Sweaty dramas, fringe festival, and placemakers

by Levi Weinhagen • Jan. 30

News and notes |

The Atlantic recently published an article discussing the fact that the Academy Awards rarely and arguably never give recognition to comedies that actually solicit laughs. The article asks the question of why this is the case and attempts to answer it, mostly alluding to a snobbery that looks down on the base elements that often make up a good comedy.

Why do the Oscars hate laugh-out-loud comedies?

I think there’s some truth to a snob element but the real big reason has a lot more to do with the artistry of comedy. Admittedly, this is a broad generalization but the funniest and most successful comedy whether it be in the form of movies, plays, or jokes told by stand-ups have the appearance of being simple and obvious. A good gag onscreen can’t look like it took a lot of effort to conceive or pull off and a good joke onstage should feel so relatable and obvious that the audience can convince themselves they have had that same thought just never had a chance to express it as well as the comic doing the telling. On the flip side, a compelling and heart-wrenching drama lets the audience see how hard everyone is working. The emotion is so raw and the tense silences feel so thought out that every frame and every scene is dripping with sweat from the all of the people involved in making it happen.

So I would argue that rather than just rewarding artistry the Academy Awards are very good at rewarding artistry that has clear and obvious fingerprints from the artists.


ArtPlace recently named the finalists for their Creative Placemaking Grants. Probably roughly one third of the 127 organizations listed as finalists will be awarded some of the total 15 million dollars available through this funding collaboration. There are fifteen finalists from Minnesota.

Some finalists of particular note are:
The Lanesboro Arts Center
The Ordway Center for the Performing Arts
Intermedia Arts
Pangea World Theater
Pillsbury House + Theatre

Each funded project will mean more work for artists. The Grant recipients will be announced in May.

Good luck to all the finalists.


LA Weekly posted in its blog about Improv veteran and teacher Billy Merritt’s theory on the three of improve performers. Merritt calls it “Pirate! Robot! Ninja!” and describes how performers fit into those categories. These same categories could probably cover all forms of theater, not just improve. Which category would best describe Othello?

In other improv news HUGE theater in Minneapolis celebrated it’s one year anniversary in their Lyndale avenue building on Saturday, January 28th. One of the founders of the company, Jill Bernard, announced earlier in the week a goal of making Huge a trending topic on twitter for their birthday on Saturday and with the support of theater and improv tweeters #hugetheater was trending by days end.
More theater success means more audiences going to theater.
Congratulations to HUGE!

There’s still time to apply to the 2012 Minnesota Fringe Festival. The application deadline is January 31st at 5pm. On their twitter account, @MNfringe, the Fringe Festival announced that for the first time in seven years they will have to buy more ping-pong balls for their February lottery drawing. That may mean there will be a lot of artists who don’t get into this years festival but it also means we’ve got a lot of folks wanting to put on shows in Minnesota. Here’s hoping some of them find other times and ways to try to realize their show ideas.
The 2012 Minnesota Fringe Festival will take place from August 2nd through August 12th

Apply to Fringe


Do you subscribe to the Minnesota Theater Alliance newsletter

It’s always full of helpful info. The latest newsletter reminds folks to sign up for Arts Advocacy day coming up on February 29th. Sign up and you can be one of the artists who storms the Capitol to let the Minnesota government know that artists are a many and involved bunch.

Also, do you know about SpacemART?

SpacemART is a wonderful resource where you can find rehearsal, audition, and performance spaces or even list your spaces if you have any to offer. They have a searchable database that’s pretty easy to use. Go try it out: spacemART


All week from January 30th through February 3rd is Arts Week on MPR’s Midday program. State of the Arts writer Marianne Combs will be hosting along with special guests pulled from various parts of the Minnesota arts community and they be focusing on all things art related.
Give it a listen: MPR's Midday

There’s plenty more performing arts related happenings to talk about so go forth and talk. And please let us know what’s on your mind by putting thoughts and opinions in our comments section or sharing on our Facebook wal l and twitter feed.

Have a warm and well staged week