An excellent time at the Minnesota Fringe!

Promo shot for Speech! at the Minnesota Fringe

Tom and I are living in the Cities for 9 days while he’s in the Shakespeare workshop at the Guthrie Theater, and quite happily our first week coincided with the last week of the Minnesota Fringe Festival. We saw some great shows, and with a little luck you can still catch some of the awesomeness, either tonight or as one of the encore performances tomorrow, where the best selling show at each venue gets one more show.

Tuesday we saw James T. Wilson, a two person show including Stanton Pavlicek in the title role. We know Stanton and his family from Morris (his dad was a huge help in building an enormous frame to hold up our gargantuan honeysuckle vine), and it was cool to see two 18-year olds just out of high school in this setting. The show itself was still struggling to become, and while there was a of potential, it’ll need some more work to realize that possibility.

Thursday we saw Speech!, an absolutely hilarious comedy about the goofy (and often twisted) world of high school speech competitions. The writing and performances were tres sharp, and the audience was rolling in the aisles from the start to finish. This show has received a number of well deserved nominations, including a best male performance for our friend and UMM alum Tim Hellendrung! Tim’s did lots of cool improv back at UMM (as well as being an excellent manager for the campus radio station), and has continued to develop at Comedy Sports in Minneapolis. It was great to see him do such a fine job in a great ensemble production like this. Big congratulations to Tim and the entire cast and crew!

Last night (Friday) we saw what will sadly be our last show, because we head back to Morris this afternoon so Tom can hang with his friends some before we come back to the Cities Sunday night. We went out with a bang, though, catching the amazing O(h) by casebolt and smith, a two person show unlike any dance performance I’ve ever seen before. They combined some great dance with liberal splashes of spoken word and singing, providing a rich piece of performance than transcended any simple notion of genre. There was wonderful (often comedic) commentary on both culture in general and dance in particular, creating a really fun experience that was also chock full of food for thought. They also received a number of nominations, and our group (two straight guys and a woman) all agree that a sweaty Joel Smith in Superman briefs is hot!

Promo shot for O(h) at the Minnesota Fringe Festival

There’s a great section in this performance about intellectual property that inspired a long enough commentary that I’ve moved to it’s own post. It’s not often in my experience that a dance performance explicitly opens these kinds of doors, so check it out.

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Thomas is heading to the Minnesota state finals for Poetry Out Loud!

Thomas McPhee placed first at the 2010 Poetry Out Loud Lake Regional in Fergus Falls, and will go on to the state finals in the Fitzgerald Theater on Monday, 8 March 2010. This is the fourth straight year that at least one student from the Morris Area High School has qualified for the state finals in Poetry Out Loud.

Award ceremony at the 2010 Poetry Out Loud regional, Fergus Falls, MN
Award ceremony at the 2010 Poetry Out Loud regional, Fergus Falls, MN. Thomas McPhee (on far right) took first.

Last night was the 2010 Lake Regional competition as part of the national Poetry Out Loud competition. Morris Area High School (MAHS) had two students in the field, Thomas McPhee and Tim Ostby, and Thomas took first place! He and Ellen Ferry (who took second) will be among the 18 students from around Minnesota at the state finals in the wonderful Fitzgerald Theater in St. Paul, starting at 9:30am, Monday, 8 March 2010.

Thomas qualified for the state finals last year (along with MAHS student Alex McIntosh), so we had the good fortune to attend last year’s event. The quality of the performances was really exquisite, and I highly recommend the event to any fans of poetry and literature in the area.

Tim Ostby (the other MAHS student this year) placed fifth at the regional. Congratulations to him and all the other students that performed last night! While there were fewer competitors at the regional than last year, the quality of the performances was considerably stronger, and the venue (A Center for the Arts in Fergus Falls) was vastly better than last year’s (a classroom at a regional community college).

Thomas McPhee, David Johnson, and Tim Ostby at the 2010 Lake Regional for Poetry Out Loud
Thomas McPhee, David Johnson, and Tim Ostby at the 2010 Lake Regional for Poetry Out Loud. Thomas took first, and Tim took fifth.

A huge thanks to David Johnson, drama coach and english teacher at MAHS. Dave’s been a huge influence and support for Thomas in both theatre and Poetry Out Loud. It’s greatly to Dave’s credit that MAHS has had a student in the state finals of Poetry Out Loud each of the last four years (which is every year MAHS could have competed), with two in last year’s finals. Further, every MAHS student that’s gone to state has placed in the top 6: Anika Kildegaard took 2nd in 2007, Mary Hu won the state competition in 2008 and went on to the National Finals, and Alex McIntosh placed 4th and Thomas McPhee 6th in 2009. In fact Morris is the only high school in the state to place four students in the top 6 from 2007-2009, with no other school has placing more than two. Not a bad track record for a small rural high school. Thanks a ton to Dave for all his support and assistance!

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