D Mad Photography, courtesy Minnesota Fringe
The University of Minnesota’s Rarig Center was abuzz with chatting patrons waiting for theater doors to open, hovering volunteers, and show creators peddling their productions with cards, pitches, even songs. I went to the U, and I’ve attended a few shows at Rarig, but I’ve never seen it so full of people and excitement. The energy inside, and spilling outside in long lines of eager attendees, was palpable. It was the first night of the 2015 Minnesota Fringe Festival, and Spicy Masala Chai was a perfect choice for my first Fringe show ever, because it fed on that excitement and managed to keep up the crowd’s energy level for the whole 60 minutes.
The programs they passed out encouraged a certain level of audience participation, and it was hard not to get swept up in the entertaining story, flashy costumes, and especially the impressive large group choreography. It would almost take you out of the show to consider how much time and effort must have gone into practicing these beautiful dances and admire the dedication of the performers, some of whom were young children. The nearly packed house in the proscenium was clapping along, laughing uproariously, hooting and hollering comments. A character jumping up to follow his heart and join in on a dance he’d been avoiding first pointed a triumphant finger at one encouraging fellow in the crowd. I could have done without the elderly woman who kept her phone on throughout the performance and answered it more than once to say that she couldn’t talk, but it was all part of the experience.
Instantly involving and fun for all ages—I’m pretty sure I spotted a dad holding a little one who was flouting the ages two and up recommendation—, I wouldn’t be surprised if the group Bollywood Dance Scene ended the fest with the best-selling production for the second year in a row. Of course, I do still have some more to see.