The McManual

Blogging my little heart out in poetry and prose.

Category: Fringe Festival

My Final Fringe Report 2012

Well, I’m done talking about fringe festival, at least for the time being.  It was fun while it lasted, but I ran out of steam for the past couple days of it…  Now I’m going to be thinking about what Jay and I might be doing for next year…  I think we’ll put our names in the hat for a show.  I have one idea I think is funny, and he has a couple… of course we are in completely different directions in our thoughts – we might have to do two shows.  🙂

I wanted to try to wrap up my reports, though, and so I guess I’m not quite done yet.  Since I last wrote, I went to see a few more plays – I got to see Sneak Thief, As the Stomach Turns, The Music Box, The Donner Party Kidz, The Urban Hermit  and Not Dead Yet: The Return of Mr. Elk and Mr. Seal.  

Sneak Thief  was very funny.  I thought the story was clear, simple enough, but engaging.  The actors were very funny – each of them had good timing, and there were some things that had me laughing out loud in (slight) anticipation.  When the one guy sang an Eminem song, I was losing it.  I also liked that this story showed a character grow just a bit, and that’s not something I expect from a slapstick sort of comedy.  Kudos!

As the Stomach Turns was not my cup of tea.  I guess I got it in my head that it was going to be somewhat based on the Carol Burnett Show, an that just threw my expectations up really high.  There were some funny burnett-style moments, but mostly I found the show confusing and dissatisfying.  I did like a lot of the dancing, although a lot of it wasn’t really justified by the storyline.  Oh well, that’s fringe for ya.

The Music Box was okay.  The story was a little overly sweet for me, and I was a little bored.  I thought the actors did a nice job, I just thought there needed to be some more heated conflicts between the two main men.

I was surprised by The Donner Party Kidz – I wasn’t going to see it, but I ended up over by the Playwright’s Center, and I wanted to see the show after, (Zen and the Art of Ushering or What I Learned While Putting People in Chairs, which I missed because I waited to the last second to go in & tix were sold out 😦 )  Anyway, for a show about the Donner party, it was pretty funny.  Some of the singing got a little bit tedious because they kept singing parodies of twinkle twinkle little star, and that gets a little old, but the story was solid and the kids had a lot of good energy.

Not Dead Yet: The Return of Mr. Elk and Mr. Seal  was fun – not a lot to say, they sang songs and bantered with each other.  They are cute and they work well together.  The show gave me warm fuzzies.

Finally, I want to talk about Urban Hermit.  I saw a preview for this a few weeks ago, and I felt very drawn to it.   I was not wrong.  I thoroughly enjoyed the show.  Rachel Nelson lays it on the line.  And she plays instruments.  So great.  I loved how she handled addiction – it was there, she showed us how it affected her, but it was more of an illustration of the walls she was putting up- if that makes sense – she illustrated how alcohol and weed were ways of putting up a wall between herself and other people, and then she showed us how she learned to live with the walls down.  And this play, and the film project that she is working on next, well, it’s hard to see that there ever were any walls, because there aren’t now.  She is so sincere, so immediate – I left the show feeling that I want to be fearless like her.  I can’t wait to see what she comes up with next.

So, that’s the last of my fringe reports for this year.  Thanks for tuning in 🙂 – Sheila


My Fringe Report: Aug 5 & 6, 2012


So the past few days have been very busy & I missed writing on the 5th, so I’m combining it with the 6th.  I do have reviews of all of the shows I’ve seen up on the website under Sheila McMahon, but I’d like to go a little deeper into some of them here.

I had the pleasure of seeing (in chronological order): Stop Talking: A Game of Talking; Silence; The Complete Works of William Shatner (abridged); Pilgrimage: Why I’m not an Indian, Parts 1 & 2;  Billy Beechwood and the Mountain of Terror and Candide.

Whew!  Of all of those, the one I most highly recommend is Pilgrimage: Why I’m not an Indian, Parts 1&2.  Especially if you are someone who has very similar tastes to mine.  I happen to have been researching about Native American history in Minnesota for my next novel, and a lot of this piece resonated with questions I have personally.  That’s why I was drawn to this piece, which is over at the Gremlin Theater on University & Raymond. But you don’t have to be researching for a novel or have a particular interest in Native American (recent) history to see that this performance is nuanced, clever, and thoughtful.  Elaine Magree  is an excellent story teller, I couldn’t take my eyes off of her.  I felt like I really got a glimpse of her mother and other characters she embodied.  It really is a treat.

The show that got the most emotional response from me was Silence.  The blending of hearing speakers, interpreters, and ASL speakers was fun and they played with the idea that the interpreters in charming ways.  But the core of that show was the young woman who portrayed Abby: Canae Weiss, local Deaf dancer and actress.  She is a beautiful dancer and a very expressive actress.  There was a moment near the end ( I don’t want to spoil it, but if you saw it, it was what happened while she was texting) that really seemed corny to me, and almost pulled me completely out  caring about the play, but it was redeemed by the dance that she performs at the end.  I definitely had tears in my eyes and I was moved to stand during the bows.  And the part I didn’t like?  I have thought and thought about what I might do differently, but given the time limit, I came up with nothing.  They sort of had to go there, and ultimately it worked.  I hope you have a chance to see this one.

For reviews of the other four, you can check out – click on reviews.  🙂  But my favorite of the fun/silly ones was probably Billy Beechwood and the Mountain of Terror,  but to be honest it’s because I have known Aric McKeown  for a long time  & I think he’s brilliant in everything he does.  

Today I hope to see Salem, Vote!, Analyzing the Bully,  and casual encounters.  But plans can change, so we’ll see what happens!!  Happy fringing! – S.

My Fringe Report: Aug 4, 2012

Hey ya.

So I am in a show, as you know, and we spent a lot of time together before our opening, so I didn’t see any other shows until 5:30.  I got to see Kafkaesque and Class of ’98. I liked Kafkaesque, although I wonder a little bit why they didn’t just call it The Metamorphosis – I’d love to hear their reasoning. One of their reviews said it was poorly directed, and they referred to the door that is moved a foot or so here and there.  I noticed that a little at first, but since Kafka had such a quirky way of writing, I thought maybe it was a nod to his works like The Castle and The Trial – there is something jarring about the set changes, but Kafka is jarring… anyway, I hope that they are working on a longer version where the apple is thrown at Gregor…

And Class of ’98 was really fun.  I don’t have much to say about it – just that it’s clever, they obviously put a lot of work into it, the actors are all really good and the whole room has a great time.

I feel lucky to have gotten in to Class of ’98 with my Artist pass — there was a huge line, and I think I was only about 5 ahead of the cut off.  It’s so exciting to go to a sold out show…  but if you find yourself in a long line like that, make sure you have a backup plan.  I was planning to scoot over to the Southern if I didn’t get in…

Ok, I have to run. S



My Fringe Report: Aug 3, 2012

I just reviewed two shows on, so I’m not going to review them here, but I will tell you that I saw Chorus: Voices After the Silence  and Animaliceboth at the Playwright Center.  

Actually, I want to talk a little more about Chorus… I gave them a 4 out of 5 for the website, but that doesn’t mean I don’t think that these women and man are not incredible.  I did zone out in part of it though.  I did not zone out because I didn’t like the show, it’s just that at some point it became overwhelming and I literally wasn’t able to pay attention. Of course I looked like I was paying attention, but for at least 30 seconds during one of the readings, I just wasn’t there.  This is not a criticism.  I think that the works were so powerful that I just couldn’t really mentally handle what was being said.  It really is strong stuff.  And I am so in awe of people who can (or must?) deal with their abusive pasts by sharing it in a public forum.  I can see how that could be a healing action.  

I hope that it is healing for the performers to be so frank about what happened to them.  One of the effects of their frankness was that it led me to think about how victims of sexual violence, those other people who “whisper in the ears” of those who do talk about their pain, the victims who keep silent, are not only dealing with their pain, but they are dealing with it alone.  This leads my thinking back to the fact that I work at a sober high school, and that some of our kids have really tough stories.  And that I might not know – almost assuredly do not know – their whole stories.  I guess my point is that I believe work like this helps audience members like me – who haven’t experienced (much) sexual violence first hand to remember that many victims suffer in silence and it’s just another good reason to be a kind and compassionate person as much as possible.

Anyway, it’s 1:15 am, I have a long day ahead of me tomorrow – baby sitting in the morning, then rehearsing a little bit more, then on to the world premiere of our show, Bohemian Rappsody: DeTaming the Shrew.    Oh!  I remembered the last thing I wanted to say about Chorus… I am grateful that their stories and strength will now inform the characters that I will perform tomorrow.  I had an idea that perhaps we artists should consider ourselves an army – yes, an army of artists.  And when we see one troop (troupe!) do well, it encourages, enlightens, and enlivens all of us to do what we do.  (I just got deja vu, so I’m sorry if I have written this before…)  okay – good night before I really start babbling incoherently!!!! xoxo Sheila

Dang it, I should say something about Animalice before I go to sleep, since I did mention them.  I thoroughly enjoyed it.  I hope the actors gain a little more confidence, because the show is really really good, but there are some slight hesitations.  I thought the guy who played the mouse was fantastic, and the dances were really cool and fun to watch.  

Ok, good night for real.



It’s funny how art can mirror life.  

I ended up in a MN Fringe Festival play this year.  It’s called De-Taming the Shrew.  I haven’t been in a play for seven years  – for the last one, I got the choice role of Jane in Fallen Angels, a Noel Coward comedy of manners.  I was the only one who auditioned for my role.

This time, an acquaintance had posted “Looking for a 40 year old woman to help with a play” –(not an exact quote) – – I showed up, and I was in.  Little did I know that I was randomly volunteering for a show that I would relate to so well.

The stories intertwining through this one hour piece are of spiritual beings, middle aged women, and young women just starting out.  The cast is all women, although we have some male characters.  For a couple minutes, I get to play a 20 something douchey guy who takes his wife for granted soon after saying I Do.  I also get to be a middle aged woman struggling with having had a bankruptcy (11 years ago, in my case) and foreclosure (next month, if the short sale falls through – cross your fingers).  I also get to be a spiritual being who sings about how there’s hope, and that you must stand up for your rights and show the world your light.  

I am in awe of the other women on stage – not just the characters, but the actors.  One part of the play, an original song by Kimberly Michaels, made me cry during dress rehearsal last night.  Julie Rappaport, our writer/producer/actor, seems to be a force of nature.  All of the women involved are strong, intelligent and dedicated.  This play is alive with vignettes and interconnected characters and scenes, and there are lots of costume changes and movement.  We wouldn’t be able to do it if every single person wasn’t pulling her weight.  

Now, it’s not that there aren’t any men involved in the production – our wonderful, insightful director, Todd Bruse, is there ushering us through this process, as well as our stage manager, the young, bright Maxwell Mars.  (He wants to be a theater arts teacher.  I definitely see this happening.)  Just as I have tried to articulate pretty much since declaring that my minor in college was Women’s Studies, it’s nothing against men and working with men, but there is something powerful and necessary about women working together and seeing what they can do.  

I think the most powerful message that I have received from Julie and the play is that I have something to contribute.  This is definitely true on stage – I play several different characters and I feel my personal self-confidence rising as they develop.  But I also feel it in my own life.  Through our fundraisers, I have met another woman who is a novelist, a couple of women artists, and a woman who runs her own production company.  It seems like everywhere I turn there are strong, intelligent women doin’ their thing. And that makes me want to do my thing, which right now is acting, but shortly my thing(s) will be running my Kickstarter campaign to publish my novel and going back to work as a high school English teacher.

Just like our main character, Grace, I don’t know exactly what the future holds for me, but I’m going to do my best to experience life fully.  To do that, I will continue to draw strength from the other women in my life, hopefully strengthening them as well.  And that brings me back to art mirroring life, because that’s the show in a nutshell.  Women helping each other to find their own inner strength, and encouraging each other to use our strengths.  

I’m thankful to be in this play, so grateful, I’m ready for it, and I’m loving it.  

How to Host a Play in Your Garage

This weekend, Jay and I had the wonderful experience of hosting a play in our garage.  If you have the chance to be a host, I would highly recommend it.  I don’t know how many options there really are out there, but if you live in the Twin Cities and surrounding area, you are lucky enough to be close to a theatre company that has just started doing a “garage tour” this year.

It just so happens to be my absolutely favorite group, “Off Leash Area,” whose website you can check out at  If you have read my blog before, you may have read my review of “Ivan the Drunk and his Terrible Tale of Woe” a few years ago.  Same people.

The show that they are performing for this year’s garage tour is “A Gift for Planet BX63,” which they developed a few years ago with playwright Max Sparber, who also wrote Ivan.  It’s a cool show.  It’s just under an hour, there are three actors who present a story which makes you think about the consequences of having ‘stuff,’ as well as our place in the universe and what makes people happy (or not so happy…).  It is spacey and cool, the set and props are interesting, and it is very well acted.

Probably the most important step toward hosting the show was speaking up and volunteering, and then following through with emails to the group.  I don’t think it’s too early to send out an email today if you seriously think you might want to host the show next year.  If you’re like me, if you don’t send an email right away when you are thinking about it, you will find yourself remembering too late later.  If you, however, aren’t a horrible, forgetful procrastinator, then you could probably email them in the spring.  They are touring 8 garages this year, and are hoping to do 12 next year, so I’d say your chances are pretty good.

Once I talked with Jennifer Ilse from OLA and expressed an interest, we arranged a time for them to come out and see my garage.  They measured the space, and we talked about how much area needed to be cleared out.  I had a garage sale to get rid of some things just to be sure that I would have enough room.  It was good motivation to have the sale – I’ve been talking about a garage sale for several years, but only did it the weekend before the show!  That was nice, too, because I was able to hand out fliers to the people who came to the garage sale.

One thing I would recommend as a host is to try to see the show before the weekend that you host.  OLA did have a reception for the last dress rehearsal, which I unfortunately had to miss, and I think it would have made a difference for me in telling people why they should come to my garage to see a play.  (Beside the fact that it’s just a flipping cool idea…)  I didn’t have a great grasp of what the play would be like before I saw it, although I was confident that people would like it.

Another thing that’s important is having a space for the actors to use as a ‘green room.’  That is, a room where they can change and warm up and put on makeup etc.  It worked out well for us because I have an extra room with a vanity, but I didn’t even think about it until the day they were doing the first performance.  I would have arranged it a little better for them, but I think it worked out.

Probably the most important task in hosting is to get the word out.  I contacted the Sun-Post, who put the play into the calendar, which was very nice of them.  There was also an article in the Star Tribune.  I also invited people on Facebook and in person.  OLA provided postcards for advertising, which I brought around to some local businesses.  I wish I had dropped some off at the library, as I had planned, but I completely forgot.  Maybe taking notes is a good idea.  Yeah, I’ll do that next year!  OLA also provided a cool sandwich board for my yard, with a sign saying which nights the show would be and where to call for reservations.

As far as other work, there wasn’t too much.  OLA did all of the set up as far as putting together the set and the risers.  I did set out some treats for people after the show and invited people to stay and meet the cast.  Paul and Jennifer do this when they have a show in their garage, and it’s really nice.  I think people enjoy meeting the cast after a show.

All in all, we had a great experience hosting.  It was fun, the cast and crew couldn’t be nicer people, and it just feels good to provide a space for people to come together as a community and see some world class art!  If you’re thinking about it for next year, I highly recommend it.  If not, at least be sure to go see the show!

This year’s tour is ongoing at ‘press time’ for my blog – check out OLA’s website to see where you can go catch the show!  Maybe Jay and I will see you there! (Yes, twice wasn’t enough for me, we are going to see it at someone else’s garage, too!)

Theater Saves Me Every Time.

This week has been hard.  I am grateful that I have been able to volunteer this week and see six Fringe shows.  I saw: The Most Massive Woman Wins, Thrower of Light, Spermalot, Needs/Wants/Desires, Danny is Going to Die, and Bard Fiction.

Between these shows, my father-in-law passed away.  This has been very stressful on all of us.  Some people react with simply crying, some drink, some grow angry and hurtful.  Me?  I go see plays, get lost in the plays, calm down completely and think about writing plays in the future.  Plays are my gin and tonic.  Plays are my beer, my meth, my crack cocaine.  My cigarettes.  I don’t need any mind-altering drugs – I see a play.  Even a crappy play – doesn’t matter.   Plays let me out of my life.

Dance, too.  Thrower of Light is dance.  I don’t have a dance vocabulary, but I can say that I loved it.  I felt that there was something communicated.  I had emotional reactions to what I saw.  There seemed to be a story that carried through the first four or five pieces, the story of love triangles and jealousy, I think.  Then the choreographer came out and said some things, after which there were 2 more pieces of a completely different timbre.  They were joyful and fun rather than dark and mysterious.

During the first part of the dance, I was wondering to myself how people are able to plan and execute such intricate and beautiful dance.  I literally thought to myself, “why are they doing that?”  I am befuddled by dance.  I don’t understand how it works – yet it’s so moving and it feels profound.

I had an interesting conversation with an author of one of the other shows, and he was saying that Minnesotan’s go gaga over dance, but we hardly seem to acknowledge excellent acting when we see it.  I hear what he is saying – the energy in the applause for the dance was not the same energy in the applause for the plays I saw, but maybe that is because dance itself is so energizing.

I think I like plays more than dance because a play rarely leaves me wondering why they are doing what they are doing.  In Bard Fiction, it was clear that they were doing a Shakespearian send up of Pulp Fiction.  That’s all I need to know.  It doesn’t leave questions in my mind wondering what they are up to or what they are trying to say.  It was just good fun, I recognized some lines from Shakespeare and some from Pulp Fiction.  Thoroughly enjoyable, cute at times, funny and well acted.  I’m glad I got a chance to see it.

So I mentioned crappy plays above – I didn’t think any of these plays I saw were crappy.  But some were more polished than others.  I think The Most Massive Woman Wins was probably the most polished.  But it was also an already-published work, so I think that puts a layer of polish that would be very hard to attain with the premier of a new work.  Nothing stood out as bad.  I do wonder, though, about trying to put together short pieces in order to fill up an hour, like with Needs/Wants/Desires I think I’d rather see a cohesive half-hour.  Or maybe some sort of transition to make shorter pieces flow together – this is something I have wrestled with in the past, so I certainly don’t fault them for trying.  I just thought the final piece, which was the longest, was definitely the strongest.

Well, that’s all I’ve got for now.  I thank all theatre people everywhere for doing what they do.  You might feel that your show is a simple way to pass the time, maybe it’s a frivolous comedy.  But you never know who might be sitting in your audience and what your efforts might mean to them – I know that for this week, theater and the Fringe Festival saved me and helped me to remember what being human is about – connecting with other humans.

Fringe Festival Volunteering

Hey all. I’m so excited to be volunteering for the Fringe this year! I do feel like a lightweight, though, I’m only working 9 shows. There are 800 over 11 days!! I’m just not too sure of my overall schedule, and I didn’t want to commit to things I will have to get out of later.

I went to the training on Saturday, and it was really well done. I feel pretty well prepared to do my part. I am thinking that maybe Jay and I should try to do a show next year – it’s a great deal. You pay $400, and they give you the venue, some advertising, and a tech. That’s amazing. Not everyone who applies gets in, though. It’s not juried, it’s based on a lottery system. I think that’s so cool.

I can’t wait to see what people have prepared for their shows! And if you want to get in to some shows for free, you should volunteer. You get a ticket to another show free for every show you work.

Check it out!

10/30 – NaBloPoMo09 – MN Fringe Festival

Hey what’s up.  So if I am to finish this blog by midnight, I have to hustle because I have five minutes.

If you live in the Twin Cities, and you have an interest in theater, I hope that you are planning to go to the Fringe Festival.  I am excited about it this year because I am volunteering for 9 shows, which means I’m gonna get 9 free tickets to other shows.  And I love seeing lots of theater, but usually I’m too broke and or lethargic to get up and go.

There was an event tonight featuring 30 of the companies, they had 3 minutes each to convince you to come see their show.  I wish I could have gone, but I had a family obligation.  If you want to see what’s coming up with the Fringe, check out their very informative website:

I especially recommend Bard Fiction, just based on the fact that I know one of the cast members and she’s terrific.  Ok, I’m outie – sorry it’s short and a little babbly – blame it on NaBloPoMo09!

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