Art About Town



Shapiro & Smith Dance is enlisting a few ringers for Women and Men, its ambitious series staged April 1 to 4 at the Southern Theater in Minneapolis: Ananya Chatterjea, who runs Ananya Dance Theatre; Carl Flink, who heads the Black Label Movement troupe; and Flink’s wife, Emilie. The couple haven’t danced together since 1998. It took a show about opposites, it seems, to reunite them onstage.


» Carol Burnett brings her one-woman show, A Conversation with Carol Where the Audience Asks the Questions, to the State Theatre on April 14.

» From April 15 to 29, the 28th Annual Minneapolis-St. Paul International Film Festival brings its eclectic mix of buzzed-about foreign and domestic movies to its new home at the St. Anthony Main Theater.

» The Cedar Cultural Center hosts an impromptu African music festival, having coincidentally booked such seminal artists as Habib Koite on March 30, Baaba Maal on April 11, and King Sunny Ade & the African Beats on April 17, among other African musicians.

» The Tony Award–winning Avenue Q (no relation to Sesame Street) hits the Orpheum Theatre from April 13 to 18, combining people and puppets in a cheeky show about making it big in New York with a tiny bank account.

» Zenon Dance Company holds its spring performances April 30 to May 1 at O’Shaughnessy Auditorium, with choreography by beloved local jazz-dance master Danny Buraczeski.

» The Southern Theater welcomes two musicians’s blending of classical and pop: Nico Muhly on April 14 and 15 (joined by Sam Amidon, whose critically acclaimed Appalachian folk music was arranged by Muhly) and Gabriel Kahane & yMusic on April 16 and 17.

» The Harty Boys in The Case of the Limping Platypus—the number-one-selling show at last year’s Minnesota Fringe Festival—returns to the Bryant-Lake Bowl Theater for a two-week run starting April 16.

» Improvisational virtuosos Chick Corea and Gary Burton, playing together since 1972, reinterpret one another’s compositions at the Dakota Jazz Club and Restaurant on April 16 and 17.


Dennis Russell Davis returns

He breezed into Minnesota on a motorcycle in 1972 and, over the next eight years, transformed the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra–as well as Twin Citians’ view of classical music. With Dennis Russell Davis back to lead the SPCO during the last two weekends in April, here’s a brief synopsis of his electrifying tenure.

» Davies sheds the customary tux for blue velvet suits with epaulets, a better fit for his long, flowing hair.
» The SPCO performs a John Cage composition – consisting f the orchestra’s stage manager firing a revolver at the piano (a blank, it turned out).
» Time raves about the SPCO’s “palpable joy” and “scintillating bite.”
» The SPCO wins a Grammy for its recording of Aaron Copland’s Appalachian Spring.


Just how well did the Commonweal Theatre do last year? The 21-year-old playhouse sold a record 20,283 tickets – or about 25 times the population of Lanesboro, its home base in southern Minnesota. Here’s how that number stacks up.

» To match the feat proportionally, the Guthrie Theater would have to sell about 9.5 million tickets. (We’re pretty sure that’s roughly the number of steps on the theater’s main escalator, too.)
» It’s more than the metro’s Mixed Blood Theatre, which sold 15,500 tickets last year, and slightly less than the Jungle Theater, which sold 24,000.
» Only the Lanesboro Sales Commission – the local livestock auction house – brought more bodies through town last year, moving a record 100,000 head of cattle.

What’s the secret of its success? “The whole concept of the ‘staycation’ caught fire with the recession,” says actress Adrienne Sweeny, who doubles as Commonweal’s marketing guru. Does that explain all the cattle too?


The Twin Cities’ most revealing new play

When David Mann set out to write Queens of Burlesque, opening this month at the History Theatre in St. Paul, he didn’t have to dig too deeply to uncover the secret history of Twin Cities showgirls: He’s married to one. Stage-named Gina Louise, she founded Lili’s Burlesque Revue (slogan: “We aim to tease”) in the old New French Bar in Minneapolis, and she still dons the pasties for the cheeky song, dance, and strip show from time to time. “In the beginning, she was doing a show practically every night,” says Mann. “The atmosphere was really smoky and kinda rough. I thought it was just terrific.”

As a result of his marriage, Mann frequently found himself backstage—a great perspective for writing Burlesque. “I got to know the girls’ real lives,” he says. “Their onstage personas are so different from who they really are.” However, to set the play in the 1950s, when the form was being swept aside by television and buttoned-up attitudes, Mann had to do more extensive detective work. He discovered that the Gay 90’s club was once a burlesque house and he tracked down some of the original performers, now in their eighties. “The play is an attempt to re-create that forgotten world,” he says. “It’s a lost era.” —ALEX DAVY