Edit ModuleShow Tags

Fringe Benefits

Is the Minnesota Fringe Festival a springboard to theatrical success?



FOR EVERY BROADWAY smash that originates with a Mel Brooks or Monty Python movie, there are dozens of others that hail from much humbler beginnings. The Drowsy Chaperone, a hammy and nostalgic musical inspired by the Cole Porter era, opened on Broadway in 2006, but it premiered in 1999 at the Toronto Fringe Festival. Urinetown, a comic musical about a town’s water shortage, has a similar pedigree: It earned its first raves at the New York International Fringe Festival nearly a decade ago.


In the theater world, these are the ultimate rags-to-riches stories—acclaimed productions that began at the fringe festivals created by theater artists who felt unwelcome in the mainstream. Such yarns sustain the starry-eyed artists who slave away every August at the Minnesota Fringe Festival, the country’s largest non-juried fringe festival, which this year features 156 different shows at 18 different venues.


The Minnesota Fringe Festival is commonly seen, by performers and observers, as a proving ground for emerging thespians, directors, and other theater artists hoping to find professional work. Yet how often does a Fringe performer really get to Broadway, or the Guthrie Theater, or even the Bryant-Lake Bowl? How many more remain, by choice or circumstance, on the fringe-festival circuit that winds from Minnesota to New York and across the world? Is the Fringe, in other words, a steppingstone—or a career cul-de-sac?


The first Fringe occurred 61 years ago in Edinburgh, Scotland, when a handful of uninvited artists crashed a mainstream theater festival. The success of their uncensored lark came to be known as Festival Fringe, which remains in Edinburgh and is the largest and most prestigious of such festivals.


Today, the globe is dotted with hundreds of imitators, united in their dedication to showcase low-tech, hour-long performances. The shows are unjuried: No one is previewing them for offensiveness or, for that matter, quality. The Minnesota Fringe Festival, founded in 1993, selects participants by lottery, such that this year’s festival, which runs July 31 to August 10, includes a mix of professional theater companies (Bedlam Theatre) and beloved local actors (the Brave New Workshop’s Mike Fotis), as well as complete unknowns (Hastings High School Drama Club).


With such a grab bag, it can be intimidating for any theater fan, much less the artistic directors of local theater companies, to wade into the fray in search of the next great show. Most casting and artistic directors simply wait for the cream to rise to the top, reading reviews and listening for buzz. Near the end of each year’s festival, it’s generally clear who and what the standouts are. Some shows sell out instantly, and others feature fewer patrons than performers on the stage.


Richard Cook, the artistic director of Park Square Theatre in St. Paul, says he discovered David Mann, one of his favorite new theater talents, via such buzz. Intrigued by reviews of Mann’s popular comedic monologues at the Minnesota Fringe Festival a couple years ago, Cook began attending shows that Mann was directing outside the Fringe. Then he asked Mann to direct Park Square’s Taking Steps, a riotous Alan Ayckbourn farce that was perfect for his comic sensibilities. Cook has asked Mann back to direct Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde this season, a clever adaptation by local playwright and screenwriter Jeffrey Hatcher featuring top actors Emily Gunyou Halaas, Steve Hendrickson, and Stephen D’Ambrose.


In 2003, Mann was also spotted at the Fringe by Ron Peluso, artistic director of the History Theatre in St. Paul. Peluso asked him to flesh out his one-man show Revelations, which played at the History Theatre as Revelations of Mann. And last year, a staff member of the History Theatre who saw the one-woman Fringe show by Michelle Myers Berg, Blue Collar Diaries, procured a script for Peluso to review. “We don’t actively pursue Fringe shows,” says Peluso. “But if we see something that strikes our fancy and fits our mission [we’ll pursue it].” Berg’s story is about growing up in South St. Paul with a father who had fought in the Korean War. Peluso says he asked Berg to make some changes and additions; a longer version is slated to open at the History Theatre next March.


But such discoveries are relatively rare. Though the Guthrie’s Dowling Studio did host the first-ever Fringe Encore, a staging of the four best-attended shows of the 2006 festival, no fringe show has ascended to such heights locally on its own, much less gone the way of Urinetown. Perhaps the most notable success has been Buckets and Tap Shoes, a popular troupe of contemporary tap-dancers who premiered their act at the festival in 2004 and have since gone on to tour nationally.


Robin Gillette, the Minnesota Fringe Festival’s executive director, says the organization wants to put a little more bounce in the festival springboard, finding upstart fringe performers more opportunities outside the August showcase: “We’ve talked about making a specific push to artistic directors of local theaters and also to casting and booking agents to say, ‘Hey, the Fringe is an awesome place to discover new talent.’”


Not every Fringe performer, however, is entering the festival with the hope of getting noticed by mainstream producers. Already established performers sometimes use the Fringe to explore new directions, as the dancer Penelope Freeh has with contemporary choreography in recent years. Other performers have less, well, professional goals. As frequent Fringe performer Amy Salloway observes, “Some artists are fringing mostly to have a great social life, drink beer, and get laid.”


“I think fringes are the Swiss Army knife of artistic development,” says Salloway, a Minneapolis-based solo artist. Put another way, different artists expect different things from their Fringe appearances. The runaway hit of the 2005 Minnesota Fringe Festival, Please Don’t Blow Up Mr. Boban, was created by the young local troupe Live Action Set and Jon Ferguson, an up-and-coming director who’d recently arrived from London. Since then, Ferguson has sought to create his own opportunities, currently developing an adaptation of Animal Farm for the Southern Theater stage this fall, while Live Action Set has established itself as a player in the local avant-garde theater scene.
 

“There’s an amount of instant exposure available at the Fringe … a lot of people saw my work,” says Ferguson. “And those breaks would never have come if [Boban] was performing at just another venue and not specifically at the Fringe.”


Salloway found instant success at the Minnesota Fringe in 2003 with her solo show Does This Monologue Make Me Look Fat? In subsequent years, she returned and eventually decided her work was well-suited to the Fringe circuit: “I had a one-woman show that required absolutely nothing except me and a bottle of water,” she says. “How could theater be more portable than that?” She now spends nearly a third of each year traveling to various festivals across North America.


Sure, the circuit can be a slog, Salloway admits, but along the way, she’s also managed to pick up other better-paying bookings. She’s no closer to the Great White Way, but Salloway is pleased with her progress. She has a smattering of fans all across the world—on the fringes perhaps, but appreciative audiences nonetheless.

 

Christy DeSmith is a freelance writer and former arts editor at The Rake.

Edit ModuleShow Tags

Related Articles

Texas Beef Ribs with Hill Country Peach Glaze Recipe

Declare your independence from the usual burgers and brats with these savory sweet ribs that are dressed to impress.

MN Travel Guide: Where to Stay

The stop places to stay on your summer travels

Local Summer Reading Recommendations

Local booksellers tell us what they’re excited to read this season
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Comments may be edited for length, clarity, or appropriateness.

Add your comment:
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Read More: Editor's Picks

Hot Russian TV Star Odin Biron Moves Back to MN

Famous in Moscow, Duluth's Odin Biron starts a new chapter in Minnesota

July Arts & Entertainment Picks

Senior editor Quinton Skinner picks this month's top cultural events

Lake Itasca Naturalist Tends to Its Treasures

After 20 years at Itasca State Park, Connie Cox still turns to nature

Summer Swimwear Trends

Beat the heat with this summer's top swimwear trends

Style Profile: Dahlia Brue

Owner of Idun boutique in St. Paul gives modern style a reality check
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Most Popular

True Grit

How many times does Nicole Curtis, host of DIY Network’s reality hit Rehab Addict, have to insist that the dirt under her nails is real?

12 Great Neighborhoods

Each Twin Cities community has a distinct mix of shops, restaurants, and public spaces that define its unique character. Our insider’s guide to the metro area’s 12 best nodes tells you everything you need to spend a day exploring.

2014 Salary Survey: Who Makes What

How do your earnings compare to the governor’s? The guy releasing your car from the impound lot? We asked the nosy questions so you wouldn’t have to.

Best Doctors for Women 2013

We’ve located Minnesota’s best physicians and practitioners. 408 men and women nominated by their peers, compiled by yours truly. These are the doctors you can trust to get you feeling like yourself again—if not even better.

2014 Top Chiropractors

Edit ModuleShow Tags

Get Your Tickets Now!

Fine Spirits Classic

Sample high-end spirits from around the world, enjoy gourmet bites, and be entertained by local bartenders.

New Vintage - Wine Tasting

A wine club for your 20s and 30s.
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Recently Posted on MNMO

Texas Beef Ribs with Hill Country Peach Glaze Recipe

Declare your independence from the usual burgers and brats with these savory sweet ribs that are dressed to impress.

MN Travel Guide: Where to Stay

The stop places to stay on your summer travels

Golden Age Design's Midcentury-Modern Furnishings Store Opens

The midcentury-modern furnishings company opens its first storefront

Hot Russian TV Star Odin Biron Moves Back to MN

Famous in Moscow, Duluth's Odin Biron starts a new chapter in Minnesota

July Arts & Entertainment Picks

Senior editor Quinton Skinner picks this month's top cultural events

"Romance in Soviet Art" at the Museum of Russian Art

Images of love in Soviet Russia

MN Travel Guide: Where to Golf

Where to find the finest links in Minnesota

2015 Twin Cities School Guide: Best in Class

From preschool to graduate school, Minnesota’s students succeed in the classroom.
Edit ModuleShow Tags

MN Events Calendar Sponsored by:

June 2015

Come to Big Sandy Lodge and Resort to get all the delicious pancakes you can eat for only $5.

Cost: $5

Where:
Big Sandy Lodge and Resort
20534 487th Street
McGregor, MN  55760
View map »


Sponsor: Big Sandy Lodge and Resort
Telephone: 218-426-5040
Website »

More information

YogaFit's Mind Body Fitness Conference is where students work towards a Yoga Alliance registry, earn continuing education credits, or simply deepen one's yoga practice and transform...

Cost: $329- $975

Where:
Hilton Minneapolis
1001 Marquette Avenue South
Minneapolis , MN   55403
View map »


Website »

More information

Pride Parade Rooftop Viewing Party CRAVE Rooftop – Downtown Minneapolis Live DJ: DJ FANCY RESTAURANT Start time: 9am $5 from each ticket donated to OutFront Minnesota ...

Cost: $10 (includes free Absolute or Jameson cocktail)

Where:
CRAVE Rooftop
825 Hennepin Ave MN
Minneapolis , MN  55402
View map »

More information

Come join us at the Skyway Theatre as we take over the block for the Pride Parade!  Drinks and brunch starting at 9am and DJs at 12pm! Get the best seat for the best parade of the...

Cost: No Cover

Where:
Bar Fly & Maruso
715 Hennepin Ave
Minneapolis, MN  55403
View map »


Telephone: 612-333-6100
Website »

More information

Pride Parade Viewing Party UNION Rooftop – Downtown Minneapolis Start time: 9am (presale tickets) / 10am (day-of tickets) Live DJs: DJ Lindsay ‘Shiek’ Earney and DJ Lenka...

Cost: $10 (includes a free mimosas, glass of champagne or Absolute cocktail)

Where:
UNION Rooftop
731 Hennepin Ave
Minneapolis , MN  55403
View map »

More information

Show your Pride by taking part in the Twin Cities Pride Rainbow Run on Sunday, June 28th! Starting at Boom Island and ending near Loring Park, the route takes runners along Hennepin Avenue as...

Cost: $30

Where:
Boom Island Park
800 Sibley Ave NE
Minneapolis, MN  55413
View map »


Sponsor: Twin Cities Pride
Telephone: (612) 255-3260
Website »

More information

Join YogaLean's author Beth Shaw in this new 1 day YogaLean Transformational Workshop during the Minneapolis Mind Body Fitness Conference.  Explore holistic modalities of weight loss,...

Cost: $129.00

Where:
Hilton Minneapolis
1001 Marquette Avenue South
Minneapolis, MN  55403
View map »


Website »

More information

The 2015 Twin Cities Pride Festival features over 400 exhibitors, 40 food and beverage booths, 20 sponsors, and 300,000+ visitors who participate in this free celebration of the GLBT...

Cost: Free

Where:
Loring Park
1382 Willow Street
Minneapolis, MN  55403
View map »


Sponsor: Twin Cities Pride
Telephone: (612) 255-3260
Website »

More information

Join YogaLean's author Beth Shaw in this new 1 day YogaLean Transformational Workshop during the Minneapolis Mind Body Fitness Conference.  Explore holistic modalities of weight loss,...

Cost: $129.00

Where:
Hilton Minneapolis
1001 Marquette Avenue South
Minneapolis, MN  55403
View map »


Website »

More information

The 2015 Ashley Rukes GLBT Pride Parade will be held on Sunday, June 28, beginning at 11 a.m. along Hennepin Avenue in Downtown Minneapolis. The Parade route starts at 3rd and Hennepin and ends at...

Cost: Free or $40 Grandstand tickets

Where:
Hennepin Ave in Downtown Minneapolis
Hennepin & 3rd to Hennepin & Spruce
Minneapolis, MN  55403
View map »


Sponsor: Twin Cities Pride
Telephone: (612) 255-3260
Website »

More information

The Twin Cities Pride Entertainment Team is excited to bring you over 50 local acts during Pride Weekend. The schedule is below, but know that things are subject to change.  ...

Cost: Free. $10 General/$75 VIP for Pride in Concert 6/27 5pm at Loring Stage.

Where:
Loring Park
1382 Willow St
Minneapolis, MN  55403
View map »


Telephone: 612-255-3260
Contact Name: Twin Cities Pride
Website »

More information

The celebration will be held in true Lurcat style, featuring music, dancing, festive food, cocktails and more! Café & Bar Lurcat is central to the Pride festival in Loring Park and found...

Cost: Free to enter

Where:
Cafe & Bar Lurcat
1624 Harmon Pl
Minneapolis, MN  55403
View map »

More information

What do you get when you explore the magical, yet tangled, intersection between the genius of art and the self-destruction of addiction; set it to catchy music against a backdrop of vivid visual...

Cost: $25.00

Where:
Minnetonka Theatre
18285 Highway 7
Minnetonka, MN  55345
View map »


Website »

More information

The Minnesota Boychoir, under the direction of Mark Johnson, will be concluding their 2015 East Coast Tour with a Welcome Home Concert this Sunday, June 28 at the Graebner Memorial Chapel on the...

Cost: Free

Where:
Graebner Memorial Chapel
Saint Paul, MN

More information

Don’t miss one of Minnesota’s hippest and hoppiest events. This local craft beer tasting event includes live music and a ton of tasty appetizers paired with the best brews in the Twin...

Cost: $50

Where:
Nicollet Island Pavilion
40 Power St.
Minneapolis, MN  55401
View map »


Sponsor: Canvas Health
Website »

More information

Open Window Theatre is making a children's event of fantastical proportions with their summer youth theater production of James and the Giant Peach.  Roald Dahl's imaginative adventure...

Cost: ADVANCE: $6/child (lap child free), $8/student, $12/adult

Where:
Open Window Theatre
Metropolis Minneapolis Building
1313 Chestnut Avenue
Minneapolis, MN  55403
View map »


Telephone: 612-615-1515
Contact Name: Jeremy Stanbary
Website »

More information

We know it's the height of summer, so we think it's the perfect time to get a SUP you'll love. Get your board now while there is still plenty of summer left. Some of our hottest selling...

Cost: Free to attend

Where:
, MN


Sponsor: Silver Creek Paddle
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Join us for an afternoon of stories, music, and poetry that evoke and express a profound connection to place — places we’ve lived, struggled, thrived, seen changed or destroyed, or...

Cost: Free

Where:
Blue Ox Coffee Co
3740 Chicago Ave S
Minneapolis, MN  55407
View map »


Sponsor: Kairos Earth
Telephone: 405-365-8796
Contact Name: Chelsea Scudder
Website »

More information

We know it's the height of summer, so we think it's the perfect time to get a SUP you'll love. Get your board now while there is still plenty of summer left. Some of our hottest selling...

Cost: Free to attend

Where:
, MN


Sponsor: Silver Creek Paddle
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

RN’s and LPN’s for Evenings, Nights & Weekends - $2,000 hiring bonus Trillium Woods, a brand new continuing care retirement community, is opening on July 6th and we are having an...

Cost: Free

Where:
Trillium Woods
14633 Country Road 4
Plymouth, MN  55446
View map »

More information

Invest a few life-changing hours in our Power Trading Workshop, where you'll learn: How to identify points where supply and demand are out of balance and price is about to move. The two...

Cost: free

Where:
Online Trading Academy
7900 International Drive Suite 170
Bloomington, MN  55425
View map »


Telephone: 952-814-4410
Website »

More information

Bring your lunch and learn more about the opportunities to live, learn, and work with a community overseas through Peace Corps service.   Peace Corps is a federal agency which provides...

Cost: Free

Where:
Lake Phalen Picnic Pavilion
1600 Phalen Dr
St. Paul, MN  55106
View map »


Sponsor: Peace Corps
Telephone: 651.233.9605
Contact Name: Krista M. Mastel
Website »

More information

Bring your lunch and learn more about the opportunities to live, learn, and work with a community overseas through Peace Corps service. Peace Corps is a federal agency which provides U.S....

Cost: Free

Where:
Lake Phalen Picnic Pavilion
1600 Phalen Drive
St. Paul, MN  55106
View map »


Sponsor: Peace Corps
Telephone: 612.233.9605
Contact Name: Krista M. Mastel
Website »

More information

Enhanced and engaged learning, creating and sharing ideas, and forming partnerships are just a few benefits of collaborative classroom learning. Now, with tools like Office 365, OneNote for...

Cost: Free

Where:
Microsoft Store - Mall of America
162 South Ave
Bloomington, MN  55425
View map »

More information

 Join us for a 4th of July barbecue, yard games, and outdoor movie hosted by Mary Mother's Young Adult Catholics Hanging Together group. All are welcome! Bring a dish to share. This...

Cost: Free

Where:
Mary Mother of the Church in Burnsville
3333 E. Cliff Road
Burnsville, MN  55337
View map »


Sponsor: Young Adult Catholics Hanging Together
Telephone: 952-890-0045
Contact Name: Kosi Onyeneho
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

OneNote is a free cross-platform app that helps students and teachers save time, stay organized, and collaborate more effectively in and out of the classroom. Students can build portfolios of...

Cost: Free

Where:
, MN

More information

Summer is the sweetest time to savor the river, so sign up now for River City Revue! It's a delectable blend of live music, cool history, and hands-on art adventures, all happening at the Saint...

Cost: $10 - $15

Where:
St. Paul Yacht Club
375 W Water St
St. Paul, MN  55107
View map »


Sponsor: Mississippi River Fund, Works Progress & the National Park Service
Telephone: 651-291-8164
Contact Name: Katie Nyberg
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Enter the halls of Casket Arts to encounter the work of 20+ artists working in paint, sculpture, light, fibers, and sound. A one night only event with several site specific...

Cost: Free

Where:
Casket Arts Carriage House
1707 Jefferson St Ne
Minneapolis, MN  55413
View map »

More information

The flipped classroom is an innovative method of teaching that allows for multimedia lessons and in-class exercises. Now you can “flip” your own classroom using familiar tools like...

Cost: Free

Where:
Microsoft Store - Mall of America
162 South Ave
Bloomington, MN
View map »

More information

The foundation of Jillian's country-esque, classically trained songwriter-style musicianship was built on northern Minnesta's Iron Range. Under the talented eye of Helina Pakola, who has...

Cost: 5

Where:
Mankato Brewery
1119 Center Street
, MN  56003
View map »


Sponsor: Mankato Brewery
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

One of the most highly sought-after skills in the workforce today is coding. In this workshop, we’ll show you how to create an app from a template, add content, and upload an app to the...

Cost: Free

Where:
Microsoft Store - Mall of America
Bloomington, MN

More information

Bryan Olds Band will be performing live at Big Sandy Lodge and Resort on Friday, July 3. The folk-rock blues band plays a variety of original songs, as well as covers, ranging from Pearl Jam to...

Cost: Check with venue for details.

Where:
Big Sandy Lodge and Resort
20534 487th Street
McGregor, MN  55760
View map »


Sponsor: Big Sandy Lodge and Resort
Telephone: 218-426-5040
Website »

More information

The 90’s alternative rock band – The Mallrats – will take the Amphitheater stage at Grand Casino Hinckley on Friday, July 3 at 8:30 p.m. Following the show will be a spectacular...

Cost: $10 general admission

Where:
Grand Casino Hinckley Amphitheater
777 Lady Luck Dr
Hinckley, MN  55037
View map »


Website »

More information

Bunker’s Music Bar & Grill Presents Award Winning Vocalist Patty Peterson & Friends with Special Guest Melanie Rosales Friday, July 3, 2015 - 9:30pm 761 Washington Avenue N,...

Cost: $10.00

Where:
Bunker's Music Bar and Grill
761 Washington Ave N
#325
Minneapolis, MN  55401
View map »


Sponsor: Bunker's Music Bar and Grill
Telephone: 847-624-5087
Contact Name: Carrie Miller
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

It’s almost that special time of year again, where you pull out your flag, grab your lawn chair, and put on that sunscreen…the 68th annual Saint Anthony Park 4th of July Parade and...

Cost: Free

Where:
Saint Anthony Park/Langford Park
Saint Paul, MN  55108


Sponsor: 4th In The Park Committee & The Saint Anthony Park Community Foundation
Telephone: 651-343-7365
Contact Name: Josh Becerra, Jeanne Hansen, & Emma Seeley
Website »

More information

Mystic Lake’s Rock and Rockets Fourth of July Celebration returns this year with another spectacular fireworks display. The free, all-ages event will take place outside Mystic Lake beginning...

Cost: Free

Where:
Mystic Lake Casino Hotel
2400 Mystic Lake Blvd.
Prior Lake, MN  55372
View map »


Telephone: 952-496-7388
Website »

More information

Celebrate this Independence Day by watching fireworks light up the night sky over Big Sandy Lake. The event will take place at dusk, between Davis and Goff’s Bay, on the Fourth of July.

Cost: Free

Where:
Big Sandy Lodge and Resort
20534 487th Street
McGregor, MN  55760
View map »


Sponsor: Big Sandy Lodge and Resort
Telephone: 218-426-5040
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Restaurants

Browse all listings »

MNMO e-newsletters

MNMO E-newsletters
 

Your guide to the good life, delivered to your in-box.

Click here to sign up to receive MNMO e-newsletters.

Once you submit your email, you will then select which e-newsletters you want.

We don’t like spam either, so we’ll keep your e-mail address to ourselves.