By this time next week, Minnesota Fringe’s first-ever Virtual Festival will be under way.
That boggles the mind.
In April, the Fringe, a signature Twin Cities summer event that takes place over 11 days, draws 1,000 artists and 40,000 attendees and has an annual economic impact of over $1.9 million, was canceled for the first time in its 27-year history. All staff were furloughed or laid off. The call went out for $100,000 in emergency funding, without which the organization wouldn’t survive.
A PPP loan allowed core staff to return and start planning the Virtual Fringe. It will start July 30 and end Aug. 9, the same days the physical Fringe was scheduled for. (Take that, COVID.) Like Janus, it will have two faces.
One is the Nightly Fringe, where you can see at least two live, half-hour performances per night at scheduled times on various streaming platforms. All Nightly Fringe shows are free for everyone.
The other is the Digital Hub, a catalog of live and pre-recorded streaming shows of varying lengths from all over the country. To access the Digital Hub, you’ll need to buy a 2020 Minnesota Fringe Button. And who wouldn’t want one anyway, as a souvenir of this annus horribilis, and the creativity and resilience of artists? A button will set you back $5.
The Nightly Fringe will get off to a strong start with the Bearded Company’s “Break the Dice: The Improvised Campaign,” a fantasy adventure where the heroes’ fate rests on the role of a 20-sided die. Among the cast are Tyler Michaels King and Tyler Mills, whose other projects include Trademark Theater.
“Break the Dice” will be followed by Heather Rae and Amy Berglund, both professional figure skaters, who will present “A Virtual Collaboration of Singing and Ice Skating (off-ice.)”
Singer and ukelelist Leslie Vincent will appear in two Nightly Fringe shows, “TV Tunes with Leslie Vincent” and “The Champagne Drops” with Emily Dussault. Fringe veteran Martin Dockery will present “Right Now,” about an otherwise world-traveling storyteller, trapped in his home for months on end, animated solely by the glow of his devices.
Also in the Nightly Fringe lineup: The Fourth Wall’s “Fruit Flies Like a Banana: Virtual Style,” an interactive online performance by a company that’s part chamber music group, part devised theater company, part modern dance troupe and part circus act. And multiplatinum international recording artist Brian Kennedy’s lockdown concert from Dublin.
Most Nightly Fringe artists are from the Twin Cities and nearby. The Digital Hub artists are from the Twin Cities, Greater Minnesota, 15 additional states, Scotland and Germany.
Digital Hub shows range in length from a half-hour to 90 minutes. Many are free or pay-what-you-can, others are $5, $10, or donations. Among the offerings: Fringe regular Ariel Leaf’s “A Mermaid in Every Sea,” with stories drawn from her 2013, 2015 and 2017 Fringe shows. And Daniel Hertz’s “The Prostate,” described as “a humorous solo show about a prostate exam.” (This is the Fringe, after all.)
Also in the Hub: “Stuck in an Elevator With Patrick Stewart,” the 2013 Fringe hit and audience choice encore winner from the Theatre Cosmic. “The Empathy Project: a new human experience, volumes I and II” from the Outer Loop Theater and the Humanity Project, a response to the moment of crisis we find ourselves in. And “Paul & Erika’s House Show” by Theatre Mobile, in which “Waiting for Godot” meets “Pee-wee’s Playhouse.” Theatre Mobile are 15-time Best of Fest-winning Fringe touring performers.
Executive Director Dawn Bentley, who furloughed herself in April when she announced the cancelation, is already planning for the future. She hopes the Digital Hub will remain part of the Fringe even when in-person festivals return. “The Digital Hub provides a place for far-flung artists to share their talents with adventurous audiences, less the expenses associated with touring,” she said in a statement. Add COVID and its cousins to climate change, and it’s likely touring will never return to its former levels. But we may see more artists from all over.
It’s going to be hot out there on Saturday. Cool off in a museum? Several have reopened or are in the process.
The Walker is open from 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Sunday. You’ll need a timed ticket. Members and teens get in free. The Minneapolis Institute of Art is open 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Friday through Sunday. Admission is free but you’ll need a timed ticket. More are available Sunday than Saturday. Consider buying a ticket to the powerful exhibition “When Home Won’t Let You Stay: Art and Migration.”
The Museum of Russian Art is open, with two intriguing exhibits on: “Leaders and the Masses: Mega Paintings from Soviet Ukraine” and “A Parliament of Owls: Children’s Art From Russia.” Hours are Monday-Friday 10 a.m.-5 p.m., Saturday 10 a.m.-4 p.m. and Sunday 1 p.m.-5 p.m. No reservations are required; payment is by credit card only, and you will be asked for contact tracing information. The Bakken Museum opened its renovated spaces to the public on July 16, including the new entrance facing Bde Maka Ska. Admission is $5 because there’s nothing in the main gallery, which is awaiting a new exhibition in October. See the building, see the grounds, restored wetlands and refurbished green roof. Hours are Tuesday-Sunday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Timed tickets are required.
The Bell Museum opened to the public yesterday (Thursday, July 23). The Audubon Animated exhibition has been extended, so it’s still on, with its video room and selections from the Bell’s double elephant folio of “Birds of America.” Hours are Thursday-Sunday, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Timed tickets must be reserved in advance and purchased online. Go here to begin.
Prefer to be outdoors?
On Saturday (July 25), a labyrinth designed by artist Larsen Husby will be mowed into the Silverwood Park (St. Anthony) Overflow Parking Lot. Called “Touching Not Touching,” it’s two separate labyrinths nested within each other. Each has two entrances and exits. Each mimics a pair of hands reaching toward each other. Two people walking the two labyrinths will periodically approach each other, but their paths will never cross or join. This is a breathtaking metaphor on our times by a man who walked every street in Minneapolis – all 1,315 miles. Go here to learn more about that.
The Minnesota Zoo will reopen to the public this Saturday (July 25). Its hours are 10 a.m.-4 p.m. daily. Timed tickets must be reserved and purchased in advance, and your visit will have a directional flow. NOTE: Como Zoo will reopen Wednesday, July 29. Advance reservations are required.
The Minnesota Landscape Arboretum is open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily, for ticketed reservations only. You’ll need to reserve whether you’re walking or taking the Three-Mile Drive. No bicycles are allowed at this time.
Franconia Sculpture Park in Shafer is always free and open to the public. Hours are 8 a.m.-8 p.m. 365 days a year. You’ll pay a little to park in the lot, but you can wander the 43 acres and view the 120+ public sculptures for free. You can even bring your dog. High-touch sculptures have been cordoned off. If you go on Sunday, you can join a free walking tour at 2 p.m.