YOU DID IT…LIVE!
Yes, theatre summer camp has come to a close (sadness). But we all learned a little something, right? We learned that if there is a Hell, it will be you constantly trying to get around on University Avenue. We learned that HUGE Theater is a thing that’s in our lives (thank god). And finally, we learned that FringeFamous is fucking brilliant. Yup, this year we correctly predicted nine of the top 15 best-selling shows (although, we only nailed the #1 and #3 shows - hey, we’re not perfect). Want to see the whole list? Ugh…fine.
Brain Fighters presented by Joking Envelope at U of M Rarig Center Thrust
7 (x1) Samurai presented by David Gaines Productions at U of M Rarig Center Proscenium
The Smothers Brothers Grimm presented by Comedy Suitcase at U of M Rarig Center Thrust
Red Resurrected presented by Isabel Nelson at Lab Theater
Minnesota Middle Finger presented by Ben San Del Presents at Theatre in the Round Players
Hamluke presented by the Nerdyad at U of M Rarig Center Arena
Fletcher & Zenobia Save the Circus (by Edward Gorey) presented by Live Action Set at Mill City Museum
Tempests presented by Tedious Brief Productions at U of M Rarig Center Thrust
Comedy = Tragedy + Someone Else presented by the Importance of Being Fotis at U of M Rarig Center Thrust
Knit One, Purl the Other presented by Unfold the Sky Productions at Theatre in the Round Players
Disney Dethroned: Snowcahontas and the Tangled FrogBeast presented by Tom Reed at Mixed Blood Theatre
Underneath the Lintel presented by Pat O’Brien’s Vanity Theatrics at U of M Rarig Center Arena
Buckets and Tap Shoes presented by 10 Foot 5 Productions at U of M Rarig Center Proscenium
Taiko Blast! presented by Mu Performing Arts at Mixed Blood Theatre
Balls Out! presented by Late Night Menu at Mixed Blood Theatre
The Fringe issued 48,350 tickets this year…which is an absolute shit ton. The Fringe issued an absolute shit ton of tickets last year, as well. So both years were basically the same. HOORAY!

YOU DID IT…LIVE!

Yes, theatre summer camp has come to a close (sadness). But we all learned a little something, right? We learned that if there is a Hell, it will be you constantly trying to get around on University Avenue. We learned that HUGE Theater is a thing that’s in our lives (thank god). And finally, we learned that FringeFamous is fucking brilliant. Yup, this year we correctly predicted nine of the top 15 best-selling shows (although, we only nailed the #1 and #3 shows - hey, we’re not perfect). Want to see the whole list? Ugh…fine.

  1. Brain Fighters presented by Joking Envelope at U of M Rarig Center Thrust
  2. 7 (x1) Samurai presented by David Gaines Productions at U of M Rarig Center Proscenium
  3. The Smothers Brothers Grimm presented by Comedy Suitcase at U of M Rarig Center Thrust
  4. Red Resurrected presented by Isabel Nelson at Lab Theater
  5. Minnesota Middle Finger presented by Ben San Del Presents at Theatre in the Round Players
  6. Hamluke presented by the Nerdyad at U of M Rarig Center Arena
  7. Fletcher & Zenobia Save the Circus (by Edward Gorey) presented by Live Action Set at Mill City Museum
  8. Tempests presented by Tedious Brief Productions at U of M Rarig Center Thrust
  9. Comedy = Tragedy + Someone Else presented by the Importance of Being Fotis at U of M Rarig Center Thrust
  10. Knit One, Purl the Other presented by Unfold the Sky Productions at Theatre in the Round Players
  11. Disney Dethroned: Snowcahontas and the Tangled FrogBeast presented by Tom Reed at Mixed Blood Theatre
  12. Underneath the Lintel presented by Pat O’Brien’s Vanity Theatrics at U of M Rarig Center Arena
  13. Buckets and Tap Shoes presented by 10 Foot 5 Productions at U of M Rarig Center Proscenium
  14. Taiko Blast! presented by Mu Performing Arts at Mixed Blood Theatre
  15. Balls Out! presented by Late Night Menu at Mixed Blood Theatre

The Fringe issued 48,350 tickets this year…which is an absolute shit ton. The Fringe issued an absolute shit ton of tickets last year, as well. So both years were basically the same. HOORAY!

2011 FRINGIES!
Remember that thing where you voted for some shows? Here is that.
Outstanding Family Show:  The Smothers Brothers Grimm
Outstanding Spoken Word:  Callahan and Lingo presents: The Last Ditch
Outstanding Solo Show:  Underneath the Lintel
Outstanding Dance Show:  Buckets and Tap Shoes
Outstanding Musical:  History Camp
Outstanding Play:  Tempests
Outstanding Performance (female):  Adelin Phelps (Red Resurrected)
Outstanding Performance (male):  Derek Lee Miller (Red Resurrected)
Outstanding Direction:  Isabel Nelson (Red Resurrected)
Outstanding Production:  Red Resurrected
And if you haven’t heard about this year’s Fringe Encore winners, go here and be enlightened.
God bless the Fringe.

2011 FRINGIES!

Remember that thing where you voted for some shows? Here is that.

Outstanding Family Show:  The Smothers Brothers Grimm

Outstanding Spoken Word:  Callahan and Lingo presents: The Last Ditch

Outstanding Solo Show:  Underneath the Lintel

Outstanding Dance Show:  Buckets and Tap Shoes

Outstanding Musical:  History Camp

Outstanding Play:  Tempests

Outstanding Performance (female):  Adelin Phelps (Red Resurrected)

Outstanding Performance (male):  Derek Lee Miller (Red Resurrected)

Outstanding Direction:  Isabel Nelson (Red Resurrected)

Outstanding Production:  Red Resurrected

And if you haven’t heard about this year’s Fringe Encore winners, go here and be enlightened.

God bless the Fringe.

THE 2011 FROT LIST

You’ve seen ‘em at Rarig. You’ve seen ‘em at HUGE. You’ve seen ‘em all over at Fringe Central. It’s now time to get it out in the open, people…this year’s Frot List (frot = Fringe + hot). And don’t forget to check out the Fringerati’s #frotties on Twitter. Let’s do this!

-JAY-

Sara Lahti, Our Freaking Kids Show
If I had a personal assistant like that, I’d never get anything done.

Jane Froiland, Tempests
When I saw this girl on stage, my penis busted out of my pants and did a little tap dance number ala that scene in “Spaceballs”.

All Females, Once Upon a Time in the Suburbs
Cowgirls…FUNNY COWGIRLS…

Alexis Jones, Four Clowns
I’d really like to investigate her clown pocket.

Sarah Frazier, Uptown: The Musical
If only more hipsters looked like this…

Dawn BrodeyYARRRH! The Lusty, Busty Pirate Musical
My timbers were definitely shivered.

Rob CallahanCallahan and Lingo presents: The Last Ditch
We got so many write-in votes for this guy, I just had to put him on the list. FROT!

-RYAN-

Ariana Venturi, Sousepaw
Dear Lizard Girl, I have whiskey AND cash. Please love me.

Katherine Moeller, Indignorance
I didn’t even see her show and she still made my list. That’s how frot she is.

Brigid Kelley, Tempests
I’ll admit I had as much of a hard-on for Carrie Henn as a ten-year-old boy could have. Thank you, Brigid Kelley, for making my childhood fantasy legal.

Sara Jensen, Damn You Auto Caress
Seeing her makes me want to furiously masturbate.
*furiously masturbate
*furiously masturbate
*WATER MY PLANTS! DAMN YOU AUTOCARESS!

Lisa Berg, House Manager
Gentlemen, put on your waders and grab your Acqua Di Gio: it’s Cougar season.

The Girl in the Ice Cream Truck Outside Rarig
You smile at me and sell me something sweet to suck on. I love you.

Rebecca Ogren, Once Upon a CSI
I firmly believe that Rebecca Ogren is the frottest girl in Fringeland this year.

-SINGLE WHITE FEMALE-

Derek Lee MillerRed Resurrected
Is it fucked up that I didn’t give him a second glance in Ballad of the Pale Fisherman, and then as soon as he plays a creepy molester I’m all over it? Based on the way he wields an imaginary axe, I’m guessing he’s pretty good with his hands.

Sam Pearson, The Day the Nineties Died
I have no idea if he’s as mouthy in real life as his character is on stage, and I’m never going to find out because I’m pretty sure he isn’t old enough to hang out at moto-i, which makes me a total pervert. But watching Sam tirelessly rattle off radical left-wing ideological made me want to know what it would take to make the torrent of words stop.

Darius Dotch, Tales of the Twisted Cities
Even through a winter coat you can make out Darius’s chiseled torso and perfect biceps. I’d get lost with him at St. Anthony-Main any time.

Jaimi Paige, Green Eyes
I don’t know if I’m bi-curious or just jealous, but goddamn that girl has got it.

-GAYE-

Bruce DeMorrow, Tapsized
Bruce participated in one of the most homo-erotic-tap-dancing-shower situations I have ever seen.  And I’ve seen a lot of those. He tapped into my heart and my pants.

James Rone, Deadline: A Choose Your Own Adventure Story
James is one of those nerd frotties that I love so very much. I would always choose the adventure that ends with him waking up to a few regrets and an unexplained pain in his rear.

Kevin J Thornton, I Love You (We’re F*#cked
This man is just plain frot. I want him to Love me, and…well, you know.

Billy Borea, The Folly of Crowds
I’m usually not into guys like Billy, but for some reason I wanted to run my hands across every muscle this dude had to offer. Every. Single. Muscle.

Tim Lee, Scientist Turned Comedian
If this guy was my science teacher, I would constantly have to hold my books in front of my boy parts.

Jordan Roll, Balls Out
I almost took my balls out during the show. But I didn’t want the audience to hear when my junk hit the floor. Amirite?

-LEIGH-

Nic Lincoln, FLESH
As I mentioned previously: Ho. Ly. Shit.

Bob Galligan, Detached: The Return of the Pastor Brothers
I am unable to explain this, yet it is somehow very real. I am filled with shame.

Adelin Phelps, Red Resurrected
She can pull back my red hood any time she wants.

Jenny Moeller, Venue Technician
This is my kind of girl: cute, funny, and curvy in all the right places. Totally frot.

Laura Baller Mahler, Delores Grimm
Why are mermaids so freaking frot?

Madelyne Riley, Nightmare Man
My only nightmare about her would involve a broken corkscrew and a stuck zipper.

Abby Zimmer, Front of House Coordinator
She can coordinate my front of house any day. And by “front of house” I of course mean my vagina.

Dawn Krosnowski, Macbeth: the Video Game Remix
Redheads are my kryptonite (if you haven’t noticed). Also, cosplay!

2011 FRINGIE NOMINIZZLES!
Boom! Just like that, we’re almost done. Monday morning is going to make you feel sad…but until then, have a little fun and vote for your favorite Fringe show (until Sunday at 2am). Now remember:  we obviously didn’t see every single show. And we didn’t review all the shows we saw. So, don’t get all up in our face about this shit, okay? Gawd!

2011 FRINGIE NOMINIZZLES!

Boom! Just like that, we’re almost done. Monday morning is going to make you feel sad…but until then, have a little fun and vote for your favorite Fringe show (until Sunday at 2am). Now remember:  we obviously didn’t see every single show. And we didn’t review all the shows we saw. So, don’t get all up in our face about this shit, okay? Gawd!

More on Reviewing

Just in case you’ve missed it in the comments, Johnny and I are engaging in a discussion of reviews – why do we write them, why do we read them, should there or is there a standard by which we evaluate Fringe festival shows (with the implied question of whether that standard is different from the standard we’d use to evaluate Non-Fringe Shows)?

 I want to directly address Johnny’s most recent comment, because I think he brings up some awesome points, and I don’t want to forget to talk about any of them.

Thank you for the response.  I read the linked reviews.  What I saw was one daily newspaper give it a negative review while the other gave it a middling-to-negative review.  Both are writers who’s byline I’ve seen in previous years, which answers this question of yours: “But have these reviewers ever been to the Fringe Festival before? Like, even once?”
The third review is a rave review, but it’s not from a general-interest daily newspaper, but a specialized industry website that says it exists to provide “information and inspiration for Minnesota’s performing arts”  It is also a long-form, first-person essay, which is not like the brief capsule reviews the newspapers run.
I just went and read audience reviews for the show and they seem to fall roughly into the same three categories as the reviews you cited: negative, middling-to-negative and rave.  
To me, this example doesn’t really fit the issues you raised in your second point of the original post.  Where does “on crack” fit in here?

Both of those newspaper reviews were written by actual arts writers, although Ross Raihala is, I believe, usually more of a music critic than theater, so less practiced at viewing and writing about theater. So that only halfway proves my point about random journalists reviewing shows. But it does illustrate the wide range of responses in the media to Fringe Festival shows – Playlist is more of a personal essay, as you said, with the focus on the writer’s personal connection to the piece. The newspaper reviews are perhaps more focused on what the readership of each newspaper would or would not enjoy. Which brings me to a question:

  • Are we reviewing shows for a specific group of people, and who are those people? How will they use our reviews?

Tenet #1 of my Fringe-Reviewing Philosophy: As a Fringe fanatic, writing for FringeFamous, I am writing for medium to heavy Fringe users. I’m writing for ultra-passers, artists, people who see a ton of shows. The reason I say this is that I think FringeFamous is, itself, Fringe famous. I.e. if you don’t spend a lot of time at the MN Fringe, you’ve never heard of us.

That’s not universally true, and that’s not to say that sometimes-Fringers can’t use our site to help decide what to see, but I think our target audience is the hard-core Fringer.
Presumably, then, the bigger publications are writing for a wider group of people, a fatter slice of the demographic pie. They’re reviewing Fringe shows for people who aren’t as familiar with the Festival. In my opinion, if you are writing about Fringe for a publication with a decent sized circulation, it is your responsibility to do your homework. Get to know the Fringe. Be the expert, so that your readers don’t have to.
A better example of “have these reviewers ever been to the Fringe Festival before?” and “Are you on crack?” would be this review of …a Murder.

Nancy Ngo seems to be a writer for the paper who doesn’t otherwise specialize in theater or arts coverage. Which is maybe why she would recommend a show to her readers which includes “excessive dialogue [which] made it difficult for the audience to follow - as well as for the actors to memorize their lines”.  She’s recommending a show in which the actors weren’t memorized? That does not sound “Worth Considering” to me. She seems to have a super low standard for what a “good” Fringe show is. Which brings us to…

  • What do we expect from Fringe shows, and is it different from what we expect of professional theater productions during the regular theatrical season?

Tenet #2 of my Fringe-Reviewing Philosophy: I am willing to meet the show where it’s at. If you are doing an experimental dance show with no music, I’ll show up expecting experimental dance with no music. If you are a Normal Guy doing your first ever play, I will arrive with the understanding that you aren’t a professional. If you are an established performer or theater company, I will expect something good. Even if it’s more of an experiment, something that doesn’t fit in with the rest of your professional theater season, something raw or new or in-progress, great. I’m not expecting perfection. But if I know you are good at what you do the rest of the year, I will be less likely to forgive a totally half-assed piece of shit.

I have no beef with you or this web site, I’m just trying to understand where you are coming from. 

Right on. It’s mutual.

Personally, I enjoy reading reviews from numerous sources (audience members, newspapers, blogs like this one), and I use them to help me decide my own Fringe schedule.

Yeah – in my mind FringeFamous (and the Strib, and the PiPress, and Playlist, and Daily Planet, and audience reviews, and, and, and) is one of many different resources that Fringe-goers will use to determine which shows they want to see. I personally read everything I can get my hands on, and ask everyone I know what they’ve seen,  and through the mess of information shows start to emerge that appeal to me.
But there are a lot of people in the Twin Cities who are not Fringe fanatics like me, who maybe have heard of the festival but don’t even know where to start in terms of picking a show, and these people turn to the Pioneer Press, or the Star Tribune to help them choose. (See above re: doing your homework and being an expert.)

I still wonder about your use of “free for all.”  Fringe itself is unjuried, so to me, it truly is a free for all.  Maybe I am seeing things differently.

Yes, the Fringe is itself a free-for-all. I love that anyone can put on a show, that there isn’t some committee of people to judge whether your work is “good enough” to be in the Festival. I think that creates a really vibrant, diverse, exciting Festival. But I don’t think reviewing the Fringe, or viewing Fringe shows, should  be a free-for-all. This goes back to Tenet #2 – take each show for what it is, but don’t condescend to the festival. If something is lazy, it’s boring. If something is engaging and daring and smart, even if it’s rough around the edges, or half-finished, it can be electrifying. I’m saying, the Fringe has its own standards. Those standards are different from the standards we use to decide whether we liked something we saw at Mixed Blood, at Park Square, at Open Eye. But they are standards. I’m saying hooray for first-time play-makers, and experimental performances, and naturalistic drawing room dramas, but don’t tell me something is worth seeing because the actors tried hard, and don’t tell me something isn’t worth seeing because it’s not Guthrie-ready. That’s over-simplifying the Fringe experience, which is condescending to everyone involved, and I will not have it!

-SWF-


Hamluke
If you fucking LOVE “Star Wars” and are somewhat familiar with Hamlet I’ll bet one million Fringe Bucks that you will die from a geek-induced orgasm of nerdosity no later than halfway through this show. Its premise is to hang Hamlet's skeleton on a tree branch and have the entire Ewok nation hurl “Star Wars” jokes on it until said branch bows under the immense weight of as much as fifty Geoge Lucases. It's not intelligent. It's not even terribly clever. But it is fun. Even for this reviewer who hasn't seen either source material in a good five years.
-Leigh-

Hamluke

If you fucking LOVE “Star Wars” and are somewhat familiar with Hamlet I’ll bet one million Fringe Bucks that you will die from a geek-induced orgasm of nerdosity no later than halfway through this show. Its premise is to hang Hamlet's skeleton on a tree branch and have the entire Ewok nation hurl “Star Wars” jokes on it until said branch bows under the immense weight of as much as fifty Geoge Lucases. It's not intelligent. It's not even terribly clever. But it is fun. Even for this reviewer who hasn't seen either source material in a good five years.

-Leigh-


Your Responsibility for Sex Failure
Several people recommended this show to me and I was totally looking forward to seeing a fun play about the ridiculous clichés, stereotypes, and ideas about sex in the 1950’s. Unfortunately, the show’s tone and style left me confused and annoyed. What makes plays of this genre successful are their innocence, naïveté, and honesty. None of this works as humor when it’s played as a hard melodrama with a shit-ton of mugging. There were some moments when I smiled and yes, even laughed, but there were so many opportunities lost in the writing and playing of it that could have made this show a monster hit. Anyone remember Commedia Beauregard’s Five Fifths of Romeo and Juliet? Those kids knew what they were doing.
-Leigh-

Your Responsibility for Sex Failure

Several people recommended this show to me and I was totally looking forward to seeing a fun play about the ridiculous clichés, stereotypes, and ideas about sex in the 1950’s. Unfortunately, the show’s tone and style left me confused and annoyed. What makes plays of this genre successful are their innocence, naïveté, and honesty. None of this works as humor when it’s played as a hard melodrama with a shit-ton of mugging. There were some moments when I smiled and yes, even laughed, but there were so many opportunities lost in the writing and playing of it that could have made this show a monster hit. Anyone remember Commedia Beauregard’s Five Fifths of Romeo and Juliet? Those kids knew what they were doing.

-Leigh-


Nineteen Cows Leaving Beirut
I love theater. Really. But sometimes I see shows that make my soul cry. This one came awfully close. A parody? Commentary? Satire? On the No Child Left Behind Act this play follows a struggling teen and the girl that, for some reason, loves him. Something happens to them…they get captured by the government or something. I don’t really know. All I remember is a violent ending whose profundity was completely unearned by the grade-school antics that drove the show up to that point.
-Leigh-

Nineteen Cows Leaving Beirut

I love theater. Really. But sometimes I see shows that make my soul cry. This one came awfully close. A parody? Commentary? Satire? On the No Child Left Behind Act this play follows a struggling teen and the girl that, for some reason, loves him. Something happens to them…they get captured by the government or something. I don’t really know. All I remember is a violent ending whose profundity was completely unearned by the grade-school antics that drove the show up to that point.

-Leigh-


Animal FarmVille: A Friend Me, Like Me, Poke Me Musical
Disclaimer: I do not play Farmville, nor am I on Facebook or FourSquare or Twitter or Google+. I am probably the worst person to review this show. However, I believe that I can say with some authority that this was half-baked. The premise is fine; it’s a series of sketches that revolve around a war that breaks out between Mayors real and virtual over local turf. And while it’s certainly cute, I didn’t find it particularly clever. I mean, it’s sketch comedy, right? It’s not supposed to be well-written. But at the same time, it’s a real show with a great plot idea that simply comes up short. But, like so many other shows this year, I found that my fellow audience members enjoyed it much more than I. Even the senior citizens in the house were laughing at a few tech jokes which only made me feel even more like an uber-luddite that just crawled out from under my rock for my weekly dose of whatever. So they get an extra half-star for that. Also, you should know that while the cast can sing they are by no means singers. So just be prepared for that.
-Leigh-

Animal FarmVille: A Friend Me, Like Me, Poke Me Musical

Disclaimer: I do not play Farmville, nor am I on Facebook or FourSquare or Twitter or Google+. I am probably the worst person to review this show. However, I believe that I can say with some authority that this was half-baked. The premise is fine; it’s a series of sketches that revolve around a war that breaks out between Mayors real and virtual over local turf. And while it’s certainly cute, I didn’t find it particularly clever. I mean, it’s sketch comedy, right? It’s not supposed to be well-written. But at the same time, it’s a real show with a great plot idea that simply comes up short. But, like so many other shows this year, I found that my fellow audience members enjoyed it much more than I. Even the senior citizens in the house were laughing at a few tech jokes which only made me feel even more like an uber-luddite that just crawled out from under my rock for my weekly dose of whatever. So they get an extra half-star for that. Also, you should know that while the cast can sing they are by no means singers. So just be prepared for that.

-Leigh-


The Great Midwestern Drug Circus
I can’t really describe to you what this show is about other than it’s possibly the most unique fringe experience I’ve ever had. It’s honest and dark and wonderfully weird.  While it’s not for everyone, it’s definately worth seeing and discussing post-show.  Whatever your expectations are, forget about them and just come and see this show. There were only about 16 people in the audience the night I was there and 8 of them got in for free so please come support there guys. They deserve to make their money back.
-Ryan-

The Great Midwestern Drug Circus

I can’t really describe to you what this show is about other than it’s possibly the most unique fringe experience I’ve ever had. It’s honest and dark and wonderfully weird. While it’s not for everyone, it’s definately worth seeing and discussing post-show. Whatever your expectations are, forget about them and just come and see this show. There were only about 16 people in the audience the night I was there and 8 of them got in for free so please come support there guys. They deserve to make their money back.

-Ryan-