The 411 on the Fringe

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August 2, 2004 // UPDATED 2:51 pm - April 25, 2007
By: Julie Swenson
Julie Swenson

A primer from 'Skyway Girl,' the shameless self-promoter

Every summer for the last 10 years, Minneapolis has played host to the Minnesota Fringe Festival, the largest fringe festival in the U.S.

Neat, but what the heck is a fringe festival? It's a bunch of fun plays, 898 performances of 176 different shows, in 24 theaters throughout Minneapolis Tuesday, Aug. 6 through Aug. 15.

It all started in 1947 in Edinburgh, Scotland. Every year, the town hosted a juried theater festival, meaning a panel of judges chose which plays got in and which ones didn't. That year, eight of the rejected shows got together and threw their own festival on the outskirts of town, on the fringe you might say. The fringe party turned out to be a lot more fun than the juried festival. After 54 years, there are 40 fringe festivals around the world, and no one can remember the name of that darn juried festival.

The Minnesota Fringe Festival is a great time to sample local theater, six participating venues are located Downtown: Hey City Theater, 824 Hennepin Ave. S.; the Illusion Theater, 528 Hennepin Ave. S.; Interact, 212 3rd Ave. N.; the Loring Playhouse, 1635 Hennepin Ave. S.; two stages at Minneapolis Community and Technical College, both at 1424 Yale Place; the Red Eye, 15 W. 14th St.; the Women's Club of Minneapolis, 410 Oak Grove St.

It's also good for people who want to check out live theater but don't want to spend a lot of money. Each show is an hour, short by theater standards. And tickets are cheap (again, that's by theater standards), admission to Fringe shows is $12 for adults with discounts available for students, seniors, kids and anyone with a Fringe button. Fringe buttons are $3 and available at venues throughout the festival.

Most importantly, the Fringe Festival makes theater fun. The shows are generally a riot, some even raucous. You'll see super-fresh original productions that you'll understand and enjoy. I promise, you'll have to look long and hard for costumed Elizabethans talking in really bad accents about things that don't matter.

At the Fringe, you can see experienced performers like Kevin Kling try new material, as well as emerging performers, such as (ta-da) myself, give it a try.

You see, I had so much fun performing in a showcase at last year's Spoken Word Fringe that this year I signed up to do "Skyway Girl," a whole show based on what you've read in these columns over the last couple years.

So if you've read the stories, why come see them in person? Because seeing the stories come to life in performance is a totally different experience. Let's take this author-reader affair to the next level. Let's talk in person.

No matter what, you'll be in for a treat if you come see the show. Really. Literally. I'm giving everyone who comes to "Skyway Girl" a piece of cake. It won't be anything fancy, just yummy white sheet cake like you'd have at a confirmation or graduation party.

Treats aside, in "Skyway Girl" the audience and I talk about the trials and triumphs of the single girl. Of course, we'll cover dating: speed dating, online dating and bad lunch dates. But I'll also share with you some of my hard-won secrets of shopping glory, such as when to get the best bargains on clearance shoes.

As a bonus, you'll learn how to look like you're working when you're bidding on eBay, find out where Downtown's most fun happy hours are hidden and discover how to survive when things blow up in your face.

Please consider yourself personally invited to the Fringe. Come see "Skyway Girl" because I would love to meet you in person and see if you're all as good looking as I think you are.

"Skyway Girl" plays five times during the Fringe, opening night is Saturday, Aug. 7, 7 p.m. at Hey City Theater, upstairs.

Check out for other show times and more information on the other 175 fun shows at the Minnesota Fringe Festival.

Tickets? You can buy tickets at the door for all performances or in advance through UptownTix at or 604-4463.

See you at the Fringe, and save some room for cake!

When not self-promoting, Julie Swenson ( helps others spread their good words and deeds through her company, Abbas Public Relations.