Art beat // Lyn-Lake on the Fringe

Entertainment hot spot is a Fringe Festival node

THE WEDGE — Southwest, you have a front-row seat for the 2010 Minnesota Fringe Festival.

The Lyn-Lake area, long a node of Fringe activity, is hotter than ever this year with six venues in the general vicinity, including the Jungle Theatre for the first time in about four years.

Asides aside, with nearly one-third of the 19 venues located in Southwest, a large part of this year’s Fringe Festival action is happening on your doorstep, so there’s no reason not to pick up a $4 Fringe button and pop into a few shows. No Fringe show runs longer than an hour, so even a dud is relatively painless, and a good show will leave you wanting more.

More people, it seems, are catching Fringe fever. Ticket sales topped 46,000 for the 2009 Fringe, a record for the festival now in its 17th year.

That momentum carried over to this spring, when the number of theater companies entering the lottery for a slot in this year’s Fringe lineup soared.

“We had just shy of 400 applicants, which was a record number,” said Matthew Foster, festival communications director. “We actually take bets in the [Fringe] office as to how many we’re going to get, and all of us underbid.”

There are 169 productions on this year’s schedule, the most since 2005. But even the most dedicated festival-goer would struggle to catch a third of those shows.

The festival experience begins with picking and choosing among the options, and that’s easier than this year thanks to a new-and-improved Fringe website with Netflix-like browsing features. For a taste of this year’s Fringe, here’s a brief look at three shows:

“The Anton Kissbougel Technique”
Balance Fitness Studio, 3350 Lyndale Ave. S.

“I have spent my time on ‘yoga row’ here on Lyndale Avenue,” admits local performing artist and yoga practitioner Dylan Fresco, who offers this “loving ode to every class that’s ever asked you to lie on the floor and release.”

One of the festival’s site-specific Bring Your Own Venue productions, Fresco takes over Balance Fitness Studio to lead audience members through the basics of the Anton Kissbougel Technique, a new-agey blend of yoga and meditation practices “with a unique focus on the digestive process.”

The titular yogi is based in Seacaucus, New Jersey, if you believe everything you read on the Internet (kissbougel.vpweb.com). If you don’t, trust Fresco that this is a show “for folks who’ve ever taken a yoga class and were like: ‘Sorry, what?’”

This is interactive satire, so wear your yoga pants.


“The Tiki War”

Jungle Theater, 2951 Lyndale Ave. S.

Local filmmaker John Ervin taps into the zeitgeist, setting this jazzy noir drama in 1961 Chicago — the dawn of the moment’s most popular decade thanks to AMC’s hit show, ‘Mad Men.’

Set in the same year of the failed Bay of Pigs Invasion, Ervin’s script was as much influenced by his readings on Cuban history and the Bacardi Rum family as it was by the glass-clinking lounge sound of KFAI’s Jet Set Planet radio show. (Fans of Jet Set Planet DJ Glen Leslie might want to show up just for his handpicked soundtrack tunes.)

The action takes place in the wee hours at a Chicago tiki bar, and the five-actor play has all the elements of a great crime story: booze, drugs, love and a nightclub owner so fantastically evil Ervin called him “practically Satan.”


“#Ringtone”

Fallout Arts Initiative, 2609 Stevens Ave. S.

Another site-specific work, writer-director Alan Berks’ multimedia piece explores the state of communication in an age when personal interactions are mediated by an arsenal of electronic devices.

“On a really simple level it’s a show about six people in search of a good connection — and the pun is intended,” Berks says.

Developed with the help of a state arts grant and first staged last year in Rogue Buddha gallery, the “#Ringtone” uses dance elements to contrast the transient non-verbal cues of face-to-face interaction with the kind of text-based communication we tap out on our cell phones.

It’s staged promenade style, so expect to move around. And you know that reminder to turn off your cell you’ll hear before every Fringe show? For once, you can ignore it.


Go see it
The Minnesota Fringe Festival runs Aug. 5–15 at various venues in Minneapolis and St. Paul. A $4 Fringe button is required for admission for teens and adults. Single-show tickets are: $12 for adults; $10 for students, seniors and Minnesota Public Radio members; and $5 for children 12 year old and younger. 866-811-4111. fringefestival.org.