Monday, August 3, 2020

Minnesota Fringe Festival 2020: DIGITAL HUB

The virtual 2020 Minnesota Fringe Festival has two components: Nightly Fringe, which includes 1-3 live shows every night from July 30 through August 9, and the Digital Hub, which includes 50-some shows to stream anytime (or at specific times). Here's a list of all of the DIGITAL HUB shows I've seen so far; click the show title to be read my mini-review. I'll be updating this regularly so keep checking back!

The purchase of a $5 Minnesota Fringe Festival button is required to gain access to the Digital Hub. Many shows are free to watch, some charge a ticket fee or donation of $5-20. Even for free shows, please consider a donation to the festival and/or artists.
Click here for a list of all of the NIGHTLY FRINGE shows I've seen so far.

Minnesota Fringe Festival 2020: NIGHTLY FRINGE

The virtual 2020 Minnesota Fringe Festival has two components: Nightly Fringe, which includes 1-3 live shows every night from July 30 through August 9, and the Digital Hub, which includes 50-some shows to stream anytime (or at specific times). Here's a list of all of the NIGHTLY FRINGE shows I've seen so far; click the show title to be read my mini-review. I'll be updating this regularly so keep checking back!

All Nightly Fringe shows are free to attend, but please consider a donation to the festival and/or the artist. Some shows are available to watch later.
Pro tip: if you missed the live broadcast, scroll to the bottom of the Nightly Fringe page to get to the past shows, and click on the links to find many of them still available. Or check the company's Facebook page or YouTube channel.

Click here for a list of all of the DIGITAL HUB shows I've seen so far.

Minnesota Fringe Festival 2020: "Waiting for Hugs"

Location: Nightly Fringe (Aug. 2)

Length: 34 minutes

Title: Waiting for Hugs

By: Highlander Kitty

Summary: Three actors are waiting in zoom to perform a children's play for a church, which never quite happens.

Highlights: Due to some technical difficulties on my end (as is going to happen occasionally in a Virtual Fringe), I watched the last half of this show first, and then went back and watched the first half. But it was still a lot of fun. This parody of the zoom box theater we've all become so familiar with pokes fun at the format while using it well. The three performers are there for different reasons with different expectations - one just wants to do the job (Rob Ward), one is drinking wine and waiting for her friends to come over to "play board games" (Jenna Papke), one believes in the craft of acting and wants to make it big (Mickaylee Shaughnessy). While waiting for their call, they rehearse, they argue, they pick on each other. But the call never comes, and they're just left with each other. Waiting for Hugs is a cute, clever, funny little show that makes good use of the virtual theater format.

Read all of my Nightly Fringe mini-reviews here.

Read all of my Digital Hub mini-reviews here.

Minnesota Fringe Festival 2020: "The Mystery of the Gryphon's Ears"

Location: Nightly Fringe (Aug. 2)

Length: 30 minutes

Title: The Mystery of the Gryphon's Ears

By: Monster Science Productions

Summary: A power point style edutainment lecture about the mystical creature known as a Gryphon.

Highlights: Sorry Reverent Matt, I didn't know what a Gryphon was either. But I learned it's a half-lion half-eagle creature that appears in many places in mythology, legend, and pop culture. Which is totally Rev. Matt's thing. Back in March he moved his show from Fringe, TCHF, libraries, and other physical locations to streaming online at Twitch, and has been doing it pretty much every week since (my favorite being "Weirdos of Middle Earth"). But it doesn't feel like Fringe without Rev. Matt, and this shortened version of his pandemic show (with no time for questions at the end) fits the bill - a funny and clever deep dive into some weird monster, chock full of pop culture references (related or not). Follow Rev. Matt's Monster Science on Facebook for info on upcoming streaming shows.

Read all of my Nightly Fringe mini-reviews here.

Read all of my Digital Hub mini-reviews here.

Minnesota Fringe Festival 2020: "You Are Cordially Invited to the Life and Death of Edward Lear"

Location: Digital Hub (available anytime)

Length: 55 minutes

Title: You Are Cordially Invited to the Life and Death of Edward Lear: Poet, Illustrator, Composer, and Melancholy Hypochondriac or What is a Rungible Spoon: An Absurdist Eulogy and Existential Crisis on the Stage

By: The Winding Sheet Outfit

Summary: An archival recording of my favorite Fringe show from last year, about 19th Century English artists Edward Lear.

Highlights: Even though nothing could compare to the magic of seeing it in person last year at the Crane, this recording still captures the beautiful essence of this piece. Here's what I wrote about it last year:

This is my favorite show of the festival so far. It's everything I want from Fringe, from theater really. It's funny and quirky, original, educational, includes music and poetry, is very cleverly constructed in a meta sort of way, and somehow manages to capture the fleeting beauty of life in a way that made me cry my first #fringetears of this year's festival. Director Amber Bjork introduces the show, the actors, and the subject, like an exasperated teacher trying to keep her students - the cast (including Boo Segersin, Dan Linden, Kayla Dvorak, Kristina Fjellman, and Sam Landman) and stage manager (Andre Johnson Jr) - in line. I'd never heard of Edward Lear but now I want to know more about this 19th Century English poet and painter. The amiable cast takes us through skits, limericks, songs, and reenactments of moments, places, and people in Edward's life. Derek Lee Miller plays Eddie, only speaking words that he wrote - often whimsical or silly, sometimes heart-breakingly poignant. The other cast members play people in his life and stories, with plenty of moments to break out and play in an almost unrelated, but very charming, way. Images of Edward, his paintings and drawings, and text from his writings or notes about the show punctuate the storytelling. The light-hearted show takes a turn I wasn't expecting when Amber breaks out of the story for the titular existential crisis, comforted by Derek (a moment so sweet and intimate I almost felt like I should turn away) and the cast, who then continue on with the beautifully sad part of Edward's life. This show has everything, and the ending is indescribably beautiful. The limerick on the show handout says it best:

There once was a man who drew parrots,
And wrote many poems of merit.
We'll look in his mirror,
And find life is dearer,
Existence so sweet none can bear it.

Read all of my Nightly Fringe mini-reviews here.

Read all of my Digital Hub mini-reviews here.

Minnesota Fringe Festival 2020: "Super Patriots!"

Location: Digital Hub (available anytime)

Length: 25 minutes

Title: Super Patriots!

By: Unreliable Narrator Theater Group

Summary: A short satire of two of the most super patriots in American history - Senator Joseph McCarthy and President James Buchanan.

Highlights: I found these two short pieces (written by Carl Danielson) to be very funny, well constructed, clever, and eerily relevant looks at history. The story of McCarthy (other main characters: LBJ and HHH) is told mostly with cutouts of the historical figures on sticks, as LBJ waits around for McCarthy to dig himself into a hole, because Americans would never put up with a demagogic leader. The second piece is in the now familiar virtual box format, and they use it well. We learn about Abraham Lincoln's predecessor, James Buchanan, known as a "doughface" - a Northern supporter of the Southern cause (i.e., slavery). Another entirely unpleasant example of history we would never repeat. Right?

Read all of my Nightly Fringe mini-reviews here.

Read all of my Digital Hub mini-reviews here.

Sunday, August 2, 2020

Minnesota Fringe Festival 2020: "A Circus Show"

Location: Digital Hub (available anytime)

Length: 25 minutes

Title: A Circus Show

By: WeFlip Entertainment

Summary: Two "brothers" perform amazing feats of acrobatics.

Highlights: Friends, this show is truly amazing, in a mouth-dropping did-they-really-just-do-that kind of way. Originally recorded at Valleyfair (remember amusement parks?) on a stage decked out like a circus tent, these two "brothers" perform a fun, silly, and incredibly difficult routine that requires the kind of core strength I only wish I had. With a sort of brotherly rivalry tone, they push, trick, and tease each other. But no talking; the only sound is recorded music, so the rivalry is played out in an exaggerated pantomime style. Handstands on top of stacked chairs, incredible dual poses like the one in the photo, and high jumping, twisting, and flipping on a teeter-totter, are just a few of the things you'll see. Highly recommended for something quick, different, and truly impressive.

Read all of my Nightly Fringe mini-reviews here.

Read all of my Digital Hub mini-reviews here.

Minnesota Fringe Festival 2020: "My Kahaani"

Location: Nightly Fringe (Aug. 1)

Length: 30 Minutes

Title: My Kahaani

By: SAATH

Summary: Storytelling by South Asian artists about immigration, home, childhood, and growing up.

Highlights: South Asian Arts and Theater House (SAATH), formerly known as the Bollywood Dance Scene, is a Minnesota Fringe success story. After doing their first Bollywood dance musical show in 2014, they became one of the most popular Fringe groups in history, formed a non-profit, and now support and produce South Asian arts all over town (including Bollywood dance workout videos on their YouTube channel which I'm totally going to check out). This live show was hosted by co-founder and Executive Director Divya Maiya and featured recordings of excerpts from two past Fringe shows. One was a story called "Crushed," about a young boy's love of cable TV, and eventually girls. The other was a story called "Home," about an immigrant missing his original home, and finding a sense of home where he is now (a story with extra poignancy once Divya reveals what happened after the performance). This is a great example of why we need Fringe, to help promote the voices of artists we often don't hear, and give them the tools to flourish on their own, as SAATH has done. I missed the live broadcast last night but was able to watch it this morning, using the link at the bottom of the Nightly Fringe page.

Read all of my Nightly Fringe mini-reviews here.

Read all of my Digital Hub mini-reviews here.

Saturday, August 1, 2020

Minnesota Fringe Festival 2020: "Trudy Carmichael Presents The Improvised One-Woman Show!"

Location: Digital Hub Live (next performance: August 9, 5pm)

Length: 35 minutes

Title: Trudy Carmichael Presents The Improvised One-Woman Show!

By: TruSongstress Productions

Summary: Live musical improv based on audience suggestions.

Highlights: Coming to you live from her stylish Las Vegas living room, Trudy Carmichael (aka Robin Rothman) is a gifted musical improviser, which is one of the most impressive skills. Based on an audience suggestion (via Facebook Live), the title of the show I saw was Jeremiah the Amateur Coroner. She improvised a half dozen or so songs around that very strange theme, accompanied by Frakie (Spitznagel) Keys on keys. Between songs she chatted, musing on the difference between coroners and morticians, and interacting with the comments. It's a fun show, and I might tune in again on the last day of the festival for an all new show!

Read all of my Nightly Fringe mini-reviews here.

Read all of my Digital Hub mini-reviews here.

Minnesota Fringe Festival 2020: "Stuck in an Elevator with Patrick Stewart"

Location: Digital Hub (available anytime)

Length: 60 minutes

Title: Stuck in an Elevator with Patrick Stewart

By: The Theatre Cosmic

Summary: An imagined meeting between Patrick Stewart and a Star Trek fan at a 1988 comic-con.

Highlights: I'm not a Star Trek fan, so in last year's busy live in-person Fringe Festival with over 100 shows to choose from, this one didn't make my list. But I'm glad I had the opportunity to watch this recorded version. You don't have to be a Star Trek fan to enjoy it. Written by Brandon Taitt, it's a funny and surprisingly poignant story about the accidental meeting of two humans who seemingly have nothing in common (one a renowned actor frustrated with his situation, one a nervous teenager with an unhappy home life), but find a real connection. This fictional Patrick Stewart (a convincing George M. Calger) is not happy to be tied to a six-year contract on a silly television show, and having to pass up his dream stage role in Richard III. As the title suggests, he is stuck in an elevator with adoring fan Daniel (an endearing Brandon Caviness). At first it's a situation of - never meet your heroes because they'll disappoint you; Sir Patrick is a bit of a thoughtless jerk. But as the two dig deeper, they discover commonalities, and Daniel convinces Patrick that there is nobility in his Star Trek role, and that he and his friends' obsession with Star Trek as a way to find comfort and hope is not unlike young Patrick's obsession with theater. The camera work is not bad for this type of thing, with a few different angles, close-ups combined with wide shots, so that the live show translates fairly well to this format.

Read all of my Nightly Fringe mini-reviews here.

Read all of my Digital Hub mini-reviews here.

Minnesota Fringe Festival 2020: "A Mermaid in Every Sea"

Location: Digital Hub (available anytime)

Length: 46 minutes

Title: A Mermaid in Every Sea

By: Mermaid Productions

Summary: Master storyteller and 21-year Fringe veteran Ariel Leaf tells five stories - four from previous shows plus one new one.

Highlights: It's really the simplest form of streaming theater - one person looking into the camera telling a story, without any props or sets or lighting tricks. If that sounds boring, it's not, at least not when the storyteller is Ariel Leaf. She's a captivating storyteller, telling tales from her life travelling abroad, past relationships, and her experience with drugs in the '90s. I also grew up in Minnesota around the same time as Ariel (although in the suburbs, not Minneapolis), and have also done a bit of traveling abroad, but her stories make me feel like I've led a boring and sheltered life. She's either led a very interesting life, or she knows how to spin a good yarn. I suspect it's a bit of both. This show is simple, straight-forward, and 100% engaging and entertaining.

Read all of my Nightly Fringe mini-reviews here.

Read all of my Digital Hub mini-reviews here.

Minnesota Fringe Festival 2020: "Fallen from the Toy Box"

Location: Digital Hub (available anytime)

Length: 60 minutes

Title: Fallen from the Toy Box

By: The Fourth Wall

Summary: Three classically trained musicians perform songs on their instruments, combined with movement and stories of childhood.

Highlights: Boston-based The Fourth Wall is one of my all-time Fringe favorites. I saw a variation of their show Fruit Flies Like a Banana four years in a row, and I will watch them perform anywhere and any way I can. Even a streaming video on my tablet. Truth be told, I often have a hard time staying engaged watching streaming or recorded theater, but that is not a problem here. Fallen from the Toy Box (recorded last year at IndyFringe) is a thoroughly engaging 60 minutes that fly by. This show is the same general concept as Fruit Flies - classical or modern compositions performed by that classic trio of flute (Hilary Abigana), trombone (C. Neil Parsons), and various percussive instruments (Greg Jukes), all while performing movement/dance/acrobatics. But this show has a theme of childhood, invoking a feeling of nostalgia. The three performers take turns telling sweet, funny, poignant stories from their childhood to tie the pieces together. Some of the pieces I've seen before in previous shows, some were new to me, and all are creative, innovative, surprising, and delightful. Highlights include the performers recreating drawings from children, Hilary playing the flute while dancing on pointe, and the always thrilling boomwhacker piece. Fallen from the Toy Box is a must-see of the Virtual Fringe, and also mark your calendar for their live show on August 8. I have no idea how they're going to do what they do live and virtual during a pandemic, but I can't wait to find out.

Read all of my Nightly Fringe mini-reviews here.

Read all of my Digital Hub mini-reviews here.