This American Uptown Life

Oh, Uptown Theatre. How many film awakenings have I had in your seedy, sticky-carpet chambers? The place where I first saw Fahrenheit 9/11, where I first took in Muppets Take Manhattan—and where I first had my kiester poked by the spring in a torn seat cushion.

We love our art venues grody, don’t we? You want to see some gnarly art, you go to a gnarly joint. But at some point, the hygienic flaws of the iconic Hennepin Avenue cinema crossed over from keeping-it-real to please-keep-it-off-my-clothes, and perhaps we all hoped that some benevolent Landmark Theatre bigwig would finally swoop in, like a kindly nurse, and give the ailing patient a good ol’ sponge bath.

Well, it’s happened.

Uptown Theater$2 million and six months after shuttering temporarily last February, the Uptown is poised to reopen this weekend. And while the details of the facelift made big news—among other posh niceties, the new theatre will offer two-person couches and a startlingly sophisticated offering of local beers—Monday’s reveal of the reopening’s special guests generated even more chatter.

Ira Glass and Mike Birbiglia are coming to visit.

The two This American Life men, perhaps the best storytellers public radio has ever produced, have collabo-ed on a new film, Sleepwalk With Me, which will premier at the Uptown on Friday.

The coming of age film follows a struggling, Birbiglia-esque stand-up whose refusal to grow up begins to trigger hallucinatory sleepwalking. Birbiglia’s the writer/director/star, and Glass gets a producer and co-writer credit. 

Press materials describe the film as such:

“Birbiglia plays alter-ego Matt Pandamiglio, a struggling stand-up comedian avoiding commitment with his long-time girlfriend (Lauren Ambrose) who is becoming impatient. Unable to confront his anxieties, Matt finds them manifesting in ridiculous, dangerous and surreal bouts of sleepwalking in which his sub-conscious runs wild (he fights off a jackal attack, competes in the Dustbuster Olympics). When he goes on the road to little colleges and dive bars, his material bombs until he stumbles into some revealing jokes about his relationship.”

Glass will appear in person at the Uptown on Friday, September 14 for Q&As after the 7:15 p.m. and 10 p.m. shows. Birbiglia will be there on Saturday, September 15 for Q&As after the noon, 2:15 p.m., and 4:30 p.m. shows. He will be joined by Ira Glass that night for Q&As after the 7:15 p.m. and 10 p.m. shows.

It’s a big weekend for the local film world—as big as the Uptown’s iconic marquee, which will be illuminated for the first time since the 1980s.

Sleepwalk With Me with Ira Glass and Mike Birbiglia
Friday and Saturday, September 14–15
Uptown Theatre, 2906 Hennepin Ave. S., Mpls.