Fringe Festival runs August 2-12.
Unique one-act plays, controversial playwrights, inspiring actors, exciting new venues. Every year experimental artists gather to perform original works in the Twin Cities’ numerous theaters. This year, the Fringe Festival will include the Ritz Theater as a venue, and feature the work of a young Northeast playwright in his début as a writer and director.
“I hope I’m still young,” laughed 26-year-old Matthew J. Hanson. “I’m definitely avant-garde.”
Hanson has been writing plays since high school but knew he wanted to write since elementary school. Soft-spoken and casual in a T-shirt and khaki shorts, Hanson mulled over thoughts on theater at the Modern Cafe.
“The Fringe Festival is huge,” he said. “There is something for everyone.”
This up-and-coming playwright has written more than a dozen one-act plays and two full-length pieces. After many years of participating in the Fringe Festival, Hanson is excited to be writing and directing this year.
Hanson started out writing short stories and has had three articles published. The theater style really hit a chord during college when he entered a 10-minute play contest for the American College Theater Festival.
“That’s when I decided ‘Yeah, I really want to do this,’” said Hanson.
In addition to being inspired by classic playwrights like Shakespeare, Hanson cited “Fuddy Meers” by David Lindsay-Abaire. As a contemporary American influence, Lindsay-Abaire’s play is a chaotic mess of humorous moments. “Angels in America” is a darkly comedic play by Pulitzer-Prize-winning Tony Kushner. Its theatrical style of tragedy, societal references, and fantastical effects have influenced Hanson.
During rehearsal for Fringe Festival, Hanson sits with a yellow, lined notepad propped on his knees. He watches his female leads go over scenes from his newest play, “A Tale of Higgledy-Piggledy Mumbo Jumbo.”
“I need to hear it,” Hanson explained. “Sometimes seeing it [on paper] is not enough.”
Twirling a green pen absent-mindedly, he offers up slight changes in a low, precise voice. Calm confidence is apparent in Hanson’s directorial skills.
The play is a magical tale of children learning new words, being lost in the library and getting captured in books. There are references to mythical dragons and plenty of humorous moments for children and adults. The play is based off a children’s book, Higgledy-Piggledy: Mabel’s World, by Christine D’Amico. D’Amico is Hanson’s cousin and she is assisting in promotion and production of the play. D’Amico is also in the process of publishing a second book and has plans for a series.
Ten years from now, Hanson sees himself making a living writing.
“I’m very practical,” he reflected, “You can make a lot more money writing screenplays. My dream day is to write stuff that’s marketable, but then write my own stuff.”
The Minnesota Fringe Festival takes place August 2 -12. “A Tale of Higgledy-Piggledy Mumbo Jumbo” will be performed at Theatre de la Jeune Lune in the warehouse district of Minneapolis.