September 2011 Arts Calendar

10 Hot Picks: 9/23

Living among constant war, corruption, and poverty strips a person of hope. Or so you’d think. This month, a mini-festival of art from the Democratic Republic of the Congo offers evidence to the contrary. On September 23 and 24, choreographer Faustin Linyekula and his company join electric-guitar wizard Flamme Kapaya at the Walker Art Center to summon the kind of spell-binding electricity that’s sparked by defiance and desire. (When Linyekula came through town in 2007, he turned the Cedar Cultural Center into an all-night Kinshasa dance party.) On the 27th, Staff Benda Bilili, a band of paraplegic street musicians, rolls into the Cedar on customized tricycles as badass as their music, which is part James Brown, part Havana nightclub, and lots of Congolese rumba. Even their handmade instruments tell their story: they may not have much, but what they have is irrevocably theirs. •


Johnny Lang brings the blues to the Mystic Lake Showroom.


Mercy Watson to the Rescue!, the first play based on local author Kate DiCamillo’s best-sellers, opens at the Children’s Theatre Company.


The Cowles Center for Dance and the Performing Arts opens with performances by Savion Glover, the James Sewell Ballet, Zenon Dance Company, and others.


The Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra premiers the latest soundscape from acclaimed young composer Nico Muhly.


Joe Dowling directs Much Ado About Nothing at the Guthrie Theater.


The original cast of Mystery Science Theater 3000 reunites for live shows at the Parkway Theater.


The Ivey Awards celebrates the best in local theatre at the State Theater.


Cavalia: A Magical Encounter Between Human and Horse, an equestrian take on Cirque du Soleil, sets up outside The Shops at West End.


Ani DiFranco returns to the Pantages Theater.


Post Prince

The Family band reunites after 25 years

Paul Peterson walks briskly through the former Flyte Tyme studios in Edina, where Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis once recorded Janet Jackson and other stars. Back in 1983, Jam and Lewis had just been fired from The Time, Prince’s side project, when Peterson was recruited to step in on keyboards. He was 17. “Right place, right time,” Peterson says.

Peterson is now an executive with the Minneapolis Media Institute, the music school presently occupying these studios. “Bean!” he shouts, welcoming bassist Jellybean Johnson into his office. Johnson was with The Time when Peterson joined. The band would appear with Prince in Purple Rain, break up, and reform as The Family. “Prince gathered us in a warehouse and said, ‘I’m gonna start a new band,’” Peterson recalls. “And he pointed at me and said, ‘You’re gonna be the lead singer.’” On Peterson’s computer, Susannah Melvoin appears via Skype. Melvoin, who was engaged to Prince at one time, sang with The Family. “They were like books,” she says of Prince’s many musical outlets, “and he was the author. We were the characters come alive, fulfilling his imagination.”

The Family was a short story, recording one album of Prince’s material, featuring the hit “Nothing Compares 2 U,” and playing one concert before Peterson quit. This month, the band will release its  sophomore record, the funky Gaslight, as fDeluxe. Prince asked them not to use the old name. That’s okay with Peterson. “This time,” he says, “we got to do things our way.” • fDeluxe holds a record release party on September 16 at the Loring Theater.

Free Show!

Mixed Blood Theatre goes gratis

In the upstairs office space of Mixed Blood Theatre, Jack Reuler settles into a donated chair beneath a donated clock. Reuler, who founded Mixed Blood in 1976 and remains its artistic director, smiles quietly, his roguishness tempered by uncertainty. Starting this month, Mixed Blood will be one of only a few professional theaters in the country not charging admission, an initiative Reuler calls “radical hospitality.”

“It was a natural progression,” Reuler says, noting that the theater was founded on egalitarianism. “Let’s walk our talk.”

Mixed Blood, with an annual budget of just over a million dollars, had been receiving only about 15 to 20 percent of its revenue from ticket sales anyway. How the new system will work, though, is Reuler’s present preoccupation. If, as hoped, more people show up at the door, you may not get a seat—unless you’ve gone online and paid a $15 fee. “It’s not a ticket,” Reuler clarifies, “it’s a guaranteed seat.”

A few theaters have grumbled that Reuler is devaluing theater. He gets the fear (if something costs nothing, how do you tell people it has value?), but he isn’t afraid. “If someone gives you a Cadillac,” he says, “I’d say you got a great value!” In any case, he’s willing to go where his values take him: “If the ruination of Mixed Blood happens because of radical hospitality,” he says, “I won’t feel bad.” • Mixed Blood opens its first free season with Neighbors on September 16.

Life vs. Art

A novelist reveals the line between fact and fiction

Mary Rockcastle sits in the coffee shop across from her home in Minneapolis’s Warehouse District, talking about the characters in her new novel, In Caddis Wood: Hallie, a poet, and Carl, an architect. She smiles. Like Hallie, she’s a writer, of course, and her husband is architect Garth Rockcastle, the designer behind Open Book and other acclaimed renovations. “The book is about two educated, talented, ambitious people,” says Mary, who is also the dean of the Graduate School for Liberal Studies at Hamline University, “and how they balance family and career. That’s been the story of my life.”

The book takes place in a western Wisconsin summer home. The Rockcastles also have a cabin in that area. In the novel, however, Carl is obsessed with carving a formal garden out of the woods—to the point that pesticides seem to be sickening him. “It’s human nature to try to control nature,” Mary says, implying that architects exemplify this impulse. “My real husband didn’t care for this angle.”

Garth, however, did advise Mary on the book’s architectural details. And their oldest daughter, Maura, a landscape designer in New York, shared her expertise. “It became a family project,” Mary says.

She unfurls some drawings of imaginary structures, made by Garth and Maura for the book. “In fiction,” Mary says, “you start with the emotional truth of your own life. Then you get creative.” She beams, almost mischievously. “How would things end,” she says, “if I could make it up?” • In Caddis Wood (Graywolf, $15) is released September 13.