Community Notebook :: Prom party at Bedlam

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August 2, 2010
By: Sam Lane and Gregory J. Scott
Sam Lane and Gregory J. Scott
A prom party at the Bedlam will kick off Fringe Festival

A mass of people dancing in bright blue attire will mark the beginning of the 17th annual Minnesota Fringe Festival, which kicks off on Aug. 4.

The Fringe Prom is this year’s official launch party.

Matthew Foster, communications director for Minnesota Fringe, said “appropriately cheesy” ’80s and ’90s music will accompany the campy fashion for an evening of tacky revelry. The dance is part of “Fringe Central,” the Festival’s official hangout spot, designated once again this year as the Bedlam Theater, 1501 6th St. S.

“Everybody has a lot of fun,” Foster said. “People wear the ugliest clothes they possibly can. The last time we did it, everyone really got into the spirit.”

To make the prom authentic, Fringe plans to install a balloon march and perhaps even a photo booth. Though Fringe has had opening weekend parties for more than 10 years, its only other prom took place in 2005. Because of the popularity, organizers think the prom will become the opener to Fringe Central every year.

The Twin Cities’ annual performing arts celebration, Minnesota Fringe will last 11 days, and will feature nearly 170 productions and over 870 other performances. With such a high number of performers this year, organizers were forced to add a 19th stage to their venue list. The stages can be traditional performance spaces or not — at least one production is happening in a yoga studio this year — and are scattered across both Twin Cities.

The festival experienced a record number of applicants this year. Nearly 400 performers applied for spots, a number that far exceeded the expectation of Minnesota Fringe’s six year-round employees.

“After being around for 17 years, we’re getting a better reputation for producers of the shows and audience members,” Foster said. “Applications are going up because it’s not just people who are new. It’s people who are established theater artists who’ve never done Fringe before. There’s an increasing desire to participate from every level of the theater community.”

Organizers have also developed “Fringe Tracks,” a compilation of some of this year’s recommended Fringe shows from the festival’s prominent fans. Foster said the picks allow casual fans to experience Fringe without being overwhelmed by the number of options available. Writer and actor Bill Corbett and actor Sally Wingert are among those whose show recommendations can be found on Fringe’s website. The idea for Fringe Tracks originated at Amsterdam’s Fringe, providing new audiences with an “easy entry point,” Foster said.

“If you’re looking to go to two Fringe shows, opening up the catalogs, opening up the website and seeing 169 shows can kind of be a daunting task,” he said.

But despite all the excitement for this year’s Festival, a minor cloud was cast when organizers heard the Bedlam Theater, Fringe Central’s home of three years, would be forced to vacate its property shortly after the end of this year’s event.

“We’ve really loved having Fringe Central there,” Foster said. “We’re sad to go, but this gives us 12 months to figure out where we’ll be next year.”

The Fringe Prom starts at 10 p.m. Aug. 6.

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Library Piano

The Anna M. Heilmaier Piano room at the Minneapolis Central Library, 300 Nicollet Mall, opened for public reservation on July 11.

Those interested in reserving a playing time can do so using the library’s online reservation system at hclib.org. Customers are directed to click on “Library Information” and “Meeting Rooms,” then scroll down and click the “Mpls Central Anna M. Heilmaier Piano Room N-308” link.

There is a one-hour time limit per customer for the room. With the reservation, customers will have access to the grand piano as well as the library’s substantial music collection.

The room is made possible by funds from the Anna M. Heilmaier Charitable Foundation. Heilmaier was a research librarian who established the foundation dedicated to professional chamber and classical music programs and the fostering of emerging talent.

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High heels (and maybe some twisted ankles) for charity


On Aug. 11, women and men alike will strap on pairs of high heels and race 25 yards through Downtown’s Peavey Plaza as part of the Aegis Foundation’s first ever High Heel Dash.

The youth-services nonprofit has always prided itself on fundraising ideas that are outside the norm. Their newest is no exception.

Two and a half years ago, William Panzarella, the foundation’s executive director, saw a YouTube video featuring a high-heeled race in Russia. Panzarella felt he needed to bring the event to America. Though he was beaten to the punch by such sources as the TV show “The Real Housewives of Atlanta,” he’s still convinced the event will be a hit.

“Everyone says the same thing: men are going to run? You know what? Absolutely. It’s for a good cause,” Panzarella said.

The event will begin with a live broadcast of MyTalk 107.1’s Lauri & Julia show at 3 p.m. The first heats will get under way at 5:30 p.m. There will be prizes for the first, second and third place racers as well as for the top fundraiser. Racing heels need to be three inches or taller.

Panzarella assured that registered nurses would be on the scene with ice packs and wraps in case anyone takes a nasty tumble in their pumps.

“I thought my challenge was going to be we’d have women challenging men to run,” Panzarella said in a phone interview. “It’s worked out pretty even.”

Panzarella noted that after Aegis began proactively advertising for the event, registrants were about half men, half women. He added he doesn’t expect the event to turn into an Olympic sprint, but encouraged people to “go all out” if they so choose.

Every Aegis fundraiser gives its proceeds to two youth organizations. And because event coordinators and staff are all volunteers, 100 percent of funds are donated to the charities.

With a track record for successful fundraising — Aegis put on the official Twin Cities Oscar Party in March, which brought in over $35,000 — the Foundation has received several requests from organizations wishing to be part of their next event.

The Emergency Foodshelf Network approached Aegis officials wanting to be a part of the Dash, but Panzarella and others were hesitant to donate to a charity that didn’t directly impact children. That was, however, until they found out about a program through the Network that provides school-aged children who would normally receive free lunches during the school year with meals throughout the summer.

The other charity benefiting from the race, Soles4Souls, is a Nashville-based organization that collects gently used shoes for families and youth of all ages.

Panzarella said they are accepting three forms of donation: canned goods, money (racers are encouraged to raise at least $100) and gently used shoes.

To register for the race, visit aegisfoundationinc.org.

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HCMC makes U.S. News and World Report “Best Hospitals” list

For the 14th year in a row, Hennepin County Medical Center (HCMC) has made it onto U.S. News and World Report’s annual ranking of the top American hospitals.

This year, the magazine evaluated almost 5,000 hospitals, paying close attention to 16 adult specialties from cancer to urology. HCMC ranked 34th in diabetes care and 47th in treatments of kidney disorders.

The Downtown hospital was home to the first kidney transplant center in the Upper Midwest and has been recognized as one of the top three transplant programs in the nation by the University Health Consortium, an alliance representing 90 percent of the nation’s non-profit academic medical centers. The Hennepin Transplant Center now performs more than 80 transplants a year.

Of the 4,852 hospitals evaluated in the U.S. News and World Report study, only 152 are named in the magazine’s rankings. The complete list appears in the August issue, out now.