Fringe is Facebook Official

They say it ain’t official until it’s on Facebook.

Well, now our MN Fringe show Pistachios is official. Check it out and ‘like it:’

Across the threshold, on to the fringe


For the past few years, we’ve put in an application to get into the Minnesota Fringe Festival. And for the past few years, we’ve seen our lottery number drawn somewhere in the ridiculously high range on the wait list; somewhere that essentially guarantees that we’re not going to make a trip to Minneapolis to produce a show. This year, same as usual, we found ourselves on the wait list. The only difference, though – and it’s an important difference – is that we were fourth on the list this time, which is a placement that essentially guarantees that we’ll get an offer to make that coveted trip.

And just this past Thursday, we received our official invitation to be a Fringe Fest producer! You may congratulate us.

So now the hard part begins: actually producing a show! Let’s be clear here, every single year that we apply to be a part of the festival, we don’t actually have anything prepared. This year is no different. So when we found out that we were likely going to get a chance, we began brainstorming a script right away. Within the first few hours, we had the gist of what the tone of our play would be. By the next morning, we had a proposed conflict for our supposed characters. Another two days later, there was an initial outline. And now, about two weeks later when everything became finalized with our participation in the festival, we’ve got the bulk of the first draft of the first act written. Progress continues to be made.

In brief, the two of us (John and Nathan) are using some of our own personal experiences dictate this story. As representatives of both atheist and Christian demographics, we thought it’d be great to produce a play that explores the differences between the world views as well as the means by which we can still coexist. The setting of the play involves two brothers who haven’t seen each other for years. One of them organizes a family reunion to get everyone back together again, though the other is hesitant about going because he renounced his faith and is suspect about how his extremely devout family will take the news – either that or how awkward it will be to keep this secret from all of them during his time back home. The cat, as they say, is let out of the bag, and the brothers have to figure out how, or if, they can reconcile this situation.

All of this is subject to change, of course. Like I said, we haven’t even finished the script yet, though the play will likely be some variation of what’s described above.

As the months go by between now and August, we’ll make sure to give little updates on our progress, so stay tuned. And we hope to see you at the Fringe Fest!

Porters and Poetry II

Our Porters and Poetry event in April was enjoyed by many, and we figured waiting until next year’s National Poetry Month was too long. So here we are a six-month mark, ready for another installment.

April Porters and Poetry had several featured poets punctuated opportunity for open mic. Our October 9th Porters and Poetry will mix it up again. We will again have choice beverages and open mic for any poetry, but we will punctuate it with a session of haiku and a session of limericks. Each poetic style will have a mild competition, as well, just to spice things up. These short, enjoyable poetic forms are such that you could even write them at the event itself (cocktail napkins and ballpoint pens will be standing by). For those who would like to participate but aren’t familiar with the forms, here’s a crash course…

Haiku: A Japanese form of poetry, traditionally an observation of the natural world, traditionally in three lines consisting of five syllables, seven syllables, and five syllables.

Limerick: Typically witty and tongue-in-cheeck, traditionally five lines of poetry with a rhyming scheme of AABBA.

For more details and instruction and examples– do a quick search online; but be careful– particularly when searching for examples of limericks. Sometimes they can be quite naughty.

See you at Porters and Poetry! 7:00 social, 8:00 poetry at MacRostie Art Center in Grand Rapids, MN.
porters and poetry

Thanks to our partners for making this event possible! Grand Rapids Players, MacRostie Art Center, 91.7 KAXE, and Zorbaz on Pokegama!

Creating a Caterpillar Puppet


The upcoming Uncommon Loons/Grand Rapids Showboat production of ‘Ziibi’ involves a large caterpillar puppet. As with most of the costumes, props and puppets in this show, we hope each element will be its own piece of art. The caterpillar will be a type of marionette with its skin dyed with batik techniques. Here is a log of our process. I’m not experienced in batik or puppet construction, so we are learning as we go. Here’s to trial and error augmented by rigorous research!

Step 1: Cutting the fabric to size and stretching it on a temporary frame. image(3)

Step 2: Drawing a pattern out on paper. Inked in black marker so that it can be seen through the fabric when we flip the frame over onto it.


Step 3: Flip the stretched fabric onto the pattern. Trace the lines in wax. This took three tries to get it right. The first…

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Loons in Residence

Old Central SchoolWell it’s official! The Uncommon Loons will be artists in residence at Old Central School on the third floor for the next three months!

What will we be working on, you ask? Great question! We will be working on Ziibi!

What is Ziibi, you ask? Another great question! First off, the easy answer: ziibi is the Anishinaabe/Ojibwe word for river. It’s the ‘ssippi’ in ‘Mississippi’. Ziibi means river.

What is Ziibi in our context? Ziibi is an upcoming spectacular theatrical production that celebrates life on the river. This is idea we’ve paddling around for some time… since last winter/spring, actually. We were looking at doing Ziibi for summer 2014, but we already had a Shakespeare in the Park project in the wings; with the scope of this adventure we wanted plenty of time to pull it all together. Ziibi is a show that we are creating as a new production on the Showboat stage. Grand Rapids Showboat is approaching its 60th anniversary and its amphitheater built right on the banks of the Mississippi is a rare treasure. Showboat is ready for a rebirth and we will be celebrating life on the river with a variety show called Ziibi. We like to describe Ziibi as Lion King on Broadway meets Moulin Rouge meets Cirque du Soleil meets Showboat. It will be a variety show with a lot of spectacle. Song and dance, yes, but also large-scale puppetry, colorful costumes and banners, a wild storyline, and a lot of visual and aural candy. As the name begs, we are also looking to collaborate with some Anishinaabe artists/performers.

So how does this effect our time as artists in residence at Old Central School? We will be finalizing details of the script and show structure, but the big thing will be our time creating the puppets, stilts, flags, and eye-popping visual elements to next summer’s show.

So come on up to the third floor of Old Central School. See what we’re doing! And then mark you calendars and come see the show: July 30, 31, August 1, 6, 7, 8.


Past Year of Theater, pt 6

by Nathan Bergstedt

nathan bergstedtWe watched the Minnesota Fringe Festival lottery with bated breath, waiting to see if our names were called as one of the select few companies picked to perform an original show for the 2014 festival. As it turned out, we missed the mark. Of the hundreds of companies picked to perform or to wait in the wings as back up, we had yet to hear “the Uncommon Loons” be called by the lottery officiants.

This, despite our disappointment, was probably for the best. Just like that, we were absolved from the responsibility of another full-length show to perform over the summer. We were already planning on Much Ado About Nothing (which wouldn’t have worked for the Fringe Fest because of how long it was), and we were also recently commissioned by the Wizard of Oz Festival committee in Grand Rapids to perform an original mystery dinner theater for the 75thanniversary of the film.

Grand Rapids is the birthplace of Judy Garland, the famous Hollywood siren who starred in the iconic technicolor film. Every year in June, there’s a Judy Garland Festival in town, but in honor of the 75th anniversary of “Oz,” the festival name was changed. They were doing things big this year, including an attempt at breaking the world record for most people dressed up like “Wizard of Oz” characters in one place, so they hoped to have some live theatrical entertainment for their annual Oz Dinner as well.

Between work on “Silhouette, Gentile Silhouette,” “Much Ado About Nothing,” and “Two By Two,” we found ourselves not even thinking about the Oz Mystery for the better part of the spring. All the same, I attended semi-regular meetings with festival committee members to let them know the “progress” that we were making. Truly, we should’ve spent a lot of time working on this show; it was our very first commission! We were actually getting paid to do this show… not a lot, but still. We were getting paid, and we didn’t have to advertise or promote the show at all. That was all on the festival organizers, so we only needed to worry about putting on the best show possible, which is about as optimum of circumstances as we could ask for. We even had carte blanche on what the show was going to be about! All that was requested was that it be a mystery involving “Wizard of Oz” characters. Beyond that and the understanding that it should be generally family friendly, we could do pretty much anything we wanted.

As it was, I was having a hell of a time even getting work done on the “Much Ado” script. Spending most of my time over the winter just trying to deal with my seasonal depression (and it was a shitty winter too, with basically constant sub-zero temperatures and blizzards), motivation to do anything that resembled constructive was an up-hill battle. But I wanted to write the script. John, Steph, and I had a hilarious brainstorm session wherein we figured that we’d do a neo-noir style play about the theft of the Ruby Slippers that made the Wizard into a private eye, Dorthy the damsel in distress, the Scarecrow an attorney, the Tin Man a mechanic with a soft spot for fashion, and the Lion a washed up boxer who worked as muscle for the mob. And of all that, the best part was the ending, the reveal of whodunit, which I will not divulge here lest we actually perform the show again (which is a possibility).

At a certain point, with less than two months left before showtime, I decided that the task of writing this show should probably be left to John, if he was willing. I simply wasn’t getting anywhere with this show, let alone the “Much Ado” adaptation, which was going to take even more time. And with luck, John actually asked me first if he could write the show; a request I was happy to hear.

Usually a stickler for research, John took advantage of the fact that he didn’t actually have to do any research for this show, and instead just focused on writing a comedy that was littered with one-liners and cheesy inside jokes regarding the “Wizard of Oz” and general pop culture. After assembling our pre-arranged cast, we basically laughed our way through our short rehearsal process. We brought back Josh Cagle and Katie Benes to play the Wizard and Dorthy, Rachel Randle to play the Scarecrow, Tony Schmid to play the Tin Man, and I played the Lion.

IMG_1737Provided we didn’t completely botch the performance itself, we figured we couldn’t lose with this one. First off, we thought it was funny. Besides that, it was chocked full of Oz-related jokes, and we were to perform it before an audience of crazed “Wizard of Oz” fans. And the audience was also being fed dinner and had access to a full bar. An act of God was practically needed for this to get screwed up.

Lion makeup complete

Lion makeup complete

And sure enough, God neglected to show up to throw a monkey wrench in our gears. The show went great. One of the things that stick out in my mind about the performance was a dropped line that was my cue for a funny one-liner, which I then wasn’t able to deliver. That’s just the nature of things though; you don’t remember all the things that went as planned, just the one thing that didn’t. But no one noticed anyway. They were too busy having a good time, celebrating an auspicious anniversary of their favorite movie starring their favorite actor, and they thought the play (and especially the ending) was hilarious.

Now we just needed to finish work on “Much Ado About Nothing.”

Flying Monkeys After Work

Flying Monkeys After Work

Flying Monkeys After Work

When it comes to Guinness World Records being broken, we certainly monkey around. It’s official: Grand Rapids, MN, claims the world record for most dressed up Wizard of Oz characters in one place. On June 13 after our successfully smashing the record of 446 with our 1,093, these two monkeys decided to celebrate a Guinness record by clinking glasses of Guinness.

Much Ado Cast Announced

The Uncommon Loons present you with the cast of this summer’s Shakespeare in the Park production of “Much Ado About Nothing” (adapted and directed by Nathan Bergstedt):
Beatrice – Autumn Gordon
Benedick – Nathan Sackett
Hero – Bethani Adamson
Claudio – Simeon Aitken
Leonato – Jeff Nylund
Don Pedro – John Nalan
Don John – Malcom Wessing
Borachio – John Schroeder
Margaret – Steph Schroeder
Dogberry – Josh Cagle
Friar Francis – Patrick Zabinski

Performances are at Riverfront Park on the west side of the Grand Rapids Area Public Library.  June 27, 28, and 29. Plans are also in progress for performances July 11 and 12 in Bigfork.