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July 31, 2015

Minnesota Fringe Festival—A Summer Treat!

Filed under: Arts — Alison Aten @ 1:08 pm

Offstage Voicesfringelogo_dark_on_whitePeg Guilfoyle, whose new book Offstage Voices: Life in Twin Cities Theater, comes out in September, is fond of the Fringe Festival.

“It’s such a scene!” she says. “Performing arts audiences love a kind of under-the-lit-marquee vibe, when people are crowding along a sidewalk toward the box office, standing on the street during intermission, clutching their programs and talking talking talking about the show. The Fringe is perfect for that.”

The Fringe audience, passionate and opinionated, makes for great eavesdropping, especially at Rarig Center on the West Bank of the University, the home of the Department of Theatre Arts and Dance. Rarig contains four different theaters with a total of nearly a thousand seats; its vast and echoing atrium will be jammed with theater-goers, talking among themselves and to strangers about the shows they’ve seen and will see. The building will present forty-four different shows over the ten-day Fringe, none more than an hour. “It’s deafening, and exciting,” says Guilfoyle, “to stand in that space and watch these big audiences surge in and out.” The Fringe also presents shows in twenty other locations in Minneapolis during the festival. Rarig is within easy walking distance of Mixed Blood and Theatre in the Round.

For her new book, Guilfoyle sat down with Fringe executive director Jeff Larson, who was clear about the unique nature of the Fringe experience.

“We have a lot of people who take off work and see fifty-five shows—that’s the maximum you can see on our schedule. These people get more and more excited every year and they talk about it year round.

“We’re growing the audience,” Larson goes on. “We’re a gateway drug. The tickets are inexpensive, it’s easy, you can dress however you want. Theater is not intimidating; it’s not something you should do to better yourself. It’s just another form of entertainment. We’re getting that idea into people’s heads.”

Larson adds that post-show conversation is built into the Fringe Festival experience: “What you want is the kind of work that you’ll talk about at the bar afterward. The fantastic and the terrible really stick with you, and you cannot wait to get to the bar and say, ‘Did you see that?!’ We tell the artists to invite your audience to meet you at the bar; the bar is just as important to the festival as any of the art is.”

“The Fringe is a great way to experience our wide and wonderful Twin Cities theater community,” says Guilfoyle, whose new book includes interviews with forty leading artists from directors to actors to designers. “An incredible variety of work, presented at an incredible speed. What a summer treat!”

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