September Arts & Entertainment Picks

Baylen Thoman plays Atticus Finch, photo courtesy the guthrie theater

To Kill a Mockingbird

Not since George Lucas undercut his Star Wars legacy with a trio of middling prequels has an artist provoked such sour consternation as Harper Lee with her Go Set a Watchman (apparently a sequel written before her great classic, and with her own agency in releasing the second book now seeming set up to be an enduring mystery). I have to assume that when the Guthrie picked this adaptation, it was with the hero Atticus Finch in mind and not the latent segregationist—and that’s just about right. Mockingbird might well simplify America’s racial realities, but it’s at its essence a story about nobility and inherent dignity, and so we could do a lot worse.

photo by walter al bahry

Talking Volumes: Jonathan Franzen

His proclivity for presenting himself as the author of Important Novels might feel sometimes like grasping for a cultural train long since left the station, but there’s no denying the phenomenal magnetism of Franzen’s previous work such as The Corrections and partially St. Paul–set Freedom. His latest, Purity, is about a young woman saddled with six-figure student debt, a fraught relationship with a strange mother, and a squatter’s existence in Northern California. Minnesota Public Radio host Kerri Miller will step into the thicket to help sort it out with this literary master craftsman.

photo by william clark

IVEY Awards

It’s been more than a decade with the Twin Cities’ theater awards show, and heaven help us: It feels like an institution. It might seem incomprehensible to anyone uninterested in the live stage, but for those steeped in it it’s a dress-up fest with live performances, the inevitable head-scratcher award or two, and the drama of the Lifetime Achievement honor. It’s called “theater prom” for numerous reasons: the glam outfits, the hidden flasks, the romance, the ill-advised afterparties…the right kind of institution, come to think of it.

photo courtesy hennepin theatre trust

Emmylou Harris & Rodney Crowell

There are few singers as instantly familiar and evocative as Emmylou, from her string of solo LPs in the 1970s to her gossamer-delicate duets with the late Gram Parsons. She’s been up to plenty in the meantime, managing to remain both relevant and timeless. This duet show with Rodney Crowell (no slouch himself, with well-regarded recordings and a who’s who of acts from Etta James to the Grateful Dead covering his songs) draws on the pair’s two albums together and will include other Americana-inspired rootsy soulfulness.

photo by dan norman

The Haunted Basement

I once spent a night in the Soap Factory with a team of paranormal investigators armed with electromagnetic detectors, looking for the spirits that reputedly inhabit the space. We found nothing definitive, though the darkness downstairs was enough to fuel nightmares. Now the Haunted Basement team returns with its chilling mix of performance art and psychological manipulation to create a dream-like experience by no means entirely pleasant—though, should you get through it without calling out a safe word to be granted early release, you’ll be bragging about your fortitude afterwards.