The Minnesota Fringe Festival is one of the country's largest performing arts festivals. This year it runs from August 3-13. Find information about performance, venues and times at www.fringefestival.com.
by Michele St. Martin
If theater is what comes to mind when you think about the Minnesota Fringe Festival, think again. This year the annual binge of small theater comedies, drama and oddities includes a five-night showcase of women singers, songwriters and musicians with styles ranging from pop to classical.
The diversity of performers in the showcase is representative of the range of women musicians in Minnesota, according to Rebekka Fisher of Women in Music Minnesota (WIMMN), which organized the showcase. Tickets are $15 per performance; $12 with a Fringe button.
Four solo artists or groups perform at each showcase for 15 minutes apiece at the Rarig Center thrust stage at the University of Minnesota. Performers include Jill Holly, a singer-songwriter and acoustic guitarist who's worked with Paul McCartney and Paul Simon; flutist Vicki Logan; Julliard-trained classical violinist Michelle Dunkirk, who's played in England and Russia, and locally at venues as diverse as First Avenue and Orchestra Hall. Fisher will also perform. She describes her music as "a pop-bluesy Carole King-ish singer-songwriter and pianist."
All of the performers in the eight acts featured in the showcase write original music and at least one writer and the main performer are women. The performers were selected after auditioning for a panel of judges in April, Fisher said. "The performers who received the most votes will perform in the most showcases."
Fisher looks at the showcases as an opportunity for the musicians to be exposed to new audiences, and for the audiences to discover new talent. "A lot of good women musicians don't get the kudos they deserve," Fisher said. "This is an opportunity to hear some music you wouldn't otherwise be able to."
Fisher's words dovetail with WIMMN's goals. The organization was founded two years ago by Fisher and two other women, both of whom have since left the state. The nonprofit organization provides networking, educational opportunities and support to women in the music industry.
"The music industry is male-dominated," Fisher said. "We formed WIMMN so women musicians could get together and support each other." WIMMN has blossomed; she estimates that about 200 women are involved today.
"They need encouragement to keep going. That's what WIMMN does."