Fringe previews are time well spent; ‘Olive Trees’ grows in Eagan

MinnPost photo by John Whiting
“Spicy Masala Chai” by Bollywood Dance Scene

The Minnesota Fringe Festival, our annual spectacular of theater everywhere, starts Thursday, July 30, but fans are already preparing. They’re blocking out time on their calendars, buying multishow passes and planning their volunteer schedules (work a 90-minute shift, get a free ticket to any show). And they’re attending the helpful and hugely entertaining Fringe Previews, in which 30 shows get three minutes each to persuade you to come see them.

For some shows, three minutes is the amuse-bouche that makes you hungry for the main meal. For others, it’s a whiff of something suspect in the fridge. All Fringe shows are chosen by lottery, which means that anything can get in. So the previews are time well spent if you’re serious about Fringeing.

Especially this year, the biggest Fringe ever, with 909 performances of 174 shows on 15 stages all over Minneapolis, plus nine site-specific shows at places like the Lyndale Farmstead Recreation Center, the Weisman and the American Indian Center.  

Previews began last Wednesday at Bryant-Lake Bowl with “The Rabbit Show,” which focused on dance. We missed that. But we were at the Rarig Monday for Fringe Previews #1. Here are six shows that rose to the top:

“Spicy Masala Chai” by Bollywood Dance Scene. The creators of last year’s top-selling Fringe show “Hi Hello Namaste?” are back with a bigger, bolder Bollywood dance drama and a cast of over 60 dancers and actors. Get those tickets now.

“The Debutante” by Abas Theatre. Written by F. Scott Fitzgerald. Beautiful language and snotty rich kid attitude.

“Underneath the Lintel” by Squirrel. Glen Berger’s much-lauded one-man play about a librarian has been performed around the world by actors including David Strathairn and Richard Schiff. Best Solo Show at the 2012 Fringe.

“Couple Fight” by Weggel-Reed Productions. “Hindsight is funny-funny” when six Fringe couples re-enact the stupidest real-life fights they’ve ever had. The preview crowd roared at this.

“Pam + Javi = Forever” by minnerican productions. Storytellers Pam Colby grew up queer in Iowa, Javier Morillo-Alicea in Puerto Rico. We only saw Colby at the preview, but the story she told lured us in.

“Stuff That Reminds Me of Other Things: A Walking Tour” by Keely Wolter. This site-specific show starts at the Rarig and strolls through Wolter’s past experiences. Just the introduction (and the warning against fly balls) was enough to make us want more.

In his introduction, Fringe director Jeff D. Larson pointed out that the shows in the previews were “ready enough” to present something two weeks before Fringe begins. “Most shows are still being written,” he said. “I know these people.”

Fringe Previews #2 happens next Monday, July 20, also at the Rarig. A Touring Artist Showcase – previews of shows coming in from elsewhere – takes place at the Ritz on Wednesday, July 29. Both at 7 p.m. Buy a Fringe button ($4) at the door and you’re good to go. You’ll need that button anyway; it’s required for admission to any Fringe show. Meanwhile, get familiar with the fast and mobile-friendly Fringe website. That’s where you can read about shows and casts; buy buttons, tickets and passes; make a schedule; start a queue; and (once the Fringe gets going) read those all-important reviews. 

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The Minneapolis Institute of Arts’ 100th birthday year, which has been pretty terrific so far, continues with more surprises, one per week all year long.

No. 30 on the list is crop artist Stan Herd’s planted version of van Gogh’s “Olive Trees” painting. It’s growing now in a field owned by Thomson Reuters in Eagan, southeast of the MSP airport and visible from many incoming and outgoing flights. If you see it from the air (another good reason to nab a window seat), snap a photo and share it on Twitter with hashtags #BDayMIA #vangrow.

Meanwhile (No. 26), you can buy T-shirts designed by five artists in the MIA’s collection. A partnership with the Mall of America, the limited-edition tees are $25 at the MIA and also at the MOA, with a rotating selection online. Five years from now, or ten, you’ll see Chris Larson’s “Deep North” tee on the street and wish you’d bought one when you had the chance.

Announced yesterday, the latest birthday surprise (No. 31) is a salutary meeting of art and bikes. Handsome Cycles in Minneapolis has created three custom bikes inspired by works in the MIA’s collection. See them at tomorrow’s Bike Night. An exclusive line of MIA bikes will be available for purchase at MIA and Handsome’s website.

MinnPost photo by Pamela Espeland
“Eros” has moved

If you were at or near the MIA recently, you might have noticed that “Eros,” the giant bronze head by artist Igor Mitoraj, has moved from its original spot at the entrance to a concrete slab on the northeast lawn. Which doesn’t mean the fundraising campaign to bring it here permanently has ended.

Along with joining the MIA in the T-shirts business, the MOA this fall will open its doors and a storefront space to the Minnesota Children’s Museum as the downtown St. Paul location undergoes expansion and renovation. From late September 2016 until January 2017, the museum will operate a 4,400-square-foot “pop-up” play space with hands-on exhibits on the third floor of the mall’s north side. It will feature two exhibits at a time, and the tentative schedule includes such attractions as “Dinosaurs: Land of Fire and Ice” and “Curious George: Let’s Get Curious.” Museum members will get in free. Museum operations at the mall are being funded in part by Legacy money. 

The picks

Tonight (Wednesday, July 15) at the Walker: “Badlands.” For his 1973 directorial debut, Terrence Malick told the real-life story of 19-year-old Charles Starkweather (Martin Sheen), his girlfriend, 15-year-old Caril Ann Fugate (Sissy Spacek), and their late-1950s killing spree. Before seeing this, you’ll want to shake off all those memories of President Jed Bartlet. Part of the Walker’s “Summer Nights/Cool Cinema” series. 7:30 p.m. $6 ($5 Walker members, students, seniors).

Thursday at Coffee House Press: CHP Summer Happy Hour. The annual barbecue and book sale, held outdoors (weather permitting) on the tracks adjacent to the Coffee House offices at 79 Thirteenth Ave. NE in Minneapolis. 5:30 p.m. – 7 p.m. Snacks and drinks free, books $5 or less.

Thursday at the Landmark Center: Summer Arts Discovery with Nooshin Hakim Javadi. One in a series of open artist workshops that invite you to view the creative process close-up. Learn how Nooshin Hakim Havadi transforms the world around her into permanent works of art; make a cast of your hand to take home. 7 p.m. – 9 p.m. Free, but reservations are required. Call 651-292-3063.

Saturday on Chicago Ave.: “Ballet on the Block.” This sounds insanely fun. Join dancers from the Saint Paul Ballet at one of four corners, walk to Pillsbury House, see a performance with live music, then parade down Chicago Avenue to the Third Place Gallery for another performance and ballet workshops. Ballet bars will be installed inside the gallery and outside on the sidewalk. Newspaper tutus and refreshments will be provided. The Third Place Gallery is photographer Wing Young Huie’s community-oriented space. 6 p.m.: Meet at Lake Street and Chicago, 42nd Street and Chicago, 38th St. and Bloomington, or 38th St. and Third Ave. 6:30 p.m.: Performance at Pillsbury House. 7:30 p.m.: Performance and ballet workshops at Third Place.

Tickets please

Tickets go on sale Friday to “AC2: An Intimate Evening with Anderson Cooper and Andy Cohen: Deep Talk and Shallow Tales.” The best-selling authors, CNN and Bravo stars, and friends share stories and answer questions from the audience. Oct. 10 at the State. FMI and tickets ($79-$129; VIP $354).

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