friendly." Gotta love 'em. Well, maybe you don't, but I do. They already got the kinks worked out as part of their summer season and now they're bringing it to the Fringe. Can't wait.

MacBlank
Fifty Foot Penguin (love the logo, love the name)
Hey City Upstairs (I sense a trend)
"It's 2004, and MacBeth is still quite peeved about that beheading. His vengeful plan to kill the last living MacDuff (an anxious American named Charlie) goes terribly awry." Again, you don't have to love it, but I do.

The Tamer Tamed
Lakeshore Players & EmPea Productions
Bryant Lake Bowl (Fringe home of One Man Hamlet)
Kate is dead. Petruchio, the famed wife tamer, has remarried a tame, obedient woman, or so he thought. The battle of wills is fought anew in this feminist comedy. I'm a sucker for these things. This, too, I recommend. It sounds like fun.

For the Fringe, there's no Shakespeare like revisionist Shakespeare. Let's hear it for the groundlings.

(Exit, pursued by a bear)

 

Fringe 2004 - Early Buzz - Top 10 - The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind

Fringe 2004 Early Buzz - Top 10 - The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind

If You Held A Gun To My Head (2 of 10)
...or If I Could Only See Ten Fringe Shows...
...what would they be, and why?

The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind
Claire Simonson
Intermedia Arts

Yes, the title's a mouthful, but worth wrapping your head around. Don't let the multisyllabic words scare you off. Any show proudly featuring the devil ducky can't be taking itself too seriously. It's as human and accessible a show as you're likely to find at this year's Fringe.

Claire may be new to the Fringe, but she's no stranger to either stage (Red Eye, Jeune Lune, Three Legged Race, Patrick's Cabaret, and Vulva Riot to name a few) or screen (her films have been part of Walker Art Center's "Women with Vision" series three times, plus Portland Oregon's Film Center, and the Nashville Independent Film Festival).

Now she returns to the stage, combining her two loves into a multi-media one person show that is the best of both worlds. One adds to and builds on, rather than distracts from, the other, making for a fuller experience that one or the other alone couldn't offer.

She's a clever wordsmith and sly performer who intrigues you without ever giving the impression she's trying too hard. It's all in the performance, not drawing attention to her considerable bag of tricks, even as she executes one after another.

I've seen an excerpt of this and it's great fun. I'm very much looking forward to seeing the thing in its entirety.

 

Fringe 2004 - While You're At It...try Skewed Visions

While You're At It...

...Or Shows In A Similar Vein

Delighting in the different style of theatre that is...
The Origin of Consicousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind from Claire Simonson?

Try
Pipes
Skewed Visions
Intermedia Arts

This is from the people who brought us that wildly popular inner-city road trip "The Car" several Fringes back (a sell-out crowd, at only nine seats, all of them in the back seat of three moving cars, while the performance took place in the front seat)

This time, they've parked and moved into the space at Intermedia Arts, creating another of their signature site-specific (in this case, theatre-specific) theatergoing experiences - pushing the envelope of what a stage and an audience can be. Everything I've seen from Skewed Visions is compelling and highly entertaining.

But I'll let company member Charles Campbell tell you directly in his own words about the project (back when it was still more of a work in progress)...

"The impetus for creating the piece was the ongoing stampeding of civil rights in the name of security that still seems to be flying under the radar...I wanted to create a piece that was an artistic response to these events without making something didactic, brutal or hard to watch. I have always been interested in work that flirts with both the beauties of abstraction and the muscles of issue-oriented material...What came out was a piece that explored fear and suspicion, hiding and escape, control and chaos, by using plumbing as a metaphor for both a body and a system. The show is, I hope, very evocative and suggestive of what it is to live in the culture of fear that has arisen after that day in September.

The piece is a shadowy, whispering, creeping thing...It is a heavily aural experience, slightly unusual in theater I think...I tend to work with collaged texts and sounds, hoping to alter things enough to make them speak my meanings while retaining their original associations. The text for Pipes was assembled from many sources including sections from a 1962 short story by Julio Cortazar called "The Loss and Recovery of the Hair" (think earthy Borges), my medical records, Orwell's "1984" (naturally), "Austerlitz" by W.G. Sebald, and Eliot's "The Lovesong of J. Alfred Prufrock," plus writings straight from my fingers. I am working on incorporating a small section from Kafka's "The Trial." There is a sound/music element that I have assembled from Shostakovich, Phillip Glass, Arvo Part, The Clash, Tom Waits, Leadbelly, Fats Waller, Bach and Thomas Tallis and other recorded effects...There are many small light sources, amplified sounds, an eight-foot table with matching chair, and oddities, humor, and excitement. Despite this laundry list of materials, it is quite of a piece, aesthetically, and makes a sort of effective visceral sense (I am told)"

[Pipes began its life in 2003 as a commission for the Naked Stages program at Intermedia Arts, a program to develop new performance art and artists funded by the Jerome Foundation.]

I'm more than intrigued, based on both this and their track record (having never let me down before), so I'll be there.

To learn more about the show and Skewed Visions, visit
www.skewedvisions.org

 

Fringe 2004 - The Next Generation

Who are the Fringers of the future?

We may be getting a glimpse at some of them now - young Fringe Bingers who decided to put on Fringe shows of their own this year and join the happy, messy throng...

Two groups of young women, both dealing with what goes on in the ladies' room (one about scribblings on the walls, the other about something past generations used to refer to as Aunt Flo coming to visit once a month) - and another co-ed group of young improv artists (so there's probably some bathroom humor on hand there as well). They are...

The Writings on the Bathroom Stall
Look Mom: I Wrote a Play
Pillsbury House Theatre

A rockin' story of a school trapped in a power struggle. Created by eight teenage girls. This isn't a teen movie, it's the crap in school you try to forget. (That's the young ladies' description, since they can get away with talking like that in a way I no longer can.)

Goddess Menses & the Menstrual Show
Youth Performance Company
Howard Conn Fine Arts Center

This is part of YPC's new project, The PG-13 Initiative ("the voice of the teen as it speaks to the teen spirit"), where they gather a group of young artists and create a show about a topic of interest to them. "Goddess Menses" was the first project, mounted last year, which was so popular they were asked several times to bring it back. So, it's coming to the Fringe. In their words, "A wild and funny show about every woman's favorite time of the month. Using sketch comedy, musical parody, and personal stories we shed light on the taboo subject of menstruation."

Why You Shouldn't Leave the Future to Us
BNI (Brave New Institute) Teen Improv Troupe: Rebels Without Applause
Pillsbury House Theatre

Deep thoughts and sketch comedy. An original, satirical look at modern times, through the eyes of the improv troupe, Rebels Without Applause.

The coaches of the BNI Teen Improv Troupe, Jen Scott and Ahna Brandvik weigh in with more...

"Every Sunday about 15 kids, age 13-18, from across the metro area get together to study long form improv at the Brave New Workshop. Since its creation, the Teen Improv Troupe has produced a Fringe show (2002), attended and performed at the Chicago Improv Festival (2003), performed at the weekly 'adult' improv carnival 'Improv A Go Go,' and continue to practice and perform. It's hard not to sound like a geeky soccer mom when raving about them: they're an amazing mix of different social classes, backgrounds, interests and are all just super smart and very very funny. Right now [as a work in progress], the theme seems to be focused on the media and its perceived differences of people (and hopefully some ninjas)."

Gotta love those ninjas. And you really gotta love a new generation making us...uh, slightly older...theatre artists feel a little less like theater is a dead art form going out of style. Live performance still has its drawing power, for humans of any stripe. And so I'll probably be dropping by to get a hit of youthful energy and enthusiasm. I recommend others join me.

 

Fringe 2004 - Save This Show From Its Title - The Great Masturbators

(second in a series)

Seriously, in this case, don't judge a book by its cover.

The Great Masturbators
Only Child Productions
Jungle Theater

Based on the title, I wasn't even going to bother. As Woody Allen said, "Don't knock masturbation, it's sex with someone I love," but really, it's a private thing. I can stay home and do it for free.

However, this is apparently what it's really about - "...the desires, failed dreams, and neurosis of three exceptional men: Salvador Dali, Luis Bunuel, and Federico Garcia Lorca, as they thumb thier noses at art and cinema, intellect and audience, religion, sexuality, and life in general. Living in 1920's Spain, these men grow from pranksters posing as artists, gain acceptance into surrealist clubs, become ostracized for their individuality, and then carve their own niche in the world of art"

As anyone who heard me holding forth last year about "Oil On Canvas" at the Fringe will tell you, I'm not fond of art about artists. It can be good but is often self-pitying and self-indulgent. Sort of like...

masturbation....

Hmmm...

According to a friend of mine with a background in art history, Dali really did like to masturbate a lot (so they were apparently thumbing more than just their noses). But really, as a title? It's either pandering to make the audience do a doubletake, or it's more accurate about the content than I want to contemplate right now. (And I must admit, in many ways, it is very much a Fringe title. In some ways, too much.)

Even I, who don't like art about artists, look at a roster of Dali, Bunuel and Lorca and think, "Damn, that might be an interesting play."

So if, like me, you're on the fence. Give it a chance.

 

Fringe 2004 - FAST FRINGE Rehearsal Update for Actors and Playwrights

REMINDER - NO REHEARSAL MONDAY NIGHT

Our director Bryan isn't back in town until Tuesday, so that's when this week's rehearsals will begin.

CHANGE IN SUNDAY TIMES

Please note the time change for the upcoming Sunday rehearsal.

THIS WEEK'S REHEARSALS

Tuesday, July 20th - 7-10pm
7pm - All About Words
8pm - Das Ewig Weibliche
9pm - Manhandled

Wednesday, July 21st - 7-10pm
7pm - Exit Interview
8pm - Your Call...
9pm - Mud...

Sunday, July 25th 4-9pm
Work problem spots and then...
Runthru of Fast Fringe 1
EXIT INTERVIEW by Gigi Jensen
MANHANDLED by Mic Weinblatt
PAPER TRAIL by Dominic Orlando
DAS EWIG WEIBLICHE by Timothy Cope
MILK by Amanda Thompson

REHEARSAL LOCATION

Reminder to all: Rehearsals are in the Minnesota Photography Center space, which is to the left of the lobby as you enter the building. However, do not use the main entrance; the space has its own entrance from the street, and that's the one we have keys for.

Playwrights are welcome to attend, but should be prepared to sit on the floor unless they bring their own chair or cushion.

There is ample on-street parking on Lake Street within a block or two of the Calhoun Building (711 W. Lake Street, just west of Lyndale).

TECH REHEARSALS - Mark your calendars!

We have a two back to back Tech Rehearsal slots, one for Fast Fringe 1, the other for Fast Fringe 2, which is great because it gives us a lot of flexibility - due to the fact that we have the same cast and director for both slots.

We have the option of doing each block individually:
- first hours to set cues
- second hour to run through the show going just cue to cue
- third hour to do an actual run through of the show

Or perhaps tech the whole thing (both Fast Fringe 1 and 2) in the first block of time, and then run and maybe even rehearse in the space in the second block.

That, of course, is up to the director to make a final decision on, in conjunction with the technical staff and cast, as to what will benefit everyone and the shows best. We’ll keep you posted as that gets finalized.

Right now, here’s the schedule and who’s assigned to what:

Wednesday, August 4th
2pm-5pm Fast Fringe 1 Tech
6pm-9pm Fast Fringe 2 Tech

Both techs take place at the Loring Playhouse (1635 Hennepin Avenue, Minneapolis)

 

Fringe 2004 - DANDELION SNOW - Thoughts on the first week of rehearsals

Reflections on the first full week of rehearsals --

My admiration for everyone begins in seeing them focus. I know how hard it is to shake off the day. And the surroundings are hardly sound proof, and large windows make up one wall the room. The world continually finds ways to try and intrude. And yet, the cast and director focus, the rest of the world drops away, and a fictional world begins to take shape.

The primary focus this week was on the interlocking relationships of the four guys in parts 2, 4 and 1 (Across Their River, Tools, and Dandelion Snow), rehearsed in that order.

With all men in the room, I found it amusing that we weren't at the YMCA but the YWCA. With new carpet renovations being done that we had to detour around on our way to the basement studio. With a wall that got painted blue over the course of our stay. With the ever-present sound of basketball and exercise classes leaking in from the gym next door, and the sight of folks going to and from the swimming pool just across the hall.

It was interesting, and I think helpful, to rehearse out of sequence. The spectre of Dana's current relationship with Julian, which is a very real presence in part 1, was helped by the fact that we'd previously worked two sections of the play that included Julian's character before we got to that opening sequence where he's not present. The actors playing Ash and Dana, having spent time with a human Julian, could conjure the idea of him and the obstacle he presented, more clearly than they might have been able to if we'd taken the different parts of the cycle in order.

It's always a struggle for me to keep my mouth shut in rehearsals (playwrights should be seen and not heard, except through their script, in rehearsal - it's a motto I try to live by). Even though my comments are often welcome, the last thing I want to do is inadvertantly cut off any avenues of exploration the director and cast want to take with the characters and the story. I feel the weight of being perceived as the one with the "right" answer - after all, I wrote the thing.

But I don't act, and don't direct, at least not anymore. My job is to give them the best script I can, and then get out of the way and watch, to see if I gave them all the tools they needed.

It's also hard not to jump in and try and help - which is analogous to, but different from, just speaking up in general. I know the script, and the characters. I've lived with them for several years. The cast and director have had them in hand for anywhere from a few weeks to only a few days. It's hard to trust that the words alone are enough, and yet I have to. Every word of dialogue is there for a reason, often several reasons. The whole thing's been shaped to within an inch of its life, cutting out the fat, the things that might lead folks off in the wrong direction.

That's not to say it's done. One of the main reasons I said yes to the production was so that I'd have a rehearsal process to sit in on, and see first hand where the holes in the text were. See where the actors and director had to help me out and paper over the rough spots for the time being. Learn what other things the characters were aching to say and do by watching actors bring them to life, each of them focused on an individual, while the director focused on the full canvas of the story. Finally, to see how an audience responded to it all, and to see whether the experience would generate any word of mouth in the crowded, overstuffed week of the Fringe.

The main challenge is that the set of four short plays were developed individually, several months if not a year apart from each other. Each has a slightly different style, a slightly different pace, a slightly different emphasis. Molding them into one continuously flowing piece is largely going to fall to this crew of artists. I'm hoping to learn from them were to capitalize on the differences, and where a sameness needs to be injected. Part 1 is more contemplative, establishing the two main characters and the unrequited yearning that binds them. Part 2 is a slightly dry comedy of manners - I'm not Noel Coward, but that's the way it's leaning. Part 3 is more screwball romantic comedy, with six characters involved in overlapping conversations and interlocking relationships. Part 4 hopefully offers some kind of resolution - a sense that a new order is established and life goes on - good for some, maybe not so good for others - but the world continues to spin forward, and possibilities for happiness are present. It's a mix, and a tricky one to pull together. Even I don't think I've fully wrestled it into place.

But for the most part, it's all there already, or at least I hope it is. Don't get me wrong. It ain't Ibsen or Chekhov or Shakespeare. It is, at its heart, a romantic comedy. While not every word is freighted with deep meaning and significance, neither is anything a throwaway which could be easily cut. My hope is that the currents bubbling under the surface will peek out, even as the story essentially moves toward a positive end - for most, if not all, of the characters involved.

So it's hard to bite my tongue and not give the game away. It's there. They'll find it. It's already well on its way. Slow does not equal boring. Fast does not equal good. The story will find its rhythm, and the way it wants to breathe, in time.

And there is time.

Perhaps it's good, too, that I'm going to be out of town for much of next week's work (training for the day job). I told them to get all the nasty thoughts about me and the script out of their system next week, for I would return. With the playwright out of the room, maybe they can breathe easier and feel freer to comment (though they certainly haven't seemed shy so far).

It's always educational to watch actors work their way up to the intimacy required in a text. Some just treat it as blocking and start up right away. Others have to sidle up to it sideways, kidding around and not going all the way - at the same time always acknowledging that there's a beat missing here that they'll have to go back for. More awkward than a first date, more like an arranged marriage. But everyone knew what they were signing up for. And they all seem game to try, in their own time.

And there is time yet.

As the director said, the audience knows when you're just "acting" - faking it. They came to get immersed in the story, not to wonder the actors' issues are.

An amusing recurring theme for our lead, William, is that in all my plays, the actor opposite him, playing his love interest, is always straight. Friendly, open-minded, talented, but straight. Good thing he's not counting on me and my scripts to introduce him to new dating possibilities.

It's gratifying to watch as each of the actors and the director all do their homework, come together in rehearsal with often very different ideas, and ways of discussing those ideas, and over the course of a couple of hours, everything slowly begins to meld into a common understanding that none of them could have come to on their own. And it's tremendously instructive to me - to see how each actor views the play through the lens of their character, and how the director sees the script as a whole, and starts to guide the different interpretations so all these people fit in the same world together.

The one night of rehearsal this coming week that I'll be sitting in on touches on Part 3, and a rough stumblethrough of the whole thing. I'm looking forward to it.

 

Fringe 2004 - DANDELION SNOW - the Basics on My Fringe Show - August 6-15, 2004

Saw a first stumble-through of all four parts just before I left for Boston and returned to find the actors well on their way to being off-book, lines memorized and taking the performances to the next level. All very exciting. More detail later.

Don’t forget to visit the Fringe website, www.fringefestival.org, register and start building your schedule in your own private “My Fringe” section. And please slot us in somewhere in your Fringing plans.

Here are the basics about time, place and cast, so you can plan to join us, and help spread the word.

"Oh, the pizza boy adds extra sausage,
And big tools are manly,
But when love burns like a schoolhouse on fire,
Three men come to grips with a certain, fated love."

(our official publicity blurb, courtesy of our producer/director, Brendan Perry)

The cast of "Dandelion Snow" is as follows:

Ash - William T. Leaf

Dana (Ash's oldest friend and former lover) - David Schlosser

Julian (Dana's husband) - Christopher O. Kidder

Aidan (pizza boy and potential boyfriend to Ash) - Grant Henderson

Abigail (Ash's mother) - Carol Vnuk

Grace (Dana's sister) - Renee Karen Werbowski

Claire (Aidan's co-worker) - Laura Weibers

The story:
When Dana and Ash, two high school sweethearts now in their thirties, meet again in the ruins of their old elementary school, the undertow of old emotional ties threatens to undo their current relationships with others. Will Dana be able to resolve his conflicts with his lover Julian over the long-distance relationship into which their connection is evolving? Will Ash find love with Aidan the pizza boy? Will Dana and Ash find their way back to each other? Should they?

The "Dandelion Snow" cycle of short plays will be on display at the Minnesota Fringe Festival in Minneapolis this year, thanks to Out On Stage Productions and producer/director Brendan Perry.

Excerpts from all four parts of the romantic misadventures of nearly reunited lovers Ash and Dana:

Dandelion Snow

Across Their River

Extra Cheese

Tools

are all available for viewing in the "Short Plays" section of the "Plays & Musicals" portion of this site - just click over in the left hand column.

And more details on this evolving production opportunity are chronicled in the column "Fringe Early Buzz - Honorable Mentions" also in this section.

First readthrough of the script was last month (for my thoughts on that, see Dandelion Snow - The Readthrough, also in this section)

"Dandelion Snow" will be performed on the Whitney Mainstage at Minneapolis Community and Technical College (1424 Yale Place, Minneapolis, Minnesota) - which is enormous, so please come and bring a few dozen of your friends and family along with you.

The dates and times are:

Saturday August 7, 2004 - 8:30pm

Wednesday August 11, 2004 - 2:30pm

Thursday August 12, 2004 - 5:30pm

Friday August 13, 2004 - 8:30pm

Saturday August 14, 2004 - 4pm

Tickets go on sale July 1st through Uptown Tix (www.uptowntix.com or 612-604-4466).

Hope to see you there.

 

CUE TO CUE - a TV show covering theatre in Minnesota

Our spotlight on this year’s Minnesota Fringe Festival continues as all six episodes are now in heavy rotation on SPNN, the St. Paul Neighborhood Network, Channel 19, for the weeks leading up to the opening of the Fringe. The guest rosters for the episodes include performances from and conversations with:

Episode 105:
- Leah Cooper, Executive Director of the Minnesota Fringe Festival
- Theatre Latte Da, with Artistic Director Peter Rothstein, and a preview of performer/creator Jim Lichtscheidl's new physical/musical/comedy hybrid, "Knock!"

Episode 106
- Calibanco Theatre re-imagining a classic text with "Feeling Faust"
- Ferrari McSpeedy with the conclusion of their wacky but beloved thrillogy, "Punk Rock Awesome"

Episode 107
- Fast Fringe - the Festival's two part short play showcase
- Janelle Ranek and her one woman show "Scrawl: 2nd Draft Still Not Approved"

Episode 108
- Amala Dance and Music's "On The Beaded Fringe II: Traveling In Hip Circles"
- Claire Simonson's multi-media offering "The Origins of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind"

Episode 109
- Chameleon Theatre Circle's "Death Penalty Puppetry"
- Protest Productions offering "Comedy Against Racism"

Episode 110
- It's About Time Theatre and their all-female take on the two person comedy, "Stones In His Pockets"
- Top Hat Theatre's performance by and for kids, "Peter Pan"

The SPNN schedule for Cue to Cue is as follows:

Friday, July 16th
6:30pm - Episode 107

Monday, July 19th
6:30pm - Episode 105
7pm - Episode 106

Tuesday, July 20th
6:30pm - Episode 105
7pm - Episode 106
7:30pm - Episode 107

Wednesday, July 21st
6:30pm - Episode 108
7pm - Episode 109
7:30pm - Episode 110

Thursday, July 22nd
6:30pm - Episode 108
7pm - Episode 109
7:30pm - Episode 110

Friday, July 23rd
6:30pm - Episode 108
7pm - Episode 109
7:30pm - Episode 110

Saturday, July 24th
11:30am - Episode 105
12 noon - Episode 106
12:30pm - Episode107
8:30pm - Episode 108
9pm - Episode 109
9:30pm - Episode 110

Sunday, July 25th
11:30am - Episode 105
12 noon - Episode 106
12:30pm - Episode107
8:30pm - Episode 108
9pm - Episode 109
9:30pm - Episode 110

In addition, TPT-17, St. Paul’s public TV station, serving the greater Twin Cities area, will also broadcast the following episodes in the upcoming weeks:

Sunday, August 1st - 10:00 pm
Episode 107
- Fast Fringe - the Festival's two part short play showcase
- Janelle Ranek and her one woman show "Scrawl: 2nd Draft Still Not Approved"

Sunday, August 22nd - 10:00 pm
Episode 108
- Amala Dance and Music's "On The Beaded Fringe II: Traveling In Hip Circles"
- Claire Simonson's multi-media offering "The Origins of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind"

All six episodes may also be broadcast via streaming video (as they were last year) on the Minnesota Fringe Festival website. Details on that still pending.

"Cue To Cue" was launched last year with a six episode series spotlighting the wide variety of acts in the 2003 Minnesota Fringe Festival (speaking with representatives of 15 Head, Ministry of Cultural Warfare, Theatre Unbound, Hunter Marionettes, Theatre Gallery, VISTA Productions, Kabobenco, and individual artists Kevin Kling, Kirsten Frantzich, Josette Antomarchi and Tom Cassidy, as well as profiles of the Spoken Word Fringe and Visible Fringe).

Since then, we've talked to still more individual theater artists (director/choreographer Noah Bremer, musical theatre collaborators Gary Rue, Ann Schulman, Daniel Pinkerton and Chris Gennaula) as well as cross-section of established and up-and-coming theatre companies (Mixed Blood, Margolis Brown, Stepping Stone, Starting Gate, Mama Mosaic, Skewed Visions)

 

Fringe 2004 - FAST FRINGE - the Fringe Festival's short play fest within a fest

For excerpts from each of the scripts, cast and production photos and more, visit the Fast Fringe section in “Plays & Musicals” in the short play listing.

Having been out of town in Boston this past week, I’m still playing catch up on the latest from rehearsals. The show’s publicity cards are done and distribution has begun. A press release is forthcoming.

Here are the basics on the production itself...

Fast Fringe 1: The Agony

Dead employees, suffocating mamas, G-Men, and breast pumps!  All this and more in just one hour!  Five plays by five authors! It's fast, Fast, FAST!

Exit Interview by Gigi Jensen
Manhandled by Mic Weinblatt
Paper Trail by Dominic Orlando
Das Ewig Weibliche by Tim Cope
Milk by Amanda Thompson

Fast Fringe 2: The Ecstasy

Virgins in limbo, killer daddies, malapropisms, and... your call is very important to us!  All this and more in just one hour!  Five plays by five authors! It's fast, Fast, FAST!

All About Words by Michelle Pett
Limbo Lounge by Betty Liedtke
Mud On A Little Girl’s Dress by Jason Connors
Infinite Justice by Mike Peroz
Your Call Is Very Important To Us by Roy Close

The ensemble cast of four plays 26 roles in 10 plays, as follows:

Colleen Barrett
Edy in EXIT INTERVIEW, Big Mother in MANHANDLED, The Woman in DAS EWIG WEIBLICHE, Vicki in MILK, Mother in ALL ABOUT WORDS, Rowena in LIMBO LOUNGE, Penny in YOUR CALL IS VERY IMPORTANT TO US

Dana Erin Horst
Danielle in EXIT INTERVIEW, Kim in PAPER TRAIL, Patty in MILK, Laura in LIMBO LOUNGE, Chelsy in MUD ON A LITTLE GIRL'S DRESS, Joyce in YOUR CALL IS VERY IMPORTANT TO US

Steven Meek
Mervyn in MANHANDLED, Crespo in PAPER TRAIL, Rick in MILK, Charlie in LIMBO LOUNGE, Father in MUD ON A LITTLE GIRL'S DRESS, Fahey in INFINITE JUSTICE, Kelly in YOUR CALL IS VERY IMPORTANT TO US

Alex Needham
Trevor in MANHANDLED, Playwright in PAPER TRAIL, Richard in DAS EWIG WEIBLICHE, Son in ALL ABOUT WORDS, Billy in LIMBO LOUNGE, Muzak in YOUR CALL IS VERY IMPORTANT TO US

Fast Fringe 1 and Fast Fringe 2 will both be performed at the Loring Playhouse (1635 Hennepin Avenue, Minneapolis, MN).

Sunday, August 8, 2004
- 1pm, Fast Fringe 2
- 2:30pm, Fast Fringe 1

Monday, August 9, 2004
- 8:30pm, Fast Fringe 2

Tuesday, August 10, 2004
- 8:30pm, Fast Fringe 1

Wednesday, August 11, 2004
- 8:30pm, Fast Fringe 1
- 10pm, Fast Fringe 2

Friday, August 13, 2004
- 1pm, Fast Fringe 2
- 2:30pm, Fast Fringe 1

Saturday, August 14, 2004
- 2:30pm, Fast Fringe 2

Sunday, August 15, 2004
- 4pm, Fast Fringe 1

Tickets go on sale July 1st through Uptown Tix (www.uptowntix.com or 612-604-4466).

If you have any questions for us, contact us at fast@fringefestival.org.

(Or you can drop me a line through this website and I'll pass it on)

 

Theatre-going Recommendations - Twin Cities

OPENING THIS WEEK...

Monday, July 19th and Tuesday, July 20th, 2004 at 7:30pm
Nautilus Music Theater presents, as part of its ongoing ROUGH CUTS series, a musical reading of a new one-act opera by Dominic Orlando and Robert Elhai, “Sun-Standing-Still,” commissioned for and performed by Jennifer Baldwin Peden and Christina Baldwin - two sisters discover the comforts of solstice through a mystical tale of renewal - plus Norah Long in four new music-theater solo scenes including “Night Flight to San Francisco” by Ricky Ian Gordon, based on an excerpt from Tony Kusher’s “Angels In America.” Monday is at the Nautilus Music-Theater Studio on the 2nd floor of the Northern Warehouse, 308 Prince Street in Lowertown, St. Paul. Tuesday is at the Music Building on the Augsburg College campus, 22nd and Riverside in the West Bank District of Minneapolis. Only $5. Seated limited, call for reservations, 651-298-9913.

July 22-25, 2004
The Playwrights’ Center’s annual PlayLabs new play development workshops have a number of notable names and collaborations in store. The highlights, to my eyes, are Vincent Delaney’s “Perpetua” on July 23rd (in collaboration with Commonweal Theatre Company) and Lee Blessing’s new play “A Body of Water” on July 24th, destined for the Guthrie Lab stage next year. I saw an earlier reading of “Perpetua” and was impressed by the way Vince spins words like poetry, all the while creating a series of complex relationships, rife with both conflict and humor. Great stuff. There are also collaborations afoot with The Children’s Theatre Company, Mixed Blood Theatre, and yet another Guthrie project. For tickets, call 612-332-7481, ext. 14, and for the full scoop on the festival visit www.pwcenter.org

July 24, 2004
A benefit for Ragamala Music and Dance Theatre - over the last 12 years, Ragamala has presented more than 100 original works rooted in Bharatanatyam, a classical style from southern India. They blend dance, music and poetry, collaborating with renowned local, national and international choreographers, composers and musicians of diverse cultural and artistic backgrounds. Their Soiree Madras will be at Grande Salle, Alliance Francaise, 113 North First Street in the Warehouse District of Minneapolis, MN. An Indian buffet dinner, live music from Twin Cities jazz artist Charmin Michelle, and a silent auction. Call 612-824-1968 and for more information visit www.ragamala.net

July 24th thru October 3rd, 2004
The Great American History Theatre presents John B. Davidson’s musical tragedy, “The Last Minstrel Show” - On June 16th, 1920, three black men were lynched in the city of Duluth, Minnesota. This is their story - 30th East 10th Street, St. Paul. Call 651-292-4323, and for more information on the History Theatre, visit www.historytheatre.com

NOW PLAYING...

thru July 25, 2004
“Momentum: New Dance Works” presented at the Southern Theatre by the Southern and Walker Art Center - a showcase of the Twin Cities’ most promising choreographers - 1420 Washington Avenue South, Minneapolis. Call 612-340-1725 or see www.walkerart.org for more information.

thru July 25th, 2004
Red Eye Collaboration presents “The Cult of Dorian Gray” - a multimedia performmance where dancers flaunt gravity, walk on walls and hurl briefcases with razor-sharp precision. They seduce, betray and tango their way to the top, creating a cynical circus that manages to turn moral bankruptcy into beautiful acrobatic art. Call 612-870-0309 or visit www.theredeye.org for reservations.

thru July 25th
Joking Apart Theatre presents the Twin Cities premiere of the Alan Ayckbourn’s trilogy, “The Norman Conquests,” at the Cedar Riverside People's Center, 425 - 20th Avenue South, Minneapolis. All three plays - "Table Manners," "Living Together," "Round and Round the Garden" - run in repertory (with a chance on July 24 for audiences to see all three plays in the same day). When Norman devises a dirty weekend in the country with his sister-in-law Annie, he doesn't count on the arrival of her brother Reg and another sister-in-law, Sarah, to put a stop to it. With the occasional interference from Tom, Annie's would-be boyfriend, and the unexpected appearance of Norman's own wife and Annie's sister, Ruth, the illicit rendezvous is cancelled, and they all try to make the best of a weekend together in the country. Each play dissects the disastrous weekend from a different angle, in a different part of the same house. Call 612-728-3839 for reservations, and to learn more visit http://home.mn.rr.com/edwinstrout/index.html

thru July 31st, 2004
Filthy Whore Productions remounts (pardon the pun) “3 Way” - one of the top-selling shows from the 2003 Minnesota Fringe Festival - at the Bryant Lake Bowl, 810 West Lake Street, Minneapolis. What happnes when three friends wake up together in bed after a night of drunken revelry? It’s a case of he said/he said...he said as Alex, Ethan and Matt attempt to sort out their stories and their socks. As you might expect, adult themes and brief nudity in this clever comedy. Call 612-825-8949 or check out www.bryantlakebowl.com and/or www.johntrones.com

thru July 31st, 2004
A double bill of musicals from Gaydar Productions - Bed Boys and Beyond, & A My Name Is Alice - all male, all female - the new and the long-established - at the Loring Playhouse, 1633 Hennepin Avenue in Minneapolis. Call 612-604-4466 or go to www.UpTownTix.com for tickets and more information.

thru August 1, 2004
SteppingStone Theatre presents a musical adaptation of the popular children’s book, “The Stinky Cheese Man,” adapted by local theatre luminaries Kent Stephens and Gary Rue. Performances are at the F.K. Weyerhaeuser Auditorium at the Landmark Center in downtown St. Paul, Minnesota (75 West 5th Street). For tickets, call 651-225-9265, and for more information visit www.steppingstonetheatre.org

thru August 1, 2004
Illusion Theatre’s Fresh Ink is back...
July 15-18 - Promise Ring by Doug Collins. I’m a big fan of Doug’s work - it’s both hilarious and heartbreaking all at the same time. He’s a truly gifted writer.
July 22-25 - Pieces of Eight, from the Sossy Mechanics who brought their popular Trick Boxing show to a past Minnesota Fringe Festival
July 19-August 1 - Whatever Happened to Alice James? directed by Ellen Fenster (who once directed one of my recent Chicago Avenue Project scripts for Pillsbury House Theatre, entitled “Dr. Worm” - available for viewing on this site in the “Plays for Young Actors” category.)
Call 612-339-4944, and for more info on Illusion, visit www.illusiontheater.org

thru August 8, 2004
Park Square presents what the New York Times called the “best new American play of the year,” the Mae West-inpsired (and haunted) romantic comedy, “Dirty Blonde” - directed by the gifted Joel Sass and starring the also impressive talents of Jodi Kellogg as Mae West - Thursdays thru Sundays at Park Square, 408 St. Peter Street, St. Paul. Call 651-291-7005 and for more information on Park Square, visit www.parksquaretheatre.org

thru August 15, 2004
Theatre In The Round Players presents “Angel Street,” a new stage version of the classic Ingrid Bergman movie “Gaslight” - New owners have moved into the house on Angel Street in London, where a grisly, unsolved murder was committed 15 years earlier. And now, in its gloomy atmosphere, Mrs. Manningham suffers more and more from forgetfulness and anxiety, until she’s afraid her hallucinations will drive her insane. 245 Cedar Avenue in Minneapolis (the Seven Corners area). Call 612-333-3010 and for more information visit www.theatreintheround.org

thru August 28, 2004
Jungle Theater presents Tony Award-winning playwright Richard Greenberg’s play, “The Dazzle,” about two eccentric brothers living in an East Harlem mansion barricaded behind 136 tons of junk (which sounds depressingly like the disarray of my apartment, but without the grandeur of space to spread out in). On the corner of Lake Street and Lyndale Avenue in Minneapolis (2951 Lyndale Avenue South, to be exact). Call 612-822-7063 and learn more about the Jungle at www.jungletheater.com

IN THE NOT TOO DISTANT FUTURE...
MARK YOUR CALENDARS...

The Minnesota Fringe Festival, August 6-15, 2004, 175+ shows in locations in and around downtown Minneapolis, including my own projects...

Dandelion Snow, at the Minneapolis Community and Technical College’s Whitney Mainstage space

Fast Fringe, at the Loring Playhouse

See other columns in this section for details, or follow the links from the front page of this site to full coverage on Dandelion Snow and Fast Fringe.

 

Fringe 2004 - DANDELION SNOW Rehearsal update for cast

PARKING ALERT

Remember, leave your self plenty of extra time. It’s hard to find parking in the area around the Y.

There is onsite parking (the YW's lot) for a dollar.

We need to be able to start on time, because we *have* to leave on time (the building closes at 9pm sharp)

TIME AND PLACE

The rehearsal times are from 6:45pm to 9pm at the downtown YWCA. The address is:

Downtown YWCA
1130 Nicollet Mall
Minneapolis, MN 55403
612/332-0501

That is on the corner of 12th and Nicollet.

You'll need to sign in at the front desk.

Monday, July 19th
- Part 4 (Tools)
- Ash, Dana, Aidan, Julian

Tuesday, July 20th
- Part 3 (Extra Cheese)
- Ash, Dana, Aidan, Abigail, Grace, Claire

Wednesday, July 21st
- Part 3 (Extra Cheese)
- Ash, Dana, Aidan, Abigail, Grace, Claire

Thursday, July 22nd
- Part 1 (Dandelion Snow)
- Ash, Dana
and
- Part 2 (Across Their River)
- Ash, Dana, Julian

Monday, July 26th
- Part 3 (Extra Cheese)
- Ash, Dana, Aidan, Abigail, Grace, Claire
and
- Part 4 (Tools)
- Ash, Dana, Aidan, Julian

Tuesday, July 27th
- Part 1 (Dandelion Snow)
- Ash, Dana
and
- Part 2 (Across Their River)
- Ash, Dana, Julian

Wednesday, July 28th
All Called, running Parts 1-4

Thursday, July 29th
All Called, running Parts1-4

The rehearsal schedule for the first week in August, other than Tech Rehearsal, is still being determined.

As opening approaches, we have one rehearsal in the space, the Whitney Mainstage at Minneapolis Community and Technical College (1424 Yale Place, Minneapolis)

TECH REHEARSAL Monday, August 2nd from 6-9pm

Thanks for all your hard work.

 

Notes from a Wandering Laptop

Week of July 18, 2004

My latest endeavours...

FRINGE BLOGGING KICKS INTO HIGH GEAR

The blogs are live on the Fringe website and my entries are flowing both there and the ever-growing section of this site, “In My Humble Opinion.” I’ve scoured the listings and I’ve started naming names...

Read all about - The first two shows in my Top Ten; Three shows that are Sure Things; Close by those five, Five More Shows In A Similar Vein; The first of a number of Hidden Gems; A show I wrote and two that I helped produce; Two shows that need to be Saved From Their Titles; Nude Fringe; Violent Fringe; Fringe Love; Shakespearean Fringe; and Fringers of the Future.

With still more updates each day, visit the blogs here and on the Fringe home site, www.fringefestival.org

DANDELION SNOW - MY FRINGE SHOW

Rehearsals continue. For the latest details, including cast, dates, times and location, click here. For a look at the answers I gave to an inquiry from Lavender magazine for their Fringe coverage, click here. For some thoughts on our first readtrhough of the script, click here, and also see "Fringe 2004 Early Buzz - Honorable Mentions." For thoughts on the first full week of rehearsals, click here. All these can also be found in the section, “In My Humble Opinion.”

And if you're interested in a preview of some of what you'll be seeing at the Fringe, you can check out excerpts from the four parts of the cycle - Dandelion Snow, Across Their River, Extra Cheese, and Tools - in the Plays & Musicals section of this site.

FAST FRINGE

An expanded section on Fast Fringe - featuring photos and excerpts from all ten of the plays - is now on display in the "Short Plays" listing of the "Plays & Musicals" section of this site. Want a short cut? Click here. Rehearsals are well under way. For the latest details on this showcase of short plays for the 2004 Minnesota Fringe Festival, including dates, times, location and cast, click here, and also see "Fringe 2004 Early Buzz - Honorable Mentions."

"CUE TO CUE" GOES TO THE FRINGE

All six episodes spotlighting the Minnesota Fringe Festival are now in heavy rotation on SPNN, the St. Paul Neighborhood Network. For a complete line-up of guests and showtimes (plus information on the two episodes scheduled for re-broadcast on TPT, Channel 17, St. Paul’s public TV station), see the section "In My Humble Opinion" or click here.

MONOLOGUES AND SCENES FOR ACTORS, ACTRESSES, AND DIRECTORS

The centralized searchable database for all the scenes and monologues on the site is up and running!

Monologues for men. Monologues for women. Scenes for men. Scenes for women. Scenes for men and women together. It's all here for your perusal. Click on the "Monologue Search" or "Scene Search" functions in the menu at the left, or just click here.

SAMPLE SONGS...

from the Christmas musical, "The Hopes and Fears of All the Years"

Find them in the "Hopes and Fears..." section of the "Plays and Musicals" area of this site or just click here.

THEATRE RECOMMENDATIONS FOR THE TWIN CITIES

A brand new commissioned opera under construction, Mae West, Gaslight, Fresh Ink, and more. For details, go to the section "In My Humble Opinion" or just click here.

INTERESTED IN PRODUCING ONE OF THESE PLAYS?

Please contact me.

Feel free to use the scenes and monologues for auditions or classes if you like (and drop me a note and let me know how it went).

So, take a look around and tell me what you think. I'm going to get back to work on those upgrades.

ON A PERSONAL NOTE...

Many thanks to my friend Gerry, for putting me up at his place during my recent trip to Boston for some database training for my day job. He was a great host and it was wonderful to catch up on his new life in Massachusetts since he moved there for his oncology fellowship a year ago. A long overdue chance to hang out. Miss you already, my friend.

Thanks for stopping by.

 

Fringe 2004 - Hidden Gem - Dix

(second in a series)

[a show that might not be on your radar, but should be...]
 
Dix
Terra Incognita
Women's Club of Minneapolis
 
TWO PERFORMANCES ONLY - the opening Friday and Saturday, August 6th and 7th, of the Festival
 
And one of the performances is the very first performance block - 5:30pm on a Friday. 
 
Tough for any performers, doubly tough for out of towners who haven't had much chance to garner any word of mouth.  Scheduling conflicts have made it impossible for them to stay for the whole run of the festival, unfortunately, but they're still very excited about bringing their play to share with us. 
 
No doubt they'll all be working the festival community to get the word out.  And I'm putting in a plug for them as well.
 
What's it about, you say?  I'm glad you asked...
 
Here are the words of Woody Hood, head honcho for Terra Icognita:
 
"I've been thinking about how to talk about 'Dix' for a long time.  The play is rather thickly poetic and fragmented, so talking about it with words is a bit strange.  It doesn't lend itself easily to publicity and promotion unfortunately...

The setting for the piece is the Dorothea Dix Hospital, founded in 1848 to change the public's perception of mental illnesses. Here's the basic info on her: Dorothea Lynde Dix (1802-1887) - American philanthropist, reformer, and educator who was a pioneer in the movement for specialized treatment of the mentally ill.

The play opens with a long-time nurse introducing a new hire to the 'Dix Hilton.' We quickly leave the confines of the real and enter multiple worlds as we discover each new patient. We enter a place created by a woman who only perceives the universe via color. One understands and communicates only by rhythmic sound. A third patient transmogrifies into multiple people/times/places.

As the piece progresses, the young nurse learns to pull her interior landscapes that she's kept secretly squirreled away to the outside. In the end, all of the women join in a ritual of freedom, safe away from the confines of 'real' or 'normal.'

Words I would use to describe the play: funny, surreal, sweet, bizarre, warm, earthy, disconnected, connected, imaginative. The playwright is [also] a published poet...She just had a premiere of her first opera at a festival last fall in Alsace, France (a bizarre and wonderful thing with music created randomly by mechanized robots...

We've already had a directed reading of [Dix]. The audience was remarkably positive and they seemed to be able to track the piece well. I'm dying to know how audiences will respond to the full beast...

Our company (Terra Incognita) is happy to find a festival in the U.S. that is still interested in this sort of work. We're tired of paying for the airfare to travel our work to Europe where it can be viewed in its own terms and not in commercial ones."

I love a play that needs the Fringe in order to exist. The description fascinates me. There are a couple of Minnesota-based women's theater companies, also in the Fringe this year, who probably ought to give it a look, and a longer local production, if it's as good as I think it's going to be.

Catch it while you can. Two performances only, in the opening weekend, and then they're gone.

(normally this might be a candidate for "Save This Show From Its Title," but if a mispelling more common to e-mails is going to get you to give this show a second look, then I'm OK with that)

For another Hidden Gem, look into
Mary Kelley Sunshine Box

 

Fringe 2004 - The Fringe's Bitch

I've said it before, I'll say it again...
If this were a prison movie, and the Fringe and I were cellmates, I'd be the Fringe's bitch.

You know it's bad when you really, really want to blog, because you're so excited about all the cool shows you want to spread the good news about, but you can't because...

Well, let's see, there's updating my website because it's now linked to three show pages on the Fringe site and needs to look at current as humanly possible.

There's the updating of all the bios on both sites, still not done...

Then there's dealing with the show cards - lovely but...ack, expensive...that now all have my fingerprints on them (all 2000 of 'em) because I spent the better part of a couple of hours parceling them off into bundles of 100 each to pass our to our cast and playwrights to start proselytizing for Fast Fringe.

And of course in between, four nights a week, are rehearsals for the other show (where I'm now on book for actors learning to put down their scripts)

One of which I'll have to miss because my friend Abigail with the radio show on KFAI just called to say she'd like to profile me - so one more chance to plug the shows there.

But there's that moment, like last night in rehearsal for Dandelion Snow, when you realize, "I think this could be a sleeper hit of the Fringe. If only people can find their way to it, I think they'll love it, and tell other people, and maybe, just maybe..." The actors so deserve it for all their hard work.

So it's more hard work for me, happily, because I know I'm plugging away for a good cause.

Writing, producing, TV hosting, radio guesting, blogging, web updating.

Yup, I'm the Fringe's bitch.

If you want to know who I am in real life, talk to me on August 16th.

 

Fringe 2004 - Our story thus far

(for those of you just tuning in, clicking on, etc.)

Here are all the shows I've been buzzing about up to now

3 Sure Things (shows on my top ten last year that are back again this year)

Plants and Animals
In Defense of Sin (My Friends' Best Stories)
Whoppers, from Kevin Kling

3 Honorable Mentions (shows I love, because one I wrote and two I'm producing, so objectivity is kind of out the window on these)

Dandelion Snow
Fast Fringe 1 and Fast Fringe 2

The beginnings of The New Top Ten (If You Held A Gun To My Head and I could only see ten fringe shows, what would they be and why):

Death Penalty Puppetry
The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind

While You're At It - other shows that, if you like any of those above, should also be of interest to you:

The Valets (for the Plants and Animals crowd)
Punk Rock Awesome (for the In Defense of Sin crowd)
Delaware, And Other Lies (for the Kevin Kling crowd)
Osama Kincaid, Painter of Terror (for the Death Penalty Puppetry crowd)
Pipes (for the Origin of Consciousness Crowd)

2 Hidden Gems (shows that might not be on your radar, but should be)

Mary Kelley Sunshine Box
Dix

2 shows that are good, so they should be Saved From Their Titles

Boldly Going Nowhere
The Great Masturbators

There's also been coverage of

Fringers of the Future
Shakespearean Fringe
Nude Fringe
Violent Fringe
A Fringe Love Story

That's where we've been - now on to where we're going...

 

Fringe 2004 - The Fringe Always Shines On TV

The Fringe Always Shines On TV
I mentioned, among my duties as the Fringe's bitch, that I do some TV hosting. Here's the low down on that...
CUE TO CUE - a TV show covering theatre in Minnesota
Our spotlight on this year’s Minnesota Fringe Festival continues as all six episodes are now in heavy rotation on SPNN, the St. Paul Neighborhood Network, Channel 19, for the weeks leading up to the opening of the Fringe. The guest rosters for the episodes include performances from and conversations with:
Episode 105:
- Leah Cooper, Executive Director of the Minnesota Fringe Festival
- Theatre Latte Da, with Artistic Director Peter Rothstein, and a preview of performer/creator Jim Lichtscheidl's new physical/musical/comedy hybrid, Knock!
Episode 106
- Calibanco Theatre re-imagining a classic text with Feeling Faust
- Ferrari McSpeedy with the conclusion of their wacky but beloved thrillogy, Punk Rock Awesome
Episode 107
- Fast Fringe - the Festival's two part short play showcase
- Janelle Ranek and her one woman show Scrawl: 2nd Draft Still Not Approved
Episode 108
- Amala Dance and Music's On The Beaded Fringe II: Traveling In Hip Circles
- Claire Simonson's multi-media offering The Origins of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind
Episode 109
- Chameleon Theatre Circle's Death Penalty Puppetry
- Protest Productions offering Comedy Against Racism
Episode 110
- It's About Time Theatre and their all-female take on the two person comedy, Stones In His Pockets
- Top Hat Theatre's performance by and for kids, Peter Pan
The SPNN schedule for Cue to Cue this week is as follows:
Wednesday, July 21st
6:30pm - Episode 108
7pm - Episode 109
7:30pm - Episode 110
Thursday, July 22nd
6:30pm - Episode 108
7pm - Episode 109
7:30pm - Episode 110
Friday, July 23rd
6:30pm - Episode 108
7pm - Episode 109
7:30pm - Episode 110
Saturday, July 24th
11:30am - Episode 105
12 noon - Episode 106
12:30pm - Episode107
8:30pm - Episode 108
9pm - Episode 109
9:30pm - Episode 110
Sunday, July 25th
11:30am - Episode 105
12 noon - Episode 106
12:30pm - Episode107
8:30pm - Episode 108
9pm - Episode 109
9:30pm - Episode 110
In addition, TPT-17, St. Paul’s public TV station, serving the greater Twin Cities area, will also broadcast the following episodes in the upcoming weeks:
Sunday, August 1st - 10:00 pm
Episode 107
- Fast Fringe - the Festival's two part short play showcase
- Janelle Ranek and her one woman show Scrawl: 2nd Draft Still Not Approved
Sunday, August 22nd - 10:00 pm
Episode 108
- Amala Dance and Music's On The Beaded Fringe II: Traveling In Hip Circles
- Claire Simonson's multi-media offering The Origins of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind
TPT also broadcast Episode 105 on July 4th, and Episode 106 on July 11th, so they like us, they really like us.
"Cue To Cue" was launched last year with a six episode series spotlighting the wide variety of acts in the 2003 Minnesota Fringe Festival (speaking with representatives of 15 Head, Ministry of Cultural Warfare, Theatre Unbound, Hunter Marionettes, Theatre Gallery, VISTA Productions, Kabobenco, and individual artists Kevin Kling, Kirsten Frantzich, Josette Antomarchi and Tom Cassidy, as well as profiles of the Spoken Word Fringe and Visible Fringe).
Since then, we've talked to still more individual theater artists (director/choreographer Noah Bremer, musical theatre collaborators Gary Rue, Ann Schulman, Daniel Pinkerton and Chris Gennaula) as well as cross-section of established and up-and-coming theatre companies (Mixed Blood, Margolis Brown, Stepping Stone, Starting Gate, Mama Mosaic, Skewed Visions)

 

Fringe 2004 - A Face Made For Radio

A Face Made For Radio
In my duties as the Fringe's bitch, I also mentioned a late-breaking radio opportunity, which would be...
Joining my friend Abigail Garner as one of her guests on...
Fresh Fruit
KFAI-FM
Thursday, July 22, 2004
7:00 pm CST
90.3 FM - Minneapolis
106.7 FM - St. Paul
Tune in and join us...
Talking perhaps about being a gay writer addressing a mix of both gay and straight characters in my work, and why it never ceases to perplex me that that's such a big deal to some people (on both sides of the fence).
And now, off to rehearsal...

 

Fringe 2004 - Early Buzz - Top 10 - Metamorphoses

If You Held A Gun To My Head (3 of 10)
...or If I Could Only See Ten Fringe Shows...
...what would they be, and why?

Metamorphoses
The Mayasphere Project
Bryant Lake Bowl

No, not Kafka's cockroach saga, that's The Metamorphosis.

And while, yes, it's the same source material, it's not the Mary Zimmerman extravaganza that had New York buzzing a few years back.

Instead, and delightfully so, this looks to be one of the best one person show imports from out of town this year.

Much along the lines of last year's One Man Hamlet (also in the same space), this production allows one actor with a lot of chops and bare minimum of props to delve into yet another classic text.

The mythological tale Ovid told may be over 2000 years old, but much of it will be recognizable for a variety of reasons, among them that a great many writers we revere today, Shakespeare among them, were influenced by these tales.

Reimagined and performed by Todd Conner, this takes storytelling back to the basics, breathing life into tales that are far from musty, despite their age.

I love that high wire act of a single person going out on stage and performing multiple roles all on their own with no backup. It's one of the adrenalin rushes you get in theater and nowhere else.

If you won't take my word for it, how about some reviews from Entertainment Today Los Angeles, or L.A. Weekly, or perhaps just testimonials from audience members who've already seen it.

Learn more about Todd and his production at
mayasphereproject.com

 

Fringe 2004 - While You're At It...try Maximum Verbosity

While You're At It...
...Or Shows In A Similar Vein

Marveling at the mythological meanderings of...
Metamorphoses?

Try
Lokasenna
Maximum Verbosity
MCTC Whitney Studio

A more home-grown mythological entry, coming to us from Rochester, based on the Eddas, a collection of Icelandic poetry.

I'm a junky for myths and ancient tales told by modern theatrical artists - so that's my own personal bias. If it's not your cup of tea, so be it. However, how can you not be curious about a show that describes itself as...

"...the Ring Cycle, performed by the Marx Brothers. On acid"?

Plus, I love the enthusiasm of these folks. Phillip Andrew Bennett Low, the writer/adapter, told me this about the show when I went snooping around a few months back...

"A 'senna' is a kind of combat that takes the form of ritualized insults, usually very crude. Loki is the god of profanity, blasphemy, and mischief, who figures as a central character in many of the stories. Hence, "Lokasenna" -- the senna of Loki.

...This collection of songs and routines takes more the form of a comedy revue...[It] retells several Scandinavian myths, including the cutting of Sif's hair, Thor's journey to Utgard, and the theft of Thor's hammer. The twist is that the stories are filtered through the twin perspectives of Loki and his daughter Hel, the goddess of the underworld; thus, the exploits of the gods take the form of a kind of slapstick comedy.

I hope this doesn't sound too academic, because the show is first and foremost designed to be entertaining. One of the challenges of this project has been creating jokes that work on multiple levels: i.e., they're funny if you know the stories, but Joe off the street can still laugh even if he doesn't get the reference. In many cases, we're telling jokes that are nearly a thousand years old, and that's thrilling."

They're also right next door to my own show, Dandelion Snow, so it's more like dropping by to chat with the neighbors about how the Fringe is going. Looking forward to the acid trip.

 

Fringe 2004 - Guilty Pleasure - U Betcha! eX-posed!

(first in a series)

U Betcha! eX-posed!
Hamel Road Theatre Project
Intermedia Arts

I'll admit it. I own more Backstreet Boys CD's than a thirtysomething man - gay or straight - probably should. And in my weaker moments, I think Justin Timberlake is kinda cute. No one would mistake that brand of pop as groundbreaking or original, but, hey, it's not meant to be. If
I'm still mystified by house music, techno, showtunes and Barbara Streisand, boybands are where I yield to my gay gene and my hormones.

This fake group is, in the words of their head honcho Ryan North, "talented enough to maybe be real, and just bad enough to confuse people." And while I'll admit that a parody of boy bands almost seems redundant (they are all, on some level, self-parody anyway), U Betcha has had a loyal (nay, rabid) following since 2001 for a reason. This spoof, spawned at the Bryant Lake Bowl and taken on the road in several directions, is just plain fun, and funny. You don't inspire an extended sold out run, remounts, and audience members making their own T-shirts and tattoos (among other paraphenalia) just by virtue of being cute and being able to carry a tune. Not if you're a fake band. You've gotta be bringing some actual entertainment value to the table. Think of it as the theatrical equivalent of chocolate - sure it's not exactly nutritious, but you know you want some.

And though I've managed to resist their pull up to now, just barely, it's the Fringe. And exchanging email with Ryan about the show, I sense that they have their hearts and sense of irony in the right place, and tongues all firmly in cheek. And they've added Greta Grosch to the mix as an entertainment tabloid TV hostess putting the group through the fame-whore ringer. In my opinion, the inclusion of Greta alone, in any show, is reason enough to go. I know I'm gonna laugh my butt off.

So, what the hell, stop resisting. Give in and go see a very different group of boys in the band.

 

Fringe 2004 - Early Buzz - Top 10 - Philosophy: The Music of Ben Folds

If You Held A Gun To My Head (4 of 10)
...or If I Could Only See Ten Fringe Shows...
...what would they be, and why?

Philosophy: The Music of Ben Folds
Brown Bee Productions
Loring Playhouse

We all have a soundtrack to our lives. It evolves as we do. If we're lucky, we have musically savvy friends who periodically broaden our musical horizons with new suggestions and a gift of a CD or two. One such friend for me is K Snodgrass. It was she who introduced me to Ben Folds Five with their disk "Whatever And Ever Amen" five years ago or so now. To this day, I repeatedly listen to (and share with others) tracks from that CD - "Smoke," "Brick," "Evaporated," "Song for the Dumped," "One Angry Dwarf..." and, well, nearly every other dang track on that thing. Quirky, clever, alternately hilarious and heartbreaking, haunting and pulse-pounding (and that *voice* of Ben's). I bought the other Ben Folds Five CDs as well, and follow Mr. Folds now on his solo career. With the good ones, you feel like the singer/songwriter crawled in your head and your heart and dragged out the best and worst of it and then set it to music, to somehow make it all a little better. Ben Folds does that for me.

So it was with much delight I discovered among the 175 plus shows this year that a show would be up to its eyeballs in Ben Folds' music. I got in touch with Brandon York of Brown Bee Productions and here's a little of what he shared with me...

"This show is an idea that has been molded over a number of years...By the time my senior year in high school had approached, I decided to disect the fourth and final Ben Folds Five album, "The Unauthorized Biography of Reinhold Messner," and came up with a storyline within the music...[W]hile attending the American Academy of Dramatic Arts [in New York], I wrote three more scripts...From original ideas I held within [these] previous scripts...and from new ideas, we've constructed a series of films all inspired by Ben Folds and Ben Folds Five music. While showing the film above us, we'll set up a live/staged cabaret style underscoring which, I hope, will captivate an audience on a whole different level.

The show has a simple plot. It's a simple journey through a simple life - the ups and downs and curveballs life throws your way, brought to you through the music of Ben Folds.

Along with [Tony Radecki, John Lynn and myself], we''ve collaborated with a few other top musicians and film buffs to help us in our journey."

If I weren't already such a big Ben Folds fan myself, Brandon's enthusiasm would still be infectious enough to take me along for the ride. Because I am a fan, and want to share good music in much the same way Brandon and my friend K do, I urge you to give the show a slot on your schedule. It's not in my top ten this year for nothing.

 

Fringe 2004 - While You're At It...try Gaydar Productions and/or Teatro del Pueblo

While You're At It...
...Or Shows In A Similar Vein

Singing along to...
Philosophy: The Music of Ben Folds?

Try
EAT! A Generous Buffet of Karen Carpenter's Songbook
Gaydar Productions
Loring Playhouse

or

Try
Tequila
Teatro del Pueblo
Howard Conn Fine Arts Center

If Mama Cass and Karen Carpenter had only shared that sandwich, they'd both still be alive today.
There, I got it out of my system. (You can blame my old friend Joe for that joke. Though we don't see each other much anymore, I still remember his jokes that made me gasp)

Anyway, the Carpenters are a guilty pleasure I to which I gladly cop. Perky or depressed, they always fit my mood (and, as with Ben Folds, "Lord, the voice on that poor woman." Just astonishing.)

Tequila snuck up on me but they also get my nod because they got me through six hours in the emergency room recently. Every time I saw the title, I remembered that goofy tune (which is now stuck in your head, sorry). That tune is also associated in my head both with Pee Wee Herman dancing atop a table in a motorcycle bar, and with Bert Parks singing the refrain in that bizarre lizard movie "The Freshman" starring the eternally boyish Matthew Broderick and the late Marlon Brando (move over, Mama Cass). It all made me smile right when I needed it most, so I'm glad I'd scribbled the title in the notes I'd brought with me that day.

But of course their show has nothing to do with any of that. It's from local Latino company Teatro del Pueblo (one of a collection of artists of color this year saving us from a lily white Fringe). Laughter, love, lust, three scorned women and a homosexual bartender (Patrick's Cabaret regular Paulino Brener), guitar, trumpet, song, dance and illusion. I'm getting a Gabriel Garcia Marquez vibe (though it was written by Latina playwright Silvia Pontaza) and all of that is more than enough to sell me.

 

Fringe 2004 - I Feel A Song Coming On...

I'm not much for musical theatre. Normally.

Even though I wrote one.

Even though I'm a gay man and we're supposed to be walking jukeboxes with a show tune for all occasions (but then I don't know opera either, so sue me)

Normally, seeing "musical theatre" as a qualifier, or, worse, the dreaded,

"[Insert any word in the English language here], The Musical!,"

is enough to make me roll my eyes and cry out, "Next!..."

(Let the irrate comments begin if you must, but please read to the end first, you might like this post after all)

So, what I'm about to say perplexes the heck out of me, but...

There is *so* much good musical theatre potential in this year's Fringe.

Maybe I just woke up and smelled the treble clef, but I don't think so.

Here are some of the titles that are overcoming my natural bias and making me actually want to see a musical this year...

Nautilus Music-Theater is doing triple duty this year, for starters. Since I greatly admire Nautilus and their mission to bring new and original forms of musical theater to the Twin Cities, and their program developing the talents of the composers and lyricists of the future, anything they do automatically climbs to the top of my list. Any or all of these are worth your time...

From The Diary of Virginia Woolf
Nautilus Music-Theater
Hey City Theater, upstairs

A Pulitzer prize-winning song cycle, based on the diaries of the author who Michael Cunningham's gorgeous (also Pulitzer prize-winning) novel and Nicole Kidman's Oscar-winning putty nose made trendy again, by a local composer, sung by one of Nautilus' many supremely talented singer-collaborators.

John and Jen: Act One
and/or
John and Jen: Act Two
Nautilus Music-Theater
both at
Hey City Theater, upstairs

This is an intriguing concept. A two-person musical in which each act can be done separately and taken on its own terms. Audiences that manage to get in to see both will be treated to an extra set of resonances between the two, regardless of the order you see them in. Act One - John and Jen, a brother and sister, come of age in the 60's, with John going off to fight in Vietnam. Act Two - Jen is a single mother raising her son John, named for her late brother. Again, two more amazing voices from the seemingly inexhaustable Nautilus stable of stellar local singing talent.

also, there's...

Assassins
Sky's The Limit Productions
Minneapolis Theatre Garage

What's a Fringe during an election year without a Stephen Sondheim musical about presidential assassins - both successful and unsuccessful? (Thankfully, we don't have to find out.) I saw a delightfully twisted production of this over ten years ago at the Great American History Theatre and I'm long overdue for a return visit to this clever and thought-provoking funhouse ride of a musical.

Seussical, The Musical
Front Porch Theatre
In The Heart of the Beast Puppet & Mask Theatre

Though we've all been burned by too many Jim Carey/Mike Meyers vehicles that were more bloated commercials than movies, I'm still curious about this one. And, unlike Assassins, this is one you can take the kiddies to.

Folks, if I'm genuinely interested in going to musicals this year (and I am), we're down the rabbit hole.

 

Fringe 2004 - More Fringe TV

More Fringe TV
CUE TO CUE - a TV show covering theatre in Minnesota
Next Sunday, the third of four episodes of "Cue To Cue" spotlighting this year's first which have been picked up for rebroadcast by TPT-17 will be shown. TPT-17 is St. Paul's public TV station, serving the greater Twin Cities area. This week's upcoming broadcast is:
Sunday, August 1st - 10:00 pm
Episode 107
- Fast Fringe - the Festival's two part short play showcase
- Janelle Ranek and her one woman show "Scrawl: 2nd Draft Still Not Approved"
In the meantime, our spotlight on this year's Minnesota Fringe Festival continues as all six episodes are now in heavy rotation on SPNN, the St. Paul Neighborhood Network, Channel 19, for the weeks leading up to the opening of the Fringe. The guest rosters for the episodes include performances from and conversations with:
Episode 105:
- Leah Cooper, Executive Director of the Minnesota Fringe Festival
- Theatre Latte Da, with Artistic Director Peter Rothstein, and a preview of performer/creator Jim Lichtscheidl's new physical/musical/comedy hybrid, "Knock!"
Episode 106
- Calibanco Theatre re-imagining a classic text with "Feeling Faust"
- Ferrari McSpeedy with the conclusion of their wacky but beloved thrillogy, "Punk Rock Awesome"
Episode 107
- Fast Fringe - the Festival's two part short play showcase
- Janelle Ranek and her one woman show "Scrawl: 2nd Draft Still Not Approved"
Episode 108
- Amala Dance and Music's "On The Beaded Fringe II: Traveling In Hip Circles"
- Claire Simonson's multi-media offering "The Origins of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind"
Episode 109
- Chameleon Theatre Circle's "Death Penalty Puppetry"
- Protest Productions offering "Comedy Against Racism"
Episode 110
- It's About Time Theatre and their all-female take on the two person comedy, "Stones In His Pockets"
- Top Hat Theatre's performance by and for kids, "Peter Pan"
The SPNN schedule for "Cue To Cue" for the coming week is as follows:
Saturday, July 24th
11:30am - Episode 105
12 noon - Episode 106
12:30pm - Episode107
8:30pm - Episode 108
9pm - Episode 109
9:30pm - Episode 110
Sunday, July 25th
11:30am - Episode 105
12 noon - Episode 106
12:30pm - Episode107
8:30pm - Episode 108
9pm - Episode 109
9:30pm - Episode 110
Monday, July 26th
3pm - Episode 105
3:30pm - Episode 106
9pm - Episode 107
9:30pm - Episode 108
Tuesday, July 27th
3pm - Episode 106
3:30pm - Episode 107
9pm - Episode 108
9:30pm - Episode 109
Wednesday, July 28th
3pm - Episode 108
3:30pm - Episode 109
6:30pm - Episode 110
Thursday, July 29th
2pm - Episode 107
2:30pm - Episode 108
3pm - Episode 109
3:30pm - Episode 109
9:30pm - Episode 110
Friday, July 30th
2:30pm - Episode 105
3pm - Episode 106
3:30pm - Episode 107
7pm - Episode 108
7:30pm - Episode 109
8pm - Episode 110
Saturday, July 31st
5:30pm - Episode 110
6pm - Episode 109
9pm - Episode 108
9:30pm - Episode 107
10pm - Episode 106
10:30pm - Episode 105
Sunday, August 1st
5:30pm - Episode 105
6pm - Episode 106
6:30pm - Episode 107
7pm - Episode 108
7:30pm - Episode 109
8pm - Episode 110
In addition, TPT-17, St. Paul's public TV station, serving the greater Twin Cities area, will also broadcast the following episode in the upcoming weeks:
Sunday, August 22nd - 10:00 pm
Episode 108
- Amala Dance and Music's "On The Beaded Fringe II: Traveling In Hip Circles"
- Claire Simonson's multi-media offering "The Origins of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind"
"Cue To Cue" was launched last year with a six episode series spotlighting the wide variety of acts in the 2003 Minnesota Fringe Festival (speaking with representatives of 15 Head, Ministry of Cultural Warfare, Theatre Unbound, Hunter Marionettes, Theatre Gallery, VISTA Productions, Kabobenco, and individual artists Kevin Kling, Kirsten Frantzich, Josette Antomarchi and Tom Cassidy, as well as profiles of the Spoken Word Fringe and Visible Fringe).
Since then, we've talked to still more individual theater artists (director/choreographer Noah Bremer, musical theatre collaborators Gary Rue, Ann Schulman, Daniel Pinkerton and Chris Gennaula) as well as cross-section of established and up-and-coming theatre companies (Mixed Blood, Margolis Brown, Stepping Stone, Starting Gate, Mama Mosaic, Skewed Visions)
(For more of my writing - plays, past blog entries and more - visit www.matthewaeverett.com)

 

Fringe 2004 - A Face Made for Radio, Part Deux

A Face Made For Radio, Part Deux
Last night's radio guest spot went well, and if you missed it, you can still download it and hear it on your computer (for the next two weeks anyway).
Go to the KFAI website
www.kfai.org
On the main menu on the left hand side, click on
Program Archives
Scroll down the listing at the bottom of the page to Fresh Fruit (the program titles are in alphabetical order)
If you click on "Most Recent Show," you'll download last night's Fresh Fruit, which, among other things, included me.
If you click on "Previous Show," you'll get still more Fringe because last week Fresh Fruit spotlighted some of the queer content in the Fringe - including Karyn and Sharyn, Tequila, and Dandelion Snow.
(Search warning - if you go looking on the Fringe site, though Tequila has the character of a gay bartender in it, it isn't currently tagged in the GLBT content category. It is, however, in the Musical Theater category which, as we all know, can also be code of GLBT Content :)
They only keep the last two weeks of programming on the site at any given time, so you've got til next Thursday to download the queer Fringe show and yet another week beyond that (in the "previous show" category) to still download lil' old me.
So fire up your Real Players and enjoy.

 

Fringe 2004 - Early Buzz - Top 10 - The Judas Cradle

If You Held A Gun To My Head (5 of 10)
...or If I Could Only See Ten Fringe Shows...
...what would they be, and why?

The Judas Cradle
Aspect I Studios
Interact Center for Visual and Performing Arts

Sometimes just the idea for a show is so wild and inventive and creepy, it makes me do a doubletake. It's something I haven't seen before, that nonetheless compells me. That's a sure sign I should see it. The Judas Cradle had that effect on me.

Back when I got early info on the preliminary slate of Fringe shows, the title caught my eye. Then I read this simple description...

"...play about three dangerous criminals stranded on another planet who are left in charge of the genetic material of an entire future colony."

When I inquired after the show with its creator Damian Sheridan, I was further intrigued...

"I do a lot of spoken word around town and I have one piece called 'Traveller' about how people 'cheat' at time travel by having themselves cryogenically frozen and buried in the foundations of buildings as human time capsules. One of the throw-away lines from this piece refers to private companies sending out colonies of frozen fetuses watched over by skeleton crews of dangerous criminals who society could find no place for and so banished into the space program to bring 'civilization and Starbucks' to the farthest corners of the galaxy. One day while I was performing this aloud, I realized there was a show in there somewhere. That show is The Judas Cradle."

Now, I'm not a rabid sci-fi fan. Just an occasional visitor to other futures and planets - some Bradbury here, some Star Trek of various generations there - but I know what I like. The human and moral questions pulsating just below the surface of really good science fiction is the stuff of great entertainment for me. Even though it's asking the big questions, it's still a rollicking good adventure story.

And so, I'm off to visit The Judas Cradle. Join me.

 

Fringe 2004 - Random Suggestions

A new feature to the Fringe site this year has me giggling. I just ran across it early this morning.

I hit the page for The Judas Cradle and at the bottom it says...

People who scheduled this show also scheduled:
AKESPEARESHAY
Fast Fringe #1: The Agony
Fast Fringe #2: The Ecstasy
MacBlank
Comedy Against Racism

OK, so we go from science fiction to Shakespeare to ten minute plays to Shakespeare to liberal standup. Cool.

I clicked over to my play Dandelion Snow and got the following...

People who scheduled this show also scheduled:
Dressing Room
Death Penalty Puppetry
The Valets
Look Ma No Pants: The Last One
Comedy Against Racism

So we go from my gay romantic comedy, to site specific theatre in a dressing room, to the killer puppets, to another gay play, to the Scrimshaws to liberal standup again.

Putting on my producer's hat, I checked out Fast Fringe 1...

People who scheduled this show also scheduled:
Look Ma No Pants: The Last One
Death Penalty Puppetry
Fast Fringe #2: The Ecstasy
In Defense of Sin (My Friends' Best Stories)
Improv A Go-GO: Deathmatch

Ten minute plays to Scrimshaws to killer puppets to more ten minute plays to Ministry of Cultural Warfare to improv.

And then took a look at Fast Fringe 2...

People who scheduled this show also scheduled:
Fast Fringe #1: The Agony
Look Ma No Pants: The Last One
Death Penalty Puppetry
In Defense of Sin (My Friends' Best Stories)
10,000 Comic Books

Ten minute plays to ten minute plays to Scrimshaws to killer puppets to MOCW to graphic novel improv

My favorite so far has to be clicking over to Patrick and James: A Love Story

People who scheduled this show also scheduled:
Dressing Room
The Great Masturbators
The Valets
ASSASSINS by Stephen Sondheim & John Weidman
Death Penalty Puppetry

Gay love story to a play entitled The Great Masturbators. Hilarious. I suppose one could get all overly sensitive about it. "Oh right, gay people and presidential assassins! Gay people and masturbation! Gay people and a dressing room - are you implying something?! Gay people putting puppets to death!" But hey, it's not a homophobic computer, it's based on other people's schedules. (Heck, I'm one of the people who has The Great Masturbators and Patrick & James on my draft schedule. And Assassins, and Valets, and the puppets).

It's a great way to get people to click over to plays they might not otherwise have peeked at.
Another great Fringe site way to mix different audiences and different shows together. And the really cool thing is it'll keep changing as more people use the site to build their schedules.

So check out those lists. They're a heck of a lot of fun. And you might get a good show out of it you weren't expecting.

 

Notes from a Wandering Laptop - update

Notes from a Wandering Laptop

Week of July 18, 2004

My latest endeavours...

LATE BREAKING MEDIA NEWS...

My friend Abigail Garner, one of the rotating hosts of the radio series "Fresh Fruit," just asked me to step in as a guest. If you happen to be near a radio in the Twin Cities area and feel so inclined, tune in to...


KFAI-FM
Thursday, July 22, 2004
7:00 pm CST
90.3 FM - Minneapolis
106.7 FM - St. Paul

...where I'll be talking, among other things, about being a gay writer addressing a mix of both gay and straight characters in my work, and why it never ceases to perplex me that that's such a big deal to some people (on both sides of the fence).

 

Theatre-going Recommendations - Twin Cities and beyond...

NOW PLAYING...

thru July 31st, 2004 (in Pittsburgh)
a speical plug for my amazing actor cousin Joel Ripka in Unseam’d Shakespeare Company’s production of “Beirut.” There are links on the front page of my site to coverage and full info on the show but I just have to quote one of many glowing reviews here - “Ripka and Baker are remarkable, focused on each other with feral, uninhibited passion. This isn't acting so much as a higher calling, giving themselves over to the urgent demands of the text. I've seen Baker be this good before, but not Ripka: They're astonishing.” (Pittsburgh Post Gazette). I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again. Go, Joel! Where: Unseam'd Shakespeare at Lester Hamburg Studio, adjacent to City Theatre, Bingham and 13th streets, South Side. When: Through July 31. 8 p.m. Wed.-Sat.; 4 p.m. Sun.; 4 and 8 p.m. July 31. Tickets: $15-$22; 412-394-3353.

(the rest of these are in the Twin Cities)

thru July 31st, 2004
Filthy Whore Productions remounts (pardon the pun) “3 Way” - one of the top-selling shows from the 2003 Minnesota Fringe Festival - at the Bryant Lake Bowl, 810 West Lake Street, Minneapolis. What happens when three friends wake up together in bed after a night of drunken revelry? It’s a case of he said/he said...he said as Alex, Ethan and Matt attempt to sort out their stories and their socks. As you might expect, adult themes and brief nudity in this clever comedy. So popular that extra shows have been added for the final week. Call 612-825-8949 or check out www.bryantlakebowl.com and/or www.johntrones.com

thru July 31st, 2004
A double bill of musicals from Gaydar Productions - Bed Boys and Beyond, & A My Name Is Alice - all male, all female - the new and the long-established - at the Loring Playhouse, 1633 Hennepin Avenue in Minneapolis. Call 612-604-4466 or go to www.UpTownTix.com for tickets and more information.

thru August 1, 2004
SteppingStone Theatre presents a musical adaptation of the popular children’s book, “The Stinky Cheese Man,” adapted by local theatre luminaries Kent Stephens and Gary Rue. Performances are at the F.K. Weyerhaeuser Auditorium at the Landmark Center in downtown St. Paul, Minnesota (75 West 5th Street). For tickets, call 651-225-9265, and for more information visit www.steppingstonetheatre.org

thru August 1, 2004
Illusion Theatre’s Fresh Ink is back...
July 15-18 - Promise Ring by Doug Collins. I’m a big fan of Doug’s work - it’s both hilarious and heartbreaking all at the same time. He’s a truly gifted writer.
July 22-25 - Pieces of Eight, from the Sossy Mechanics who brought their popular Trick Boxing show to a past Minnesota Fringe Festival
July 19-August 1 - Whatever Happened to Alice James? directed by Ellen Fenster (who once directed one of my recent Chicago Avenue Project scripts for Pillsbury House Theatre, entitled “Dr. Worm” - available for viewing on this site in the “Plays for Young Actors” category.)
Call 612-339-4944, and for more info on Illusion, visit www.illusiontheater.org

thru August 8, 2004
Park Square presents what the New York Times called the “best new American play of the year,” the Mae West-inpsired (and haunted) romantic comedy, “Dirty Blonde” - directed by the gifted Joel Sass and starring the also impressive talents of Jodi Kellogg as Mae West - Thursdays thru Sundays at Park Square, 408 St. Peter Street, St. Paul. Call 651-291-7005 and for more information on Park Square, visit www.parksquaretheatre.org

thru August 15, 2004
Theatre In The Round Players presents “Angel Street,” a new stage version of the classic Ingrid Bergman movie “Gaslight” - New owners have moved into the house on Angel Street in London, where a grisly, unsolved murder was committed 15 years earlier. And now, in its gloomy atmosphere, Mrs. Manningham suffers more and more from forgetfulness and anxiety, until she’s afraid her hallucinations will drive her insane. 245 Cedar Avenue in Minneapolis (the Seven Corners area). Call 612-333-3010 and for more information visit www.theatreintheround.org

thru August 28, 2004
Jungle Theater presents Tony Award-winning playwright Richard Greenberg’s play, “The Dazzle,” about two eccentric brothers living in an East Harlem mansion barricaded behind 136 tons of junk (which sounds depressingly like the disarray of my apartment, but without the grandeur of space to spread out in). On the corner of Lake Street and Lyndale Avenue in Minneapolis (2951 Lyndale Avenue South, to be exact). Call 612-822-7063 and learn more about the Jungle at www.jungletheater.com

thru October 3rd, 2004
The Great American History Theatre presents John B. Davidson’s musical tragedy, “The Last Minstrel Show” - On June 16th, 1920, three black men were lynched in the city of Duluth, Minnesota. This is their story - 30th East 10th Street, St. Paul. Call 651-292-4323, and for more information on the History Theatre, visit www.historytheatre.com

IN THE NOT TOO DISTANT FUTURE...
MARK YOUR CALENDARS...

The Minnesota Fringe Festival, August 6-15, 2004, 175+ shows in locations in and around downtown Minneapolis, including my own projects...

Dandelion Snow, at the Minneapolis Community and Technical College’s Whitney Mainstage space

Fast Fringe, at the Loring Playhouse

See other columns in this section for details, or follow the links from the front page of this site to full coverage on Dandelion Snow and Fast Fringe.

 

CUE TO CUE - a TV show covering theatre in Minnesota

This coming Sunday, the third of four episodes of “Cue of Cue” spotlighting this year’s first which have been picked up for rebroadcast by TPT-17 will be shown. TPT-17 is St. Paul’s public TV station, serving the greater Twin Cities area. This week’s upcoming broadcast is:

Sunday, August 1st - 10:00 pm
Episode 107
- Fast Fringe - the Festival's two part short play showcase
- Janelle Ranek and her one woman show "Scrawl: 2nd Draft Still Not Approved"

In the meantime, our spotlight on this year’s Minnesota Fringe Festival continues as all six episodes are now in heavy rotation on SPNN, the St. Paul Neighborhood Network, Channel 19, for the weeks leading up to the opening of the Fringe. The guest rosters for the episodes include performances from and conversations with:

Episode 105:
- Leah Cooper, Executive Director of the Minnesota Fringe Festival
- Theatre Latte Da, with Artistic Director Peter Rothstein, and a preview of performer/creator Jim Lichtscheidl's new physical/musical/comedy hybrid, "Knock!"

Episode 106
- Calibanco Theatre re-imagining a classic text with "Feeling Faust"
- Ferrari McSpeedy with the conclusion of their wacky but beloved thrillogy, "Punk Rock Awesome"

Episode 107
- Fast Fringe - the Festival's two part short play showcase
- Janelle Ranek and her one woman show "Scrawl: 2nd Draft Still Not Approved"

Episode 108
- Amala Dance and Music's "On The Beaded Fringe II: Traveling In Hip Circles"
- Claire Simonson's multi-media offering "The Origins of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind"

Episode 109
- Chameleon Theatre Circle's "Death Penalty Puppetry"
- Protest Productions offering "Comedy Against Racism"

Episode 110
- It's About Time Theatre and their all-female take on the two person comedy, "Stones In His Pockets"
- Top Hat Theatre's performance by and for kids, "Peter Pan"

The SPNN schedule for “Cue to Cue” for the coming week is as follows:

Sunday, July 25th
11:30am - Episode 105
12 noon - Episode 106
12:30pm - Episode107
8:30pm - Episode 108
9pm - Episode 109
9:30pm - Episode 110

Monday, July 26th
3pm - Episode 105
3:30pm - Episode 106
9pm - Episode 107
9:30pm - Episode 108

Tuesday, July 27th
3pm - Episode 106
3:30pm - Episode 107
9pm - Episode 108
9:30pm - Episode 109

Wednesday, July 28th
3pm - Episode 108
3:30pm - Episode 109
6:30pm - Episode 110

Thursday, July 29th
2pm - Episode 107
2:30pm - Episode 108
3pm - Episode 109
3:30pm - Episode 109
9:30pm - Episode 110

Friday, July 30th
2:30pm - Episode 105
3pm - Episode 106
3:30pm - Episode 107
7pm - Episode 108
7:30pm - Episode 109
8pm - Episode 110

Saturday, July 31st
5:30pm - Episode 110
6pm - Episode 109
9pm - Episode 108
9:30pm - Episode 107
10pm - Episode 106
10:30pm - Episode 105

Sunday, August 1st
5:30pm - Episode 105
6pm - Episode 106
6:30pm - Episode 107
7pm - Episode 108
7:30pm - Episode 109
8pm - Episode 110

In addition, TPT-17, St. Paul’s public TV station, serving the greater Twin Cities area, will also broadcast the following episode in the upcoming weeks:

Sunday, August 22nd - 10:00 pm
Episode 108
- Amala Dance and Music's "On The Beaded Fringe II: Traveling In Hip Circles"
- Claire Simonson's multi-media offering "The Origins of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind"

"Cue To Cue" was launched last year with a six episode series spotlighting the wide variety of acts in the 2003 Minnesota Fringe Festival (speaking with representatives of 15 Head, Ministry of Cultural Warfare, Theatre Unbound, Hunter Marionettes, Theatre Gallery, VISTA Productions, Kabobenco, and individual artists Kevin Kling, Kirsten Frantzich, Josette Antomarchi and Tom Cassidy, as well as profiles of the Spoken Word Fringe and Visible Fringe).

Since then, we've talked to still more individual theater artists (director/choreographer Noah Bremer, musical theatre collaborators Gary Rue, Ann Schulman, Daniel Pinkerton and Chris Gennaula) as well as cross-section of established and up-and-coming theatre companies (Mixed Blood, Margolis Brown, Stepping Stone, Starting Gate, Mama Mosaic, Skewed Visions)

 

Fringe 2004 - DANDELION SNOW - the Basics on My Fringe Show - August 6-15, 2004

The actors are off-book with their lines and doing amazing work. The director and I met on Saturday to plot out tech.

The past two weeks, we’ve been on KFAI’s queer radio program, “Fresh Fruit,” and we just got some great coverage in Lavender magazine’s overview of gay Fringe shows. Pick up Issue 239, July 23-Augst 5, 2004 and flip to page 72.

For KFAI, you can download both Fresh Fruit shows to listen to on your computer for a limited time. Instructions are in this section under “Dandelion Snow on the Radio.” Give them a listen.

I hope to add Lavender coverage and transcripts of KFAI to the “In My Humble Opinion” section here shortly, so browse around.

There are, of course, dozens of little things that need to be done. So I’m going to go do them, rather than sit around writing about it.

Don’t forget to visit the Fringe website, www.fringefestival.org, register and start building your schedule in your own private “My Fringe” section. And please slot us in somewhere in your Fringing plans.

Here are the basics about time, place and cast, so you can plan to join us, and help spread the word.

"Oh, the pizza boy adds extra sausage,
And big tools are manly,
But when love burns like a schoolhouse on fire,
Three men come to grips with a certain, fated love."

(our official publicity blurb, courtesy of our producer/director, Brendan Perry)

The cast of "Dandelion Snow" is as follows:

Ash - William T. Leaf

Dana (Ash's oldest friend and former lover) - David Schlosser

Julian (Dana's husband) - Christopher O. Kidder

Aidan (pizza boy and potential boyfriend to Ash) - Grant Henderson

Abigail (Ash's mother) - Carol Vnuk

Grace (Dana's sister) - Renee Karen Werbowski

Claire (Aidan's co-worker) - Laura Weibers

The story:
When Dana and Ash, two high school sweethearts now in their thirties, meet again in the ruins of their old elementary school, the undertow of old emotional ties threatens to undo their current relationships with others. Will Dana be able to resolve his conflicts with his lover Julian over the long-distance relationship into which their connection is evolving? Will Ash find love with Aidan the pizza boy? Will Dana and Ash find their way back to each other? Should they?

The "Dandelion Snow" cycle of short plays will be on display at the Minnesota Fringe Festival in Minneapolis this year, thanks to Out On Stage Productions and producer/director Brendan Perry.

Excerpts from all four parts of the romantic misadventures of nearly reunited lovers Ash and Dana:

Dandelion Snow

Across Their River

Extra Cheese

Tools

are all available for viewing in the "Short Plays" section of the "Plays & Musicals" portion of this site - just click over in the left hand column.

And more details on this evolving production opportunity are chronicled in the column "Fringe Early Buzz - Honorable Mentions" also in this section.

First readthrough of the script was last month (for my thoughts on that, see Dandelion Snow - The Readthrough, also in this section)

"Dandelion Snow" will be performed on the Whitney Mainstage at Minneapolis Community and Technical College (1424 Yale Place, Minneapolis, Minnesota) - which is enormous, so please come and bring a few dozen of your friends and family along with you.

The dates and times are:

Saturday August 7, 2004 - 8:30pm

Wednesday August 11, 2004 - 2:30pm

Thursday August 12, 2004 - 5:30pm

Friday August 13, 2004 - 8:30pm

Saturday August 14, 2004 - 4pm

Tickets go on sale July 1st through Uptown Tix (www.uptowntix.com or 612-604-4466).

Hope to see you there.

 

Fringe 2004 - DANDELION SNOW on the Radio

Instructions for downloading the KFAI show archives of Fresh Fruit to listen to on your computer...

KFAI only keeps audio archives on the site for the current two week cycle, so download and listen while you can.

From now until Wednesday, July 28th, you can download...

Thursday, July 15th, Brendan Perry, director/producer of "Dandelion Snow" and the man behind Out On Stage Productions, was the guest of John Townsend and Dixie Treichel on KFAI's "Fresh Fruit," as they covered a wide variety of the GLBT offerings availabe in the 2004 Minnesota Fringe Festival (Brendan's bit is about 30 minutes in, right after the amusing little ditty, "My Girl Bill.")

From now until Wednesday, August 4th, you can download...

Thursday, July 22nd, Matthew A. Everett, writer of "Dandelion Snow," was the guest of Abigail Garner on KFAI's "Fresh Fruit." They talked not only about the upcoming Fringe production and its genesis, but also what it means to be labeled a gay writer, recurring themes in his work, specifics about such scripts as the "gays in the military" play "The Surface of the World," and played songs from the musical "The Hopes and Fears of All The Years." (Matthew's bit - beginning with his reading a monologue from "Dandelion Snow" - is about 10 minutes in, right after Abigail's opening discussion of the gay marriage issue, and a song.)

Go to the KFAI website

www.kfai.org

On the main menu on the left hand side, click on
Program Archives

(Playing these files requires Real Player on your computer. If you don't have it - like I didn't - there's a link right on the KFAI archives page so you can download it. Quick and easy - and this is coming from me, computer luddite)

Scroll down the listing at the bottom of the page to Fresh Fruit (the program titles are in alphabetical order)

Now through Wednesday, July 28th...

If you click on "Most Recent Show," you'll download the 7/22 Fresh Fruit, which, among other things, included me.

If you click on "Previous Show," you'll download the 7/15 Fresh Fruit, which, among other things, included Brendan.

From July 29th through August 4th...

My guest spot on 7/22 moves over to "Previous Show" - still downloadable there. But that means Brendan's gig on 7/15 goes away.

Remember, they only keep the last two weeks of programming on the site at any given time, so there's limited opportunity to listen in.

I've made a crude audio recording of both files so I can transcribe and post them here, hopefully yet this week. But they are fun to listen to as well - plus, I'm constantly amazed at even the most basic technology, so the fact that I can listen to radio (even weeks' old radio) on my computer just baffles and transfixes me.

So fire up your Real Players and enjoy.

 

Fringe 2004 - DANDELION SNOW in Lavender Magazine

You can also see the coverage on Lavender's website

www.lavendermagazine.com

I'm very flattered by (and grateful for) John Townsend's coverage of our show (both in print in Lavender, and on the radio on KFAI's Fresh Fruit).

When you open the two page Lavender spread on this year's Fringe (pages 72 and 73), there's our show photo in brilliant color, William Leaf blowing on a handful of dandelions.

The sections of the article have headings like - Los Angeles Favorites, Celibate Lesbians, Latina Perspective, Murder Is Hell, Valet Service, Transgender Torch Song, and...

eek, me...

Second section of the article, after the intro and LA favorites has the bright red heading...

Matthew Everett

"Playwright Matthew Everett is renowned for his insights on young gay love..."

Upon reading which, the director Brendan turned to me and said, "You troll!"

Continuing...

"Playwright Matthew Everett is renowned for his insights on young gay love, as well as friendship between men, gay and straight. But with 'Dandelion Snow,' he examines life beyond youth.

Everett notes, 'As you get older, it gets more complicated. It becomes easier to settle than to risk. We tend to guard our emotions more than we guard our bodies, and that disconnect of body and soul makes it difficult both to reach other people, and to allow other people to reach us.

'As one of the characters says, "How do you know when not to give up?" How does one know when to let go of the past, and move on into an unknown, but possibly promising, future?'

In addition, Everett is producing works by two accomplished local gay playwrights. Mic Weinblatt's 'Manhandled' and Timothy Cope's 'Das Ewig Weibliche' are part of the Fast Fringe presentation. Both deal with politically incorrect views of motherhood from a queer perspective."

So, there you have it. I'm here, I'm queer, get used to it, I guess.

 

Fringe 2004 - FAST FRINGE - the Fringe Festival's short play fest within a fest

For the brief mention of Fast Fringe that made the cut in Lavender Magazine, see the article “Dandelion Snow in Lavender Magazine” here in the “In My Humble Opinion Section,” or better yet, go out and pick up a copy of Issue 239, July 23- August 5, 2004, available all over the Twin Cities area as we speak, and turn to page 72.

Colorful show cards hit the streets, press releases, newsletter articles, long overdue updates to bio information on the Fringe and my website (still to do), prep for a showcase opportunity at Balls Cabaret at the Southern Theatre, tech week looming, the first batch of runthroughs of the whole shebang. So busy, I should be doing that stuff rather than writing here, so off I go. More details as I have them on Balls, and the press coverage will also be copied into this “In My Humble Opinion” section, so browse around.

For excerpts from each of the scripts, cast and production photos and more, visit the Fast Fringe section in “Plays & Musicals” in the short play listing.

Here are the basics on the production itself...

Fast Fringe 1: The Agony

Dead employees, suffocating mamas, G-Men, and breast pumps!  All this and more in just one hour!  Five plays by five authors! It's fast, Fast, FAST!

Exit Interview by Gigi Jensen
Manhandled by Mic Weinblatt
Paper Trail by Dominic Orlando
Das Ewig Weibliche by Tim Cope
Milk by Amanda Thompson

Fast Fringe 2: The Ecstasy

Virgins in limbo, killer daddies, malapropisms, and... your call is very important to us!  All this and more in just one hour!  Five plays by five authors! It's fast, Fast, FAST!

All About Words by Michelle Pett
Limbo Lounge by Betty Liedtke
Mud On A Little Girl’s Dress by Jason Connors
Infinite Justice by Mike Peroz
Your Call Is Very Important To Us by Roy Close

The ensemble cast of four plays 26 roles in 10 plays, as follows:

Colleen Barrett
Edy in EXIT INTERVIEW, Big Mother in MANHANDLED, The Woman in DAS EWIG WEIBLICHE, Vicki in MILK, Mother in ALL ABOUT WORDS, Rowena in LIMBO LOUNGE, Penny in YOUR CALL IS VERY IMPORTANT TO US

Dana Erin Horst
Danielle in EXIT INTERVIEW, Kim in PAPER TRAIL, Patty in MILK, Laura in LIMBO LOUNGE, Chelsy in MUD ON A LITTLE GIRL'S DRESS, Joyce in YOUR CALL IS VERY IMPORTANT TO US

Steven Meek
Mervyn in MANHANDLED, Crespo in PAPER TRAIL, Rick in MILK, Charlie in LIMBO LOUNGE, Father in MUD ON A LITTLE GIRL'S DRESS, Fahey in INFINITE JUSTICE, Kelly in YOUR CALL IS VERY IMPORTANT TO US

Alex Needham
Trevor in MANHANDLED, Playwright in PAPER TRAIL, Richard in DAS EWIG WEIBLICHE, Son in ALL ABOUT WORDS, Billy in LIMBO LOUNGE, Muzak in YOUR CALL IS VERY IMPORTANT TO US

Fast Fringe 1 and Fast Fringe 2 will both be performed at the Loring Playhouse (1635 Hennepin Avenue, Minneapolis, MN).

Sunday, August 8, 2004
- 1pm, Fast Fringe 2
- 2:30pm, Fast Fringe 1

Monday, August 9, 2004
- 8:30pm, Fast Fringe 2

Tuesday, August 10, 2004
- 8:30pm, Fast Fringe 1

Wednesday, August 11, 2004
- 8:30pm, Fast Fringe 1
- 10pm, Fast Fringe 2

Friday, August 13, 2004
- 1pm, Fast Fringe 2
- 2:30pm, Fast Fringe 1

Saturday, August 14, 2004
- 2:30pm, Fast Fringe 2

Sunday, August 15, 2004
- 4pm, Fast Fringe 1

Tickets go on sale July 1st through Uptown Tix (www.uptowntix.com or 612-604-4466).

If you have any questions for us, contact us at fast@fringefestival.org.

(Or you can drop me a line through this website and I'll pass it on)

 

Fringe 2004 - FAST FRINGE hits the Fringe newsletter

How the Fringe Got Fast
by
Roy M. Close

It all started with a conversation. Dan Pinkerton, the well-known playwright and accordion player, was talking to Leah Cooper, the well-known Fringe Festival director. Ten-minute play festivals, said Dan, are all the rage; yet the Minneapolis Fringe doesn’t have one — even though it cannot be denied that the Fringe is very friendly to short plays in general.

Next thing you know, Leah was asking Dan, Matt Everett, and me to put together a ten-minute play festival for this year’s Fringe. All three of us love ten-minute plays. We’ve each written several of them, and we’ve all been involved with ten minute play festivals and showcases (both formal and informal) around the Twin Cities for a number of years. So we all say yes, and that’s how the Fast Fringe was born.

A few words of explanation for the uninitiated: a ten-minute play is just like a regular play, only a lot shorter. But it has a beginning, a middle, and an end. It has characters and conflict. It has everything you’d expect to find in a full-length play, in other words, except the full length. It is a play in miniature.

In a gesture of homage to Dan’s favorite musical instrument, we named our little producing group the Spanish Ladies. We added a couple of members, director Bryan Bevell and casting maven Gigi Jensen. We put out a call for scripts, received about 30 submissions, and selected ten of them — enough for two hour-long programs of five plays each. We conducted auditions and chose four talented Twin Cities actors — Colleen Barrett, Dana Erin Horst, Steven Meek, and Alex Needham — who will portray all 26 characters in the ten plays.

What can you expect from the Fast Fringe? All the variety that you’ve come to expec