Friday, July 31, 2020

Minnesota Fringe Festival 2020: "A Virtual Collaboration of Singing and Ice Skating (off-ice)"

Festival Location: Nightly Fringe (July 30)

Length: 33 minutes

Title: A Virtual Collaboration of Singing and Ice Skating (off-ice)

By: Heather Rae Music featuring Amy Berglund

Summary: Live music, roller blades, and hula hoops - oh my!

Highlights: Talented singer/songwriter Heather Rae performs a half dozen or so songs, both covers and originals, accompanying herself on piano or guitar. On the other side of the split screen, figure skater Amy Berglund (Heather and Amy met while performing and teaching figure skating) performs routines in roller blades on the pavement of a parking lot. I was a big fan of figure skating back in the day, but I've never seen someone perform such beautiful and graceful moves on pavement! It's a unique combination of art, exactly what Fringe is for. If you missed the live show, you can watch the video here. You can also find Heather Rae's music here, and watch for Heather and Amy to team up again live, in person, on ice again when things (someday) return to normal.

Read all of my Nightly Fringe mini-reviews here.

Read all of my Digital Hub mini-reviews here.

Minnesota Fringe Festival 2020: "Break the Dice: The Improvised Campaign"

Location: Nightly Fringe (July 30)

Length: 40 minutes

Title: Break the Dice: The Improvised Campaign

By:  The Bearded Company

Summary: An improvised D&D/fantasy show, with performers joining in from home.

Highlights: If you've seen the Bearded Company's hit Fringe show Swords and Sorcery the last few years, it's pretty much the same premise, except that instead of performing together in a theater, this talented group of improvisers (Joe Rapp, Maria Bartholdi, MJ Marsh, Tyler Michaels, and Tyler Mills) are performing each from a different location. They've adapted the show remarkably well to this format, still using physicality to move around in their little boxes, with great facial expressions, somehow making it all feel like one cohesive performance instead of separate ones. The online interface is cute and catchy, and I appreciate the "dice cam," keeping game master Allen Voigt honest. If you missed the live show, you can watch it here. And be sure also to check out the podcast version of Break the Dice, available wherever you get your podcasts, with new episodes arriving bimonthly.

Read all of my Nightly Fringe mini-reviews here.

Read all of my Digital Hub mini-reviews here.

Minnesota Fringe Festival 2020: "The Scranton Strangler: An Office Musical"

Location: Digital Hub (available anytime)

Length: 46 minutes

Title: The Scranton Strangler: An Office Musical

By: Literally Entertainment

Summary: A recording of the 2019 Fringe hit musical about everyone's favorite office sitcom, focusing on the case of the notorious Scranton Strangler.

Highlights: The sound quality is not the best; this was likely filmed for archival purposes rather than for viewing. But it's great fun to revisit this one from the team that brought us Oregon Trail: A Musical, a Gilligan's Island/Hamilton mash-up, and more. Here's what I wrote after seeing the show in person last year:

From the bad photocopy of an office memo handed out as a program, to Dwight's signature mustard yellow short sleeved shirt, to Stanley's obsession with Pretzel Day, this musical is everything Office fans love. In fact, it seems to be drawing new audience members to the Fringe because of their love for The Office (including teenagers, amongst whom the show is popular even though they were barely born when it started). All of your favorite characters are represented, so many that several members of the 11-person cast do double duty. In this version of the story, Michael Scott is actually undercover FBI agent Michael Scarn investigating the serial killer known as the Scranton Strangler, who starts targeting Dunder-Mifflin employees. But the plot is basically an excuse to stuff in as many Office references and scene recreations as possible, which they do, sometimes in song form. And the cast does a great job of bringing our favorites to life. Written and directed by Travis Carpenter (who also plays Dwight, instantly recognizable as such) with original music and lyrics by Kyle DeGoey and accompanied by Lindsey Fallenstein on keyboard, this show is a gift to fans of The Office. Thank God for Netflix for carrying the series (which I just recently re-watched in its entirety), and for the reliable Fringe team at Literally Entertainment for applying their fun original Fringey musical form (which started with the surprise hit of the 2015 festival - Oregon Trail: A Musical) to The Office. What will they think of next?!

Read all of my Nightly Fringe mini-reviews here.

Read all of my Digital Hub mini-reviews here.

Minnesota Fringe Festival 2020: "The Graveyard"

Location: Digital Hub (available anytime)

Length: 20 minutes

Title: The Graveyard

By: Alyssa Rae/ Second Star Productions

Summary: A zoom play about four teenagers who visit a ghost in a graveyard.

Highlights: There's nothing too deep or surprising about this play, but it's nice to see young artists being creative in this environment. If you're looking for scary, this isn't it, unless you consider contemplating impending graduation, your purpose in life, relationships, and death scary (which it is). In just twenty minutes (yes, I might have started watching the Digital Hub shows in reverse order of length) we get some nice conversations between various subsets of the four characters (played by Alyssa Rae, Elliot Stevens, Michael Munoz, and Tara Stona) that give us a little insight into their lives.

Read all of my Nightly Fringe mini-reviews here.

Read all of my Digital Hub mini-reviews here.

Minnesota Fringe Festival 2020: "Wash/Repeat"

Location: Digital Hub (available anytime)

Length: 5 minutes

Title: Wash/Repeat

By: Meg Kirchhoff

Summary: A dance performance piece consisting of overlapping videos of one woman in her bathtub (fully clothed!).

Highlights: The first reason to watch this one is that it's shortest show in the Digital Hub - just five minutes long! The second reason to watch this one is that it's a really cool piece. Meg performs in a white-tiled bathtub, against a projection of herself performing. She alternates between white and black clothing, with different hairstyles and glasses, representing the passing of days. It really speaks to the monotony and mundanity of our daily rituals, especially right now when our daily rituals have become more confined.

Read all of my Nightly Fringe mini-reviews here.

Read all of my Digital Hub mini-reviews here.

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

"Talkin' Bout My Generation" by Chronofon at Crooners MainStage Tent

My second concert at Crooners MainStage Tent, created for this pandemic summer 2020, was a show by a group I've seen several times before at Open Eye Theatre. The quartet known as Chronofon (Bradley Greenwald, Dan Chouinard, Diana Grasselli, and Prudence Johnson) creates and performs what I like to call "edutainment" - shows that are informative around a certain composer, genre, or era of music, while also entertaining with great performances of that music. This is my fourth Chronon show, and they've all been really well constructed to tell the story in a fun and interesting way. Talkin' Bout My Generation: The Summer of '66 is no exception.

Monday, July 27, 2020

10 Years

On July 27, 2010, I started this blog with these words:
I've been thinking about starting a theater blog for a while now. I love theater (especially musical theater) and attend a lot of local and touring shows, as well as shows in other locations (mostly NYC). I usually end up going to shows by myself because no one I know loves theater as much as I do. And to tell the truth I often prefer it that way, so that I don't have anyone or anything to distract me from the main event. But I often find myself wanting to tell someone about it or express something about the show, and again, no one really cares as much as I do! Except for my BFF Kendra (who suggested the name of this blog), but she's not local, so she doesn't quite get it either. So I decided to start this blog to put it out there for other MN theater lovers to enjoy. Even if no one reads it, I think I'll enjoy putting my thoughts/impressions/feelings into words.

Sunday, July 26, 2020

2020 Minnesota Fringe Festival Preview

Friends, one of the best times of the #TCTheater year is approaching! The Minnesota Fringe Festival is going virtual this year. The bad news is the shows will not be live and in-person, and not as many shows/artists are able to participate. The good news is you can watch all shows from the comfort of your own home, many at your own schedule, and you don't have to deal with waiting in line, or rushing from venue to venue in the August heat, or squeezing your meals in wherever you can. This is a great opportunity to experience the adventurous nature of the Fringe, from the comfort and safety of home.

Saturday, July 18, 2020

"An Evening of Show Tunes with Tyler Michaels King" at Crooners MainStage Tent

Friends, it's been nearly 5 months since I've seen live entertainment. On February 23, I attended Colleen Somerville's "Songs for Feeling Better" at Bryant Lake Bowl (which has now moved online). On February 26 I left the country to spend two weeks in paradise, aka New Zealand, returning home on March 11 to a world that was, and continues to be, very different from the one we knew. I'm approaching my 10th anniversary of blogging about #TCTheater, and of all the unexpected things that have happened, going nearly 5 months without seeing live entertainment is one I could never have imagined. I'm sure that hasn't happened in my life in 20 years. But here we are, in this pandemic/quarantine/isolation that feels endless, but hopefully one day we'll look back on as something we made it through, stronger and better. And the good news is that live entertainment is slowly beginning to return, although it looks different than it used to, and will likely continue to look different for some time. Crooners Supper Club in Fridley has started doing outdoor drive-in concerts (as well as lakeside patio concerts), complete with car-side food service. I attended my first show this week (of four planned, maybe with more to be added) - titled "An Evening of Show Tunes with Tyler Michaels King." It felt so good to be in a (appropriately distanced) group of people, listening to music and stories, laughing and clapping, almost like normal life.