A Theater Festival Within a Theater Festival

Minnesota Fringe gets a little bigger—and a little more family-friendly

Courtesy Fringe Festival, from their 2017 festival.
A dancer from the 2017 Fringe Festival.

Last year, the Minnesota Fringe Festival coordinated a jaw-dropping 800-plus theater and dance performances across a dozen venues. This year, on its 25th birthday, it’s expanding by adding a mini festival: Family Fringe

While the name basically explains what it is—a Fringe festival where the performances are suitable for all ages, or as the organizers put it, “multi-generational”—there are some other differences too. Here are six of them: 


1. Family Fringe is juried.

This is probably the difference that matters the most. Fringe Festival has always prided itself on its non-juried, non-censored approach, but that doesn’t always make for the most family-friendly performance. Instead of just telling groups to focus on being more G-rated, though, Fringe brought in a whole panel to curate a lineup that would be the perfect start for the new mini festival: David Brookins, Minnesota Fringe board of directors; Peter Brosius, artistic director at the Children’s Theatre Co.; Jay Gilman, the artistic director of Minnesota Fringe; Allegra Lingo, writer, storyteller, and musician; Michelle De Joya, actor, movement artist, and acrobat; Isabel Nelson, artistic director of Transatlantic Love Affair; and Shayla Roland, associate producer at Penumbra Theatre Co. 

They judged pieces on artistic vision, production feasibility, style and aesthetic, and inclusion, and looking at the six-play lineup, they went for ones with high energy and a lot of visual and multi-sensory appeal.


2. Family Fringe is only on select days. 

The Fringe Festival takes over the theater and dance scene from Aug. 2 through Aug. 12, but Family Fringe is only Thursdays through Sundays. 


3. Family Fringe is all in one place. 

This year’s Fringe Festival is down its Uptown theater hub, but it still has more than a dozen stages between its Northeast Hub and Cedar-Riverside Hub. Because of all the venues, it means layers of scheduling and the potential to theater hop your way across the neighborhood. Not so much with Family Fringe, and if you’re toting a large group, you’ll probably thank them for that. 


Family Fringe shows all take place in St. Paul’s Celtic Junction event space, making for easy planning. There’s even parking on two sides of the building if you don’t want to take public transportation.


4. Family Fringe does not do day passes.

If you want to see multiple shows, you have to buy a ticket per show. Adults are $10; children 12 and under are $5. 


5. Family Fringe has its own Fringe Central, and it’s hopping. 

Literally 0.2 miles away from the Celtic Art Junction is Family Fringe Central, at the very fitting Can Can Wonderland. Every day of Family Fringe has some sort of programming, whether it’s as simple as Bingo or Can Can Karaoke or something more involved like creating hand-printed posters or learning DJ and tap dancing skills. Plus, when you’re taking part in the specific Fringe activities, there’s the whole crazy mini golf course and small arcade hall to explore.


6. Family Fringe is unsurprisingly for all ages, and they mean it. 

Of the shows, all but one are appropriate for children as young as 2 years old, and the show that has a higher age recommendation, Experience Haiti, has the low recommended threshold of 7 years old.

Just because your 2-year-old will enjoy it doesn’t mean you won’t, though. Hit the Lights! Theater Co., who received rave reviews and sold out audiences at last year’s Fringe Festival for their shadow puppetry, have returned again from out east with a show for Family Fringe about a horse trying to unit with its tail. Locally based CAAM Chinese Dance puts on a performance that symbolizes the role of different animals in Chinese culture. And even if you don’t get as into Stepping Stone Theatre’s plot about the world of an egg, the creative physical theater and beat-boxing soundscape is something everyone can appreciate. 

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