“We found common ground” is a tiny quote from Jason Schommer’s Starf*cker. In all the hilarity of his 60 minute show, he sneaks in that one endearing line. It rang in my ears. Something clicked in me.
I realized I had just spent my first full day at the Fringe, on common ground.
What a workout of mind and body. Leaving one show and getting to the next. Driving through traffic, walking through people, or trying to grab a bite. All the while attempting to wrap my head around what I just witnessed. What am I feeling? What touched me? What disgusted me? For some, it came to me instantly; others simmer in the back of my brain. All of this competing with the thrill a anticipation. I see this cycle in all my fellow Fringe-goers as we pound the pavement, doggedly pursuing the next show. Regardless of reviews we hope it will blow our minds. We hope to discover a beautiful glittering diamond in the rough of the Fringe. Sometimes we do and sometimes we find a dirty, misshapen, hollow, useless piece of coal. I love that the Fringe allows such free association. You can see the greatest thing or worst thing in the course of two hours, shoot, sometimes in ONE. And everyone wants to hear your suggestions. You can praise it or you can casually trash a show. I mean really trash it to the core. And folks go “Wow! That’s too bad.” Then they move on. They don’t make you justify it. They don’t make you question your intention or expectation. Whatever you felt, that’s alright with them. It’s difficult to get away with that during the rest of the year. It seems rare that we can wholly rip a show to shreds during our Minneapolis theater season without trying to find something true to it. Something that will allow us to say “But you should still check it out?” Are we kinder during the year? More invested? It seems we just expect different things from the Fringe. I don't know. It creates a common ground.
A common ground tied together many of the shows I saw yesterday. I was able to see the motivating Twist of Fate by the Rosetown Playhouse Community Theater. The young folk in the show are such an inspiration. Each of them from a different background, using their language, their truth, to speak to us. I love that the Rosetown Playhouse and its partners put time and resources into this project. They helped bring these students from the “very Minnesotan suburb of Roseville” into contact with KaRen refugees. They created a perfect intersection of art and culture. Community. It was art for social change, what I teach, preach, and believe in. Like the artists onstage I left feeling that nothing is impossible.
However, what was impossible yesterday was The Habit by Wilson Loria. Claribel dragged me to “this solo show by this really cool woman of color”. She was so very wrong, starting with the fact that the artist is actually a Brazilian MAN. Always do your research. I thought it was atrocious. But he has a story, a generous spirit, and you can buy a drink inside the theater. Black Butte Porter anyone? You might find it glorious.
What was glorious the other day was Fruit Fly. Disclaimer, I’ve been in and will be in shows with Max Wojtanowicz and consider him a friend. Now that you know that. Know this. Max and Sheena’s show is a moving and honest tribute to friendship. It is so beautiful to see two incredibly talented performers in perfect harmony. Light flows off of them in waves. You get to drink it all in, leaving the theater with a very sunny high. I’ve got a best friend, more like a brother. He is one of the greatest actors I know. I can only hope when we reach 17 years of friendship we are capable of sharing a story so poignant, joyful, and true.
Continuing on the Max Wojtanowicz praise fest. I’m sure you know that you cannot miss R & J starring practically everybody’s friend. It’s a show for artists, a show that allows you to laugh at yourself and your peers. The highlight for me was the “real person” perspective. I think artists, including me, sometimes take what we do far too serious. We forget who we do it for. I was reminded last night. And I loved the guy who played the Friar. Chris Kehoe, simply put, is a genius.
Thanks to Robin for pointing me to the Artist of Color page. I found it by happenstance my first night and I’ve been trying to ensure I grab a show from there for each Fringe outing. Yesterday, I headed for identity. I was immediately soothed by the sound of Sweet Honey in the Rock playing through the space. As I settled into my seat, I looked around the to see quite a few people who looked like family, like my family. Surprising and gratifying. The dancers were elegant and graceful under a southern sun. There is one piece set to Strange Fruit by Nina Simone that will give you chills. I have never understood how or why someone would want to color blind cast a show. Want proof of why you should see a performer’s body in all its glory? See a black male, raggedly clothed, with locked hair and bare feet, relentlessly dancing to the ethereal eerie voice of Nina. Question answered. The final piece of the show called “In This Skin” was enough to make me want to take off all my clothes. Not in the Nelly-its-gettin-hot-in-herre-2002-summer-hit sense. But in the love myself-express myself-free myself-be myself vein. I wanted to strip not for sex, but for liberation. To rejoice in my body, flaws and perfections. If you need a dose of that, and who doesn’t? Check out the show.
I’m reminded of a line from Maya Angelou’s In & Out of Time:
“You freed your braids, gave your hair to the breeze
It hung like a hive of honey bees
I reached in the mass for the sweet honeycomb there
God, how I loved your hair”
What an intricate tangle of colors and tastes combining at the Fringe. A former acting instructor always advised me, “To play on the playground you’re in.” He meant not all rehearsal rooms are the same. Each director does things differently. Companies operate under diverse missions. The best thing you can do is give your all in that moment, in that space, with those people. The people at & in the Fringe already know that. They love this playground, with its quirks and its brilliance. I’m just getting to know it. I’m that new black kid that moved into the neighborhood. Playing on the outskirts…edging closer to the jungle gym. See you there!
Next up, like right now, Taiko Flash!Gotta Go!