New Top 10, Returning Favorites and the Last of Fringe For All


by Matthew Everett | July 26, 2009 • Blogging while under the weather today.

Woke up with a nasty sore throat, which I’m trying not to share with the rest of the world.

However, I’m one of those really obstinate sick people.

I feel like I should still be “doing” something, other than you know, just sitting around, drinking tea, gargling with salt water, sucking on throat lozenges, and generally trying not to talk or, you know, do anything.

So I type.

The germs stop at the keyboard, so the internet is safe.

Gotta shake this thing before Mom arrives. And Fringe arrives. Argh.

So the last batch of Fringe-For-All’ers were grab bag of returning favorites and sure to be new favorites. Lots of video is already up for you to peruse.

I’ll try to point you to it all.

Then I’ve gotta sit down and iron out the brutal calculus which is the Fringe schedule.

By the count of my currently stuffed-up head, if I saw something different in every single slot this year, including the encore slot, that’s 56 shows.

Roughly one third of the festival.

So, endurance holding up for the whole eleven days with no repeats, that’s still two-thirds of the festival I’m gonna miss.

So, which one third is it gonna be?


Happens every year.

Don’t know why it surprises me.

“He was always there. Such a gentleman. So clean.”

If you held a gun to my head and I could only see 10 Fringe shows, what would they be and why?


Sandbox Theatre

June of Arc

Take a peek under the apron of the paragon of motherly virtue – June Cleaver! Go beyond the Jell-O and pearls to reveal her shield of cookie-plated resentment. Love, resentment, comedy, aviation, snickerdoodles: this show has it all. With live-action 1950s commercials!

You will never see June Cleaver in the same way again.

This a first-time appearance for Sandbox Theatre in the Fringe and I’m very excited. Like Bedlam Theatre and their production of “Terminus,” Sandox has all kinds of goodwill from me as a theatergoer still carrying over from “War With The Newts” a couple of years back. It was deeply cool, and a lot of fun. That, and the beautiful “What Remains” are two things I evaluated for the Ivey Awards, and so sadly, I don’t have anything public printed about them. But I liked them a hell of a lot. Other things that Sandbox has been up to that I’ve seen include Zelda Wonderland, Koogoomanooki, and The Horse, The Bird, The Monkey & The Dancer.

Pretty much every time I think I know what they’re going to do, I’m wrong. So I just stop trying to predict, sit back, and enjoy. They’re always full of surprises.

Their Fringe ambassador in the company this time out is probably Derek Miller, who as part of Perpetual Motion Theater Company produced some of my favorite Fringe shows in recent memory, including the “Fringe show in a pool” – The Depth of the Ocean, and last year’s scrappy semi-musical One Night Only With Mike Mahoney.

This time out, June Cleaver and 1950s TV ads get the treatment.

(Now, I’m a little behind in my viewing, but I have at least seen season one of “Mad Men” – so I think I’ve got this 50s advertising plus cookie-plated resentment of the 50s housewife patter down. But again, I’m probably wrong. So we’ll just see what they’ve got up their sleeve.)

With Heather Stone as June, Ryan Hill as Ward, Derek Miller as Wally, and Matthew Glover as The Beaver, we’re sure to be in for it. Whatever it is. Can’t wait to find out.

Hmmm… this quote in their press blurbs sounds familiar…

“A work-in-progress from Sandbox still beats many theaters’ efforts on established scripts… Once you see one Sandbox production, you’re hooked for the next.” on The Horse, the Bird, the Monkey and the Dancer

Oh yeah… now I remember

What can I say? It’s still true.

Their website –

Their show page

And of course, their Fringe-For-All preview…

If you held a gun to my head and I could only see 10 Fringe shows, what would they be, and why?


Best Weird Dog

Rumspringa the Musical

Rebekah is an Amish girl visiting the city for the first time. Robot is a highly advanced robot programed to assist humans. When the two meet there is an instant spark, but can Rebekah leave her family, religion, and the only home she’s ever known for the love of a Godless machine?

Featuring a dozen unforgettable songs, “Rumspringa” is the most fun musical about robots and Amish people you’ll see this year.

To paraphrase Renee Zellweger’s character in “Jerry Maguire” – “You had me at ‘Amish girl falls in love with a robot'”

This one’s my main guilty pleasure this Fringe season.

Growing up in Pennsylvania as I did, we do love our Amish. They’re a big part of the area of the state where I grew up. Plus, great for tourism.

So the concept of Rumspringa wasn’t foreign to me. It’s actually a pretty savvy thing for the Amish to do. By letting the young people go into the big city and see the modern world for what it is, they remove the whole allure of the forbidden. And the quiet simple life can seem very comforting and familiar after that. Not everyone returns, but they’re allowed to make up their own minds one way or the other.

Of course, Rumspringa the Musical is hardly a documentary.

It was, however, in a previous life, an award-winning student film produced out at the University of Minnesota Morris (where, strangely enough, my play Leave received its new lease on life – and one of the cast members of that production, Alex Carlson, is in this musical as well, so there’s another reason I’m going).

The film is where a lot of their promotional clips come from

But this, oh this, is what sold me…

The big love duet – then trio – Not Programmed For Emotion


How can you not love something that ridiculously earnest? And quintessentially musical?

Their trailer is pretty priceless, too…

And “The Electric Slide” had me falling off my chair laughing because… well…

oh. my. god.

They’re not all winners, of course. The big Amish Dance number is less endearing than some of the other clips. Plus…

Oh yeah. Jokes about farm boys screwing sheep. That never gets old. (Not.)

But the opening number…

is kind of perfect in a “get me the hell out of this place” kind of way. Plus, how adorable is it that the actor playing her father, fake beard and all, is clearly not old enough to be anyone’s father?

The Fringe-For-All preview actually didn’t do them too many favors…

Not everyone in the cast has a huge voice. And the Ritz is a big space to fill. Thankfully, they’re performing in the Augsburg Studio space, so that sounds like a smaller theater to fill with sound. That should work to their advantage.

I also just love the theater company name Best Weird Dog, for what it’s worth.

Damn. I’m really almost giddy at how delightfully silly this thing is. I can’t wait.

Their website –

Their show page

“I’m glad they were last. I wouldn’t want to send anybody out to follow that.”


The Return of LICK!

LICK! is the sexiest, most artistically satisfying and emotionally engaging dance company the world has ever known. After a four-year banishment from the Minnesota Fringe Festival (for being too sexy), LICK! returns to the Southern Theater to inject art into your soul with its great, big syringe of sexiness.

From The Mechanical Division (producers of the 2006 Minnesota Fringe Festival hit Cannibal! The Musical) comes The Return of LICK!.

WARNING: Exposure to LICK! may cause temporary homosexuality in some heterosexual men.

WARNING: Prolonged exposure to LICK! may cause your genitals to overheat and/or explode.

(It’s a pity they’re so shy and lacking in self-confidence, isn’t it?)

It was a full-on, all dancing preview to the tune of… that song from the “Kill Bill” movie (OK, I just looked it up – Battle Without Honor or Humanity, by Tomoyasu Hotei – but honestly, if you heard the opening bars, you’d know which one I meant. Just click the video clip below.)

A friend after Fringe-For-All leaned in and asked, “So, LICK? 50 minutes of that?”

“Oh no. There will be character development,” I assured her.

Really though, who goes to LICK for character development?

I sympathized with my friend’s reaction. In my review of the first onslaught of sexiness…

2005 – LICK!

… I mentioned that I was a little worried it’d get old pretty quick. But it didn’t. Because they kept changing it up. It wasn’t a one-joke premise.

So though I have my doubts about their going to the same well a second time, I only have to look back to see how they proved me wrong before.

The guys of The Mechanical Division (aka LICK) wound up on my Top 20 list for 2006 for taking on…

2006 – Cannibal! The Musical

Responding to my review of that, one of the guys assured me…

“If the Fringe ever gets lost at Buck Hill, you’re the last person we’ll eat.”

Yes, but will I also be the last person they lick?

Perhaps I shall even take Mom to see the silliness.

And perhaps we shall hide in the corner somewhere, just to be safe.

Their website –

Their show page

More videos (in case you can’t get enough from the sampling below)

Their facebook page

Their video trailer…

Their Fringe-For-All preview (dear God, help us…)

(One of the things I found most interesting about this preview is that it followed the preview of I’d Kick Puppies For You. And both previews essentially told in movement the evolution and disintegration of a relationship, all set to music, no words on the part of the performers. Kari’s version was more graceful and less comedic – plus the female came off seeming more empowered than defeated when it was done. But it’s intriguing to watch completely different artists explore the same territory back-to-back and come up with results that are familiar, and yet clearly have their own stamp on it.)

Kari Jensen

Stray Pieces

16 dancers take the stage in a series of short works from classical ballet to hip-hop and tap. Exploring emotions, feeling, relationships and menopause, this dance show has something for everyone.

Kari was part of my Top 10 list for 2008 because of her artistic association with fellow dancer/choreographer Joseph Bingham

2008 – Ars Longa, Vita Brevis (Art is Long, Life Is Short)

Words often fail me with dance. But her show last year was really beautiful work. Just watching the human body in motion sometimes is entertainment in itself.

Judging by the sample on display at the Fringe-For-All showcase (the video below makes the case better than my words could), looks like we can expect more of the same this year. I’m really looking forward to it.

There’s so much dance in the Fringe sometimes, it’s nice to have a few old favorites you can return to for reliable enjoyment, before heading out to see the work of someone totally new and different.

Kari was totally new and different last year. Now her show can be one of the familiar entry points for dance at the Fringe as people re-acclimate themselves, before they go explore some more.

Her show page

Her Fringe-For-All preview…

“It is very tragic, and very horrible. But that is all. I refuse to consider it anything supernatural.”

Rockstar Storyteller adjacent #10, via Joseph Scrimshaw

Every Fringe, there is much mention made of the Scrimshaws. But you can’t mention any of the Scrimshaws, without also mentioning their good buddy and partner in comedy crime…

Tim Uren

The Curse of Yig

In 1929, a young academic visits the Guthrie Asylum in Oklahoma to explore the native tribal belief in the snake god, Yig. There she is confronted by a bizarre creature, the sole living survivor of the nightmarish Halloween of 1889. As she learns the tragic tale of Walker and Audrey Davis- early residents of the Oklahoma Territory- she too begins to fall under the spell of an unrelenting fear that time cannot diminish.

(As someone who has one of his day jobs at the Guthrie Theater, I have to giggle at the phrase Guthrie Asylum. All too apt some days…)

I’ve been enjoying Tim’s solo Fringe outings since early in my blogging career, which is why he was on my Top 10 list in 2004

2004 – 10,000 Comic Books

2005 – Michigan Disasters

2006 – H.P. Lovecraft’s The Rats In The Walls

(I missed his most recent two shows in and out of the Fringe – Cannibals are Cooking, and Robert Anton Wilson’s “Masks of the Illuminati”)

But now he’s back for more Lovecraft creepiness. He likes telling these stories, and it shows. He has a little help this time out (in the form of actress Amy Schweickhardt), so that should probably just make it all the creepier and more unpredictable.

If you want a little chill down your spine in August, this is the place to go.

His website –

His show page

His video trailer…

His Fringe-For-All preview…

“Perhaps an herbal supplement would help.”

Nancy Donoval

Every Pastie* Tells A Story

Strapless red dresses, lobster claw tassels and college high jinks abound when Nancy reveals her personal pastie* collection and the story of how three good Catholic girls became wild in Milwaukee. (*not a meat pie)

From the creator of Fringe hits Dancing Rats & Vampire Moms and Monster Movies with My Undead Dad comes a new show befitting the accolade, “I laughed so hard my cramps went away.”

Rockstar Storytellers adjacent #9

OK, so Nancy Donoval isn’t directly connected to the Rockstar Storytellers, but she’s a storyteller, and in my mind, she’s a rockstar in the genre, so she’s part of this spoken word extended family (in my head at least).

Nancy was part of my 2007 Top 10 list for her great Fringe show…

Monster Movies With My Undead Dad

and now, after a year off, the ping pong balls of the Fringe Lottery were kind again and we get this, her latest storytelling offering.

The thing I like most about Nancy is she’s a craftsperson. Her storytelling is very precise. It feeds off the energy of the audience but it always knows exactly where it’s going. It’s funny, heartfelt, really smart stuff. (I realize I’m using the words smart and funny a lot, and also stuff, but hey, it applies. This is why these are the people I like so much. Mom, too.) If you want to see some good, solid storytelling, Nancy’s one person you need to have on your Fringe schedule this year. There are people as good, but there are none better.

(I also like how she took her segment into red light territory in order to help plug another performer’s show. That show would be Food Shelf Follies – Lane McKiernan – at the Playwrights Center. More on that in the near future.)

Her website –

Her show page

Her Fringe-For-All preview

“My roommate’s a penguin.”

Walking Shadow Theatre Company


An elite military intelligence training program.

Two officers. One penguin.

Who will make it through?

I think writer/actor/director John Heimbuch is one of the few performers whose resume has the role

Shakespeare (Killer of Zombies)

followed by the role


But that’s Walking Shadow for you.

After the monster ensemble mayhem that was last year’s Fringe hit Shakespeare’s Land of the Dead, they’re back with just three actors (Ryan Lindberg, Melissa Anne Murphy, Peter Ooley) and an enormous, immediately bewitching, puppet of an Emperor Penguin, operated by Heimbuch and fellow co-founder of Walking Shadow, David Pisa. Co-founder Amy Rummenie is back in the director’s chair, where she continues to work wonders.

And so, a military penguin.

…the hell?

Best not to question too strenuously, though. These folks are on a roll with oddities, after all…

Their first outing

2004 – The Lives of the Most Notorious Highwaymen

dealt with highway robbers of a few centuries past

The followup, which landed them on my 2005 Top 10 list

10-Speed Revolution

was about a band of anarchist bicyclists and a nuclear bomb

2006 – 1926 Pleasant

a live action puzzle box solved by the audience in an unused condo

and of course, last year’s mega-hit

2008 – Shakespeare’s Land of the Dead

a group of Elizabethan actors trying to face down a horde of zombies

The Fringe’s YouTube page should have the Fringe-For-All clip up in the coming days, so check back there and see for yourself. The minute the penguin walked onstage and started interacting with his fellow soldiers, I swear I could hear half the audience scribbling “must see this one” on their little program scorecards. You probably will, too. I did. Meanwhile, some other online resources…

The write-up I thought I didn’t do last year. Ah well, this year’s written now, too – Returning Favorite 2008 version

Their website –

Their show page

“It sounds like the entire audience broke out into spontaneous masturbation.”

Rockstar Storytellers adjacent #8

According to the pictures on his website, Ben is the friendliest, cutest drunk you will ever meet.

I already did a catch-up overview on Ben for last year’s Fringe, so in order not to repeat myself, I’ll just give you a link to that backstory and other links here.

Since then…

2008 – Strawberry Fields Temporarily

And now…

Animal Cracker Genocide

There will be no journey of self-discovery. No deep reveal. No greater truth. Cleanse your palate with a new comedy show from the maker of past Fringe hits “Mittens for Fat Kids” and “Strawberry Fields Temporarily.” Stand-up comedy at the Fringe? Hell yes!

Flirting, sex, love, death, Dr. Seuss on pot — half autobiographical, half absurd, this show’s material showcases Ben San Del’s balance between intellectual wordplay and playfully immature wit.

San Del’s shows have a history of selling out, so buy your tickets now!

(I can attest to that last part, so don’t dawdle, folks.)

And remember, per the Fringe-For-All preview (video at the end of this post), the one who laughs the most gets a box of animal crackers. But the one who laughs the least, gets what’s in the mystery cooler. Be warned.

Ben’s official bio says, “A former newspaper reporter/columnist, Ben San Del emcees and features at comedy clubs throughout the region, including the renowned Acme Comedy Company. He won Acme’s Funniest Person in the Twin Cities Contest in 2006 and has written and performed two one-man Fringe shows.”

Oh, and look, a familiar critic’s quote on last year’s show…

“Ben’s unique way of looking at the world makes everything a cause for laughter. 5 Stars. Very highly recommended” – Matthew A. Everett, Twin Cities Daily Planet

When I asked Ben about his bio and Fringe show a couple of months ago, he said…

“My bio, hmmm. Well, I’m balancing between stand-up comedy and storytelling (Courtney [McLean]‘s been trying to get back into stand-up lately, too.). I’m amazed at how different the two worlds are, though. Very, very little audience overlap between Fringe/storytelling/play crowds and stand-up comedy/Acme crowds, and the same goes for performers. But I’m getting off topic. I did the storytelling/stand-up show Mittens for Fat Kids in 2006, the storytelling show Strawberry Fields Temporarily in 2008, and am working on a stand-up (I think I’m going to say “screw you” to the whole idea that stand-up and Fringe don’t mix) show for 2009 called Animal Cracker Genocide. And, as you know, I was a news reporter for three years. Have been doing comedy for a little over three years and emcee at Acme Comedy Co. about once every five weeks. And I blogged for the Fringe in 2007 but don’t want to do that again because writing negative reviews made me feel too guilty.”

Ben was on my 2006 Top 10 list, and Mom and I have always enjoyed his shows a lot. He’s a great guy to know, and a great guy to entertain you, so I can’t recommend his Fringe offering highly enough.

For further amusement, visit his website or go here to see video of Ben’s stand-up comedy

His show page

And of course, check out the Fringe-For-All preview…

“Sometimes I think I’m just gonna be a normal person, and then I just end up horrifying people.”

Carolyn Pool and Shanan Wexler

2 Sugars, Room for Cream

No matter how bad things get, there’s always coffee. Sometimes there’s even wine. Carolyn Pool and Shanan Wexler write and perform “scenes from life, stuff we think is funny.” Peter Moore directs.

This is gonna be good, reliable funny times, I can tell.

These ladies (and director Peter Moore) know what they’re doing.

It’s in the simple things, like those matching brown dresses they were rocking. The matching white chairs and white coffee mug (from set and prop goddess – that’s her title – Kris Detailleur). Gives everything a clean consistent look, so you can just forget about it and not be distracted. Smart.

Then, no one does comical long-suffering like Shannan.

And no one does (somehow endearingly) neurotic like Carolyn.

Just look at the video clip at the bottom of the post. You’ll see what I mean.

Spending an hour with them at Fringe time is time very well spent.

Now I just need to find a way to wedge them into my schedule along with all the other good stuff.

There is a frightening, and really cool, amount of good stuff out there this year.

It will be, thankfully, very hard to go wrong.

Of course, it will also be easy to miss good things, too. Sigh.

I hope this isn’t one of them I miss. It looks like a lot of fun. Check them out.

Their show page

Their Fringe-For-All preview…

“You eat the dinner your husband made you. It tastes like tree bark. You tell him it’s delicious.”

Giant Toddler Productions


Jake and Zelda, young newlyweds, hope moving into a new house ends the tension between them. But when Jake confides in his friend Martin how he plans to fix his marriage, the truth of their lives is revealed.

One of my favorite hosting moments of the evening was when Robin Gillette read the above description and injected after “Jake and Zelda, young newlyweds, hope moving into a new house ends the tension between them…”

“‘Cause that always works.”

Because of two of the actors – Lisa Bol and Mark Benzel, I really want this one to work out well. They’ve been very supportive of new work, most directly impacting me and my writing friends by helping out now and then with reading for our writing group. It’s immeasurably helpful to have actors reading the lines aloud as the script begins to take shape, and have an actor’s perspective on where the questions lie, what things might be missing, what things are confusing.

Mark and Lisa are teaming up with this production’s writer/actor Anthony Rydberg, and its director Nathan Wagner, to found a new theater company (I know, I know, another one, but c’mon, that’s part of what Fringe is for, too – a launching pad.)

“Aspect Lab Theatre is a company of artists dedicated to producing quality theatre in its most intimate form. It is Aspect Lab Theatre’s goal to provide a place where writers, directors, designers, and actors will drive each other to grow as artists. Most of all, the company strives to create an ensemble that engages in selfless dialogue with our audiences and our collaborators.”

As for their first outing, Foolproof, it’s hard to tell. The production clings so tightly to the big “secret” that lurks at the center of this story that it almost leaves too much room for speculation.

“Don’t tell my wife what I’m going to do.”

OK, I’ll bite.

It better not involve something as benign as a new addition to the house, or a balloon animal, or a new car, or a puppy.

But on the other hand, I’m sort of dreading anything dire like a whole “Crimes & Misdemeanors” spin on it (my mistress is inconvenient, let’s have her killed), or “I’ve had myself neutered,” or going the “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” route and just getting the former fling erased from his memory banks.

It can’t be any of those things. So what could it be, so that the audience doesn’t just feel like it’s had its chain yanked by some shaggy dog story?

They concluded just as the light was turning yellow. But I found myself wanting just a little more.

I have to admit I’m curious. Which I suppose is the point of the marketing strategy.

Only one way to find out…

Their website –

Their show page

Their video trailer

Their Fringe-For-All preview