2009 In Review

Oh dearest 2009, how I neglected to give you a proper adieu. But because I always need to have the last word, your shenanigans shall not go untouted nor unscathed. This here is my farewell parting shot: The past year brought a load of work, a load of appreciation for the work I was getting, and one giant, lazy attitude toward writing about it.  Of particular note, midway through 2009 I was able to make a return to performing for a living.  “What?  What do you mean?    Actresses in the Twin Cities aren’t filthy stinking rich and famous?!”  Surprisingly, no, not so much.  See, periodically a girl like me is obliged to suck it up and take a part-time “day job” to keep some steady cash rolling in while filling in the rest with voice-overs and stage work.  What is this world coming to?

What happened was this: in June I was cast as Nurse and First-Class Stewardess Evelyn Marsden in Titanic: The Artifact Exhibition at the Science Museum of Minnesota, as well as joined the museum’s Science Live Theater cast. When at the museum, but not in 1912 costume, I bust out my mad knowledge of nanoscience to thwart an Evil Scientist From The Future, as well as demonstrate the important properties of surface area by blowing giant fireballs and discussing chemical reactivity.  It has been a joy to perform regularly for the (what by now must be) thousands of audience members taking an interest in science.  Additionally, I am responsible for coordinating and moderating public forums for adults about nanoscale science on behalf of NISE Net (Nanoscale Informal Science Education Network).  Moreover, it’s less than part-time, and voice-overs and stage work really ARE filling in the rest.  Even in this wretchedly hobbled economy.  My stars are indeed lucky.  And I thank them regularly.

So here, for posterity, are my performance highlights of 2009:

January Marketplace Events spots - Ty Pennington (that dude from Extreme Makeover: Home Edition) and me on TV and radio urging you to attend particular home shows here and there in the U.S.  TV commercials aired on HGTV and ABC and their affiliates.  Read more about my sister's hilarious request.

February Nothing of note - sometimes that’s a good thing.  Looks like I was in rehearsal.  Not always a good thing.


  • Performances of Adam Szymcowicz’s The Captivity Plays at the Bryant Lake Bowl
  • After 18 months of pain in the form of oral torture, treatment was completed and my braces were removed.  I was rewarded with awesomely perfect teeth and new-found confidence.  Join me in reliving my happy dance.
  • Supervalu spots - radio spots for grocery stores around the U.S. - Albertson’s, Lucky, Supervalu, Shaw’s/Star Market, Cub Foods, Jewel-Osco, Kroger, Hornbacher’s, etc.

April Nexxus spots - I don’t believe these were ever aired - just voice-overs for a concept by the ad agency for the client.  If it was approved by the client, the agency would then film the spots.  Since I almost never watch commercial TV, I have no idea if these ever made it though the pipeline...my guess is no.



  • Caroline or Change, The Homosexuals’ Guide to the Universe, Tiny Kushner - now these didn’t involve me at all, save for my presence in the audience.  But I found the first two to be incredibly moving, incredibly powerful pieces of work.  And I was thrilled that Minneapolis was able to honor such a fantastic playwright in this way, and that such a fantastic playwright got to workshop a brand-new play in our fine city.
  • Titanic: The Artifact Exhibition opens at the Science Museum of Minnesota.  This is my new “day job” wherein I get to spend part of my weekdays engaging with the general public and informing them about Miss Evelyn Marsden’s life and the hospitals aboard the ship in a darling English accent. Personal ship preparation stories here.
  • United Health Care spots - my first political spots, something about calling your congresspeople somewhere in New England. Connecticut maybe? Urging you to take a particular stand on some kind of health care legislation.  Don’t remember the particulars, but got to work with the guys at Shout.  And I absolutely adore Mark Benninghofen, so it was a joy.

July Joined the Science Museum of Minnesota to work on NISE Net (Nanoscale Informal Science Education Network) projects - both performing live stage plays and demonstrations that deal directly with nanoscale science, as well as coordinating and facilitating adult public forums about nanoscale science.  This is only 10 hours per week, and I love it.  And it makes me feel a little closer to my scientific heroes of audio over at RadioLab.  And to paraphrase the words of my delightfully brilliant colleague Michael Ritchie: I realize that my day job can never be bad, because I work in a place with musical stairs.


  • Fringe Festival fail - this was hard.  This was very, very hard.  The Ministry of Cultural Warfare, the company I have both figuratively and literally sweat and bled for since 2000, planned to do a show.  Due to a Perfect Storm of really crappy circumstances, I had to remove myself from the process, and we ultimately had to back out of the festival at a late date.  It was heartbreaking, and the fallout was equally heartbreaking.
  • Marketplace Events radio and TV spots - the plus side of August was that Ty Pennington had some more home shows to promote, so it was back into the studio to add my special female aural sparkle.
  • The Minnesota State Fair - I spent an afternoon as host of the Labor Pavilion at “The Great Minnesota Get-Together.”  They gave me a wireless mic, put me in a Green building and the adjacent pavilion, and let me loose amongst the various Labor kiosks and the throngs of fair-goers.  There was trivia, there were hand-crafted on-the-spot copper roses, there were nurses and flight attendants and machinists and steel workers and everything in between.  At the end of my shift, they snapped a photo which made its way into the national AFTRA magazine.

September I spent nearly half the month on the road, traveling to Seattle, Portland, and San Francisco - this was for my work with the Science Museum of Minnesota on behalf of the Nanoscale Informal Science Education Network (NISE Net), and it was incredibly inspiring.  It did indeed involve some performing, but it also involved meeting with social scientists to consider the social, political, and ethical implications of nanoscale science, and how to get audiences considering these aspects, as well.  We also met for the purpose of setting goals for years 6-10 of NISE Net’s grant funded by the National Science Foundation, and it involved learning how other organizations engage audiences in learning about nanoscale science.  Inspiring, and the locations were fantastic.  I love the Pacific Northwest.

October Lead role of Hannah in Table Salt Productions' inaugural show, Burned at the Gremlin Theatre.  Nothing like spending an hour before each performance putting glue on my face, letting it dry and manipulating it and coloring it to make it look like nasty scar tissue.  While it was a serio-comic post-apocalyptic tale, it was a joy to make a foray back into dramatic work.  Read a little more about it.


  • Workshop and public reading of Dog and Wolf - an incredibly well-crafted, powerful,  and riveting play about a Bosnian refugee by Catherine Filloux, in which I played the lead, Jasmina.  This play is being produced Off-Broadway this February.
  • My first public nanoscience forum about privacy, civil liberties, and nanotechnology.  It was a small group of about 15 people, but helped me get my feet wet.  Now that I’ve done something in the accepted mold, I can hack it and make it more interesting, accessible, and engaging.  Watchout Twin Cities - you’re about to get schooled in nano.


  • more Marketplace Events spots - this time for home shows around the U.S. in 2010.
  • Caribou Coffee spots - The tone and delivery in these spots makes me feel like we’re sitting on a front porch swing, lazing the day away.  And they’re all about handcrafted oatmeal.  And I got to spend some good time with my friends over at Babble-On Recording studios.  I love those engineers.
  • General Mills spots for Tuesday Taco Night - you know you’ve made it when your VOs keep getting interrupted by a mariachi band.  Plus more time at Babble-On!  Whee!

Plenty to share for January already - but it’s a new year, so it gets a new post.  Here’s looking forward to a peaceful, prosperous 2010.  And I'll actually work on getting all of these 2009 (and future) voice-over spots posted for your listening pleasure.  It's not as hard as I make it sound, and yet here we are.  Soon, I promise.

Nothing a Quaalude Can’t Handle

I’m so busy right now I’d probably lose my head if it weren’t screwed on; in fact, I’m almost certain I’ve stumbled upon some unattended nuts and bolts, which makes me rather uneasy. The first performance of the Ministry of Cultural Warfare’s offering to the Twin Cities Chekhov Festival went swimmingly – we’ve got just two shows left, this Friday and the following Thursday. Fellow cast-member, Anthony Paul, and I took a little fieldtrip to the MPR studios yesterday to provide some ridiculously-accented shenanigans for their story.

This Saturday morning I’ll be flying to Columbus, OH, to perform Mrs. Man of God (the same show I did in Nashville this summer). That means attempting to keep Chekhov in my head while re-learning Mrs. Man of God and all the accompanying music. I predict nightmares involving embodiments of heavy Minnesotan and Russian accents dancing a furious tango, artfully stepping over my bruised corpse.

And I was cast in Frank Theater’s next show, Brecht’s Mr. Puntila and his Man Matti, which is supposed to start rehearsing this week, but I’m in the process of being replaced due to the schedule conflicts generously provided by the above-listed shows. I was thrilled to finally work with Wendy Knox, but it looks like it wasn’t in the starcards this time around. Alas.

And I’m house-sitting con perro, which means I don’t get to do any of this from the comfort of my own home. Nor with a good night’s sleep provided by my own bed. My own bed, where the bizarre noises can always be blamed on a neighbor with adjoining walls, rather than the inherent creepiness of settling single-family-homes.

Time to put on my game-face and SPARKLE! With JAZZ-HANDS! TA-DAAAA! File under “Faking it until One is Making It.”

An Incredibly Serious Evening of High Art

Whatcha doing this Thursday? That's RIGHT! You're seeing this: 0802_chekhov.gif

Part of the Twin Cities Chekhov Festival at the Bryant-Lake Bowl

Thursday, February 7 at 7 p.m. Friday, February 22 at 7 p.m. Thursday, February 28 at 7 p.m.

Tickets $10-$15 (pay what you can) Students: $8 /// 10 Show Pass: $80 /// 5 Show Pass: $42 Buy tickets online now! Or call BLB at (612) 825-8949

Written by Meron Langsner and Matthew Foster Directed by Leah Cooper and Reid Knuttila

Starring Alan Berks, Jason Bohon, Whitney Drury, Amelia English, Franklin Heller, Leigha Horton, Kevin McLaughlin, Erin Mihalik, Anna Olson, Anthony Paul, Lacey Piotter, Jen Scott

A Rain of Seagulls by Meron Langsner tackles every Chekhovian theme known to man in roughly 40 minutes —meaning, of course, the cast is heavily armed and rather morose.

Our Vanya, Ourselves by Matthew Foster is a mash-up between Anton's Uncle Vanya and "Sisters and Other Strangers," a classic episode of The Golden Girls. Yes, you read that right.

See you there!

Not to Mention the Baby-Eating

The ever-elusive Ministry of Cultural Warfare is actually holding AUDITIONS. Yes. YES! This only happens once every leap year or so - granted, it's about 20 days early for a leap year audition, but we at MoCW are all fancy-free (lazy?) like that - so come audition.

If you’re cast, we’ll teach you the secret handshake and you’ll learn what we drink to keep ourselves looking so fresh and vibrant – I am 429 years old, after all.

AUDITIONS DEC 16-17: Ministry of Cultural Warfare is looking for funny actors for a double-bill of Chekhov parodies for the Twin Cities Chekhov Festival at Bryant-Lake Bowl, February 2008.

A Rain of Seagulls, written by Meron Langsner, directed by Leah Cooper, explores nearly every Chekhovian theme known to man in roughly 40 minutes—meaning that, of course, the cast is heavily armed and rather morose. 2 women ages 20-30 1 woman age 40-55 1 man age 20-30 3 men age 30-45

Our Vanya, Ourselves, written by Matthew Foster, directed by Reid Knuttila, is a mash-up between Anton's Uncle Vanya and "Sisters and Other Strangers," a classic episode of The Golden Girls when Dorothy's cousin Magda visits from Czechoslovakia after the fall of communism. 3 women: 35-50 1 woman: 25-35 1 woman: 55+

Rehearsals January 14 through February 6. Performances February 7, 22 and 28. All the details at the MoCW site. Sides will be available for download there soon also.

Hello? Is it Me You're Looking For?

Boy – I don’t write for two months, and then I blindside you with a Lionel Richie lyric ending in a preposition – how’s that for a graceful comeback? You know you love it. I can see it in your eyes, I can see it in your smile...alright, alright, enough of that; it’s kind of abusive, non?

So, um, hi! Fancy meeting you here! I have much to report and much to opine, but I will stick to the reporting and do some opining in the near future just to avoid burning up into tiny bits upon my re-entry into the blogosphere.

The quick and dirty: I can be seen on screen and on stage over the next few weeks as part of the Minnesota Fringe Festival and the Manna Fest, respectively (and in Nashville, swing by if you’re in the ‘hood) – these be the details:


The Ministry of Cultural Warfare presents The Tyranny of God’s Love Intermedia Arts


Our show, "The Tyranny of God's Love," is best described as a multimedia road trip from individuality to the universal... In other words, it's lots of jokes about God and faith and meaning and one's deepest, darkest soul... In other words, just another day at the theater.

This time around, the cast is Reid Knuttila, Kevin McLaughlin, Nathan Surprenant and Natalie Rae Wass on stage, Leigha Horton on video and—for (almost) the first time ever—MoCW's artistic director Matthew Foster is in the show (actually, just his voice... and only because he's the only Minister who speaks French). Matthew's also directing the live bits and Fringe's not-too-former Executive Director Leah Cooper joins us as video/audio director. Woot!

Thursday 8/2 at 10:00 PM Sunday 8/5 at 7:00 PM Monday 8/6 at 10:00 PM Friday 8/10 at 4:00 PM Sunday 8/12 at 5:30 PM


And after we return from Nashville...


Mrs. Man of God Augsburg College - Hoversten Chapel


What’s it like to be a man married to a man who is married to the church? Through humor and song, this is a life story of giving and living in the Valley of the Shadows. Cast: Dennis Curley as Donald; Scott Ford, ensemble; Beth Gilleland, ensemble; Leigha Horton, ensemble; Dane Stauffer, ensemble; written by Beth Gilleland and Donald Bazzini; directed by Blayn Lemke

Tuesday 8/7 at 7:00 Thursday 8/9 at 7:00 Friday 8/10 at 7:00 Saturday 8/11 at 7:00 Sunday 8/12 at 4:00


Come see! They’re both totally worth your $12. Promise.

The Antidote

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.”

—Dominic Papatola


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.

—Quinton Skinner

Audience Reviews:

"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.


Opening Night

I love this time of year. The only thing that usurps my wistfulness at hearing the cicadas of deep summer is the 10-day par-tay known as the Minnesota Fringe Festival. It seems awkward to be so romantically melancholy about summer at the core, yet so thrilled for the experiences of performing and watching performance at the same time, but there it is. The paradoxes never end, folks.


Anyway - Thursday night was the opening of The Unbearable Lightness of Being American. The performance, aside from a rather substantial personal disappointment, went really well. And thus far, the audience response has been quite positive – you can go to our show page on the Fringe site and scroll down to the end to see some of the feedback we’ve been getting (or to write your own! – yes, do!). I also heard my favorite reviewer was in the house, too, so we’ll see what comes of that.


So about this personal disappointment - I need to back up just a little to Tuesday night’s tech rehearsal to give the full exposition: We ran six minutes over in our tech rehearsal. This was problematic, so we had to figure out what to cut. It ended up being a video clip of “Who’s on Iraq” (our version of Abbott and Costello’s “Who’s on First”), the absence of which effectively removed any quality time I had to change costumes from a monologue into the final scene, which is just me accompanied by the stellar Dan Sarka on guitar; a scene in which I sing sporadically throughout the whole thing. This made me uneasy - quick-changes are not good for breath-control.


On Thursday things went beautifully, up until that very last quick-change. The house was full (about three seats shy of sold-out), responsive, and Nathan and I had good, positive exchange with each other and the audience. Yet there I was backstage before the last scene, frantically trying to right the series of wrongs that had unfolded - I accidentally removed my layered tops all the way down to my camisole (decided to not find the shirt to put back on over the top), while trying to either rip out (didn’t work) or shove-in (eventually did) the insole that was blocking my foot from entering my shoe. I finally entered the stage late with lights up and guitarist waiting – and I was completely out of breath.


Really, really bad for having to sing after just one line of dialogue.


And I sucked. Within the first stanza my voice cracked. I spent half the monologue having no idea what I was even saying as I was competing with the running dialogue in my head, “Focus, Leigha. BREATHE. BREATHE SLOWLY. Focus. Yes, you’re saying the right lines, but slow down. BREATHE.” About halfway through the monologue I felt like I got my bearings back and was able to actually perform the monologue and sing modestly well.


Honestly, I was just so disappointed in myself. This singing-well onstage thing is a new concept for me, and throughout the rehearsal process I’ve been getting really positive compliments. Hell, a couple of people said it was so good that it gave them goosebumps. By the end of rehearsals I had confidence and trained skill to back it up - so if I got flustered or self-conscious, I could take refuge in the fact that I am trained to do this. And I had every intention to demonstrate that to the audience, but it just wasn’t happening that way. And there was nothing I could do about it.


Live and learn, I guess. Although I don’t know what to take from this so that I can fix it if it happens again. Perhaps today I’ll practice that quick-change and succeeding monologue so I can figure out how to tackle it vocally for the rest of the run.


Okay – enough self-abuse for now. Back to getting pumped for tomorrow’s performance! Despite my disappointment, it really is a great show, and there is much to be proud of.

Doing Your Patriotic Duty


The Minnesota Fringe Festival returns TOMORROW(!) and runs through August 13th at various Minneapolis venues. With it comes The Unbearable Lightness of Being American, a new(ish) offering from my snarky little theater company, The Ministry of Cultural Warfare. COME SEE!

But first, a caveat or two (after all, what's a Ministry show without some proper caveats?):

1) We highly, highly recommend reservations, as The Ministry’s last four Fringe offerings have sold-out every single performance. Turning people away totally sucks.

2) Not even remotely suitable for children under, say, 15. They won’t get most of it. And the stuff they DO get, you would probably prefer they didn’t.

Ministry of Cultural Warfare returns to the   Minnesota Fringe - OPENS THURSDAY!

The Unbearable Lightness of Being American

One of Minnesota Fringe's   all-time favorites is back with the show that sold out the Montreal   Fringe!

This is what happens when smart patriots get angry. The Unbearable Lightness of Being American is a twelve-part multimedia parody of American politics, godliness and culture that blitzes Blue and Red.

The company that brought you the Fringe hits Industrials, Slaughterhouse Warming and In Defense of Sin: My Friends' Best Stories is back with their snarky, sarcastic, Fringe best! For its sixth big Fringe year, the Ministry of Cultural Warfare trashes American largess and hypocrisy on religion, immigration, sex, identity, war, and cats. Yes, we even go after the cats!

The show was first performed in its one-woman incarnation at the 2002 Absolute Originals festival at Intermedia Arts. Then we went on to be the first sell-out of the 2004 Festival St-Ambroise Fringe de Montréal — AND sold out every single one of our Montréal performances — AND got the cover of the Montreal Mirror. Like all things American, the show is returning home like a prodigal son after getting scrubbed, detailed and tricked-out. The script even has that coveted new-theater smell.

Caustic and often riotous.   -City Pages

Tickets: $12 at the door (Fringe ticket info) GUARANTEE YOUR SEAT... BUY TICKETS NOW!

PERFORMANCE SCHEDULE Thursday, August 3 at 8:30 p.m. Sunday, August 6 at 1:00 p.m. Tuesday, August 8 at 8:30 p.m. Thursday, August 10 at 7:00 p.m. Saturday, August 12 at 8:30 p.m.

At Intermedia Arts 28th and Lyndale, Mpls (driving directions) Intermedia has been designated a scent-free venue. Please refrain from wearing smelly stuff.

Starring Leigha Horton and Nathan Surprenant Guitar by Dan Sarka Directed by Reid Knuttila Script and video by Matthew Foster

Photo courtesy Craig VanDerSchaegen



Understanding "Exhaustion"

So tired. Mentally. Physically. Drained.

We had a tech rehearsal tonight for our show that opens Thursday (I’ll post official info about the show tomorrow when I’m cognizant of things other than my pillow), and it generally went well – we consistently cracked up our technicians, which is a very, very good sign. It’s also good because it eases the cost of a good bribe. Theater Rule #1 – know what the technicians like to drink.

In related, albeit guilt-ridden, news: I have a million e-mail and voice-mail messages that I’ve neglected to return, seven different blog posts about latest inspirations and funny stories that need to be written, and an all-around return to communication with the outside world that’s waiting to be picked up from the wayside.

Friday. Expect communicationy stuff on Friday. Or maybe Mondayish. Until then, I'm a couple of cards shy of a full deck. And we all know that decks with missing cards suck. Yeah... bed. now.

MoCW Wants YOU!

Kittens! The Ministry of Cultural Warfare is back at the Fringe this year with our usual smatterings of agitprop and snark! But after taking last year off to recharge our creative batteries, we need your help to recharge our financial batteries.

With artists to pay, rehearsal space to rent, props to buy, set pieces to pillage, it all adds up fast. So we're turning to our ever-faithful infidelitous friends to help us make up the difference. Join us for some post-work wine and hors d'oeuvres on Thursday, July 27 at la maison de Nathan Surprenant to schmooze, drink and get your name in our program (you'll be famous!). The party lasts from 7 to 9, and your Ministers will all be on hand to give you our eternal gratitude and ply you with more drinks.

"Before I sink any more dough into this so-called Ministry, what's the show?" you ask. We are proudly updating and expanding our hit "The Unbearable Lightness of Being American." It's 13 individually wrapped sketches — some live, some video, some sung — that trash American largess and hypocricy on religion, immigration, sex, identity, war and cats. Yes, we even go after the cats!

The usual gang is at it again: Leigha Horton and Nathan Surprenant are performing, Reid Knuttila's directing and Matthew Foster's writing and doing video voodoo. The show was first performed in its one-woman incarnation at the 2002 Absolute Originals festival at Intermedia Arts. Then we went on to be the first sell-out of the 2004 Festival St-Ambroise Fringe de Montréal — AND sold out every single one of our Montréal performances — AND got the cover of the Montreal Mirror. Like all things American, the show is returning home like a prodigal son after getting scrubbed, detailed and tricked-out. The script even has that coveted new-theater smell. To get so much more information (and to buy tickets), visit our page on the Minnesota Fringe Festival site.

So... We'll see you at our pre-Fringe post-money party! This is what you need to know:

Thursday, July 27, 7-9 pm

Nathan Surprenant and Brad Wagner's fancy loft (comment or e-mail me for the address - there's no way I'm posting that sucker on the internets-machine)

Can't attend but still want to help? Of COURSE you do! Make checks payable to Matthew Foster (we dissolved the official company because it was a pain to file with The State for the pittance we make from shows... I mean, how much time would *you* want to spend arguing with a Republican Secretary of State?) and mail to the following address: (again, comment or e-mail me for the address - there's no way I'm posting that sucker on the internets-machine).


I was recently invited to answer seven quick questions for the 7QQ Interview Series by my favorite online time-killer for Twin Cities issues, MNspeak.

An honor, and a pleasure. And kind of embarrassing after all of my day-job colleagues found out about it.

Note: As is possibly far too obvious, I'm procrastinating memorizing my freaking lines for the next show right now. I ought to garner some sympathy with the level of difficulty, though; one of the scenes is a play on Abbott and Costello's Who's on First? called Who's on Iraq? (the premise: "Who's on Iraq, What's on Iran, I Don't Know's on North Korea" - if you don't find that as hilarious as I do, go take a listen to the original audio and then imagine the new consequences...it's comedy gold, people). Sadly, it's right up there with Havel's Vanek Trilogy or Gertrude Stein to memorize. Lots of talking in circles. Circles that I have to lead.

It burns. Buuuuuurns. (whimper)

The Unbearable Lightness of the Minneapolis Police

Two weeks ago Foster, Nathan, Craig, and I got together for a Ministry of Cultural Warfare photo shoot. The goal was to get some publicity images for our latest incarnation of The Unbearable Lightness of Being American, presented at Intermedia Arts as part of the 13th Annual Minnesota Fringe Festival this August.




For this publicity shoot, we stationed ourselves at the figuratively shady corner of Franklin St. and Third Ave. So. My favorite record store, The Electric Fetus, was closed for the evening, so we were free to do what we chose without much disruption or fanfare. Or so we thought. Turns out that two weirdos standing alongside a freeway dressed as the Statue of Liberty and Uncle Sam attracts more attention from the surrounding state-assisted-mental-health neighborhood than we bargained for.

After several drive-bys that momentarily halted to near-stops for staring, and a few pedestrians slowing their gait to mere wanderings before resuming their initial purpose, the Minneapolis Police rolled up in a squad car. My three compatriots turned slightly away from the car - I don’t know if they were trying to hide their faces or pretend they didn’t see the cops or what, but I knew we couldn’t just ignore these officers that were now within ten feet of us - so I looked straight into the squad car and mustered up my cutest, “Hi!,” including my extra-dorky two-handed wave with hunched shoulders and a goofy smile. This is the kind of “hi” that’s the short way of saying all in one breath, “ohmygosh, we’re having so much fun and we’re totally innocent, but we think we might get in trouble, but you really shouldn’t worry about us because we’re plainly harmless and frankly adorable.”


The guys then turned around see the police’s reaction. We all stared at the cops. They stared back at us. They stared at us a little while longer. Then the cop in the driver’s seat broke out into a huge grin, punctuated it with two thumbs up, and drove away.



Shenanigans and panic aside, I hereby share some of the fruits of Our Labor for the Good of the People:



Unbearable Lightness of Being American 2006 - 1

Unbearable Lightness of Being American 2006 - 2

Unbearable Lightness of Being American 2006 - 3 Photos copyright 2006: Craig VanDerSchaegen.


A quick note about The Fringe for the greenhorns: it is the largest non-juried Fringe Festival in the United States, and the third largest in North America; it’s 11 days of the most gritty, raw, clever performance with sloppy blocking that you will ever experience, all wrapped up in a killer Minneapolis atmospheric taco.

A quick note about the latest incarnation of TULoBA for the already-indoctrinated: this is a brand-spanking new version with a few of your favorites, plus several new monologues and two-person scenes and a second person (Nathan Surprenant) to go with them, and some singing. Leah Cooper directed the Montreal version, now Reid Knuttila is directing this one.

Do come see the show - America will be so proud.