Minnesota Fringe Festival: Threads, Big Thinkers and a few shows I really think you should see


Get hydrated, do some stretching…only three more days to go!!

I predict Threads will end up in my top five favorites list this year. It’s an incredible story based on writer and performer Tonya Jone Miller’s mother’s life in and out of Vietnam in the sixties and seventies. I think a lot about pivotal points in our lives, small interventions or decisions that have massive chain reactions and become, in hindsight, defining moments. Last chance Saturday at 10 in the Rarig Arena.

I can give lots of examples of turning points in my life, and credit appropriately. For instance, it was my friend Jay who told me to study what I liked in college, and not worry about a career. So I graduated with a degree in Sociology. And when I was sick of working at William’s Uptown, I quit my job, and maxed out my credit card taking cash advances to pay my rent because I didn’t have any idea with someone with a sociology degree actually DID for a living (other than work at a bar). Broke, and utterly without a plan, my friend Leslie suggested I try a temp agency, just to get out there and check out some options. My second week with Manpower (it cracks me up that THAT was the temp agency I chose), I was placed at the nonprofit Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP). That was March of 1993. My boss was founder Mark Ritchie. I never left. Seriously. I still work there today, nearly 20 years later.

In the 13-odd years I worked with Mark before he became our Secretary of State, he altered my perspective on the world entirely, both in how he worked and lived and how he filled our organization with some of the smartest and most dedicated talent he could find. Always positive, always looking for common ground, always keeping a sense of humor and always telling each of us that we were the very best at what we did, and furthermore, we could do anything…well, after over a decade of this, it starts to sink in. I’m overflowing with gratitude that I was miraculously dropped into this job, with this person, and with dozens of others who are now scattered around the globe but remain my closest friends…including Matthew Foster, who was hired at IATP to work on our website in 2003, announced to me that I should prepare myself, because we were going to be friends…and told me about this incredible thing called the Minnesota Fringe Festival.

And so the story continues. Last night, at Big Thinkers, Serious Issues, Improv Comedy by the Theater of Public Policy at Brave New Workshop Student Union, Mark Ritchie was the guest of honor in what I thought was a very successful combination of serious interview followed by comic improvised scenes inspired by the discussion. It’s a cool concept, with a talented cast, and host Tane Danger (note to Bob: excellent future rock opera character name) does an excellent job with the interviews. Last chance Sunday at 7, where featured guest will be former Independence Party Gubernatorial Candidate Tom Horner.

What should you see this final weekend? Well, I’ve given you lots of suggestions, but to save you from digging through old posts, here’s a summary, including stuff I’m planning to see this weekend but by the time I write anything about it, it will be too late to be any use for you:

For kids and adults alike: The Gentlemen’s Pratfall Club at the Southern, Friday at 7 or Sunday at 2:30.

Zen and the Art of Ushering at the Playwrights’ Center Saturday at 7. Funny, insightful, dynamic.

The Accidental Hero at Intermedia, Sunday at 7. WWII, strange coincidences, true story.

Nightmare Without Pants at Rarig Thrust. Joseph Scrimshaw and other very funny people. Friday at 10, Saturday at 8:30.

Scarborough Fair at Theatre in the Round Players. I might sneak in for an encore, as those beautiful voices channeling Simon and Garfunkel make me so very happy. Friday at 7, Saturday at 2:30.

The Complete Works of William Shatner (abridged) at Rarig Thrust. Friday at 5:30, Sunday at 4. Funny stuff, not just for Trekkies.

The Gay Banditos at Rarig Thrust Saturday at 1, Sunday at 7. Public Service Announcement: you may turn gay just from seeing this show. Bring your homophobic cousin and have him try to convince you in the end that the show actually supports his position. And then kill him for being homophobic AND stupid. All proceeds go to Minnesotans United for All Families (just to be clear, this is the group that loves the gays, and actually thinks they should be treated like normal people and have rights and even be able to vote. Without IDs.). What I love about this is that the Mechanical Division is only partly gay (I’m going with 10%). This is the thing, folks: you might think this isn’t your issue if you’re not a homo, but remember: it’s not the oppressed group who wins by standing up and saying, “Hey, quit oppressing me.” It’s everyone else taking a stand for what’s right. It does affect all of us. I’m not kidding here: Vote NO. NO, NO, NO. NO to both constitutional amendments. They’re about taking away rights, and have no interest in justice. NO. Tell your stupid homophobic cousin (if you didn’t have the guts to kill him like I told you to) that it’s NO for NO HOMOS.