November 2010 Arts Calendar

9 Hot Picks: 11/5

You will laugh. You will laugh until your face hurts and your belly aches and your contacts pop out. And you’ll still be laughing in the taxi on the way home. “What’s so funny?” the driver will ask. And you’ll say that you just saw Fully Committed, Nathan Keeper’s one-man show, directed by Casey Stangl, at the Jungle Theater. You’ll suggest that Keepers, playing several dozen characters, offers what amounts to a clown car emptying its passengers out on stage, a tour de force centered on Sam Peliczowski, a luckless actor working the reservations line at the hottest restaurant in Manhattan. You’ll recount how Sam juggles the scheming socialites, name-dropping doofuses, and picky celebrities whose sense of entitlement threatens Sam’s plans to head home for the holidays. And the next time you make a reservation yourself, you’ll laugh some more.


The Minnesota Opera performs Rossini’s Cinderella at the Ordway Center.


The Asian Film Festival at St. Anthony Main features 30 movies, including the premiere of a Hmong film shot in Thailand by a St. Paul director.


Sarah Agnew, Robert O. Berdahl, Jim Lichtscheidel, and Luverne Seifert star in The 39 Steps, a Hitchcockian spy comedy at the Guthrie Theater.


The Brad Meldau Quintet is joined by the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra and saxophonist Joshua Redman at the Walker Art Center.


Randy Reyes directs Mu Performing Arts’ Cowboy vs. Samurai in the Dowling Studio.


TU Dance offers two new works by Uri Sands, one on everyday occupations, another on artmaking as worship.


Idina Menzel (star of Glee and Wicked) sings musical-theater favorites, backed by the Minnesota Orchestra at Orchestra Hall.


Garrison Keillor joins Jearlyn Steele, Rich Dworsky, and the VocalEssence chorus for Gratitude, Gravy & Garrison at Orchestra Hall.

The Big Dance

It probably hasn’t been that long since someone danced naked at the Walker Art Center. But it undoubtedly didn’t look anything like the performance Japanese avant-garde masters Eiko and Koma have in mind for their Naked project at the museum from November 2 to 30. In what is likely to be the show of the year, the middle-aged husband-and-wife duo, winners of a MacArthur “genius” grant, will essentially inhabit a gallery—all day, almost every day, for a month—moving for hours on end in their inimitably slow fashion (inspired by the Japanese buto tradition). It’s billed as a kind of installation, an experiment in basic human existence as art, but it’s just as incredible as a social experiment.


The faces behind this month’s arts and culture

Critical Mass

Can Mozart survive in church?

Keith Kostuch ascends to the choir loft of the Church of St. Agnes, in St. Paul, stepping around a couple timpani. On any given Sunday, as many as 60 choir members assemble here, along with such soloists as Vern Sutton and a couple dozen musicians, many from the Minnesota Orchestra. They comprise the Twin Cities Catholic Chorale, leading masses by Mozart, Beethoven, Haydn, and other classical masters. “As far as we know,” says Kostuch, “this is the only place in North America where this music can be heard so often and in context.”

There are reasons for the rarity: Musicians are expensive, the music isn’t exactly pop, and the service is mostly in Latin. “Those are high hurdles,” says Kostuch, a parishioner who is helping St. Agnes promote the Chorale. After five decades, the group is now in the hole.

Kostuch has pushed the exceptionally traditional parish to market the Chorale beyond the faithful. “It’s a cultural treasure,” he says. “Some people come for the music and tune out during the Latin.”

“And I get that,” says Reverend John Ubel, the parish pastor. “If this music goes away, it’s not coming back.” Ubel looks out at the vast church of mosaics and stained-glass windows. “I’m convinced to my core that there is a thirst for the sacred, for transcendence. On a Sunday morning, when the light comes in,” he muses and trails off, lost in thoughts of beauty. The Chorale leads Mozart’s Requiem Mass on All Souls’ Day, November 2.

Guthrie East?

Park Square Theatre’s unlikely boom

Richard Cook stands by a line of bright pink tape on the basement floor of the Park Square Theatre in St. Paul, where a 142-seat thrust stage will soon complement the 342-seat proscenium stage upstairs. “See how intimate it is?” says the theater’s artistic director with a touch of giddiness. While most arts organizations are cutting back, Park Square, at 35, is growing fast.

Cook is not only adding a second stage but has expanded his casts to some of the largest in town. Since 2003, he has more than doubled the number of Actors’ Equity performers in Park Square’s shows. Nearly a dozen actors flood the stage in this month’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. And almost every show now features ringers like Emmy nominee Linda Kelsey or Guthrie Theater favorite Richard Ooms.
It was a simple decision to grow, Cook says. “Our business is audiences,” he says. And to get as many folks in the door as possible, Park Square needed to get bigger and better.

St. Paul agreed—almost half of the $4.2-million campaign to grow Park Square has been covered by key gifts from the city and local firms such as Ecolab (audiences will enter the thrust-stage theater through the Ecolab Lobby).

The main theater has been overhauled, too, with new plush purple seating offering enhanced lumbar support. Cook waves his hand over the chairs. “When you come here now,” he says, “you can watch a performance like a king.” A Midsummer Night’s Dream opens November 16.

Poisoned Pen

A vampire novelist turns to crime

MaryJanice Davidson is sitting in her parlor in Hastings, its wood paneling and chaste wallpaper like something out of a murder mystery. Though she made half a million dollars last year from book sales, Davidson can hardly believe this vast home is hers. “I was a trailer-park kid,” she says and laughs. “I expect someone will be by shortly to tell me I’m in the wrong life.”

Davidson, who invented vampire chick-lit with her Undead series about a ditzy vampire queen from Edina, has more than 60 books in print—and she’s been publishing for less than a decade. Now she’s launching another series with this month’s Me, Myself and Why?, about an FBI agent with multiple-personality disorder.

Not that she’s abandoning vampires—another Undead novel rolled out this summer. The monsters are just a little overexposed now, which she finds ironic. “Years ago, I was told that no one wants to read about sexy, funny vampires,” she drawls. “Now look where we are. You almost can’t leave the house without smacking into a Twilight display.”

So what does Davidson think of the Twilight phenomenon of toothy teenagers? “I hate it,” she says. Her characters might be hot shopaholics, but at least, she says, they aren’t jailbait. “Edward is 108 years old, and he’s dating a high-school girl? He’s practically dating a fetus. It’s just creepy.” Check out the new series at