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Fringe File 2018 #13 – Brid Henry on Diving Into Theatre

Actor Brid Henry (bottom) on a skydiving trip.

Brid Henry plays Roxanne in the Red Dice Collective’s upcoming Fringe production of Cyrano on the Moon. Brid spoke with the Arts Reader about diving into the local theatre scene.

You worked on last year’s The Future Is Female Festival in its Minneapolis branch. What was that experience like? Is this the sort of professional focus that you plan on returning to?

Actor Brid Henry.

It was incredible. I found a sign-up for the national festival while working at the Playwrights’ Center and realized, at that time, there wasn’t an outpost for Minneapolis, which seemed wrong on so many levels given our extraordinary theater community. I remember sitting at my desk thinking out loud “I want to make this happen!” and Kristin Idazsak, a Jerome Fellow there at the time, just looked at me and said “Do it.” So that helped.

It was my first time directing and co-producing a festival simultaneously, but I had the best (and tiny!) team of three to make it all happen. We only had a month and a half, and in that time we put out an international call for new 10-minute plays by female & non-binary playwrights, read over 100 submissions from around the world, chose 7 plays (3 by MN-based playwrights), cast 5 brilliant Twin Cities actors, collaborated with local vendors like My Sister Clothing and Cry Baby Clay, crowdfunded and successfully raised enough money to pay all artists involved and to donate proceeds to Planned Parenthood, and put everything together in one giant rehearsal before the show at the Playwrights’ Center.

There were audience members who had never been to a theatrical performance before; to have that be their first experience, along with the overwhelming support of the community, was such a rush. I learned so much and have nothing but gratitude for everyone who made The Future Is Female Festival: MPLS possible. So, yes, I definitely hope to make it happen again.

You studied at Augsburg College. What drew you to that theatre program in particular?

Backstage ranked Augsburg’s theater program as one of the Top 5 outside of New York, which caught my attention! Honestly, I just felt at home when I toured. Augsburg is relatively small, which drew me to it because I love connecting with others, and I felt like I was able to become more closely acquainted with the professors and students in the program and flourish in my education in a more intimate setting.

A huge advantage to their theater program is that its designed entirely for the student, meaning that I was able to discover and study different concentrations of theater that I didn’t realize I’d have a passion for, like directing, dramaturgy and playwriting, in addition to performance. I also would have missed my dog too much if I had gone anywhere else.

Brid Henry in a 2016 Augsburg College production of Eugene O’Neil’s Waiting for Lefty.

When did you do your first professional show in the Twin Cities? What was your role and what company was it with?

Technically, my first professional show was also my first Fringe show! After that, I was in Jamila Anderson’s production #RRRIOT: Race and Rape Culture at Phoenix Theater, which was a variety show of multi-disciplinary female artists who displayed their work about the aforementioned topics and how they intersect. My scene partner (the luminous Andi Cheney) and I created a sketch comedy skit that included two problematically white women at a “Rape Prevention Convention”, where they disagree on whether women should buy absurd tools to protect themselves against rapists, and donned unicorn onesies to play alien newscasters who critique Earth’s way of handling sexual assault. It’s all still unfortunately relevant.

When did you first hear about the Minnesota Fringe Festival? When did you do your first Fringe show, and what was it?

I don’t remember when I first heard about MN Fringe! Remembering when I heard about Fringe feels like trying to explain déjà vu: it just happened. My first Fringe show was Ferguson, USA by Maxwell Collyard in 2015, which was a complex and impactful production surrounding the murder of Michael Brown. I’ll always be grateful for being a part of, and it’s also still painfully prevalent.

Show Description
Cyrano awakens in the afterlife to engage in one last battle against the Vices and Corruption of Man, as Roxanne struggles to reconcile his tumultuous legacy and her love.

What process led you to perform in Cyrano on the Moon?

The Fringe General Auditions! Those were a blast. I’ve never been so ferociously applauded by a house full of directors after an audition.

How did you first learn of / experience the source play Cyrano de Bergerac?

When I found out I was cast, actually. I still can’t decide whether or not I should be embarrassed that I had never heard of Cyrano de Bergerac prior to this show, but it’s been very cool to research and learn about.

A rehearsal scene from Cyrano on the Moon.

Many actors work some odd jobs over the years – some onstage, some off. What’s one of your oddest ones?

I have three: I worked at Sweet Martha’s at the State Fair for a few summers, which was tiring and fun. I did 10-hour shifts at the Grand Stand location, so I heard muffled concerts of whoever was playing and always ended the night looking and smelling like a greasy cookie. Last summer, I was a kayak tour guide on Lake Michigan while doing theater in Door County, which was also tiring, fun, and the scenery was stunning (P.S., if you ever go on a kayak tour, tip your guides!).

Recently, I worked as a carnival game actor at an amusement park, which was the most tiring, not at all fun, and the scenery was subpar.

What’s coming up for you after Fringe?

I’m hopefully going to Chicago for an improv intensive with Second City that I haven’t told anyone about yet!

Basil Considine