Ahead of the curve

The Minnesota Fringe Festival is on its way

Niels Strandskov

One of the most poignant scenes in Danny Boyle’s 1996 film adaptation of Irvine Welsh’s cult novel “Trainspotting” occurs during the famous Edinburgh International Festival. A dopey tourist walks into one of the grotty pubs frequented by the principals and asks directions to the restroom. As he walks off screen, we see a motley bunch of hoodlums rise from their stools to follow. In the next shot, one’s trying on his jacket while the others divvy up the rest of the loot. Luckily, there’s little risk of anything like that happening to any patrons of the Minnesota Fringe Festival, the offshoot of an offshoot of that gargantuan entertainment extravaganza.

The idea of a “fringe” festival, paralleling Edinburgh’s famous gallimaufry of theater, film and other artistic endeavors, first popped up in 1947 when eight local theater groups were not invited to be part of the larger program. In the 56 years since, this ragtag, nose-thumbing bunch has grown to be a behemoth in its own right. The Edinburgh Fringe Festival sells 800,000 tickets a year now, taking in 6.6 million pounds in revenue. The Minnesota Fringe Festival doesn’t do quite that much business, but it is the biggest Fringe Festival in the country, with over 150 shows each playing five times over the course of its 10-day run in the Twin Cities. The Fringe features traditional theater, puppetry, dance, storytelling, spoken word and visual art. This year marks the 10th year of the Minnesota Fringe Festival.

There are plenty more statistics where those came from, but suffice it to say that we have an incredible opportunity to see new work from performers across the talent spectrum. At a typical Fringe show, patrons can expect to see talented local and/or out of town actors performing new plays in an electrifying atmosphere of experimentation and innovation. This is not to say that the Fringe relies on avant-garde pretension. Quite the opposite proves to be the case, as many of the works are presented on a very accessible level, preserving the original irreverent spirit of the Fringe.

In next week’s Minnesota Daily Arts section, we’ll highlight some of the best plays showing at this year’s Fringe, which should give you at least three chances to see each

of them before the end of their respective runs. In the meantime however, please view the Fringe’s website at www.fringefestival.org, where you’ll find complete lists of shows, show times, venues and directions. The shows are searchable by a variety of criteria. The Minnesota Fringe Festival is one of the crucial facets of our deservedly vaunted theater scene. Don’t miss out!

The Minnesota Fringe Festival runs Aug. 1-10 at various locations. Please call (612) 872-1212 for more information.

Niels Strandskov welcomes comments at [email protected]