Fringe Day 8: On the home stretch

Grant Henderson and Katherine Kupiecki in <i>The Final Act.</i>

Grant Henderson and Katherine Kupiecki in The Final Act.

I took in Minnesota Fringe Festival shows numbers 18 and 19 Thursday evening. While that's certainly a lot from my perspective (I feel like I've spent my entire life either in line or in dark theaters at this point), I know there are folks out there who have been to shows in every slot so far at the festival. That means they still have 18 shows to go. Best of luck to all of you.

Unexpectedly, heavy traffic last week kept me out of the opening of Once Upon a Chalkboard, but I finally was able to slot Tyler Michaels and Tod Petersen's inventive improv show into my schedule. 

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In brief, the two performers, who are doing double duty as they are also in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat at Chanhassen Dinner Theatres, take suggestions from the audience to build fairytale and other fantasy-like scenes. Their distinct twist is to have audience members also draw their props and scenery. Need a magic sword? One can be created in an instant. 

The interaction is a lot of fun, especially when the audience artists offer surprises for the performers to build on. This can come from what they draw (an asked-for basket of treats instead includes a cute kitten) or who does the illustration (such as the young girl who created a perfect martini glass, complete with olive). It's a lot of silly fun, but a nice way to start an evening or a day.

Tedious Brief Productions builds on past efforts like Bard Fiction and Tempests with The Final Act, where the hardboiled detective gets an Elizabethan makeover, all the while exploring the 1593 murder of playwright Christopher Marlowe. It ends up involving shady deals, double crosses, and spies in the London night.

Creators Aaron Greer, Ben Tallen, and Brian Watson-Jones put considerable effort into the piece, not just in constructing a fairly compelling murder-mystery in under an hour, but also in employing Elizabethan dramatic language that has the ring of authenticity, even when presenting distinctly 20th-century, gumshoe fiction concepts.

There are still three days of shows on the docket for the 2013 festival. There is a 4 p.m. slot at the venues this afternoon. The last previously scheduled performances are at 7 p.m. Sunday. As in the past, the festival's final 8:30 p.m. Sunday slots are given over to the top-selling shows at each venue. Those will be announced late on Saturday.

There are a few shows I can recommend from previous productions of the piece, including the steampunk-style To Mars with Tesla and The Diamond Lens. Candy Simmons's Expiration Date is a moving look at death and dying, while Joseph Scrimshaw's How to Swear Like a Minnesotan has already sold out its complete scheduled run, but you can reserve Audience Pick tickets for Rarig Xperimental with almost certain knowledge that it will be Scrimshaw's show. As always, general information can be found at the Fringe Festival website.