Fall Arts Preview

The 40 most-anticipated, must-see, what-are-you-waiting-for, drop-everything shows of the season.

See more in “Artists We Love.”


The revolution sounds like this

It’s true that the music business is not what it once was—it’s better. This is true even though the most popular acts are selling only a fraction of what the biggest stars used to sell. This is true even though the biggest star today is Justin Bieber. Why is it better? Because most musicians aren’t ever going to be Bieber-big, and now they can focus on what matters: the music. Minnesota musicians are collaborating more, out of necessity and curiosity, giving us acts like A.Wolf & Her Claws, a new pop/electronica/vocal ensemble headed by Aby Wolf. The boundaries of genres are blurring, even in classical music, where a 30-year push for contemporary orchestration is finally taking hold. Witness the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra’s fall collaboration with wunderkind indie composer Nico Muhly. Or the Minnesota Orchestra’s fall concert with Ben Folds. This is a year of pushing forward: of all the composers featured in the Minnesota Orchestra’s fall season, only two never lived to see the 20th century. That’s brave. That’s bold. That’s for the best.

7 Top Picks

9.9 The Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, joined by Cantus, opens its season with a world premiere oratorio by the young, genre-bending composer Nico Muhly. thespco.org

9.20 The free Global Roots Festival features top acts from around the world at the Cedar Cultural Center. thecedar.org

9.29 Andra Suchy, newly signed to Red House Records, brings her twangy folk-pop sound to the Aster Café. andrasuchy.com

10.2 The Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, led by Wynton Marsalis, plays Orchestra Hall. mnorch.org

10.28/29 The Atlantis Quartet, the acclaimed contemporary jazz ensemble featuring guitarist Zacc Harris, releases its first live album at its annual Halloween shows. atlantisquartet.com

11.11 The buzzed-about indie-rock trio Zoo Animal plays its annual free show at Hennepin Avenue United Methodist Church, where last year some 700 people attended. zooanimalmusic.com

11.29 The Schubert Club hosts André Watts, perhaps the world’s greatest living concert pianist, for an all-Liszt program at the Ordway Center for the Performing Arts. schubert.org

âž» Gina DiBello, Violinist

Gina DiBello came to the Minnesota Orchestra in 2008 as the principal second violinist and gave her first solo two years later, nimbly bowing her way through Mozart’s showy Third Violin Concerto. Since then, she’s gotten used to playing standing up. In fact, the 29-year-old—the orchestra’s youngest section leader—has earned a reputation as the ensemble’s unofficial master of Mozart, nailing his Violin Concerto No. 5 this past July, the highlight of Sommerfest. An evangelist for modern music, she nonetheless loves the classics. “An orchestra is a historical thing,” she says, “and that’s what is special about what we do.”

DiBello plays as part of a special, post-concert show after the Orchestra’s Inside the Classics performances on November 11 and 12, mnorch.org


A coming-out party, and you’re invited

The dancers are giddy these days. Elated. Even more restless than usual, prone to pirouetting in the street or doing the splits on the bus. You’d think someone had given them a giant theater of their own in downtown Minneapolis, something with 500 seats and a lovely terra-cotta façade. Well, someone did—a lot of people did, but especially the people whose names are on the front of the building: John and Sage Cowles. Starting this month, the Cowles Center, formerly the Shubert Theater, will be all dance all the time, hosting the James Sewell Ballet, Zenon, Ragamala, and more.  Sage thinks it will do for local dancers what the Guthrie Theater did for thespians: build a bigger, more devoted audience. She’s probably right. Local dancers have never had a dedicated home of their own or any place with this much elbow room. And now they have it. No matter what else happens in the arts this fall, this will be the dancers’ season. It’s their Guthrie moment.

7 Top Picks

9.8 Ananya Dance Theatre premieres Tushanaal, about gold and the violent social costs of its extraction, at the Southern Theater. ananyadancetheatre.org

10.14 Ballet of the Dolls’ founder Myron Johnson dances his first solo show in 20 years: Songs for a Swan, about memory, hope, and perception. ritzdolls.com

10.21 The James Sewell Ballet executes its own twist on the “Black Swan” pas de deux, along with the topical “Social Movements,” at the Cowles Center. jsballet.org

11.4 The Walker Art Center hosts the Merce Cunningham Dance Company’s Farewell Legacy Tour, a revival of three classic works. walkerart.org

11.12 The Northrop Dance Series, temporarily at the State Theatre, presents perennial favorites the Royal Winnipeg Ballet in Wonderland, a take on Alice in Wonderland. northrop.umn.edu

11.18 Zenon Dance Company opens its 29th season with modern-dance works, a jazz-dance classic, and contemporary pieces at the Cowles Center. zenondance.org

11.18 TU Dance brings its energetic flair and Uri Sands’s inventive choreography to the O’Shaughnessy Center. tudance.org

 âž» Ranee and Aparna Ramaswamy, Dancers

For years, Ragamala Dance Theater, led by mother-and-daughter artistic directors Ranee and Aparna Ramaswamy, has floored audiences with its vibrant interpretations of Bharatanatyam, a 2,000-year-old Indian dance form. Last spring, the New York Times hailed Aparna’s technique as “thrillingly three-dimensional,” and Ranee became the first dancer ever to be named the McKnight Distinguished Artist of the Year. This month. their Sacred Earth will be the first show at the new Cowles Center, a kind of ancient blessing of the facility. “Bharatanatyam doesn’t just entertain,” Aparna says. “It provides a certain fulfillment—a moving experience.”

Sacred Earth runs September 23–25, Cowles Center, thecowlescenter.org


The stories of our time, timelessly told

You are officially running out of excuses not to catch a play. Local theaters have instituted pay-what-you-want nights. They’ve even gone completely free (well, Mixed Blood Theatre). But more than anything, they’ve pushed beyond some of the safer fare of recent, recessionary years to offer newer, sharper, more relevant plays. Today’s young playwrights, despite the crush of information and technology, are crafting simple, human stories—tough stories, well told. This fall, you can see a comedy about 9/11 (A Short Play About 9/11) and a love story tracing same-sex relationships back to the 1950s (The Pride), as well as a Rocky Horror remount starring Don Shelby. You read that right. This is what theater, at its best, has always been: an allegory of our times—equal parts tragedy and comedy, explanation and fantasy, as if to say, “This is how we think and how we dream. This is a conversation we can only have face to face.”

7 Top Picks

9.15 Don Shelby stars at the Lab Theater, along with American Idol finalist Paris Bennett, in a new version of The Rocky Horror Picture Show. rockyhorrorminneapolis.com

9.16 The Pride, a tale of two love triangles, separated by convention and 50 years, opens at Pillsbury House Theatre. pillsburyhousetheatre.org

9.17 Walking Shadow Theatre performs Neil LaBute’s reasons to be pretty, about the insecurities of four working-class friends, in the Dowling Studio. guthrietheater.org

9.29 Penumbra Theatre continues its multi-year cycle of August Wilson’s plays with Two Trains Running. penumbratheatre.org

10.18 George Hamilton stars in La Cage Aux Folles, winner of three Tony Awards in 2010, at the State Theatre. hennepintheatretrust.org

10.28 Ten Thousand Things stages Il Campiello, about a mysterious, wealthy stranger, at Open Book, starring Sarah Agnew, Nathan Keepers, and other commedia veterans. tenthousandthings.org

11.11 My Secret Language of Wishes, about two women—one white, one black—fighting over the fate of a disabled black boy, opens at Mixed Blood Theatre. mixedblood.com

âž» John Skelley, Actor

It wasn’t until late high school that John Skelley decided to ditch hockey and football for theater. But at 26, a mere four years removed from the Guthrie’s BFA Actor Training Program, the Eden Prairie native has already appeared in 11 of the theater’s productions. This fall, Skelley moves up to quarterback, so to speak, playing the cross-dressing lead in a classic British farce, Charley’s Aunt. “The audience always mirrors the performers,” he says. “So as long as I have fun, they’ll have fun. That’s my motto.”
Charley’s Aunt opens November 26, Guthrie Theater, guthrietheater.org



Look closely to see the future

We’re over it: the schemes, the bubbles, the façades. We’re demanding substance, accountability, and transparency in our lives and leaders, and that’s starting to be reflected in the art world, too: real beauty, real meaning, forms that are clear and true. When the expanded Weisman Art Museum reopens in October with five new galleries, the initial exhibitions will range from Marsden Hartley’s compact, modernist paintings to Warren MacKenzie’s functional, Asian-influenced pottery—all accessible, aesthetically fine art. Graphic design—art intended not to obfuscate but to communicate—also plays a major role in exhibitions this fall (the Walker’s “Graphic Design: Now in Production”). This is art that’s as engaging as it is challenging, existing for something other than itself. There’s still plenty of room for metaphor and imagination in these shows; we’re simply assured, when looking at these works, of their desire not to take us for a ride, but to reveal places of insight and virtuosity. Here’s the deal, they say. Let’s talk.

7 Top Picks

9.1 The Soap Factory shows the work of recently incarcerated photographer Guo Gai, videographer Meng Tang, and sculptor Slinko, exploring the role of language and memory in shaping society. soapfactory.org

9.6 The Nash Gallery shows “The Great Celestial Abstraction: Chinese Art in the 21st Century.” nash.umn.edu

10.1 The Weisman Art Museum reopens with five new galleries, filled with ceramics, furniture, and rarely seen works from its permanent collection. weisman.umn.edu

10.21 The Groveland Gallery displays Tom Maakestad’s bucolic landscapes and Tim Tozer’s new adventures in abstraction. grovelandgallery.com

10.21 Marcus Young, Jennifer Danos, and Natasha Pestich tweak museums in their MAEP show by, among other things, papering the Minneapolis Institute of Arts with ersatz posters and announcements. artsmia.org

10.22 The Walker Art Center showcases cutting-edge commercial art in “Graphic Design: Now In Production.” walkerart.org

10.30 The Minneapolis Institute of Arts shows the best of its antique “pictures of the floating world” in “Edo Pop: The Graphic Impact of Japanese Prints.” artsmia.org

âž» Dean Lucker & Ann Wood, Painters/sculptors

Press a lever on the “mechanical pictures” crafted by Dean Lucker and Ann Wood and the vintage-looking illustrations shift to reveal hidden messages—“You are adored,” “Come rain or shine”—evoking the antique mysticism of a boardwalk fortuneteller. Lucker’s more sculptural works, lately of birch men, go through complex motions—eating or chopping wood—when you wind them up. Lucker and Wood opened a showroom this year in the Northrup King Building, instantly making the husband-and-wife designers  the star attraction at Art-A-Whirl. “If you offer participation,” says Lucker, who scored a Bush Fellowship in 2010, “someone will stay with the art longer and hopefully forge a lasting bond.”

Lucker and Wood open their studio for Art Attack, November 4–6, northrupkingbuilding.com


The brave new world of beautiful ideas

Let’s be realistic: books may someday soon become like vinyl records, something for collectors and connoisseurs. Fine. Let them go gentle into that good night, because the words inside—the stories themselves—don’t seem to be going anywhere. Even poetry, literature’s most delicate bloom, is flowering. The young Duluth poet Ryan Vine recently trod the boards of Carnegie Hall. Elder bards like Robert Bly have reclaimed their mantles with new books. You would think that the more we understand and define our world, the less work there would be for philosophers; the fewer ambiguities for poets to parse. Technology, after all, was supposed to quash our imagination. But perhaps poetry’s newfound popularity is an unintended consequence of Twitter or texting, a growing affinity for brevity and the well-put sentiment, like this one from Bao Phi in his upcoming collection, Sông I Sing, who says that love “is like a brick through glass.” Word.

7 Top Picks

8.1 Lerner Books releases Brooklyn, Burning, a new young-adult novel by Steve Brezenoff about love amid questions of gender and sexuality. lernerbooks.com

9.24 Ed Bok Lee and Bao Phi hold a joint book launch at the Minneapolis Central Library for their new poetry collections, Whorled and Sông I Sing, respectively. coffeehousepress.org

9.28 Calvin Trillin discusses his most recent book, Quite Enough of Calvin Trillin: Forty Years of His Funny Stuff, at the Minneapolis Central Library. supporthclib.org

10.15 Paper Darts Press releases the new book by John Jodzio, Get In If You Want To Live, a collection of 19 very short stories. paperdarts.org

10.27 Alan Hollinghurst, winner of the Man Booker Prize in 2004, talks about his first novel since then, The Stranger’s Child, at Magers & Quinn. magersandquinn.com

10.27 The Pen Pals season opens with Jhumpa Lahiri speaking about her writing and her life as the child of immigrants at the Hopkins Center for the Arts. supporthclib.org

11.16 Chuck Palahniuk (Fight Club, Choke) joins MPR host Kerri Miller for Talking Volumes at the Fitzgerald Theater. fitzgeraldtheater.org |

âž» N. M. Kelby, Novelist

By the time N. M. Kelby finished her MFA degree at Hamline University, in 1998, she already had a five-figure book contract with Hyperion. Thirteen years later, she’s published four more novels—and sold the film rights to one, Whale Season, to Dwight Yoakam, the singer/actor. This fall, Kelby comes out with White Truffles in Winter, a history-filled, food-driven romance. In it, real-life French chef Auguste Escoffier finds himself torn between two Victorian beauties: actress Sarah Bernhardt and, well, his wife, the poet Delphine Daffis. “This book is really about who we are as eaters,” says Kelby. “In the end, you root for the plate.” 

White Truffles in Winter (W.W. Norton, $25) is released November 7, nmkelby.com

See more in “Artists We Love.”