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The Front Lawn - "Breaking Down Boundaries"
(MN Daily, September 1989)
- Mary Anne Welch


"...the Walker Art Center presents "International Festival: Music and Dance of the World" (a misleading title, to say the least), as sitars, bagpipes and exotic costumes won't grace the stage. Beginning October 1, the two week series will present seven artists from various countries, each giving a single evening performance. Nationalism ranks low on the agenda. In fact, many of the artists actually challenge their cultural and artistic traditions. The schedule appears more interesting than a totem pageant of multiple flag waving. Even the terms "music" and "dance" act as foils for these performers, and labels for what they do are not easy to find.

The Front Lawn, three artists from New Zealand, might be musicians if they didn't produce so much theater and comedy in their songs.

When they teamed up in '85, the Front Lawn made a hit with The Reason For Breakfast and The Story of Robert, songs and stories about the rituals of New Zealand suburbia. A funny, intriguing show, The Lawn attracted the label "fringe theater" and charmed critics and audiences. By '87 they were receiving invitations to tour Europe and the U.S. Thursday, October 5, in their newest show The One That Got Away, New Zealand's favorite duo will be joined by another native star, Jennifer Ward Leland. During a phone conversation earlier this week with Lawner Dan (sic) McGlashan, the musician/performer talked about the longstanding relationship he's held with his other half, Harry Sinclair. An easy speaker, McGlashan's voice carries with it a sense of cheer. "He was the theater, I was the music, we both wanted to do something different with that." They did, and have been well received, but the acclaim hasn't altered much about Front Lawn. Their favorite subject is still their hometown, Auckland, New Zealand. If anything, McGlashan says, their success depends upon playing on what they know. "What we do isn't really satire; we're not interested in politics or TV shows. We look at the sorts of things people do the setting, the language. Most New Zealanders are reserved people; our novelists and artists deal with small subjects and look rather closely at them. With us, you don't always know when the joke is finished. We don't tell gags, the humor rises out of recognition. Gradually, we got interested in telling longer stories. (The One That Got Away) is our sixth piece. It's a love story that grew out of a desire to write about Auckland. Like all our shows, it's a musical; we tell our story through songs. And like all our shows, it's light on props...this one is almost a play."