Welcome to Day 2! Before we start, full confession. I’m a baby Fringer. I’ve only seen the shows my friends are in/wrote/directed/devised/etc. Or what was popular and therefore a safe bet. Or was in the same building because reparking is no.
So. Clearly I need to take these excellent pieces of advice. Why not venture out of my friend bubble? Why not see art made by exciting new people, regardless of popularity? Why not take a chance?
Let’s do it.
- I must see a show that does not star friends.
- I must see a show that was not written by, directed by, devised by, etc.
- I must see a show that does not include acquaintances, friends-of-friends, or people I’ve read about a lot in the paper.
- In fact, I must see a show by People I Know Absolutely Nothing About.
Choosing the schedule was haaaaaaaaaard. I want to see this. And this. And this and this. All rule breakers. I tried to think of excuses. Trades. “If I see 3 shows by People I Know Absolutely Nothing About, surely I can Sneak in a Friend.”
But rules is rules.
And honestly, the more I looked at the evening’s possibilities, the more excited I got. I love my friends. I want to support their work. But going outside loyalty or the safe bet made me pay more attention to the show itself. To what it might say. And also to what I like. It’s been a while. Do I even remember what I like?
To keep this fair, I didn’t read any of the preview articles. I tried to choose shows based solely on their descriptions.
And so. Here we go.
5:30 pm. PECAN BROWN AND THE SEVEN ...'S by Under the Skin Theater Company (@ Music Box Theatre)
First lesson of the night: It’s really fun to talk with people standing in line. I chatted with Jean, an awesome UltraPasser who shared Fringe navigation advice. Her record is seeing 54 out of the potential 56 shows the UPs can see. FIFTY FOUR shows. Jean is amazing, and I am humbled. If Jean can see 54 shows over 11 days, I can make it through 4 shows in one night.
On to the show.
The story follows Meridia, a young up-and-coming screenwriter of color in Hollywood. She has the opportunity of a lifetime to retell the story of Snow White after the producer can’t stand Michael Bay’s latest take on the script. (Heh.) Meridia isn’t satisfied with the all white cast in the film. She prefers Margo play Snow White.
But Margo has skin that is decidedly not as white as snow. And so, Pecan Brown is born and the fairytale film becomes a lesson in micro-aggressions, systems of oppression, and the search for connection to your roots. Narrated by Thor, with a silken mop of ginger hair. Which I didn’t understand.
The artistic team was clearly passionate about this project. The cast is young, am guessing mostly college/high school age. The script is also young and meanders, with a few creative stops along the way to show examples of micro-aggressions.
The “Personally, I don’t see color” and “What are you?” examples were particularly cutting. And the largest laugh came after, “Racist? Me? No, no, no, I’m a Democrat.”
I admired that this young group tackled such a huge subject so bluntly. And even tackled it at all. Their artistry doesn’t yet match their aims, but I hope they keep working on it. And also speak louder during the rest of their run. Music Box is large. Gotta fill the space.
The program included a definition of micro-aggressions and some sobering stats about the lack of people of color in front of and behind the camera in Hollywood, taken from the 2014 Hollywood Diversity Report. There’s a Hollywood Diversity Report? Cool!
The audience had about 19 people. 3 POCs (people of color), including myself.
7:00 pm. EXISTENTIA by lesser mortals (@ Joule)
Next lesson of the night: Really, talk with strangers. It’s fun. This time I talked with a woman who performed in a show the second year of the Fringe and has been coming to see shows ever since. 20 years straight of seeing shows every summer. I’ve never interacted with Fringe audiences before. Have totally been missing out.
EXISTENTIA is more of an experience than a show. I LOVED this. Like, loved loved loved it. It wasn’t perfect, but it was just what I needed.
The group bills themselves as a philosophical travel agency. You stop in and fill out a short questionnaire, have your hand biometrically “scanned” (which didn’t seem that necessary), get partnered up with a stranger, and visit a series of booths that take you on a journey using travel as a metaphor for life.
My favorites stops were the song booth with Paul, the individual travel consultation with Zeb (dude, Zeb, if you read this, seriously, send me photos when you get to South America), and the booth with Kellie. I won’t spoil hers. It’s fun.
Granted, travel is a passion of mine (see bio). I could go on and on and on about the answers to this question:
“Which of the following items would you consider most essential to your journey?”1
c) extra pair of socks
d) cell phone
And I think things like personality tests are super fun. So, maybe I’m just weird and you’ll think this show is too much. Or not enough. It is a little rushed. There’s not much time to go dig in the deep stuff. I found myself wondering if the consultants were actors or people who liked travel or both or neither. It was hard to tell.
Regardless, I took a lot away. To be mindful, moment to moment. To pay attention to the little things that make life so fascinating. And to do my best to bring bits of the energy and joy of travel into my daily life.
I left with a huge smile on my face. If you get a chance, go. Some of it is silly, some of it is serious, some of it is a wee bit twee, some of it is just plain happy fun.
There’s not great signage for this show. I drove around the building three times (yes, I get lost a lot). If you go, they’re located on Washington, opposite from Bobby & Steve’s. There’s free parking in the lot. And it’s so close to Rarig and Mixed Blood, of the 8 audience members I counted (I was the only POC), 4 or 5 of us popped over to Mixed Blood next.
8:30 pm. REAL DEAD GHOSTS by Shelby Company (@ Mixed Blood Theatre)
This was the most traditional show on my schedule. And it was popular, with a nearly sold out house of 140; I saw 4 POCs, including myself, but there may have been more.
I wasn’t expecting all the people. After a night of relative quiet, to suddenly be in the company of 139 other audience members was jarring. I felt like I wasn’t at the Fringe anymore, that I’d been dropped into a regular old mainstage show.
But actually, was I suddenly having a more typical Fringe experience? And how was I going to eat my sandwich when there were so many opportunities for talking with folks?
The lesson here: In line, a woman told me that the Fringe is her Christmas. Fringe audiences are the best audiences of life. I mean, the positivity and joy in her face was so bright, it gave me pause. Am I ever that happy while standing in a really long line in Minnesota? Why not?
Self-reflection aside, the show was great. Strong performances. A witty script. Cool lights and set. It was a treat to experience such a professional show.
The story. Amber and Graham are celebrating their 5th anniversary with a much needed vacation away. They’re staying in an old cabin. Graham is hoping to find some ghosts with his bag of ghost hunting equipment, which drives Amber nuts.
They’re an oddly matched couple with major relationship issues. Amber is tightly wound. (She would totally benefit from some time at EXISTENTIA.) Graham is a joke-cracking man baby. At one point he tells Amber, as proof that he does love, need and/or want her, “When you’re gone it sucks and when you’re here it doesn’t suck as much.”
As the evening progresses, they battle ghosts from their pasts and try to reach a new level of honesty, with each other and within. Walking out after the show, a fellow audience member said, “Everyone has their own ghosts.” If you can see this show and not contemplate your own ghosts, I don’t want to be friends with you. Like, seriously. No apologies. Get away from me.
10:00 pm. AN HONEST MAGIC SHOW by The Honest Magician (Mixed Blood)
The Honest Magician is named Nick. He is charming. His show is charming. It was the perfect end to the day. I counted 26 people in the audience, 2 POCs (including myself).
He promises he will lie to you, but then gives you hints on how to fool him. You can’t fool him, but it’s nice to have the illusion.
There’s lots of audience interaction, which is great fun. The colored gumball trick was a favorite. And the mind reading.
Because Nick is an honest magician, he likes to share the hows of magic now and then. He taught us a neat trick with crayons. He actually taught us two magic tricks, but I was the onstage test subject for one and couldn’t see what he was doing. Follow the red ball, he said. I tried. It kept disappearing. I felt like a small pug dog chasing my tail in a futile attempt to Grab the Thing.
It’s a simple show, with low key storytelling and a couple late music cues. Nick just goes with the flow. He needs a new folding table, for sure. It all adds to the charm.
I love watching magic tricks. I can never see through the illusion, and I love the feeling that comes after seeing a really great trick. The what the hell… how… wonder. Nick said for him magic is the “expansion of possibilities. [The] experience of what we know becoming much larger.”
And that all fits in with the lessons of the evening: Expand. Get out of the friend bubble, the safe bet. Take a chance on something random. Even a show that you don’t enjoy will spark something. Talk with strangers, often. Take some time for self-reflection. Soak up the incredible arts experience that is the Fringe, in all its random glory.
I’m a new fan.
1. Answer: b) toothbrush. Because you can live without a cell phone, you can get by with a single pair of socks, and you can always ask for directions or use the sun. But you can’t talk to strangers if your breath smells like your socks, and brushing your teeth with your finger just doesn’t work. I’ve tried. It’s ineffective. Take your toothbrush.