Marvel Ann and other Queer Icons Return to the 25th Annual Fringe Festival – Along with Talented Younger Artists As Well!

The 2018 Minnesota Fringe Festival sees the return of three beloved performers who gave us some of the event’s most iconic queer performances in years past: Minneapolitan Heidi Arneson, “Les from Los Angeles”, and Dennis LeFebvre, whose Marvel Ann Theatre has been one of the nation’s great ensembles in the realm of camp satire. Not to mention direction from Obie-award winner David Drake.

Fringe also features other queer-oriented work, ranging from the biblical to Old Hollywood to an alcoholic gay son’s relationship with his mother. Other pieces dealing with immigration, women’s history, sex work, and nuclear power are also good bets for engaging performances if you’re looking for work that challenges what some would call the status quo.

Fringe, as always, takes place at numerous Twin Cities venues and each show is scheduled at various times and lasts under an hour. That means you can binge on several shows in case you’re so inclined.

Dangerous When Wet-Booze, Sex, and My Mother. Photo by George Anttila

Dangerous When Wet: Booze, Sex, and My Mother
Augsburg Studio
625 22nd Ave. S., Minneapolis

Writer-performer Jamie Brickhouse draws from numinous fictional icons beloved in the gay community over a generation ago: gritty Mama Rose from Gypsy and the ultra-vivacious Auntie Mame. His solo show draws from his personal battle with alcoholism. Brickhouse says, “By reliving on stage the highs—loss of virginity in Acapulco and drunk dialing Peggy Lee—and lows—an alcoholic suicide attempt inspired by Joan Crawford in Humoresque that made and nearly unmade me, it reminds me of my promise to myself to stay sober.” He says that “gay men and mothers of gay men seem to love my show.” Directed by David Drake, known for his OBIE-winning AIDS crisis solo piece, The Night Larry Kramer Kissed Me.

Dreaming
Southern Theater
1420 Washington Ave. S., Minneapolis

Acclaimed dancer Gabriel Mata moves with ethereal fluidity. With the solo piece, Dreaming, he says that “the work delves deep beyond images and sensations occurring in a person’s mind during sleep—it intertwines experiences of being a Dreamer (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals). The work exposes the psychological and mental results that accompany immigrants’ trauma with wit, leaps, kicks and unpredictability. The dance shuffles through episodes that expose psychology between living experiences, aspirations, and dreams.”

I Never Knock. Photo by Joshua Lemon

I Never Knock
Augsburg Mainstage
625 22nd Ave. S., Minneapolis

Director-writer John Ervin has created a bisexual lead character named Rebecca Belvedere, reminiscent of Tallulah Bankhead, who is actually open about her orientation between the 1920s and ’50s. (Bankhead and playwright Tennessee Williams were rare examples being un-closeted in a homophobic era.) Her ex-husband is actually openly gay, but conflict ensues when they both compete for the attention of a young up-and-coming male star. Adding to the mix is a trans stage manager who is, in fact, legally married to a stagehand. Ervin’s perspectives reflect how suppressed sexual orientation and gender identity were compelled to exist over half a century ago. I Never Knock is an opportunity to grasp just how radically things have changed. We can ask: what was lost and what has been gained? It reminds us there is a whole unspoken queer history that we can never really know.

Itchy Tingles
Rarig Center Xperimental
330 21st Ave. S., Minneapolis

Heidi Arneson was one of the major iconoclastic performance artists in the Twin Cities during the 1990s. Her kooky satirical approach was and is her aesthetic signature. She gained a following from performances at the Walker Art Center, Patrick’s Cabaret, and the Cedar-Riverside People’s Center.  Arneson was and still is fascinated by girlhood: its biological mysteries and unspoken curiosities. With her latest, she portrays the acute awareness of the phobia held by many grownups that implies little girls are not to kiss one another on the lips. Her eagerly awaited Itchy Tingles looks into the fear of monsters, the secrets of reproduction, and the possibility of impending death during a hot summer on a Midwestern lake.

This one-of-a-kind writer-performer is renowned specifically for her zany personification of girls’ behaviors as shown in her solo work and her stage comedy, Bloodymerryjammyparty. At the Fringe, she will be accompanied by classical guitarist Tony Hauser’s live arrangements of Spanish composer Isaac Albeniz. Rebelliousness and the joy of being guileless will surely reign. How could it not when the setting is a lost land where kids are said to run naked and swim free and where fathers burst with hot lava? Arneson muses on myths of sex and propriety and of the concepts of Good and Evil.

Jeannette Rankin. Photo courtesy of Montana Historical Society

Jeanette Rankin: Champion of Persistence
Augsburg Studio
625 22nd Ave. S., Minneapolis

Writer-performer J Emily Peabody relates, “Jeanette Rankin, the first woman elected to Congress from Montana in 1916, voted against both world wars and challenged injustice at every turn of her 93 years of life. She was full of passion for justice, a thorn in the side of the establishment, a champion of the poor and labor, a fighter for reform, and a dedicated true peace activist. She was personable with a wry sense of humor. You must meet her.”

Kaboom. Illustration by Iris Rose Page

Kaboom
Rarig Center Thrust
330 21st Ave. S., Minneapolis

Sheep Theater, one of the Twin Cities’ notable newer small theater companies, takes on ideas drawn from myth and ideas that are bigger than life. And what could be any bigger, yet horrifically possible, than nuclear destruction? Kaboom imagines a President who retaliates recklessly using atomic missiles. The gifted composer John Hilsen says he “plans on complimenting the high intensity of the show with music inspired from thrillers of the 1960s.”

Summers in Prague. Photo by Christian Calabrese

Summers in Prague
Rarig Center Arena
330 21st Ave. S., Minneapolis

Kimberly Miller is directing a Sidecar Theatre and Chameleon Theatre Circle co-production that deals with a controversial subject. Summers in Prague by Milwaukee’s Deanna Strasse involves a 35-year-old female English teacher, played by Samantha Papke, who gets a sudden uncharacteristic fancy to hire a male escort played by Avi Aharoni. Conventional thought asserts that it is men who hire escorts, rather than women. And there’s probably truth to this. Nonetheless, it’s not talked about much so we don’t know what we don’t know. Therefore, Strasse is taking us into uncharted territory. The two featured actors are known locally for their fine performances with the Classical Actors Ensemble.

Vertograph
Rarig Center Thrust
330 21st Ave. S., Minneapolis

Camp creative genius, Dennis LeFebvre, is thrilled about what he relates is the “reboot of a Marvel Ann Theatre’s 2004 comedy/adventure about an unhinged 1960s housewife who is catapulted to the Fourth Dimension in a desperate search for her children. Then she comes to grips with her daughter’s budding sexuality, her homophobia towards her son (What’s the S’s for?) and her role as ‘Mrs.Ted Anderson’. Underneath the absurdities of galactic cheerleaders, erupting volcanoes, and ghosts, lies a message about the limited choices of women in the Kennedy era, and how having an identity outside the confines of homemaking was considered an act of defiance.”

LeFebvre’s past Fringe gems include Funny Sound of Music GirlThe Bee-Lievers, a sordid tale of cultish lesbian bee-worshipers, and The Secret Life of Kitty Williams in which LeFebvre himself seemed to have miraculously channeled both Susan Hayward and Shelly Winters into his very biology! We’re talking right out of John Waters and then some! And did I mention his Battle Ax Galactica?

He observes, “It’s interesting, how as we move further and further away from the AIDS epidemic, how drag has not only come back out of the closet, it is as mainstream as apple pie.”

Walking While Black in Moscow
Ritz Studio
345 13th Ave. NE, Minneapolis

Les Kurkendaal from Los Angeles has delighted Minnesota Fringe audiences many times over the past several years with his hilarious insights on the intersection between blackness and gayness. His latest relates yet another remarkable personal experience. This time, it’s about going to a country known for institutionalized homophobia and counting one’s blessings for being an American citizen. Kurkendaal shares that “traveling to Russia was a very eye opening experience. By seeing the way that gays and lesbians are treated there, it made me realize all of the things I take for granted living as a gay man in the U.S. Here I can be married. In Russia you have to keep your relationship a secret. Here I can be out and proud. In Russia, if someone finds out you are gay, you can lose your job and your home. Here we have RuPaul’s Drag Race. In Russia, a drag queen can be put in prison for performing in drag. It definitely.made me appreciate the life that I have here in the U.S.”

Womyn’s Mysteries. Photo by Kara Hakansson

The Womyn’s Mysteries
Minnsky Theater
1517 Central Ave. NE, Minneapolis

Chava Curland has been an active contributor to queer and feminist theater in the Twin Cities. Influenced by the structure of medieval mystery and biblical morality plays, she taps into Judeo-Christian archetypes to create See-Saw Theatre Lab’s inaugural piece, The Womyn’s Mysteries. It portrays leaders, lover, killers, mothers, rebels, and prophets. Curland states that “the definition of what it means to be a woman is constantly changing as time passes. In the last year alone, the discussion around women’s roles, identity, and power have been consistently at the forefront—especially in light of the #MeToo movement, continued discussion about racial inequality/exclusion in feminism, and increased visibility in the LGBTQA+ community. Through taking these biblical archytypes, and then exploring, bending, expanding, and pushing beyond them, we’re creating a platform where we can begin to unpack the challenges and shifting roles women+ face today.”

Minnesota Fringe Festival
Through Aug. 12
www.fringefestival.org

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