About Minnesota Fringe

There is one big thing that makes Fringe different from any other event in town: All the shows you'll see at Fringe were selected randomly by lottery.

Yep. That's right. Each year the lineup is crafted by placing numbered ping-pong balls into a bingo cage and drawing them out, one by one. From stage veterans to people who are brand new to theater, Minnesota Fringe is a forum for anyone with a story to tell. We also provide the necessary support to make producing a show as easy as possible, regardless of where you land on the artistic spectrum.

Anyone (yes, anyone) can apply to have a show in the festival. If you'd like to have a show in our next festival, applications will go live in November here on our website. Sign up for our newsletter to receive a reminder as well as information about other theater events happening around town.

The mission of the Minnesota Fringe is to promote creative freedom and diversity of artistic expression by linking adventurous artists with adventurous audiences. Thank you for joining in this adventure!

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Shows start and end on time at Fringe. With hundreds of performances and dozens of shows in just 11 days, we have to run a tight schedule to avoid descending into chaos. Performances are no more than 60 minutes long with a half hour between each show.

On weekdays shows begin at 5:30pm, 7pm, 8:30pm and 10pm. On weekends there are additional shows at 1pm, 2:30pm and 4pm.

Late seating: There is NO LATE SEATING at Minnesota Fringe. In addition to keeping our schedule, late seating is a safety issue for artists and audiences.

Safety for artists: Some of our theaters require that patrons walk across parts of the stage to reach the seating area, and many of our production companies’ stage work encompasses entrances and exits from the house.

Safety for audiences: Entering a darkened theater, possibly for the first time, and trying to find open seats puts patrons and volunteers at unnecessary risk.

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Fringe Central

Fringe Central, sponsored by Surly Brewing and hosted by a local establishment, serves as the late-night watering hole for artists, staff, volunteers and audience members alike. Come in after a day full of shows to grab a beer and some bar food. Talk about what you loved and what you didn’t. Meet the artists behind the scenes and actors on the stage. Find out what you should see tomorrow or dream up your own idea for next year. You never know what will happen during Fringe, but dropping by Fringe Central gives you a serious head start.

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What to Wear

Shorts and a t-shirt. Seriously. Also, a pair of comfy shoes will serve you well in case you have to wait in line. Most Fringe shows take place indoors in air-conditioned venues, so having a layer to throw on in case you get chilly is also advisable.

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Choosing a Show

With hundreds of performances and dozens of shows, it's scandalous to see just one. But how to choose the perfect lineup?

Search by genre: You can filter for genres when trying to decide what to see.

Talk to people: It only sounds scary. Just look for the folks in lanyards. Lanyards are worn by Fringe artists and there are at least a thousand of them dying to tell you about their show.

Read and write reviews: See what audiences are raving about on our audience review page, then return the favor and let others know what you thought.

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Get Involved

Fringe isn't just a festival - it's a community, and it couldn't exist without people like you.

Create: Applications for the 2018 festival will are live on this website. Fringe is open to everyone, shows are selected by lottery, and you don't even need to have a show ready when you apply.

Volunteer: Our volunteers are near and dear to our hearts and make our festival go, so we shower them with lots of love and complimentary seats! Sign up for a shift now!

Socialize: Join us any night of the festival at our official hangout, Fringe Central sponsored by Surly Brewing and hosted by a local establishment, for a beer, a burger and maybe even some late-night shenanigans.

Support: Help us create Minnesota's Summer Theater Crawl by donating to or sponsoring our annual festival. Gifts of any size make a large contribution to our ability to meet our mission.

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Box Office Info

Pass, Reservations, and Tickets, Oh My!

In 2018, Fringe will still offer passes but is also re-introducing single tickets options to see shows. We are re-tooling our Box Office policies to reflect our changes. Please check back for more information in the spring.

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Spy in the House of Men: A One-Woman Show With Balls

By Penny: For Your Thoughts
Written by Penny Sterling

Playing at Bryant-Lake Bowl


GLBT content, Solo show, Storytelling/Spoken word, First-time Minnesota Fringe Festival producer


Warnings: Adult language.

Transgender writer and performer Penny Sterling's award-winning, laugh-out-loud theatre engagement maps her journey through a life-long coming-out process.

The creators say this show is appropriate for ages 12-15 and up


Thu, 8/3 @ 5:30pm


Sat, 8/5 @ 8:30pm


Sun, 8/6 @ 8:30pm


Tue, 8/8 @ 7:00pm


Sat, 8/12 @ 4:00pm
ASL interpreted

* Reservations not required, but a Day Pass is. Find out more below.

Ticket Options

Day Passes are $16 on weekdays; $22 on weekends. Day Passes serve as entry to any show in the festival on a given day. Optional reservations to guarantee a seat for a particular performance are available by clicking the "reserve" button above. Day Passes can be purchased in advance with a reservation or at any venue box office during the festival.

Weekdays 1pm-3pm and Weekends 11am-1pm we'll also open an Alternative Box Office at Fringe Central so you can grab a Day Pass and skip the lines at the venue before the show.

Day Passes for kids 12 and under are available at any box office during the festival just $5 every day.

A 2017 Fringe button isn't required for entry, but it does get you access! Wearing it not only identifies you as a part of a fabulous Fringe community, it also entitles you to special deals at local bars and restaurants and access to reduced ticket prices at various theaters throughout the year. Get your 2017 Fringe button for only $4 at any Fringe preview event or Fringe venue during the festival.

Read the reviews

Everyone should see this show

by Elizabeth Richardson on August 16, 2017
This user has reviewed 1 show

I was moved by this show's wit and wisdom, but most of all by Penny's intense vulnerability and nuanced insights. Politically urgent, unflinchingly honest, deeply compassionate. An expertly crafted and beautifully delivered piece of theater that made me question my own assumptions and insecurities and obliviousness. It is nearly impossible to leave this show without an expanded world view.

1 person found this review helpful


by Sarah JL on August 9, 2017
This user has reviewed 10 shows

This show is the perfect example of why Fringe is amazing. Penny is a fabulous storyteller. Her story is so compelling, and the way she delivers it is top notch. Thank you Penny, for sharing your story with audiences.

1 person found this review helpful


by Sara Robinson-Coolidge on August 9, 2017
This user has reviewed 49 shows

I wish everyone in the would could hear Penny talk about her journey and experiences as a transgender woman. She's funny, honest, and her story is moving.

1 person found this review helpful

Honest, funny, and wonderful

by Austin Robinson-Coolidge on August 9, 2017
This user has reviewed 37 shows

Penny's story about her life and journey is well-told, funny, and poignant. Definitely go see this one - it's well worth your time.

1 person found this review helpful

A must-see with the four Hs

by Mirah Ammal on August 8, 2017
This user has reviewed 6 shows

Penny Stirling’s story telling mixes healthy doses of humor, hope, heartbreak and honesty for wonderful hour-long show. A skilled story teller, her timing, patter and comedy, and are well done, but perhaps even more impressive is the intense vulnerability with which she shares her truth. Her story is deeply relatable, enlightening and important--not only for trans and gender-queer individuals (and the friends and family who love them), but for anyone who has ever felt the pain of their own “wrongness.” It’s a one woman show, in a relatively low-tech setting—not a lot of flash or sizzle, but an honesty and rawness that makes it a must see. Go. See this show. Now. Go. Get your ticket.

1 person found this review helpful

A deeply personal story

by Nanette Stearns on August 8, 2017
This user has reviewed 25 shows

Penny gifts us with a portion of her life - a story of her ongoing transformation from the boy/man whose body she was born into to the woman she is today. Her story unfolds gently without judgement (of herself or others) and her vignette about the halloween party was especially engaging. I also appreciated her story of her interactions with her daughter and other children as she shifted from being their father to someone else. No this isn't a professional performance but it is a heartwarming, intimate and poignant presentation of a life.

1 person found this review helpful

Wonderful personal storytelling

by Kris Sieg on August 6, 2017
This user has reviewed 5 shows

Very moving deeply personal story. Also funny at times. Really enjoyed it

1 person found this review helpful

Moving and Funny

by Dylan Olmsted on August 6, 2017
This user has reviewed 13 shows

This was more or less what I expected when Penny handed me a flier about two hours earlier (proving that that method of advertising works), but of course it's the specifics that are the reason to listen to these stories. The moment with her mother and the moment in the gas station will both stick with me, as they were both so moving, and Penny has an excellent sense of humor. Go see this.

1 person found this review helpful

I laughed and I was moved

by Daniel Pinkerton on August 6, 2017
This user has reviewed 6 shows

You don't have to be transgender to love this show. Penny Sterling's show about growing up transgender --- and so much more --- is everything a one-person show should be. It is laugh-out-loud funny in places, it is topical (insightful references to America's current social/political atmosphere), it is deeply personal and very moving. Highly recommended.

1 person found this review helpful

This Penny is worth it weight in gold

by Harvey Zuckman on August 6, 2017
This user has reviewed 5 shows

You'd think that the coming out story of a transgender woman would be heart wrenching. While poignant, Penny tells her story will great doses of humor.
Her timing, the staging and the story all worked together to make an engaging an entertaining show of her true life story.
I rose to my feet at the end. I loved it.

1 person found this review helpful

Beautiful and Raw

by Ann Peck on August 6, 2017
This user has reviewed 2 shows

Penny's one-woman show didn't feel like she was acting - it felt like she was sharing an intimate conversation with me. She had me laughing one minute and near tears another. She connected with the audience and by the time she was done, I felt I'd just spent an hour with a dear friend. Fantastic experience!

1 person found this review helpful

All the love

by Annie Scott Riley on August 5, 2017
This user has reviewed 4 shows

This captivating, true story is told in an intimate, real, not-overly-polished way. That's my preference for single-hander shows. I feel like I just sat with Penny one-on-one in her kitchen until 2 a.m., getting the real story once and for all.

2 people found this review helpful

Promising But Needs Polish

by Reid Gagle on August 4, 2017
This user has reviewed 14 shows

A solid, if uninspired, outing in the perennial storytelling genre of coming to terms with who you really are. There were certainly enough funny insights and poignant moments to make the show worthwhile, but both the writing and the delivery need more polish. I wish the rest of the show was as well written as the title of the show.

5 Stars = Must See!
4 Stars = Worth Seeing.
3 Stars = Worth Considering.
2 Stars = Maybe, if you're in the venue and have time to kill.
1 Star = No, unless your kid is in the show.
0 Star = Avoid even if your kid is in the show.

Heartfelt and entertaining

by Ariel Lopez on August 3, 2017
This user has reviewed 18 shows

Being true to oneself can be a rather cliche, or even cloying theme, but Penny Stirling's honest stories of coming out as transgender are an engaging and often hysterical take on the subject. The show is a little rough around the edges (perhaps because it the director's first show); e.g. the shifts between times and characters could have been better delineated, the section titlecards were distracting. Overall enjoyable, interesting, and worth seeing.

2 people found this review helpful

A humorous telling of a serious story

by Caitlyn Jones on August 3, 2017
This user has reviewed 2 shows

Penny's storytelling is rich, honest, and heartfelt.

Thank you for boldly sharing snippets of your life, and making me laugh as you do!

1 person found this review helpful

Great first show

by Connor Berndt on August 3, 2017
This user has reviewed 1 show

So glad that I chose this play as my first fringe show of the season. I was captivated by the earnest storytelling of the writer's past. Penny has quite a talent for connecting with the audience as a whole and as individuals. Will recommend to all my friends.

1 person found this review helpful

From the heart

by Eric Meininger on August 3, 2017
This user has reviewed 31 shows

Penny tells an autobiographical story in a way that is tender, heartfelt, funny and uplifting. The community needs more people like Penny to share stories and be role models for the rest of us. May Lulu never scare you again. Highly recommended.

4 people found this review helpful

Cast and crew

Penny Sterling


PENNY STERLING hasn't always been Penny, but she has always been funny. She received her BA in Drama from Ithaca College in 1981, and has performed on stages and in comedy clubs across New York and in Canada--as an actor, stand-up comedian, and as a member of several improvisational troupes. Penny has also been the principal writer for The North Pole Times website. Penny is also an Emmy-nominated television producer/director/editor.
When not performing, Penny is usually either riding her bicycle, in her kitchen, searching for the best local coffee shops, or hanging out with her children (when they are not in college) or her cat, Neil (who has no interest in higher education).

Lynne Sánchez-Fries


Lynne Sánchez-Fries is honored to make her directorial debut with this meaningful story. Acting credits include work with Black Sheep Theatre, Geva’s Young Writers Showcase, Hourglass Play Reading Series, Screen Plays, and others. A recipient of a TANYS award for Excellence in Acting, Lynne is proud to support this theatrical endeavor and the woman who brings it to life during every performance. “Thank you, Penny, for your trust and collaboration.”

More information

SPY IN THE HOUSE OF MEN premiered to sold-out performances at the 2016 Rochester Fringe Festival, was an Audience Favorite at this year's Ithaca Fringe, and the Cincinnati CityBeat made it a Critic's Pick, calling it a heartfelt, comedic confessional....Sterling’s talent is in subverting expectations while garnering a lot of serious laughs. The (Washington) DC Theatre Scene agrees, saying Her perspective as a trans woman, a parent, and an addict all build into a rich, heart aching narrative that keeps the audience hanging on every word.

And yet Sterling brings to the stage a story just as fun as it is dramatic!

This show started out as a series of Facebook posts where I tried to explain to my friends who I was, what I had been through, and what it means—and maybe more importantly, what it doesn't mean—to be transgender,” says Penny. “People responded positively, asked me questions, and told me stories of friends and relatives who were also struggling with issues of gender identity. They told me what I wrote helped them better understand the issue. ‘You should write a book,' they'd say,” recalls Penny. “‘I don't wanna write a book,' I'd reply. But I could make a show about it.”

Penny received her BA in Theatre from Ithaca College, but made her living behind the camera as an Emmy Award-nominated photographer, editor, producer and director. In the 1990's, she tried her hand at standup comedy, but gave it up in order to raise a family. Coming out as transgender when her youngest child was a senior in high school, Penny thought about going back into standup. “I made it to the semifinals of the 2016 ‘Funniest Person' competition, but my heart wasn't in it,” she says. “I realized I was sacrificing truth for jokes, and that's not what I wanted.”


Two Bettys
Eide Bailly