In 30th year, Minnesota Fringe highlights 1,000 local artists

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MPR News host Cathy Wurzer spoke with Alex Church, a writer whose show “Primary” is taking the Fringe stage.
Courtesy of Minnesota Fringe Festival

We are about halfway through one of the largest performing arts festivals in the Midwest: Minnesota Fringe.

It is in its 30th year of highlighting more than 1,000 local artists on stages across the Twin Cities. The festival kicked off last week, but there is still a full slate of performances heading through Sunday.

MPR News host Cathy Wurzer spoke with Alex Church, a writer whose show “Primary” is taking the Fringe stage.

Use the audio player above to listen to the full conversation.

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Audio transcript

We are about halfway through one of the largest performing arts festivals in the Midwest. We're talking about Minnesota Fringe. It's in its 30th year of highlighting more than 1,000 local artists on stages across the Twin Cities.

The festival kicked off last week. But there is still a full slate of performances through Sunday. Joining us right now is Alex Church. Alex is a writer, who's show, Primary, is taking the Fringe stage this year. Alex, welcome.

ALEX CHURCH: Happy to be here. Thank you for having me.

INTERVIEWER: Let's talk about the festival before we talk about Primary. I've always thought this is just an amazing platform for artists to put their work in the spotlight.

ALEX CHURCH: It is. It's so wonderful to be on an even playing field from the beginning. The whole thing is on a lottery system. The Guthrie could put in a slot. And so can Joe Schmo off the streets. And you have an equal chance of getting in. It's really remarkable.

INTERVIEWER: How nerve racking is it to put a production, one of your babies up there hoping with your fingers crossed that you get in Fringe?

ALEX CHURCH: It is really exciting. This was actually my very first year being in the festival. I applied in 2020. And that festival for reasons who knows why it didn't happen. But we have had a lot of fun making it happen. And it's just really exciting to see so many wonderful shows get an opportunity to show their work and have such a built-in voracious audience. It's really a treat.

INTERVIEWER: It's also really interesting to see the breadth of productions. Literally, it has something for everyone. Have you ever seen that anywhere else?

ALEX CHURCH: Not me, personally, especially, those of us with artist passes who can run around to as many shows as we want, I've seen one woman shows this year. I've seen these huge ensemble casts that are popping eyeballs. And this other show where about Walt Disney's head. There are so many wonderful productions going on right now. And it's such a beautiful diaspora of storytelling.

It's really a gift to be a part of.

INTERVIEWER: Tell us about your show. So what about Primary?

ALEX CHURCH: Primary is a political comedy about a moderate Congresswoman, who loses her primary to a progressive challenger. And then her recently estranged daughter comes home to try and convince her to endorse the woman who just beat her.

It's a really biting, really funny show. After our first read through, the cast said that as if the cast of Veep was performing Who's Afraid Of Virginia Woolf?


So I'll take that. I'll take that.

INTERVIEWER: I loved Veep. That was a great show. Yes.

ALEX CHURCH: It's a lot of fun.

INTERVIEWER: Wow. And you had this percolating in your head for a while?

ALEX CHURCH: I have. Since like around 2018, I came into my political own in the 2016 election, which was a very exciting time to be alive, let alone be paying attention to politics. And then a couple of years later, when all these like this rise of lowercase extremist politics. These candidates getting elected and beating these more moderate establishment candidates who regardless of whether or not they're on the same side, have very different views about how to handle the issues.

Just started really tuning me into this tension between people who are working within the status quo, and trying to preserve it, and those who have more of a burn it all down mentality in a way. And we see that on both sides of the political spectrum. But especially, in the last few years with like the ousting of Liz Cheney or the election of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. There are just all of this new generation of political ideology that's coming into the fold. And it's having a real tension with the existing social order.

INTERVIEWER: So because you've had this in your head for a while, you've put it on paper, how fast did the show come together, though?

ALEX CHURCH: We, I think, started rehearsals in probably early June, early mid June. So we've had a crisp two months to get it up. And you can read all the reviews on our fringe page. We've been getting some wonderful comments about it. And everybody kind of agrees that this show especially, we're doing a lot in an hour. And so far, it seems that we've been doing it pretty well. And I'm really proud of that.

And I think it's just a testament to the wonderful people that I've been able to work with. I've had an amazing co-director and an amazing stage manager and some amazing actors who have all just taken this piece and helped make it something really special.

INTERVIEWER: Wow. Congratulations. You got it together in two months. Oh, my gosh. I know you've got some performances left. So where and when can folks see your show?

ALEX CHURCH: We are performing at the Augsburg Studio. And we have a performance tonight at 10 PM, which sounds really late. But also, I promise, it's only an hour, if you can make it. Tonight at 10:00 PM, tomorrow at 8:30 PM, and then Saturday at 5:30 PM and. In an unexpected twist, I will even be performing in the show now from tonight onward.

So if you want to see what the playwright itself does with the script, come on down.

INTERVIEWER: All right. That sounds intriguing. Alex, you did a great job. All the best. Congratulations. Have a wonderful rest of Fringe.

ALEX CHURCH: Thank you so much. And we're also donating a portion of our ticket sales to women winning. So come on down and support them, too, and our show, and the Fringe. It's all a big happy time.

INTERVIEWER: Thanks, Alex. Take care.


INTERVIEWER: That was writer and director Alex Church. As you heard, his show, Primary, is one of the many performances you can catch at the Minnesota Fringe Festival.

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