Drawing in the Audience: “Once Upon a Chalkboard” at the 2013 Minnesota Fringe Festival


The 2013 Minnesota Fringe Festival has begun.  As a veteran fringe-goer,  I know that taking risks is part of the thrill of the festival.  I’m game for anything.  But I do employ a strategy when I choose what to see first.  The show needs to be fun.  So I start with the handy dandy schedule at fringefestival.org and narrow it down to the nine comedies playing at 5:30.  Immediately I recognize that we all enjoyed “Once Upon a Chalkboard” at the Fringe-For-All showcase.  Done.  Once the festival starts, I choose most of my shows through word of mouth.  Ask people what they enjoyed while you are waiting for your next show to begin.

Back to the show.  Once Upon a Chalkboard, created and performed by Tyler Michaels and Tod Petersen, is an innovative improvisation show using “props” drawn on “chalkboards of many sizes” by willing volunteers.  Full of good cheer, the duo takes the audience on an adventure to various imaginary worlds and places.  Michaels is a quick improvisor; when an audience member suggests Middle Earth as a setting he transforms his body into a Gollum-like troll and runs with it.  Petersen has a colorful palette of character voices and a sharp wit.  Together, they create an atmosphere of conviviality for the audience.  A random thought popped into my head while watching these two current Chanhassen actors play silly knights.  The theatrical rights for Monty Python’s Spamalot are being released soon.  Hmmm.

“Once Upon a Chalkboard” is paying at the Minneapolis Theatre Garage.  There was some innuendo, but the show we saw was family friendly.