Fall Arts Preview
The top 10 all-time, must-see, holy-cow, get-your-butt-down-here arts events for fall. Plus, 21 more shows you won’t want to miss.
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➔ Through September 21
WHAT TO EXPECT: With this Pulitzer Prize–winning look at an African-American baseball star circa 1957—just after Jackie Robinson integrated the game—the playwright August Wilson hit a metaphorical home run, showing the field of dreams (standing in for the American dream) as holding a very different meaning for black Americans at the dawn of the civil rights movement.
WHY GO: Troy Maxon, the play’s lead character, is Wilson’s Willy Loman—an icon of American theater and similarly consumed by bitterness. If you are born a black man in America, he states, you’re “born with two strikes on you before you come to the plate.”
WHERE: Penumbra Theater, 270 N. Kent St., St. Paul, 651-224-3180
A View from the Bridge
➔ September 13 to November 9
WHAT TO EXPECT: Eddie Carbone works as a longshoreman in Brooklyn, where he and his wife share their home with an orphan girl, who is like a daughter to the couple—until she becomes close to an illegal Italian immigrant, and Eddie’s protective affection for her turns violent. A modern drama drawing from ancient tragedies, the play is Arthur Miller’s allegory of the divisions that McCarthyism created between Americans.
WHY GO: Miller was at his best staging the trials of working-class families, and the Guthrie is adept at staging Miller, having produced five of his plays—including one premiere—during Joe Dowling’s tenure.
WHERE: Guthrie Theater, 818 S. Second St., Mpls., 612-377-2224
Tyrone & Ralph
➔ September 25 to November 2
WHAT TO EXPECT: Tyrone Guthrie and architect Ralph Rapson simultaneously admired and repelled each other, their egos scarcely contained in the original Guthrie Theater they built together. Yet in the end, they created a landmark heralding the transformation of American theater. The nationally acclaimed playwright Jeffrey Hatcher imagines their creative collision.
WHY GO: Rapson called Guthrie “an exciting, invigorating, dynamic, arrogant, obnoxious bastard.” With any luck, the play will be equally fascinating.
WHERE: History Theatre, 30 E. 10th St., St. Paul, 651-292-4323
Bright Lights, Big City
➔ October 10 to October 26
Minneapolis Musical Theatre
WHAT TO EXPECT: Jay McInerney’s best-selling novel, based on a young New York writer’s search for self amid his life’s sudden downward spiral, asked the question of the 1980s: Is society shallow? Today, just asking the question seems shallow, or at least naïve, which is why this 1999 rock-musical take on the story may be the version that ages best, the dry ice and guitar solos ensuring the melodrama isn’t taken too seriously.
WHY GO: The original stage version owed much to Rent—the musicals shared designers, directors, and even actors. And, like Rent, this show’s music manages to appeal to many different audiences.
WHERE: Illusion Theater, Hennepin Center for the Arts, 528 Hennepin Ave., Suite 704, Mpls., 612-339-4944
➔ October 17 to November 9
Park Square Theatre
WHAT TO EXPECT: In this second play of a trilogy on power, identity, and race in America, two Marines—one black, one white—on a Southern base in 1971 grapple with military discrimination and each other in unexpected ways, the black soldier becoming a pawn in his own fight for equality. In this area premiere, the nature of defiance as a key element in the struggle for power is explored with nuance and complexity.
WHY GO: The playwright, John Patrick Shanley, is already packing a Pulitzer and a Tony for the first play of the trilogy, Doubt, and a best-screenplay Oscar for the film Moonstruck.
WHERE: Park Square Theatre, 20 W. Seventh Pl., St. Paul, 651-291-7005
➔ October 31 to November 16
Jon Ferguson Theater
WHAT TO EXPECT: Jon Ferguson, a British native, announced himself to Twin Cities theater audiences by directing Live Action Set in the gracefully comic hit Please Don’t Blow Up Mr. Boban at the 2005 Minnesota Fringe Festival. His gift for tight-rope-walking the line between experimental and accessible continues with this playful, physical take on the George Orwell classic.
WHY GO: Ferguson is an exceptional talent picking up where the now defunct Theatre de la Jeune Lune left off.
WHERE: Southern Theater, 1420 Washington Ave. S., Mpls., 612-340-1725
Plastic People of the Universe
➔ September 10
WHAT TO EXPECT: Taking their name from a Frank Zappa tune (“Plastic People”), this legendary Czech band formed in 1968 and became instigators of their homeland’s resistance to Communism. A psychedelic-jazz Velvet Underground, they’re still rocking in the free world, their freak-flag intact.
WHY GO: Much as they’d like to, few bands can claim they helped spur a revolution. These guys can, which is why they’re among Vaclav Havel’s favorite groups.
WHERE: Cedar Cultural Center, 416 Cedar Ave. SE, Mpls., 612-338-2674
VocalEssence’s 40th Birthday Party
➔ September 14
WHAT TO EXPECT: Philip Brunelle, leader of the choir now known as VocalEssence for 40 years, has always had chutzpah. He was in his twenties when he founded the group and soon asked Aaron Copland if he’d guest conduct the choir. Copland did, impressed by the same thing that Garrison Keillor, singers Maria Jette and Vern Sutton, and dancer James Sewell will celebrate at this party: Brunelle’s enthusiasm, which has helped him usher more contemporary choral music into the canon than anyone else.
WHY GO: VocalEssence has essentially been A Prairie Home Companion’s house choir for decades, making this event hosted by Keillor a PHC performance without the sketches.
WHERE: Orchestra Hall, 1111 Nicollet Mall, Mpls., 612-371-5656
➔ September 20 to 28
WHAT TO EXPECT: If you count on opera to take you so over the top vocally and plot-wise that you wind up in a sort of musical Geraldo, this show is for you. Verdi’s revenge-filled masterpiece features gypsies, burnings at the stake, and, of course, anvils.
WHY GO: It’s been 14 years since Twin Citians were favored with a round of the Anvil Chorus. Go and your ears will be ringing with delight for another 14.
WHERE: Ordway Center for the Performing Arts, 345 Washington St., St. Paul, 612-333-6669
The Music of Queen
➔ October 17 to 18
Minnesota Orchestra with Rajaton
WHAT TO EXPECT: The Minnesota Orchestra’s ABBA tribute a few years back afforded a glimpse into artistic director Osmo Vänskä’s record collection, and this offers another, even more unexpected insight. Add the fact that this evening of good-natured British bombast is conducted by a fellow Finn and features the vocals of Finnish a cappella stars Rajaton and you have a six degrees of Osmo show that only makes us love him more.
WHY GO: You’re already singing “We Are the Champions” every time you win at poker or finish all your dinner; here’s your chance to sing along to better accompaniment than your air guitar.
WHERE: Orchestra Hall, 1111 Nicollet Mall, Mpls., 612-371-5656
➔ October 23 to 25
Dakota Jazz Club & Restaurant
WHAT TO EXPECT: Born in London, raised in Nigeria, and desired, well, everywhere, Ola Onabule has been seducing jazz lovers for more than a decade with his deep, sultry voice and fusion of African, jazz, and funk rhythms. He worked with legends Gladys Knight, Patti Labelle, and Natalie Cole on his latest album, which he’ll showcase during this three-night stint at the Dakota, a length reserved for only the top performers.
WHY GO: In the spirit of Onabule’s latest disc, The Devoured Man, come early for the Dakota’s delicious dinner offerings, among the finest spreads of any jazz club in the country.
WHERE: Dakota Jazz Club & Restaurant, 1010 Nicollet Mall, Mpls., 612-332-1010