September 2010 Arts Calendar

8 Hot Picks: 9/17

EDITOR’S NOTE: This show has been postponed.

Stacia Rice is the muse Tennessee Williams never had, at once decorous and decadent, so thoroughly inhabiting his most iconic dramas you’d think he had written them just for her. This month, fresh from playing Stella in A Streetcar Named Desire at the Guthrie Theater, Rice reprises her feline turn in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, the show that ignited her reputation seven years ago, though this time at her own Torch Theater. Williams was never more explicit than in this Southern potboiler about family facades, directed here with the appropriate mix of melodrama and archness by David Mann. Yet Rice, showing some claws as Maggie the Cat, spars and flirts with the kind of incandescent intelligence that makes married men fiddle with their wedding rings, coiling the sexual tension until the set seems to drip with sweat. You’ll long for a cool mint julep, even as you bask in the heat.


The Northern Clay Center hosts the American Pottery Festival, featuring Warren McKenzie’s pots. You must enter a lottery just to get in line to buy them.


Wendy Lehr stars in the Jungle Theater’s The Glass Menagerie.


The Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra plays the complete Don Giovanni opera, with a full cast and chorus.


From Here to There: Alec Soth’s America at the Walker Art Center features 100 images from the Minneapolis photographer, including a new series on off-the-grid Americans.


Sha Cage stars in Frank Theatre’s Eclipsed, superstar playwright Danai Gurira’s story of Liberian women during that country’s civil war.


New-music artists Ben Frost and Tim Hecker bring their visceral soundscapes to the Southern Theater.


Milkweed Editions hosts Poetry at the Public House, at Club Jäger, with Esquire fave Alex Lemon, Ada Limón, Wayne Miller, and Dan BeachyQuick.


The Time Traveler

Ralph Lemon can’t stand still. He co-founded the Mixed Blood Theater and was dancing with Meredith Monk by the time he was 27. Which makes the title of his Walker Art Center commission so apt: “How Can You Stay in the House All Day and Not Go Anywhere?” From September 23 to 25, the peripatetic “conceptualist,” as he describes himself, offers a four-part show transforming the McGuire Theater into a dance hall, art gallery, and movie theater—sometimes all at once—as he conveys what he’s learned about time from Walter Carter, a 102-year-old former sharecropper who’s never left the Mississippi Delta.



Sweet Seats

The world’s greatest chairs at the MIA

“We need them, and pretty much every society throughout time has used them,” says Cori Wegener, an associate curator at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts. Yet when it comes to the chair, as demonstrated in “Chairevolution,” opening this month at the MIA, a simple place to plant your butt can be, well, anything but.

“Chairs can convey power and authority, taste and wealth, comfort and elegance,” Wegener says, sitting in an ordinary desk chair. Designers from Frank Lloyd Wright to Charles Eames have long experimented with chairs, she notes, and the 20 models displayed here, tracing a 300-year arc, provide a glimpse into the evolution of design itself.

Notice, she says, the varying personal values implied by seats as different as the simple Shaker chair and the imposing edifice of Paul Frankl’s skyscraper chair. “We convey something about ourselves,” she says, “with our choice of chair.”

The exhibit is not without its challenges: Put visitors in a room full of chairs, and their immediate impulse is to sit down. “We’re so used to seeing chairs as everyday objects,” Wegener says, “and here, they’re presented as works of art. You have to make them inviting, but not so inviting that people want to sit on them!” Opens September 16. Also check out the 26th Annual MIA Design and Antiques Fair from September 24 to 26 at the St. Paul Armory.

Movers and Shakers

Can big names boost dance’s rep?

When John and Sage Cowles were approached by Artspace, which runs the Minnesota Shubert Center for the Performing Arts, about renaming the complex in their honor, their response was quick and firm: no.

“We don’t need more things named after us,” says John, over coffee at the couple’s airy Minneapolis loft, which overlooks the Mississippi River. “And we didn’t want people to think that was our motive in working for the Shubert project.”

But when it comes to dance in Minnesota, no other name would do. Sage was a New York showgirl when she met John, the former publisher of the Star Tribune. Both performed with Bill T. Jones in the 1990s, and they’ve given millions to the University of Minnesota to create a dance major. The eponymous Sage Awards, held this month at the Southern Theater, honors local dancers.

Luckily, that initial “no” wasn’t final. The Cowles were persuaded that the Shubert, now undergoing a $42 million renovation, needed a rebirth. “It’s an effort to give it an identity that stands on its own,” says Sage of the re-branded Cowles Center for Dance and Performing Arts. “If you love something, you see things that could be done for it. It’s where you want to put your energy.”

And Sage says there’s energy to spare, since she no longer dances, though John disputes her claim. Indicating the loft’s highly danceable wood floors, he says wryly, “She does dance a bit around the apartment.” The Sage Awards are September 14 at the Southern Theater.

Big Hot Deal

The Convincer revives local filmmaking

During a break in shooting The Convincer, the new caper starring Alan Arkin, Greg Kinnear, and Billy Crudup, Elizabeth Redleaf stood near a half-dozen silver trailers huddled around the Ramada Mall of America. With its cheesy Native American theme, 1970s color scheme, and motley collection of peace pipes and totem poles, the former Thunderbird Motel was the perfect double for a down-at-the-mouth Indian casino.

“This place was a big hot deal in the ’70s,” says Redleaf, the cofounder and CEO of Werc Werk Works, the Minneapolis production company behind the film. “It was the happening place to go when buckskin miniskirts were in.”

The Convincer, about a salesman scheming to acquire a rare violin, opens this month at the Toronto Film Festival. For Redleaf and co-producer Christine Kunewa Walker, it was simply exciting to be working in their own backyard. The Convincer is the fourth film produced by Werc Werk Works—Howl, which they shot with Jon Hamm and James Franco, also premieres this month—but is the first to be shot locally.

“It’s too expensive for most film companies to shoot here,” says Redleaf. And her shoots are no small affair. Inside the Ramada, Kinnear staggers into the frame and lurches down the hallway. Fifteen seconds later, it’s all over. “When you see the movie, you’re going to remember those 15 seconds,” Redleaf says, laughing. “And the 80 people who made it happen.” 

Written by Alex Davy and Monica Wright.