The Fringe is weather proof.
It was a totally, completely 100% GORGEOUS day yesterday and still hordes of people agreed to go inside, where there is no sunlight, and watch theater. There is something wrong with us.
Still, given the quality of the work I saw yesterday, it seems entirely worth it. And if I’m being honest with myself, it’s not like I would have struck out on a 10 mile hike or meandering bike ride; I would not have organized an impromptu picnic. I would have watched tv. By a window, but still.
The day began with getting the second-to-last ticket for They Called Her Captain and seeing my first sold out show. Walking into the theater I see the set and understand that I’m in the hands of professionals. There is practiced artistry at work here. And the show fulfills that promise. Captain is the story of Jeanne Bearmon, a WAC in WWII and the characters that surround her journey through that historically tumultuous and eventful time. The whole package knocks the audience out.
From there it was over to the Red Eye Theater to see Imagination Island: Surviving Reality. Another stunner. I’m two for two on the day. In this case, it’s another true story of a life lived through trying times, but in this case much closer to our contemporary world. Hope Cervantes was a child actor who appeared for years on television as one of Barney’s Friends. Plenty of laughs to be had there, but she is simultaneously struggling to deal with very serious issues of child abuse. Her journey is harrowing and grim and ultimately redemptive. And once again, the power of professionalism in the Twin Cities theater community is triumphant.
At the Illusion Theater I am greeted by another crushing crowd. I make it into the theater just as the lights go out and the buzz in the audience vibrates the space with the readiness for a good time. A good time is had. By all. I Make No Promises, But Someone’s Probably Going to Die is a new-fashioned laugh riot. Absurd and sharp and strange. The play’s six characters find themselves in a non-descript lobby that will lead them either to death in front of a giant eyeball or yoga certification and omniscience before a grasping lotus. And it goes like that. Given the size and enthusiasm of the crowd and the way word of mouth works, this is going to be a hit.
Last show of the night is at the Mixed Blood. It begins with a good omen. No a great one. I find parking at the Mixed Blood Theatre. That almost never happens.
The day has been full of experienced performers who make their living in the theater using the Fringe to expand themselves or strut their collective stuff or both. APPEARING LIVE! is the same but in a different way. Magician Derek Hughes has been perfecting his skills for over 30 years and it shows. Or rather it doesn’t show at all. He has the easy confidence and charm of a born performer and he leads his audience through a series of tricks and miracles seamlessly. Even when he says he’s trying something for the first time or just working it out, you sense he’s got you in the palm of his quicker-than-the-eye hand.
Today made me proud of this community and the people who work all year, year after year, to make themselves better at what they do. And make us better for having witnessed their labor.
They bring the sunshine inside, magically.