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Fall Arts Preview

The 40 most-anticipated, must-see, what-are-you-waiting-for, drop-everything shows of the season.

Fall Arts Preview
Photo by Joe Treleven

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See more in "Artists We Love."


The revolution sounds like this

It’s true that the music business is not what it once was—it’s better. This is true even though the most popular acts are selling only a fraction of what the biggest stars used to sell. This is true even though the biggest star today is Justin Bieber. Why is it better? Because most musicians aren’t ever going to be Bieber-big, and now they can focus on what matters: the music. Minnesota musicians are collaborating more, out of necessity and curiosity, giving us acts like A.Wolf & Her Claws, a new pop/electronica/vocal ensemble headed by Aby Wolf. The boundaries of genres are blurring, even in classical music, where a 30-year push for contemporary orchestration is finally taking hold. Witness the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra’s fall collaboration with wunderkind indie composer Nico Muhly. Or the Minnesota Orchestra’s fall concert with Ben Folds. This is a year of pushing forward: of all the composers featured in the Minnesota Orchestra’s fall season, only two never lived to see the 20th century. That’s brave. That’s bold. That’s for the best.

7 Top Picks

9.9 The Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, joined by Cantus, opens its season with a world premiere oratorio by the young, genre-bending composer Nico Muhly. thespco.org

9.20 The free Global Roots Festival features top acts from around the world at the Cedar Cultural Center. thecedar.org

9.29 Andra Suchy, newly signed to Red House Records, brings her twangy folk-pop sound to the Aster Café. andrasuchy.com

10.2 The Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, led by Wynton Marsalis, plays Orchestra Hall. mnorch.org

10.28/29 The Atlantis Quartet, the acclaimed contemporary jazz ensemble featuring guitarist Zacc Harris, releases its first live album at its annual Halloween shows. atlantisquartet.com

11.11 The buzzed-about indie-rock trio Zoo Animal plays its annual free show at Hennepin Avenue United Methodist Church, where last year some 700 people attended. zooanimalmusic.com

11.29 The Schubert Club hosts André Watts, perhaps the world’s greatest living concert pianist, for an all-Liszt program at the Ordway Center for the Performing Arts. schubert.org

➻ Gina DiBello, Violinist

Gina DiBello came to the Minnesota Orchestra in 2008 as the principal second violinist and gave her first solo two years later, nimbly bowing her way through Mozart’s showy Third Violin Concerto. Since then, she’s gotten used to playing standing up. In fact, the 29-year-old—the orchestra’s youngest section leader—has earned a reputation as the ensemble’s unofficial master of Mozart, nailing his Violin Concerto No. 5 this past July, the highlight of Sommerfest. An evangelist for modern music, she nonetheless loves the classics. “An orchestra is a historical thing,” she says, “and that’s what is special about what we do.”

DiBello plays as part of a special, post-concert show after the Orchestra’s Inside the Classics performances on November 11 and 12, mnorch.org


A coming-out party, and you’re invited

The dancers are giddy these days. Elated. Even more restless than usual, prone to pirouetting in the street or doing the splits on the bus. You’d think someone had given them a giant theater of their own in downtown Minneapolis, something with 500 seats and a lovely terra-cotta façade. Well, someone did—a lot of people did, but especially the people whose names are on the front of the building: John and Sage Cowles. Starting this month, the Cowles Center, formerly the Shubert Theater, will be all dance all the time, hosting the James Sewell Ballet, Zenon, Ragamala, and more.  Sage thinks it will do for local dancers what the Guthrie Theater did for thespians: build a bigger, more devoted audience. She’s probably right. Local dancers have never had a dedicated home of their own or any place with this much elbow room. And now they have it. No matter what else happens in the arts this fall, this will be the dancers’ season. It’s their Guthrie moment.

7 Top Picks

9.8 Ananya Dance Theatre premieres Tushanaal, about gold and the violent social costs of its extraction, at the Southern Theater. ananyadancetheatre.org

10.14 Ballet of the Dolls’ founder Myron Johnson dances his first solo show in 20 years: Songs for a Swan, about memory, hope, and perception. ritzdolls.com

10.21 The James Sewell Ballet executes its own twist on the “Black Swan” pas de deux, along with the topical “Social Movements,” at the Cowles Center. jsballet.org

11.4 The Walker Art Center hosts the Merce Cunningham Dance Company’s Farewell Legacy Tour, a revival of three classic works. walkerart.org

11.12 The Northrop Dance Series, temporarily at the State Theatre, presents perennial favorites the Royal Winnipeg Ballet in Wonderland, a take on Alice in Wonderland. northrop.umn.edu

11.18 Zenon Dance Company opens its 29th season with modern-dance works, a jazz-dance classic, and contemporary pieces at the Cowles Center. zenondance.org

11.18 TU Dance brings its energetic flair and Uri Sands’s inventive choreography to the O’Shaughnessy Center. tudance.org

 ➻ Ranee and Aparna Ramaswamy, Dancers

For years, Ragamala Dance Theater, led by mother-and-daughter artistic directors Ranee and Aparna Ramaswamy, has floored audiences with its vibrant interpretations of Bharatanatyam, a 2,000-year-old Indian dance form. Last spring, the New York Times hailed Aparna’s technique as “thrillingly three-dimensional,” and Ranee became the first dancer ever to be named the McKnight Distinguished Artist of the Year. This month. their Sacred Earth will be the first show at the new Cowles Center, a kind of ancient blessing of the facility. “Bharatanatyam doesn’t just entertain,” Aparna says. “It provides a certain fulfillment—a moving experience.”

Sacred Earth runs September 23–25, Cowles Center, thecowlescenter.org


The stories of our time, timelessly told

You are officially running out of excuses not to catch a play. Local theaters have instituted pay-what-you-want nights. They’ve even gone completely free (well, Mixed Blood Theatre). But more than anything, they’ve pushed beyond some of the safer fare of recent, recessionary years to offer newer, sharper, more relevant plays. Today’s young playwrights, despite the crush of information and technology, are crafting simple, human stories—tough stories, well told. This fall, you can see a comedy about 9/11 (A Short Play About 9/11) and a love story tracing same-sex relationships back to the 1950s (The Pride), as well as a Rocky Horror remount starring Don Shelby. You read that right. This is what theater, at its best, has always been: an allegory of our times—equal parts tragedy and comedy, explanation and fantasy, as if to say, “This is how we think and how we dream. This is a conversation we can only have face to face.”

7 Top Picks

9.15 Don Shelby stars at the Lab Theater, along with American Idol finalist Paris Bennett, in a new version of The Rocky Horror Picture Show. rockyhorrorminneapolis.com

9.16 The Pride, a tale of two love triangles, separated by convention and 50 years, opens at Pillsbury House Theatre. pillsburyhousetheatre.org

9.17 Walking Shadow Theatre performs Neil LaBute’s reasons to be pretty, about the insecurities of four working-class friends, in the Dowling Studio. guthrietheater.org

9.29 Penumbra Theatre continues its multi-year cycle of August Wilson’s plays with Two Trains Running. penumbratheatre.org

10.18 George Hamilton stars in La Cage Aux Folles, winner of three Tony Awards in 2010, at the State Theatre. hennepintheatretrust.org

10.28 Ten Thousand Things stages Il Campiello, about a mysterious, wealthy stranger, at Open Book, starring Sarah Agnew, Nathan Keepers, and other commedia veterans. tenthousandthings.org

11.11 My Secret Language of Wishes, about two women—one white, one black—fighting over the fate of a disabled black boy, opens at Mixed Blood Theatre. mixedblood.com

➻ John Skelley, Actor

It wasn’t until late high school that John Skelley decided to ditch hockey and football for theater. But at 26, a mere four years removed from the Guthrie’s BFA Actor Training Program, the Eden Prairie native has already appeared in 11 of the theater’s productions. This fall, Skelley moves up to quarterback, so to speak, playing the cross-dressing lead in a classic British farce, Charley’s Aunt. “The audience always mirrors the performers,” he says. “So as long as I have fun, they’ll have fun. That’s my motto.”
Charley’s Aunt opens November 26, Guthrie Theater, guthrietheater.org

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