Friday, August 3, 2012

Fringe Festival Day 1

I'm going to post a few days worth of events that have nearly nothing to do with beer.  I know, it may be the sign of the apocalypse...

Every year at this time of the Summer, an event called the Minnesota Fringe Festival takes place all over Minneapolis.  This is somewhat hard to describe without being there, so bear with me a minute or two!  Basically, over a week and a half, in 15 different theaters, more than 160 different shows are performed in rapid-fire procession.  Each show is 45-60 minutes long and you have a short amount of time to get between venues for the next show.  There is stand-up comedy, improv, music, dance, poetry readings, Shakespear, drama, thrillers, and lots of crazy stuff that can't be categorized.  With the shows being short and cheap you can take some chances and might see something amazing.  Or you can see a show so horrible that you will talk about it for years...  Most are pretty good.  Over the years we have been taking notes and looking for actors and theater companies that have done a good job in the past to start our event planning. 

To get into the Fringe you need to buy a $4 button and wear it through-out.  Tickets to each show are $12, but getting 5-10 show punch cards gets you a discount.  They also have a student discount.  Sj and I are crazy and do the Ultra-Pass which allows you to go to as many shows as you can fit into your schedule.  Because of this, we can be a little less picky about choosing our shows and sometimes find some less noticed gems of shows.  And some stinkers...  The hard part is getting from venue to venue.  A bunch of the shows are at the Rarig Center on campus and that is a good base of operations, with the Southern and Theater in the Round being easily walkable.  Some, like the Bryant Lake Bowl are harder to get to in a short time, so you might have to miss a few shows here and there if you really have your heart set on something.

I highly recommend going to a show or two, and you will probably want to go back in the future.  In the early years of our Fringing, we went to a show here or there because we knew someone in it or it sounded funny (Kung-Fu Hamlet.)  Soon we were buying punch cards and next thing we knew we were doing ultra pass and hitting 60 shows in 12 days.  This has actually increased our regular theater going as well, since we see shows during the year featuring our favorites from fringe.  Last year we saw Hamlet at Theater in the Round, and then at Fringe we saw a Hamlet/StarWars mash-up that featured the same actors who played Hamlet and Ophelia in the legit showing! 

Each show is performed 5 times over the week at the same venue.  As the week goes on, the website starts to get reviews of the shows and you can zero in on the most popular shows.  The first few days can be more of a crap shoot. 

Yesterday afternoon was day one of the Fringe. 
1)We saw The Gentleman's Prattfall Club, a very funny slapstick physical comedy show featuring Joseph Scrimshaw.  These guys were seriously crazy, throwing themselves into chairs and landing flat on their backs on the floor.  At one point Scrimshaw actually rolled, leapt and sprawled all the way down the stairs of the theater right past my chair!  Insane stunt!  The other actor actually split his chin and was bleeding all over himself during the last part of the show, but he just incorporated it into the banter and dialog.  Fantastic!
2) Billy Beechwood and the Mountain of Terror:  A very wacky and somewhat childish show, with a good heart.  Not my favorite of the night, but these actors go for it.
3) Ashland:  This theater company has done retellings of Red Riding Hood and the myth of the Selkie in the past, and this year do a version of Cinderella that takes place in the Dust Bowl era.  The company does the whole show using a combination of singing, acting, and mime that is so immersive that you can't help but be transported to the world they are describing.  I can't even explain it.  First night, a standing Minnesota!  See this now!!

Oh, and we had dinner and beers at Town Hall Brewery that sits right next to the Southern Theater.  So there was beer in this story after all!

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