Freshwater enters the theater scene with Fringe remounts

The Twin Cities latest theater company began on a long trip to the Iron Range. While Ruth Virkus and Ben Layne were on the road to visit Ruth's family, the two talked about the success -- and the pure fun -- they had producing Table 12: A Play at a Wedding at the 2010 Minnesota Fringe Festival. The experience, along with the positive audience feedback, "made Ruth and I believe we had something to offer as producers and that we could do more work and more interesting work if we continued collaborating together to create a company," Layne says.

[jump] The two enlisted friends Lacey Poitter and John Zeiler, the creators of Fringe hit An Adult Evening of Shel Silverstein, and the quartet began to formulate plans for the nascent Freshwater Theatre Company. The first production, a remount of their Fringe shows, opens this weekend at the Theater Garage in Minneapolis.

"Fringe Remounts XXL is very indicative of what we're looking to do. With Table 12, we're highlighting a budding local playwright, great local actors, and a modern take on the classic screwball comedy. With the adult Shel Silverstein, obviously this is not an original script -- Shel Silverstein is a very well known author -- but this series of vignettes is almost the exact opposite of his more famous children's work."

Layne and the rest of the group hope to reach out to other organizations and artists through Freshwater. For the debut production, "we're having local musical artists Lingua Luna, Courtney McLean, and Spencer McGillicutty play small sets after some of our performances, and we'll have local art displayed in the lobby as well that will be available for purchase," he says.

The key is "to create relationships with other companies in town via ad exchanges and other cross-promotions to help drive business to each other's shows. I think a lot of people believe theater companies have to be in competition with one another, but we think art is best when it is not competitive. It is best when it is collaborative, and when one person or company succeeds, we all do," he adds.

Up next for the company -- next week in fact -- is a reading of Virkus' new play, Desperation Panties at 8 p.m. Tuesday at the Theatre Garage. The plan, however, is not to make that the company's next show. Instead, the producers are looking to examine where they are and what they want to do following the current productions.

"We are certain that we will apply for the Fringe again this year, and it's likely that whatever show we decide to do next will be produced at the Fringe in 2011. If something great comes to mind or comes to us that we are excited about producing in the meantime, we're certainly open to that possibility," Layne says.

Fringe Remounts XXL runs through November 21 at the Minneapolis Theatre Garage.