2012 in Review

In November of this past year, I took part in a little daily project on Facebook called The Month of Thanks.  Every day I sat down to write, publicly, something I was thankful for that day.  And let’s be honest, there are some dark, dark days in November in Minnesota.  Some days many of us are just thankful to wake up in the morning, the small victory of not having died in our sleep.  Ahem.  Um, did I mention we don’t get much sunlight ‘round these parts in the winter? Even so, it was a beautiful project to partake in – one that made me grateful for the gratitude alone.  And in considering this 2012 Year in Review, Day 28 of my Month of Thanks leapt off the screen at me:

:: Month of Thanks, Day 28: today's recording session was in a pretty, pretty studio I'd never seen before. And the longer video for which I was providing voice-over was really quite lovely (there was a commercial, too, but that was, you know, short and commercialey). I am profoundly grateful that a combination of luck, training, skill, and perseverance has enabled me to do what I love for a living.

That, right there, is the essence of so much of last year.  The joy of exploring new studios. Of meeting engineers, writers, and producers.  Of realizing that I am able to make my living doing what I love because of luck, training, skill, and perseverance.  No single one of those things alone would cut it; it takes every piece to create the balance.  Some of those things are in my control, some are not, but every one is a gift.  And for that, I am most grateful.

And so, without further ado, my performance highlights of 2012:




  • Continued part-time work at the Science Museum of Minnesota on the Science Live team – performing live science demonstrations and science-related short plays for museum audiences.
  • Traveled to Portland, OR to present to national museum colleagues the first draft of Kitchen Chemistry, a new live stage presentation I created for the Science Museum of Minnesota.
  • Joined the advance-publicity team for public appearances and started rehearsals for my roles as Anne Bonny and Mary Read (depending on the day) in the Real Pirates: The Untold Story of the Whydah exhibit at the Science Museum of Minnesota.  


  • Voiceovers for Marketplace Events spots - fourth year running.  Ty Pennington and I on national TV and radio urging you to attend home shows across the U.S.  TV commercials aired on HGTV and ABC and their affiliates.  Recorded at Audio Ruckus for Coordinet.
  • Voiceover for Land O’Lakes butter – my first truly-national television commercial.  I had done plenty of spots in the past that were aired in specific markets all over the U.S. (and therefore recorded multiples with appropriate city names filled in), but not one single commercial that would be aired everywhere.  Network TV, cable, everywhere.  It was very exciting.  Recorded at Echo Boys for Campbell Mithun.  




  • Opening of Real Pirates: The Untold Story of the Whydah at the Science Museum of Minnesota.
  • Started rehearsals for Rajiv Joseph’s achingly beautiful two-person play Gruesome Playground Injuries.


  • Voiceovers for KeyBank - this was the first session reading tags for their “Vase” (and another – the name of which I’m forgetting) TV and radio ads. 47 tags, to be specific.  Recorded at Todd Syring’s studio at Campbell Mithun for Campbell Mithun.  
  • Voiceovers for KeyBank (yes, more) – I ended up having several more sessions at Campbell Mithun this month – just a couple tags here and there – but still a delight to be in their studios every time.




  • Performances of Rajiv Joseph’s Gruesome Playground Injuries, which merited some lovely press, a hug from a newspaper critic, and a sweet note from the casting director at The Guthrie.  AND a new “Facebook friendship” with the playwright.  An honor and a joy.  
  • Continuation of Real Pirates: The Untold Story of the Whydah at the Science Museum of Minnesota.




  • Performed/read at a new script workshop at The Playwrights’ Center for a new play, which I’m embarrassed to say I retained no notes about – so cannot recollect the playwright nor the name of the play, nor if I read a role or the stage directions.  For shame, Leigha.
  • Continuation of Real Pirates: The Untold Story of the Whydah at the Science Museum of Minnesota.


  • Voiceovers for more Marketplace Events spots – this was for home shows that would be taking place later in the year, hence weren’t recorded at the year’s first session in January.  TV commercials aired on HGTV and ABC and their affiliates.  Recorded at Audio Ruckus for Coordinet.




  • Read stage directions at a new script workshop at The Playwrights’ Center for A User’s Guide to Hell, a new play by Lee Blessing.
  • Opened Kitchen Chemistry, a new live stage presentation I created for the Science Museum of Minnesota about the science of spaghetti – covering topics from boiling water to starch structures to smell and taste perception.
  • Continuation of Real Pirates: The Untold Story of the Whydah at the Science Museum of Minnesota.


  • Wrote and hosted the filming of the third in a four-part series of short satirical 1950’s-style educational films, titled The Wonders and Worries of Nanotechnology:  Who Benefits? on behalf of the Science Museum of Minnesota for The Nanoscale Informal Science Education Network (NISE Net).  Film + Production by Teddy Media.  


  • Voiceover for The Gimmie Awards, General Mills’ bi-annual awards ceremony.  Recorded at Syring Studios for Campbell Mithun.  I have to admit that it was a little exciting knowing who the winners were and why before the winners themselves.

Featured Press

  • Interview and photo shoot for small feature article and very large photograph to run later in the month in Vita.MN, a local arts and entertainment magazine owned by the Star Tribune.  The focus of the article was my work in Minneapolis/St. Paul as a full-time stage, screen, and voiceover actor.  




  • Read stage directions at a new script workshop at The Playwrights’ Center for Way West, a new play by Mona Mansour.
  • Continuation of Real Pirates: The Untold Story of the Whydah at the Science Museum of Minnesota.


  • Performed on-camera as The Bride in Girls in Lane 4, Steeltoe Stiletto’s entry into the Minneapolis 48-Hour Film Project.  For our efforts, we garnered a “Best Film” nomination and walked away with a coveted “Audience Favorite” award.  


  • Voiceover of animatics (they’re like roughly-animated storyboards) for a new Land O’Lakes product, which I still believe is going through the development phase.  I’ve been told that if it does make it to market with this concept, I’m in for the final spots.  This is, however, a months-long process – so who knows.  Keeping my fingers crossed nonetheless, because optimism feels better than the alternative.  Recorded at Todd Syring’s studio at Campbell Mithun for Campbell Mithun.
  • Voiceovers for KeyBank – a few more sessions this month – just a couple tags here and there for their “Vase” TV and radio ads.  Recorded at Todd Syring’s studio at Campbell Mithun for Campbell Mithun.




  • Performed/read for a new script workshop at The Playwrights’ Center of a new play, which I’m embarrassed to say I retained no notes about.  This is the second of two in 2012 that I somehow didn’t manage to keep records on – what on earth?  My apologies to the playwright.  For shame.  Again.
  • Continuation of Real Pirates: The Untold Story of the Whydah at the Science Museum of Minnesota.




  • Read stage directions at a new script workshop at The Playwrights’ Center for Regulation 18B, a new play by Scott Wright.
  • Read the role of Diana Margineanu at a new script workshop at The Playwrights’ Center for No Hay Luz and the Search for the Red Bourgainvilleas, a new play by Domnica Radulescu.  Thank goodness for my four years of Spanish in high school.  Rusty as all get-out, but the foundation is still there.
  • Continuation of Real Pirates: The Untold Story of the Whydah at the Science Museum of Minnesota.  I KNOW, right?  When on earth did this thing end?!  Labor Day.  And so this is the last time you’ll see this particular gig mentioned.  It was a hell of a lot of fun, but I was so, SO happy when it was done for the sole sake of not having to fuss with that wretched dirt makeup anymore.  That shit was satanic.


  • Voiceover for Cheerios – this was an incredibly sweet online video featuring a “panel” of really cute kids talking about how their moms don’t really realize that they still like Cheerios even though they’re not babies anymore.  Adorbs.  Recorded at Spotnik for Orange Filmworks.  
  • Voiceover for Marketplace Events spots – yes, more.  I love these people.  TV commercials aired on HGTV and ABC and their affiliates.  Recorded at Audio Ruckus for Coordinet.




  • Performances of the remount of Rajiv Joseph’s Gruesome Playground Injuries.  Man, I love this play.  Rajiv is brilliant.  He didn’t write it for me, but I want him to write for me always.
  • Started rehearsals for kaotic good productions’ The Cooking Show con Karimi & Comrades: Viva la Soul Power! at Intermedia Arts.  This year’s show was going to be HUGE.


  • Voiceover for Target – the second iteration of a short film about inclusiveness - entitled Anthem  (originally voiced in December 2011 and entitled You Make Us).  Recorded at Media Loft.  
  • Voiceover for Crystal Farms’ Simply Potatoes – announcer on two fun radio spots featuring some fantastic Minneapolis/St. Paul talent.  Recorded at Babble-On for Gabriel deGrood Bendt (GdB). 
  • Voiceovers for KeyBank – a few more sessions this month – just a couple tags here and there for their “Vase” TV and radio ads.  Recorded at Todd Syring’s studio at Campbell Mithun for Campbell Mithun.
  • Voiceover for the National Bone Marrow Donor Program’s annual awards ceremony.  This was my second year back in the studio for this client, and it was an honor and a joy to be asked back. Recorded at Aaron/Stokes for Blue 60 Pictures.
  • Voiceover for General Mills’ Yoplait Yogurt – dialogue with the delightful Gary Bingner, announced by the equally-delightful Mark Benninghofen.  Recorded at Audio Ruckus for Shout! Creative.  




  • Read stage directions for a new script workshop at The Playwrights’ Center of The Toupee, a new play by Tom Dunn.
  • Performances of kaotic good productions’ The Cooking Show con Karimi & Comrades: Viva La Soul Power! at Intermedia Arts.  This was part of a much-larger project called 28 Days of Good Energia, which included a full (and gorgeous) gallery exhibition, and it was, again, a whirlwind of activities and some of the most amazingly soulful and creative and funny people.  And incredible food.  Ohmygod.
  • Started rehearsals and research for my role as Nephthys in the Lost Egypt at the Science Museum of Minnesota.  The evolution of ancient Egyptian mythology is a fascinating beast unto itself – and oh boy was there a lot to learn for this project.


  • Voiceover for LifeTime Fitness – this was for an animated video that will, in theory, play on their exercise machines in gyms nationwide.  Recorded at LifeTime Vision for LifeTime Fitness.




  • Closing performances of kaotic good productions’ The Cooking Show con Karimi & Comrades: Viva La Soul Power! at Intermedia Arts.


  • Voiceovers for a gorgeous short film and not-yet-completed commercial demo made by a reputable marketing firm campaigning for a very large company.  Unfortunately, I’m unable to share more than that due to confidentiality requirements at present, but if they land the gig, I can share.  Recorded at BWN Music.  
  • Voiceovers for KeyBank – a few more sessions this month – just a couple tags here and there for their “Vase” TV and radio ads.  Recorded at Todd Syring’s studio at Campbell Mithun for Campbell Mithun.




  • Read the role of Jane for a new script workshop at The Playwrights’ Center of ColorLines, a new play by David Wiles.  Keep an eye out for further developments on this play.  Because wow.


  • Cast as host for on-camera industrial for DraxImage’s RUBY-FILL Strontium- and Rubidium-82 Generators.  Turns out my gig at the Science Museum has made me pretty adept at presenting information, like about machines that provide measured doses of radiopharmaceuticals, as if I know what I’m talking about.  Filming to take place in January 2013.  


  • Voiceovers for Marketplace Events spots - fifth year running! FIFTH year!  Love.  Ty Pennington and I on national TV and radio urging you to attend home shows across the U.S.  TV commercials aired on HGTV and ABC and their affiliates.  Recorded at Audio Ruckus for Coordinet.
  • Voiceover for Crystal Farms’ Pancake and French Toast batters – TV commercials. Recorded at Echo Boys for Gabriel deGrood Bendt (GdB).



At the start of last year I promised to dream bigger dreams and then run to catch them.  The dreaming did indeed happen, and continues unabated.  It is, however, now accompanied by blueprints for the life I intend to build.  Plans are afoot.  This is the year that I’m going to break ground on new land.



Vita.mn - Work:

In early April I was contacted by the ever-delightful Jay Gabler about a little article he had successfully pitched to his editor at Vita.mn – a weekly arts and culture rag published by the Star Tribune. He was looking to feature my work as a voice-over artist and part-time pirate at the Science Museum of Minnesota in Vita.mn's weekly Work: column. We chatted casually on the phone shortly thereafter, followed by a lovely photo shoot at Babble-On Recording Studios with photographer Bre McGee. The following, published May 24, 2012, is the final result.


Star Tribune's weekly arts and culture rag, Vita.mn - 5.24.2012

Read the full article here.  Or, if the article has gone missing, as online articles are wont to do, check out the PDF here:  

I will admit that it’s somewhat surreal to be mentioned in print sans critique on the quality of my work as an artist. I’ve become so accustomed to being reviewed that this makes me feel rather adrift. Flattered, certainly; yet adrift. Even so, thanks, Jay. It's pretty killer that you found my work interesting enough to give it ink. So far, this is the most fun making a living that I've ever had.

2010 in Review

End-of-year lists can be so tedious.  I know this.  And yet here we are.  Because the only thing more tedious than end-of-year lists is searching for some documentation of some thing that happened a year or two or three ago, and not being able to find anything about it because I was too lazy/tired/overjoyed/myopic/disassociated to actually write about it.  I therefore offer up this end-of-year list as a compendium of my professional shenanigans so that searching for them in the future won’t drive me crazy.  You’re welcome, Me. Be sure to thank me later. In 2010 I made my living in front of an audience and behind the mic.  And for that I am so deeply in awe.  So deeply grateful for my fortuity.  While our economy is not nearly as bad as 2009, it’s still in terrible disarray and record numbers of people are still unemployed.  Even so, I was able to make a modest living via my profession; a modest living that didn’t require me to engage in morally questionable behavior (the kind where one would accompany a raised eyebrow with ‘actress’ in air-quotes).

Without further ado, my performance highlights of 2010:



  • Began rehearsals for the Science Museum of Minnesota’s next exhibition – The Dead Sea Scrolls: Words That Changed the World, wherein we would perform a three-minute introductory monologue for visitors every 7.5 minutes.  In all honesty, it was mind-numbing, but the visitors were mostly appreciative.
  • Interviewed by Minnesota Public Radio’s Chris Roberts about my line-memorization techniques – ultimately compiled into a clever on-air story and accompanying slideshow with fellow actors Steven Epp, Mo Perry and Clarence Wethern.
  • The Big Oscar Crunch 2010 – wherein I try to see as many of the Oscar-nominated films as humanly possible before the awards ceremony.  The fun of doing it that way is not only seeing excellent movies, but actually feeling invested in more than just the red carpet.
  • Started rehearsals for Spring of Freedom/Summer of Feara new Iranian play by Ali G. Ravi , produced by Table Salt Productions.
  • VO gig for Carlson Companies – got to put Nurse Evelyn Marsden’s darling English accent to good use.


  • Devastated to drop out of Spring of Freedom/Summer of Fear due to a harrowing family crisis which, because it apparently wasn’t bad enough, led to a nasty case of shingles.  Yes, shingles.  Probably the worst three weeks of my adult life to date.
  • Called in by the lovely Barbara Shelton at Bab’s Casting to audition for a new WB pilot Mike and Molly.  The network was looking for someone 30 pounds overweight.  I was exactly that (not anymore, thanks to a newfound love of yoga), and so happily went in.  Between the script (and the eventual casting choice), it became quite clear that LA thinks 30 pounds overweight is the same thing as obese.  Surprising?  Not really.
  • Called in by the Guthrie Theater to audition for the role of Eunice in Streetcar Named Desire.  Almost missed the e-mail because I assumed it was Guthrie marketing spam and was about to delete it.  Didn’t recognize the sender’s name, though, so opened it.  Close call.
  • VOs for Nexxus demos/animatics.  These are voice-overs for a concept by the ad agency for the client.  If it gets approved by the client, the agency then films 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 (especially since many of these were the same as, or similar to, the ones I did in April 2009).


  • VOs for Nexxus demos/animatics – two more sessions.
  • Public reading of Casa Cushman, a new work by NYC’s Tectonic Theater Project (the folks who brought you The Laramie Project, at the University of Minnesota Nolte Center.


  • Crickets. Both figurative and literal.  Aside from live science demonstrations at the Science Museum of Minnesota, it appears that I did nothing performance-related in May.  And I went camping.
  • On Tuesday, May 11, amongst of a jumble of scheduled meetings and things to do, I found written in my calendar, “Hell-cat Maggie and Slops McConnell.”  I have no idea what that means, but I think it’s funny, so thought I would share with anyone who is still reading by this point.  Kiss, kiss.

June More crickets.  Figurative.  See May.



  • 2010 Minnesota Fringe Festival, and my performance in Walking Shadow’s critically acclaimed See You Next Tuesday.  I was so excited to be back at the festival that I advance-purchased an Ultra Pass, with which I ended up only seeing three shows due to an emergency hospital visit and an emergency vet visit.  2010 was not turning out to be a great year for health.
  • VO spots (more, again) for Marketplace Events home shows with Ty Pennington – TV and Radio (listen).  Continued airings on HGTV and ABC.



  • Obscenely busy month that had almost nothing to do with performing.  Included business travel to San Francisco for continued work on behalf of the Science Museum of Minnesota for NISE Net (Nanoscale Informal Science Education Network), with a little leisure travel to San Diego and LA on the side.
  • No! Wait!  Because of my General Mills VOs in September, this is the month that I was required to join the Screen Actors’ Guild (SAG)!  That’s right, I got my SAG card in October.  October was not an actorly loss, after all.


  • Started rehearsals for a three-week, 30-hours/week workshop of Casa Cushman – in collaboration with NYC’s Tectonic Theater Project, choreographer Carl Flink, University of Minnesota Department of Theater Arts and Dance, a couple other U of M departments that I can’t recall at the moment, and The Playwrights’ Center.
  • Sent live the brand-spankin’-shiny-new leighahorton.com.


  • Performance of Casa Cushman at the Northrop Auditorium.  This was a wild ride, and at the end of it all, despite some crazy-cray-cray, it was kind of awesome.  And I kind of loved it.
  • VOs for General Mills (42 in total) for Progresso Light Soups, Yoplait and Yoplait Light Yogurts, and Big G Cereals national TV spots.  I just about died and went to heaven.
  • VOs for Marketplace Events Home Shows with Ty Pennington – third year running!
  • Authored and published a children’s book for NISE Net, Alice in Nanoland, which, as you read this, is being mailed to 200 informal science education institutions (science museums, children’s museums, etc.) across the nation in the 2011 NanoDays kits.  What a curious little experience that was.

And there we have it!  The months of 2010 demonstrate both feast and famine and average out to healthy; December being, by far, the most entertaining (well, for me, anyway).  I continue to stand, mouth agape, at the wondrous profession I have chosen and the beautiful trajectory it has taken thus far.  I cannot wait to see what delightful paths await!

Thanks, Blog

Well, heck – if this isn’t a nice way to start 2008, I don’t know what is:

Metro Magazine – January 2008 issue Happy Birthday to Blogs: A Timewaster Turns 10

by Chuck Terhark

“The Best Homegrown Blogs” Theater – leighahorton.com/greenroom

Metro Magazine - 1/08 cover

Metro Magazine - 1/08 Happy Birthday to Blogs

Metro Magazine - 1/08 The Best Homegrown Blogs

Metro Magazine - 1/08 The Best Homegrown Blogs - Leigha Horton greenroom

(click on thumbnails for larger views)

Thanks, blog, ya done me good. You, too, Chuck. And Metro Magazine, too. And everybody who reads this thing. Let’s see where this crazy ride takes us in 2008, eh?

Another Win for the Russian

Well, heck – if this isn’t a nice way to end 2007, I don’t know what is:


St. Paul Pioneer Press The trick was trying to see all the Twin Cities theater magic in 2007 by Dominic Papatola

#4 (out of 10) "Anton in Show Business," staged by Starting Gate Productions The script is a sharp-eyed and wickedly funny look at a fictitious regional theater's production of "The Three Sisters," and by extension and sly parallel, the weird and wacky backstage of American theater. If you go only to big theaters in the area to see plays, then you probably wouldn't recognize anyone in director Leah Cooper's cast. But if there's any justice in the world, both the director and the seven performers in this all-female cast should be remembered for future gigs for their solid ensemble work.




Lavender Magazine Year in Review 2007 by John Townsend

Genderbending in Twin Cities theater had a field day in 2007. An all-male cast of Richard III by 10,000 Things and an all-female cast of Anton in Show Business at Starting Gate were exceptional.

Best Productions: #6 - Anton in Show Business, Starting Gate Productions

Best Supporting Actress: Mo Perry, Anton in Show Business, Starting Gate Productions


A thousand thanks to Dominic and John for the recognition; yet another “yay, team!” to my dear Anton in Show Business cast and crew; and a special congrats to the Mo-mobile – girl, you are unstoppable! Choo-choo!

Wonder Women II

We just received two more excellent reviews for Anton in Show Business – all the more reason to stymie this weekend’s overdose on the tryptophan and Family Time cocktail. Theater! Popcorn! Comedy! Alone-Time! Your friend Leigha! Seriously, does it get better than this?


City Pages

The Mounds stages both a sendup and celebration of life in the theater: No Business Like Show By Quinton Skinner

Anton Chekhov's 1901 play Three Sisters addressed, roughly speaking, the problems of Russian gentry facing changing times at the turn of the previous century. One could argue that Jane Martin's Anton in Show Business, first performed in 2001, deals with another institution in flux—the American theater, looking for identity amid the economic and social realities that could cause it to change or perish.

Well, I'm not going to pursue that argument. Because aside from an opening monologue about the status of the contemporary stage, this is more a show about theater people than a grand statement about the system they inhabit. With great precision Martin dissects, sends up, and finally exalts show people and the drive for transcendence that allows them to endure all manner of irrationalities and indignities.

The action in this all-female-cast production opens with an audition for a production of Chekhov's play, where the brainy, acerbic Casey (Zoe Benston) meets fresh acting meat just arrived from Texas in the form of Lisabette (Bethany Ford). The audition goes terribly, thanks to a pompous Brit director (Muriel Bonertz); he and Casey trade barbs that set the tone for a piece that is unapologetically insidery to the end.

Casey, we're told, is a veteran of 200 off-Broadway acting gigs (and as many lovers plucked from the casts of the shows; see, she sleeps around, which is a diametric contrast to Chekhov's dowdy Olga, whom she will later play, because Martin really likes internal subtexts). Casey seems headed for unemployment before she's rescued by the glamorous Holly (Emma Gochberg). Holly is a famous TV actress in search of stage cred as a stepping-stone to a movie role; she insists on hiring Casey and Lisabette, because she's tired of the audition process and wants to get on with things.

The trio decamps for San Antonio, where they begin rehearsals under the squishy leadership of company administrative director Kate (Mo Perry). It seems the company has entered into a partnership with an agitprop outfit called Black Rage. That means working for new director Andwyneth (Tamala Kendrick), who suggests all manner of deconstruction of old Anton's play and is summarily canned by the all-powerful Holly.

Martin is widely thought to be a pseudonym for former longtime Actors Theatre of Louisville director Jon Jory, a conceit that would be increasingly tedious if Martin's plays didn't tend to be quite good. Here she tries to insulate her work from practitioners of the dark art of theater criticism by inserting Joby (Leigha Horton), who regularly rises up from the front row of the audience to point out, for instance, that a romantic story that arises is pretty superfluous, or that the play may be drifting into sentimentality. Martin seems to want to have her cake, eat it, and put the remainder of it in the fridge for tomorrow's breakfast.

All of which could be cause for lamentation and gnashing of teeth, but Leah Cooper directs the proceedings with ample smarts and sophistication, and the cast delivers engaging work. Benston is world-weary, yet depicts Casey as finding solace in the acuity of her own powers of observation, while Ford rides a Texas drawl and galaxies-wide naiveté to emerge as probably the most sympathetic character. Gochberg could have produced a bit more black-widow venom as her jaded starlet, but at times her icy sweetness hints at something even darker.

Kendrick, Perry, and Bonertz each show the capacity to, as Bill Cosby once said, stop on a dime and give you five cents change. Their sharp, multi-character performances are another commentary on the theater by Martin, who alludes to shows just such as this that can't afford to pay actors for every written role, or sometimes any role at all. By the end, we get a summoning of the connection and community that theater is all about, sort of, that almost cuts through all the cynicism. But by then we've seen enough sheer charm that such an invocation seems almost unnecessary. Anyhow, someone, somewhere, will always be putting on a show.

ANTON IN SHOW BUSINESS Starting Gate Productions at the Mounds Theatre through December 2 651.645.3503


Single White Fringe Geek (and Mom) //In My Humble Opinion Anton In Show Business - Starting Gate Productions - 4-1/2 stars

-Matthew Everett


“Outside rehearsal, I’m a virgin. It’s just that I’m always in rehearsal.”

I have to be honest. I hate most shows about theater. Most of the time, it’s just all too self-involved and precious. Art about artists leaves me cold.

“I will f**k you with my art, and you will cry out.”

Imagine my surprise then, that I loved Anton In Show Business - a play about a hapless group of theater people desperately trying to mount to production of Chekhov’s Three Sisters.

“They come from the mist, they return to the mist.”

I probably shouldn’t be too surprised, considering the line-up of artists involved. Director Leah Cooper leads a great all-female ensemble of actors (and stage hands) through Jane Martin’s tale of theatrical mishaps. In fact, it was just that combination of people that first made me think, “With these folks involved, a play about putting on a play couldn’t be all bad.” Far from being all bad, it was nearly all good.

“Screw Thespis... Run for your lives.”

The script treads a fine line because it actively engages nearly every single stereotype about the theater and artists. Where it succeeds is when it allows us to engage the people on stage as human beings first, artists second. The play, and production, doesn’t take it for granted that we care. It allows us to get to know the characters, and then we care about what they care about. We root for them to get what they want. The fact that the thing they care about, and want, is theater, is in many ways oddly secondary. What these women want is what we all want - a sense of connection to other people, the assurance that what we are doing with our lives matters somehow, the knowledge that even when we fail, repeatedly, all is not lost. These are some of the things that matter most to Chekhov, in addition to ridiculing hypocrisy. When the script finds modern ways to convey those same longings and skewer the same falsehoods, the story and the characters really soar. The fact that it often does so the same way Chekhov did, with a generous sense of humor about human frailty, is doubly commendable. This makes it comedy that matters just as much, if not more, than drama.

“Pardon me, Jesus.”

The play starts with an overview of the state of theater and the performing arts in general, by our wisecracking stage manager narrator (Tamala Kendrick) - which, though well-performed, didn’t exactly set me at ease. It then segued into an audition sequence with all the unfortunate stock types - the southern-fried ingenue (Bethany Ford), the jaded off-off-off-Broadway regular (Zoe Benston) with recurring breast cancer, the impossibly statuesque and beautiful TV actress bankrolling a vanity project to get some artistic respect (Emma Gochberg), the hopelessly pretentious producer (Mo Perry), the obtuse and abusive director (Muriel Bonertz). It’s almost as if Jane Martin knows that as long as the script keeps both the familiar and the punchlines coming, it buys itself the time to flesh out the characters while our guard is down. It engages the audience in some storytelling shorthand to draw them in and then does its best to subvert all expectations.

And it worked. When the lights came up at intermission, I felt like no time at all had passed. I would happily have sat in the company of these performers for far longer in the first half, and it made me anxious to return to the rest of the story they had to share. That’s not something that happens all that often. Anton In Show Business is just the right combination of sharp script and even sharper performers. This is especially true of the three leads of this production, also the three sisters of the production within the production.

I’ve seen Bethany Ford (Lisabette, the Texas ingenue) in supporting roles in other productions but in this one she snuck up on me (much like her character) and completely won me over. The final moments of the play belong to her - a simple but moving story about how theater connects people, on and offstage alike, in a search for meaning and purpose. It sounds pretentious, but it was quite lovely. After seeing her breathe life into this goofy damaged young woman, I’m looking forward to whatever Ford chooses to do next.

Zoe Benston (Casey, the theater veteran) never ceases to amaze me with her ability to make any character, in any kind of production (good or bad), compelling to watch. It’s as much in the eyes as in the words. There is a full life, full of triumphs and disappointments and unreasonable hope for something better, lurking behind the eyes of this worn-out woman, Casey. Her tired smile, her reluctant sentimentality, her inability to escape the role of mentor and mother to others, all speak volumes. When, toward the end, a director seeks to dismiss their efforts to present Chekhov’s play, the wordless slow-burning anger building in Casey’s eyes had me making a mental note never to get on Benston’s bad side. Not sure how many of those stares a person could take and remain standing.

Holly the TV star could have been a thankless role in the wrong hands. Good thing they gave it to Emma Gochberg. Not only does she look every inch the part, but she never lets the high volume of jokes at Holly’s expense, and the expense of her chosen career trajectory, sail by unanswered. Yes, some people are shallow. But shallow people are people, too. This could have been the weak side of the central character triangle, but instead Gochberg’s unapologetic portrayal threatened to walk off with moment after moment in the production. Holly may burn through directors, jobs and men faster than most people, but just when you think you’ve got her figured out, or can dismiss her, she reminds you why you have to continue paying close attention. Neither the script, nor Gochberg’s work, are as simple as that.

Each in multiple roles, regularly crossing gender lines, Muriel Bonertz, Tamala Kendrick, and Mo Perry proved they can do pretty much anything you throw at them. Bonertz probably gets to have the most fun, playing three different but all powerful men - a British theater director with delusions of coherence, a Polish theater director with a maddening but ultimately effective way of demanding more from his actors, and Joe Bob, the head of the theater’s board of directors, channeling the bewilderment of modern theater audiences and finally putting it into words. Kendrick makes the most of turns as characters as different as the African American director brought in to score the theater some grant money for diversity, and the tobacco executive who funds the arts, and isn’t shy about calling people out for spitting on his money even as they continue to take it and use it. Perry is quite funny as the sly costume designer, and the theater-obsessed but ultimately lovelorn producer, but it is, strangely enough, as a male character that, like Bonertz, she most impresses. Perry’s turn as castmate Ben, the decent married guy who succumbs to Holly’s seductive charms and turns his life inside out for his co-star, is an odd experience for the audience. The way she carries herself and modulates her voice, it’s easy to forget she’s a woman. What might otherwise be billed as “hot girl-on-girl action” between Perry and Gochberg ends up seeming very much like a standard heterosexual affair. One of the many surprises that production keeps coming from beginning to end.

Even the character who should not work at all, works because of the actress into whose hands it has been entrusted. Joby is not just a critic who rises up out of the audience to repeatedly engage the actors onstage in a discussion of the play’s merit, Joby is the playwright’s internal censor. To its credit, the script plays with the idea of an audience plant in remarkably agile ways. But by voicing any and all objections to the content and presentation of the play, within the play itself, it seems like the author is trying to inoculate the text against any and all criticism from the outside. (Say it quickly about yourself before anyone else has a chance.) The main reason I object to this as a tactic is that it keeps the author from writing a better play. (“I can’t solve that problem, so I’ll just make fun of the fact I can’t solve the problem, and then skip to the next bit.”) It also keeps the audience at a constant distance from the characters. There are only so many times you can be jerked in and out of the story of the play before you just stop emotionally investing in it at all. This tactic isn’t what the play is ultimately about, otherwise Joby would have the last word, not Lisabette. All that said, Leigha Horton plays Joby full out from her perch in the front row. Not knowing the script, when Joby is threatened with being pulled up onstage and into the play itself, I found myself wishing, “Yes, please let Leigha Horton actually be part of the play we’re supposed to be watching.” Horton makes the role of gadfly work, but I was hoping they’d let her do more. Well, there’s always the next show.

So, a production which on the surface I should have disliked, I loved. A production that I expected to find tedious, engaged me instead and just flew by. Theater is a very confusing thing sometimes. But that’s also what Anton In Show Business is about. So go be confused and conflicted and highly entertained for yourself.

Very Highly Recommended.

Anton In Show Business from Starting Gate Productions runs for two more weekends, through December 2, 2007 at the Mounds Theater in St. Paul1029 Hudson Road). Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30pm, Sundays at 2pm. Tickets are $18 regular, $16 for seniors, students and Fringe button holders, and $10 for high schoolers. More information on the theater, production, directions and tickets is available at www.startingate.org, www.moundstheatre.org, or by calling 651-645-3503

Wonder Women

The reviews are in – Anton in Show Business (my latest onstage escapade [performed from a seat in the audience]), opened last weekend and has received the official thumbs-up from the press. I was proud to be working with such an insightful, talented, fearless group of women during the rehearsal process, and am thrilled that the press sees what I see (especially the part about Mo Perry kicking arse as a man – she is seriously smokin’ hot as Ben Shipwright).

Pioneer Press - 'Anton' goes behind the scenery

BY DOMINIC P. PAPATOLA, Theater Critic Article Last Updated: 11/12/2007 06:48:03 PM CST


I've been waiting for some local theater to stage "Anton in Show Business" since I saw the play's premiere at the Actors Theatre of Louisville in 2000. That many years of waiting can often result in a letdown, but I'm delighted to report that Jane Martin's loving lampoon of the backstage business of theater remains fresh and funny, and that Starting Gate Productions offers a crisp and lively staging that rewards theater insiders and tickles mainstream audiences, as well.

Under Martin's sometimes-poisonous pen, a cast of seven women conjures a microcosm of the American regional theater movement, telling the tale of a hinterland company in Texas attempting to stage Chekhov's "Three Sisters." The cast of the play-within-the-play is toplined by a jaded off-Broadway veteran, a breathless newbie and a talentless TV star slumming on the stage.

Along their hapless way, the actresses encounter overeducated artistic directors, skuzzy corporate underwriters, bombastic foreign artists, rich-rube board members and self-important critics.

It's a wise, sharp-eyed and wickedly funny look at the business of theater, written by someone who's been there (the pseudonymous Martin is widely believed to be Jon Jory, who ran the Actors Theatre of Louisville for three decades). Previous theater experience and a working knowledge of Chekhov are helpful - but by no means necessary - to enjoy the play, which is generously larded with laughs at the expense of the aesthetic folk it caricatures.

Director Leah Cooper (who, as the former executive director of the Minnesota Fringe Festival, has her own stories about the sausage factory of theater) keeps the play's centrifugal force spinning with a number of smart little touches (including a visible, attitude-charged group of black-clad stagehands and pre-show soundtrack that includes Broadway showtunes from "You're the Top" to "Springtime for Hitler").

Her cast is composed mainly of actresses who have been toiling on the Twin Cities' small- and very-small-theater circuit; this show could be a calling card for any one of them.

Zoe Benston is not quite deadpan and strikes the right blend of warmth and weariness as Casey, the actress who's seen it all. Emma Gochberg is a take-no-prisoners, matter-of-fact tigress as Holly, the blonde, babelicious TV star who doesn't allow her limitations to get in the way of her career. And Bethany Ford puts plenty of starry-eyed wonder into the naive Lisabette. The trio builds a great sense of chemistry and comic timing, providing a strong core both for themselves and for the orbits of the supporting characters.

Foremost among the latter is Mo Perry, who shows discipline and a ton of range playing the quietly libidinous artistic director, an aw-shucks country singer of a leading man and - in a turn that approaches grand theft acting - an en fuego but savvy costume designer.

Kudos, too, go to Tamala Kendrick, Muriel Bonertz and Leigha Horton. Martin writes everyone a spotlight moment or two; Cooper underscores them lightly and the cast members take their turns under the klieg with grace and skill and then slip seamlessly back into the ensemble.

If you love theater so much that it drives you crazy, "Anton in Show Business" will reinforce both your passions and your prejudices. If you just want to have a good, escapist night at the theater, it's hard to go wrong with this solidly written and well-performed peek behind the curtain.

Theater critic Dominic P. Papatola can be reached at dpapatola@pioneerpress.com or 651-228-2165.

What: "Anton in Show Business," staged by Starting Gate Productions

When: Through Dec. 2

Where: Mounds Theatre, 1029 Hudson Road, St. Paul

Tickets: $18

Call: 651-645-3503

Capsule: A farce? Only if you've never worked in the theater.

Star Tribune - 'Anton in Show Business' is a deconstruction site In Starting Gate's production of the Jane Martin play, a sagging second act doesn't negate the farce or the satire.

By William Randall Beard, Special to the Star Tribune

Last update: November 12, 2007 – 2:51 PM

In billing its sixth season as "Plays Written by Women Playwrights," Starting Gate Productions is being a bit disingenuous. It is a poorly kept secret that the "Jane Martin" who wrote the troupe's currently running "Anton in Show Business," is really a man. But then, that's the kind of theatrical sleight of hand that this play specializes in.

While she was executive director of the Minnesota Fringe Festival, director Leah Cooper saw her share of theater crazies. And she represents them well in this fast-paced production, depicting them with both love and a razor-sharp wit.

A theater in Texas is producing Anton Chekhov's "The Three Sisters." The cast includes Lisabette, a perky newcomer, as Irina, Casey, a hard-bitten veteran, as Olga, and Holly, a ditzy TV star, as Masha. Rehearsals got horribly awry in this far-fetched backstage farce.

But this show is as much satire as farce. Martin wants to have her cake and eat it too. And she does. She pokes fun at deconstruction and then she deconstructs. She uses an all-female cast and then parodies that decision. Through the interruptions of an audience member, she skewers the most precious and pretentious elements of contemporary theater.

At times, the play feels too much like an inside joke. But there's enough that's universal in the behavior of these silly, arrogant and deluded people to engage even the neophyte.

Unfortunately, the play cannot maintain its initial anarchic energy. By the middle of the second act, it bogs down with not enough plot to propel the comedy. And in the final scenes, Martin attempts to set up a tragic parallel to Chekhov that becomes overly sentimental and preachy.

While the cast cannot save the ending, they are excellent indeed. Emma Gochberg delights in the narcissistic myopia of Holly, who knows how to use her power. Bethany Ford makes Lisabette's naiveté endearing, while still sharply mocking the character's Texas background. And Zoe Benston gives Casey a dark cynicism, but also the most emotional depth.

Mo Perry pulls off a real tour de force, playing in turn a lesbian producer, a male country singer and a flamboyant gay costumer. Muriel Bonertz also dazzles as three men, an arrogant British director, an arrogant Slavic director and the arrogant president of the theater board.

It is said that the hardest thing to write is a second act. "Anton in Show Business" bears that out. But there is still enough that is funny, incisive and outrageous in the play and especially in this strong production to consider the evening a success.

William Randall Beard is a Minneapolis writer.

Talkin’ Broadway - Starting Gate Productions Anton in Show Business -Ed Huyck

Prolific and enigmatic playwright Jane Martin has tackled many a personal, social and political issue during her (his? their?) long career, but there is an extra level of sharp venom in Anton in Show Business, a deconstruction of the modern American theater world. Starting Gate Productions delivers a strong reading of the play - one that not only finds the laughs on the surface of the play, but gets into the heart of the characters and what the theater means, to the actors and the audience.

The theater jokes come fast and furious, such as the stage manager's early description of New York City, where she describes the Actor's Equity Office as the place that "makes sure no more than 80 percent of its members are out of work at any one time." The characters aren't spared either. Set against a doomed production of The Three Sisters at Theater Express, a San-Antonio-based company, the play introduces three generic "types" for the leads: a fame-driven Hollywood actress looking to get into movies; a bitter New York City performer who has appeared in 200 shows without getting paid; and a naïve young Texan getting her first break in show business. They interact with a bevy of familiar types, from over-educated artistic director to handsome leading man to an insane group of directors. There's also a theater critic in the audience who interrupts the proceedings from time to time, to the consternation of the actors on stage.

If it remained a show-biz parody, Anton in Show Business would be a fairly entertaining piece that eventually wears out its welcome. Yet the script has more depth, and the actors mine that for all it's worth, crafting a number of characters that live well beyond their clichés.

The all-woman cast includes a number of standout performances, including Zoe Benston as the bitter New York actor Casey, Emma Gochberg as Hollywood refugee Holly, and Bethany Ford as Texan Lisabette. The three truly become "sisters" through the play, ending with a beautiful reading of the final scene from Chekhov's play. In multiple roles, Muriel Bonertz, Tamala Kendrick and Mo Perry do good work, while Leigha Horton gives critic Joby lots of nervous energy, but also generates sympathy for her own position in the world.

Leah Cooper does a solid job directing, though the show does have a few rough edges (awkward scene changes, a few dropped lines) that should have been smoothed over before the show opened. Still, Anton in Show Business is a fine production that gets to the heart of the why of theater in a way other insider plays have not been able to do.

Anton in Show Business runs through December 2 at the Mounds Theatre, 1029 Hudson Road, St. Paul. For tickets and more information, call 651-645-3503 or visit www.startinggate.org.


Photo: John Autey

The Guthrie Learning Center

I got a call from my friend Craig last week that went something like this:

C: You’re in an ad for The Guthrie?! I can’t believe you didn’t tell me!

Me: What are you talking about? – I’m not in an ad for the Guthrie.

C: Yes you are – it’s plainly you. You’re telling me you didn’t know about this?


C: You haven’t seen this week’s Vita.MN?

Me: No, I haven’t.

C: Open it up–first page–an ad for The Guthrie Learning Center. You’re blurry and you’re looking at some guy holding a beer.

Me: What? Do you have a copy there? Can you send me a picture?

C: Yeah, here:

Vita.mn cover


Vita.mn - Guthrie ad with Leigha Horton


Vita.mn - Guthrie ad with Leigha Horton - CLOSEUP

(click on images for larger views)


So yeah, I’m in an ad for the Guthrie.

I remember when it was taken, too - I attended a small brainstorming session for Minnesota Public Radio’s In the Loop several months back (that happened to be in a Guthrie lounge space) and remember a photographer there, but thought the photographer was an MPR staffer, not a Guthrie dude. The guy holding the beer is Jeff Horwich, host of In the Loop.

So the first question is this: even though the Guthrie’s Marketing & PR department has no idea who I am, and I’m not a model, and I was on the premises for a completely different reason, could I still theoretically put this on my acting resume as a print-credit for the prestigious Guthrie Theater?

Further questions are these: Do you think the Guthrie would actually want to know that it’s Jeff and me in the photo, just for their files? Is it weird that Jeff and I are both professional performers and that we didn’t get credited or compensated for this photo, or even get asked to sign a release? On a broader scale, is being on the premises of an organization automatic consent for that organization to use your image for advertising?

Frankly, I’m flattered. Intrigued by all of the big-brother-esque social issues this raises, but flattered nonetheless.

Pouch Press

The official Tale of a West Texas Marsupial Girl opening night was last Friday – and I believe it was a success. I must admit that the notes we received the day prior left me feeling rather lost, so I went through the performance taking into account as much as I could, but also surrendering to my own personal instincts and just giving the audience what I felt was right. It paid off – the director and I spoke at the after-party; he hugged me and said it was my best performance yet. I hit the marks he had set forth for me, but I also found the comedy and played it. Phew.

Now if I can only keep it up – we had two more performances on Saturday, two more on Sunday, and now only 55 performances more to go! Aiyee!

Turns out our two dailies, the Pioneer Press and the Star Tribune, were also in the house that evening…the Pioneer Press’ article is overwhelmingly positive, and the Star Tribune’s article is underwhelmingly positive (the title makes it seem like a negative review, but on the whole it isn’t…plus he calls me out in the last sentence – woo-hoo!).

Here are the articles in their entirety:

Pioneer Press:

Posted on Sun, Jan. 21, 2007



The story of the girl who's "different" and struggles to find her way in the world is an old one. And in that respect, the Children's Theatre Company's world-premiere production is a wholly conventional one. But "Tale of a West Texas Marsupial Girl" delivers this timeless tale with a twang and a strut.

The title tells you most of what you need to know. Marsupial Girl — she's never given a proper name — is born with a furry pouch that can capture and hold all the sounds in the world. Such a strange accoutrement makes her a freak in her small town. When naive individualism and a bow to conformity don't work, she lashes out at her world, her friends and her family. It all comes out OK in the end, but not before some Texas-sized tussles.

Local audiences have seen playwright Lisa D'Amour spin these bent, fish-out-of-water yarns before. But they've probably never seen her do so with such blithe ease, such a warm and unencumbered heart, or such a disarmingly kooky sensibility.

The pleasing result of her pen this time is, I suspect, a combination of the fact that she's writing for a young audience, that she had the estimable, mainstreaming dramaturgical services of the Children's Theatre staff and that, in musical collaborator Sxip Shirey, she chose an aesthetic partner equally as willing to engage in some highly idiosyncratic and imaginative play.

Shirey and D'Amour create a funky, twangy, swamp-rocky musical where beat-box melds with country music and where interjections like "Holy puppy on a peach tree!" come out of characters' mouths sounding real and right. Director Whit MacLaughlin coaxes it all to the stage with cheerfully preposterous glee.

Anna Reichert brings a just-right, disingenuous appeal to the title role — she wears her emotions on her round, expressive face and sketches Marsupial Girl's joys and travails with subtle honesty.

But it's Luverne Seifert — playing a singing, hoo-hawing narrator named Dr. Pouch who lights the fuse on the story and keeps it sizzling. Windier and more unpredictable than a Texas twister, Seifert's antic creation — delightedly working a sound-generating thingamajig here, leading the audience in a dippy call-and-response there — guides us through this weird world. He makes it all seem … well, if not exactly normal, then at least like a whirlwind worth riding.

Is the script drum-tight? Not really — one more rewrite probably would have gotten it to a long one-act instead of a two-act endeavor with an intermission. Are all of the characters scrupulously realized? No — in fact, once you get past Marsupial Girl and Dr. Pouch, D'Amour tends to fall back on conventional archetype.

There's the loving, weary mother (warmly realized by Autumn Ness), the busybody ladies of the town (Leigha Horton and Marvette Knight, noses perpetually out of joint), the mean girls (led by Jessie Shelton as a rhymes-with-witch-in-training named Libby) and the avuncular old man who's the voice of reason (the rock-solid Gerald Drake, of course).

But is "Tale of a West Texas Marsupial Girl" an ever-resonant old lesson wrapped in a bright, unique and toe-tapping package? You bet your ten-gallon hat it is.

Theater critic Dominic P. Papatola can be reached at dpapatola@pioneerpress.com or at 651-228-2165. IF YOU GO

What: "Tale of a West Texas Marsupial Girl"

When: Through Feb. 25

Where: The Children's Theatre Company (mainstage), 2400 Third Ave. S., Minneapolis

Tickets: $34-$13

Call: 612-874-0400

Capsule: Familiar fable told with Texas spice

Star Tribune:

Last update: January 20, 2007 – 10:51 PM

Inventive 'Marsupial' lacks coherence

The narrative, though strange, is familiar, but the staging becomes jumbled.

Add to the Elephant Man, the Hunchback of Notre Dame, the Phantom of the Opera, a girl with a pouch. Director Whit MacLaughlin's staging of "Tale of a West Texas Marsupial Girl" has some highly inventive touches, from set designer Donald Eastman's Southwestern, carnival-touched milieu to Richard St. Clair's costumes and poofy wigs. And the singing, dancing and swaying cast at the Children's Theatre sells this imaginative play by Lisa D'Amour hard and well.

But because this stylistic mishmash does not cohere into something greater than its interesting parts, it's hard to buy it.

D'Amour is a complex, engaging writer known for her experimental works. "Marsupial Girl," which opened Friday in Minneapolis, is her foray into the world of children's theater. Its plot, about differences large and small, resonates.

As the marsupial baby grows and her body pocket becomes furry, she uses it like both backpack and at-will voice box. She discovers early that she can catch and store sounds in her pouch, an ability that becomes important when her community recoils from her, closing down her world.

The ostracized Marsupial Girl eventually begins to behave like the scary freak and monster that they insist that she is, capturing the voices and silencing the critical, misunderstanding community.

As strange as "Marsupial Girl" may seem -- and there's more than a touch of the gothic in MacLaughlin's staging -- its outsider narrative is familiar. It is in the telling of "Marsupial Girl" where the jumbled elements make the production list. The staging, infused with Sxip Shirey's twangy hip-hop compositions, seems to be of too many minds.

It uses Adam Matta's clever beat-box percussion overlaid with guitar and mouth harp that suggests something hip and urban. It also deploys straight musical compositions that make you think of Broadway. Then there is the nod to spelling bees, with characters holding up letters.

That would be disconcerting enough without a mother (played with deep affection and knowing by Autumn Ness) who did not name her child. Perhaps she was so traumatized to have such a baby, she could not come up with a name. That lack of naming creates a dramaturgical distance from the main character, a feature that's similar to one that we saw also in "Anon(nymous)," which premiered at the Children's Theatre last year.

Thankfully, Anna Reichert, who plays Marsupial Girl, gives her the life that makes us care about her.

In fact, the cast invests this story with much energy and enthusiasm. The roster includes Luverne Seifert, whose Dr. Pouch is a gung-ho guardian angel-type figure who narrates; the ever-resourceful Gerald Drake as a doctor and community member; and Kelsie Jepsen as a schoolteacher.

Nadia Hulett, Jessie Shelton and Teresa Marie Doran are credible as Marsupial Girl's youthful cohorts, while Leigha Horton makes an auspicious Children's Theatre debut in a variety of roles.

Rohan Preston • 612-673-4390 • rpreston@startribune.com

©2007 Star Tribune. All rights reserved.

Of Windmills and Monsters

In the countdown to my first day as a full-time actor (Wednesday, December 6), I have been consumed by my working life. Blood, sweat, tears, and a slew of curses have been shed, and my social life has been anything but. Yet, I shall soon reemerge, Jean Grey-style, unto my fellow X-Men. Indeed, I am a Phoenix, and we actors are all just mutants when you get right down to it.

Until that day, which then I’ll have no excuse but to write daily, I'll be offering aggregations of what’s been smoldering as of late:

1) Chasing Windmills won two Judges' Choice awards at this year’s Vloggies on November 5th: Best Fiction Blog and Best Entertainment Vlog.

2) A Chasing Windmills episode is scheduled to air on The Tyra Banks Show in early December (I am not in the chosen episode, but it doesn’t matter – our team is getting national TV coverage, and that’s pretty sweet). The producers will inform us of the air date a few days prior, and I’ll be sure to give everyone plenty of notice to set their TiVos to record. It’s gonna be fierce.

3) The Easy Reference list of Chasing Windmills episodes that I’m in thus far –

overture – 9/18/06 (just a brief appearance) relapse – 10/23/06 altar – 10/24/06 shopping – 11/10/06 telephonies – 11/14/06 (just a brief appearance via flashback) PLUS - two/three more episodes to come this very week! Joy! Rapture!

I'm not providing direct links to these episodes because I think you should spend some time poking around the site. It'll be a good time, I promise.

4) The Monster of Phantom Lake has continued to woo audiences at film festivals across the nation, and has garnered some great press to go with it – including a glowing review written by the kind and generous Duane Martin for Rogue Cinema magazine. I've recently come to know Duane via e-mail, and he's tops.

5) The Monster of Phantom Lake has been officially picked up for DVD distribution! Here’s the news lifted directly from TMoPL site: “Shadow Creek Studios, a subsidiary of Braun Media Services, has signed an exclusive deal with the producers to distribute the film in retail and online outlets in the United States. A new 'special edition,' complete with additional special features, will be released first quarter 2007. As part of the deal, the current version of the DVD will no longer be available for sale on (the TMoPL) website and can now be considered a collector's item!”

Okay – enough news for now. There’s actually more to tell, but I have to pace myself. If I share everything at once, I might implode.

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.



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)

Giving Them What They Asked For

The Heights Theatre The Monster of Phantom Lake (my first lead role in a feature film) is back by popular demand! Please join me this Wednesday, May 17th, at 7:30 pm at the stunning Heights Theatre in Columbia Heights. We've received loads of great press (check out the TMoPL website for links to reviews) - so here's your chance to pretend you're from Missouri and insist on seeing it for yourself!

Also, by coming to this screening, you might be helping us land a distribution deal. We've got a producer in L.A. who is interested to see audience reaction; so while you're watching the movie, he'll be watching you. Oh, the horror!

"The Monster of Phantom Lake" returns to the Heights Theater in Columbia Heights, Minnesota!

BACK BY POPULAR DEMAND! Wednesday, May 17th, 2006 - 7:30 PM, $5.00 at the door The Heights Theater 3951 Central Avenue NE Columbia Heights, Minnesota 55421 www.heightstheater.com

We've recently been discussing wider distribution with a producer in L.A. who, unfortunately, is unable to come to the screening. He has asked us to videotape audience reaction to the screening as a way to help him get a better feel for the movie. For this, we would like to absolutely pack the theater with moviegoers so please, BRING EVERYONE YOU KNOW! The more, the merrier, the better our chances of securing a meaningful distribution deal. The film is family-friendly, although children under 5 might be frightened. We will be selling DVDs & posters after the show and much of the cast & crew will be in attendance.

Here's a little snippet of an article that was published in the Flint, Michigan paper "The Flint Journal" regarding the recent Flint Film Festival held last month:

"... the best of the features I saw was 'The Monster of Phantom Lake,' a hilarious parody of grade-D horror/sci-fi films of the 1950s ... the film is full of cheesy dialogue, improbable plot turns and a dead-on performance by Josh Craig as a stuffy 'man of science' who has none of the right answers but can strum a rock 'n' roll song on his handy guitar.

According to the film's Web site, a 'Phantom Lake' sequel already is in the works, with Craig reprising his role as 'Professor Jackson ... from the university.' Here's hoping we'll see it in a future Flint Film Festival."

It's only five measly dollars, so bring friends and buy them some popcorn while you're at it. Can't wait to see you Wednesday!

Monster Love

Just in time for the premiere of The Monster of Phantom Lake (and my first lead in a feature film) tomorrow night at The Heights Theater, we got a great write-up in this week’s City Pages! SCORE!

The Monster of Phantom Lake Heights Theatre, Thursday, March 9 at 7:30 pm

A glowing tribute to the creature features of the 1950s, this homegrown film from director Christopher R. Mihm works as equal parts reflexive comedy and straight-up drive-in shocker. When a scientist (Josh Craig) and his love-struck grad student (Leigha Horton) set out for a jolly weekend of "scientific experimentation," they're in for horrifying results. After a shell-shocked WWII vet stumbles into a lake that's loaded with nuclear waste, the duo, along with a group of rock'n'roll-loving co-eds, find themselves stalked by a leafy, slimy monster. In keeping with the low-budget tradition, the indelibly costumed creature is kept under wraps for most of the film, appearing only as the hand that reaches into the frame and grasps terrified victims. Craig demonstrates his mastery of Shatner-style pause-acting ("Wait a minute... Wait...a... minute"), while Mihm takes the audience on a jolly tour of tongue-in-cheek '50s sexism, hilarious innuendo, and plenty of arm's length slow-dancing. Featuring Mihm's original composition, "A-Rockin', A-Rollin', All the Way A-Ramblin'" along with a wealth of public-domain mood music (listen closely and you'll hear snippets from Carnival of Souls), this is an unusually warm and witty homage.

Be there, or be so TOTALLY square. Or out of town.

If it isn't the latter, lie.

Twelfth Night reviews

We have garnered a few reviews now for Twelfth Night at Theatre in the Round - and since I'm proud of our work and thoroughly respect audience feedback, here is a tidy list for your perusal: St. Paul Pioneer Press (My character is part of the "Rat Pack") AOL City Guide - Top Five Picks of the Week Matthew Everett - In My Humble Opinion (Twin Cities playwright) Chris Kidder - Fringe By Numbers (Twin Cities playwright, director) Lavender Magazine, Arts and Entertainment: On the Townsend (more of a preview than a review, but I'm called hilarious and therefore this gets linked)

"...and thus the whirligig of time brings in his revenges." Kidding, kidding. There are some great praises and valued criticism in each of the reviews. Matthew Everett's is definitely my favorite on the whole - yes, he says very kind things about my portrayal of Feste so he gets extra gold stars on his paper, but I feel his review was exceptionally thorough and well-founded.

And of course, I wouldn't be doing my job as an active promoter of this work justice if I didn't urge you to come out and see the show for yourself... so, uh, come out and see the show for yourself. You'll be glad you did. For real.

Rough-Night Riders

Holy Hannah, last night’s performance was a tough sell. I am the first to admit when there’s an even remote possibility that it’s my fault, or when the cast as a whole seems a bit off – but for the most part last night we put in a dang good show, and the audience just wasn’t having it. Sure, there were laughs here and there, and at one point I could see that one of my lines thoroughly delighted a woman in the audience; but overall, it just wasn’t grabbing them.

The backstage charades commenting on their cadaverous nature were a hoot: there were pantomimes of pulling teeth, slitting throats, in addition to desperate goofy dances. In the green room there were lamentations about waiting for the rigor mortis to set in, and suggestions of streaking across stage between scenes, or perhaps some strategically placed fellatio – ANYTHING to wake them up. Alas, we plodded onward as scripted.

It makes me wonder if audiences truly understand the power they have to make or break a show. We feed off an audience’s energy so that we can reflect it back upon them, and last night they sucked all of our energy out of us…they were the black hole of funny. I thoroughly believe they had a combination of the Friday Night Sleepies and overwhelming dread of the show ending and having to go back outside (a -9 standing temperature with -35 degree windchill will do that to people).

To top it all off, Monday night I came down with a nasty cold-slash-cough – and have been doing everything in my power since then to fight it, of course to no avail. My throat was dry, I couldn’t hold in all my coughs, and my concentration was spotty. The singing was going generally okay, though, until I totally botched the last song; leaving Dan-the-Rockstar-Guitarist out to dry (my continued sincere apologies, friend!). So any joy the audience would have walked away with quickly turned to pity. Um, oops.

I call a do-over.

To end on a positive note, here are some great reviews from last week: St. Paul Pioneer Press (I’m included in the “Rat Pack”) AOL City Guide – Top Five Picks of the Week

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 www.fringefestival.org/podcasts.cfm. 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 www.fringefestival.org/thirst.cfm

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