Friday, July 14, 2023

2023 Minnesota Fringe Festival Must-See List

It's the dog days of summer, the 4th of July has passed, and we're moving towards the end of summer. That can only mean one thing - it's time for the Minnesota Fringe Festival! This year marks the 30th Anniversary of the Fringe, and only the second fully in-person Fringe since the pandemic. Performances being on Thursday August 3 and continue daily through Sunday August 13 (evenings on weekdays, all day Saturdays and Sundays). This year, all of the Fringe-produced shows are in Minneapolis' Cedar-Riverside neighborhood (the Southern, Theatre in the Round, Mixed Blood, U of M's Rarig, and Augsburg), which means that it's easier than ever to get to all of the shows. The one caveat is that independently produced shows are located at other venues around Minneapolis (these shows work the same as other shows in terms of ticketing, but they may not conform to the same schedule). For more info on that and all things Fringe, listen to Episode 7 of the Twin Cities Theater Bloggers' podcast "Twin Cities Theater Chat" in which we interview Executive Director Dawn Bentley (available on all platforms and at this link: We will plan to release more episodes about Fringe tips, tricks, and recommendations, so make sure to subscribe to be notified of new episodes. The Fringe website has the full schedule and details about every show, as well as box office information, so make sure to visit that as you're making your plans. Keep reading for my Must-See List, as well as some Fringe tips.

I've read through the full list of 100-some shows, and these are the ones that piqued my interest (in alphabetical order). Click the show title to be taken to the show website.

  • 5 Prisoners - if you're looking for a little horror theater, this is a good bet. Ghoulish Delights recently remounted their Fringe hit Tourist Trap, and here they present five short pieces written and performed by Fringe favorites.
  • Baldwin's Last Fire - a murder mystery featuring James Baldwin?! That's definitely a must-see, especially when Baldwin is played by acclaimed film and theater actor Harry Waters, Jr.
  • Boy Crazy - Madde Gibba is a music/comedy/improv treasure. I've seen Madde several times in and out of Fringe, and she's always a delight. About a longer version of this show I wrote: "The 80-minute show is like a song cycle about love and relationships in the modern world, and it's great fun."
  • Breakneck Midsummer Night’s Dream - Timothy Mooney has done several "Breakneck" Shakespeare plays, in which he does the entire play in under an hour and plays all of the characters. This time, he's brought in a few friends for a six-person, under an hour version of Shakespeare's most popular comedy.
  • BRUTUS - I don't know these artists, but their Shakesperean adaptation looks intriguing too - using music and dance to explore "gender opression, madness, and moral dilemma."
  • Climbing my family tree - L.A. based Les Kurkendaal-Barrett is a master solo storyteller. He performed this show as part of the virtual 2020 Fringe, but now we can experience this fascinating story in person, in which he concludes "racism is stupid, because we're all related anyway."
  • Fargo Allegro - it's not the Fringe without a movie spoof and some Minnesota jokes, and this one has both! A "nimble retelling" of the Coen brothers' movie, with the addition of Paul Bunyon as a character. If that's not enough to convince you - check out the cast list.
  • Funny, Like an Abortion - it's also not the Fringe without some political and social commentary, and this one fits the bill. Last year's brilliant Endometriosis the Musical proved that we can and should talk about women's health care and reproductive rights.
  • A Girl Scout’s Guide to Exorcism - this is one of those "you had me at the title" shows. I have experience with one of these two things, and am excited (and a little scared) to see what new Fringe favorite Melancholics Anonymous (they debuted during the pandemic) comes up with. It's likely to be dark, twisted, and funny.
  • Monster Science's Greatest Hits and/or The Very Model of a Modern Monster Scientist - this year you have two chances to catch Reverend Matt and his charmingly nerdy deep dives into pop culture, literature, mythology, and history - one solo and one with his Science Assistant Elora Riley.
  • Mother Courage Bear and Her Children - Clevername Productions has a thing for bears. Last year's Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf / Winnie the Pooh mash-up (yes, you read that right) was one of the highlights of the Fringe. And now they're mashing up Brecht with the Care Bears. OK, let's do this!
  • My Only Hope for a Hero - you've likely seen actor/ writer/ director/ improviser Duck Washington's work before, either at the Fringe or theaters around town. But this is his first solo show, and I can't wait to see what he has to say.
  • OPERA PUNKS - musical improv by talented local performers, "accompanied by former Second City Music Director Kelly Shuda." I'm in!
  • patologĂ­a (or...fagology) - Javier Morillo returns to the Fringe, after his lovely solo show Broken English, Mother Tongue about growing up in Puerto Rico and US Army Bases around the world. This one looks like more of that story, this time focusing on being gay and Puerto Rican.
  • Pearl and Eugene: One Last Shtick - featuring people you might know from Six Points Theater, and others, this story of a once popular performing duo doing one last show to save their Jewish retirement home sounds delightful. Especially when that duo is played by Nancy Marvy and Robert Dorfman.
  • The Resilient Child - longtime Fringe producer Ariel Pinkerton is introducing the next generation. Her daughter and other children join adults in this series of storytelling pieces about "surviving childhood to come out strong, brave, and resilient."
  • The Shrieking Harpies - Lizzie Gardner, Taj Ruler, and Hannah Wydeven are pros at this musical comedy improv thing, and even though I've seen them multiple times, it's always different and always a delight.
  • Stabby Stab Stab - this collaboration between Fringe darlings Special When Lit and The Winding Sheet Outfit was by far my favorite show at the Twin Cities Horror Festival last year. The independently produced show plays at the Crane Theater in Northeast Minneapolis, with shows every night at 8:30 or 10, so you can finish out your day of Fringing and then stop at the Crane. Trust me, it's worth the effort.
  • "Starved": The Astonishing True Story of the University of Minnesota Starvation Experiment - Pat O'Brien is an excellent solo storyteller (see also Underneath the Lintel), and this topic fascinates me. I'm pretty sure I learned about it from a History Theatre new play reading, but this WWII study with volunteer conscientious objectors is wild, and true!
  • West Bank Neighborhood History Walking Tour - I love a historical walking tour! This one is self-guided, so you can do some or all of it whenever you like.
  • What if We Hugged - Comedy Suitcase shows are usually laugh-until-your-face-hurts kind of deals. This one is a little different; a solo show by Levi Weinhagen about "masculinity, fatherhood, and heart disease from a comedy writer turned race and gender justice worker." Maybe not as funny, but likely much more meaningful.
  • The Windblown Cheeks Of Lovers - last but not least, "Twin Cities Improv and Comedy Mainstays Mike Fotis, Tim Hellendrung and Dame Rita Boersma put up a show of epic proportions." Enough said. (This and the above show are at Strike Theater, so plan a Strike day or part of a day.)
This is by no means the complete list of what I'm going to see, and doubtless I will find some favorites that are not on this list. I hope to see 30-40-ish shows (of the 56 possible), and will write mini-reviews of each right here on Also follow me @cherryandspoon on social media for more Fringe content.

I know Fringe can be overwhelming for the uninitiated, but don't let that stop you. Just pick a few shows, or a venue, and get out there and see some shows! It's an incredibly well-run festival, which makes it easy, painless, and fun to see some adventurous art. Here are a few Fringe tips for newbies (as always, refer to the Fringe website for the most up-to-date and correct information):

  • Sign up to receive the daily Fringe File email, which has tons of info and tips about everything from weather to parking to sellouts to discounts at local businesses.
  • Everyone needs a button to attend any show. They're $5 and make great souvenirs. You can purchase online or at the venues. You can also buy show tickets online or at the venues (note: no cash accepted).
  • If a show is particularly popular, or you really really want to see it, consider reserving a seat in advance ($4). 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. NO LATE 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.
  • Be adventurous! See something you normally wouldn't - that's the point of Fringe. If you don't like it - it'll be over in an hour.
  • 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!
  • Attend the preview shows (July 24 and August 2 at the Rarig), or check out the videos posted on YouTube.
  • Most importantly - be adventurous, be safe, be kind to the volunteers and your fellow Fringers, have fun, and support the Minnesota Fringe Festival and the many many artists we're lucky enough to have in the #TCTheater community!!