As we enter the final stretch of the 2013 Minnesota Fringe Festival, I’m tired. And happy. I’m always more or less tired and happy at this point in the festival, but as I’ve mentioned, this year was different, as I was exposing a bit more of myself (literally) by appearing in my first Fringe show, and I was helping provide moral support to my husband with his first Fringe show.
The festival is a whole different bag of cats on this side of the stage.
I’ve spent the past few months ruminating on body image and bravery and learning to be supportive even when I have issues with the premise of “someone’s” show. I then transitioned into a few days of abject terror, followed by lots of reflection on the personal nature of art and ideas and what it means to take these ideas, put them on a stage, and let friends and complete strangers judge them. Judge you. And how that feeds into how you judge yourself.
Part of my rationale for performing in Fashion Risk was that I imagined that I would like to have my own Fringe show, but my terrible stage fright was a hindrance. If I could appear on stage naked but without lines, being on stage dressed with lines would be easy by comparison.
I now think I was entirely wrong.
It is so emotionally draining and so incredibly gutsy to conceive of a performance and then stage it. I see this now. Thing is, I have very little actual skin in the game (well, I have all of my literal skin in this game). The story is not MY story. I’m a supporting prop for someone else’s story. I’ve come to realize that, even completely naked, the risk I’m taking is nothing – nothing – compared to the person whose story this is. The worst any audience member could do is remark on my largeness, or criticize the way I flop around on a towel while “sunbathing.” I was really caught up in the fear that this is exactly what would happen, but that was so misguided. We are our own worst critics in many ways. We’ve been taking some green room photos, and I saw a picture of my butt…let’s just say that it’s good we’re so far into the run now that there’s no turning back, so to speak. The reality is vastly, and I mean vastly, different from the image in my mind’s eye – or my actual eye looking over my shoulder in a mirror. C’est la vie. I’m naked. I’m not skinny. Get over it.
I’m almost there. And this isn’t the point of this particular rant.
Taking shots at my appearance (which hasn’t happened) is still so much less damaging than taking shots at my art – my story, my soul, the essence, really, of me. I have not put my essence on display, but everyone who birthed a show for this festival has done just that. I understand that now in a way I never have before, and I don’t know if I’d have the balls to go through with it. And it’s also made me think seriously about the concept of reviews and reviewing shows.
I’ve been reviewing shows for the past ten years. I’ve run the gamut between not wanting to hurt anyone’s feelings by giving a bad review, and feeling sort of obligated to say what worked for me and what didn’t. I’ve landed on trying to give Fringe goers some guidance that will help them decided if a show is something they’re interested in seeing (regardless of whether I liked it or not). The most frightening thing to a Fringe newbie is the seemingly overwhelming list of options. Everything we can do to make that first foray into a show easy and painless and enjoyable will only help breed more Fringe fanatics.
And then we will take over the world. Provided there are still people with balls big enough to share their vision and their art with us. My hat (and everything else) is off to those who put themselves out there.
Because of you, I’m so incredibly grateful for everything I’ve seen so far and so excited for the next three days. I’ve included my schedule here so you can see what I’ll be doing. I won’t see everything I want to see, and such is the nature of Fringe. Check out reviews, but also think for yourself and if something looks interesting, go for it. Those hidden gems are the most delicious – but you’ll only know if you taste it for yourself. Someone else’s dud might be the show that changes your life.
And don’t forget: Every baby is beautiful to their mother. Try to strike that balance between honesty and kindness. And remember, these are just opinions. Luckily, we all have different ones, or else this world would be pretty dull.
Friday, August 9
4:00 p.m. Get Ready for the Vagina Fairy @ Red Eye Theater
5:30 p.m. Bidgood to BidGREAT: Bumps and Blunders on the Boulevard to Brilliance @ Woman’s Club of Minneapolis
7:00 p.m. …Kill all the Lawyers. @ Woman’s Club of Minneapolis
8:30 p.m. Sacajawea and the Average Joes @ Red Eye Theater
10:00 p.m. Ain’t True and Uncle False @ Woman’s Club of Minneapolis
Saturday, August 10
1:00 p.m. Fallsway @ U of M Rarig Center Thrust
2:30 p.m. Between Floors @ Mixed Blood Theatre
4:00 p.m. Fashion Risk or the Accidental Nudist @ Mixed Blood Theatre
5:30 p.m. How To Date A Werewolf (or, Lonesome, Wild and Blue) @ Theater in the Round
7:00 p.m. Men Will Be Boys @ Theater in the Round
8:30 p.m. Mainly Me Productions’ One Hit Thunder @ U of M Rarig Center Thrust
10:00 p.m. Burning Brothels: Sex and Death in Nevada @ Southern Theater
Sunday, August 11
1:00 p.m. Fringe Orphans 2: Orphan Harder @ Theater in the Round
2:30 p.m. Turn Signals @ Theater in the Round
4:00 p.m. Hickory Minimum Security Correctional Facility Presents: Hoosiers: The Stage Adaptation @ U of M Rarig Center Thrust
5:30 p.m. Clocked @ U of M Rarig Center Proscenium
7:00 p.m. It’s All True, Episode IV @ Mixed Blood Theatre