Fringe 2013 has something for everyone! Katharina Von Bora, the story of the runaway nun and widow of Martin Luther, is the just the sort of play I would take my feminist grandmother to. Minnesota has its share of Lutherans, so I was not surprised to see that that the opening night was so well attended by such an enthusiastic crowd at the Minneapolis Theater Garage (711 W Franklin Ave.). Ultimately, I found that this solo show was a draw for a whole host of reasons.
This show is about women’s history, focusing on the woman behind the man. We hear Katharina Von Bora’s story, and through it, see the narrow range of possibilities available to women in Renaissance Europe, particularly concerning education and personal autonomy. Margaret Shryer, who researched for, wrote, and performed this piece, explores why the convent was initially an attractive option for the young woman. As she recounts Katharina’s life, it becomes clear that neither Catholic nor Protestant religious structures made a great deal of room for women, even for one armed with an education and protected by the status of widow.
This piece situates the real, lived experience of one individual in a larger social and historical context. Shyer accomplishes this by highlighting a few key mementos, which her character lovingly describes. The setting and costume are period, but spare, keeping the focus on Katharina and her life. Come see this Fringe debut show if you’re Lutheran, or if you aren’t.