February 2011 Arts Calendar

9 Hot Picks: 2/11

It’s 1964. The Catholic Church is liberalizing. A nun, who’s upset about this, thinks she sees something scandalous: a young priest taking an altar boy into his chambers. Call the archbishop, call the pope, call the Boston Globe! But wait—what did she really see? Can any of us discern the truth so long as we’re peering at it through the narrow lens of our own experience? That’s the chewy philosophical center of Doubt, A Parable, which was a great play on Broadway, then a pretty good movie, and should be a terrific play again at Open Book, as staged by Ten Thousand Things. What’s not uncertain is the talent behind this production: Peter Rothstein directs Sally Wingert (just back from Broadway herself) as the nun, Guthrie regular Kris Nelson (fresh from playing Bob Cratchit) as the priest, and Jane Froiland and Regina Williams in supporting roles. tenthousandthings.org


The Minnesota Opera enacts the royal love triangle preoccupying Queen Elizabeth in Donizetti’s luscious Mary Stuart. mnopera.org


The Kronos Quartet returns to the Walker Art Center with two shows, one of Middle Eastern music, the other of indie rock and jazz. walkerart.org


Cheryl Willis puts her native Liverpudlian accent to work in the one-woman play Shirley Valentine at the Jungle Theater. jungletheater.com


Sarah Agnew, Maggie Chestovich, and Luverne Seifert star in the new dark comedy, Little Eyes, in the Dowling Studio. guthrietheater.com


Penumbra Theatre stages Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, the first play in August Wilson’s famous cycle, at the Guthrie Theater. guthrietheater.com


Connie Evingson and Ginger Commodore sing Peggy Lee and Nancy Wilson at the historic Capri Theater. thecapritheater.org


Ascendent composer Gabriel Kahane joins cellist Alisa Weilerstein for Bach, Britten, and new work at the Southern Theater. southerntheater.org


The James Sewell Ballet is joined at the Southern Theater by hip-hop dancer Kenna Sarge and a New York guest. jsballet.org




Everyday Art

What does our stuff say about us?

Darsie Alexander, the chief curator of the Walker Art Center, didn’t know what to make of Minnesota after moving here two years ago from Baltimore. “It’s a completely different landscape and vernacular,” she says, “from how people dress to how they decorate their homes. I needed to understand what it means to be in the Midwest.”

So she curated an exhibit: The Spectacular of Vernacular, opening this month at the Walker and featuring the kind of bric-a-brac you might see at Uncle Ed’s cabin, tweaked by artists. They range from the cheeky (Marc Swanson’s deer-head trophy, contorted to look almost phallic) to the serious (William Eggleston’s influential snapshot-like photographs) to the iconic (St. Paul sculptor Chris Larson’s covered bridge, bisected by a gallery window, such that half is inside the Walker, half is outside)—folk art for the Artforum set.

“We live with so much stuff,” Alexander says, surrounded by the clean walls of a Walker gallery. But the more we’re surrounded by mass-produced stuff, the more we cling to homemade objects. “That’s what connects us to our home turf,” she says, “giving us a sense of belonging.”

Is Alexander a folk-art fan? “No,” she says. “That’s not in my proclivities. But people are drawn to it. At Pottery Barn, shoppers like things that look worn, that have a patina. There’s comfort in the familiar.” • The Spectacular of Vernacular opens January 29 at the Walker Art Center. walkerart.org

American Love

In the mood with trumpeter Chuck Lazarus

Even without his trumpet, Chuck Lazarus looks like a guy capable of making a great romantic mixed tape. Arriving for coffee in a well-cut suit, the dapper Minnesota Orchestra musician chooses a seat near the roaring fireplace (nice!) and reads through the set list for his upcoming Big Band Valentine’s Day Celebration at Orchestra Hall. It includes “Melelani Smiles”—a song he wrote for his wife.

“It was the first song I wrote for her,” he says, with just a touch of bashfulness. “She was pretty happy.” Clearly, the orchestra has chosen the right man to helm a show populated with snappy new arrangements of classic American love songs, such as Cole Porter’s “Love for Sale” and “L-O-V-E” by Nat King Cole.

So how did Lazarus, who fronts a lounge and jazz band in his spare time, make his musical picks for the biggest date night of the year? Lyrics are important, he says, but ultimately it’s the song, not the singer, that matters. “It’s the feeling of the music that translates into romance,” Lazarus explains. And he aims to prove just that during the Valentine’s show, in which his trumpet playing will replace the lyrics.

And will Lazarus’s muse—his wife, Mele Willis, the orchestra’s outreach director—be there to take in his performance? Probably not. “Our first baby,” Lazarus explains, “is due at the end of January.” • A Big Band Valentine’s Day Celebration is slated for February 12 at Orchestra Hall. mnorch.org

Pushing Back

A new play about bullying

Hands in their hoodies, cell phones stowed, a dozen teenagers sit around a table in the rehearsal room of the Youth Performance Company, the Minneapolis troupe that gave Josh Hartnett his start. “What do you care about 9/11?” one boy says. “Don’t you celebrate that at your house?” He raises his voice. “WHAT KIND OF STUPID RELIGION MAKES YOU WEAR A SHEET ON YOUR HEAD ANYWAY?”

“Good!” says Jacie Knight, YPC’s artistic director. The teens are reading Mean, a new play that YPC is debuting this month about bullying at school. As the script makes clear, if yesterday’s bullies gave wedgies, today’s are beating up kids and filming the fights for people to rate online. They’re slandering students on Facebook. “They’re increasingly, well, mean,” says Knight.

After the read-through, the teens discuss the plot, which follows three kids—one overweight, one gay, one Muslim—in the grip of bullies. It doesn’t end happily, though one kid escapes by transferring to a different school.

“I’ve wanted to switch schools,” confesses an actor, a boy of maybe 16. “I can’t take it anymore.” Soon, two more boys say they have, in fact, transferred due to bullying. They had been berated for being gay, though they hadn’t dared to come out. “I was getting into trouble just defending myself,” says one. Knight shakes her head. “This is why we’re doing this play,” she says. “Bullying is serious business now.” • Mean opens February 10 at the Howard Conn Fine Arts Center. youthperformanceco.com