Thursday, August 7, 2014

Musings About the Minnesota Fringe Festival

This past weekend I was able to take in a couple of shows that are part of the Minnesota Fringe Festival. For those (like the couple who attended with me) who are Fringe “virgins,” the Minnesota Fringe Festival, one of many such festivals in the US, is the largest “nonjuried”  festival (meaning shows are selected by lottery) and reportedly the third largest fringe festival of any sort in the nation. This shouldn’t come as a surprise if you already knew that Minneapolis is second only to NYC in live theatre per capita.

The Fringe Festival is a collection of shows performed at a host of venues over 11 days (this year, 169 shows and 19 venues from July 31 through August 10). Each show is 60 minutes or less and they are conveniently scheduled to permit seeing more than one show on a given day or evening. While the content of shows is wide-ranging (comedy, drama, dance, youth, opera, etc.), frequent readers (and others who know me) won’t be shocked to learn that both shows I attended were musicals.

It was a typical Fringe experience. One of the shows, Top Gun: The Musical, was basically a one-joke parody—light on substance and a cast not up to the task. The other, Pretty People Suck (And Other Undisputable Facts About The Universe), was as good as anything I’ve ever seen at the Fringe. Clever songwriting, excellent acting—something that, with a little work, could have a future life.

One of the things that struck me about the shows was just how many creative and (sometimes) talented people work tirelessly to bring these works to the stage. Given the economics, they aren’t doing it for the money (although a few shows, including one of my favorites of the last decade, sometimes graduate from festivals like this to commercial productions). 

Just like someone else I know really well, they probably do this because of the challenge of the creative process and the reward of seeing something you create come to life. I suppose it isn’t all that different from the rush that entrepreneurs get from creating a successful business out of nothing more than an idea—but without all the equity return.

The Fringe runs through Sunday, so you still have a chance to take in a performance!

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