For nearly 25 years, the Minnesota Fringe Festival was an annual event, like the State Fair. It came, it lasted several days, it ended, and theater fans returned to their more-or-less normal lives until it rolled around again a year later. In between, if you held on to your Fringe button, you could use it for discounts on other events.
Last year’s Fringe also included a Family Fringe, with six shows not chosen by lottery. That was new. But bigger changes were taking place. Under Executive Director Dawn Bentley, a scientist who formerly ran the Art Shanty Projects, the Fringe was busting its calendar wide open. Fringe-themed and Fringe-related events now take place year-round.
A new Beyond the Box program has paired artists with mentors to create 15– to 30-minute performances for the new amphitheater on Nicollet Mall, across from the Central Library. The free outdoor shows will take place on four Thursdays at noon: May 2, June 6, July 11 and Aug. 1. A Drafts & Draughts series – three to five selections from works-in-progress, staged in a casual atmosphere, with beer and conversation – settled into the Playwrights’ Center after a year at Surly Brewing. The next event takes place April 8 at 7:30 pm.
Starting tomorrow (Thursday, March 7), the Fringe will move into the Minnsky Theatre in northeast Minneapolis with Fringe Presents: Women’s March, “a curated lineup of women-generated, women-centric work exploring today’s America and world.” Five shows will be presented in rotation through Sunday. All have track records.
“Chasing Blue,” about a transgender woman preparing for her first date, was previously featured at Chicago’s Steppenwolf Theater and the NYC Trans Theatre Festival. Written and performed by Bea Cordelia, it features poetry, music, original projections and an on-stage bathtub, with water.
“Not Fair, My Lady!” is a musical theater parody review about misogyny in the Broadway canon. Created by Shanan Custer, Anita Ruth and Colleen Somerville, this will be an expanded version of the 2018 Fringe favorite.
“Tish Jones & Friends” features poet, emcee, activist, educator and TruArtSpeaks founder Tish Jones in a program of her creation, with local spoken word and hip-hop artists BdotCroc, Desdamona and DJ Cassieopia.
“The Shrieking Harpies” is a musical improv trio of three local faves: Lizzie Gardner (Fringe’s “Couple Fight”), Taj Ruler (Brave New Workshop), Hannah Wydeven and Justin Nellis on the keys.
For “Manners & Misconduct: Improvised Jane Austen,” a team of local improvisers will take audience suggestions, then craft a story in Jane Austen style. Maybe you saw this in 2017 at Bryant-Lake Bowl.
Think of Women’s March as a weekend-long Fringe, with women at center stage. Here’s the complete schedule. Tickets are $15 advance, $18 door for “Chasing Blue,” “Not Fair, My Lady!” and “Tish Jones & Friends,” $10/12 for the late-night “Shrieking Harpies” and “Manners & Misconduct.” Passes are available.
Meanwhile, the artists have been chosen for the 2019 Fringe Festival, which will take place Aug. 1-11. This year’s Family Fringe will get a jump on the main Fringe; it will open the weekend before (July 26-28) and also run on opening weekend (Aug. 2-4). Yes, you can still use your Fringe button for discounts. Sign up for the Fringe File newsletter to learn when and where.
Tonight (Wednesday, March 6) at the American Swedish Institute: Opening night for “Eggstravaganza.” Chicago’s Millennium Park has the big, reflective Bean, and from now until April 28, the outdoor courtyard at the American Swedish Institute will have the big, reflective “Solar Egg,” created by Swedish climate-focused artists Mats Bigert and Lars Bergström. Standing 16 feet tall, it’s a work of art, a golden egg and a working sauna. If you want to book a 30-minute sauna session, do it soon; several days are already sold out. Bigert and Bergström will be present at tonight’s opening party, which will include a screening of their film “The Weather War,” a talk by the artists called “If You Don’t Like the Weather, Change It,” and a Q&A. The artists will help fire up the first sauna. Opening event 6-8 p.m. FMI and tickets ($17/10).
Thursday at the Walker: Target Free Thursday. This week’s free Thursday features two notable events. At 6 p.m., large-format photographer JoAnn Verburg will talk about her practice and her piece “WTC” (2003), part of the current exhibit “Five Ways In.” The photograph features her husband, poet Jim Moore, reading a newspaper. The scene is blissfully peaceful, the image on the newspaper devastating. At 7 p.m., the cinema will screen this year’s touring program of “Sundance Institute Native Shorts,” with short films by six Native American filmmakers. The museum is open and free from 5-9 p.m., giving you time to tour “Five Ways In” and the other current exhibitions.
Thursday at Common Good Books: Claudia Keelan and Chris Santiago. Rain Taxi is the sponsor of this double-header with two fine poets. Keelan will read from her latest, “We Step Into the Sea: New and Selected Poems,” which collects more than three decades of her work. Santiago is the author of “Tula,” winner of the 2016 Lindquist & Vennum Prize for Poetry and a finalist for the Minnesota Book Award. 7 p.m. Free.
Thursday through Saturday at the Walker: Claudia Rankine and Will Rawls: “What Remains.” This collaboration between MacArthur fellow and award-winning poet Rankine (“Citizen”) and award-winning choreographer Rawls explores themes of surveillance and being black in America. The performers are the original New York cast: Jeremy Toussaint-Baptiste, Leslie Cuyjet, Jessica Pretty and Tara Aisha Willis. 8 p.m. FMI and tickets ($28/$22.40). P.S. On Wednesday, April 10, Rankine will give a lecture at the Walker called “Notes on ‘The White Card,’” about her recently published play. This event is part of the Walker’s annual Mack Lecture Series. FMI and tickets ($25/20).
Friday and Saturday at Crooners: Bobby Lyle’s 75th Birthday Weekend. The Minnesota native spent years with Sly & the Family Stone, George Benson, Bette Midler and Al Jarreau. He’ll celebrate his birthday with two nights of music. Friday, March 8, will find him solo on the Steinway in the Dunsmore Room. 6 p.m. FMI and tickets ($20). On Saturday, he’ll move to the main room with his B-3 organ trio. 7:30 p.m. FMI and tickets ($25).