Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Fringe Memories

A few months ago, I did an e-mail interview with Ed Huyck of City Pages. He asked me a question, I gave him a series of excessive, verbose answers, and he wisely excerpted one. But this is a blog, and I have no pressure whatsoever to be wise! So here's some of my memories from the past ten years of the Minnesota Fringe:

2004 -- my first Fringe, and if I recall correctly (I might not be, and that's a caveat that goes for all of these) it was still using the first-come-first-serve system (rather than the lottery, which I believe was introduced in 2005). I was anxious enough to show up ridiculously early enough at the Minneapolis Theatre Garage for Leah Cooper to be the only other one present. She walked up to me as I was sitting alone in the empty risers, made some gentle inquiry about why I was there, and I burbled something about "Well, you know, I'm chronically late so I overcompensate." She smiled far more politely than the comment deserved and left me to ruminate.

2005 -- I was doing a preview at an outdoor Farmer's Market. Allegra Lingo was previewing some of "Hubcap Frisbee" as an absolutely apocalyptic storm front began creeping up on us. Eventually she paused, peered out at the rest of the staff, and asked "Do you need me to stop?" The answer was yes, and moments later the artists and audience were huddled against the building to avoid the torrential downpour while the merchants frantically attempted to pull down their wares. In an uncharacteristic burst of civic-mindedness, I decided to help, and I vividly remember clutching a tent pole as a powerful gust of wind caught hold of the canvas and actually flew me a few feet through the air like a goddamn kite.

2006 -- two brief verbal exchanges spring to mind. I was running down the steps of the Rarig Center when I heard a voice call my name -- I looked up to see a mother and her teenage son.

ME: Oh, hey, what's up?
HER: We saw your show at the Bryant-Lake Bowl.
ME: Cool, that's great! What did you guys think?
HER: It was really heavy on the F-bomb.
ME: Oh, uh...sorry about that.
ME: Whelp, gotta go!

The other one happened at one of the Fringe after-parties, where I was standing around with a group of colleagues and a woman I hadn't met before. (Keep in mind this was my first year as one of the official Fringe bloggers.) Someone referred to me by name.
HER: Wait a minute, are you phillip low?
ME: Yes.
HER: Oh.
HER: I thought you'd be angrier.

2007 -- I performed at Patrick's Cabaret, which was both poorly-insulated and had no air conditioning at the time (both have since been corrected), rendering the space into a gigantic oven. I breathed a sigh of relief when I walked in and saw that the staff had set up dozens of fans -- and then groaned as I realized that (quite rightly and responsibly) they were all pointed at the audience. I also agreed to shift another one of my shows to the closing day to help out an out-of-towner. I also got the Encore slot. I had three shows in that space that day. I practically had to peel myself out of my T-shirt with a spatula.
2008 -- most of my memories involve long, heated arguments on the roof of the Bedlam -- my show that year included both racial slurs and metafiction, and I was startled to realize that the audience could be neatly divided into people who were offended by one or the other -- that there was no overlap between the two, and that they were equally impassioned.

2009 -- oddly, my most vivid memory of this Festival is of a hypnotized Tim Hellendrung repeatedly screaming "Ah! Rattlesnakes!" in Four Humors' Fringe show that year. What this says about me, I leave as a Freudian exercise for the reader.

2010 -- The Shelby Company impulsively asked me (and several others) to do a quick walk-on bit for one of their variety shows. I showed up and they popped us into several sets of antennae, telling us that we were aliens who would dance onto the stage and kidnap one of their cast members. I bounced onto the stage and promptly knocked the antennae off my head. I would have been more concerned about this if I wasn't blitzed at the time.
2011 -- I had a show crunch, between Theatre Arlo's "Macbeth: The Video Game Remix" at the Rarig Thrust and my own military drama -- across town at the Bryant-Lake Bowl. I skipped out on the curtain call, frantically dressed on my way out the door, and bolted down the Rarig steps in a WWI-era trench coat, weapons and props clanking loudly about my person, into Courtney McLean's waiting vehicle. (Made it in plenty of time, by the way -- hardly suspenseful at all.)

2012 -- was totally happy to lose my Encore slot to the extraordinary Mary Mack who, rather than doing her show again, elected to devote a good chunk of her set to systematically roasting every page of the Fringe Producer's Handbook. (She also took on her audience reviews, which is very, very hard to do without alienating an audience, but I will say that the little-girl voice she uses to do so is far more charming than mine.)

What about you? Any pleasurable/ridiculous/humiliating Fringe memories from years past? If so, don't hesitate to send 'em to me at this link, and I may share 'em in this space (if I deem them sufficiently entertaining, because I am whimsical God). Or better yet -- share them in person at our upcoming fundraiser next week! Because the Fringe is turning 21, and alcohol doesn't judge. Just, y'know, everyone in its immediate vicinity does.

...but we're Minnesotans, and if there's one thing we know how to do, it's how to judge quietly.