Getting Physical at the MN Fringe

It should come as no surprise that I have a particular interest in shows with a significant physical component. And there are a handful in the 2012 MN Fringe purporting to be “physical theater”. What is physical theater, you ask? That's a very good question. For my purposes, it is theater where the actors' movements play an integral role in telling the story. The physicality must in some way go beyond illuminating or augmenting the text or song lyrics. It is also not simply gymnastics and stunts, though it may include both. So, now that we have a vague definition of the term, here's some “physical theater” I'm looking forward to seeing.

First up, Birds of Passage by The Winding Sheet Outfit

From Winding Sheet's website: We’re using simple yet beautiful theater elements–movement, music, storytelling, large swaths of fabric–to tell a story about immigrant sea crossings. …one can only speculate about the emotional resolve it would take a human being to undertake such a risk… We are finding the tipping point between doubt and hope, the juxtaposition of a visual horizon you cannot perceive yet…

To begin with, this is a topic near and dear to my heart. I am intimately familiar with that transition space, where one has left one place behind and not yet arrived at the new place. The show was created through a workshoping process, and given some of the folks involved, I'm optimistic that they've come up with something good. With lots of fabric. Kind of amazing what theater can do with fabric.

Candide by Four Humors Theater

Four Humors has been getting a lot of press as the new physical theater company in town. So it's a bit strange that I haven't seen much of their work yet. Based only on the 3-minute preview at the second fringe-for-all, I'm not convinced that this actually fits my definition of physical theater. They moved around a fair bit, but not in any way you wouldn't see in a Broadway musical. So this one goes on my curious-about list. At the very least I expect it to be a tight show and entertaining, which is already saying a lot.

The Gentleman's Pratfall Club by Comedy Suitcase

Joshua Scrimshaw is quite simply the best physical comedian in the Twin Cities. And even though I said physical theater is not simply stunts, they are definitely a big, not to mention impressive, part of the physical theater realm. So I'm making this show a priority. Plus, this is a duo of seasoned performers and they know they need to give their shenanigans a context in order to hold interest for an hour. Scrimshaw's portrayal of Stan Laurel in last year's Fringe was enough to make a believer out of me.

Carnival of Souls by JLyon Magic

This also goes on the curious-about list. There's not much information on the fringe website. It's a magic show. They did some fairly cool shadow work in their fringe preview. That's all I know, but it's piqued my interest.

Ash Land by Transatlantic Love Affair

This past year I've had the great pleasure of teaching a few workshops with Isabel and Diogo, so I know what they are capable of… let's just say it's more than you think at first glance. They are the antithesis of the 'Pratfall Club' approach. Their style is sensitive and tactile. This year Diogo takes the director's chair (although I highly doubt he directs from a sitting position) and Isabel joins the ensemble on stage, so I'm excited to see how this show compares to their previous two Fringe hits. Judging from the preview, it will have many of the same elements that made audiences fall in love with this Love Affair. Go early or buy tickets in advance – they will likely sell out, and for good reason.

Oh, and of course, if you like physical shows don't forget my own Fringe contributions: iMime, There's An App For That and Mime Without A Mask. I'll be presenting two very different styles with these two shows. It's kind of exciting to do that.

If you're anywhere near Minnesota – see you at the Fringe! (If not, this blog will be less Minnesota-centric again in a couple weeks.)


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