The Year in Theater


Thanks to cabaret-style venues, such as the Bryant-Lake Bowl and the Fringe Festival, it is possible for anyone and his buddy to scavenge several hundred dollars and mount their own play. This has a nice democratic ring to it, but in practice it means that sadly misbegotten projects reach the public with some regularity. I point to Theatre Limina's String Theory as an example. Telling an uninspired story of a half-dozen unappealing roommates, the play attempted a sort of stylistic creativity by running scenes out of sequence, and sometimes running them backward. Sure, it worked in Memento--but in this case, the audience would have been happier to leave the theater with a spell of selective amnesia.


Dramatis Personae
Twin Cities Theater Artists Review Their Work



In the middle of August we were performing our 7:00 p.m. show of Improv in the Park for 350 people at the Lake Harriet Rose Garden. Right in the middle of the show, automatic sprinklers popped up from the ground and started spraying. The scene was like the Titanic going down. People screaming, grabbing lawn chairs and blankets, and running everywhere. Seems a power outage downtown had thrown off the computers that control the park sprinkler system. In over a decade of park shows, this was a first. Many audience members showed up the next week with umbrellas and sheets of plastic, probably thinking that we had turned our show into a Gallagher-style performance.



I do a show at the Bryant-Lake Bowl about five times a year--any month that there are five Wednesdays, I do it on the fifth one. The Blue Table is a kind of variety show (a spin-off of a weekly queer radio show I do called Fresh Fruit) where I interview artists after they perform. The audience often gets a chance to ask questions. I also open up the windows onto Lake Street for the show, which can bring about some great entertainment, both planned and unplanned. Anyway, on the bill for one night was Rebecca Holmberg of Confessions of a Lesbian Dominatrix. She was a hit! She had also brought along her friend, Madam C, who is from Switzerland. Madam C does a fire trick, and thank God I had enough dominatrix in me to tell her that NO, she could not spew fire in the theater, but that it would be even cooler to do it outside. Thank God Madam C agreed. There she was, a short, muscular, tan dominatrix standing on Lake Street in front of the theater in a leather-studded G-string, spewing fire. I was sitting onstage and I could feel the heat of the fire. Traffic stopped on Lake Street (luckily no accidents) and this made it into Lavender's queer gossip column.



The Scrimshaw Brothers' Look Ma, No Pants variety show is the flagship of a tongue-in-cheek movement we call "Theater of Audacity," which essentially means we don't rehearse a lot. Many of the sketches we do are very messy, so we rehearse them even less. If you know you're going to be soaked in beer, relaxer gel, or Parmesan cheese, why endure it more than once? While sound, this theory means that unpredictable things can happen. Josh Scrimshaw was doing a one-person silent sketch about a poor office drone on deadline who had some trouble with the office supplies. He had his tie caught in the typewriter, on purpose; he started hacking it off with a pair of scissors, still on purpose; and then he slashed his finger open, really, really not on purpose. Josh was bleeding profusely, and you could hear a ripple effect in the audience as they realized that this was not fake blood. I don't think he realized just how badly he was bleeding. The little trouper just taped it up and kept doing the sketch, albeit an abbreviated version. While not getting the big laughs anymore, it was a truly engaging spectacle, like a Discovery Channel special. I hope our new venue, the Loring Playhouse, is okay with blood on the stage, because none of us can promise it won't happen again.



Our fall production of Clive Barker's The History of the Devil sold out most of its four-week run and never failed to bring in a wildly eclectic mix of audience members. Local actor Charlie Hubbell, who played the part of Satan, developed something of a female cult following. Near the end, however, we had a few fans whose enthusiasm was nothing less than disturbing. One woman who didn't have a reservation ranted angrily at our box-office manager and tried to rush the theater doors, claiming she'd been riding a bus since 4:30 a.m. in order to see Satan. With no extra seat available, the aspiring handmaiden wept in the lobby for nearly an hour under the watchful and sympathetic eye of our head usher. Meanwhile, another would-be Devil groupie (who would identify herself only as "The Goddess Kali") was filling our voicemail box with requests that we remount the production for her private pleasure. I'm looking forward to seeing whether this determined harem will follow Charlie to the Old Log Theater, where he'll be trading in his horns and tail to play the part of Jesus next year.

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