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Jessica Ferris

Missing: the fantastical and true story of my father's disappearance and what I found when I looked for him

Location + schedule

Intermedia Arts
2822 Lyndale Ave. S

DateTimeMy FringeAccess
Saturday 8/77:00 p.m.  
Monday 8/95:30 p.m.  
Wednesday 8/117:00 p.m.  
Thursday 8/1210:00 p.m.  
Saturday 8/141:00 p.m.  
About the show

Contains Adult language
For ages 16+
Solo, Comedy, Family, Political

Created by Jessica Ferris
From Oakland, CA

Overall rating

Can you find a missing person between the threads of a bed sheet?

This magical-realist detective story traces California solo performer Jessica Ferris's search for the truth about her father, who disappeared under mysterious circumstances 30 years ago, and her discovery that he is a con artist on the lam.

Daily Planet theater blogger Matthew Everett considers this show one of the top five to see at this year's Minnesota Fringe Festival.

Throughout the piece, Ferris deftly transforms everyday objects (a sheet, a chair, a toolbox) into extra-daily entities and beings.

Says Ferris, “In the past couple of years our country has been pretty devastated by huge con jobs: Bernie Madoff’s pyramid scheme, for example, and the shady practices that set off the housing market collapse. Most of us are thinking of these guys as far-away villains: what kind of people would do this? My show addresses that question on an intimate level. I reveal what it’s like to be the daughter, the mother, the wife of one of these guys.”

Throughout the piece, Ferris deftly transforms everyday objects (a folding chair, a metal toolbox, a sheet) into extra-daily entities and beings, and composer Mark Orton's original score compliments the physical theater elements of the show. Orton is a founding member of Tin Hat, a composer collective that blends elements of jazz, folk, and classical chamber music; he’s perhaps best-known in the Twin Cities for having scored the film “Sweet Land.”

* * *

Here's what folks said about Ferris's 2005 fringe show:

Megan Odell of Live Action Set: "[Her performance] made me feel human again. She definitely knows about precision and clarity and stillness, but also has the uncommon restraint to not make a flashy show that is all about her technical skills."

Jon Ferguson: "Delicate, clear, well-observed, sensitive, precise, direct, pure...It is about physical control, delicate delivery, and openness; this is what Jessica does so beautifully."

Matthew Everett: "Holy sh**. That's brilliant."

You can read more reviews of her past work here.

Jessica Ferris
Role: Creater and perfomer
Jessica is a San Francisco Bay Area-based performing artist, who has been making solo shows for the past ten years, mostly in total obscurity!

David Ford
Role: Director

Mark Orton
Role: Composer
In 1995, Orton co-founded Tin Hat Trio, a composer collective comprised of Orton on guitars, Carla Kihlstedt on violin, and Rob Burger on prepared piano and accordion. The group's quest to create genre-defying music that blurs the line between jazz and chamber music has produced five critically acclaimed releases and has afforded Orton the opportunity to work as an arranger and producer with some iconic singers including Tom Waits, Mike Patton, and Willie Nelson.

Outside of Tin Hat, Orton is an award winning film and radio composer, nominated for Best New Composer by The International Film Music Critics Association in 2006. Orton has written and performed scores for films including "The Good Girl," "The Real Dirt on Farmer John," "Sweet Land," "The Loss of a Teardrop Diamond," "Beyond Conviction," "Comrades in Dreams," and "Orthodox Stance," and has contributed music to "Everything is Illuminated," "Mushroom Club," "A Hard Straight," "Diminished Capacity," "Remarkable Power," and the NBC drama ER.

He is busy as an arranger as well, working alongside producer Larry Klein arranging strings for Madeline Peyroux and Vienna Teng among others. He has written extensively for both modern dance and circus- collaborations include: Pilobolus, Donald Byrd/Spectrum Dance Theater, Lawrence Goldhuber/Big Man Arts, Do Jump, The Pickle Family Circus, and Le 7 Doigts de la Main.

Additionally, he is a founding member of Famous Last Words And Music, an artist collective devoted to the production of experimental radio theatre. He lives in Portland, Oregon with his wife and son.

Sarah Salisbury
Role: Stage Manager

User reviews

What all one-person shows strive to be
by Edwin Strout Follow this reviewer
Rating 5 kitties
This is a seamless one-person show. The writing flows from one character and subject to another, the creative movement is used sparingly and to jaw-dropping effect, and she is superb in telling the story. I can't say enough about this show and how great it is. Kudos to you, Jessica.

"Don't pity a sociopath"
by Dave Romm Follow this reviewer
Rating 5 kitties
Jessica Ferris is an excellent physical comedienne. Her search for her father involves coming to grips with her grandfather and several members of her family. Along the way she has to decide if she really wants to find the con man who abandoned her 28 years ago. A worthwhile journey. Four and a half stars rounded up for clever staging. A Shockwave Radio Theater Review.

Longer reviews with pictures at Baron Dave's LiveJournal and snarky comments on Facebook.

the story's in there somewhere
by mark browning milner Follow this reviewer
Rating 3 kitties
an attractive performer (like early shelley winters), some great physical theatre (the bit with the chair was too cool), and a surfeit of emotion (this obviously means a lot to ms. ferris). but, in the end, i was more confused than enlightened or moved. i think the story could have been somewhat more straightforwardly relayed; as it was i think a moving, heartrending tale was obfuscated in the process.

by Chris Giancola Follow this reviewer
Rating 5 kitties
Splendid! Thoughtful, personal, insightful, entertaining, some humor some pathos, much to enjoy. Her past, out present. A must see.

intensely personal
by Mark Caron Follow this reviewer
Rating 5 kitties
Very well performed, thought provoking, and a very personal story. Tying her story to her research about sociopaths was interesting to me and is something I'm taking away. It is a sad story, but so well done! One reviewer criticized the difficulty of following all the characters and who they are. I somewhat agree, but the impact was still there for me and it's a treat to watch such a talented performer.

Really Fantastic
by Kassie Church Follow this reviewer
Rating 5 kitties
Original, fun, sad and powerful. Jessica does a great job of telling her story in a way that kept me wanting more. Smart and original. Highly recommend it if she makes it to the encore.

Provocative, hard to categorize
by Pat Lindgren Follow this reviewer
Rating 5 kitties
Jessica has woven together a performance that employs so many different genres (mime, poetry, storytelling in many different voices, puppetry, film, and even a lecture) that holds together around her central (I assume) autobiographical story. Her family certainly has a made-for-theater story and she told it well. It was entertaining in the way that watching a slow-motion train wreck is captivating. It left us with a lot of questions, but now I have a lot of grist for imagining the rest of the story.

Entertaining Odd Good Story Presentation
by Liz Floyd Follow this reviewer
Rating 4 kitties
The chair trick is very entertaining and impressive! The story sticks with me days later.

Not All Stories End Well
by Richard Shields Follow this reviewer
Rating 5 kitties
There are some laughs in this well-crafted tale, but there are also some very thought provoking moments. If you want to experience a story that is reality based this one will leave you with things to think about. 4% of your neighbors have some serious issues - sleep on that!

Worth seeing, but kind of a downer
by Sharon Kahn Follow this reviewer
Rating 3 kitties
Starts out strong with some inventive physical theater and creative use of simple props to convey emotion. Kudos to Jessica Ferris for having the guts (and the flexibility) to wriggle her very substantial body through that tiny hole with all of us watching her long struggle. It was a curiously effective portrayal of her inner child's desperation and compulsion to keep searching for her missing father. And wonderful job turning that metal box into a full-fledged character in the play.

Things get a little hard to follow after that. Jessica rotates through the roles of a few too many relatives to keep track of as she interviews them one after another in her quest to figure out who her father really was (is) and if he is still alive. Eventually she straightens out some of the confusion by making a pictorial family tree for us and naming them all, but I still had some difficulty figuring out when she was speaking as her mother and when as Grandma Sally, and some of the stories just seemed irrelevant (what was that business with Grandma Nina and the bed linens?). As Jessica's search continues it becomes more obvious just how permanently wounded she and her whole family have been by two generations of compulsive liars in their midst. Ultimately it's all just a very sad story with no resolution. I hope this poor young woman eventually comes to terms with just what she can and can't control about her family and moves on.

One change left to see the best show
by Tony Hanson Follow this reviewer
Rating 5 kitties
I have seen a lot of Fringe shows but nothing is on par with this. Nothing!

She subtly evokes a variety of emotions. She is a really good actress. Her story is powerful. By the way, this is not a comedy so be prepared for real drama.

This has to be the best in the Fringe in two years.

by Justin Alexander Follow this reviewer
Rating 4 kitties
Missing's script is thematically nuanced, intricately executed, and powerfully personal. Jessica Ferris' performance is skilled and evocative.

If the show has any shortcoming it's that it never becomes as painful as it might be or as funny as it could be. There is a degree to which it feels as if we're skimming through the upper layers of the material; and that there might be something rich and more powerful if we just delved a little bit deeper.

But it may lack in depth, Missing makes up in nuance. The performance and the script are both richly interconnected, drawing parallels between personal and universal experiences which bind you and the performer ever closer together into a common journey of self-discovery.

by Rachel Nelson Follow this reviewer
Rating 5 kitties
Like a poem, this piece reverberates on multiple levels. This absorbing mystery keeps surprising the audience right up to the end. Ferris' work uses true dramatic imagery--physical movement, transformed props, projected images over movement--that turn her script into condensed and intense theater. Her performance is impeccable and moving. I will think about this piece for weeks.

Lovely, whimsical, tragic
by Fringivitis Vulgaris Follow this reviewer
Rating 4 kitties
There are stories within the stories of this family. Jessica Ferris deftly becomes various family members as the tale of failed fathers unfolds. Abandonment and abuse are woven in, but the threads are pulled apart and reconfigured to make room for magic and possible healing.

I recommend this (should you care).
by Warren Bowles Follow this reviewer
Rating 5 kitties
Most Fringe shows seem to think of the minimal technical elements that are available to them as a disadvantage or burden. Ms. Ferris embraces them and makes them a strength. Her nonverbal moments made me think of the Swiss troup, Mummenschanz. The switch in tone mid-show works well. She is a very skilled performer.

I recommend this show.

by Curt Lund Follow this reviewer
Rating 5 kitties
My second sleeper favorite of the festival. Magnificent, in every aspect -- text, movement, interaction with (seemingly) everyday objects. So much more than I was anticipating. Truly a Must See. Like, want-to-see-it-again Must See.

by Yann Terrien Follow this reviewer
Rating 5 kitties
What a great surprise this show was. Pure magic. Jessica and her story totally got me hypnotized from the beginning till the end. Highly recommended!

Oh yes.
by m. freiert Follow this reviewer
Rating 5 kitties
A woman presents various family members as she retells her search into her father (a con man).

A well crafted script, strongly differentiated characters, brilliant use of props, compelling meaningful exchanges between characters, and strong development across the piece. The piece ranges from laughter to serious reflection with well linked and transitioned vignettes.

This is a must see.

If you only see one more Fringe show
by Amelia Kritzer Follow this reviewer
Rating 5 kitties
I recommend this one. Jessica embodies her story in an honest, creative, and compelling way. And what a story!

by Heather Meyer Follow this reviewer
Rating 5 kitties
Jessica Ferris has created an engaging and magical journey. There is wonderful depth in Jessica's performance as she gildes in and out of new characters and new stories that create this cohesive adventure. I loved the use of magnets.

It really is magic.

Nothing missing from this show.
by Gabriel Heller Follow this reviewer
Rating 5 kitties
Jessica artfully weaves the story not just of her missing father, but of the many men who have gone missing in her life, real and imaginary through a judicious blend of movement, puppetry, storytelling, song, video and poetry. She flawlessly transmits the feeling of longing and searching for the lost. This show wins most creative use of props. Magnets and paper clamps transform everyday objects into puppets, family trees, mysterious portals, even the show's backstage. One warning: be ready to commit ten or so names and relationships to memory almost immediately or be confused as to who is who for much of the show. Most you will only get once or twice before the albeit excellent expo near the end.

Pro and Con
by Reid Gagle Follow this reviewer
Rating 5 kitties
Jessica is a very engaging actress. She establishes rapport with her audience quickly and does some charming physical clowning around. Then she eases into her more serious topic, the con men in her family history, and the damage that they uncaringly do.

by Karen Pedersen Follow this reviewer
Rating 5 kitties
Jessica is a terrific storyteller and physical actress. She has control of the stage. I loved when she 'melted' into water and flowed under the door to observe her father. The story has many layers and she managed to move seamlessly from one character to another.

by Ruth Virkus Follow this reviewer
Rating 5 kitties
I won't ruin this for you; just go see it. I woke home heartbroken and uplifted at the same time.

Years in the Making And It Shows
by Rachel Teagle Follow this reviewer
Rating 5 kitties
I haven't seen anything quite like this before. A lovely mix of storytelling styles, strong character work, inventive props,and a killer story. There's a certain joke involving a Mongolian conquer-er that my co-audience member and I have repeated a good 8 million times. Inviting, engaging, polished, surprising. Um. Go see it. Like, now.

An archeological dig!
by Nadine Sehnert Follow this reviewer
Rating 5 kitties
It is refreshing to see a show that has such depth and vulnerability in such an engaging fashion. This is more than a comedy. Ferris takes the audience along on her expedition to find the why to her story and I was hooked from the very clever use of space, props and the gracefulness of Ferris herself. Mesmerizing.

intimate and inventive
by amihan huesmann Follow this reviewer
Rating 5 kitties
This is some weird and magical combination of a conversation and performance, with puppetry, dance, and video. She does incredible things with her body and the props---see this, you're in for a visual and auditory treat. Also, I may be in love.

Saw this and Underneath the Lintel back to back for the best Fringe day ever!

compelling, hilarious, disturbing
by Naomi Kritzer Follow this reviewer
Rating 5 kitties
Ferris weaves in physical comedy and some creative staging, but the heart of this show is the compelling story of her father (and several other relatives), all of whom were charming con men. This is a really good show.

by Steven McCaa Follow this reviewer
Rating 5 kitties
An amazing performance by a talented story teller. Doubt her family goes to her shows, but the rest of us get to enjoy it. Innovative presentation, giving her audience an insight not only to her story but the reasons she is on stage.

A lot to process and think about, sure to spark many an interesting dinner conversation in the weeks to come.

P.S. Jessica, we totally follow it.