Fringe By Numbers: Urgent Previews

There comes a time when one runs up against deadlines.  Sadly, not every interview invitation I sent out to various companies got back to me as soon as I would've hoped.  Sadly, I cannot write these any more quickly.  Actually, I could, but I think my editor would hurt me if I did.  When it comes down to it, I'm still not used to the fact that what I write goes through an editor.  It doesn't bother me.  I kind of like having someone else having a vested interest in what I'm writing.  But, I'm also used to just posting my blog and having it instantly available to the public.  That isn't the way it goes here at City Pages.  I send all sorts of stuff to my editor, he deals with it, and then it gets put online.  If I cranked out stuff any faster, I'm pretty sure that Jeff (that's his name) would be buried under a mountain of my crap and nobody else's.  Last I checked there's a lot of other stuff on this website, so I'm guessing he wouldn't appreciate it if I kept spewing stuff forth in his direction.


What I'm trying to say here is that I'm up against a wall.  There are a number of companies who did get back to me, but I can't do full-length features on each of them.  Otherwise they won't get posted before the Fringe Festival starts.  And when it comes down to it, what good is a preview article if it isn't really before the event?

To do something about this situation, I'm going to compile many mini-previews in this one entry.  Ready?  Go!

  • No Refunds Theater Company -- Sun Tzu's The Art of War:  This is a remount of a play that had a pretty successful run earlier in the year.  It was written for the group by Charlie Bethel.  It is based, oddly enough on an ancient Chinese text.  Answering my interview questions were company members Matt Dawson and Christopher Howie.  Here's one response that stuck out to me:

    Q: What inspired this work?  Why the Fringe?

    MD: This quote from the book: "A sovereign at court cannot raise an army because he is enraged, nor can a general fight because he is resentful. For while an angered man may again be happy, and a resentful man again be pleased, a state that has perished cannot be restored, nor can the dead be brought back to life."

    Also, student loans.

    CH: The Military Industrial Complex.

  • Mad Munchkin Productions -- Stimulate This!:  Laura Wilhelm and Alan Pagel combine to make up this company.  They, along with collaborators Jen Rand, Ted Hansen, and Cameron Hager, have created a piece of work that plays fast and loose with the world in which we live.  The idea sprang from the economic stimulus checks that have recently been flowing in to and back out of bank accounts across America.  Some of their thoughts:

    Q: Is there any significance behind the name of your company?

    A: When we were first joining forces there were two options for our company name, Alan's PS Productions (AKA Poop Stick Productions) and Laura's Masked Munchkin Productions from prior work.  Since we're both short and crazy we settled on Mad Munchkin Productions, leaving the poop and masks out of it in the end.

    Q:  What are you doing right now to prepare for the Fringe?

    A:  Painting purple bricks, finishing props, last adjustment on costumes, and passing out postcards like mad.

  • Empty S Productions -- Roofies in the Mochaccino:  Empty S is MTS, that is Michael Thomas Shaeffer, slam poet extraordinaire.  His show Tantrums, Testicles, and Trojans was something I wrote about a lot a few years ago.  His "Ode to a Colostomy Bag" is still one of my favorite humorous poems to this day.  Checking in with Michael got me the following responses:

    Q: What inspired this work?

    A:  This show was inspired by the success of Tantrums, Testicles, and Trojans.  It's an hour of new slam poems with roughly the same humor and vibe as my 2005 entry.

    Q:  Are there any unique challenges working on this project?

    A:  Memorization for these slam pieces have been much tougher than the ones I did three years ago.    It'll be fresh come Thursday.    I'm shooting for polished but not over-rehearsed.

  • Behemoth Theatre Company -- The Legend of Little Bad: Not Her Father's Fairytale:  Symmonie Preston was in a production of The Tempest that I directed many years ago.  Since that time she has had a couple of kids.  This part of her history seems to lead directly into why she has entered a show into this year's Fringe in the "kids" category:

    Q:  What inspired this work? 


    A:  My 4 year old was upset that she had never seen me in anything. That's because I mostly do classical theatre and she isn't old enough to come. So, she looked me in the eye and said that I should just write a play for her and fix that problem. I chuckled and said I'd think about it. Be careful what you tell a 4 year old- they will not forget. So, after many reminders I promised her that I'd apply for a kid's fringe slot and if I got one I'd write that play she wanted. I went to the lotto thinking that I'd never get a slot and would be off the hook. I had assumed that there would be a plethora of people creating things to challenge kids, allow them to participate, and introduce them to the magical world that we frequently take for granted when we enter the theatre to do our work. Turned out that there hadn't even been enough applications to fill all of the kid's slots. That was an eye opener- and it made me determined to pull out all the stops and give her and all of the kids like her a real treat. She loves the story of the Big Bad Wolf and had asked for something to do with him. I got to thinking and wondered what the Big Bad Wolf might want for his daughter and what I would want for mine. This show is that show.

  • Four Humors Theater -- Mortem Capiendum:  I first saw the guys of Four Humors during a remount of their first Fringe show, Inspector Rex.  Since then they have become perennial favorites, and dare I say heavy-hitters on the Fringe scene.  They have a great sense of humor.  Nick Ryan has traditionally written the shows by the company, but that is not the case this time... at least, not exclusively.  This piece was created by Ryan, as well as Matt Spring, Brant Miller, and Jason Ballweber.  Nick was originally the one who I sent my questions to, but he then forwarded them on to the rest of the crew, who were touring Canada at the time!  A couple of their answers:

    Q:  What are you doing right now to prepare for the Fringe?

    A:  We've shown Mortem Capiendum at the Cincinnati, Toronto and Winnipeg Fringe Festivals and over the course of our trips a great deal of fine-tuning has occurred. By the time we reach Minnesota, we will have performed the show for over twenty audiences, and we've made new discoveries during every single one.

    Q:  Do you like Canada?

    A:  Yes, everyone is extremely nice. Suspiciously so.

So... That about wraps that up.  I do have two more previews with people who didn't fill out my form because I actually was able to sit down with them.  Look for them shortly.  Otherwise, this is it!  We're officially on the home stretch.  The fringe starts in just over 24 hours and I'm getting ready for "Day 1: The Beginning".


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