Minnesota Fringe Festival Features Jewish Talent and Themes

Local actor Avi Aharoni and New Yorker Amanda Erin Miller are performing original, biographical shows in the Minnesota Fringe Festival in August.

Aharoni, 28, has been working since January on “Operation: Immigration,” the story of his Iranian/Israeli father.

“Operation: Immigration” is Aharoni’s debut as a playwright, though he is a seasoned actor in Minneapolis. He said this production will be around his tenth play in the Minnesota Fringe Festival.

Aharoni interviewed his late father’s sister in Israel for hours to learn his family’s story for this one-man show.

“I think it’s such a unique story, especially to a Minnesota audience,” he said. “[It is] such a completely different perspective from what I imagine most Fringe audience members know about their parents.”

Aharoni’s father immigrated from a small village in Iran to an undeveloped Israel as a young teen. He left school to work and support his family and ultimately ended up in the suburbs of Minneapolis.

He came “from a time in the 40s when they didn’t have electricity or running water to a time when there were computers in his pocket.”

Aharoni said, “[“Operation: Immigration”] is a storytelling show where I incorporate other elements.”

There’s some standup comedy, rapping and a little bit of audience interaction.

“But at the forefront, [it’s] a storytelling show about my dad’s life and what I’ve learned and uncovered since he passed away about the extraordinary crazy life that he had just before I was born,” said Aharoni.

He is working with Broadway alum Robert Dorfman as his director. Dorfman previously selected Aharoni to star in “Shul” at the Minnesota Jewish Theatre Company.

In another solo show, Amanda Erin Miller, 35, pulls from her memoir “One Breath, Then Another” to bring “The Jew in the Ashram” to the stage.

“This show is about my time studying yoga in an ashram in India and how that time got me to reflect on my Jewish identity and ancestry and how I want to live my life,” said Miller. “It’s about me training to be a yoga teacher to help myself get control over my thoughts. The truth is that our thoughts create a lot of our reality— really all of our reality.”

She described “The Jew in the Ashram” as funny, poignant and lightly interactive.

The audience will be invited to meditate, breathe, chant and move in simple ways during select parts of the show. 

Miller said she hopes to connect with people on their big existential questions and basic human struggles with spirituality, identity and especially mental struggles.

She said, “We are all raised with these various traditions and identities, and at a certain point we’re an adult. We grow up, and we’re like: What does this mean to me? How do I relate to this now? And how can I take what I’ve been given but also make my own identity?”

It’s about growing up and becoming an independent person.

Miller has performed in Fringe Festivals around the country and will be in Minnesota for the first time with director Rachel Evans.

You can see “Operation: Immigration” at Mixed Blood Theater starting Aug. 1 and “The Jew in the Ashram” at Ritz Theater Studio beginning Aug. 2.