MNMO Recommends

Ben Folds, maestro

When the pop-rock pianist called around to American orchestras, looking to join forces on his current tour, a few might have balked at his concert tradition of chucking the piano bench at the instrument. The Minnesota Orchestra said, “Sign us up.” Because lately the orchestra has been keen on demonstrating its diversity—that it’s not stuck on what we’ve come to think of as orchestral music. In fact it can, as Folds will surely sing, rock the suburbs. October 31, Orchestra Hall. Tickets: 612-371-5656,

Art About Town

The guide to October’s arts scene

» Herb and Dorothy Vogel, an unassuming New York couple, became famous when it was revealed that they had amassed a world-class collection of contemporary art while working as a postal worker and a librarian. Now, they’re distributing 2,500 of the works across the country—50 to one museum in every state—and the Weisman Art Museum has been chosen as Minnesota’s repository. Starting October 23, the museum will display the gifted pieces in “To Have It About You: The Herbert and Dorothy Vogel Collection,” including works by Richard Tuttle, Mark Kostabi, and others.

» The grand-opening gala of the new and improved Highpoint Center for Printmaking in Uptown on October 3 marks the growing influence not only of the print medium but also that of the facility’s architect, Jim Dayton.

» Former Theatre de la Jeune Luners Steve Epp and Dominique Serrand now have a name for their two-man comeback show, slated for October 22 to 25 at the Southern Theater, though it only deepens the mystery: One Woman.

» It seems the death of the Oak Street Cinema was prematurely announced: The immortal movie-house reopened in September with a screening of Meryl Streep’s new Theater of War, and continues this month with a series of classic French crime films and a music week, including In Search of Beethoven, featuring Emmanuel Ax and other famed instrumentalists.

» The ladies of Ragamala dance troupe had such a great response to their first India-meets-Bali production at the Walker Art Center back in 2004 that they’re once again collaborating with Balinese musicians and dancers for Dhvee (Duality) in the Walker’s McGuire Theater from October 1 to 4.

Staging a Comeback

Can Joe Dowling act?

Joe Dowling hasn’t acted in 21 years, last appearing on stage in place of an actor who was mugged before the show. So it raised a few eyebrows when the Guthrie Theater’s artistic director announced that he would be starring this month in his own production, having cast himself in the lead role of Brian Friel’s play Faith Healer.

“He is certainly in love with himself, isn’t he, this middle-aged rake?” reads an old New York Times description of Frank Hardy, the role Dowling will assume. Dowling jokes: “Hubris does take over eventually.”

In truth, however, the Irish native has a long history on stage. Beginning in the 1960s, he acted for about a decade with the Abbey, Ireland’s national theater. Of the reviews he saved from this time, one could hardly be more flattering: “Joe Dowling’s work reminds us of the best of Alec Guinness.” Others say, more or less, “Joe Dowling was adequate.” (Dowling decries Irish critics as “bastards, one and all.”)

So what inspired Dowling, whose contract is up in 2010, to become the first Guthrie artistic director since the 1970s to moonlight on his own stage? Not money—acting falls under “other duties as required” in his job description. No, the play is simply a touchstone for Dowling, whose 1994 production was hailed as transcendent. What actor could meet such high expectations? “If I’m going to be driven crazy by someone,” Dowling concluded, “it might as well be me.”


Fall Colors: Area Art Tours

You don’t need an excuse to hit the road in autumn, but you do need an itinerary. Here are four ways to mix both natural and man-made beauty.


Meander–Upper Minnesota River Art Crawl
October 2–4
Upper Minnesota River Valley

» Forty-five artists, 33 studios, and one beautiful backdrop in southern Minnesota at the peak of fall colors.

St. Paul Art Crawl
October 9–11
Lowertown, St. Paul

» One of the country’s oldest art crawls, the event has grown to 300 artists, with free bus transportation and entertainment.

First City of Arts: Studio Cruise
October 16–18

» Sixteen artists and studios tucked in the north woods; worth the drive when you add a visit to the Bemidji Art Walk.

South Central Studio Art Tour
October 24–25
Northfield, Faribault, and Owatonna

» Forty-one artists in 22 studios. This tour includes hot-rod art and beads made from recycled bottle caps.

The Fall of Othello

Two theaters, one play about an idealistic black leader—coincidence?


If you’d like to see great acting this month, you have a simple choice: Othello…or Othello. James Williams, Stacia Rice, and Steve Hendrickson are starring in the Shakespeare classic at the Park Square Theatre in St. Paul, while Ansa Akyea, Luverne Seifert, and Tracey Maloney are performing it with Ten Thousand Things Theater at Open Book in Minneapolis.

How did this tragic timing happen? The easy explanation would seem to be Barack Obama: “Obama + Othello” turns up 120,000 references on Google, mostly pegging Obama as “an Othello for our times”—that is, an idealistic black leader dogged by racism. But, apparently, Obama didn’t inspire either theater’s play selection. The co-directors of Ten Thousand Things’ production, Sonja Parks and Michelle Hensley, had been planning to stage the play for some time. Ditto Park Square artistic director Richard Cook, who says he’s waited 25 years for his preferred Othello—James Williams—to become available.

Certainly, however, something is in the air. The Public Theater in New York is also staging Othello this fall, starring Phillip Seymour Hoffman as Iago. In fact, Hensley jokes that she’s hoping to lure Hoffman to the Twin Cities to compete with Hendrickson and Seifert in a kind of Iago-off, dueling with dialogues from the play. She may as well enjoy the moment—such coincidences now seem commonplace for Ten Thousand Things: Its recent productions of The Merchant of Venice and Raskol (a version of Crime and Punishment) both overlapped with similar shows elsewhere. “It’s like we’re doomed,” she says.

Time Well Spent

Bartering fuels a time-bank boom

WITH FURLOUGHS RISING and salaries sinking, Minnesotans may have more free time—and less money—than at any point in recent memory. The good news? Time is money, thanks to the burgeoning popularity of several so-called “time banks” throughout the state, where all those empty hours can be traded for services one otherwise couldn’t afford.

The concept is simple enough: Bank members offer their skills—ranging from auto maintenance to photography to tutoring—to other members in exchange for “time dollars.” These can be redeemed for services offered by any other member, without a single penny changing hands. And unlike many traditional banks, Minnesota’s four time banks, listed at, are thriving: Rochester’s Time Trader, for instance, has attracted more than 125 members in its first year of business, and St. Paul’s 11-year-old Hour Dollars service has boosted its 140-person membership by more than 40 people in the past six months.

“[Time banks] really level the playing field,” says Kristy Norman, program coordinator for Time Trader. “We all have exactly 24 hours each day, and this is a way for people to maximize their time.” Norman should know: She’s earned time dollars by baby-sitting and dog walking; in return, members have mended a stack of her clothes, baked her a loaf of bread, and given her hour-long back massages.