Fringe by Numbers: Final Library Preview Finds Favor with Young Viewers

I was glad to have the company of my 9 year-old daughter on the drive to the final MELSA-sponsored Fringe preview.  It was in Apple Valley at the Galaxie Library.  This past Thursday I went to a kids-themed preview alone.  And while I can judge pretty well what will and what won't appeal to my daughter, it was nice to have her along to confirm my thoughts and add her own insight.  I ought to mention that my daughter has been raised in the theatre world.  She is around actors all the time.  She goes to my rehearsals regularly when I'm directing.  She has a good grasp of what makes a good play.  She frequently surprises me with her wisdom regarding dramatic structure and the like.  So, I find it wholly appropriate to include her comments on the five previews we saw today.  Not to mention, she's a veteran Fringer.  Each year for the past four years I've set aside a day on which she and I did all the kids Fringe shows (and some of the adult ones that were at least mostly kid-friendly).  She knows what to expect.  She knows what she likes.

With all that in mind, I present our opinions on what we saw at the Fringe preview of July 26, 2008:

  1. An Inconvenient Squirrel - Joseph Scrimshaw Productions:  Joe (Scrimshaw) and Tim (Uren) did the same routine at this preview as they did at the earlier preview (you can skim down the archive of this column to read it under the heading "Silly Squirrel, skits are for kids!").  It was still funny, and my daughter enjoyed it.  She would like to go see this one.  I still believe that I would, too.  My opinion of the piece hasn't changed since last time.
  2. Pizza, Amore & Fantasy - Singing Beach Productions:  This play features perennial Fringe challenger (as opposed to champion), Carlo Cicala.  I'll say this for him, Carlo tries.  He does.  And over the years he has grown as a performer.  The last time I reviewed one of his performances, he was successfully chasing the coveted title of "Worst Show in the Fringe."  This is a title I quietly bestow upon the worst show in the Fringe each year.  I'm sure he wasn't intentionally vying for the title, but he blew the competition out of the water.  Anyway... onto this year.  Carlo is a much better stage performer than before.  He is still completely out of touch with his audience, his show is completely scattershot.  He actually set up a video tape to film his segment today while explaining that he doesn't have a director and so he is video taping himself to get better.  While an admirable endeavor (self-improvement), one might expect that a performer wouldn't break the fourth wall right off the bat with a declaration of how hard it is to find a director who will work with you.  not the best advertising.  Makes the parents wonder, "Is this the kind of person we want around our kids?" ... My daughter looking at me about 90 seconds into the presentation and rolled her eyes.  Afterward she said two things:  "You are not taking me to that.  No way!" and "He said we were going to sing in Italian and he made us sing in English.  He lied." ... Ah, the perspective of the target audience can be so frank!
  3. Snip, Snap, Snute - Alrighty, Then:  This is a folk tale from those Norwegian folks one hears tell about in Minnesota from time to time.  The story is that of a girl (a human) who has been raised by trolls.  It is a musical.  It is done well.  The young actors are skilled, charismatic, and while a bit inexperienced, they are 100% committed to what they are doing.  The two girls who sang today handled the harmonies quite well.  The structure of the songs was not overly simplistic as it often can be in musicals featuring young people.  They not only surpassed my expectations, but also kept my daughter enrapt for the duration.  Right afterward she gave me a beaming smile and a thumbs up.  Much later, on the car ride home, she informed me that if she could only go to one show this year, it would be this one.
  4. Fools for Love - Hastings High School Drama Club:  This was a pleasant surprise for me.  I love physical theatre.  I love theatre that is so simple it is stupid, and so stupid that it is beautiful.  Theatre that can accomplish the things mentioned in that last sentence is a rare thing.  In the time I've been working as a professional theatre artist, I can count on two hands, and possibly, really, only one hand, the number of times that I've seen a show that rose to the level of beauty as set forth in that aforementioned statement.  Noah Bremer has clearly taught the kids at Hastings High something that many adults can't begin to grasp.  Kudos to him on that.  The three performers in this clown show went through a variety of steps to express the remainder of a sentence which starts simply "Love is..."  Some things you might expect.  For instance, "Love is..." a feeling that gets tight in your tummy.  Some things you might not expect.  For instance, "Love is Pete!"  Pete is a pink hand puppet creature that vomits a lot and has a tendency to behave in a hostile manner.  Also, I'm still loving the fact that "Love is my trunk!"  I only saw a few minutes of this, but given those minutes, the rest of the hour must be beautiful, too.
  5. Robin Hood The Musical! - Top Hat Theatre:  Let me begin by plugging some classes I teach.  Why not?  That's what the folks at Top Hat did.  I understand the need to plug one's company's other activities, and that the Fringe itself is a good way to do that, but it saddened me a bit that our first impression of Top Hat today was not that it wanted people to go to their Fringe show, but that they wanted people to take their upcoming classes in Plymouth... Anyway, luckily I'm familiar with past works of this group.  I took my daughter to see A Little Princess in 2005.  And as I just now re-read my review from that time, I've discovered exactly what I thought I'd remembered:  That production was mediocre.  Sadly that was the impression that I got about their voyage into Sherwood Forest today, too.  I love the Robin Hood myth.  I hope to treat it to an adaptation of my own some day.  In the meantime, I watch other versions, and in this one I find myself disappointed.  My daughter liked it okay.  She wanted to see more kids in the production.  I'm not sure how that could be accomplished, but... anyway...

It's been a while since I've posted my random bits.  I should note that my normal mode of operation is to post the random items in the first post of any given day.  I'm assuming that is how it will be during the actual Fringe Festival itself.  For now, I'll add to the randomness by throwing it in randomly.  Here you go:

  • I stopped three different places today in an attempt to find 3-D glasses so my daughter could watch the Hannah Montana concert on the Disney Channel tonight.  I did finally find two pair.  They gave both of us headaches about halfway through the concert.  We turned it off.  Oh the things a father will put himself through for his kid!
  • I'm hungry.
  • The word "villager" has three syllables.
  • "If you want to become a brand manager, you need to be self-motivated" - Wise words from a recent article in the JOBS section of the Star-Tribune.
  • Despite enjoying the show about squirrels, I feel the need to inform the public that I'm not a current fan of the real creatures.  Really, I have mixed feelings.  I have two apple trees in my front yard.  One of them only had three apples started on it before the squirrels got at them.  The other one has easily over 80 apples on it at the moment.  I'm estimating that I'll have about 8 left if the little rats with fluffy tails keep up their current rate of apple desecration.
  • Some things are so trivial... like, trivia, for instance:  "Nearly 22,000 checks will be deducted from the wrong account over the next hour." -  Does it make me evil that I really hope that the ones I wrote are included in that 22,000?


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