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*Whew* It was a long struggle, but I wrestled them to the ground. I was going to do a nice, small, gallery of the 2008 Fringe when I realized that I never made a gallery of the 2007 Fringe. I posted LJ reviews and made three podcasts so my presence was felt. Unfortunately, that made it harder to post the galleries, as I linked the LJ reviews and the Shockwave podcasts to the pictures. Then made one gallery of two pages, so each year gets one url for the thumbnails.

Yes, I'm a geek. Anyway:

2007 Minnesota Fringe Festival | 2008 Minnesota Fringe Festival.

As always, corrections and emendations encouraged.
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Phillip Low
Phillip Low, writer
All Right's Reserved: A Libertarian Rage
Center for Independent Artists, 8/29/08



Leading up to the RNC, I've talked to Democrats, Republicans, Independence Party, elected officials, candidates, dancing tweens and MoveOn.org members. Perhaps I was prepared to talk to Liberertarians libertarians. Phillip Low remounted his Fringe show All Rights Reserved: A Libertarian Rage, back in it's hour-and-a-half original format. It was part of two shows loosely built around the theme Rolling Out the Welcome Mat: Artists Respond to the Republican National Convention. More on that in a bit.

I was a libertarian, briefly, early on in the Reagan administration. For a while libertarians were conservative about the military and economic issues and liberal about social values and the environment. Then the small-l-libertarians got hijacked by the Survivalists to become the capital-L-Libertarians which were mainly tax-dodging gun nuts. I can safely ignore (and make fun of) Libertarians but my libertarian leanings come out now and again.

Phillip Low, excuse me, phillip andrew bennett low, has crafted a show tries to offend everyone and probably won't offend anyone who hasn't already been put off by the title of the show. "Is it too early to make fun of ____?" asks the opening song, with subjects ranging from 9/11 to global warming. "Bleep no!" is the work safe answer.

Low is concerned that someone might try to shut him up, and the rage is set in three acts: Language and Politics, Language and Art and Language and Religion. (The latter section was mostly cut out for the Fringe.) He doesn't really care what you say but he'll defend to your death the right to say it. The acting is sharp, the songs are nicely sung and the politics are nicely slung. Everyone plays multiple parts, wandering around in underwear or going to peace rallies or waving guns.

One of the best sketches is the most heavy handed: The Mayor of Zombietown. Two unctuous zombies are running for mayor, and the only human in the race is nearly shut out. The two major party candidates smoothly thank the moderator and the organizers of the event as they explain their plans to most efficiently eat people. The third party candidate, aghast that no one is standing up to the zombies, interrupts and rages and produces pie charts. The outcome of the election is... well, you'll have to see that yourself.

Courtney McLean
Courney McLean, in both shows
against some unused murals, Center for Independent Artists 8/29/08


The audience was small, but the cast gave it their all anyway. They'll be playing two more nights at the Center for Independent Artists, the mural-laden building at 42nd and Bloomington. If you liked the Fringe, you should go. If you want a dash of inoculation for the RNC, this will sit well.

The second show of the evening was The Rockstar Storytellers. They are a group of 12 excellent performers rotating their rants/songs for a different show every time. Tonight had Low telling a ghost story, Courtney McLean (above), who was in the Libertarian Rage, in a monologue, and two of my favorite political musicians, The Prince Myshkins of The Nonsense Company, doing songs old and new. Loads of fun. Again, recommended.

The Nonsense Company will be reprising last year's Fringe show Great Hymn of Thanksgiving/Conversation Storm which is amazing and has to be seen. It will be at the Bedlam Theater, which had served as Fringe Central for the 2008 MN Fringe, at various times Aug. 31-Sept. 6. Check their site for times.

The Bedlam Theater will be hosting other performances as well. One of the few acts that might pull me away from being at the RNC would be Roy Zimmerman and the Prince Myshkins. Roy is one of the great political songwriters of our time, and is always on target. He's a fast and facile writer who will have things to say about events that haven't happened yet but will have by Monday.

More pictures when I post the podcast of the last couple of days worth of interviews, probably later today.
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K-Wok Restaurant
Phong Yang Pham and Kim Miranda Trang
K-Wok Restaurant, Cedar-Riverside Mpls, 8/7/08


I've been eating at K-Wok Restaurant across the street from the KFAI studios ever since we moved to our current Cedar-Riverside location in the early 90s. It's a great place. The couple who owns/cooks/everything's the place is Vietnamese (I think). The restaurant is nominally Chinese, but it also has a Vietnamese menu (largely Pho, though it changes) and a Malaysian section. I usually eat off the Malaysian menu.

And their lunch buffets are amazing, in a home-cooked way. The selections, which are (mostly) different every day, range from very good to great. Kim is the cook, and she'll just whip up whatever she feels like. When one dish runs out, she may just make something else to fill the buffet tray. Sometimes, I ask what a dish is, but that doesn't help very much. They don't speak English very well, even after 15 years. (First generation immigrants rarely do; too many debating the Mexican border situation forget that their grandmother spoke German/whatever around the house.)

While I've been there a lot, and watched their son grow up (he's now graduated from High School), I rarely had a camera with me and didn't get a shot of them if I did. For the Fringe Festival, I was in Photo Mode. K-Wok is between the Bedlam Theater (Fringe Centeral) and the Rarig. At last!

I printed out a copy of the picture above, plus a cropped version centering on just the two of them. I went down there for lunch today, partially to give them the pictures. They loved 'em, and effused. I asked their full names, and had them write it out. "Are you going to put this on the internet for the restaurant?" Well, I mainly wanted their names for my records, but sure, I'll do that.

I like this shot, capturing the lush mirrored decor of K-Wok. They're standing in front of the cash register, the spot with the most atmosphere. Really it's a simple place, relatively small, with lots of windows. Yum!
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The 2008 Minnesota Fringe Festival: Rolling Along is the second of three (most likely) podcasts featuring Fringers.

The cast of “Shakespeare’s Land of the Dead
Bartender/Set Designer at Theatre de Jeune Lune
Debra Constantine, “White Bread”
Henry Epp, “My Hovercraft is Full of Eels”
Jason Ballweber, “The Spaceman Chronicles”
The cast of “Deviants”

I'll update the Fringe page ASAP. ETA: Done.
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There. I just updated the Fringe Festival page on the Shockwave Radio Theater site. I added all the 2008 coverage (three KFAI news reports, one podcast so far). The final KFAI report will air tonight, so LJers can hear the news before it happens, or something.

I'll have at least one more podcast, probably two. I also updated the information on the master Shockwave Audio page.

And a bonus Fringe Picture!

Fringe Festival car
Fringe Festival van
parked outside the Bedlam Theater 8/7/08


I was unable to track down who owns this vehicle (not that I tried hard), but it was parked at Fringe Central for a long time so must be one of the ooties company's van. If you know, tell me and I'll amend this posting.

On the side of the van, from front (right) to back, the dotted line connects "Knew York" (crossed out), "Washinton" (crossed out), "Kolumbus" (crossed out), "ST Luis" (crossed out), "ChiChahgo" (crossed out) and "Miniappleus" (as yet unmarred). There are further dots heading toward a blank spot, so presumably they have another venue after this one.
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Day 11

The last day of the Minnesota Fringe started early and ended early. A B+ day, overall. I took in three shows at the Rarig, all three on recommendations and I was expecting all three to be good, and was only disappointed in one.

39 Fringe show, 17 interviews (so far), two news reports on KFAI (so far) and one podcast (so far; definitely more coming). More later.

In the meantime, the Rarig is a great place to Fringe but a lousy place to catch performers for pictures, so I didn't get any. So here are three zombie pictures:

Shakespeare's Land of the Dead
David Pisa as a zombie in Shakespeare's Land of the Dead
Fringe For All 7/21/08
(mp3 of interview with David Pisa from 2006 re 1926 Pleasant))

Shakespeare's Land of the Dead
Co-artistic Directors of the Walking Shadow Theater Company
l-r: John Heimbuch (Shakespeare), David Pisa (see above), Amy Rummenie (director)
Southern Theater after a completely different show 8/7/08

Matt Foster
Matt Foster, Communications Director for the Fringe
Technically not a zombie in the Elizabethan sense
but the Fringe staff got pretty fried near the end
Intermedia Arts, 8/9/08










10.01 Post 9.11: Laughter In The Aftermath ** 1/2

Might have been funnier in 2003

Painfully bad opening skits drag down the better material at the end. The parody of "The Raven" nearly worked, though the only really good sketch was the last one, "Terrorism's Gays" with the Rev. Graham Cracker and some flaming stereotypes. Two and a half stars rounded down for stale political references.

This came very close to being my first really bad show, but the last skit had people rolling in the aisles. Like Republicans, Fringers have a short memory and the end justified the means.

The Nosdrahchir Sisters *** 1/2

"Stop! You're running over my tail!"

Innocent waifs inhabit a quirky world and invite the audience. Kids won't get the music cues, but they'll enjoy watching the silliness. Three and a half stars rounded up for using the Arena Theater's multi-level stage.

A lot of people liked this a great deal more than I did. The two women were cute and fun to watch, like Melissa McNamara in Leaving Normal. The laughs were genuine and some of the situations worked better than others. If you see them, you'll enjoy yourselves. The kids in the audience sure did.

An Inconvenient Squirrel **** 1/2

"Too much cellulose."

Silly and unpretentious. The squirrels are what they are... except for one ugly duckling who says "I think I can!" So when Blofeld comes on with his plan to... hmm... I better not say any more. The show is consistently funny and well-paced for kids and the inner kid in most of us. Four and a half stars rounded up because it was the last of 39 Fringe shows I saw and I'm thankful to end on a strong note.

Whee!

Reflections, more pictures and maybe some audio tomorrow.
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Day 10: Pictures!

A mental health day, as I only saw three shows on a Saturday and hung out with friends in the evening. I had a fourth scheduled, but am fending off burn out. Successfully, at the moment: I saw two five kitty shows in a row (the last one yesterday and the first one today) so my Fringe-O-Meter is still pinging.

I'll finish with three tomorrow afternoon and blow off the evening parties to go back to Trivia. (My Sunday eve Trivia team sorely needed me last week...)

If I make all three Fringes tomorrow, that will be 39, beating last year by the one dress rehearsal I caught before the Fringe officially started. Oy. That's a lot. Anyway...

An Intimate Evening with Fotis: Part II *****

"I'm NOT putting a bat in my freezer."

Jen Scott
Jen Scott, bass player for Fotis
Outside Mpls Garage before show, 8/9/08

Mike Fotis
Mike Fotis, before Fringe show
Mpls Theater Garage, 8/9/08




Mike Fotis is expressive, self-deprecating and willing to dish. He sits there, reads from a three-ring binder, with a bass in the background, and spins his life into hilarious stories. Funnier than Part I and I can hardly wait for Part III.

This Fringe has some very good storytellers, but no one does quite what Fotis does. His material is great, but it's his reading that brings it to life. He fearlessly exploits his fear and smoothly articulates his dumbfoundedness. Four stories: Video Fight games, bats in the house, rejection and music, payback and blogging. All great, and all would probably be okay in printed form, but you really need to hear him for full effect.

Dandelion ***

"I'm a shadow puppet, for Christ's sake."

Zach Kolodjeski
Playwright Zach Kolodjeski helping to tear down set of Dandelion
after last performance, 8/9/08


Cleverly written and well-staged play about a 17-year-old from a broken home with a vivid imagination. A very brave script. The performance is a slow-moving High School psychodrama that takes a while to warm up. There are several bright spots, notably Pamela Yang as the ingenue.

Another kids play that had lots of family members in the audience. I sat between Zack's grandparents and his uncle's family. This was the last performance, and it wasn't going so well, then ratcheted up in the middle and came to a rousing conclusion. More than just a teen angst scream, the show handled adult themes well. He's a playwright to watch.

In Rehearsal ****

"He was all beef and I was a vegan."

Alison Vodnoy
Alison Vodnoy
After Fringe performance 8/9/08


A one-woman show on relationships that fail, from both sides. The script is funny and touching; it feels true. Her performance is stellar: When she's her lithe Jewish main character, she's a feast for the eyes with yoga positions and ballet moves. As other characters, she dons simple costumes and uses lighting cues to have the characters interact.

The battle of the sexes theme continues to provide fodder for playwrights. As well it should. Part of the trick to keeping it fresh is the delivery. Alison spends the first part of the play prancing around, which enhances her storytelling. I don't know if there's a direct connection between her words and her movements except to wonder why she isn't attracting a better class of guy. (Note to Alison: I'm available at the moment, and I'm Jewish...)

Bonus picture for LJ:

evening companions
Evening companions at the Common Roots Cafe after Fringing 8/9/08
l-r: [livejournal.com profile] lsanderson, [livejournal.com profile] mizzlaurajean, [livejournal.com profile] davidschroth and [livejournal.com profile] laranjal (see this entry)
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Day 9

Fringe buttons
Long-time Fringer wearing all the buttons and showing her ticket
waiting for "This Play Is Trash"
Arena Theater, U of M 8/7/08



By one informal measure, I hit a Fringe wall: I managed to miscount the number of Fringes seen. Not a big deal, but when that happens, usually in the second week, it's time to slow down. I was scheduled to see five Fringes today, but between the Vikings game and the attempt to schedule shows in different venues to tidy up I pooped out after the third one. I'm sitting here watching Monk rather than a dance show, mellowing out and typing reviews.

I don't even have time to do another Fringe podcast...

On the other hand, all three shows I saw today were good, ranging to great.

Red Tide *** 1/2

"I wear second hand bras, you bitch!"

Red Tide
Red Tide
Ootie Fest, 7/30/08


Well acted story that slides up and around the timeline. Everyone demands the truth and no one gets it. The characters verge on likability but always skitter away just when you think there might be something salvageable. Three and a half kitties, rounded up for all the breast fondling.

Only half-kidding about the breast fondling. To be sure, there was some. The show is not for kids. It was sometimes hard to follow the interwoven stories, but that was secondary to watching everyone on stage self-destruct. This is the type of thing I usually don't like -- unpleasant people doing unpleasant things -- but there were enough odd twists and a bit of depth to the characters that kept me interested.

The Gypsy and the General ****

A Journey

Astonishingly staged production that changes the definition of "up". With just a few props, minimal lighting cues and a live singer, the show morphs not just the location but the locale. The plot is thin, though effectively presented, and the performance only lasts 45 minutes, so it almost loses a kitty but I had too much fun so it stays at four.

A lot of people liked this more than me. There is a lot to like. If you're into stagecraft this is a must see. If you follow the 3 Sticks company you won't be disappointed. I was expecting more.

The Mistress Cycle *****

The Female Equivalent of "Kept Man"

Of the shows I've seen, The Mistress Cycle is easily the most professional -- and least Fringy. Five women slip in and out of historical characters to chronicle their lives, loves and loves lost. The acting is superb, the singing operatic. The script manages to avoid preaching while telling stories from a uniquely female point of view. Kudos to the piano player as well, as the music is nearly continuous.

This is the kind of play that could never have been performed fifty years ago, been scandalous forty years ago, would have played to packed Gyno-American audiences thirty years ago, and could easily have descended to whiny pseudo-feminism in more recent stagings. The Mistress Cycle has just a minimal amount of male-bashing and makes the point many times over that these women (with a few exceptions) could just say "no" to the relationships. I was hearing The Roches "The Married Men" in my head...
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A B+ Day. All four shows were around four stars, and I kept bumping into old friends. This was another semi-lucky day, as I'd tagged three of these based on their Showcase performance and/or meeting them, and one that was recommended by several people and was in the right place at the right time to make for three shows at the Rarig and a quick hop to the Southern.

Leaving Normal *** 1/2

"I'll do anything for a moment"

Melissa McNamara
Melissa McNamara
After 8/7/08 performance
Xperimental Theater, U of M



Melissa almost dances her way through the show, shifting gravity and closing herself into luggage. I've never seen a performer with their back to the audience as much, though she more than makes up for it by interacting with and crawling through the attendees. She changes personalities to tell an odd, interwoven set of stories that didn't really gel but were fun to watch. Three and a half stars rounded up for the cookie.

Melissa is terrific with the audience and has a pleasant innocence about her that masks the physicality of the show. I wish the story were more understandable, though it's possible I just missed something and that another performance will be clearer.

Sun Tzu's, The Art of War ****

Fun Concept, Terrific Playbill

Except for the beginning and ending bits, this is read directly from Sun Tzu, with ninja demonstrators and a mambo to break things up. Who knew that Stooge Fu was invented by the Chinese 2500 years ago? While episodic and slow moving at times, it's authentic and you might learn how to defeat your enemy. Almost a whole kitty goes to the playbill and Fringe website write-up.

This Play Is Trash ****

Street Vignettes

This Play Is Trash
The cast of This Play Is Trash
outside the Bedlam Theater after the Ootie Fest 7/30/08


Nicely done character studies of various people on the street or waiting for a bus, all dealing with some aspect of garbage though that was rarely the main focus. Funny and sometimes sad, inspired by a true garbage event in New York. The drummer and sax player were great street musicians.

Gone, Gone, Gone ****

Pas De Deux With Tape and Paper Towel

Gone, Gone, Gone
Monica Rodero & Daniel Schuchart
Ootie Fest, Bedlam Theater, 7/30/08


Two excellent dancers create a sensual flowing synergy. I don't know what the title means but the duets were funny, flirtatious, earthy and true.

If you're counting, that makes 30 Fringes. if you're not counting, it's even more, adding in the Showcases. Four in a row is sometimes hard on the viewing psyche, but the venues were all close. Beforehand, I had a nice dinner at K-Wok, one of my favorite restaurants. And I had a camera with me! Ah, but that's a story for another day...

Three more days left. I don't consider it a true Fringe Festival until I've seen something I don't like, and so far it's all been good. Too good. I've now seen most (but by no means all) of the shows I had flagged to see and may just randomly pick shows just to see what happens. Tomorrow is the Vikings game to avoid, so I'm trying to stick to venues far away from the Dome. And I have almost nothing down for Saturday. Ah well.
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Today is another Total Immersion Fringe day, as I'm scheduled to see four shows: Leaving Normal at 5:30, Sun Tzu's, the Art of War at 7:00, This Play Is Trash at 8:30, all at the Rarig, and if I have anything left over it's a jaunt over to the Southern to see Gone, Gone, Gone at 10:00. In the meantime here are a few of the shots from in and around the Fringe.

Allegra Lingo
Allegra Lingo holds up an elusive find:
Two packets of Fringe buttons that contain all six designs!
Ootie Fest, 7/30/08



Meanwhile, at the Bedlam Theater, two floors above and several days later...

Phillip Low's Brad Pitt Moment
Phillip Low's Brad Pitt Moment
Low, posing as the superstar he may become, on the roof of the Bedlam Theater
Downtown Mpls in the background, 8/5/08



Meanwhile, several blocks away at the halfway point of the Fringe...

Rarig Center
Perusing the vast array of postcards and such for Fringe shows
Rarig Center, U of M 8/6/08
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A C+ day. Yes, [livejournal.com profile] dreamshark, I'll rate on objective technical expertise, but the deciding factor is how much the show entertained me. I try not to let my mood affect reviews, though of course there's a certain amount of subjectivity. I don't grade on a curve over the course of the Fringe -- I've given more five star reviews this year so far than in any other year and there's more to come -- but I do rate shows vs. their potential.

Boom ***

The Butterfly Bomb

Andrew Connor in Boom
Andrew Connor in "Boom"
after the 8/6/08 performance in the Minnesota Fringe Festival
Arena Theater, University of Minnesota



Andrew Connor give several virtuoso performances. He creates both sides of conversations, separating his characters by voice and posture alone. The theater in the round is used well, telling a good story with a few laughs which could have been tighter.

This is a good example of rating a show on its own merits, though comparisons are inevitable. Andrew and Mike are terrific in Cody Rivers, so I know what can be done with the talent. I felt Boom could have been better as a shorter bit. It was fun, and gave me three kitties worth of entertainment. Stay tuned for Andrew as part of a Shockwave Radio Theater podcast.

Oens *** 1/2

"Ines et Morte"

Wilson Loria
Wilson Loria of "Oens"
out of costume after the 8/6/08 show
Interact Theater, Minneapolis



A voyage from Portugal to India by Vasco de Gama is used to make a point about globalization. Wilson Loria schmoozes with the audience, sings a song in Spanish, slings some heavy-handed commentary about the Bush administration before settling down into a very affecting story about Ines de Castro. Three and a half kitties rounded down for taking so long to get to the good parts.

Wilson's excerpt in the Ootie Fest was good, so I had flagged this. It wasn't quite what I expected from the bit, which is fine. The Interact is a small, intimate, venue and he worked the crowd well.

Strawberry Fields Temporarily *** 1/2

"Sometimes comfort is a trap"

Ben Sandell
Ben Sandell at the Interact Theater
Minnesota Fringe Festival, 8/6/08


Ben Sandell is a better writer than performer but the autobiographical stories are poignant and funny. Three and a half kitties rounded up for sustaining a monolog for a full hour.

Three very different shows that I felt were about the same number of kitties. The 2008 Fringe ratings don't allow for half-kitties, and I had to do some rounding. A gentlemanly C all around, with variation.
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Palmer's Bar, Minneapolis
Palmer's Bar, 5th & Cedar, Mpls
whilst traveling with [livejournal.com profile] dreamshark and Richard to a Fringe show, 8/2/08


This was taken in the early evening with the spotlights on, giving an ethereal effect. I don't recall ever going in Palmer's Bar but it's been a West Bank institution for as long as I can remember.

The bar is between the Bedlam Theater, functioning as Fringe Central for the 2008 Minnesota Fringe Festival, and the venues at the U of M's Rarig Center. [livejournal.com profile] dreamshark and Richard were cycling, but we "joined forces" and passed by.

Palmer's is the Northernmost establishment on the block. All the buildings on that side of Cedar between 5th and 6th are connected (and presumably share a common basement). As I was taking a different route between Bedlam and the U, on the 6th St. side of Cedar I passed by

mural at 6th & Cedar, Minneapolis
Sgt. Pepper mural at approximately 6th & Cedar, Mpls
whilst taking a different route to a Fringe show, 8/4/08


Aside: The guy on the lower right was carrying his severely damaged bicycle to the Hub. We had talked briefly closer to Bedlam, but by this time it was clear where he was going and that a hand would be helpful. I carried his tires to the corner, then bid him adieu. He's a Fringer, and we may meet, and he may tell me the story of how the damage occurred.
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A B- day, which had [livejournal.com profile] dreamshark questioning my ability to render artistic judgment after 23 Fringes. She considers the latter three to be among the best things ever done at the Fringe, but I gave them all four stars. Still really good, but not quite to my tastes.

After a week of Total Fringe Immersion I don't feel burnt out, but perhaps I'm jaded. Look at my 2008 Fringe Reviews. I've give six shows the highest mark, though you have to rate in full kitties and at least one is really 4 1/2 by the old system. Still, I've front-loaded my Fringe with some really great shows and have yet to see anything really bad. Perhaps my Fringe-O-Meter goes to 11. Ah well.

Meanwhile...

Cast of Dancing Delights **

Unevocative, uninspiring

As near as I can figure out, the show was about how girls conform to society's norms then grow up to be ugly and boring and have to literally tackle a man to get married. Not a message I really wanted to hear. Three of the five dances were hard to figure out, so I may be wrong. The other two were at least interesting and the music was good, so the show works its way up to two kitties. The middle piece had the dancer interact with a live band. She directs them to cacophony. The last piece, about chasing men, was at least obvious.

After two poorly danced, meaningless, routines I was ready to declare that I'd finally seen a show I didn't like. But the live band in the third bit was fun, if poorly utilized and which made the point that the dancer didn't know what she wanted. The last bit, very reminiscent of Sadie Hawkins Day in L'il Abner, was dumb but at least I it was apparent what was going on. So I wound up with another two kittie show: Not very good, but not a complete waste of time.

Dance of the Whiskey Faerie *** 1/2

He's Words, She's Movement

She's a marvelous, flowing, boneless dancer. He's a marvelous storyteller even when the stories aren't so hot. Nice celtic themes and music round this up to four kitties.

While I rounded up to four kitties to meet the website's criterion, this was an archetypal 3-and-a-half star show for me: I enjoyed it, but not to my taste. Usually, I like the Scrimshaw shows a lot. The stories here didn't grab me, even as they were well told, and the dancing didn't tell a story, even as she was great to watch. The ending didn't really work either. Sorry Joseph.

The Pumpkin Pie Show ****

Captivating Storytelling

Five stories, picked at semi-random, told beautifully. This sort of thing isn't my cup of tea and I still thought it was great. I'm not fond of the randomness, and in the show I saw the first two stories were requests from the audience.

I'm not sure why this one didn't grab me better. It was my 22nd Fringe and third of the evening, and is perhaps the best indication that I'm getting jaded. Still, solo storytelling, without props or theme, rarely gets top marks from me, and four is a good rating.

On the other hand, one of the reasons I hadn't scheduled an earlier show is that I don't like performances that insist they are different every time. I usually manage to see the one night everyone agrees was the worst. Yet the reverse happened here: The first two stories were not picked at random but were audience suggestions (yelled out unsolicited) and the last story was one that apparently hadn't managed to be picked and they wanted to do it in front of an audience. The stories were very good and the readings were great. Under the old system I might have flirted with a four-and-a-half rating, but for the nonce I'll stick to four.


Shakespeare's Land of the Dead ****

"Fools often speak the truth"

Mash-up of Shakespeare and zombie movies works pretty well. It helps to be able to recognize lines from the Bard, though the story holds up even if you don't know from Elizabethan figures. The zombie story worked less well, maybe because George Romero dialog isn't as much fun to riff off.

I dunno. The concept was amusing and the acting was sharp, but it didn't transcend the title. Zombies are inherently B-movie stuff, and the show didn't handle them well. (Why were they distracted by bells? They didn't have any dialog, not even the prototypical "Braaaaiiiins", so it was hard to guess their motivation...)

On the other hand, I bet this is a great show to see more than once, as different audiences will laugh in different places. When I wrote my Shakespeare mash-up, The Fall of the House of Usherette (with Daschielle Hamlet as the hard-boiled yet indecisive crime -solver), I was soooo happy I did it at a Minicon so the audience would get the jokes. You can hear [livejournal.com profile] pameladean on the tape.


Meta comment: I think I'll try to unFringe today... until this evening...
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Day 5

A pacing day that started by finishing up a Shockwave Radio Theater podcast about the Fringe, morphed into a hot afternoon and ended with two strong shows.

The Visitor, or From Here to Angina ** 1/2

Needs More Klezmer

Two short adaptations of Chekhov plays with the common theme of marriage proposals and heart attacks. Mildly amusing and short for the usual BLB slot. The klezmer band was the best part, rounding it up to three kitties, and more would have been appreciated.

klezmer band at The Visitor
Klezmer band at The Visitor
Bryant-Lake Bowl, 8/4/08


Oh, I really wanted to like this one. I met the director at the Ootie Fest, and it turns out she and my cousin Joy were friends in San Francisco. Plus, it's two Checkhov comedies. Alas, the acting was mediocre and the plays didn't work well. The costumes and sets were very nice, and the band was great. Both plays built to some amusing scenes but it's an archetypal two-and-a-half star show: I don't regret going but it's no better than okay.

A Royal Birthday Mess *****

For Your Inner 8-year-old

This is a kids show, and probably works best when you're about 8. Fortunately, I still am. It's His Majesty's birthday, and the servants are well-meaning but not really up to the job without lots of help from the audience. The balloons are used for tickling, the table manners are unconventional and the giraffe wasn't invited. The kid in me wants to give it five kitties but the adult in me... aw, what the heck.

Musical the Musical *****

Rebuilding the Fourth Wall

Self-referential, raunchy, tuneful and very funny when you can hear the dialog. I like musicals, and I also like shows that tear apart genres in a loving yet disrespectful manner generating lots of laughs. Go fig. On Broadway, The Drowsy Chaperone earned a Tony nomination. For the Fringe, five kitties is the honor.

Saw this with [livejournal.com profile] joshuwain and Todd, with [livejournal.com profile] purplesquirrel in the next row. We compared notes before the show, and afterwards chuckled together before the latter two and I headed back to the Bedlam Theater to disperse. Todd sees a staggering amount of Fringes -- he saw 41 last year -- while working full time. Yes, we're all crazy to do this.

One of my standard Fringe techniques is to pick a show I want to see and schedule a show in the same venue either before or after. This way, I avoid burn out by reducing travel stress and see a semi-random assortment of Fringes. Boy, I've been extraordinarily lucky this year, or maybe I'm a better guesser. Four times (out of five days) the choreographed show was as good or better than the targeted show.

After two light, three Fringe, days, I'm seeing four tonight. We'll see if my luck holds.
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The 2008 Minnesota Fringe Festival: The Beginning is now up, featuring interviews with a wide range of people and Martians. Spread the word.

If anyone wants an mp3 of the podcast, let me know.
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Tim Mooney
Tim Mooney (as Charles) at the Ootie Fest 7/31/08


Karaoke Knights - A One Man Rock Opera ****

Multi-level Characterization

Extraordinary character studies of karaoke contestants. Tim Mooney establishes characters in a few seconds so he can delve into the psyches of people you just met. Meanwhile, the karaoke teleprompter is kissin' cousins with "The Word" graphic on The Colbert Report. The karaoke contest is typical, but the songs that play inside Karaoke Knights are original and revealing. The venue is not ideal for the Fringe, and some of the fun is watching Tim play against the bar. I bought the CD and look forward to reliving the music.

Tim's been coming from the Fringe for several years now, and I've had him on Shockwave, broadcast and podcast, several times. This show was really pretty neat, from a conceptual point of view. It was loads of fun watching him slip in and out of six (I think) characters, sometimes one line at a time, while also watching the screen to see what snarky comments it was going to make. While the songs are good, Tim's a better actor than singer and he was best at the old blues guy (pictured above) and other emotive bits.

The service at McMahon's was terrible. The food and drink were okay, when I eventually got it, and the waitress claimed she left my tab on the table but I looked and never found it, so had to pay up at the bar, eventually. The crowd was small but enthusiastic. The other bar patrons were sometimes a bit more enthusiastic. I suspect this will be one of the Spinal Tap-level bad gig stories for Tim.

I enjoyed the show, and would recommend going over there if you don't have anything scheduled afterward (it ran a little longer than 60 min), but planning to eat at the bar is an iffy proposition.
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A pacing day. After yesterday's grueling five-show run and screwing up my schedule by going to the wrong show in the last slot, I need a slower day. Fortunately, Sunday shows start at noon with the last start at 10:00. I went to two shows at the Bryant-Lake Bowl, which has the advantage of a) being within walking distance and b) serving breakfast. Shows at the BLB are 75 minutes, so the time slots are different (which is why they start at noon, not 1).

elephant shoes & olive juice ***

"To be great is to be misunderstood" -- Ralph Waldo Emerson

Very Fringy. The young actors explore methods of communication, or lack thereof. Not all of it works, but the performances are affecting and you might hear the world a little differently afterwards. The sustained laughs come from a long sketch wherein a secretary desperately needs to unsend an e-mail.

elephant shoes
Before the show: Acknowledging when an audience member submitts a letter
elephant shoes & olive juice
MN Fringe Festival, Bryant-Lake Bowl, 8/3/08




Conceptual fun for this former Communications major. I only noticed one geek mistake, as they said "ISP number" when they meant "IP number", but hey, it's the Fringe. Indeed, I gave them an ad lib: At one point, they dropped a keyboard, and the actor humbly apologized. "Computer crash!" I said, which he repeated to much jocularity. Before starting, they provided notecards and envelopes and asked people to write letters, from anyone to anyone. Of the fifty or so, they picked three near the end to read. Mine wasn't one of them. For the record, I submitted:
Dear God:

WTF?

-- Everyman

Fool For A Client *** 1/2

Zero tolerance = Maximum Government

What would you do if you were a vacuum cleaner salesman who wanted to sell ice cream but discovered that banks treated you like a mark being sold a vacuum cleaner? If you are Mark Whitney, you'd go to jail, become versed in law, challenge the rules, and tell your story as a stand-up comic. His routine comes with experience gained in hindsight and a dash of bitterness and is delivered with time-tested laugh lines. Three and a half stars rounded up to four for sustaining a funny rant for 70 minutes.

The Fringe rating system only allows even numbered kitties... er, stars, but it's really three and a half.

I have two more on my schedule, but I'm probably only going to make the first one.

Shockwave Rider Tim Mooney tours the country doing Moliere Than Thou (last year's Fringe show) and the SF play Criteria (from two years ago), and he's always on. This year he's doing Karaoke Knights at McMahon's Pub, a Bring Your Own Venue.

If I have gumption and/or energy, I may see Sun Tzu's The Art of War, but I'll probably go home, catch the last few questions at my usual Trivia contest, and get some sleep.
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A successful day, with unexpected pleasures and a mistake that turned out okay. I had five shows scheduled, in clumps. Two in the same venue starting at 1pm, a break, two more in the same venue, another break, then a fifth show in the closest venue, which I would walk to. The fifth one was always iffy. Ah, but it got more interesting.

The for evening shows, I met up with [livejournal.com profile] dreamshark and Richard, and we saw two great Fringes! As has been the case several times, the one I was sure would be good was, and the show following that turned out to be a pleasant surprise.

Then, after eating dinner at the Bedlam Theater (Fringe Central) and mulling over whether to go to the fifth show or not, I got directions to the theater, and decided to try for it. Parking was difficult downtown, and I barely made it. I'm glad I did that show in the last slot. But... when I got home I discovered that I had completely spaced the show I had scheduled. *whew* I was lucky the show was on when I got there, and am luckier that the show I missed can be made up tomorrow, with only a little juggling. Now that I've rambled, here are the Day 3 reviews as posted on the Fringe web site, with LJ comments. (And I spoke with the Fringe's web guy, who says you can use quotes in the title of the review. Many of my titles are lines pulled from the play, and can finally use the quotes, and maybe they'll go back and put them in the reviews I've already done.)

Among the Oats **

Contemplating Mortality From A Box

Dreams and elections in a box of oatmeal 22 steps wide. Well acted absurdist bickering has some good moments but never really comes together.

My Hovercraft is Full of Eels ****

Ringing the Liberty Bell March

High School kids do some of my favorite Monty Python bits, with original animations. While uneven, I got caught up in it and laughed and clapped rhythmically with family members. The live band rounds them up to four stars.

I was amazed that High School kids were so much into Monty Python. I did an interviews with the 18-year-old who did the adaption. The kids didn't get it all right -- the sketches were blackouts, not the no-punchline flow of the circus -- but I was laughing as much as I was watching them do material that they clearly loved.

The Cody Rivers Show Presents: Stick to Glue *****

Every Finger Choreographed

The Cody Rivers Show is brilliant as usual. On a bare stage with two stools. two people create an office, an alien landscape, and a ton of laughs. They never stop, and one sketch abruptly becomes the next, perhaps to be referenced later. More dance than comedy and more cerebral comedy than you think can fit in the time slot. How DO they remember all that?

One of the sketches was a long segment of them saying sentences backwards. I only caught some of it, of course. I wish they'd release a record/mp3 so we could listen over and over...

Mortem Capiendum *****

"Don't make beautiful things dirty"

Hysterically funny send-up of a Depression-era Medicine Show. The con men squeeze an amazing amount of laughs from their attempts to separate you from your money, and from capturing the devil. Sometimes metaphysical and sometimes on the dark side, the show is well-written and superbly acted.

[livejournal.com profile] dreamshark liked this better than Cody Rivers, and I admit it probably had more yuks per minute, but it kept hitting all my buttons: Unlikable people doing unlikable things. There was overlap with The Spaceman Chronicles, which I didn't like. That I laughed a lot and gave it five stars is a great honor.

Herocycle ***

"Watch him fly"

The many lives and near deaths of Evel Knievel are related by an aerial trio who swoop and hang in all manner of positions. The biography works, but less successful is the attempt to make him a hero in the Joseph Campbell sense.

Thirteen Fringes, counting a dress rehearsal but not counting the showcases, and four of them got the coveted five star rating (though one was really four and a half, but the web site only allows whole numbered stars). Three four star ratings. That's a remarkable start, with more to come.
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A pacing day, where I only saw three Fringes (!), ending with one that didn't fit in its time slot very well. Spent the day editing audio and catching up on sleep. Meanwhile:

BULL "An American Story of Bullheadedness" **

"You Have To Fight For Happiness"

Occasionally amusing with well-drawn characters but only an okay adaptation (of Rhinoceros). The kids were good in the beginning but needed to be tighter throughout to pull it off. I saw the first show, so maybe they will.

Kafka's Disgusting Tale of Transformation, A Buffoon's Metamorphosis ***

"He's Fine, He's Just Sick"

Bizarrely unpleasant to the point of likability. Almost. The characters were cartoonishly disgusting and played for pathos. Really three and a half stars, rounded down for being only 35 minutes.

Deviants *****

The Dark Side of Dysfunctional Families

Deviants is everything a Fringe show should be. The structure is superbly conceived and developed. The versatile actors make the choreography seem like natural movement. The unique Soap Factory space is used to great effect. The story is subject to much interpretation; that is, I didn't understand all of it but the goings on made quite an impact. Not for kids, nor for the faint of heart. A bit longer than an hour, so be careful scheduling the next Fringe slot.

I hadn't really planned it this way, but these three overlap personnel, as the two kids shows were directed by alumni from Please Don't Blow Up Mr. Boban.

Tomorrow I'm scheduled for five shows, plus I want to get a podcast up. We'll see if I make it.
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A good start: Two plays featuring science/science fiction on the radio bracketed two musicals. All but the first were really good, with the last one being the best. Note: Unlike previous years, the Fringe only allows full star ratings, and you can't give a show **** 1/2. This forces some rounding, which I'll mention here on LJ but not necessarily on the Fringe site.

The Spaceman Chronicles **

"0900 AM-ish"

Some good laughs and a dash of pathos in a story of a man's dream and how it affects his son's hope of being a spaceman. The shadow puppetry is good.

Audish ****

Monty Python Does A Chorus Line

The kids are talented actors and remarkable singers. The show is fun and strange, full of whimsey with a cynical but all-too hard-boiled view of show business.

Great American Horror Movie Musical ****

Recreating MTV

The show recreates several 80s music videos around a plot dealing with the search for serial killer Eric Rudolph. Often very funny and the familiar music is well done.

War of Worlds: The Musical - A Tribute to Old-Time Radio *****

"Who's Off First"

Several 30's radio genres get sliced and diced. The routines are sharp, the situations are funny, the repartee is tight and the ensemble singing is marvelous. Oh, and the Martians are fun too. W. G. Herbert... er, HG Wells would be pleased.

LJ Note: Really **** 1/2 stars, but it was the best show of the evening so I rounded up. I've written plays with similar tropes and we tackled the story head on with Warp of the Worlds, the 1982 Minicon Live Stage Show. But Shockwave Radio didn't do musicals. This show was about a radio show, and not aimed at making an actual audio recording, so they could do a lot more. And they did.

Saw three of the shows with [livejournal.com profile] freeimprov, who was taking official Fringe pictures. Did several interviews and such. Podcast coming soon. Whee! It has begun!