Photo by Peter Boettcher
They were always pioneers, with the early electronic 1970s heights of The Man-Machine and “Autobahn” melding the technological and the human in ways that blurred the lines between the two and offered odd, gnomic commentaries on the times. Their current “3-D Concert” features the latest line-up of the enigmatic band playing their decades-old masterworks with projections to make for an immersive and evocative experience.
Northrop, October 7
photo by pedro usabiga
The Inuit vocal tradition known as throat singing started as a kind of endurance contest between two women, typically in a fishing village. Canadian Tanya Tagaq has forged her own distinct solo style of the form, over the last decade collaborating with such experimentalists as Björk and the Kronos Quartet (while also developing a side résumé as an accomplished visual artist). For this appearance at the Walker, she performs along with a screening of the 1922 silent film Nanook of the North, a work full of ethnic stereotypes of Canadian Inuit life—in effect absorbing and reclaiming images that have constricted views of the indigenous people of the Arctic for nearly a century since. Tagaq, performing with a percussionist and violinist, melds improvisation, tradition, and her own vision into a mix that propels her art into territory previously unexplored.
Walker Art Center, 11/19
Brandon Jacob-Jenkins’s new play (first staged in New York less than two years ago) is ostensibly an adaptation of a 19th-century romantic drama about forbidden interracial love in the slavery-era South, but its twists and mind-bending turns reflect the impossibly complicated facets of race in America in the century-plus since. The actual play was called The Octoroon, by a forgotten playwright who actually shows up in Jacob-Jenkins’s satire to bemoan his own obscurity—one of many meta-commentaries in a work that examines and explodes stereotypes and expectations (including its own). It’s not an easy work, which is why Mixed Blood Theatre is such an appropriate home for this local premiere (last season’s Colossal and Hir were both discomfiting, compelling, unforgettable) of a play that The New York Times speculated “may just turn out to be this decade’s most eloquent theatrical statement on race in America today.” There’s a shift in the psychic landscape in our country, with old structures falling apart and the shapes of the new ones difficult to discern. It’s art that promises to aid in formulating the terms of what we’ll understand and how we’ll look at the change.
Mixed Blood Theatre, 10/16-11/15
photo by nathan johnson
Beautiful: The Carole King Musical
This one might fall into the category of the jukebox musical, but what a jukebox it is. With the real-life personal and professional journey and travails of a titan songwriter and performer as its springboard, Beautiful delivers some of the remarkable songs Carole King penned or wrote in collaboration: “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman,” “Will You Love Me Tomorrow,” “It’s Too Late,” and “You’ve Got a Friend.” Against the backdrop of a tumultuous first marriage, it’s a story of an outrageously gifted woman swimming upstream in a business renowned for chewing up artists and spitting them out—although in her case, writing more than 100 hits has ensured a heady brand of permanence.
Orpheum Theatre, 11/18-29
It’s an awful sensation, wishing this show wasn’t so relevant. The Scottish playwright David Greig created The Events, which premiered earlier this year in New York and makes its way to the Guthrie in a touring production. It’s inspired in part by the 2011 mass shooting in Norway by a murderer consumed with ideas of race and tribe—of course relevant in the most terrible sense after the recent killings in Charleston, South Carolina. Here a two-person cast examines and unpacks the fictionalized events and their aftermath, searching for meaning, understanding, and whether there’s any shot at transcendence. As throughout its run elsewhere, each night the actors will be accompanied by a different community choir evoking both the sound of the celestial spirit as well as elements of a Greek chorus commenting with the soul and mind of the community.
Guthrie Theater, 9/30-11/1
photo courtesy of xcel energy center
What a journey: Adopting and shedding personae with the ease and uncanny ability of some mythic shape-changer, Madonna has essentially had her way with pop culture for more than 30 years. And her astonishing endurance means she’s outlasted the facile, how-long-can-she-keep-it up speculation with the provocative answer: as long as she damn well pleases. I’ll perhaps set a trend by getting through this without mentioning her age (older than Nicki Minaj, younger than Mick Jagger) and instead point out that, with her latest collection of tunes, Rebel Heart, she’s emerged as that rare kind of artist whose work is now seen as a long-arc decades-spanning trajectory. This time out, she’s surveying a post-divorce landscape and pointing out “Bitch I’m Madonna” (with Minaj on board as backup), as perverse and defiantly smart as ever. There are few who can smash through the line between authenticity and self-aware pose with such aplomb, and fewer still who can show up in town with a quiver as full of catchiness, raunch, and sheer fun.
Xcel Energy Center, 10/8