July 2011 Arts Calendar

10 Hot Picks: 7/1

What would you do with a bowl-shaped backyard the size of a football field? Invite the whole city over for some plein-air yoga? Hold an art swap (goodbye, Elvis paintings)? Maybe ask a guy who looks like Buffalo Bill Cody to give a bullwhip demonstration? Then you’re thinking like the Walker Art Center, which is once again hosting Open Field, a summer full of artsy activities, on its back 40. Expect Swedish lawn games, crafting classes, and, yes, the world-record holder for whip-cracking, putting the fear of steel-tipped leather in hipsters. Plus music, artist talks, children’s activities, a tool shed full of lawn games, and something called Israeli dodge ball—basically all the stuff you would do inside the museum if it weren’t for all that breakable art. And if all you really want to do is chill out, there’s a patio bar and grill offering beer and burgers. Your summer is set. blogs.walkerart.org/openfield2011


Jason Mraz inaugurates the new amphitheater at Mystic Lake Casino Hotel. mysticlake.com


Strange Capers brings its popular new Shakespeare in the park troupe, full of Guthrie-bred talent, to Powderhorn Park for Twelfth Night. thestrangecapers.com


9 to 5: The Musical, based on the movie about three fed-up office workers, comes to the Ordway. ordway.org


The Indigo Girls play the intimate Minnesota Zoo Amphitheater. mnzoo.org


Electric Edge Ensemble dances at the Ritz Theater to music by hip local composers. ritzdolls.org


Tom Isbell, who acted opposite Robert DeNiro, among others, before moving recently to Duluth, makes his Twin Cities debut in Yellow Tree Theatre’s Love Letters. yellowtreetheatre.com


Rainn Wilson, of The Office, chats with Joe Dowling on the stage he briefly trod in the 1990s. guthrietheater.org


The LoringTheater hosts Minneapolooza, a two-day festival of local bands. loringtheater.com


Toast & Taste at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum offers food from Vincent and other local restaurants within its gardens. arboretum.umn.edu


Good wood

How one couple’s obsession became an MIA exhibit

David and Ruth Waterbury’s Lake Calhoun home doesn’t have walls so much as shelves, from floor to ceiling in every room. They are filled with finely crafted wooden works—vessels, orbs, sculptures—such that the house glows a golden brown. “We bought our first piece in 1984 just because we liked it,” says Ruth. “After our first 50 or 60 pieces, we looked around and said, ‘We must be collectors!’”

They now have some 500 objets d’wood, more than many museums, and a vigilance about carpenter ants. In June, about 80 works went on display at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, in an exhibit called Conversations with Wood. The exhibit will travel to other museums, and the Waterburys will donate works to each one.

Woodturning, as an art, is still awaiting its Damien Hirst. Only recently have its practitioners shifted from strictly functional objects (“We have a lot of salad bowls,” Ruth says) to wood for wood’s sake. The Waterburys’ collection ranges from the sublime—wood so thin it’s transparent—to the silly. “Check this out,” Dave says, palming a piece he commissioned: a wooden Twins hat.

Self-described wood-art missionaries, the Waterburys found a convert in the MIA’s associate curator Jennifer Komar Olivarez. But they aren’t dogmatic, obsessed with filling gaps in their collection or tracking its value. “To say we’re collectors is a bit of a joke,” Ruth says. “The truth is, we’d rather be out buying wood.” • Conversations with Wood runs through September 4 at the MIA. artsmia.org

Off Camera

An ex-journalist’s hard-boiled tales of TV news

It takes some sleuthing to find the Mystery Annex, the clandestine reading room in Minneapolis bookstore Once Upon a Crime. Fortunately, Julie Kramer is on the case, pressing her ear to an unmarked door like a character in one of her mystery novels. “This is it,” she says, pushing the door open and settling into the cozy Holmesian study beside a giant antique globe.

For two decades, Kramer was an investigative reporter for WCCO-TV, heading the I-Team in its heyday. Now she’s a freelance producer for ABC and NBC—and a prolific novelist. This month, she’s releasing her fourth book, Killing Kate (Simon & Schuster, $24), once again featuring Riley Spartz, a female reporter hustling in “the desperate world of television news.”

“When I wrote news,” Kramer says, “I often thought, darn these facts! If it weren’t for these facts, boy could I tell a great story.” Now, the facts are starting points for her tales, with real-life tragedies—like a pair of still-unsolved cold cases in St. Paul—haunting the plotlines.

But it’s her character’s not-so-subtle cynicism about the priorities of contemporary TV journalism that is most revealing: Spartz is always pursuing the sort of grisly stories her fluff-chasing, ratings-obsessed bosses would rather gloss over. “I wanted to take people inside that world, to show how newsrooms make decisions amid chaos,” Kramer says. “Some of my colleagues think I’ve been a little too candid.” • Killing Kate is out July 26. juliekramerbooks.com

West Side Stories

A dancer recalls the man behind the musical

When Linda Talcott Lee moved to New York to work for Jerome Robbins, the choreographer behind West Side Story, The King and I, Fiddler on the Roof, and other classic musicals, she kept her things in storage back in Los Angeles. “I figured I would be fired,” she says. “He had a temper.”

It was the late 1980s and Lee was a dancer in Jerome Robbins’ Broadway, a retrospective. True to form, Robbins kept his dancers in the dark about other aspects of the production. “He definitely played psychological games,” says Lee, who recently moved to the Twin Cities. For the original West Side Story, she recalls, Robbins separately rehearsed the two gangs of dancers—the Jets and the Sharks—so they wouldn’t become friends. “And he would plant rumors among one gang about the other,” Lee says, “so they really hated each other.”

Lee, who will give a pre-show talk when the latest Broadway revival of West Side Story opens at the Orpheum Theatre on July 11, idolized Robbins for his ability to show characters’ motivation through dance. “Even the gangs’ famous finger snaps change subtly throughout the musical to show different motivations,” she says.

In the end, Lee didn’t get fired by Robbins. She even invited him to her wedding a few years later. But by then he was ill, and died the next year. “I have very fond memories of him,” Lee says. “He was a genius.” • Lee’s opening-night talk is July 11 at the Capital Grille restaurant. hennepin-theatretrust.org/broadway-confidential

Written by Tim Gihring and Gregory J. Scott.