And the Winner Is…

Jaime Kleiman covers the first-ever Fringe Festival Lottery


Even the Fringe Festival staff looked nervous. Maybe it’s because the Minneapolis Theatre Garage was full of anxious theatre artists, a potentially rabid bunch, all of whom were gathered there for the first ever Fringe Lottery, a new – and fair – way for the Minnesota Fringe Festival staff to choose approximately 150 shows from about 300 applicants.

Previously chosen on a first-come, first-serve basis, the lottery method of selecting shows is used by other Fringe Festivals, and guarantees a non-juried application process.

Leah Cooper, the Executive Director of the Minnesota Fringe Festival, cracked jokes as tensions mounted. Hopeful producers and writers sat rigidly in their seats, willing their numbers to be read aloud as ping pong balls were pulled from a makeshift cage and called aloud, bingo-style. “We’ve never done this before, so we have no idea what to expect,” laughed Cooper. “Anything could happen.”

In order to ensure fairness, audience members were randomly selected to draw the numbered balls from the cage; the numbers on the balls corresponded to the number assigned to each show.

Once selected, Cooper read the show number and its accompanying description aloud. A typical show description read something like: “Four teenagers gather together for a night of reminiscing, mischief, and sex. Chaos ensues.” Loosely translated, Cooper explained that, “This means they don’t know what they’re doing.” Correcting herself, she clarified, “What I mean is, they don’t know what they’re doing for the Fringe. But they’re in!” Nervous laughter ensued. For every joke made, it meant there were fewer spots left.

“What will happen if Kevin Kling isn’t selected for the Fringe?”

Many asked the question, but they needn’t have worried. The lottery, with its promise of unpredictability, generated some rather predictable choices. The 2005 Fringe will include playwright and storyteller Kevin Kling and his “Dick da Tird,” a piece described as “Richard the Third meets the Iron Range.” Sossy Mechanics, the husband and wife team of Brian Sostek and Megan McClellan who toured worldwide with their hit “Trick Boxing,” also secured a spot. The creators of last year’s hit “Death Penalty Puppetry” are presenting another puppet/morality play called “Monsters in America: Abominations of the Puppetry.” Joseph Scrimshaw, a Fringe veteran with eleven Fringes in twelve years under his belt, will be writing and performing a show called “Fat and Lazy.” His brother Joshua submitted an application, but was relegated to the waiting list, along with about 86 other applicants. Cooper said that it was likely that many shows on the wait list would be given slots once venues were confirmed.

Other highlights (or shows that could potentially be highlights) include Interact Center for the Arts’ revival of “Imagination Memory;” Rik Reppe’s new one-man show, “Red State/Blue State;” Ari Hoptman’s “Hey Hey Hey in the Hay Loft;” John Munger’s Third Rabbit Dance Ensemble’s “Cliff Notes for Dummies,” and “Man Saved,” written by former Mystery Science Theatre 3000 writer Mary Jo Pehl.