August 2011 Arts Calendar

10 Hot Picks: 8/1

The Walker Art Center is sorry, and it wants to make it up to you. Last year, the Walker shelved its Music and Movies program—Loring Park would finish the summer being just a park, instead of the dreamy sprawl of bicycles, blankets, and picnic baskets that had blossomed there every Monday night in August since 1973. This month, the festival returns with the theme of voyeurism, echoing the Walker’s current exhibition, Exposed, as well as the people-watching endemic to the event. Hitchcock’s Rear Window starts things off, with Haley Bonar performing. And just so there are no hard feelings, the Walker has added a throwback treat: on August 22, the chamber-folk sextet Dark Dark Dark will perform a live soundtrack to Fritz Lang’s silent thriller, Spies, on the Walker’s lawn. It’s the way the al fresco film event was 38 years ago, an ideal blend of art and the outdoors.


The Minnesota Fringe Festival features dozens of performances, from You Only Live Forever Once (by Four Humors Theater), to Uptown: The Musical to Titanic.


The Uptown Art Fair returns, including a new wine tasting event on Old Chicago’s patio.


See Hairspray, John Waters’s Tony-winning musical, at Chanhassen Dinner Theatres.


The Minnesota Bluegrass & Old-Time Music Festival returns to El Rancho Mañana in Richmond.


Chris Isaak brings his charm and smooth crooning to the State Theatre.


Janet Jackson brings her Number Ones, Up Close and Personal tour to the Orpheum Theater.


Adele, pop music’s brightest star, plays the Xcel Energy Center.


Hugh Kennedy is the troubled prince in the Jungle Theater’s take on Hamlet.


The adventurous string quartet Brooklyn Rider plays Philip Glass at the Cedar Cultural Center. 


Up on a Wire

The circus as after-school exercise

Like the former tight-rope walker that she is, Betty Butler strides confidently into the Big Top, the permanently pitched tent of Circus Juventas  in St. Paul, unfazed by the spectacle of muscled preteens doing hand-springs or a girl dangling by her ankles from a rope on the ceiling. “We tend to get the kids who never really found their sport,” she says.

Butler founded the youth circus school, now the largest in North America, in 1994 with her husband, Dan. Both grew up as circus kids in Sarasota, Florida, the winter home of Ringling Bros. After college, Betty went into international business. “But you can never really get the circus out of your blood,” she says.

The Butlers created Circus Juventas as a sort of intramural Cirque du Soleil, where kids can be creative and get exercise at the same time. Every August they also stage a show—this year, it’s GRIMM: Happily Ever After, a medley of classic fairy tales—a launching pad for students looking to go pro. Some already have, joining such top circus acts as the Flying Wallendas.

Betty stops to chat with Kate Cieslowski, an 18-year-old trapeze student. “I have friends who are athletes and I have friends who are theater geeks,” she says. “But this is like you’re in the state finals for every sport while preparing for a musical at the same time.” Betty smiles and looks up at the ropes, as if she might just clamber up. • GRIMM runs through August 14.

Word Wars

Katherine Lanpher tells women to speak their mind

“We just got another one!” Katherine Lanpher shouts into her cell phone as she walks toward her Brooklyn apartment. The former Minnesota Public Radio host has a new gig: instructing women in the art of persuasive writing through the nationwide OpEd Project. Her students, from Yale professors to a roller-derby announcer, have gone on to publish opinion pieces in the New York Times, the Washington Post, and elsewhere. “It’s about getting women into the marketplace of ideas,” she says. And today, another got in.

The OpEd Project was launched by a young New Yorker in 2008, and Lanpher, who left MPR in 2004 to co-host The O’Franken Factor, Senator Al Franken’s show on Air America Radio, quickly joined its fleet of teachers. She’s since held seminars across the country and this month will lead a five-day class at the Madeline Island School of the Arts, on Lake Superior’s south shore.

“Here’s the deal,” Lanpher says. “White men are submitting about 90 percent of the op-eds in this country. My job is to kick women in the ass and say, ‘If you don’t stand up, it’s like putting masking tape over your mouth!’”

Too many women, she says, don’t think their opinion matters. “If we could take all the brainpower of women and get them to stop worrying about their weight, we’d cure cancer in 10 minutes,” she says. “Everyone has an op-ed in them.” • Lanpher’s class, “Own Your Voice, Change the World,” starts August 8 at the Madeline Island School of the Arts,

Aria Hungry?

The delicious mission of Picnic Operetta

Nick Schneider thinks you’re looking a bit thin. Eat something, won’t you? “I tend to go all ‘Jewish grandmother’ on people,” he says, loading up plates with tacos in the kitchen of his south Minneapolis home. Schneider, a private chef, market/garden manager, and former chef with Café Brenda, handles the picnic part of Picnic Operetta, a moveable, musical feast that happens later this month. Schneider calls it theatre terroir.

Scotty Reynolds, Schneider’s fellow “terroirist,” stages the opera. Three years ago, Reynolds heard of a New York theater troupe that performed at country estates, and he was inspired to combine local food and art here in community gardens. But he didn’t choose just any art: he decided on opera, the most traditionally elite form of performance. Staging it in a vegetable patch, he thought, would “bring it down to earth.”

This summer, from August 20 to October 1, Picnic Operetta will alight in more than a dozen leafy plots, from the JD Rivers Children’s Garden in Bryn Mawr to the Dodge Nature Center in West St. Paul. Patrons will nosh on small plates of food—five courses in all—as musicians and singers, moonlighting from the Minnesota Opera and Skylark Opera, perform Alcina’s Island, a spin on a Handel classic, among the rosemary and rutabagas.

A caterpillar crawls across Schneider’s shoe as he stands in his own garden. “Public green space is on the decline,” he says. “So to eat in these gardens while hearing these gorgeous melodies—it’s a mark of respect for our common spaces.” • Picnic Operetta opens August 20 at 4 p.m. at the Eat Street Community Garden in Minneapolis.

Written by Tim Gihring and Gregory J. Scott.