Sunday, August 21, 2011

Fringe Festival 2011

Minnesota's Fringe Festival has been over for about a week now, so it's time to reflect a little on my experience.  I attended ten shows in three days at five different venues, and saw some amazing performances.  It was my first time attending so I wasn't sure what to expect.  But now that I know what it's about, I don't plan to miss a year again.

First, the logistics.  The fest was extremely well organized and well run.  Each show runs 60 minutes or less, with 30 minutes between shows.  That's quite an amazing feat when you realize that they have to load out the sets, cast, and audience of one show and then load in the sets, cast, and audience of the next show.  All the transitions that I witnessed seem to run very smoothly.  The staff and volunteers were friendly and helpful, and the website is easy to use and informative (if a bit slow in loading at times).  I had bought advance tickets (online) for most of the shows I attended, but for a few of them I just showed up, and didn't have any problems (of course that depends on the show, venue, and time).

I only saw ten of the 168 show that were presented this year, but I think I got a pretty good sample (although perhaps a little heavy on the musical, but that's my thing).  Next year I'll do a little more research to make sure I don't miss any of the good ones.  (But let's face it, you're going to miss something.)  I thought about ranking the ten shows, but that proved impossible.  So instead I'll list my top three (in alphabetical order):

History Camp: a super fun a cappella musical about what happens when various historical figures go to camp.

Twisted Apples: a beautiful one-act opera by Nautilus Music-Theater about a woman in a small town in the Midwest whose dreams have passed her by, that will eventually be part of a three-act opera.

Underneath the Lintel: an amazing performance by Pat O'Brien as a librarian whose world is changed when he finds a long overdue book that leads him on a chase around the world.

And here's the rest, many of which I also loved:

Disney Dethroned: Snowcahontas and the Tangled FrogBeast: a hilarious and clever spoof of Disney princess movies by the multi-talented Tom Reed.

The Duties and Responsiblities of Being a Sidekick: a comic exploration of what it's like to be a sidekick and play second fiddle to the superhero.

Minnesota Middle Finger: a sharp three-person cast exploring the Minnesota psyche when trapped in a snowstorm.

Recovery: a moving look at two people who meet in chemotherapy.

Robot Lincoln: The Revengeance (The Musical): a weird and wacky (and slightly incomprehensible) musical imagining Lincoln and other presidents as robots.

Those Were the Days: A Tribute to TV Themes: seven great singers mourn the death of the TV theme song by singing the classics (what would we do, baby, without us?).

Uptown: The Musical: a group of dirty hipsters fight to keep their neighborhood local, and do it in song!

I'm always impressed by the immense quantity and quality of theater talent in this town.  The Fringe Fest showed me just how deep that talent goes.  It's an amazing display of creativity and art.  Some hits and some misses, but the sheer number of unique and original theater on display in ten short days is a beautiful thing.