By Tanner Kent
---- — Ten straight hours of theatre rehearsal are tough for anyone.
Even Carter Allen, a soon-to-be senior acting student at Minnesota State University who has desired to be an actor since he took his first class at age 3, admits the last month of preparation has taxed his nerves and tried his resolve.
As Allen was rehearsing his role in "Spamalot" — a rollicking musical comedy that concluded MSU's Highland Summer Theatre season this month — he was also rehearsing his roles for one of several area productions selected for the Fringe Festival, the annual theatre showcase held Aug. 1-11 in various venues across the Twin Cities. Cast in all three vignettes that comprise North Mankato playwright Greg Abbott's "DiRections," a dark comedy about trusting technology over instinct, Allen used the challenge as an opportunity to demonstrate his acting mettle.
"I'd rehearse from 1-5 (p.m.) for 'Spamalot' and then again from 6:30 to 10:30 or 11 (p.m.)," Allen said. "In between, I'd go and meet with the people for the Fringe show. ... It's good practice because you never know what you'll be asked to do while you're out there as a professional. I want to show people I'll work for them and with them."
The results of Allen's labors will be on display Friday at the Mankato Brewery during a local preview of two area shows that will be playing at this year's Fringe Festival. Included in the showcase is Abbott's play -— which represents the writer's first solo credit at the Fringe — as well as "Vanquished," Eagle Lake playwright Tom Barna's one-man play that recounts the experiences of a single man who struggles to find happiness within a life that has repeatedly intersected him with some of history’s most tragic moments.
"Vanquished" also marks a first-time Fringe appearance for Barna, who publishes under the name tdbarna. Though the Fringe selects its productions strictly by lottery — it is now the largest nonjuried theatre festival in the United States — Barna was well-prepared when he received notice his work had been selected.
"We had already cast our actor and selected our director," Barna said, explaining that tight timelines, production expenses and repeated commutes to the Twin Cities for Fringe performances will sometimes discourages outstate productions. "So, there was no panic."
Leslie Dupree-Cady is directing while Taylor Anderson is Barna's lone actor. Anderson, who has worked recently with Merely Players Community Theatre, has earned praise for his diligence and commitment to the challenging role.
"He's amazing," Barna said. "When people see him perform, they'll say: 'We've got to get this guy.'"
Abbott's "DiRections" is divided into three vignettes, each of which illustrate an over-reliance and over-abundance of technology. From lead-footed teens with a black market iPhone to prom propositions via Facebook, Abbott calls his comedy a "cautionary tale" that veers into occasionally dark territory.
"Some things do happen when the iPhone gets upset," he said.
Molly Smith is directing with Allen joining Esther Hoffmann, John Zehnder and Jason Toupence in the cast.
If You Go What Mankato Fringe Festival Showcase, featuring "DiRections" and "Vanquished" When 7 p.m. Friday (both shows are 45 minutes) Where Mankato Brewery, 1119 Center St. in North Mankato Tickets $10, available at the door Fringe performances For a full list of Fringe Festival performances, visit http://www.fringefestival.org/2013/.