The stuff the Fringe is made of
When I decided to FRINGE (it's a verb, right?) I wanted to avoid the serious. No politics for sure. No conflict. Really- can you have a play without conflict? Well, mild conflict anyway. No tears, angst, or life questions. I wanted to take in something I didn’t have to think too much about, and I had 168 shows to choose from. Wow!
I sought out something different. Not your normal everyday theater. You know…the stuff Fringe is made of: the odd, absurd, not so serious, and hopefully something very funny- I really wanted to see something funny. I really wanted to laugh.
Armed with my reservations and enough time to spare even through traffic and parking challenges, I arrived at Rarig to pick up my wristband, token, and see my first show, Becoming Inga. The Fringe website actually had a “something different” category and Becoming Inga fit that description. Months ago this friend told me of this autobiographical tale of another friend who’d lost her job due to alcoholism and eventually found a job in a parlor as an actress. Her job was to fulfill the sexual fantasies of her clients, whatever that fantasy was. When her friends asked what she was doing for a living she told them “freelancing” or “consulting.” She told the story of one of her clients that I will never forget. It was beautiful and not sexual at all but about sexuality. I enjoyed the show and even laughed.
The Final Tubby Bye-Bye was next and also considered something different and served as my something “odd.” I remembered my children watching Teletubbies on PBS.
OK. So I love the musical Hamilton., and I loved Gilligan’s Island as a kid. Gilligan: A Tropical Musical was fun and clever. I did begin to wonder if they were poking fun at my new favorite musical. In the end it didn’t matter; I was entertained.
Dressed in practical clothes and shoes Fringe goers move quickly from one venue to another by foot, bike, uber or other. The ladies' room called and I answered, missing a curtain time by one minute. Doors were closed. The veterans know “if you snooze you lose”- late comers will not be seated. You may not get to see that show until the next day or possibly two, so you'd better plan ahead for food, water, and bathroom.
Fringe goers seem less likely to judge and criticize performances in the way we do regular theater. They are there to root on the production and the artists, and to take in the entire experience. This was made very clear to me when I began to respond honestly to “How was that show?” and then saw the faces and perked ears as I answered. Reviews are to be saved for online and not shared in public Fringe spaces. At the Fringe your art can be expressed freely without harsh judgment- which isn’t considered Minnesota Nice. You participate out of respect for the event, the Fringe Festivities, and your boldness as an artist. Try something new, and if it is good audiences will say so and say it BIG.
Be open for whatever comes at you. It's not going to last more than an hour, and you may not know it is exactly what you needed to see. I saw three extraordinary pieces this evening. I laughed so hard during Apple Picking, marveling at the quality of the performances down to the detail of an apple being picked or the shaking of a tee leaf. I loved everything about it.
Theatre Forever’s The Accident Book caught me completely by surprise. In the end I loved it and loved them. There was this crazy moment when one of the actors shows another the exercise of crying in the mirror. She starts lifting shoulders up and down, shaking her head and then wiggling her hands in front of her eyes. At one point all the actors do it, and it was odd but memorable.
Max Wojtanowicz had me in stitches while watching his musical Ball:A Musical Tribute To My Testicle, a personal account of finding humor and resolve after the loss of his right testicle to cancer. He pays tribute to all who helped him, and anyone else experiencing cancer and cancer treatment. His voice is beautiful, lyrics clever, and he is a fine, fine story teller. I was determined not to cry about anything but at the end of the night- damn it Max! I specifically put on my list NO CRYING! With tears streaming down my face and most of the other faces in the theater we stood and applauded for minutes it seemed. The stranger next to me gently touched my arm and then smiled at me. It was fine theatre.
What I'd set out to do
Fringe: A border made of hanging threads used to decorate the edge of something… the decorative tasseling trimming a silk manton.
Or the fray of cut off jeans or all that is in between.
I set out to see something different- not your normal, everyday theater. You know…the stuff Fringe is made of: the odd, absurd, not so serious, and hopefully very funny. I really wanted to see something funny; I really wanted to laugh. But I am glad I cried.