Get Your Performing Arts Fix in the Twin Cities

As a supportive base for actors, musicians, and dancers, the Twin Cities always have something spectacular going on in the performing arts
The Minnesota Orchestra in a program of Sibelius at Orchestra Hall in Minneapolis March 29, 2014.
Minnesota Orchestra at Orchestra Hall

Courtney Perry

With so many performances in the Twin Cities, there’s no reason not to have a date night. We have more than 75 theater companies, 20 dance companies and serious musical talent. You can catch anything from a one-man show to a symphony.

The Guthrie Theater catches your eye in downtown Minneapolis with its blue façade and 170-plus-foot, cantilevered observation deck jutting out toward the river. Inside, nationally acclaimed plays earned the Guthrie a regional Tony Award in 1982. The theater was born out of an advertisement that world-renowned director Sir Tyrone Guthrie put in the New York Times in 1959. He was looking for a city to build his dream theater in, and he chose Minneapolis. Head to his dream, check out the three stages and see if his vision exceeds your expectations. “The Bacchae,” directed by the acclaimed Anne Bogart, and an adaptation of Jane Austen’s “Emma” are part of the Guthrie’s 2019-2020 season.

Originally called “the Hennepin,” the Orpheum Theatre in west downtown Minneapolis is the face of performing-arts nonprofit Hennepin Theatre Trust. Watch for hit touring Broadway shows at this local staple. Concerts, celebrity speakers and comedians also take the stage at Hennepin Theatre Trust’s other theater venues, the State and the Pantages, both just blocks away. Upcoming shows include “Rent,” the Broadway adaptation of “Mean Girls” and a performance by the Piano Guys. All three buildings set themselves apart architecturally, too, flaunting art deco style and glittering, old-school marquees.

Theater here isn’t just for adults. Children’s Theatre Company puts on colorful, big-production blockbusters, like “Cinderella” and “Annie,” and adapts classic children’s literature to entertain all family members. And they do it well: Children’s Theater Company was the first theater for kids to win the Tony Award for Outstanding Regional Theater. If your little ones are particularly taken with the shows, the company has camps and programs to bring kids into the theater world.

At Jungle Theater in Minneapolis’ Lyn-Lake neighborhood, neon palm trees welcome you to a venue of critical esteem helmed by intrepid artistic director Sarah Rasmussen. The theater seats 150, bringing actors in close. Theatre in the Round, in Minneapolis, and Park Square Theatre in St. Paul also peddle acclaimed, small-theater experiences. 

Penumbra Theatre, the nation’s largest African American theater, brings black stories to life through powerful performances and playwriting. Mixed Blood Theatre promotes diversity while History Theatre highlights Minnesota’s past. The Fitzgerald Theater, owned by First Avenue, is the oldest active theater in St. Paul and puts on thought-provoking programs like author talks, “National Geographic Live” and even a few concerts presented by local radio station 89.3 the Current.

While in St. Paul, check out the Ordway Center for the Performing Arts, recognized as one of the nation’s leading nonprofit performing arts centers. Here, you’ll find Broadway, classical and cultural performances. “The New One” comes to the Ordway in October to wow audiences with humor in a show Lin-Manuel Miranda called “as perfect of a night as you’re gonna get,” and “The Color Purple” and an original musical adaptation of “Ever After” play, too. The Ordway is partnered with the Minnesota Opera, the Schubert Club and St. Paul Chamber Orchestra—the nation’s only full-time professional chamber orchestra. For more strings, head to Orchestra Hall in Minneapolis and listen to the Grammy Award-winning Minnesota Orchestra. The hall has been beautifully renovated to provide comfort and amazing acoustics for a timeless sound.

For more musical talent, hear a performance by decorated choral group VocalEssence or the Bach Society of Minnesota. Dance companies also fill the area, including James Sewell Ballet and Ballet Co.Laboratory; the TU Dance contemporary dance company; Zorongo Flamenco Dance Theatre; Anaya Dance Theatre for contemporary Indian dance; and, for more traditional Indian dance, Ragamala Dance Co.

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