Fringe Day 0: First impressions are always important


Moments after a robot Lincoln and his mad creator/presidential assassin John Wilkes Booth shared a tender love song (from Robot Lincoln: The Revengeance (The Musical)) at Wednesday's Minnesota Fringe Festival's Out-of-Towners' Showcase, festival Executive Director Robin Gillette came onstage, remarked on how long a day she'd had, and then noted that moments like this reminded her that "I have the best fucking job in the world."


Sitting in the audience wasn't bad either, as 20 out-of-town companies (ranging from Rochester, Minnesota all the way to Belfast, Northern Ireland) vied for the attention at a packed HUGE Improv Theater.

As much as Fringe is a place for community, making new friends, seeing other's works, and so forth, it also has a cold economy. There are only so many audience members for the 800-plus performances, and the out-of-towners -- who have incurred additional expenses just by traveling to the Twin Cities -- often don't have the built-in name recognition that the homegrown talent has.

​So, for three-to-five minutes, they had a chance to grab the live audiences' attention (and anyone watching on the video stream), and hopefully move some folks to their performances. (Or, in the case of Phil the Void, you could hand out 20 comps to your performances, getting you at least, well, 20 people to see your show. Though the performers easy-going, snarky approach to his material could easily make him a hit at the festival.)

So, for two hours there was a dizzying cavalcade of one-man monologues, pop-opera smash-ups, and clever dance moments on a decidedly non-dance stage.

A few moments that caught my eye:

David Gaines Productions' 7 (x1) Samurai, which looks to be a clever recreation of the classic film, all done by one man and (from the snippet I saw) without any English dialogue. That Kevin Kling had recommended it to me earlier in the day only added to the intrigue. 

​The 4 Clowns from Los Angeles brought out some really, really, really scary clowns for all to see and then proceeded to give us a quick look into the terrors, fears, and disappointments of childhood, ending with  pantomimed torture. It's perfect nightmare fuel.

Mike Speller provided a few chills by presenting the first half of W.W. Jacobs's "The Monkey's Paw" from his one-man Fear Itself. Even though I know how the story ends (and it doesn't end well for our characters) I'd love to hear more of it.

Near the end, the Irish Scream Blue Murmur took over the stage for bits from Something's Gone Wrong in the Dreamhouse, and if they can sustain that energy for an hour we may be looking at one of the show's of the festival. Their musical, poetic look at life in the 1930s has already got me changing my plans for this evening.

Finally, opportunity can always knock. Because a scheduled performer was still in tech for their show, the one-woman Baba had its moment in the limelight at the very end of the program. The show comes with great notices and Denmo Ibrahim's creation of a newly immigrated Egyptian man looks like another schedule-changer for me.