My Writings. My Thoughts.
Yesterday was officially the last day of the Minnesota Fringe Festival. Sigh. We’ll miss it.
Alec, Max and I tried to make the most of it and caught three shows: “Bite Me, Twilight,” “I May Fly,” and “The Nice Guy’s Guide To Awkward Sex.” Couldn’t make “The Ballad of the Pale Fisherman,” unfortunately.
We may not have gotten the Xperimental’s Fringe Encore slot, but we did make the Top 15 Tickets Issued (of percentage of tickets available) List, coming in at Number 10 of 169 shows:
We’ve been so overwhelmed with and grateful for the support of the Minnesota community. What a cool scene this is, and what cool cities Minneapolis and St. Paul are. We’re almost sorry to make fun of them in our show. Almost.
At the penultimate Fringe party (ultimate Bedlam party) we got our percentage of the Kansas City box office receipts, which will promptly reimburse people for gas money, and learned that the head of KC Fringe would like to produce “Grind” at some point as a full-length musical in their Fringe Central space. Looks like that extending-the-show idea we’ve been kicking around will really happen at some point!
Now I have some choice words for the city of Minneapolis’s curfew policy:
Because of your curfew, our 19-year-old cast mate couldn’t get into the Fringe closing celebratory party because he’d been to0 busy seeing shows to go home and get a photo ID (that he didn’t know he’d need to get into said party). The bouncers, instead of accepting a combination of motorcycle ID (legal document, no photo) and school ID (same name, photo) to let him into a party at which he would not have consumed alcohol, turned him away at the door–despite how much the incensed Amazon he was with yelled at them. It’s because of you that the party was deprived of an adrenaline-high Maxwell leading hundreds of people in the Macarena. I only hope you can accept those consequences.
The Incensed Amazon
So that wasn’t fun, but the party was, as was the Varsity Theater. Their bathrooms had communal sinks, fainting couches, foot pedals for the water, and a strange archaeological theme. There were disco balls, couches, stages, balconies, and lots of people to throw ice at (Rob Callahan brought the ice on himself. It turns out that he’d flicked me in the ear, incognito, the night before, then blatantly denied it, only to do it AGAIN last night. You see, this means war).
A bunch of contact improv, a stage dance party and a lot of goodbye hugs later, we said goodbye to the Minnesota Fringe.
Only to realize that we haven’t even had half of our Fringe Circuit performances yet. Like the Energizer bunny, our show keeps going (and going, and going, and going). We have two days to rest, and then all that separates us from taking Indianapolis by storm is an 11-hour drive.
Speaking of Indianapolis, here Lou Sanz, fellow out-of-town performer, mentions the activity we most look forward to when we get there: cowboy-hunting.
Now we go clean up Grindhouse and get ready to move out for good. Pray for us (or as May in “I May Fly” would say, “crayfish”).
Turns out we’re up for Best Musical at the Fringie Awards–voting is open until 11PM, and we sure would like an original musical to get some credit over the Leonard Bernstein show we’re competing with, wouldn’t we?
Also, our very last MN Fringe performance is tonight at 10PM at the Rarig, and it’s going to sell out, so get there early if you want to see it!
Perhaps it’s us!
That is, we’re featured in the Naptown Buzz today:
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!
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 fringefestival.org, 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.
August 10, 2010
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)
Fringe show #19 – Sunday, 8/8 5:30pm
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.