2009 Fall Arts Preview

The 25 all-star, holy-cow, say-goodnight-Gracie, now-I-can-die shows everyone will be talking about this season

Can’t-Miss Moments

1. The Guthrie Theater’s artistic director, Joe Dowling, has never acted on his own stage—or anywhere else in some time. But he’ll take to the McGuire Proscenium Stage starting October 17 in Faith Healer, an early success for his friend Brian Friel (Dancing at Lughnasa). If he steals the show from Sally Wingert and Raye Birk, he should reconsider his day job. guthrietheater.org

2. It figures that Steven Epp and Dominique Serrand weren’t about to let a little thing like the collapse of their Theatre de la Jeune Lune keep them apart—they’re debuting a new work October 22 to 25 at the Southern Theater. southerntheater.org

3. Last year, Joel and Ethan Coen filmed A Serious Man in the Twin Cities; now they’re returning for a talk introducing a complete retrospective of their films at the Walker Art Center. It gets underway September 18. walkerart.org

4. Over the years, we’ve seen Bradley Greenwald as the devil, as the Grinch, as the Man of La Mancha. But casting the rubber-faced, smooth-voiced actor as Bert in the Children’s Theatre Company’s Bert & Ernie, Goodnight!, opening September 8, is sheer genius. childrenstheatre.org

The Legends

5. Ralph Stanley and his Clinch Mountain Boys have made the most of their O Brother, Where Art Thou? moment (while still sounding like they descended from the Appalachians just yesterday), and the septuagenarian Stanley is certain to reprise O Death from the film in an intimate September 11 gig at the Cedar Cultural Center. thecedar.org

6. Celebrated soprano Dawn Upshaw continues her partnership with the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra by performing, among other works, a premiere from Spanish composer Alberto Iglesias, known for scoring such Pedro Almodovar movies as Talk to Her and Volver. thespco.org

7. Herb Alpert is among the luckiest people alive: He’s the handsome leader of the Tijuana Brass; he’s the co-founder of A&M Records; heck, he once got a woman to pose in nothing but whipped cream for an album cover. Now he sculpts and paints and, every so often, performs, as he will at the Dakota Jazz Club & Restaurant on November 10 and 11. dakotacooks.com

8. Bob Mould has lately re-emerged as a wizened, bespectacled graybeard, but anything is possible when the Hüsker Dü frontman returns to his punk-rock stamping grounds at First Avenue on October 13. first-avenue.com

9. There are supergroups and then there are these guys: Chick Corea, Stanley Clarke, and Lenny White, the founders of fusion and, one day, we’re pretty sure, the rhythm section of the house band in heaven. See them together, September 7 and 8, at the Dakota Jazz Club & Restaurant. dakotacooks.com

Great Dates

10. The Minnesota Opera recently has had success marketing the sensualism of the overheated opera canon. For The Pearl Fishers, a love-triangle story conceived by Georges Bizet (Carmen), they’re packing the stage with beautiful bodies as well as music: Jesus Garcia, who won a Tony for his role in Baz Luhrman’s Bohème on Broadway, stars as a sexy suitor; and the dancers of Zenon, scantily clad by British fashion icon Zandra Rhodes, back up the canoodling. mnopera.org

11. Tchaikovsky’s overplayed version may be more Romantic. But Prokofiev’s modern musical setting of Romeo and Juliet, slated for performance by the Minnesota Orchestra on October 29 and 30, arguably cuts deeper and wider, using everything from mandolins to a saxophone to evoke the teenage obsessions behind the tragedy. mnorch.org

12. If you and your love can’t get to Paris together, you can still hit The Louvre and the Masterpiece, a traveling exhibition of paintings, sculpture, drawings, and décor pulled from the world’s most famous museum, opening October 18 at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts. artsmia.org

13. Dominick Argento, the Pulitzer Prize–winning composer and Minneapolis resident, dedicated Evensong: Of Love and Angels to his late wife and believed it would be his swan song. Though it proved otherwise, this masterwork for chorus and orchestra, performed September 25 by VocalEssence at Central Lutheran Church in Minneapolis, remains intensely heartfelt. vocalessence.org


Ones to Watch

14. Guthrie veteran Randy Reyes is suddenly everywhere—and doing everything—including a star turn in The Romance of Magno Rubio with Mu Performing Arts (September 4 to 20) and directing King of Shadows, about runaway teens, at Pillsbury House Theater (October 2 to November 1). muperformingarts.org, pillsburyhousetheater.org

15. Steven Copes, the concertmaster of the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, has fans who phone the SPCO to check on him if he misses a concert. Now he’s giving them more to love, having created his own chamber ensemble, Accordo, which opens its season at the Southern Theater on September 20 and 22. southerntheater.org

16. Bethany Ford, a veteran of Shakespeare companies, has formed Prufrock Theatre and will star in its first production, Landscape of the Body, John Guare’s part-musical/part-drama about the American Dream. Leah Cooper, who formerly headed the Minnesota Fringe Festival, will direct the play at the Minneapolis Theatre Garage from November 6 to 21. prufrocktheatre.org

17. The Bakken Trio is among the first prominent ensembles slated to take advantage of the gorgeous new concert hall in the MacPhail Center for Music, opening its season there October 18 with a rare theatrical version of Stravinsky’s masterpiece A Soldier’s Tale. Theatre de la Jeune Lune veterans Steven Epp and Nathan Keepers will reunite to enact the drama (an even rarer sight now that Keepers is often out of town). bakkentrio.org

The Classics

18. If you see just one Shakespeare production this year, it should probably be Ten Thousand Things’s Othello, starring Ansa Akyea (who turned Penumbra Theatre’s The Piano Lesson into a tour-de-force) and the sublimely comic Luverne Seifert, among others. Opening October 23 at Open Book in Minneapolis, it’s co-directed by Michelle Hensley and the gifted actress Sonja Parks, herself a veteran of many striking TTT productions. tenthousandthings.org

19. Radio Golf opens at Penumbra Theatre on October 1, continuing the theater’s journey through August Wilson’s monumental play cycle about 20th-century African-American life. What’s more, it stars James Craven, a veteran of many of the cycle’s plays, most recently Fences and Gem of the Ocean at the Guthrie. penumbratheatre.org

20. The Martha Graham Dance Company performs the iconic contemporary choreographer’s only full-evening work, Clytemnestra, on November 12 at Northrop Auditorium, showcasing the cinematic techniques—flashback, simultaneous narration, etc.—that Graham introduced to dance. northrop.umn.edu

21. Dan Graham: Beyond, opening at the Walker Art Center on October 31, is the first North American retrospective of the seminal conceptual artist, known for his arrestingly odd pavilions of steel and glass (one sits in the Walker’s sculpture garden), as well as his influence on such punk bands as Sonic Youth. walkerart.org

Guilty Pleasures

22. You don’t expect a play called She: Immortal Witch-Queen of a Lost World, about three Englishmen who discover an African society run by an irresistible woman with supernatural powers, to be very deep. But in the clever hands of Hardcover Theater, this adaptation of the popular Victorian novel, opening November 7 at the Bryant-Lake Bowl Theater, probes the provocative cultural questions behind the sensationalism
—without spoiling the fun. hardcovertheater.org

23. Strippers, adultery, and murderous ex-boyfriends—what else would you expect (or want) from a show called The Great American Trailer Park Musical, produced by Minneapolis Musical Theatre and opening November 6 at the Illusion Theater? aboutmmt.org

24. A year after breaking box-office records at the Guthrie Theater, Little House on the Prairie opens October 13 at the Ordway Center for Performing Arts. ordway.org

25. Perhaps the only two things you need to know about 101 Dalmations: The Musical, opening October 13 at the Orpheum Theatre, is that it features live canine actors and was co-created by Dennis DeYoung—the former lead singer of prog-rockers Styx. hennepintheatretrust.org

Tim Gihring is the senior writer and arts editor for Minnesota Monthly.