Archive for News

The Last Dance

// September 7th, 2010 // No Comments » // Blog, News


Five cities, 20 performances.

Not too shabby, everyone.

In the interest of accurately depicting the tour to the end, I’ll describe the last few days and then take a moment to reflect.

After the picnic and family time on Saturday, we had our best show to that date (I’ll let the experts debate how the last show figured in). Maybe the audience full of friends and family helped, but as a cast we were as “on” as we have ever been, and they had to kick our admiring audience outside after the show so that the next show could begin. We also managed to show some love to Jenny, our incredible stage manager and house mother, because Saturday was her last show. We called her down for applause, coffee cake, and a card as soon as the lights went down.

No rest for the wicked, though–Saturday night we moved Alex into his third-floor, no-elevator apartment. Childhood memorabilia and all.

Sunday gave us an opportunity for lots of downtime, but we all made it to the theatre on time for our final load-in. There was plenty of disbelief and even more hugging before the show, and that particular closing-night energy during the performance, where somehow everything looks fresh again, every line hits you in the chest, and each little change (especially the last-night re-additions of characters like Desmond, the cursing out of John Cusack, and the ripping of shadow puppets like the “End of the World” sign) is significant. Maybe it’s just me, but that was my favorite performance of the run, and the one that affected me the most. You would think that a one-hour show would get tiresome after 20 performances, but personally, I was enjoying all of the new moments the cast was finding even after so much time with the material.

Load-out took forever, between people trying to identify their belongings, fending off rabid fans, and the general exhaustion and relief of the cast. We still blew off steam, though–for example, Max and Alec played T-ball with the large street lamp puppet as the tee and also the ball. There was some joyous destruction of cardboard puppets that by all rights should have disintegrated long ago. Soon there were designer cupcakes and more of our distinctive group hugs, and maybe a little bit of crying. By this point we’re legitimately like a family, so what did you expect?

Some fun points I may or may not have mentioned: Joe Foti of Kraigslist expressed interest in producing us in Milwaukee in an actual coffee shop at some point, and Anna Weiler of the Dream Theatre also mentioned that they would love to have us back to re-perform here in Chicago. Last night, apparently, Samay Gheewala (I think it was him), the Merchandise Coordinator for the Fringe, stopped Alex to thank him for putting on a great show and mentioned that because of our show, along with a couple of others that also had good buzz and attendance, the Chicago Fringe made a little more money than breaking even and thus would be able to fund a second year. That’s right, ladies and gents, “Grind” was an integral part of establishing the Chicago Fringe as a viable institution!

This morning those of us still around had brunch at “The Grind” cafe on Lincoln because, well, how could we not? Highlights were the pesto-and-goat-cheese sandwiches, the lady who taught David some Chinese acupressure to get rid of his allergies, and the OB-GYN student next to us who mentioned early on to his companion that he’d seen a show named after the coffee shop the day before, and who realized as more of our members sat that he was sitting next to the entire cast. He introduced himself to us as he left and told us just how surreal the whole experience was for him. Those of us living in the neighborhood might even see him again. See, this show is a never-ending source of new friendships!

Loyal to the end, the boys assembled furniture in Cari’s and my apartment as everyone packed up, and finally those leaving for Northfield were on their way. Apparently as they packed up the Prius they saw Rod Blagojevich jog by and he waved to them. Scout’s Honor. Everyone is safe and home, more or less, now, and once we sleep for a couple of weeks, I’m sure we can start to process this entire crazy adventure.

For now, here’s what I know: I got to work with a cast and producing team who I immensely respect, a group who constantly pushed personal boundaries and embraced challenges (however grudgingly), who became as close as any group I have ever worked with and who I saw grow incredibly as actors, directors, stage managers, artists, and people. The summer has been a gift. Our experiences with each and every one of you, the supporters, family, friends, and audience members, has been a gift. I address this to everyone involved, however minutely: We couldn’t have done it without you.

Maybe, hopefully, we’ll all work on something like this together again. Definitely we will all meet again. And until then, I hope you go out and make something that never existed before, because that is beautiful, and that is what it’s all about.

Let me leave you with one last audience review:

Review: You are exactly my cup of tea by Lancer

This is one of two shows at the Chicago Fringe that I saw twice. You know, you are at a theme park for a few days, then suddenly, it is your last day, so you want to race back to your favorite rides before vacation ends. So it was with Grind. On opening day of Fringe, I spotted all these young actors on 18th Street as happy as could be on the sidewalk near the Dream Theatre, and in unison they were singing “Getting to Know You” from the King and I. I beamed, but had no idea this was the Minneapolis cast of Grind. Their musical is cheesy, giddy, silly, and aw shucks — exactly the kind of fluff you sometimes want to see. Some lyrics were lost to loud keyboards. Some lines were spoken lickety-split fast. Some of the staging was blocked too far back at the register counter, yet this was a sincere effort, with hints of Rent, Godspell, and Sleepless in Seattle percolating in the mix. On another trip to the Dream Theatre, I caught the bizarre Knee Jerk, which ended with no bows, but finished with the taped music of “Getting to Know You.” Returned to Grind on closing night of Fringe, and the beautiful curtain speech proclaimed “this is our last night of our 4-city tour. This is our 20th performance. Together, we all say, that this has been our best summer ever.” Good job, one and all.

rating: 4 stars

You summed it up perfectly, Lancer. To you and all our audience members in our five cities, thank you so much for coming, and we hope we see you again someday.

Signing off,

(for now),


What’s The Buzz, Indianapolis?

// August 12th, 2010 // No Comments » // News, Uncategorized

Perhaps it’s us!

That is, we’re featured in the Naptown Buzz today:

Naptown Buzz: “Grind: The Musical” at IndyFringe

But don’t worry, Minneapolis–we’re still here and still committed to you! In fact, it’s about time you prove your commitment. Who works on Fridays anyway? Skip out early, have an afternoon beer, and come to our 4PM show at the Rarig Xperimental!


Tickets for Indy and Chi!

// August 11th, 2010 // No Comments » // Blog, News

Tickets! Get your tickets here!

Indianapolis Tickets

Chicago Tickets

Reviews, Reviews, Reviews

// August 10th, 2010 // No Comments » // Blog, News

For the most part, we agree on this: Let’s stop reading them.

The cast, at least. We’ve had some glowing reviews and some pretty negative ones (on, in the audience review thread). The first one, from KC Stage, was exciting because it was literally the first time any of us had been reviewed by someone other than a friend or family member. Also, the reviewer had told us in advance she loved the show, so hey, how could it hurt?

Turns out that it can, kind of. And at this point, at least in Minnesota, nothing is going to change about the show in the next three performances, so the audience reviews are more or less irrelevant. Much more important is to go out there and put on the best show we can.

(We do like to quote the review that says, “Their love is soft and warm.”)

There’s a flip side, of course. As one of the writers and producers, as the person doing the majority of the marketing and social networking, I can argue that it’s important for me to read the reviews. Alex and David too. As Alex says, it’s good to be reminded that there can be problems with our work that we don’t see. It’s good to know what doesn’t work for people. It’s good to at least read the spectrum of opinions and then take whatever’s useful, as long as we don’t take everything each individual says as the gospel. And it’s good for our company to have quotations so that future audience members know what they’re getting into.

So take them or leave them. If you can laugh off a mean-spirited review while taking a thoughtful one seriously, and if you can tell that theatrefan89’s standards might not be the same as your when she showers you with superlatives, you can find some useful information in reviews. But maybe wait until the run of the show is over. And have a tasty beverage nearby.

Also: tonight’s theme is Drunken Pirates. Come with your rum and eyepatches and you’ll get to mime-duel with the cast as we pretend to be ninjas.


Grind: 4 1/2 Stars, TC Daily Planet

// August 10th, 2010 // No Comments » // Blog, Media, News

August 10, 2010

Another Cup of Grind, Please!

Grind: The Musical – Rarig Xperimental

If you want to see a cast of eight ridiculously talented and adorable young singer/actors who can also play instruments *and* do shadow puppet work, stop reading this review and go make a reservation for Grind: The Musical (or get your spot in line *really* early), because the thing is selling out and packing them into the Rarig Xperimental space. This crew knows how to do a musical right. I had them in my Top 20this year for a reason, and they didn’t disappoint.

In fact the only thing that’s wrong with Grind: The Musical is that there isn’t time for more of it. So the multitude of characters and subplots feel just a little bit cramped or rushed here and there. Oh, you can follow it just fine. In fact, the story, for all its twists and turns and tangents, is still pretty straightforward. I just found myself wishing that the whole thing had a little more room to breathe. The characters and their relationships are all so charming that I wanted to spend some more time getting to know them. But what I did get to know, I very much liked. Writers Laura Stratford, Alex Higgin-Houser, and David Kornfeld have crafted a clever little musical, and Higgin-Houser’s direction makes great use of every inch of the Rarig Experimental space.

Caroline (Maia Rodriguez) runs a coffeeshop in order to help put her musician brother Dylan (Kornfeld) through school, since their parents have died. But the building the coffeeshop is in is set for demolition, and Dylan has stopped going to class. Meanwhile, their employee Perk (short for Percival) (Maxwell Collyard), is a refugee from New Orleans who lost his family in Hurricane Katrina, and just wants to get back to warmer climes and pursue his dreams of being a rapper. Regular costumer Libby (Siri Hammond) is secretly the artist behind an insanely popular cartoon, culled from the conversations around her in the coffeeshop. She also has a crush on Perk (but really, who doesn’t?) Among the other regulars is Daniel (Alec Scott), a street preacher, who may hold the key to more than one kind of salvation. The chorus (Cari Jones, Daisuke Kawachi, and Stratford) fill out the community which passes through the coffeeshop.

Mom loved the voices and the way they blended – she was particularly impressed by Rodriguez and Hammond. There’s not a lot of room to dance but Julia Barlow’s choreography is still playful and fun. Kudos also to Jenny Fink their stage manager because this cannot be an easy show to run (and tour – they’re on the Midwest Fringe Circuit this year). There’s a lot of moving parts, and delicate musical instruments, to juggle and the whole operation looks pretty seamless.

They enchanted me right out of the gate with their shadow puppet introduction – passing streetlamps on the highway, then under the Minneapolis highway sign, leading to the skyline, leading to a building, and… we’re here in the coffeeshop. Simple, but brilliant. Cheeky scene introductions like “Secrets Are Revealed” just add some extra fun to the mix. I appreciate the many different kinds of theatricality they’re playing with here, in the context of a musical romantic comedy.

Some of the writing is pretty sharp, too. Both Mom and I were particularly fond of the way the street preacher Daniel was handled by the script. He could have just been a fire and brimstone breathing loon – that’s what most Fringe shows would have done. Not Grind. A modern day parable he unspools late in the action is pretty stunning, and his solo, “The World Ends,” is not at all what you think it’s going to be. Plus, who doesn’t love a musical that rhymes “heavenly host” and “French Roast?”

Trust me, you want to find a way to squeeze yourself into the Rarig Xperimental Theater space to catch Grind: The Musical. It’s a hell of a lot of fun.

4-1/2 stars, Very Highly Recommended

NEXT PERFORMANCE – Tuesday 8/10 at 8:30pm

(Then Friday 8/13 at 4pm, and Saturday 8/14 at 10pm)

Their Fringe page

Fringe show #19 – Sunday, 8/8 5:30pm—4-12-stars

Sold-Out What Now?

// August 9th, 2010 // No Comments » // Blog, News

Our second show sold out, so much so that our director’s brothers couldn’t even manipulate their way in. All in all, it was a tighter show than opening, and here’s hoping we can do even better next time.

Sean Tonko, our venue technician, is secretly charmed by us. Yesterday he made a bet with Jenny about how quickly we could break down, and spent those 4 minutes 34 seconds goading us. Turns out he’d bet in our favor for getting out before 6 minutes. Then I did a guest spot for “Rachel Teagle Believes In Ghosts” and he told me he’d mess with me with the lights, but didn’t. When I bought him a PBR at Bedlam he admitted it–he likes “Grind.” He just has to keep up a veneer of cynicism so he won’t be disappointed. Also, whenever he comes in to tell us something we’re hugging as a cast.

Alex’s family barbecued for us, the dears. Then we trekked back to the Rarig to see “Rachel Teagle Believes in Ghosts.”

Rachel is a good friend of mine, and I was a guest in her show–this is my disclaimer. That said, it was a great show. Rachel floated in on the Rarig Xperimental balcony in a hoop skirt covered with silk and told us the story of a loyal Confederate ghost–a beautiful woman with long, red hair and a camellia in her hair (seems like all ghosts are gorgeous and have long red hair. Guess I’m disqualified from haunting, at least in the South).

Rachel’s cloth work was gorgeous–she used the silk that covered her hoop skirt (said skirt a gift from the Neighborhood Association when she moved to Atlanta) as her only prop. It became a baby, a shawl, a cape, a grave plot, and much more. My favorite story of hers was a family story about her great-grandmother passing away and a red balloon. I thought the show really shone–Rachel created an atmosphere almost like a slumber party, where we were all with her under the covers, listening to her tell us about the paranormal and hoping for a glimpse of something ourselves.

Speaking of slumber parties, I got up and told a brief story about when I might have seen a ghost as a 10-year-old at a sleepover, and Rachel graciously plugged “Grind.” Then she sent us out into the world with her own possibly-paranormal story about her experiences on a midnight tour of the Winchester House.

After the show, half the cast went to Bedlam for the Open Mic and a handful of us performed. The highlight, though, was convincing two storytellers who shall not be named and who each blamed the other for not being able to join the dance party at the prom to dance to “Billie Jean” after the Open Mic. It took some effort to get the emcee to play the song and to keep said gentlemen from running away, but eventually we had a dance mob and the dancing continued for several songs, including an interpretive dance slash contact improv version of “Bohemian Rhapsody.” We are perhaps troublemakers, but we’re fun troublemakers.

Today is hot and we have no show. We’re taking a Fringe breather. But we’ll see you all soon–next show is tomorrow (Tuesday) at 8:30PM.


Reviews Start To Roll In

// August 8th, 2010 // No Comments » // Blog, News

We’ve gotten at least one more 5-star review on (show ID 1341! I just memorized the number!), and here’s one from the Pioneer Press:

“Fringe Festival Review: “Grind: The Musical.”

Squeaky-clean? Well, I guess if you don’t count the f-bombs that open and close the first scene and the “that’s what she said” jokes. We’ll take it.

Also, you should go see “Rachel Teagle Believes In Ghosts” tonight at 10PM at the Rarig XPerimental. Not convinced? Well, yours truly is going to be a guest artist telling a TRUE ghost story that happened to me. Also, Rachel’s show is fab. So come see it.


Opening To Close Again

// August 8th, 2010 // No Comments » // Blog, News

ANOTHER Opening Day! Exhausting, isn’t it?

First of all, this entry will be bookended with love for Rob Callahan, whom I disappointed by telling him phil was our favorite. Turns out we’d completely missed Rob being a mensch on his blog:

Rob Callahan Says You Should See “Grind”

Back to him in a sec.

We had a number of “crises” this morning–Alex’s alarm not going off, running out of nine-volts, not being able to find a CVS, losing our shadow screen, realizing five minutes into our load-in time that it was time to load in–but somehow we managed to get everything and everyone into its/his/her proper place.

Turns out we sold every seat but three or four (really five because we stole a couple of chairs for David and the projector. Don’t tell our technician). And for having had a week of off-time and this being the first real performance in a new venue, it went wonderfully well. Sure, there was a stumble or two, and a little bit of microphone trouble, but we felt great about the show and the audience was more responsive than we expected. Apparently they had as much fun watching us load out as they did in the show (imagine lots of young people shouting, “The table! Got the streetlamp?”), which leads me to announce our next Fringe show, “Set Up And Strike: The Musical.”

Seriously, though, people have been great, and we already have one review on (check it out here). Five kitties! I’m just relieved there’s no actual auctioning of cats going on. Okay, okay, I’ll post the text here:

Grind is A. Must. See.
by Mary Ellen Shaw Follow this reviewer

Rating 5 kitties
The musicality, taut staging, exuberance, and professionalism of this young group of actor/musicians made for a stand out performance. The story, too, was engaging and genuinely moving. (In the dark, no-one can tell if you get a bit teary-eyed.) Minneapolis! (And the music sticks in your head.) DON’T miss it.

We went to lunch with Jenny’s mom, then ran back for Rob Callahan’s “Idiosynchronicity” at the Rarig Arena Stage (tickets here). Told you I’d come back to him. Rob managed a feat that I think few performers can handle–rocking an audience in the round with a one-man show. We’d already seen (and loved) his poem about a “nerdy Aphrodite” whose looks deceive, but a) We laughed just as hard the third time and b) We enjoyed the rest of the show just as much, if not more. Rob went from obviously fictional short stories to probably-autobiographical poems and then into vignettes that were harder to suss out (grounded in reality? Who knows?) with ease, only pausing to swig iced coffee and let us listen to Jonah the Destroyer (he of the epic mustache/sideburns) play the ukelele or bass or saw. I was expecting to laugh and recognize far too many sci-fi/fantasy jokes; I wasn’t quite prepared to be moved by descriptions of beauty and suffering, but there you go. Fringe: exploding expectations. Anyway, go see “Idiosynchronicity.” Before I misspell it horribly.

We hung out with Rob and other Fringers at Bedlam for awhile in the early evening, telling stories and debating the meaning of the word “nebbish.” And now we sit in Max’s mansion, having done our best to drown each other in his pool and hot tub and having gorged ourselves on food from The Keys, his mom’s restaurant.

Sometimes a cast member will wonder aloud, “How is this my life?” I wonder that too.

Come hang out with us.


More lavh

// August 6th, 2010 // No Comments » // Blog, News

(As Lady Gaga would pronounce it.)

Turns out Matthew Everett has us at number 12 on his to-see list! Really, here it is:

Numbers 11-20

Then, last night at the Fringe Opening Party, Alec and I got to hang out more with phillip andrew bennett low, only to discover when we got home that he’d already said some nice things about us:

Binge of the Fringe

Aw, guys, we love you. Well, technically we don’t know Matthew Everett, but we’re pretty generous with the love.

Today we’ve been singing and sermonizing in the streets of Minneapolis, first at the U of M and then (now) at the Uptown Arts Fair, which we completely lucked into. We were going to perform on Hennepin anyway, but now there’s tons of art and lots of strolling, happy people who’ll spend five minutes to listen to us. Also, it seems that we’re as sold out as one can be in advance for our first show tomorrow! Of course, that’s when everyone we know is coming…but we’re still pretty excited.

We ran into Rachel Teagle and some other friends here at the Fair, and we’ll be here til 6:30 at least–if you’re around, come find us!

Tonight is the Fringe Prom. I’ll be the girl in the dress made of duct tape and garbage bags. Seriously.



That’s More Like It!

// August 5th, 2010 // No Comments » // Blog, News

Did you see? Did you see?

Today in the Tribune’s “” section they have an article on “Fringe Virgins.” (I know, we’ve been over this, but we’ll take it.)

Page 19. “Fringe Picks.”

“Fringe: The Musical

‘Just about every word in the dictionary has appeared in the Fringe program placed before a colon and the words “The Musical.” Buzz is promising for Uncommon Time Theater Co.’s charming show “Grind: The Musical”–which is not about dirty dancing, but rather about coffee shop baristas who fall in love and break into song.'”

by Jay Gabler

THANKS JAY! Now we feel all nice, warm, and validated. Pass it on!

(Don’t believe me? Link here: Fringe Virgins)

Pages: 1 2 3 Next

My videos. Featured videos.

My photos. Now you know me.