Monday, July 23, 2018

2018 Minnesota Fringe Festival Must-See List

Well #TCTheater friends, it's late July, and we all know what that means! My theater schedule has been quieting down lately for the summer lull that precedes the wonderful craziness that is Minnesota Fringe Festival. Soon I'll be attending multiple shows per day, writing between shows, skipping meals and snacking whenever I can, and experiencing all the weird and wonderful theater that Fringe has to offer. There are a few new things to experience this year (including Family Fringe, and an option to purchase either individual show tickets or day passes), but significantly fewer shows than in past years. This will be my 8th Fringe Festival, and as long as I've been attending, shows have numbered around 170. But with the elimination of Uptown venues this year (which, to be honest, I'm relieved about because getting to and parking in Uptown is only getting more difficult), there are a total of 138 shows, including the 6 Family Fringe shows. But that's still plenty to choose from, and way more than one person can see (somewhere around 56, I'm a little confused with the new features this year). My goal this year is a reasonable 30-40, because it's nice to take an hour off to, you know, eat a meal, or even a full day off to regroup mid-festival. We'll see how it shakes out once I complete my sudoku puzzle of a schedule, but first - the following shows are must-sees in my book (presented in alphabetical order):
  • Blood Nocturne: after the haunting and beautiful Memory Box of the Sisters Fox at last year's festival, The Winding Sheet Outfit will always be on my must-see list until they prove me wrong.
  • BollyProv: NOT a Dance Drama!: there's something so infectious and joyful about The Bollwood Dance Scene (one of the biggest hits of the fest), but I've found the plots of their shows to be a little lacking. This year they're telling "personal stories of immigration, assimilation, and more from the community," and real stories are always better than made-up ones.
  • The Breakfast Club: The Musical!: those of us who lived through the '80s might not be able to resist this one: "An entirely sung-through adaptation of the beloved and iconic teen movie classic, The Breakfast Club, featuring all original '80s-style music."
  • The Buttslasher: I saw this one last year and probably won't be able to see it again (#toomanyshows), but if you missed it last year, I highly recommend this noir thriller about Stillwater detectives searching for a violent criminal who goes around slashing people on the butt. I don't condone violence, but come on, that's just funny.
  • Broken English, Mother Tongue: like Buttslasher, I've seen this one before so probably won't be able to fit it in again, but if you didn't see Javier Morillo's funny, poignant, and very personal show about growing up in Puerto Rico and on U.S. Army bases in 2016, it might be even more relevant and meaningful now considering the events of the last two years.
  • Couple Fight: The Musical!: The Couple Fight series (I've seen three) is one of my favorite things at the Fringe - real life couples reenacting their real life fights. Hilarious! This year it's a musical. If there's a no-brainer at Fringe this year (and one you probably want to reserve in advance), this is it.
  • Deep in The 100 Acre Woods: A "Pooh"-dunnit?: a noir murder mystery about the beloved Pooh characters sounds too adorably Fringey to pass up.
  • Eddie Poe: for some reason, I always miss the original musical about a young Edgar Allen Poe that everyone raves about, so I'm determined to make it to this stand-alone sequel.
  • Fruit Flies Like a Banana: I've seen Fourth Wall Ensemble (a trio of classically trained musicians who perform short musical pieces while simultaneously performing inventive acrobatic acts) three times, and will go see them any chance I get. This year they're part of the new Family Fringe (I'm not sure why someone thinks this show is for kids, I'm 44 and I love them) so it will be more of an effort, but worth it to see them do what I've never seen anybody else do.
  • The Great Canadian Maple Syrup Heist or, Ocean's 'Eh'T?: A Musical: a musical about the greatest educational video game Oregon Trail, a Hamilton/Gilligan's Island mash-up, and a romcom musical about romcom fans. What will the team at Literally Entertainment think up next?! We'll find out.
  • Gunplay!: I've long been a fan of Tom Reed's Fringe shows, which are usually of the solo musical comedy improv spoof variety. This year he's penned a musical about gun violence (featuring a fabulous cast in addition to himself), which is sure to be something to see.
  • Have You Seen This Girl?: after sitting for hours in (usually uncomfortable) theater seats, I'm looking forward to getting outside for this walking play around the West Bank neighborhood. Plus it's led by Ariel Leaf of the Mermaid solo shows.
  • A Justice League of Their Own: Josh Carson and Mainly Me Productions' hilarious spoofs should always be on your must-see list, but when it's about female superheroes, doubly so.
  • Kaboom: the company that does "deranged sincerity" so well, Sheep Theater, is back with an original (and hilarious?) play about a nuclear missile.
  • LAKES 4: in what looks like another spoof of the Ocean's Eight movie, a team of women set out to steal the Cherry and Spoon sculpture. Take a look at my logo - of course I'm going to see it!
  • MEDUSA: a return of Vox Medusa's "outdoor performance of contemporary dance, fire performance, original music and video." They've performed outdoors at the Fringe before but not very convenient locations; this time they're near the Northeast venues so I'm determined to make it work.
  • Midwestworld: like the HBO show that it's spoofing, this show could be good, it could be bad, but it will surely be interesting. I'm fascinated by Westworld and find it both frustrating and mind-blowing, so I'm curious what this one will be.
  • Not Fair, My Lady!: "Not Fair, My Lady! is an all-woman, company-created musical theatre parody review! It's 2018 and misogyny is alive and well on Broadway. And in the world. Everywhere. Let's...sing about it! Shit." Yes, yes, a thousand times yes!
  • Our Best Life: a sketch comedy from two of #TCTheater's funniest women people Shanan Custer and Emily Schmidt? This is the definition of "must-see."
  • Right, Wrong or Bomb! A Dating Musical: I saw the premiere of this new original musical created by a trio of local female writers, and although I had some quibbles with it, I think it has a lot of potential and I'm curious to see where it's at two years later and with a shorter run time. (Plus the protagonist has the same name as me, so that's fun!)
  • Slapdash Panic: Comedy Suitcase ended up in the Fringe Festival with 3 weeks notice and no show!: if anyone can throw together an entertaining Fringe show in three weeks, it's Joshua English-Scrimshaw and Levi Weinhagen. Last year they taught physical comedy, and this hear in another meta twist they're teaching how to create a Fringe show. I'm in.
  • Swords & Sorcery: The Improvised Fantasy Campaign: this is another one I saw last year, but it's improv so it's different every time, and the fantasy themed improv is super fun. And since The Bearded Company usually performs past my bedtime, I'm going to take advantage of this opportunity.

My annual Fringe tips for newbies (as always, refer to the Fringe website for the most up-to-date and correct information):
  • No buttons required, but they are available for $4 as a collectors item, and to get you food and drink discounts during the fest, as well as theater deals throughout the year.
  • New this year: you can buy a "show token" for an individual show ($10), or purchase a daily wristband (sold at the box office at each location for $19 on weekdays or $25 on weekends), which will get you into any show that day. With either method, you will also need to get a "seat token" for the show from a volunteer, and then get in line for the theater.
  • Also new this year: Family Fringe, which does not accept Fringe passes or wristbands. You must purchase individual "show tokens." And also, the times are a half hour off the regular Fringe times, which will be... interesting.
  • Each venue has its own Box Office (open 30 minutes prior to showtime), and the Alternative Box Office is located in the Skyway Atrium at 121 South 8th Street Tower in Downtown Minneapolis (weekdays 11am-1pm). You may also make purchases online and pick up materials at the venue.
  • Another change: no audience pick encore performance on the final Sunday. But they are doing some sort of awards, to be announced at the closing night party. More info here.
  • If a show is particularly popular, or you really really want to see it, consider reserving a seat in advance ($3). You can also take your chances and just show up. I typically only make reservations for a handful of shows that look like they might be busy (you can check the show's page to see if it's in danger of selling out).
  • All shows are general admission, so get there early for best choice of seating.
  • Shows typically run just under an hour, with a half hour between shows so it's feasible to get from any theater to any other in that time. But it's good to plan to see a bunch in one location to minimize transportation time.
  • Bring snacks, water, reading material, and sunscreen - you will be waiting in line, probably outside. And be aware of what line you're in (box office or theater entrance). Ask one of the friendly volunteers in the Fringe shirts if you need help with anything.
  • Keep an open mind - some of what you'll see is really weird. But that can be a good thing! And if you see a dud, well, that's part of the Fringe experience.
  • There are still two Fringe previews left, in which you get to see a 3-minute excerpt of a bunch of shows: TONIGHT (July 23) and out-of-towners on August 1 (event details here).
  • The Fringe website has pretty much all the info you'll need, so bookmark it on your smart phone for easy on-the-go reference!