Post-Fringe Blues ('pOst 'frinj 'blüz), n. – a psychological state of depression lasting roughly a week after The Closing Night Party, affecting the majority of Minneapolitan performers. Symptoms include waxing poetic about the merits of community and artistry, sitting alone at home feeling sorry for oneself, and suffering delusions of grandeur in regard to ones future as a performer.
I, my friends, am annually afflicted by the Post-Fringe Blues. And why wouldn’t I be? How else would one appropriately commemorate watching an absurd number of performances, acting ones brains out, developing artistic crushes on other performers, and partying for 11 straight days and nights? And I, my friends, am not alone: I hereby present Exhibit A: a blog post on the matter by the lovely Mo Perry; Exhibit B: a blog post on the matter by the fabulous Zoe; Exhibit C: a blog post on the matter by the best satirical writer in the country, Foster (look for the Daily Fringe #9 on the left side of the page); Exhibit D: a blog post on the matter by the best citizen reviewer west of the Mississippi and north of the Mason-Dixon Line, Philip Low. I’m sure there are more examples, but the sentiment is the same.
This year’s affliction, however, was different. Very different. In fact, so different it didn’t exist. I decided to thwart the Post-Fringe Blues by spending some long-overdue QT in my hometown, San Diego. I stayed with my extremely generous brother, I visited dozens of lifelong friends, I frolicked near tide-pools, climbed into ocean-side caves, shared glorious sunsets with my best friends in the whole world, jumped on my favorite suspension bridge to test impedance, and paid homage to the mighty blue Pacific. I sang. I was sung to. I was accosted by a timed sprinkler system. I performed one of my monologues for my anam cara in the middle of the beach in the middle of the night. I regained my footing. I became grounded. I remembered Home. And now here I am back in Minneapolis - proud and happy and refreshed and inspired.
And yes, I am proud. My Ministry of Cultural Warfare did good. Our average attendance for the run of the Fringe was 101%. We were awarded an extra performance in the final “Encore” timeslot. Out of 163 shows, we ranked #4 by percentage of capacity (um, fire code? what fire code?), and #10 by audience attendance (not bad for having a house size that only seated 110 people – there were several venues that were far larger).
And the reviews. Oh, the lovely reviews:
Pioneer Press: MUST SEE: The Unbearable Lightness of Being American Agitprop is practically the official language of the Fringe, but Matthew Foster’s lefty manifesto distinguishes itself with its suppleness of thought, its keen sense of observation and a heartfelt honesty that catches you off guard. Performers Leigha Horton and Nathan Surprenant provide just the right touch and some glistening moments, including some genuinely funny stuff that’s non-political but still germane. For Surprenant, that includes a riff on the Nicene Creed devoted to pop divas; for Horton, it features a spot-on meditation on young adult identity that hypothesizes that all those white kids talking black are actually “transracial.”
City Pages: The Unbearable Lightness of Being American Ministry of Cultural Warfare Leigha Horton and Nathan Surprenant tackle the state of the nation in 11 sketches and monologues scripted by Matthew Foster. What works is great: a chilling security-state interview that naturally can't happen here, an exposition on slavery to housecats, and an affectingly raw piece of musical storytelling that commands us to live in the America we were taught should exist. A few segments need more time in the oven, but the show's format ensures that another take on American life comes around the time you'd be looking for the remote control. Thu 7:00 p.m., Sat 8:30 p.m. Intermedia Arts.
"Great Show" by Brad Wagner: Nathan and Leigha are fantastic, the writing is fantastic and the overall flow from a directional standpoint is great. There was not a lull, it was a jam packed hour of entertainment. I highly suggest getting to this show, you will enjoy it. (Posted on Aug. 4)
"Political Satire that Works" by Tim Voss: Whatever its leaning, social and political satire is filled with traps. All too often, it comes off as strident, preachy, and very not-funny. MoCW's return to Fringe dodges all the pitfalls and comes up with a series of hilarious and witty sketches. The Essay Contest and The Art Show are excellent examples. Then there's Cats, a step by step guide to growing a family of cats. I'm the Decider is a dark, and not so funny, peak into what might well be our future. Leigha Horton and Nathan Surprenant do a superb job. Matthew Foster's videos are funny and sparkling. Must see. (Posted on Aug. 4)
"America, the Beautiful" by Ben Layne: Great performances, a fantastic script, and nary a dull moment in the whole hour. The opening "history" of America was a pitch-perfect start, and the closing "Stanzas" give what few politically-charged shows give - a message of hope, if you're willing to work for it. I could not have been more entertained, nor more pleased with the overall message. While these kinds of shows generally "preach to the choir," with much of the audience already inclined to agree with much of the content, the ending in a way serves as a much needed reminder to the "choir" of what's really important. Bravo! (Posted on Aug. 6)
"Smart, Funny and Entertaining" by Stephen Dwyer: The Unbearable Lightness of Being American is a must see this year at the Fringe Festival. The humor and social commentary are interwoven in such a way that you leave feeling hopeful as well as with a smile on your face. Both Nathan and Leigha are brilliant and who could pass up a show that pays tribute to Babs and patriotism. (Posted on Aug. 7)
"Outstanding Performance" by Catherine Mika: I loved the show! The writing was quick, witty and insightful. The material made you think twice about being an American. Nathan Surprenant and Leigha Horton were superb in the many characters they represented. This is a must see! (Posted on Aug. 8)
"MoCW strikes again!" by Curt Lund: Another hit from Matthew Foster for MoCW. (Did I mention I actually bought a copy of the script for "Into the Acid Fountain"? I did. I don't know why but I did.) I'm a fan of Nathan Surprenant, especially Cat Lady Nathan Surprenant, but Leigha Horton was the star today. She gave a magnificent and so so versatile performance -- so funny and then, suddenly, startlingly touching. And damn Leigha, that WAS a quick costume change! But you recovered gracefully and ended on undoubtedly the highest note. (Posted on Aug. 10)
"This play should be mandatory..." by Jamie S: The Unbearable Lightness of Being American does not disappoint. The brief history of America slide show in the beginning set the tone for the rest of the scenes: quick, funny and poignant. The scenes seemed to be the perfect length with great music playing during the breaks and a quote relatable to the next scene. This was a brilliant commentary to myself as an American. I am so programmed from television that those shorter scenes with the slight breaks between kept me focused, entertained and surprised when it was over. Smooth transitions should never be overlooked, especially when there are 11 scenes. I didn’t fidget or look for my nearest exit once! The acting was amazing. Nathan Surprenant and Leigha Horton were miraculously changing characters so often and seamlessly. Every scene was relatable, thought provoking and a commentary of pop culture. Two of my favorite scenes, The Diva’s Creed and Cats were painfully funny. Nathan drove those monologues home with truth, humor, and complete humility. Nathan, I give you praise! This show is a must see. (Posted on Aug. 9)
"I heart Nathan & Leigha!" by Mary Mulheran: What a fun show! Nathan & Leigha demonstrated incredible range from one skit to the next, changing their look, voice and body to adapt to the scene. I was laughing out loud throughout the show and would say this is a Fringe show not to miss! (Posted on Aug. 9)
"Droll, Flip and Poignant" by Melissa Norsten: Part history lesson, part trip down memory lane, "The Unbearable Lightness of Being American" is both provocative and provoking. With humorous visual sound bits, Nathan Surprenant and Leigha Horton, execute the droll, flippant and sometimes poignant, comedy seamlessly. Their outstanding portrayals quickly move the audience from shallow complacency to the personal cost of war; from moral judgmental righteousness to the paranoid climate of fear. But in the end, Nathan and Leigha provide hope - and that is their gift to everyone. (Posted on Aug. 11)
"Laughed AND cried" by Timothy M: I'm proud to live in a country that has these guys in it. (Posted on Aug. 11)
"Brilliant!" by Katherine Lenaburg: My criteria is "make me laugh, make me cry, make me think about it later". This show did all three! (Posted on Aug. 11)
"Unconscious Isms in the light" by dixie treichel: Political Satire and dark comedy equals a Matthew Foster work--add The Ministry of Cultural Warfare and the stakes are raised. The opening video collage is excellent--the acting great--and the topics give you something to think about. Especially in this age of nostalgic fascism, McCarthyism, securityism and you name it --isms. Oh and don't forget patriotic songs. (Posted on Aug. 12)
"Fantastic show" by Nancy Antin: Extremely entertaining. Did not want it to end. (Posted on Aug. 9)
"very funny" by Heather Wescott: I thought this play was very funny! The skits are well written. My favorite skit was the one about the guy become a 'cat lady'. Hilarious!! (Posted on Aug. 10)
"a message of hope, if you're willing to work for it" by evelyn blum: There was no work or need of hope to enjoy this one. Granted I was on the side of the writers view, as was my companion for the evening. But we laughed from begining to start. Entertaining and spot on. (Posted on Aug. 9)
"This Land Is Your Land" by Reid Gagle: This show consists of a series of unrelated skits, as funny and clever as we have learned to expect from the Ministry of Cultural Warfare, who in the past have brought us 'Industrials', and 'In Defense of Sin'. The show closes with star Leigha Horton renouncing the Ministry's usual ironic tone in favor of a sincerity which I found very resonant. (Posted on Aug. 7)
"Oh Say Can You See" by Patrick Curren: From the genius of the fabulous photo montage opening to the last word, this is a nonstop comic ride through the trials, challenges, and absurdities of contemorary American life. Deftly written and wonderfully performed by two talented actors, you gotta catch this one if you can. (Posted on Aug. 9)
"Worth seeing" by James P: Though not as politically oriented as advertised, this 11-skit comedy skewers a broad cross-section of Americana: corporate machinations (an elementary schooler discovers McDonald’s placed an ad in her prize-winning essay), the collegiate coming-of-age conundrum (a student describes her roommate as “trans-racial” or born into the wrong race), and both the overzealously patriotic and anti-patriotic leftists in the final sketch. The “Brief History of the United States” opening montage is a funny satire on our nation’s evolution, but for the local jabs, “At the Art Show” delivers the best. A few sketches are underdeveloped, and the show switches rapidly between funny and serious, creating a lopsided effect, especially as actor Leigha Horton was given all the juicier monologues. However, Horton and her counterpart Nathan Surprenant deftly switch between each character, imbuing all with distinct and amusing mannerisms. A funny and smart show; I’d see it again. (Posted on Aug. 8)
"Sharp political wit" by Ronald Corradin: This is the best political satire I have seen in years. But then, there's so much material to work with. Leigha Horton's insightful comedy is always on the mark, whether it involves a confused college student, a revved up real estate agent, or a Department of Homeland Security "interview." Media/technical support is first rate. The venue is comfortable, with good sight lines, and was full on opening night. Highly recommended. (Posted on Aug. 4)
"Not to be missed" by Cobra Bentley: This show is hilarious, smart, powerful, and fun. Killer scenes and nice use of video during transitions help keep a perfect pace. This is a MUST SEE! (Posted on Aug. 5)
"Great political humor!" by John Armstrong: Leigha Horton is fabulous, portraying a multitude of characters ranging from a 7 year old essayist to a desperate southern belle. The script has many fantastic lines and the jokes were hysterical. There was some problems with projection simply because the audience was still laughing as the actors were trying to move the show along. Overall though, very funny! Must see if you're into political humor. (Posted on Aug. 3)
"Fair and Balanced" by Alexander D: Ok, not exactly balanced but more balanced than most political theater these days, and definitely fair. I took a friend who could be described as slightly religious. He was laughing along with everyone else. Both actors looked like they were having fun with yet another great Matthew Foster script. (Posted on Aug. 4)
"Interesting" by Kristi Lawless: I agree with others that the beginning was a very strong start to this show. Some of the scenes were very strong, and others were weaker. I particularly liked the "I'm the Decider" scene. It packed a powerful punch. "Poverty" was amusing but went on too long. And diva's creed was a clever idea, but watching people ridicule what others find sacred grows tiresome after awhile. I thought the ending was strong and made me want to relook up the words to those songs. I could have done without the political advertisement though (I'll make my own choice in voting, thank you). But, it wasn't completely unexpected. I did, after all, read some of the other reviews to this show. It did come off as rather preachy in my opinion, but it's hard not to do so when you are trying to pursuade. (Posted on Aug. 13)
"All over the map...literally" by Steve On Broadway (SOB): Last night, one of the first promising productions out of the starting gate of the Fringe Festival was the often incendiary Ministry of Cultural Warfare's The Unbearable Lightness of Being American. With varied vignettes encapsulating several shades of American life, this production may appear at first blush to be literally all over the map (as in these United States). But MOCW's play, punctuated by a variety of often clever sketches by Matthew Foster, provide a thought-provoking send-up of the disparate crazy quilt our nation really is, including the politically correct school girl (Leigha Horton) reading her contest essay to the gay diva worshipper (Nathan Surprenant) to the Christian right businessman who proselytizes his clients to the disillusioned liberal who makes an impassioned case for Americans to come together. Horton is excellent in each of many characters she inhabits; Surprenant is quite amusing as well. The one-hour production begins with a fascinating -- and alternatively funny and chilling -- video of "A Brief History of America" that neatly and succinctly relates the American experience through a series of images, each described in just a few words. Sometimes the self-examination of what it means to be American is just plain hilarious, while at other times, it is unafraid to speak in political terms -- in fact, after the disillusioned liberal makes her case while singing the "forgotten" second stanzas of the patriotic songs with which we all grew up, the show ends with a partisan plea to vote for Minnesota's venerable DFL (Democrat-Farm-Labor) Party on November 7. While some of the sketches work better than others, and some may easily be turned off by the overt political content, The Unbearable Lightness of Being American should be required viewing for anyone taking in this year's Fringe Festival. (Posted on Aug. 4)
"Snappy, witty fun..." by B. Riley: just not what I was looking for when I decided to go. A series of sketches illuminate the players' political and social perspectives on a range of topics...I thought the catty Art Gallery piece was especially well-done. The political commentary was strong but not heavy-handed. Well executed, good use of video, great quotes, and a feel-good ending. I wanted to sing along. (Posted on Aug. 8)
"SUCKER FOR THE THEME" by Nancy Brown: Yep. Give me creative slide show in a show, in this case for sort of a history lesson and I am in your camp. Interesting vignettes. The show was well attended so book it or show up early if this topic interests you. (Posted on Aug. 8)
"Fun, tight, engaging" by Mo Perry: Leigha and Nathan deliver a consistently engaging hour of socially and politically astute theatre in The Unbearable Lightness of Being American. I laughed, and yes, even cried. My favorite part was the last monologue, which captured the nuanced, conflicted, and passionate feelings of secular liberal American patriot. Go team! (Posted on Aug. 6)
"Get in while you still can!" by Brian O'Neal: I was touched by Matt Foster's script and I thoroughly enjoyed seeing the show. Leigha Horton and Nathan Suprenant both give really wonderful performances. It's satire that has just the right amount of bite to be effective and also the self-awareness to not slip into being preachy or, well, unbearable. (Posted on Aug. 6)
"Inspiring power" by Allan Valgemae: This is a show of brief skits, all superbly acted, but of varying power. Nonetheless, the opening slide show of American history and final skit make it all a must see. Leigha Horton's beautiful singing voice accompanied expertly by Dan Sarka on the guitar closed the show with words that brought back the hope that I might again feel proud to be an American. (Posted on Aug. 6)
"mostly good, uneven" by David Trudeau: The energy and writing are uneven in this satirical look at what truths we hold to be self-evident. Luckily we had reserved for this sold out show, or would have been turned away. (Posted on Aug. 7)
I mean, hell, even the not-so-glowing audience reviews were still constructive and positive. Two of those I left out of this post because, well, it's my blog and I get to do whatever I want with it. You can still review all the audience feedback by using the link above - the two I left out are at the very bottom of the page.
Overall, I am so pleased, so humbled, so honored. This girl has got no blues. Except for the loss of my stolen iPod. I still have the blues for that. And I'm still accepting donations (use the PayPal button at right to make a secure donation) to the iPod replacement fund. Many, many thanks to those of you who have already generously given.
Pleased, humbled, honored, and no post-Fringe blues. Life is good.