Fringe 2017 & Opening Night!

*Note this blog is written by our Executive Producer Kyle B. Dekker. This Fringe season he has decided to chronicle HCM's experiences at the Minnesota Fringe Festival. Please enjoy the blog to read about the run of our show, and for reviews of shows Kyle attends during the Festival.

Hot Chocolate Media takes the Stage

Hot Chocolate Media debuted our latest project Waiting for Gygax at the 2017 Minnesota Fringe Festival. The idea for Gygax came to me while playing Dungeons & Dragons with friends a few years ago.  After callously slaying the monstrous residents of yet another room in a series caves, I wondered to myself “what do the monsters do while they wait for us to arrive?” These monsters must have goals, dreams, family, histories, and more. I wanted them to be more real than faceless obstacles in a game of D&D.

I wanted to tell their story, but how? Waiting in a dungeon with nothing to hope for but death or boredom seemed a bit morose and sad. Waiting for Godot became the perfect inspiration for this story. There is no better portrayal of the frustration of waiting with no guarantee of payoff than Samuel Beckett’s classic play.

HCM creative director Jacob Gulliver helped me pen the script, and we wrote it in a collaborative process similar to our process for Super Academy. This is my favorite way to write as Jacob and I enjoy bouncing ideas off each other so we land on the best dialogue, jokes, and ideas in a script. While we have greatly condensed and trimmed much from Beckett’s two-plus hour play, the tone and spirit of Godot is still there along with our own fantasy RPG spin to it.

No play or film can be executed without a cast. And I must say the cast for Gygax is fantastic. Commarrah Bashar is a talented actor I worked with recently on Six Elements Theater Human Combat Chess. She has had the unique challenge of playing a character who is mute for part of the play. A challenge she has masterfully taken on and surpassed even my highest expectations in its execution. Molly Glover joins us in her first scripted stage act in 16 years. You'd never know watching her work, she is a natural on stage. Her physical comedy and timing is immaculate, and her energy is infections. Two HCM alum in Matt Saxe (Lord Geoffrey in Fang & Talonand Andy Gullikson (Dark Cop in Super Academy) are the other half of our cast. It has been a pleasure to work with these two gentlemen again, their talent and passion for acting is impressive and are a huge asset to the show. As a director having such a talented cast is the greatest asset to have, they are the one who make the show work.

We opened last night at 7PM at the Rarig Xperimental theater. It was my first choice of venue as the multiple exits and walkway levels work really well to make the space feel like a underground dungeon. We nearly filled every seat and the crowd responded better than I could have hoped for. The cast brought an energy to the performance that the audience seemed to feed off of and you could tell the cast had really gelled with each other during and had excellent chemistry on stage. The applause and laughs were enthusiastic and frequent, it's a night I won't soon forget. Truly one of the highlights of my five year stage career. 

The Reviews

I won't be reviewing on the Fringe website as I abhor the 1-5 star rating system as I'd rather share my thoughts and feedback honestly without such a constrictive system. 

  Katie Versus the Devils  - Image Courtesy of Scared Hare Productions

Katie Versus the Devils - Image Courtesy of Scared Hare Productions

Katie Versus the Devils - Scared Hare Productions

A play about a evening in the life of Martin Luther's spouse Katharina Von Bora. She host borders in her house and farms to support her family. Through the evening she is visited by an assassin, a magician, and the Devil. 

This show is billed as a comedy, but I wouldn't consider it one, it has humor but it doesn't rely on or really feature many jokes. It's a piece of historical fantasy fiction with interesting characters and fantastic costumes and blocking. They really used the space well at the Rarig Arena making sure all members of the audience got interesting looks of the show. 

The script is pretty clever and it moves quickly, it never feels like it is dwelling on something for too long, and each visitor to Katharina is unique and interesting. The performance of Gina Sauer as Kate really stands out, a wonderful job. 

If you are interested in historical fiction especially about the reformation, I'd highly suggested this show. I very much enjoyed it and was very glad I went to see it. 

 

The Perils of Steve - SaMi Productions

  The Perils of Steve  - Image Courtesy of SaMi Productions

The Perils of Steve - Image Courtesy of SaMi Productions

Andy Gullikson performed in two shows on opening night, Waiting for Gygax and this absurd and enjoyable show at 10PM. I mean absurd in the best possible way. Four actors play 34 different roles using several different over the top and silly dialects and extreme physical comedy. 

No props, no costume changes, yet through physical presentation and dialogue I had no issues following the character and narrative changes. The show starts on an 11 and they never let up. If you like your humor subtle and your fourth walls unbroken this isn't the show for you. 

I found myself incredibly impressed with the quality of the physical comedy, blocking, and energy. It was theater with extreme cardio mixed together. The cast never let the physical exertion impact their performance and they kept up the high energy level throughout. I felt they used the space in the Rarig Thrust incredibly well and made great use of some simple but creative lightning cues. On an amusing note all sound design was live Foley work done by the actors themselves.

I'm not sure if all the dialects worked as some were a bit too stereotyped for my taste (I do understand the farcical  nature of the show this was likely intended) but I can see this could be grating to some people. 

If you enjoy James Bond, Archer or Rocky and Bullwinkle this show may just hit the right nerve. It is consistently funny and never lakes for energy or fun.

Wrap

Day one of the Minnesota Fringe Festival in the books. One open and two shows attended, putting me at a total of two. Please follow the blog here as I continue with reviews, thoughts, and recaps of each Waiting for Gygax performance. Don't forget to check out HCM on Facebook and Twitter. Thank you.