The Top 5
British Arrows Awards
photo by British Arrows 2017
British Arrows Awards 12/1–30
Why, for more than 30 years, has the annual lineup for best British TV commercials screened at the Walker Art Center In Minneapolis? Don’t we get enough of our own ads? This tradition began in the mid-’80s, when the Walker was fascinated with advertising and design. Commercials deceive us, yes, but they also parrot the cultural phrases du jour, distilling status-quo anxieties into 100-second fantasies. Plus: You haven’t seen these ads yet, and they’re longer, about the length of a short film. The Walker doesn’t actually want you to hop British airlines to shop at Sainsbury’s. Instead, think of the thrill we take in judging Super Bowl commercials. Tickets sell out to watch these funny, cheesy, soulful shorts. Do our stunted attention spans drive the appeal? Maybe it’s more that brevity brings out the best in narrative film.
Freewheel Winterbike Expo 12/2, 3
Initially dismissed as a trend, fat bikes triggered too much hype (and hatred) to go passé. You can thank Minnesota for that. In 2005, Bloomington-based Surly Bikes (unrelated to the beer) first mass-produced these bulbous-wheeled rides, their grace over snow—thanks to low-pressure tires—earning widespread enthusiasm. Now, the Superfat Crit evening race takes place at this expo for all things winter biking, on the Minneapolis Greenway, alongside the Midwest’s biggest fat-bike producers. The event asks acolytes to kit out their bikes with lights, bring shareable snacks, and, crucially for any trend-cresting sport: “Don’t be too much of a jerk.”
photo by Galen Higgins
Performer Aamera Siddiqui has had to “code switch”—tap into and out of various cultural parlances—a lot over the years, living in Tanzania, Zambia, India, North Yemen, and Minnesota. Her show at Minneapolis’ Southern Theater explores the roles her clothes have played—including what she was wearing when she stepped off the plane into the U.S. as a kid; what she was wearing when someone first yelled at her to go back to her home country; what she was wearing when she took her U.S. citizenship test (spoiler alert: soccer mom apparel with pearls); and what she was wearing when Trump’s first travel ban went into effect. Inspired by France banning burqas the same week a U.S. school penalized a female student for wearing short shorts, the show asks: What do you do when your clothes become political?
Chill 12/9, 16
In the early ’90s, Erinn Liebhard was the little girl from Prior Lake dancing with the adults at the bar while her dad played in the rock band onstage. Today, she’s the choreographer behind a new holiday show returning jazz dance to its communal place of origin. Liebhard, among a handful of dancers, will improvise vernacular moves to the lilting music of Charlie Brown’s Christmas at St. Paul’s Amsterdam Bar & Hall, drawing from the classic scene of the Peanuts kids getting jiggy in endearingly weird ways. (She says she’s the character dressed in purple, tossing her hair side to side.) The soundtrack has inspired ballet but never social dance, better fitting the music’s surf-jazz feel—why the show’s titled Chill, along with the wintry air and, of course, you, nursing a beer.
Louie Anderson Live For New Year’s 12/31
Other than his St. Paul upbringing, what makes stand-up comic Louie Anderson quintessentially Midwestern? In the ’80s heyday of observational humor, he put an affable face (albeit one with flashes of Peter Lorre) on the comedy of the annoyed. Maybe it’s his cuss-free approach—but that was Seinfeld, too, and Anderson’s considering adding to his vocabulary. It could be his voice—hollow ‘o’s—or how his stern father and kooky mother figure into his sets. The latter inspired Anderson’s Emmy-winning turn last year as a doting, self-possessed, tic-ridden matriarch in FX show Baskets, where he cuts through drag kitsch by conveying an empathetic depth redolent of Midwestern motherhood. Celebrate the new year at the Ames Center in Burnsville with a comedian catching his second wind in pop culture.
More This Month
St. Paul Ice Fishing and Winter Sports Show, 12/1–3
You’re forgiven for not wanting to spend hours sitting by the hole you drilled in the ice, waiting for a fish to bite. The largest ice-fishing show in the country takes over the St. Paul Rivercentre with more than 190 exhibits showcasing underwater cameras, digital fish finders, fast-drilling augers, and other ways to make it more exciting.
Brain Candy Live
photo by matt christine photography
Brain Candy Live, 12/3
Presiding over curious-science demonstrations at Minneapolis’ Orpheum Theatre, MythBusters alum Adam Savage and “edu-tainment” YouTuber Michael Stevens are less like the stately-yet-goofy Bill Nye and more like first-year science teachers getting a little too peppy with a carbon-dioxide fog machine, a phalanx of hair dryers all going at once, and other demonstrations of the curious yet commonplace.
The Overcoat: A Musical For Non-Musical People, 12/4, 5
Through a new series at the Playwrights’ Center in Minneapolis, local writers get to stage original works. This month’s installment reimagines the seminal short story “The Overcoat”—about the lengths to which a financially strained protagonist goes to ward off winter—as a musical. Conceived with Sondheimian generosity for “untrained voices,” it takes a tuneful approach to a no-frills story often said to have inspired Russian novelist Fyodor Dostoyevsky.
Godot Has Come
photo courtesy of the granary theatre
Godot Has Come, 12/5, 6
The title of Samuel Beckett’s play Waiting for Godot promises one of two outcomes: Godot shows, or he doesn’t. By now, it’s the one thing everyone can understand about the oblique modernist work: He doesn’t. Pondering the other outcome, Japanese playwright Betsuyaku Minoru took the next step, penning a “sequel” in 2007. Now, a Japanese theater company brings Godot Has Come to Minneapolis’ Rarig Center on its first American tour.
Lizz Winstead: The Greatest Sh*T Show On Earth, 12/31
Native Minnesotan and Daily Show co-founder Lizz Winstead runs through another year-in-review, just before it’s snuffed out, at Minneapolis’ Cedar Cultural Center—this time mulling over the apocalypse, a prospect somehow more pressing in 2017 than in 2012 (although maybe the Maya calendar had a five-year margin of error). Winstead has described her home state as a hub for political engagement, so her annual return is a warm one—playing, as it does, to the liberal metro.
Winterskate, Through 2/4
Letters to Santa must have flooded St. Paul’s Landmark Center in the early 20th century, since it originally operated as the Upper Midwest’s Federal Court House and Post Office. Today, it’s a historic holding place—and the snow-globe centerpiece to the Capitol’s yearly WinterSkate, when the artificially chilled rink opens, free, to figure eights, pivots, and triple Salchows.