Theater on the edge of immediacy

The Minnesota Fringe Festival packs more plays than ever into an all-too-brief span

Greg Corradini

The “fringe” in the Minnesota Fringe Festival is a statement of artistic piety and frivolity.

“I sort of think of the fringe festival as a nice barometer of what’s out there in the (artistic) world,” said Leah Cooper, “grand poobah” and executive director for the Minnesota Fringe Festival.

From oddball basement performers to established theater companies, the 11th annual Minnesota Fringe Festival is a 10-day orgy of thespianism and its disciples.

With 176 live performances and 21 venues, the Minnesota Fringe Festival is the largest in the nation. Theater, dance,

visual art, spoken-word and comedic stand-up shows will rake the coals of experimentation and invention.

The foolhardy and the highbrow can come together and contemplate the incongruities of Delaware, for example.

In “Delaware, and Other Lies,” University lecturer and theatrical wing-nut Ari Hoptman will recite bad poetry, stories and schtick on purpose. All the while, the show’s title will remain elusive.

“Well, I just liked the title. (My) titles rarely have anything to do with the show,” said Hoptman, a Fringe veteran. Last year Hoptman was the author of “Schtick and Its Relation to the Unconscious.”

If political conventions are more your thing, then there are plenty of puppets too.

“Death Penalty Puppetry” examines the pros and cons of capital punishment and those who manipulate popular puppet consent.

And, as the festival’s title promises, there will be fringe benefits and frilly garments.

Foxy Tann’s “Miss Biracial Upper Midwest” highlights the virtues of being a gifted and black (read exotic) entertainer in white Superior, Wis. And that’s only a snapshot of what’s going on in the festival.

There are also new areas.

“Visible Fringe” features 17 visual artists and their respective exhibits. Low-brow humor disembowels highfalutin artistic integrity with new comedic stand-up acts and skits in “Stand-Up Fringe.” And there is even Fringe Central, a hangout for those who want to get in touch with the artists.

As always, this year’s activities are proof that Minnesotans are not only crazy but also openly support crazy performers.

“It takes a rare community to support a fringe festival. You’ve got to have a few things in place. Most importantly, you have to have an audience that is open-minded and wants to take risks and see original, unique and diverse work,” Cooper said.