The Sonic Youth of Leigha Horton: An Aural Adventure

Since I’ve recently taken the deep plunge into podcasting (see Minnesota Fringe Festival or Radio Hong Kong for examples), my web monkey has been introducing me to extra-special internet treats that are helping me understand the technical aspects. Extra-Special Internet Treat Number One is from Systm – “a downloadable how-to technology show geared towards teaching the common geek various hot topics and projects. Each episode focuses on one subject and is between 10-15 minutes in length.” Episode 4 – Podcasting demonstrates the quick and dirty of the form; from recording to digitization to web. The episode is pretty accessible, although they do assume that you have a basic understanding of computers. If you were able to get on the internet and read this, you’re a-okay.

Extra-Special Internet Treat Number Two is Audacity – a free, open-source audio-editing program. I’m just starting to get a feel for it, rather tricky since I don’t have prior knowledge of audio software or a manual; but this girl’s got a little geek and a lot of curiosity in her and that’s all it takes, right?

Armed with my newfound podcasting knowledge and recording capabilities (ha!), I spent an entire evening last week recording commercials off the television and then transcribing them into Word. One thing I learned through this tedious process is that commercials aren’t nearly as obnoxious when I don't care about the programming…hunting them down and then deconstructing them is rather satisfying – even if rather cumbersome with a VCR. So I’ve been toying with recording these commercial scripts over the past several days, experimenting with pitch and pace and energy, and it’s been extremely helpful – even though a bit narcissistic. I’m an actor; narcissism should come as no surprise (I write a blog, for crying out loud).

With all the tech-treats in mind, one might wonder if there’s a reason for this belly-flop into Geekdom. There is a reason, and a good one at that, but it must remain under wraps for a wee bit longer. Okay, okay, it involves my strong desire to make “wee bit” into one word: weebit. Wouldn’t that be awesome? Weebit. SO CUTE! That would rank right up there in my list of all-time favorite words to say joining such notables as “button” and “pumpkin.” KIDDING. Kind of. Seriously though, I will share the reason (that makes me so excited that I want to vomit) at a later date when said reason is fully formalized. Until then, you’ll just have to settle for the weebit proposition.

Podcast begets Podcast

This week will bring the first recording session for my newest podcasting gig: Radio Hong Kong. Because of the Fringe Festival podcasts, I was approached by the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP) to be their host for Radio Hong Kong, a podcast that reports on their International Fair Trade Fair and Symposium. The fair is specifically held to coincide with the annual World Trade Organization (WTO) ministerial (in Hong Kong this year); and showcases “certified fair-trade products from around the world,” while focusing “on topics relevant to WTO delegates as well as visiting producers.” It is my understanding that IATP takes a balanced stance in response to the WTO – they assert that the purpose of the WTO is a positive, but that it is poorly mismanaged by large, self-interested corporations that should instead forge a more democratic approach including wider markets. This is all very new to me and I need to do quite a bit of research on the matter, so I may be entirely wrong in what IATP’s views are… Updates on that to follow.

I have been told that there is extremely high web traffic on IATP’s site during the fair, and that last year’s podcasts were downloaded 6,000+ times. I’d say that’s pretty good exposure, and I’m doubly lucky that I'll again be working on something that I believe in.

Kickin' Back with Cooper: The Last Podcast

The fifth and final *sniff, sniff* Fringe Podcast is now available for download at either the Minnesota Fringe Festival website or at iTunes. It’s far less commercial-y than the last four – just me interviewing Leah Cooper about the final attendance numbers, the percentage increase over last year, the reason Fringe is such a success, and why the Fringe is such an asset to the arts community and the Twin Cities community at-large, among other questions. There are also tidbits here and there from interviews with staff, volunteers, performers, and audience members taken at Fringeville by my rockstar podcast co-hort, Rik Reppe. If you’re not going to take a listen - for shame! (except you, Minnesota parents, California-now-Oregon parents, and Grandma – I’ll make a CD for you), just know that these numbers impress me the most:

# page views on the Minnesota Fringe Festival website: 1.1 million Average number of page views per visit: 12 Number of tickets sold: 44,630 Number of artists involved: 1,053 Number of volunteers: 377 Number of venues: 29 Number of sold-out performances: 67

Real World? What? - Where?

The 12th Annual Minnesota Fringe Festival is over. So sad – it’s like summer camp has come to an end and we have to say goodbye to all of our new best friends and go back to school. There are many dear people that I only see once a year now, and it’s the Fringe that brings us together every time - we always know that we can pick up where we left off with no regrets or resentment over lost time…kind of like chosen family, really. It was also a blast to hang out again with some of the wonderful people I met in Montreal when I performed in their 2004 Fringe – Foster, Cooper, and I bugged them enough to get them down to the states this year, and it was a joy to have them here with their excellent, excellent shows. At the closing party, Geoff (the Montreal Fringe Managing Director) hollered “Tag!, you’re it!” So, I guess it’s my turn to go back to Montreal in June. Oh, okaaaaay.

The Scrimshaw Show appearance went off without a hitch – and luckily there were enough other guests that night to keep me from being singled out for harassment. The brothers had their high-school creative writing teachers on as guests – snarky old men with tall, empty to-go cups of coffee (they reminded me of my favorite director and teacher from college, George Poletes, whom I was convinced was older than dust because he directed my father in shows at the University of St. Thomas circa 1962). Anyway, the evening’s guests were the aforementioned fellows along with former Look Ma, No Pants cast members Tim Uren and Dan Hetzel, in addition to myself. We all saddled up to bar stools on stage, were offered drinks, and then answered audience questions…one of which was about my “favorite farm animal” – um, what? – I gracefully handed that one off to the brilliantly funny Mr. Hetzel.

Favorite Experience at this Year’s Fringe: Picture this: Closing night party, roughly 400 people, Leah Cooper onstage at Fringeville (the Suburban World Theater) announcing all of the staff members and having them come up on stage for a little recognition. Amy Lewis, Andrew Cleveland and I were brought up to be recognized for our work as the Out-of-Town Artist Coordinators and we were met, like everyone else, with polite applause. We stood there amongst the others as more and more staff were introduced. Then the moment: Cooper brought up stats about the podcast and then went on to introduce The Voice of the Fringe with an elaborate and highly complimentary preface including the words “The. Sexiest. Voice.” – when she finally announced my name, the audience erupted in applause and hoots and cheers. It was so thrilling I could hardly contain my joy and shock (and embarrassment at the joy and shock). It’s funny how sometimes goofy grins give away the secret that humility has lost the battle of the moment.

So the podcast stats? It turns out that the first four podcasts were downloaded from the Fringe website more than 2,000 times - that’s not even counting the ones downloaded from iTunes! And there’s one more being released today! And I was all freaked out about no-one listening (that entry was one I never posted here because I thought it sounded too needy). Way cool, way, way cool. I think this calls for an…you guessed it! - HORTON HAPPY DANCE!!!

Favorite line of the Fringe (courtesy Allegra Lingo, House Manager extraordinaire): a woman, with a small child in tow, was attempting to gain entry into a sold-out performance of “Nibblers: A Musical With Sharks” – a kid’s show, mind you – and became so angered by the sold-out status that she burst out, “Goddamn the arts! They pull you in and then they f*** you over!”

I hope somebody works that into a show next year.

Day 10

Today is day ten of the Minnesota Fringe Festival (aka The Eleven Days Each Year When my Family Would Think I'm Dead if They Didn't Know Any Better). Every year at this time I turn in to the unresponsive child, the bad friend, and the exhausted employee because I get so swept up in all things that constitute Fringe that I effectively tune out the rest of the world. Sometimes there's a fine line between naïve and vacuous - if it weren’t for the NY Times delivery on the weekends, Google News during the week, and the occasional run-in with Matt Foster, I would be in a sorry state of clueless-ness that would far surpass what is deemed socially acceptable. This is the first Fringe since 1999 that I haven't been on stage, and while it seriously bums me out, it has also been an exciting new experience being on the Fringe staff as the Voice of the Fringe (podcasting). It’s also pretty cool waiting in line to see a show and getting asked by strangers about my or MoCW’s next stage plans without having to pimp “OUR LAST PERFORMANCE TOMORROW AT 8:30!!” It just feels like a far more mellow experience, and I dig mellow. I’ve seen shows ranging from the mediocre to the hilarious to the weep-inducing-stunner, and have accomplished this all without wearing a watch. Not wearing a watch during Fringe is a big deal. Especially for me.

Despite my stage absence, the lovely Josh and Joe have come to the rescue and asked me to be a guest on The Scrimshaw Show tonight…I guess my VotF gig is still enough presence to merit a guest appearance – totally unexpected and quite flattering. It will be a little strange going on stage with them as myself instead of a character, so I’m a tad nervous...but they're good guys, and I'm a good sport, so I'm sure it will be fine.

I'll report back with the sordid details.

The Fringe is here! The Fringe is here!

Oh happy day! August is my absolute favorite time of year in Minnesota solely due to the 11 days of bohemian theatrical bliss known as the Minnesota Fringe Festival. Today is an especially sweet day because it not only marks the start of the 2005 Fringe Fest, it also is the day the St. Paul Pioneer Press (one of the two daily newspapers in our fair Twin Cities) came out with a Fringe preview that singles out and praises the Fringe Podcast. Insert Horton Happy Dance here.

Take a read:

St. Paul Pioneer Press Thursday, August 4, 2005


Can't fit in any Fringe shows? Get a taste for the festival via your portable music player.

Fringe organizers recently recorded two of their traditional sneak-preview presentations in audio-file format and released them on their Web site as downloadable podcasts — radiolike shows that can be loaded on an iPod or other digital device and heard anywhere.

Podcasts number in the thousands, and many are achingly dull, but the Fringe's podcasts are a cut above thanks in large part to their engaging host, actress Leigha Horton. Partly recorded before a live audience at two festival venues, they include performance excerpts along with artist interviews and newsy tidbits.

More podcasts are planned. One will be released just before the festival begins, said Leah Cooper, Fringe executive director and a podcast co-producer. A fourth during the festival will feature updates on how shows are selling along with "buzz and gossip," she said. A fifth podcast will be released shortly after the festival ends.

Find the podcasts at If you use Apple Computer's iTunes software, search for "fringe" in the iTunes Music Store's podcast directory to find and subscribe to the Fringe feed.

In a related effort, Thirst Theater miniplays once presented at a Minneapolis rooftop bar are now offered as podcasts. One is free, others are $4 apiece (a tough sell since virtually all podcasts are free). See

So, take a listen. And then check back, because I will be updating again in the very near future with other odes to Fringe.

a visit from the procrastination fairy

cosa numero uno: my first foray into audioville, Fringe Podcast #1, is officially available to the masses. One could download it from the Minnesota Fringe Festival website, and one could also download it directly from iTunes. Yes, we’ve hit The Big Time. Heck, on iTunes you can even subscribe to the Fringe Podcast via RSS feed (I’m writing like I know what this is) and get automatic updates when we post new ones. So fancy! cosa numero dos: must. memorize. lines.

Filming for The Monster of Phantom Lake starts this weekend – a week earlier than anticipated – due to the oh-so-lucky securing of a 1955 Chevy convertible. Yes, the leading man gets to drive a snazzy car. Lucky.

Tonight was to be my night of hunkering-down and memorizing my lines before the weekend. But no, I’ve brushed-up on my procrastination ability instead – ‘tis a learn-ed skill that I have mastered well. So far tonight, I’ve sold some embarrassing CDs to the Electric Fetus, pampered my soon-to-be oft-used bicycle with chrome polish/rust remover, ate some turkey and crackers hoping it’d pass as dinner, talked to The Bean on the phone, actually managed to highlight my lines and make a scene breakdown before writing to the director to see if the shoot schedule is set in stone (so I can memorize the appropriate scenes each week before the shoots instead of all in one sitting), and wrote this entry. Alas, the hunkering is not going so well.

T-20 hours and counting

Tomorrow, July 1, at 12 noon, marks the launch of the newly re-designed Minnesota Fringe Festival website. This is a pretty cool thing unto itself, but what makes it even cooler is that along with the launch comes the first ever Fringe Podcast – the same Fringe Podcast for which I make my public debut as the official Voice of the Fringe. Now this official “Voice” stuff is only an announcer-type gig, not a Carl Rove-type gig – I will not strategize with other hateful mongerish types and feed Cooper specific vocabulary to justify stupid preemptive wars that the Fringe starts in the name of saving poor, oppressed artists from juried festivals. For one thing, Cooper is a genius and doesn’t need anyone to cook up talking points for her; Secondly, war is stupid.

So anyway, within the last few weeks I’ve recorded some of Foster’s beautifully written openings/news tidbits, interviewed about twenty performers, had a Terri Gross/Fresh Air Moment with a super-insightful question about a performer’s relationship with his father, and floundered for the longest five minutes of my life in what I will heretofore call The Worst Interview Ever.

Before three weeks ago, the only people I had ever interviewed were Grandma and Grandpa Horton for a grade-school project on heritage – now I’ve not only administered interviews, I’ve administered them in front of a live audience. While I’m proud, I’m also freaked out – I can’t believe I did that and didn’t completely suck 100 percent of the time. To be fair, I’d give it more of a 40/60 sucking-to-not ratio. Download the podcast tomorrow afternoon and hear for yourself – and just when you start to think, “…hey! - that wasn’t that bad!,” remember the benefits of editing.


Had a meeting with Leah Cooper of the Minnesota Fringe Festival about various projects I’ve got my paws in right now. This will be the first year since 2000 that I will not be performing on stage at the Fringe, as my theater company, The Ministry of Cultural Warfare, is on a little hiatus. Whilst I understand the need for the exceptionally talented Matthew Foster to regain the desire to write again, I am still sad about not getting the opportunity to be publicly snarky and applauded for it. Foster’s words make me all sparkly.

No worries, though - I will be keeping busy with quite a few less sparkly but equally Fringey projects:

  1. Acting as a coordinator for the out-of-town artists. Making sure they have a place to stay, know their schedule, know where they’re going – essentially the same thing I do for the artists at the Walker (day job).
  2. Acting as producer for Fringeville’s late-night talk-show/entertainment catastrophe-waiting-to-happen (Intramural Staring Contest anyone?) Fringe-a-Go-Go. Must see what those Ferarri McSpeedy boys are up to, and see if they’d be willing to host.
  3. And most exciting of all – being the Voice-of-The-Fringe in its very first dive into the world of podcasting! I’ll be walking the streets (with the pimping Rik Reppe, of Staggering Toward America fame, on recording equipment) interviewing Fringe artists, audiences, sponsors, donors, directors, volunteers, and curious passers-by about many a thing. You’ll be able to download the results from and listen to them on any old MP3 player.