Fall Arts Preview

The top 10 all-time, must-see, holy-cow, get-your-butt-down-here arts events for fall. Plus, 21 more shows you won’t want to miss.

TOP PICKS
 

10. Continuous City

October 23 to 25
The Builders Association
WHAT TO EXPECT: Though ostensibly a play about a homebound daughter and a globe-trotting father, this show by the New York–based masters of multimedia is mostly about blowing your analog mind with the possibilities of digital storytelling—a melee of computer animation, electronic music, and film (key scenes will be shot locally).
WHY GO: You can see Rent for the 18th time another day. Glimpse the future of theater now, as commissioned by the Walker Art Center, so you can socialize with your friends from the cultural coasts without embarrassment.
WHERE: Walker Art Center, 1750 Hennepin Ave., Mpls., 612-375-7600

9. Handel’s Ode for Saint Cecilia’s Day

September 5 to 6
The Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra
WHAT TO EXPECT: Rare is the choral work so obviously brilliant that Mozart, with a mix of admiration and ego, made his own arrangement of it. Rarer still are the composers who have tackled harmonia mundi—the romantic notion that musical harmony is a key factor in the design of the universe—with such easygoing grace. Handel’s soaring melodies will please polymaths and the science-challenged alike.
WHY GO: To celebrate the SPCO’s 50th anniversary, retired choral giant Dale Warland returns to the stage to lead a chorale assembled just for the occasion.
WHERE: Ordway Center for the Performing Arts, 345 Washington St., St. Paul, 651-224-4222

8. Jazz is NOW!

October 7
The NOWnet ensemble
WHAT TO EXPECT: It’s been several years since local pianist/composer/jazz impresario Jeremy Walker put a band together. And what a band, an all-star lineup including Anthony Cox, Kelly Rossum, and Kevin Washington—respectively the Twin Cities’ most in-demand bassist, top-shelf trumpeter, and rock-steady percussionist.
WHY GO: Walker literally suffered (he was eventually diagnosed with a rare neurological disorder) to bring us jazz the way it was meant to be heard—as an inclusive all-night jam session—at Brilliant Corners, the all-ages club he launched in St. Paul a while back. This marks his fullest re-emergence since the club’s closure in 2004.
WHERE: Minnesota Opera Center, 620 N. First St., Mpls., 612-333-6669

7. Blackbird

November 6 to 30
Pillsbury House Theatre
WHAT TO EXPECT: Stephen DiMenna directed the fantastically claustrophobic Bug at Pillsbury a couple of years ago (who wasn’t prickly with paranoia and adrenaline after that?). Expect a similar slow burn with his take on the 2007 Laurence Olivier Award winner for best new play. Society dictates that two people wildly disparate in age, played here by Guthrie regulars Tracy Maloney and Stephen Yoakam, shouldn’t be together—but is it abuse or love?
WHY GO: As provocative plays go, this story line, which picks up where Lolita left off, is among the most honest in its ambiguity.
WHERE: Guthrie Theater, 818 S. Second St., Mpls., 612-377-2224

6. A Life in the Theatre

September 19 to October 26
Jungle Theater
WHAT TO EXPECT: Bain Boehlke, the Jungle’s artistic director, reprises his signature role in David Mamet’s acclaimed celebration of acting, which in turn may be seen as a tribute to the Jungle. The older and more statesmanlike Boehlke becomes, the more gravitas he lends to this lively reflection on the passing of the torch from one generation to another.
WHY GO: The Jungle has thrived for 17 years at the intersection of sentiment and incisiveness, and this play by one of the stage’s seminal wordsmiths packs a bit of both—it’s passionate, and not in a Fabio book jacket kind of way.
WHERE: Jungle Theater, 2951 Lyndale Ave. S., Mpls., 612-822-7063

5. Pay Attention: GM08

September 13 to October 26
Soap Factory
WHAT TO EXPECT: A who’s who of the Twin Cities’ best emerging artists has been assembled for this survey of the local scene, an event that coincides with the Soap Factory’s 20th anniversary. Among the 23 artists are Jenny Schmid, whose witty etchings depict hipsters frolicking amid medieval imagery; Kristine Heykants, the photographer of disquieting, 1950s-like scenes; and Abinadi Meza, a video artist and musician known for combining natural and electronic sounds in improvised performances.
WHY GO: The show’s producers made 72 studio visits to whittle 200 recommendations down to the final 23 participating artists, each of whom is creating an original piece for the exhibition.
WHERE: Soap Factory, 518 Second St. SE, Mpls., 612-623-9176
 

4. Vinegar Tom

September 12 to October 5
Frank Theatre
WHAT TO EXPECT: A perfect addition to Frank Theatre’s “rap sheet,” as founder/director Wendy Knox puts it, this provocative Caryl Churchill musical about 17th-century witches meshes well with Knox’s knack for subversion. With such lyrics as “Nobody loves a scold, nobody loves a slut, nobody loves you when you’re old,” it’s Wicked with more wickedness and wicked-good Guthrie regulars.
WHY GO: Frank and the famously feminist Churchill go together like bras and burning— fans still ask Knox when she’ll remount the company’s production of Churchill’s masterpiece, Top Girls, after its brilliant staging a few years ago.
WHERE: Ritz Theater, 345 13th Ave. NE, Mpls., 612-436-1129

3. Twelfth Night

October 2 to November 2
Ten Thousand Things Theater
WHAT TO EXPECT: When you hear that Sally Wingert, Sonja Parks, Barbara Kingsley, Maggie Chestovich, and Isabell Monk O’ Connor will all share the same stage, you do not ask why, what, or how—just when and where.
WHY GO: Perhaps only Ten Thousand Things artistic director Michelle Hensley could convince all these queens of the stage to appear together. Her shows are stripped to their essence, allowing actors and audiences the thrill of filling in these reflections on humanity with their experiences.
WHERE: Open Book, 1011 Washington Ave. S., Mpls., 612-203-9502

 

2. Eero Saarinen: Shaping the Future

September 13 to January 4, 2009
Walker Art Center and Minneapolis Institute of Arts
WHAT TO EXPECT: Minnesota’s two largest art museums divide and conquer this monumental retrospective of the modernist architect’s career, from his iconic Gateway Arch in St. Louis to the TWA Terminal at New York’s JFK Airport to his classic chairs and tables. The MIA covers his early stuff, plus airports and embassies, while the Walker explores the homes, furnishings, and institutional buildings.
WHY GO: If modernist architecture, at its worst, has given us low-rent Legolands of bunker-like boxes, it wasn’t this guy’s fault: An alchemist of steel and glass, Saarinen conjured up sleek, Atomic Age creations.
WHERE: Minneapolis Institute of Arts, 2400 Third Ave. S., Mpls., 612-870-3131; Walker Art Center, 1750 Hennepin Ave., Mpls., 612-375-7600

 

1. Tina Turner

October 9
WHAT TO EXPECT: Butt-shaking, and lots of it.
WHY GO: Boy, could our tundra tucheses use a lesson in getting down. So you should get down on your knees and praise the diva for including us in her first tour in nearly a decade. She may be nearly 70, but her act is still as soulful and sassy as her legs are long.
WHERE: Target Center, 600 First Ave. N., Mpls., 651-989-5151

 

 

MUST-SEE SHOWS
 

Theater

Fences

âž” Through September 21
Penumbra Theater
WHAT TO EXPECT: With this Pulitzer Prize–winning look at an African-American baseball star circa 1957—just after Jackie Robinson integrated the game—the playwright August Wilson hit a metaphorical home run, showing the field of dreams (standing in for the American dream) as holding a very different meaning for black Americans at the dawn of the civil rights movement.
WHY GO: Troy Maxon, the play’s lead character, is Wilson’s Willy Loman—an icon of American theater and similarly consumed by bitterness. If you are born a black man in America, he states, you’re “born with two strikes on you before you come to the plate.”
WHERE: Penumbra Theater, 270 N. Kent St., St. Paul, 651-224-3180
 

A View from the Bridge

âž” September 13 to November 9
Guthrie Theater
WHAT TO EXPECT: Eddie Carbone works as a longshoreman in Brooklyn, where he and his wife share their home with an orphan girl, who is like a daughter to the couple—until she becomes close to an illegal Italian immigrant, and Eddie’s protective affection for her turns violent. A modern drama drawing from ancient tragedies, the play is Arthur Miller’s allegory of the divisions that McCarthyism created between Americans.
WHY GO: Miller was at his best staging the trials of working-class families, and the Guthrie is adept at staging Miller, having produced five of his plays—including one premiere—during Joe Dowling’s tenure.
WHERE: Guthrie Theater, 818 S. Second St., Mpls., 612-377-2224

Tyrone & Ralph

âž” September 25 to November 2
History Theatre
WHAT TO EXPECT: Tyrone Guthrie and architect Ralph Rapson simultaneously admired and repelled each other, their egos scarcely contained in the original Guthrie Theater they built together. Yet in the end, they created a landmark heralding the transformation of American theater. The nationally acclaimed playwright Jeffrey Hatcher imagines their creative collision.
WHY GO: Rapson called Guthrie “an exciting, invigorating, dynamic, arrogant, obnoxious bastard.” With any luck, the play will be equally fascinating.
WHERE: History Theatre, 30 E. 10th St., St. Paul, 651-292-4323

Bright Lights, Big City

âž” October 10 to October 26
Minneapolis Musical Theatre
WHAT TO EXPECT: Jay McInerney’s best-selling novel, based on a young New York writer’s search for self amid his life’s sudden downward spiral, asked the question of the 1980s: Is society shallow? Today, just asking the question seems shallow, or at least naïve, which is why this 1999 rock-musical take on the story may be the version that ages best, the dry ice and guitar solos ensuring the melodrama isn’t taken too seriously.
WHY GO: The original stage version owed much to Rent—the musicals shared designers, directors, and even actors. And, like Rent, this show’s music manages to appeal to many different audiences.
WHERE: Illusion Theater, Hennepin Center for the Arts, 528 Hennepin Ave., Suite 704, Mpls., 612-339-4944

Defiance

âž” October 17 to November 9
Park Square Theatre
WHAT TO EXPECT: In this second play of a trilogy on power, identity, and race in America, two Marines—one black, one white—on a Southern base in 1971 grapple with military discrimination and each other in unexpected ways, the black soldier becoming a pawn in his own fight for equality. In this area premiere, the nature of defiance as a key element in the struggle for power is explored with nuance and complexity.
WHY GO: The playwright, John Patrick Shanley, is already packing a Pulitzer and a Tony for the first play of the trilogy, Doubt, and a best-screenplay Oscar for the film Moonstruck.
WHERE: Park Square Theatre, 20 W. Seventh Pl., St. Paul, 651-291-7005

Animal Farm

âž” October 31 to November 16
Jon Ferguson Theater
WHAT TO EXPECT: Jon Ferguson, a British native, announced himself to Twin Cities theater audiences by directing Live Action Set in the gracefully comic hit Please Don’t Blow Up Mr. Boban at the 2005 Minnesota Fringe Festival. His gift for tight-rope-walking the line between experimental and accessible continues with this playful, physical take on the George Orwell classic.
WHY GO: Ferguson is an exceptional talent picking up where the now defunct Theatre de la Jeune Lune left off.
WHERE: Southern Theater, 1420 Washington Ave. S., Mpls., 612-340-1725

 

MUSIC

Plastic People of the Universe

âž” September 10
WHAT TO EXPECT: Taking their name from a Frank Zappa tune (“Plastic People”), this legendary Czech band formed in 1968 and became instigators of their homeland’s resistance to Communism. A psychedelic-jazz Velvet Underground, they’re still rocking in the free world, their freak-flag intact.
WHY GO: Much as they’d like to, few bands can claim they helped spur a revolution. These guys can, which is why they’re among Vaclav Havel’s favorite groups.
WHERE: Cedar Cultural Center, 416 Cedar Ave. SE, Mpls., 612-338-2674

VocalEssence’s 40th Birthday Party

âž” September 14
VocalEssence
WHAT TO EXPECT: Philip Brunelle, leader of the choir now known as VocalEssence for 40 years, has always had chutzpah. He was in his twenties when he founded the group and soon asked Aaron Copland if he’d guest conduct the choir. Copland did, impressed by the same thing that Garrison Keillor, singers Maria Jette and Vern Sutton, and dancer James Sewell will celebrate at this party: Brunelle’s enthusiasm, which has helped him usher more contemporary choral music into the canon than anyone else.
WHY GO: VocalEssence has essentially been A Prairie Home Companion’s house choir for decades, making this event hosted by Keillor a PHC performance without the sketches.
WHERE: Orchestra Hall, 1111 Nicollet Mall, Mpls., 612-371-5656

Il trovatore

âž” September 20 to 28
Minnesota Opera
WHAT TO EXPECT: If you count on opera to take you so over the top vocally and plot-wise that you wind up in a sort of musical Geraldo, this show is for you. Verdi’s revenge-filled masterpiece features gypsies, burnings at the stake, and, of course, anvils.
WHY GO: It’s been 14 years since Twin Citians were favored with a round of the Anvil Chorus. Go and your ears will be ringing with delight for another 14.
WHERE: Ordway Center for the Performing Arts, 345 Washington St., St. Paul, 612-333-6669

The Music of Queen

âž” October 17 to 18
Minnesota Orchestra with Rajaton
WHAT TO EXPECT: The Minnesota Orchestra’s ABBA tribute a few years back afforded a glimpse into artistic director Osmo Vänskä’s record collection, and this offers another, even more unexpected insight. Add the fact that this evening of good-natured British bombast is conducted by a fellow Finn and features the vocals of Finnish a cappella stars Rajaton and you have a six degrees of Osmo show that only makes us love him more.
WHY GO: You’re already singing “We Are the Champions” every time you win at poker or finish all your dinner; here’s your chance to sing along to better accompaniment than your air guitar.
WHERE: Orchestra Hall, 1111 Nicollet Mall, Mpls., 612-371-5656

Ola Onabule

âž” October 23 to 25
Dakota Jazz Club & Restaurant
WHAT TO EXPECT: Born in London, raised in Nigeria, and desired, well, everywhere, Ola Onabule has been seducing jazz lovers for more than a decade with his deep, sultry voice and fusion of African, jazz, and funk rhythms. He worked with legends Gladys Knight, Patti Labelle, and Natalie Cole on his latest album, which he’ll showcase during this three-night stint at the Dakota, a length reserved for only the top performers.
WHY GO: In the spirit of Onabule’s latest disc, The Devoured Man, come early for the Dakota’s delicious dinner offerings, among the finest spreads of any jazz club in the country.
WHERE: Dakota Jazz Club & Restaurant, 1010 Nicollet Mall, Mpls., 612-332-1010

 

 

Visual Arts

2008 American Pottery Festival

âž” September 5 to 7
Northern Clay Center
WHAT TO EXPECT: The Northern Clay Center is a Midwestern mecca for ceramists, and its annual fundraiser pulls out all the stops, er, pots. View the private collections of some 24 national and regional ceramists, and the work of numerous up-and-coming artists from around the country. Each day is also a giant sale.
WHY GO: Warren MacKenzie, a Minnesota arts institution, will showcase some of the functional Japanese and Korean folk pottery he’s been making for more than 60 years.
WHERE: Northern Clay Center, 2424 Franklin Ave. E., Mpls., 612-339-8007

Vatican Splendors

âž” September 27 to January 10
Minnesota History Center
WHAT TO EXPECT: As Mel Brooks noted, it’s good to be the king. But historically it’s also been good to be the pope. In this 200-object exhibit on loan from the Vatican Museums, the popes’ kingly accoutrements are on display: artful, historical pieces related to the Holy See, from papal garments and jewelry to guards’ swords and armor to gifts from Napoleon and the Dalai Lama.
WHY GO: You could fly across the world and wait forever to see this collection at the actual Vatican—or visit, of all places, the Minnesota History Center.
WHERE: Minnesota History Center, 345 Kellogg Blvd., St. Paul, 651-259-3000

Brian Mark

âž” October 3 to November 15
Rogue Buddha
WHAT TO EXPECT: You wouldn’t expect that pouring acid on steel would result in anything nearly as gentle as Mark’s images of nudes, boxers, and saintly figures. Yet there’s a reason many of the local artist’s commissions are for churches and memorials—and that he lists several jobs at granite companies under “related experience” on his resumé: The work has a sculptural grace and permanence.
WHY GO: Rogue Buddha gallery remains the place, outside artists’ cooperatives, to see the work of edgy local artists.
WHERE: Rogue Buddha, 357 13th Ave. NE, Mpls., 612-331-3889

India: Public Places, Private Spaces

âž” October 26 to January 18
Minneapolis Institute of Arts
WHAT TO EXPECT: From caste conflict to Bollywood blockbusters, this exhibition of contemporary photography and video art from the world’s largest democracy traces a billion people amid economic and cultural upheaval.
WHY GO: The exhibition heralds the emerging Indian modern art scene (among the featured artists is Shilpa Gupta, dubbed the “Damien Hirst of India”) as well as the MIA’s new openness to contemporary shows.
WHERE: Minneapolis Institute of Arts, 2400 Third Ave. S., Mpls., 612-870-3131

Dear President _______:

âž” October 31 to November 11
Minneapolis College of Art and Design Gallery
WHAT TO EXPECT: Ever written an impassioned letter, only to hold off on sending it? In this artistic free-for-all, every MCAD undergrad is required to do much the same, addressing the future president directly in their paintings, photographs, and illustrations—only without even knowing who the recipient will be. At the end of the exhibition (just after the election), if participants so desire, each bitter/giddy/disgusted image will be mailed to the White House.
WHY GO: Think of it as the infamous PostSecret blog, featuring anonymous true confessions—only artsier.
WHERE: MCAD Gallery, 2501 Stevens Ave., Mpls., 612-874-3700
 

Dance

Born to Be Alive

âž” October 22 to November 2
Ballet of the Dolls
WHAT TO EXPECT: Choreographer Myron Johnson has incorporated more serious themes in the Dolls’ shows in recent years, but he still has a gift for delightfully campy deconstructions—Saturday Night Fever, in this case, with the dancers depicting what everyone else on the dance floor besides Tony Manero was up to. Lonely or carefree, they’re all bumping hips for reasons of their own.
WHY GO: As an added twist, the show is set in the late, lamented Sutton’s, an infamous Minneapolis gay bar (the coat-check sign read: “Well-hung coats”) whose unmarked doors hid numerous secrets and stories.
WHERE: Ritz Theater, 345 13th Ave. N., Mpls., 612-436-1129

Dancing People

âž” October 23 to 26
James Sewell Ballet
WHAT TO EXPECT: Sewell’s contemporary ballet troupe wriggles confidently into its 16th season, opening with equal parts new and re-staged work. For Dancing People, one of two premieres, Sewell has choreographed solo excursions for Penelope Freeh, Justin Leaf, and every other member of his company—pliés and balances featuring Sewell’s wry inventiveness while playing to each dancer’s strengths.
WHY GO: Dance lovers count their blessings that Sewell, who moved here after a blossoming career start in New York, remains in the Twin Cities, nurturing the close-knit dance community he helped create with wife and troupe cofounder Sally Rousse.
WHERE: O’Shaughnessy Auditorium, 2004 Randolph Ave., St. Paul, 651-690-6700

Pipaashaa: Extreme Thirst

âž” November 6 to 7
Ananya Dance Theatre
WHAT TO EXPECT: Exploring the possibilities of art as advocacy, Ananya Dance Theatre last year launched a three-part series of works examining the impact of environmental damage on the world’s poor, particularly women of color. This revival of the first and most popular installment shows them surviving amid a depleted landscape, scavenging for a living while attempting to maintain their dignity and even femininity.
WHY GO: The original performances of this work sold out quickly, and this summer’s second installment in the series (Daak) also drew crowds, demonstrating the troupe’s reputation for earnest yet riveting drama.
WHERE: O’Shaughnessy Auditorium, 2004 Randolph Ave., St. Paul, 651-690-6700

Carmina Burana

âž” November 8
Royal Winnipeg Ballet
WHAT TO EXPECT: Who knew our windswept northern neighbor harbored a world-class dance troupe? Not many Twin Citians, as the Royal Winnipeg Ballet hasn’t performed at Northrop in more than two decades. Yet they’re not only Canada’s premier ballet company but the longest-running ballet company in North America, their regal status conferred by Queen Elizabeth II herself. The troupe takes a classical approach to Carl Orff’s poetic Carmina Burana, tirelessly teetering between despair and joy.
WHY GO: You may not recognize the name, but you’ll likely recognize the tune: “O Fortuna,” a cantata within the ballet’s score, is among the most-sampled musical pieces—of all time.
WHERE: Northrop Auditorium, University of Minnesota, 84 Church St. SE, Mpls., 612-625-6600

TU Dance

âž” November 21 to 23
O’Shaughnessy Auditorium
WHAT TO EXPECT: Though TU Dance is only a few years old, choreographer Uri Sands already has given the troupe enough memorable pieces to sprinkle them among his new creations at this season opener. His Veneers, a forceful, almost violent deconstruction of our hubris, and The 6 Beginnings, a buoyant sort of über-Twister, are instant classics.
WHY GO: Sands is refreshing for many reasons—he’s an African-American Floridian who loves ice-fishing, for God’s sake—but it’s his winning desire to lighten the opacity of modern dance with pure physical exuberance (and the occasional Rare Earth funk tune) that even non-dance fans will find engaging.
WHERE: O’Shaughnessy Auditorium, 2004 Randolph Ave., St. Paul, 651-690-6700
 

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