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Fringe File #16: The Arts Reader Awards

An Awards graphic

The Minnesota Fringe Festival’s annual domination of the Arts Reader‘s coverage is almost complete. Each year, for a period of around six weeks, coverage of the region’s largest performing arts festival takes over our homepage. This focus reflects a larger action in the industry: many theatres and musical organizations simply choose not to stage performances during the MN Fringe Festival’s week-and-a-half window. It’s a good time to take a vacation, embark on some daytime rehearsals, or attend the festival to take in its eruption of ideas and talents.

A now-annual tradition at the Arts Reader is the bestowing of awards related to the Minnesota Fringe Festival. There are many reasons why we do this. The first is the essentially transient nature of the festival operations: audience reviews are scrubbed each year, leaving little online legacy for companies to leverage. Another is that, before last year, the festival did not itself bestow any awards beyond the box office-determined encore shows and listing of top box office results. A third – and, arguably, the most important – is to provide a critical perspective that endorses and recognizes sterling work that we would like to see more of.

That critical perspective is not an idle concern. Awards can have a significant role in artists’ access to fellowships, residencies, development programs, and employment. They also serve as a sort of imprimatur, allowing artists and the groups that receive them to more easily leverage past labors and successes.

As the editor-in-chief of the Arts Reader, I believe that giving awards is a way of investing in our local artist community. This is even more important now than when the Arts Reader was founded: the retirement of the Ivey Awards created a closed circle of past awardees that will never widen. Giving awards shouldn’t be about picking winners and losers, or creating a feudal system that doesn’t grow. It should be a catalyst for ongoing engagement and investment in our performing arts audience-presenter-performer ecosystem. Some part of this involves highlighting what we would like to see more of, yes, but it’s much more than just saying “these were my favorites.”

Tomorrow, the Minnesota Fringe Festival will announce its own official award recipients during its closing night party at Can Can Wonderland. Some of these awards are determined by audience votes, some by artist votes, and some by the festival staff. The Arts Reader’s own awards were selected this year by an internal team of seven writers, and reflect a mixture of individual and collective concerns and insights into the festival programming. With no further ado, here are the recipients of the Arts Reader Awards for the 2019 Minnesota Fringe Festival.

Editor’s Pick

  • R Culture (EnCompass Theatre)

Critic’s Picks

  • Edith Gets High (Devious Mechanics)
  • Hello Mother (Haunt Armada)
  • Magic Girl (Emily Michaels King)
  • Relic (Jesse Factor)
  • Xena and Gabrielle Smash the Patriarchy (Mermaid Productions)

Best of Fringe

  • All is Bright (Shelby Company)
  • The Scranton Strangler: An Office Musical (Literally Entertainment)

For Want of an Encore…

In 2018, the Minnesota Fringe Festival discontinued encore performances for its top-selling shows. However, you can catch several of the 2019 Arts Reader Award recipients on the last day of the festival (Sunday, 8/11):

  • All is Bright – Mixed Blood, 4 PM
  • Edith Gets High – Rarig Center Arena, 2:30 PM
    • Note: Advance tickets are sold out. 30% of tickets are available at the door.
  • Hello Mother – Rarig Center Xperimental, 1 PM
  • Magic Girl – Crane Theater, 7 PM
  • The Scranton Strangler: An Office Musical –  Rarig Center Thrust, 2:30 PM
    • Note: Advance tickets are sold out. 30% of the ground-floor tickets and balcony tickets are available at the door.
  • Xena and Gabrielle Smash the Patriarchy – Theatre in the Round, 1 PM
Hanne Appelbaum