The Mini Apple: Performing Arts in the Twin Cities

Nationally acclaimed across the board, the Twin Cities stage great shows for everyone’s tastes
Performing Arts in the Twin Cities
“Wizard of Oz” at the Children’s Theatre Co.

Photo by Peter Coombs

It is no wonder the Twin Cities are nicknamed the “Mini Apple.” With over 75 theater companies (the second highest per capita in the U.S.), 20 dance companies and impressive orchestras, there’s something to enjoy every night of the week.

In downtown Minneapolis, the State, Orpheum and Pantages theaters are all nearly 100 years old and sit just a few blocks from one another in the Hennepin Theater District, with vintage marquees that add to the area’s nighttime charm. They host touring Broadway shows as well as national musicians and dancers, family-friendly acts and big-name comedians.

Performing Arts in the Twin Cities
Guthrie Theater

Photo by Zimmytws/Adobe

On the other side of town, near the Mississippi River, Sir Tyrone Guthrie built his dream theater in 1963. Today, the iconic, blue-plated Guthrie Theater offers an observation deck that faces the river and gives theater lovers an almost 360-degree view of Minneapolis. See why the Guthrie won a regional Tony Award and check out a show on one of its three stages. The 2020-21 season (limited due to COVID-19) includes such shows as Lynn Nottage’s Pulitzer-winning “Sweat” and Noël Coward’s “Private Lives.”

Theater in the Twin Cities is not just for adults, either. The Children’s Theatre Co. puts on shows beloved by families, from “Rainbow Fish” to “Annie” and “The Wizard of Oz,” plus world-premiere plays that find kid-centric takes on current events and classic tales. Children’s Theatre productions tell stories in innovative ways, with puppetry, exciting stage designs and captivating sound, making it a destination for family theater nights and field trips. Students considering a future in the arts can join the theater’s classes, camps or the Junior Co., a pre-professional program that puts on shows like “Sideways Stories from Wayside School.” They can also check out other youth-focused theaters, such as Stages and SteppingStone.

Small to mid-size theaters put on nationally acclaimed shows here, too. Penumbra Theatre, one of three professional African American theater companies in the nation, conveys richly human stories through African American perspectives that span history. Mixed Blood Theatre coined the term “radical hospitality,” exemplified by a free-admission theater that shares the stories of underrepresented people. And for an intimate experience, Theatre in the Round brings its audience in close, with no one sitting farther than seven rows deep during classic shows like “Romeo and Juliet” and “Little Women.”

performing arts in the Twin Cities

Photo by Dan Norman

The Ordway in St. Paul is a hotspot for musical performances. Each year brings a string of musicals straight from Broadway or produced as Ordway Originals, but the stage is open to the sublime local talent we have here, as well. The Minnesota Opera’s shows are visually stunning and tap the area’s best musicians, and the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra plays classics like Mozart’s “Requiem.” Dance performances, the annual Flint Hills Family Festival, and entertaining acts such as Cirque Mechanics’ “42 ft: A Menagerie of Mechanical Marvels” take place here, too.

performing arts in the Twin Cities
Orchestra Hall

Photo by Greg Helgeson

If you’re in the mood for more orchestral sounds, the Grammy Award-winning Minnesota Orchestra has you covered. It’s been part of the community for more than a century, and since 1974 the orchestra has called the stunning Orchestra Hall, in downtown Minneapolis, its home. Visiting talents include Aaron Copland and Yo-Yo Ma, and programming ranges from Beethoven symphonies to popular film scores performed live during screenings.

Dance companies also express the breadth of talent and diversity in the Twin Cities. The Minnesota Dance Theatre, James Sewell Ballet, the St. Paul Ballet, TU Dance, Ragamala Dance Co., Zorongo Flamenco Dance Theatre and many more put on captivating performances to broaden your perspective on art and community. Fans can catch them throughout the Twin Cities at venues such as the Cowles Center for Dance and the Performing Arts, the Southern Theater, the Ames Center and the O’Shaughnessy at St. Catherine University.