Art Hounds: Fringe Spectacular!

happyhour.jpgImage from 11.6.2012, one of the pieces in Happy Hour (Photo: Stan Waldhauser)

There are 165 shows to see at the Minnesota Fringe Festival this year. Feeling overwhelmed? The Art Hounds are here to help.

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courtneyalgeo.JPGCourtney Algeo works with Loft Literary Center and the online literary magazine Paper Darts. One of the shows on her list is “Bodacious Beauties”, produced by first-time Fringe producer Eileen Rosensteel. The show takes us into the lives of five sideshow “Fat Ladies” through history. Courtney is intrigued by the piece since it’s looking at the issues of body image and obesity through a historical lens. The show is playing at HUGE Improv Theater in Minneapolis.

jonskaalen.JPGThis year, Fringe is working to reach the deaf community and over a dozen shows are being interpreted. This is important to Jon Skaalen who is the access programs coordinator for VSA Minnesota, an organization that works with artists with disabilities. He’s especially excited to see the deaf musical “Silence” by Jay’d Hagberg. The show explores the gap between deaf and hearing culture and features deaf and hearing performers as well as ASL interpreters. Deaf dancer Canae Weiss (whose work Skaalen calls “sublime”) is taking on an acting role for the production. “Silence” is playing at the Rarig Center Proscenium at the University of Minnesota.

betsymaloney.jpgBetsy Maloney teaches dance at the Main Street School of Performing Arts in Hopkins and she wants us to remember that Fringe is a showcase for dance as well. This year, she’s looking forward to seeing Sara Stevenson Scrimshaw’s choreography in “Happy Hour”. Betsy loves the comedic elements that Scrimshaw weaves into her dances. Scrimshaw has also invited four other choreographers to each create a unique piece based on their favorite drink. The show is playing at the Southern Theater in Minneapolis.

And special this week — bonus recommendations!

From Cynthia French, spoken word artist

I saw Ben San Del working on a portion of his upcoming Fringe show, “An Agony of Fools”, at one of the Balls Cabaret Fringe previews. After seeing his preview on, I have put this one on the calendar for my Fringe experience this year. He spoke about dating and relationships, assumptions men and women make about one another, problems communicating, and how the movies always leave a little too much out of their love stories to truly be educational. His comedy is honest, timely and hilarious.

From Carin Bratlie, artistic director of Theatre Pro Rata:

All three of my recommendations focus on water and disaster. Clearly this mental triptych must have something to do with our current drought.

“Going Down on the Queen of Minneapolis,” by Freshwater Theater. Freshwater is making a name for themselves in Twin Cities small theater, and they have a solid group of seasoned artists working on this project. Riffing on the idea of taking social dysfunction and cramming it onto a place that the characters cannot escape, the innuendo of the title… it sounds deliciously evil.


“Merblades: The Memoirs of James Cameron,” by Black Market Doctor.Heather Meyer is an up-and-coming playwright, whose work is funny, clever, and looks at life through a joyfully skewed lens. I’ve enjoyed seeing both her and Maddie Gibba onstage doing long form improv, and imagining them together working on this project is simply delightful. And poking fun at James Cameron and his wack-job deep sea explorations? This is a recipe for the best kind of disaster story.


“Birds of Passage” by Winding Sheet Outfit is potentially a much more abstract, physical, and poetic show. The sort of thing that can nestle inside the Fringe and find some serious love. I know many of the artists involved in this one, and I’m intrigued because they are pushing themselves in different directions and outside of their comfort zones. There is something palpable and immediate about that sort of risk, and I’m betting that the payoff will be stunning.

From Jeff Spencer, actor

“Pretentious Conversations” by Laura Buchholz skewers the silly smugness of our yoga induced, granola infused, overly effusive lifestyles. The problem with pretentiousness, of course, is that no one can possibly know everything, or even very much for that matter. Audiences will delight in seeing the gaps of understanding through which any Mac truck could drive. The snobby host, Patricia Skylar Van Humphries, attempts to keep her polished veneer, under pristine control. But alas, it all comes apart at the seams as her guests are even more pretentious than her.

The show had a lot of potential in preview, and with the addition of Mahmoud Hakima to the cast and John Haynes as director, I can’t wait to see how they’ve brought the show to life. I’ve always been a big fan of John Haynes as an improv performer and instructor. The show has a lot of “smart silly” going on, and he is a perfect fit to take this show to the next level.

From Julie Swenson, make-up artist

I am looking forward to seeing Jason Schommer do his stand up act at the U of M Rarig Center next week during the Fringe Festival. Schommer has the stage presence of Dave Chappelle and name drops like Kathy Griffin. And while he is climbing the D list faster than Griffin, he’s still Schommer from the block, often making references to his high school experience at Little Falls Community High School in rural MN. I am prepared to laugh out loud, and perhaps cry, as Schommer sometimes takes cheap shots at the crowd and will likely make fun of my race and my lazy Asian eye.

From Clarence Wethern, actor

Mainly Me Productions’ 2011 Fringe offering “Our Freaking Kids Show” was one of the funniest shows of the festival, and I’m eagerly looking forward to the time travel nostalgia comedy “Class of 98,” where characters played by Josh Carson and Andy Kraft travel back in time to meet themselves in high school. It’s an appealing enough premise to this Back to the Future fan and ’98 grad, but it also helps that Carson and Kraft are hilarious, genial performers with a great track record. Carson has a talent for writing comedic material that is clever without being precious, with physical gags and pop culture references hung on the frame of a strong plot and likable characters. “Class of ’98” also features the always-funny Dan Hetzel and Katherine Kupiecki, who I think is one of the most talented and versatile actors in town.


From Penelope Freeh, dancer and choreographer

I don’t know much about Tamara Ober’s Fringe show “Sin Eater,”but I do know that I’m going. Tamara is a captivating creator and performer. As a Zenon Dance Company veteran she brings an incredibly high level of professionalism and integrity to her work. She’s passionate, personal, sensuous and strong. I imagine dark and evocative imagery, solidly grounded dancing and theatrical daring. Couched in dance terms, Tamara wears her heart on her sleeve. “Sin Eater” promises to be fresh and fringy.

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