August Activities: The Fringe Festival, block parties, and others…

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WCCO Building, Nicollet Mall; the red letters mean it’s getting hotter, right?

There was an interesting article on MinnPost last week, discussing the place of “service journalism” in local television news segments, specifically WCCO’s “Goin’ to the Lake.” To be honest, I haven’t really watched TV lately, but I grew up watching WCCO as my parents favored local nightly news and recall the station with a certain fondness. If I recall, the local news oftentimes devoted a high percentage of their broadcast times to advertising new deals and quirky new things happening around the cities.  Of course, all of is this is to promote commercial activities in the state, rather than foster an  informed public kept up to date with political and current events; it’s all just self-celebratory back patting, isn’t it?

Then, I realized that’s kind of what I do; by “reporting” some of the fun stuff I enjoy, I am celebrating consumerism; though at least it is all mostly local, and is spending money on experiences rather than just stuff. As a history major who never took any formal journalism courses, I had not even thought of my writing as being in any way journalistic, still, I am pretty much engaged in, advising on the things I find out about, mainly just to have something to write about (and, to be honest, a little bragging rights, probably.)  Don’t even get paid for it!

And here we go into a busy month for stuff happening in the Twin Cities, including some of my favorites, like the Fringe Fest. We’ve got one more weekend left of the 2015 Minnesota Fringe Festival, and I’ve seen some pretty awesome shows so far! If you can, check a few out.

I started with a couple of hilariously nerdy ones, No Extra Lives and Kamehamehamlet, both at the Nimbus Theatre in Northeast Minneapolis. No Extra Lives was an ever evolving sideshow extravaganza celebrating classic video games and the extremes to which a human body can be subjected, that pretty much exemplifies what I love about the Fringe. Oops! The Entertainer subjects himself to all manner of impressive and humorous punishment for our entertainment, along with a cavalcade of retro video game puns- the segues between his acts, featuring video game discussions and linking them to his acts, are great buffers for the audience (and Oops!) to recover from the last bout of derring-do. The classic video game tunes played live were great, too.

Kamehamehamlet: Goodnight Saiyan Prince was, a bizarre nostalgic celebration of late ‘90s anime action, melodrama, and pathos as the nefarious but insecure Freeza debates and then murders the pompous but also insecure Saiyan Prince, Vegeta. They mock each other’s pun names and debate each others power levels and true forms. It is all appropriately over the top and bombastic, and quite hilarious to see the show’s epic battle scenes and alien landscapes replicated through the low budget props on stage. This one is probably most effective if you grew up in ‘90s as a fan of anime, or at least know someone who did!

I went to a few more over on the West Bank, at the Mixed Blood Theatre and the Theatre in the Round, respectively. My favorite show I’ve seen so far was definitely Melancholy London, adapted from a tale by Arthur Machen, a British master of the weird tale. Adapted by Tim Uhren, this was an eerie, taut piece with a lot of and great acting; the accents, in particular, seemed spot on. I don’t want to say anymore about the plot, which leads to some very chilling places and ends in a deliciously open ended way, in order to allow others to experience the twists and turns of this weird tale. I definitely need to read some more of Machen’s writing.

The next play, “And then…” was also interesting, allowing audience participation to choose in which direction the adventure goes, via voting. The set ninjas were a great idea in this play, in which two characters tried to discover their dreams as the audience determined in which direction their lives went, with the moral seeming to be that one should just go with the flow and see where life takes them. After all, who ever got anywhere with a Masters degree in Philosophy anyway? Much better to move to Florida with no plan, right?

It was interesting that both of the West Bank plays involved the vagaries of fate and coincidence, with one taking a dark, fatalistic take and the other an upbeat, positive interpretation. Both of them, coincidentally, quoted William Butler Yeats. Another one to add to the reading list!

There’s one more showing of each this Saturday; Kamehamehamlet at 2:30 on Saturday, and later, No Extra Lives at 8:30 at the Nimbus, Melancholy London at 2:30 at the Mixed Blood Theatre and And then… at 4:00 at the Theatre in the Round. Of course, there are over a hundred and seventy shows to choose from, so go see some different ones, too!

So, a lot of other fun things are happening in the coming weeks as well; a host of block parties, taking advantage of the last few months of dependably warm weather, are popping up to turn various Minneapolis streets into party zones, including the Pizza Luce Block Party tomorrow and the Mia Birthday Block Party at the Minneapolis Institute of Art on Sunday. So, everyone’s heard about the new branding on Mia, right? Service journalism! Both look fun and have free admission, and involve all that good stuff, like music from local bands, food from local food trucks, and other activities. I am particularly enthused for Mia’s 100th birthday event, which will close 24th Street in front of the museum and offer a lot of free stuff to do, including making your own art.

Next week is the fourth annual Internet Cat Video Festival at the Walker Art Center. I’ve been meaning to go for the past few years, but this will be the first time I’ll manage to make it, so I’m curious (like a cat!) to see what it’s all about.  Next Saturday is the Garlic Festival, just outside the metro in Hutchinson, celebrating my favorite allium, garlic! If you want to get enough local garlic to keep your food well seasoned all winter, this is a good festival to go to. I went a few years ago and there was a lot of fun stuff going on there, so I’m looking forward to seeing it again. The weekend after, the Japanese Lantern Lighting Festival returns to Como Park, which I wrote about last year, is still an annual summer tradition for me and I’m excited for this year’s Obon, especially with my own upcoming trip to Japan scheduled for September.

I’ll be reporting the scoop on these and more events as the month progresses.

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