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Fringe File 2018 #21 – A Walking Mystery Play

A promotional photo for Have You Seen This Girl? by Mermaid Productions.

If you subscribe to the Minnesota Fringe Festival email newsletter, you may have noticed that there are some recurring names on the sell-out warning and sold-out performance lists. One of these is Mermaid Productions’ Have You Seen This Girl?

The title of Have You Seen This Girl? is a callback to missing person advertisements on flyers and milkboxes, a phenomenon that was particularly prominent in the United States during the 1970s and 1980s. Its cause? A rise in media attention on missing child cases. If you’ve heard the phrase “stranger danger”, this is an outgrowth of the larger moral panic that characterized the period. The invention and use of AMBER alerts has largely replaced this now old-fashioned print advertisements, but just a few decades ago they were everywhere. It’s not for nothing that the 1987 teen vampire thriller The Lost Boys is filled with them.

Show Description
16-year-old Annie Parks left for school on May 3rd and didn’t come home that evening. Join us as we visit popular spots for runaways on the West Bank to find her and bring her safely home.

At its core, Have You Seen This Girl? is a walking play, experienced in the moment as you wander the streets of Minneapolis with a guide, searching for a missing person. Is that a regular passerby? An actor with part of the story to convey? That unclear boundary of where the performance begins and ends is part of the show’s charm. (That charm, by the way, is contagious, and with a limit of 20 tickets, you probably want to reserve in advance. However, six tickets will always be available for door sales.)

If you’ve been following Mermaid Productions and Ariel Leaf, the creator of Have You Seen This Girl?, you might notice that this is a little different from the tell-all solo shows that they’ve done in previous years. “I’m really about growth,” says Leaf. “I don’t like to do one style of things in a static way…This time I wanted to take it a step further and do a whole different kind of storytelling in a different environment.”

A different environment indeed; this show steps out of the theatre and into the open air of the West Bank neighborhood. Audiences take on the guise of members of the West Bank Neighborhood Watch, looking for a missing homeless girl, with a group leader who does all of the talking. “It definitely has a bit of the mystery feel to it,” says Leaf. “Where is she? Where will we get clues? Who will help us on our way? And who will she be and what condition will she be in when we find her?”

Have You Seen This Girl? follows a wheelchair-accessible route, rain or shine, with umbrellas provided in case of inclement weather. The show begins at Hard Times Cafe in the West Bank neighborhood of Minneapolis.


Twin Cities Arts Reader