Candy Simmons in Afterlife.
Photo by Matthew Wells
A small festival of innovative theater opens this weekend -- down in southeastern Minnesota.
The Adventure Theatre Festival brings five different companies to Plainview and the Jon Hassler Theatre over the next two week. Each weekend, two companies will perform inside of the theater in a mini Fringe Festival format. A fifth will provide special entertainment during the town's annual Corn on the Cob Days Parade.
The concept of the festival started with Dean and Sally Harrington, the couple who run the Jon Hassler Theater. "They are huge supporters of the Twin Cities theater scene, with a long history of inviting artists down to Plainview to share work with their rural audiences," says Candy Simmons of SunsetGun Productions.
"The time I spent down there last summer with Scarlet Woman was a creative boon for me. I was able to spend my days without distraction, writing, reading, jogging around the corn fields, collaborating with my creative team, and then performing for the community at night," Simmons continues. "There's something in the demeanor of the community, the rich agricultural life, that opens up my creative mind and allows me to breathe."
These collaborations have strengthened the ties between the Hassler and the local theater community. "We brainstormed around creating an annual event to celebrate the Hassler as the important artistic hub it is and the bounty of new works these collaborating artists have to offer," Simmons says.
Inside the Hassler, the first weekend features Four Humors' Lolita: A Three-Man Show and Sandbox Theatre's Suitcase. The first, a comic adaptation of Stanley Kubrick's film, played to huge audiences at the recent Minnesota Fringe Festival. The second is a showcase of 15-minute plays, where all of the props have to fit inside a small suitcase.
During the second weekend, Dangerous Productions presents its fast-paced farce Happy Double Wedding, and SunsetGun brings the show Afterlife, a one-woman show exploring the changing role women played in American society during the 20th century.
The fifth company won't perform inside the Hassler. Noah Bremer is excited for Live Action Set to return to Plainview and present a roving, outdoor piece during the community's annual parade.
"There's a strong arts scene in the Plainview area. It is not to the level of the big city, but it is fun to create an artistic epicenter," Bremer says.
Live Action Set will present a version of The Great Water Rebellion, a "retooling of the piece from the Bastille Day Block Party," Bremer says. "The retooling will be quite different. It will be a roving event. It's an epic fairy tale with a water fight and a lot of pool noodles that we get the audience to attack us with. The idea is performance is for everybody. We do a lot of stuff in theaters. This event takes our work to the streets, engages the audience and has fun."
There are also some logistic changes, as the performance goes along the entire parade route instead of being in one place. It may be a matter of sending folks ahead to pass out squirt guns and pool noodles for the "attacks."
"We can't have the audience in the streets," Bremer says.
IF YOU GO
Adventure Theatre Festival
Friday-Sunday; Aug. 23-25
Jon Hassler Theater, 412 W. Broadway, Plainview
$14-$18 single tickets; $18-$22 for two-show punch passes
For tickets and information, call 507.534.2900 or visit online.