August 2010 Arts Calendar

7 Hot Picks: 8/21

Among the ladies, and not a few men, the suave, smooth-headed trumpeter Irvin Mayfield elicits some wolf whistles, and not just when he nails a particularly inspired solo. His band name, Los Hombres Calientes (the hot men), would seem to boldly acknowledge this. Though it’s equally possible that the New Orleans bandleader and composer, who has curated the jazz series at Orchestra Hall for a couple years now and brings his band there for one night this month, is simply building on the Crescent City tradition of Armstrong’s groundbreaking Hot Five and Hot Seven combos. The music bears this out: Expect funky jazz; rhythms from Brazil and Africa (thanks to guest percussionist Bill Summers); Caribbean melodies; and a grand, parade-style, New Orleans finale. If anyone can pull this off, it’s the youthful and, yes, somewhat cocksure Mayfield—even if he can’t pull it off, he’ll still look good doing it. mnorch.org

8/1

The Gospel at Colonus, at the Ordway Center, tells Sophocles’s classic Oedipus story through gospel music, including the sounds of the Blind Boys of Alabama and the Steeles. ordway.org

8/5

The Scottsboro Boys, a new musical about black teenagers accused of attacking white women in the 1930s, opens at the Guthrie Theater before its fall run on Broadway. guthrietheater.org

8/6

Chris Mulkey, Karen Landry, Mim Solberg, and other local actors who’ve made the leap to Hollywood and Broadway tell all in Twin Cities Theater Stories at the Pillsbury House Theater. pillsburyhouse.org

8/6

This art-fair weekend offers contemporary art and craft at the Uptown Art Fair, Powderhorn Art Fair, and Loring Park Art Festival—plus mini doughnuts. uptownminneapolis.com, powderhornartfair.com, loringparkartfestival.com

8/19

The Walker Art Center hosts Field Day, featuring the Rockstar Storytellers, lawn games, and five local bands playing campfire sing-a-longs. walkerart.org

8/19

James Welling’s innovative photographs of Philip Johnson’s famous Glass House are exhibited at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts. artsmia.org

CURTAIN CALL

THE FACES BEHIND THIS MONTH’S ARTS AND CULTURE

Have Mercy

Rocking the house of God

As the pews fill at Mercy Seat Lutheran Church, Wes Burdine (the Small Cities) and John Hermanson (Storyhill, the Hopefuls) settle in with guitars. Burdine’s one concession to churchiness is a T-shirt that says Bethlehem—Bethlehem Steele, anyway—wallet chains being nowhere mentioned in the Bible. Hermanson looks even less ecclesiastical, unless you count his long, Jesus-like hair.

Hermanson begins to sing, “Is this the feast of victory?” The music wouldn’t be out of place on the Current, were it not the Lutheran liturgy.

Burdine is the music coordinator of Mercy Seat, a four-year-old congregation rooted in the artistic community of northeast Minneapolis. Last fall, Burdine began commissioning new settings of the ancient church service from local indie-rock musicians: Chris Koza (Rogue Valley), Ben Kyle (Romantica), Linnea Mohn (Coach Said Not To, Rogue Valley). “I wasn’t sure if the idea would freak them out,” Burdine says.

Turns out that Mohn is the daughter of a Lutheran minister. And Kyle is now a Mercy Seat regular, as is Koza, whose Rogue Valley was named City Pages’ Best New Band. “Chris tends to come in the back, a little late,” so as not to create a stir, says Burdine.

The music may be the church’s most orthodox element. Pastor Mark Sternberg, sporting long sideburns and a retro tie, recalls the time congregant Joel Hodgson (Mystery Science Theater 3000) began a running comedic commentary during communion. “We didn’t plan for that, it just happened,” he says. “That’s the way we roll.” Hermanson’s liturgy can be heard all month at Mercy Seat, nemercy.org
 

Second Act

Spicing up the New Chan

Michael Brindisi, artistic director of Chanhassen Dinner Theatres and now one of its owners, is sitting in the space’s leathery Hogarth Lounge, talking about the ins and outs of messing with an icon. “The show no longer starts at 8 p.m.,” he says. Though, in fact, it does—Brindisi has simply rejuvenated the pre-show experience of tuxedoed greeters, ice-cream cocktails, and dinner. “I tell the box office, ‘You’ve got the box-office show!’ I tell the waitstaff, ‘That’s your show!’ Everybody’s show needs to be great when the doors open at 6 p.m. Every night at cue call, I ask them, “What time’s showtime?’ And everyone shouts, ‘Six o’clock!’”

When Brindisi and a group of investors bought the Chan this spring, they quickly updated the 42-year-old complex, the largest dinner theater in the country. They turned the downstairs over to Stevie Ray’s Comedy Cabaret and slated some arguably hipper Broadway fare: Footloose, Jesus Christ Superstar, Hairspray, and this month’s All Shook Up, an Elvis revue.

They’ve even altered the menu—despite lessons learned from a short-lived, nearly picketed removal of the signature Chicken Chanhassen awhile back.

Yet the new season also features the return of I Do! I Do!, which ran at the Chan for 7,645 performances—the world’s longest running musical with its original cast. Brindisi smiles. “We have to strike a balance here,” he says and paraphrases Thornton Wilder: “Just the right amount of adventure, and just the right amount of staying quietly at home.” Opens August 6, chanhassendt.com
 

Puppets to the People

Open Eye Figure Theatre’s Driveway Tour

About 10 minutes into A Surprise for Little Grandpa, a water pistol inches above the stage and starts firing on the audience. “C’mon, Princess, do your business!” urges a diminutive dog walker. Over the course of the show, the audience will be showered two more times with water. And streamers. And silly string.

The mess hardly matters, since everyone is outside in the Haug family backyard in the Linden Hills neighborhood of Minneapolis, just one of more than 100 performances this summer on Open Eye Figure Theatre’s Driveway Tour. “We saw them a couple years ago at a neighbor’s,” says Kris Haug. “We’ve been trying to get them to come to our house ever since.”

The concept is simple: Rustle up an audience and Open Eye will send its traveling puppet show to your backyard, driveway, or hog barn. For free. The program fits so many criteria of grassroots community building (right down to the liberal deployment of kazoos) that in eight years of touring there’s never been a shortage of hosts.

“It’s a true partnership with every location we go to,” says Susan Haas, Open Eye’s managing director. By the end of this summer, they’ll have performed for more people at their homes than many troupes perform for in theaters—some 33,600, Haas says, “one backyard at a time.” Through August 14, openeyetheatre.org
 

’Ello, Minnesota!

The Beatles played Met Stadium 45 years ago, on August 21, 1965, their only concert in Minnesota. The event is chronicled in a newly opened exhibit at the Minnesota History Center, The Beatles! A One-Night Stand in the Heartland, which runs through September 12. The story—from the band’s arrival in St. Paul to their bantering with the press to the feverish fans in the stands—is told through the stories of fans and the lens of photographer Bill Carlson, then just 17. It also recounts how the local promoter, fearing a mob, scarcely advertised the show, resulting in 10,000 unsold seats—the better, no doubt, for the lucky ones who went. mnhs.org

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