March 2011 Arts Calendar

9 Hot Picks: 3/1

It’s fitting that the audio tour for Tutankhamun: The Golden King—the largest exhibition ever staged at the Science Museum of Minnesota—is narrated by Harrison Ford, a.k.a. Indiana Jones, the swashbuckling Hollywood archaeologist. Why? Because our interest in all things Tut is fueled at least as much by fiction (his mummy’s curse) as fact, not to mention the rather cinematic story of the ascot-wearing Howard Carter finding Tut’s tomb in 1922. And the museum, thank Horus, understands this. In this exhaustive exhibition, we’re shown real objects, including the golden sandals found on Tut’s feet. We’re fed just enough facts about pharaonic Egypt to understand the reality of Tut’s short and privileged life. And then we’re ushered into a series of galleries mimicking the tomb as Carter found it, allowing us to forget reality for a moment and revel—vicariously—in the thrill of discovery.


Theater Latte Da performs the much-lauded Song of Extinction, a play about the science of life and loss, at the Guthrie ’s Dowling Studio.


Rousing New Orleans trombonist Glen David Andrews, sometimes seen on HBO’s Treme, returns to the Dakota Jazz Club and Restaurant.


Tony-nominee Melissa Hart stars in Frank Theatre’s Cabaret on the Minnesota Showboat, with Bradley Greenwald.


Underwater Adventures reopens as the Minnesota Sea Life Aquarium, with reconfigured stingray and shark exhibits and new green turtles.


Acclaimed photographer Angela Strassheim debuts her new series, Evidence, at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, focusing on the dark undercurrents of domestic life.


Minneapolis Musical Theatre stages Bare, the off-Broadway pop opera about two gay students at a Catholic boarding school.


Cantus vocal group releases That Eternal Day, a CD of sacred music, with a series of concerts.


Mixed Blood Theatre gives Avenue Q, the irreverent musical about coming of age, its first local production.

Art Imitates Life

Most of us couldn’t even dance our way onto reality television, let alone pull off what Ragamala Dance is attempting in its new show, Yathra (Journey), which is the dramatization of an entire life cycle through the metaphor of a single day: the possibilities of dawn, the innocence of afternoon, the bittersweet understanding of dusk. It’s that kind of visual poetry that has earned Ragamala, the most consistently engaging troupe in the Twin Cities, an invitation to perform an abbreviated version of Yathra this month at the Kennedy Center. They’ll stage the full show from March 25 to 27 at the O’Shaughnessy Auditorium in St. Paul, accompanied by some of India’s finest musicians. Buy a ticket, and let them do the dancing.

Curtain Call


Smackdown Memoir

A wrestler grapples with the truth

You wouldn’t think spotting a former professional wrestler named Joe “Animal” Laurinaitus in an Edina coffee shop would be that hard. But times have changed since the 1980s, when Laurinaitus was one half of the Road Warriors, the most popular tag team in wrestling. Only now is he re-growing his signature mohawk, to promote what is likely to be the sole memoir coming out this year by an author who once wore a studded dog collar to work.

“Every normal day I’m Joe,” he says, his voice more gravelly than ever. “But then I put on the face paint and the spikes and I turn into Animal.” As he recalls in The Road Warriors: Danger, Death, and the Rush of Wrestling, he and his ring partner, Michael Hegstrand, met as bouncers at a Minneapolis club. Hegstrand died in 2003 after years of drug and alcohol addiction—a plight that was integrated into the storylines of Road Warriors appearances until both men quit in disgust.

Laurinaitis doesn’t dodge this or other tough truths in his book, including steroid use and his cofounding of the Zubaz pants company. But while contemporaries like Hulk Hogan re-emerge on reality television, Laurinaitis is happy to let his fame fade as his son James, a St. Louis Rams linebacker, takes the spotlight.

Then again, if HGTV calls, Laurinaitis has an idea: Animal’s House. “I watch all the DIY shows,” he says. “I would love to do something like that.” • The Road Warriors (Medallion Press, $25) is out this month.

Leaving Home

Does moving up mean moving on?

James Williams, the award-winning Twin Cities actor, grew up in St. Louis—a fact he’s advertising this morning, over coffee, on his hoodie: “Missouri,” it says. But by the time he went to Macalester College in 1973, thinking he would eventually go into medicine, Williams knew he wouldn’t be returning to his working-class roots—not to live. “I’d had a taste of the wider world,” he says. “My future wasn’t back there.”

This month, Williams is directing Broke-ology at Pillsbury House Theatre, which depicts two twenty-something brothers in Kansas City deciding what to do about their ailing father. They’ve grown up poor, if tightly knit. Now one has a master’s degree from the University of Connecticut and hopes to work out East; the other is rooted in the old neighborhood, practicing “broke-ology,” what he calls the science of being broke without being broken. He chastises his brother: “All the things I want to do have taken a back burner to the things I have to do.”
Williams understands the conflict. “When you realize you want more out of life,” he says, “that desire may take you away from the people you love.” And those people may not understand.

“My dad would always ask me when I was going to retire from acting and get a real job,” Williams recalls with a laugh. “He’d say, ‘I can get you a job down at the plant.’” • Broke-ology opens March 11 at Pillsbury House Theatre (all shows are “pay what you can”).

Yo-Yo Wha?

How YouTube is changing the cello

In her sunny Minneapolis home, Minnesota Orchestra cellist Mina Fisher is watching YouTube. “Have you heard of Apocalyptica?” she asks. “They look like Vikings.” Indeed, the longhaired Finnish quartet emerges onscreen in a cloud of dry ice, shirtless and hoisting their cellos over their heads. They play a Metallica song. “Isn’t it great?”

Fisher’s side project, the Bakken Trio, is hosting a concert this month of alternative cello music popularized via YouTube, such as Stringfever’s Bolero, played by four men on the same cello—simultaneously. “When this came out,” Fisher says, watching the men cross their bows like fencers, “everyone in the orchestra lounge was crowding around to see it.”

Jacqueline Ultan, a member of improvisational cello group Jelloslave, which will play at the concert, says Yo-Yo Ma was the first major cellist to push the limits, and easy access to diverse music in the digital age has further broadened cellists’ horizons. “My students don’t see the same divisions between music that I was taught,” she says. Tape looping, slapping the cello: “It’s all just sonic choices to them.”
Fisher sees this month’s concert as a local “coming out” for the cello. “I want to show a mainstream, classical-music audience what the cello has been up to,” she says. She pumps her fist in the air. “It’s coming out like a Viking!” • Forget Bach: Cello Now! (bring your cello for a jam session at the end) is March 20 at the MacPhail Center for Music.