March Arts and Entertainment Picks

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater

The dance troupe that bears the name of the great choreographer and crucial activist comes to Northrop with a program that mixes intriguing new work with a great classic. It’s a one-night show that delivers the new, Cuban-inspired Open Door, along with the new hip-hop-inspired Exodus by choreographer Rennie Harris. What company these new works keep: They’re being performed with Ailey’s emotional powerhouse tribute to African American women, Cry, and Revelations, essentially Ailey’s greatest hit and a work more than half a century old that delves into the universal grief and joy of our time on the earth. Speaking of tributes, it’s stunning that Ailey’s company can juxtapose new work in a context in which it can’t help but strive for the heights, alongside and inspired by the work and spirit of one of our greatest artists. (Photo by Andrew Eccles)

The Dutchman and The Owl Answers

What a fascinating one-two punch: a pair of Obie Award-winning one-act plays from the 1960s and the Black Arts Movement, each representing a great voice from African American literature and presented back-to-pack in a single night. Amiri Baraka’s Dutchman was incendiary in its time (Baraka himself being no shrinking violet in the light of controversy); the story of a black man and a white woman together in a quasi-ghost story on a subway car, it still has the power to provoke. And Andrienne Kennedy’s The Owl Answers depicts the mixed-race daughter of her town’s richest (white) man in a style that pushes past linear storytelling and resides in the realms of the subconscious and avant-garde. These aren’t plays we get to see very often, and Penumbra here unearths works that were central to the cultural conversation in their time and well could be now as well.


It’s a remarkable talent who can be understood through the sheer breadth of genres her work encompasses, as well as the probing intellect, compassion, and word-nerd humor throughout. A hip-hop artist who is also a gifted vocalist, a born collaborator with an indelible voice, and a writer and spoken-word artist who fills rooms wherever she goes, TC treasure (and sometimes Minnesota Monthly contributor) Dessa wins over crowds of both the faithful and the uninitiated. This is also a perfect opportunity to give some love to the Hopkins Center for the Arts, which has been plugging away at continuing to establish itself in the constellation of local music and performance venues—if you haven’t been there, or haven’t seen Dessa perform, this one should be on your short list for the month. (Photo by Kelly Loverud)

The How and the Why

It’s no secret that some of our best storytellers these days are gravitating toward the green pastures of TV, and Sarah Treem is one of them—she’s penned scripts for In Treatment, The Affair, and House of Cards. She’s also a well-respected playwright, and when this play debuted in 2012, the New York Times called it “a smart, densely textured work about men and women, love and conflict, genes and destiny.” It concerns two biologists, one an ambitious student and one an accomplished professor; they end up covering ground including the science of the human female reproductive system (and its advantages and disadvantages) and the personal truths underpinning each character’s life. At the New Century Theatre, this one should be intimate and provocative.

The Pines

The Minneapolis-based Pines draw inspiration from their Iowa roots and unapologetic Midwesterness—their music evokes small towns, vast gently undulating landscapes of summer crops or winter snows, and the ghostly silences of the abandoned night. Their latest, Above the Prairie, is simply gorgeous, with piano and acoustic guitar nestled amid soundscapes that lend an eerie abstract beauty to what’s more or less a roots-oriented sound. It’s barely left my CD player since it arrived in the Minnesota Monthly offices (yes, they still issue CDs and I still play them). This show doubles as a release party for Above the Prairie on Red House Records. (Photo courtesy of Red House Records)