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Home > Arts > Fringe File, #23: Lyssa Sparrow on <em>First Year Queer</em>, Kink, and Consent

Fringe File, #23: Lyssa Sparrow on First Year Queer, Kink, and Consent

The cast of First Year Queer in an previous show: Lyssa Sparrow (center) with Anthony Art (left) and Corinna Troth (right).

There is a Fringe category called Something Different. Lyssa Sparrow’s First Year Queer, now playing at the Minnesota Fringe Festival, has that label – and it certainly isn’t inaccurate. The subject matter includes (but is not limited to) sex, consent, polyamory, and kink. Throw in some puppetry about coming out, a documentary, and a drawing, and that sounds like all you can fit into a 1-hour Fringe show – but there’s even more in store for audiences who show up at Intermedia Arts.

Lyssa Sparrow performing in Patrick’s Cabaret’s My Horrifying Holiday (2016).

Some Fringe shows are written in desperate haste as the opening approaches, while others go through many evolutions before reaching this particular stage. First Year Queer, which has performances Thursday evening (8/10) at 8:30 PM and Sunday (8/13) at 1 PM, is an expanded version of something that Sparrow has been developing on for some time. In addition to applying to the Minnesota Fringe Festival lottery, Sparrow pitched the show for 20% Theatre’s Q-Stage New Works Series and Patrick’s Cabaret; a 15-minute version was presented at Patrick’s Cabaret in December 2016. By the time her number was drawn in the Fringe lottery, most of the expanded show was sketched out and a piece had passed the time-honored audience test.

After graduating from Viterbo University with a BFA in Theatre Performance, Sparrow found herself increasingly attracted to theatre opportunities in which she could give creative input and participate in decision-making processes. This particular sort of collaboration is emphasized at many of her favorite theatres in town – Gadfly, Patrick’s Cabaret, Raw Sugar, 20% Theatre, and Wonderlust, several of which she has worked with. In recruiting fellow performers and other participants, she took a hands-off management approach: “I kind of just give people the framework,” she said in an interview. “And let them fill it in.”

While developing the show, Sparrow also emphasized enlisting the larger communities (e.g., queer, mental health, BDSM) touched on by the show content. A coming-out resource list was posted to a local Queer Exchange Facebook group for feedback, OutFront Minnesota agreed to send a trio of reps to different shows in case any of the content is triggering to audience members (date rape and guidelines for consent are both discussed), and 800 prescription pill bottles were collected from local communities to hold mental health information kits that are distributed to the audience. “It’s important to me,” said Sparrow. “That the queer and poly communities feel [that First Year Queer] represents them. That it’s a positive and realistic representation, and benefits the community.”

Did you know?

The official Fringe show image for First Year Queer.

Kink, like many subcultures, has its own coded language and meaningful references that outsiders overlook. The show image for First Year Queer is a provocative photo of a sudsy bathtub, sprinkled with a coyly placed copy of Janet Hardy and Dossie Easton’s The Ethical Slut, Sparrow herself, and empty pill bottlesThe subtitle of the book is illegible, but then again – if you’ve heard of the book at all, you know what it’s about. (The subtitle is “A Practical Guide to Polyamory, Open Relationships & Other Adventures”.)

The Artist

Lyssa Sparrow: Out, kinky, proud, confessional.

First Year Queer plays at Intermedia Arts in Minneapolis, MN through Sunday, August 13.

Basil Considine