July 2010 Arts Calendar

7 Hot Picks: 7/3

7/3 For anyone who only knew Marlon Brando as a fat, old crazy guy—for whom Stella is a beer and a streetcar is, duh, what every car is—the Guthrie Theater’s take on Tennessee Williams’s A Streetcar Named Desire, staged July 3 through August 21, is for you. The Guthrie could not have found sexier actors for the lead roles if they’d somehow resurrected Brando circa 1951, when the original mumblecore actor defined Stanley Kowalski with smoldering brutishness. Ricardo Antonio Chavira (Carlos Solis on Desperate Housewives) dons the wife-beater T-shirt this time around, while Gretchen Egolf (Roswell, Leap of Faith) inhabits the skittish Blanche DuBois and Stacia Rice becomes Stella. The show is a homecoming of sorts for Chavira, who went through an acting training program at the Guthrie in 1999 and later appeared at the Guthrie Lab in The Long Walk and Jack and Jill. guthrietheater.org


Neil Simon’s first play, Come Blow Your Horn, about a timid man moving into his playboy brother’s bache-lor pad, opens at Theatre in the Round. theatreintheround.org


Weezer, Spoon, the Avett Brothers and other hot bands play the Basilica Block Party. basilicablockparty.org


Sommerfest, the seasonal music series performed by the Minnesota Orchestra, begins with A Night in Vienna, featuring music by Beethoven and Strauss, with food on Peavey Plaza. mnorch.org


Aby Wolf, the folk-pop singer named City Pages’s Best Female Vocalist this year, plays the courtyard of the Mill City Museum as part of the Mill City Live series. (Other July acts include Spider John Koerner with Tony Glover, Joey Ryan and the Inks, and Salsa del Soul.) events. mnhs.org


Chris Yon reprises his acclaimed dance work The Infinite Multiverse, sharing a bill with New York choreographer Johanna Meyer’s postmodern pantomime. southerntheater.org


The Cirque du Soleil of circus schools, Circus Juventas, opens Sawdust, highlighting such traditional acts as the trapeze, teeterboard, and slapstick clowning. circusjuventas.org



Laughter in the Grass

Stevie Ray takes it outside

On a Sunday afternoon at Chanhassen Dinner Theatres, a young woman is asked to ape Groucho Marx—and is handed a tomato for a prop. “I once had a tomato in Albuquerque,” she says quickly. Wink-wink, nudge-nudge. “It never spoke to me again.”

Stevie Ray, the longtime local performer and teacher of improv comedy, laughs approvingly, then calls another actor forward. Every summer Sunday since 1992, Ray has used his acting students to perform Improv in the Park at the Lake Harriet Rose Gardens. “In the beginning,” he says, “if we could get a dozen people to sit in the grass and laugh, that was a big show.”

The crowds have grown since then, however, spurring Ray to move the act across town this summer to the bandshell in Minnehaha Park, right across from the popular Sea Salt restaurant—with performances at 5 p.m. and 7 p.m., almost like dinner theater. And for the first time, he’s holding auditions.

“We need to snag people passing through,” he tells the group of aspiring standups at the Chanhassen. “People with short attention spans! Families! It’s gotta move fast!” After putting the performers through their comedic paces, Ray looks disappointed. “That pretty much shows me what I need to know,” he somberly informs the actors. Wait for it: “Improv in the Park is cancelled.” The room bursts out laughing, if a little uncomfortably. Ray clears the air—he likes what he saw. “It’s going to be a wild summer,” he says. Through August 29, stevierays.org

Red, White, and Blues

There’s patriotic music and there’s American music. You get a little of both when gospel vocalists Jearlyn Steele (pictured above) and Robert Robinson join the Minnesota Orchestra at Orchestra Hall on July 3 for a Star-Spangled Salute to America. Highlights include Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess (there’s nothing like hearing “Summertime” on a sultry July evening), as well as the expansive music of Aaron Copland, plucking listeners from the Deep South and depositing them somewhere west of the Mississippi. That still leaves plenty of time for Sousa, the cinematic music of John Williams, and, of course, the sing-a-long “Battle Hymn of the Republic.” Mnorch.org

Cabin Radio

Tuning in to Grand Marais’s WTIP

This time of year, while stuck in the long stream of cars headed north, loaded with kids and canoes, you may find yourself fiddling with the radio. And at the lower end of the FM dial—90.1, 90.7, or 91.7, depending on where you are between Two Harbors and Thunder Bay, Ontario—you may come across WTIP, a.k.a. North Shore Radio. It’s easy enough to tell when you’re tuned in: Listen for Jimi Hendrix followed by Native American drummers followed by a call-in quiz show—bingo.

“It’s a real hoot down here,” says the announcer. The station, on Highway 61 just south of “downtown” Grand Marais, is in pledge-drive mode. And of the station’s 900 members (which sounds unimpressive until you realize there are only about 5,400 people in Cook County), many drop off their pledges in person. On a Friday morning, two women come in with dogs, another brings four-dozen meat pasties, and someone has brought carrot cake. “A big beautiful wolf just strolled through my backyard,” a woman announces.

The station was founded 12 years ago, has a full-time news director, and a couple years ago won awards for its coverage of the Ham Lake fire. Senator Al Franken calls in about every three weeks to chat. But the station is truly driven by its many volunteers, including a woman who hosts a show on the goings-on at her goat farm and a guy named Rainbow Trout, who hosts Classic Country and Polka Time.

A local folk band called Rod ’n’ Reel sets up in the studio, and the volunteer announcer sits in on dulcimer. “We need $217 today,” announces her co-host, “and if you could help with that, that’d be really cool.” Wtip.org

Water Fight

The city’s artist-designed drinking fountains

Mary Altman walks into Maria’s Café in south Minneapolis with a big smile on her face. “I just turned it on,” she says of the drinking fountain on the sidewalk. “The water’s nice and cold.” Altman is the city’s public-arts administrator, and the fountain is the first of four that the city is installing this summer, with the others slaking thirsts at St. Anthony Main, on Second Avenue downtown, and outside the Midtown YWCA on Lake Street. The fact that this one has a name, Water of the Doodem Spirits, is just one indication that these are no ordinary fountains.

Doodem, designed by local sculptor Peter Morales, features a fish, turtle, and crow representing Native American doodem, or totem, spirits. The design required some customized plumbing. “I didn’t want to compromise the art for what was on the shelf,” Morales says, admiring the city’s handiwork.
In fact, the one-of-a-kind fountains cost about $32,000 more than the garden-variety, which caused a splash when Mayor R. T. Rybak proposed 10 of them a couple years ago to embody Minneapolis’s “City of Lakes” slogan and underscore the waste caused by bottled water. The number of fountains was later halved.

The Native American residents living near Doodem, in any case, have embraced the fountain, sometimes explaining the symbolism to visitors. And the way Altman sees it, since the enhanced cost was covered by the city’s public-arts budget—not, say, by laying off police officers—it’s really a wash. “If you look at these as public artworks and not as fountains,” she says, “they’re actually pretty inexpensive.”

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