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Fringe begins; ‘Fiddler on the Roof’ at the Orpheum

promotional photo for game of toms
Photo by Justin Schaack
At the Fringe: “Game of Toms: One-Man Game of Thrones” by Tom Reed, in which Fringe favorite Reed squeezes eight seasons into one hour.

In fact, Minnesota Fringe, our annual theater juggernaut, has already begun. Last weekend saw the opening of Family Fringe, a multigenerational, juried set of shows that continues next weekend. But the Fringe most people know, the festival of non-juried, chosen-by-lottery, anything-goes shows, starts this Thursday, Aug. 1, and continues through Sunday, Aug. 11.

Over 11 days, 135 shows will each be staged multiple times in more than a dozen venues. Plus – new this year – the Fringe has expanded to include what it calls Independently Produced (IP) shows. Seven more shows have been gathered under the Fringe umbrella but will take place in different venues and follow their own rules for start times and lengths.

Dedicated, organized Fringers already have their lists made, their schedules planned and their multishow passes purchased. (Fact: The maximum number of shows anyone can see, even the Flash, is 55.) The following list is for those of us who want to catch a show or two (or four, or six, or one a day?) but might feel overwhelmed by the size and scope of this ginormous festival, now in its 26th year.

Fringe includes everything from comedy to horror, dance to musical theater, puppetry to spoken word. We’ve selected a dozen shows that sound interesting for a variety of reasons: they’re by companies or artists whose work we’ve seen and trust, the topics are intriguing, or there’s already buzz about them. None has begun, so these aren’t reviews. But once Fringe kicks off, reviews will be posted on the website.


“Measure4Measure” by Rough Magic Performance Company. The estimable actress Sarah Agnew (most recently in the Guthrie’s “As You Like It”) directs this all-women take on Shakespeare’s classic #MeToo play.

“Quiet Riot” by Broken Box Mime Theater. And you thought mime had nothing left to say? Redefining mime for the 21st century, this award-winning New York City-based company will perform a dozen shorts including a six-minute, hands-only history of the universe from the Big Bang to bitcoin. Here’s their YouTube reel. Note: BKBX is also performing in the Family Fringe, so their main Fringe shows will be Aug. 1-6 only.

“Edith Gets High” by Devious Mechanics. A new musical adventure from Keith Hovis, whose “Jefferson Township Sparkling Junior Talent Pageant” just ended a run at the Park Square to rave reviews, and Allison Witham, founding member of Transatlantic Love Affair.

“Game of Toms: One-Man Game of Thrones” by Tom Reed. In which Fringe favorite Reed squeezes eight seasons into one hour. Reed has the rapid-fire delivery thing down; his previous shows include solo parodies of “Stranger Things,” “The Hunger Games,” Disney princesses, “Twilight” and “Harry Potter.” He is also co-creator of “Couple Fight.”

“Magic Girl: An Ode to Rainbow Brite” by Emily Michaels King. King combines movement, microphones, sound and light in a one-woman show about nostalgia, personal history and self-love.

“Frankenstein: Two Centuries” by Mysterious Old Radio Listening Society. A show in the style of an old-time radio series, written by Tim Uren and Joshua Scrimshaw. This company used to perform monthly at the James J. Hill Center and also has a podcast. They’re pros.

“Glass & Lady M.” by Full Circle Theater. The company founded by Rick Shiomi and Martha Johnson, Full Circle recently staged a successful run of Christopher Chen’s “Caught” at the Guthrie’s Dowling Studio. Their Fringe show pairs a dystopian, feminist absurdist play by Lindsey Bushnell with Johnson’s re-imagining of Lady MacBeth’s sleepwalking scene. (This is one of the IP shows.)

“Xena and Gabrielle Smash the Patriarchy” by Mermaid Productions. It won’t hurt to know a little about “Xena, Warrior Princess,” but it probably won’t be necessary as Ariel Leaf and Nissa Nordland Morgan lead a cast of mighty warriors in their take on the cult favorite TV series.

promotional photo for xena and gabrielle smash the patriarchy
Photo by Scott Pakudaitis
Ariel Leaf as Xena and Nissa Nordland Morgan as Gabrielle in “Xena and Gabrielle Smash the Patriarchy.”
“A Cult Classic” by Sheep Theater. Sheep had a Fringe hit last year with “Kaboom,” an homage to “Dr. Strangelove” updated for our current insanity. In “A Cult Classic,” written by Joey Hamburger, a doomsday cult deals with the death of their leader and the doomsday that never came. Don’t doomsday cult members usually max out their credit cards?


“Size” by Somerville Productions. A love letter to every body, from the creators of last year’s Fringe hit “Not Fair, My Lady!” The writers include Shanan Custer (“2 Sugars, Room for Cream”) and Taj Ruler; the cast includes Lauren Anderson (Brave New Workshop) and Minnesota’s Karaoke King Blaze Bordeaux.

“Man Cave: A One-Man Sci-Fi Climate Change Tragicomedy!” by Timothy Mooney. As the last man on earth, Mooney – in his tenth Fringe show – broadcasts to whomever or whatever might be listening.

“A Confederate Widow in Hell” by Breaker/Fixer Productions. In this show with original music, Willie Carlisle is Delores Snodgrass, a widow dead for 150 years, who returns to face the legacy of the American South. Breaker/Fixer’s “There Ain’t No More” won Best of Fest 2017 from the Twin Cities Arts Reader.

Use the easy-peasy website to learn about shows, read reviews (and see video clips) once available, plan your own schedule and buy tickets. For shows you really want to see, it’s worth paying the extra $3 for a passholder reservation. First-timers, be sure to read the very helpful FAQs.

The picks

Opens tonight (Tuesday, July 30) at the Orpheum: “Fiddler on the Roof.” The songs: “If I Were a Rich Man,” “Sunrise Sunset,” “Matchmaker, Matchmaker,” “Tradition,” “To Life (L’Chaim).” The story: Tevye, a Jewish milkman, turns to the local matchmaker – and God – to find good husbands for his five daughters. The setting: a village in pre-revolutionary Russia. This Tony-nominated Broadway revival of the beloved show is directed by Bartlett Sher (“South Pacific,” “The King and I”) and choreographed by Israeli choreographer Hofesh Shechter. 7:30 p.m. FMI and tickets ($39-145). Buy at the State Theatre box office, save on fees. Closes Aug. 4.

photo of fiddler on the roof production
Courtesy of Orpheum
“Fiddler on the Roof”
Wednesday at the Bryant-Lake Bowl: Cellular Cinema 48. The BLB’s monthly screening series of experimental film, video and performance is always a take-your-chances, be-surprised affair. Wednesday’s program will feature works suggested by members of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion in Teaching Media (EDIT), so the focus will be on diversity and a broad range of representation. Doors at 6:30 p.m., show at 7. FMI and tickets ($6-12 sliding scale).

Wednesday through Friday at the Walker: Dennis Hopper: “The Last Movie.” Soon after the success of “Easy Rider,” Hopper went to the Andes to make a film about a failed stuntman in Peru. Universal Studios didn’t like it and Hopper spent a year editing it. Misunderstood, nearly forgotten, and digitally restored in 2018, it’s part of the Walker’s summer series “Lost Films & Restorations.” With Kris Kristofferson, Julie Adams, Peter Fonda, and Michelle Phillips. 7 p.m. in the cinema. FMI and tickets ($10/8).

Thursday at Orchestra Hall: “Celebrating the Americas: Gershwin, Márquez and More.”  An evening of orchestral music from across North, South and Central Americas. José Pablo Moncayo’s “Huapango” will be accompanied by Mexican folklórico dancing by the local ensemble Los Alegres Bailadores, and Artie Shaw’s Clarinet Concerto will spotlight the orchestra’s principal clarinet Gabriel Campos Zamora. Akiko Fujimoto will conduct a colorful program that ends with Gershwin’s “An American in Paris.” 7:30 p.m.  FMI and tickets ($12-95). Arrive early for happy hour (4-7:30 p.m.) and free music by the Southside Aces on the newly renovated Peavey Plaza  (5:30-7:15 p.m.); stay late for a concert by the Bryan Nichols Trio in the Target Atrium (9-10 p.m.).


Thursday through Sunday at the Lab Theater: Contra Theatre Company presents “Assassins.” Descriptions of Sondheim’s dark musical about people who tried to kill U.S. presidents (and sometimes succeeded) are often prefaced with “rarely performed” and “too seldom staged.” In Minneapolis, we saw it at Theater Latté Da in early 2018, and here it is again, in a production by the student theater company that seeks to perform “theatre that goes against the grain.” We’ve always found that seeing two different productions of the same play or musical gives us insight into both. 7 p.m. FMI and tickets ($12/10 students). Closes Sunday, Aug. 4.

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