December Arts and Entertainment Picks

December 2016’s top cultural events in the Twin Cities


In My Heart: The Adoption Play ProjectIn My Heart: The Adoption Play Project

Wonderlust Productions’ new community-driven show tells the story of adoption and how it impacts families’ identities, sense of security, guilt, and deep issues of responsibility—offering up a galaxy of real-life voices and perspectives. With a cast of more than 30 people (most of whom are members of the adoption community), the scenario of an engagement party leads to an epic journey of story, music (there’s a live band), and dance put together by some of the leading lights in Twin Cities theater. The goal is to shine light on matters that are often left unexplored and unspoken even in families shaped by adoption, with Mixed Blood Theater the home to an evening of humor, deep contemplation, and catharsis. 

mark van cleave12/8–23

The Longest Night

Even though this creation by local stage powerhouse Bradley Greenwald has returned during December since 2013, it isn’t quite a holiday show in the traditional sense. The Longest Night is just like it sounds—a celebration of the winter solstice, an evocation of the soul and spirit of the winter darkness through music and poems. By parts meditative and infused with bittersweet joy, Greenwald moves through the work of Leonard Cohen, Rodgers and Hart, Bach, Sting, Margaret Atwood, and Ogden Nash to raise the ghosts of holidays past, friends and loved ones, and the humor beneath a time of year that somehow encompasses all of our deepest emotions and most poignant memories. It’s a work I find delicate, luminous, and full of beauty that’s impossible to forget. (Photo by Mark van Cleave)

William Morris Endeavor, LLC12/17

Smokey Robinson

While our state still mourns our own poet of the mystic continuum of love and lust, one of his artistic and spiritual forebears is still in excellent voice at age 76. There’s always been something otherworldly about Robinson’s singing—encapsulating innocence and experience in a single phrase, the thump of passion with wistful romance blending with the deliciousness of the best of life. And don’t forget what a force he’s been: one of the great songwriters, a producer—a visionary with hits from “Tracks of My Tears” to “Cruisin’” and recent forays into the American songbook. And, to paraphrase Bob Dylan, I hope I look as good as Smokey if I get to be that old. (Photo by William Morris Endeavor, LLC)

The Jayhawks

Though the list of ex-members on the Jayhawks Wikipedia page outnumbers the current line-up by more than two to one, this version of the band has always been my favorite—the crew that recorded the 2000 exploration, Smile. Their latest, Paging Mr. Proust, alternated between meticulously crafted should-be-hits and more experimental numbers suggesting there’s an upside to being around long enough to really loosen up. It felt like a career high and a statement for Gary Louris and band mates who have been playing together for more than 30 years. Maybe they haven’t gotten full credit as a Minnesota treasure—that’s the kind of question that never gets definitely answered. It suffices that they’re one of the best live bands I’ve ever seen, and I want to enjoy one of the last nights of 2016 in their company in a spirit of optimism and endurance. (Photo by

courtesy mystery cafeThrough 2/14/17

Mystery Café

It’s a unique experience, enjoying dinner and drinks on a winter’s night while a manic, joke-a-minute murder mystery unfolds all around—and in my experience, it’s also a pleasingly acerbic interlude amid Yuletide overdose. The Mystery Café has been in operation since 1989, offering up witty crowd-pleaser whodunits performed by some of the best comedic theater talent in town. This year the company is staging three shows in two locations: the perennial work-party classic Let’s Kill the Boss, from-the-vaults gangland riff Mobsters, Inc., and the new X-Files sendup The eX-FEDS. The through-line is nimble humor and ace performances, and you’re invited to solve the mystery at the end—something I inevitably fail to do. (Photo Courtesy of Mystery Cafe)

Quinton Skinner is a writer and editor based in the Twin Cities. A former senior editor of Minnesota Monthly, he held the same post at Twin Cities METRO and 
has written for major national and local publications. He is the co-founder of Logosphere Storysmiths and author of several novels, including his latest, Odd One Out.