Who am I rooting for? Fringe Lottery: 2009 Edition


by Phillip Andrew Bennett Low • The 2009 Fringe Lotto is coming up (7pm tonight at the Bedlam Theatre!) — a time of rapture, rage, and tired testicle tomfoolery. (I happen to have two balls that may affect my performance, and I’d appreciate any good karma you have to send their way.)

But it’s a time to meet new friends and rediscover old ones. Without any further ado, here’s a list of ten familiar names on the list that set me jumping for joy:

womb with a view is the blog of phillip andrew bennett low, one of five bloggers covering the minnesota fringe festival and other theater for the daily planet.

COMPANY NAME: 3 Sticks Theatre Company
FIRST MEMORY: Borderlines at the 2006 Fringe. Hey, these guys were doing bouffon clowning in the Twin Cities way before it was cool. After experiencing a moment of paralyzing terror at the prospect of interacting with the actors as we walked into the theatre (searching, metal detectors, assigned seating, et cetera), an argument over a chair rapidly escalated into a giddy musical satire of immigration bureaucracy that’s still vivid in my mind three years later.
LAST MEMORY: The Gypsy and the General at the 2008 Kansas City Fringe, where they cranked out yet another visually inventive farce (albeit with a somewhat sloppier satiric edge). Plus, hey, they were the other Minnesota company that made it down to Kansas City that year. And since we were pretty much the only groups hanging out at their equivalent of the Fringe Nightcap (the locals apparently have their own dives), our respective casts spent a week dancing with each other in a nigh-abandoned warehouse.

COMPANY NAME: Allegra J. Lingo
FIRST MEMORY: Hubcap Frisbee at the 2005 Fringe. I first saw Allegra at a preview at a Farmer’s Market — or perhaps it would be more accurate to say, on a strip of grass several yards away from a Farmer’s Market. Not exactly the most ideal venue for storytelling. Particularly since a truly apocalyptic-looking set of storm clouds were rolling in during her set. As the staffers were eying the skies uneasily, Allegra paused in the middle of set, peered out at them, and asked, “Do you want me to just stop?” before the skies opened and God made a decent effort to break the promise he made in Genesis 9:15.
LAST MEMORY: Tipping the Bucket at the 2008 Fringe. Between these two shows, Allegra’s developed an iconic style, persona, aesthetic: she’s emphatically not a performer, but a writer who performs. So the moment in this show when she clapped her hands together, looked out at the audience, and walked away from her text was a startling one. Plus — as one of the very few other practicing Catholics in Twin Cities theatre — I found the subject matter pretty compelling stuff.

COMPANY NAME: Chopping Block Theatre
FIRST MEMORY: Serendipity – or – An Evening of Happy Accidents in Exactly Seventeen Scenes (More or Less) at the 2005 Fringe. A weird, clowny, musical multimedia extravaganza that I ended up dragging friends back to on multiple occasions.
LAST MEMORY: Beowulf or Gilgamesh? You Decide! at the 2008 Fringe, which was mainly an opportunity to produce spoken word superstar Charlie Bethel. This wasn’t the first time their talents had been combined: they’d worked together to develop Tom Thumb in the previous year. I’ll see anything that either does, no questions asked.

FIRST MEMORY: Ball’s Cabaret in 2001. I was in the middle of my mime apprenticeship when my mentor took me to this little hole-in-the-wall for the first time. I saw a performer come out, speak to the audience for a few moments (clearly uncomfortable), apologize for being a mime, and proceed to do a series of sketches that, in many respects, changed my life. As someone in the midst of studying that discipline, to see someone doing something so clearly classical in structure yet modern in aesthetic — and fucking hilarious — was something that significantly altered the way I approached my own work.
LAST MEMORY: The Gospel According to Dean at the 2008 Spirit in the House Festival. In the intervening years, I’ve made a concerted effort to see every show that this guy has done, and this one was the best. A skilled soloist, subtly shifting various aspects of his pieces, shifting their arrangement within the context of a larger show — any individual one of his routines is gold, but this is the one where they all slid together like puzzle pieces. Can’t wait to see what he and his comedy partner (the likewise extraordinary Kirsten Stephens) come up with next.

COMPANY NAME: Empty S Productions
FIRST MEMORY: Tantrums, Testicles, and Trojans at the 2005 Fringe. A late-night slot that was only in competition with one other show — and, hey, this was before I started drinking, so the prospect of actually socializing with other artists was a terrifying one — I must have seen this show at least five times. Another brilliant soloist who just can’t seem to catch a break (or, unfortunately, an audience), his dirty, poppy slam poetry is a local addiction of mine.
LAST MEMORY: Roofies in the Mochaccino at the 2008 Fringe. Still demonstrating the sparkling scatological wordplay of his previous shows, this one also showed a surprisingly tender side that I haven’t been aware of in his previous work. Dude’s developing, and I desperately want to see what he comes up with next.

COMPANY NAME: Four Humors Theater
FIRST MEMORY: Deviled Eggs at a 2003 staged reading at the University of Minnesota. I actually stumbled into this because I was dating a girl who was performing as part of another reading (which turned out to be a fairly dreadful bit of student drama), but I stuck around to hear this one — and, boy, am I glad I did. As I recall, I reached into my wallet, pulled out a slip of paper, and scribbled down the name “Nick Ryan.” I was that confident that I was going to hear it again.
LAST MEMORY: Deviled Eggs at Bedlam in 2008. The third life that the script received, and its most complete. It’s a ridiculously complicated metaphysical farce — enough so that Nick Ryan has now made my short list of artists to earn my most vile envy. And yet I can’t stop seeing his shows.

COMPANY NAME: Ministry of Cultural Warfare
FIRST MEMORY: The Tyranny of God’s Love at the 2007 Fringe. This was, hands down, my favorite show of the 2007 Fringe — out of forty-five. Articulate in its rage and contempt, it was the perfect antidote to the syrupy philosophy that seemed to overtake the vast bulk of what I was seeing.
LAST MEMORY: Our Vanya, Ourselves/A Rain of Seagulls at the 2008 Twin Cities Chekhov Festival. Definitely one of the more bizarre things I witnessed as part of that event, it included a a mashup of Uncle Vanya and “The Golden Girls.” That the same mind is capable of producing both of these shows is mind-boggling to me.

COMPANY NAME: Mumble Mumble, Ink Productions
FIRST MEMORY: All the Things I Never Told My Mother at the 2007 Iowa Fringe. Actually, I first saw her during the 2007 Fringe-For-All, at which Matthew Everett identified her as my “doppelganger,” due largely to her fondness for verbal pyrotechnics. Finding my way to her show (in a darkened museum in Des Moines) served to cement that suspicion — her exploration of the intersection between poetry and prose is one that’s fascinated me for years.
LAST MEMORY: I’ll Marry You for Health Insurance and other shocking revelations at the 2008 Fringe. I definitely found witnessing this show to be an upsetting experience, which I’m confident was the explicit intention of the author. A bit of agitprop I won’t soon forget. Even if she is a commie pinko weirdo.

COMPANY NAME: Sara Stevenson Scrimshaw
FIRST MEMORY: It’s a Meaningless Life at the Minneapolis Theatre Garage in 2007. In all fairness, I was performing as part of this show, although I had nothing to do with her particular set — a re-interpretation of the entirety of “The Nutcracker Suite,” narrated snarkily by her husband Joseph.
LAST MEMORY: Dance of the Whisky Faerie at the 2008 Fringe. One of my favorite shows of last year’s festival, an odd mix of dance, storytelling, and stand-up that, against all odds, worked. What can I say? I’m a sucker for alcoholic heroes.

COMPANY NAME: True Enough Theater
FIRST MEMORY: Two Queers and a Chubby at the 2006 Fringe. Actually, I first saw this duo at a Fringe-For-All at Theatre de la Jeune Lune, featuring queer Curt Lund, chubby Laura Bidgood, and a “revolving guest queer” who impulsively illustrated his role by spinning in a circle.
LAST MEMORY: Boys Don’t Make Passes at Girls Who Wear Glasses at the 2008 Fringe. Featuring much of their sturdy storytelling material, the defining image of this one was that the bulk of the stage was taken up by dozens of that icon of geekdom — a vast circle filled with glasses.

But the show that I’m most anticipating? More than any other? The one that I’ve never heard of before, and that’s going to blow me away. Looking forward to meeting you.

Phillip Andrew Bennett Low (maximumverbosityonline@gmail.com) is a playwright and poet, storyteller and mime, theater critic and libertarian activist, who lurks ominously in the desert wilds of St. Louis Park, feasting upon the hygienically-prepared flesh of the once-living. His main claim to fame is probably as co-founder of the Rockstar Storytellers, and as founder/producer of Maximum Verbosity, a garage-band-like theater troupe that is in a state of constantly re-defining itself.

Published 2/16/09.