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In honor of Black History Month, Nordic Roots performer Kari Tauring is urging people to see Steppingstone Theatre's "Four Little Girls: Birmingham 1963." It's about four young African-American girls in Birmingham, Alabama, who were killed when their church was bombed by the Ku Klux Klan. Kari says remembering this event and the girls who died is an act of healing. "Four Little Girls" is on stage through Feb. 27th.
Fiber artist and arts educator Mimi Holmes greatly admires the work of sculptor and University of Minnesota landscape architecture professor Rebecca Krinke. Krinke has a solo show at Rosalux Gallery through Feb. 26th. "Visitation" is a sculptural installation inspired by lost and recovered memories. The opening reception will be held Friday, Feb. 4th and will feature an improvisational theater performance.
Gao Hong is one of the premier Chinese pipa players in the country. Gao, who teaches Chinese music at Carleton College, wanted to make sure people knew that Zhao Jiazhen was coming to the Twin Cities! Zhao Jiazhen is the world's foremost Guqin (seven-string Chinese zither) musician. She'll be performing on Wednesday, Feb. 9th, at the Loring Theater in Minneapolis. Jiazhen will also join the local world music group "Speaking in Tongues" in a concert on Sunday Feb. 13th at 3pm at O'Shaughnessy Auditorium in St. Paul.
And you can get an early sneak peek at the Art Hounds' picks every week by texting the word ART to 677-677.
Becky Brunning in "The Olympic Gene" at Bryant Lake Bowl
Becky Brunning and her great-grandfather, Welsh Olympian, William LeBeau were born exactly 100 years apart. He won a medal for gymnastics in the 1912 Stockholm Olympics; she can "see" the London 2012 stadium from her bedroom window (well if that building wasn't in the way). Inspired by such fortuitous serendipity, The Olympic Gene engages her sporting heritage, examines the legacy of one of Wales' first medal winners and demonstrates just how far DNA can take you. Performances are tonight and Saturday at Bryant Lake Bowl.
Get your fill of corpulent naked ladies in lush settings at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts with "Titian and the Golden Age of Venetian Painting: Masterpieces from the National Galleries of Scotland." The show opens Sunday and runs through May 1.
Have you seen Black Swan? Then consider checking out the dance that inspired it; the Voronezh State Ballet Theatre of Russia presents Swan Lake at the Northrop Auditorium tonight.
Altered Esthetics presents "Online (Dis)Connect," a show in which artists evaluate the pros and cons of technology and its impact on human thought, identity, and interaction. Opens Friday night at 7pm.
Form + Content Gallery presents Wee Cabaret, a performing arts series featuring three 20-30 minute performances by Ill Chemistry, Jennifer Isle/Offleash Area, Jelloslave, and Frank Theatre, followed by a reception and Q&A between the artists and audience.
The Grand Hand Gallery in Saint Paul presents "Handprinted" a group show of master printers including Charles Beck and Nick Wroblewski.
So what are you doing this weekend?(2 Comments)
Posted at 9:38 AM on February 3, 2011
by Marianne Combs
Filed under: News and reviews
Michael Merriam talks speculative fiction
Author of The Horror at Cold Springs and Should We Drown in Feathered Sleep, a near-future post-apocalyptic story about a pair of loons who magically transform a young woman in a wheelchair into a naiad (a water nymph), Merriam has written over 70 pieces of short fiction and poetry.
- Sheila Regan, City Pages
Stephen Elliott's "The Adderall Diaries," February's Books & Bars selection
Elliot serves up a feast that may look like decadent dross, but satiates the need for literary sustenance.
- Courtney Davison, TC Daily Planet
Sundance Film Festival report: From "Page One" to "All Your Dead Ones"
- Jim Brunzell III, TC Daily Planet
In memoriam: The White Stripes
A personal tribute to the band, which announced its breakup Wednesday.
- Chris Riemenschneider, Star Tribune
The White Stripes announce breakup after 13 years as a band
The White Stripes, one of the most influential lo-fi rock duos of the early 2000s, have officially called it quits after a few years of hiatus.
- Andrea Swensson, City Pages
Former Prince drummer Bobby Z in critical condition following heart attack
Bobby Z, best known for his stint drumming for Prince in the late '70s and early to mid '80s, is critical condition after suffering a heart attack and undergoing bypass surgery.
- Andrea Swensson, City Pages
Green ogres are people, too
Clever book and lyrics push laughs to the fore as Shrek and pals undertake a series of fairy-tale adventures.
- Rohan Preston, Star Tribune
'Shrek' comes to the stage with inspired sight gags, dancing, color and lively musicIf you liked "Shrek" the movie, odds are you'll love "Shrek the Musical."
- Renee Valois
Maximum Verbosity looks for the definition of love
In phillip low's latest work, Penner vs. the Hydra, a priest living in a police state must come up with a definition for the ultimate four-letter word.
- Ed Huyck, City Pages
The imp of the perverse: 'Shrek' takes the stage at the Orpheum Theatre
I went to see "Shrek: The Musical" last night. It has quite a few good qualities, and a few great ones, which I shall enumerate shortly. But I mostly went to see it because I have met David Lindsay-Abaire, who wrote the book and lyrics, and who, for no clear reason, my girlfriend decided to prank, and I want to tell these stories.
- Max Sparber, MinnPost.com
Posted at 12:28 PM on February 3, 2011
by Marianne Combs
Filed under: Criticism
Photo by Joan Marcus, Dreamworks Theatricals
"Shrek" - the musical based on the movie - runs at the Orpheum Theatre in Minneapolis through February 6. Thinking of going? Check out these reviews:
If you liked "Shrek" the movie, odds are you'll love "Shrek the Musical." It follows the film's storyline very closely -- except for a few worthy additions -- and captures the animated characters surprisingly well in living, breathing form. There's plenty of color, action, dancing, sight gags and great voices belting out lively music. Even the dragon can sing (better than any reptile you've ever seen).
Unlike in the movie, we get to see Princess Fiona and Shrek at the tender age of 7, when each was sent away by their parents to live alone -- Fiona in her tower and Shrek in his swamp. This gives us a sense from the very start that this unlikely pair has something in common -- even before it's obvious to them.
We also get a better sense of why Shrek is angry at the world and why Fiona is desperate for Prince Charming. Eric Petersen gives the green ogre a convincing vulnerability underneath all the growling and farting. Haven Burton has a spectacular voice and an enchanting manner that makes it understandable that an ogre might fall for this princess who can give as good as she gets.
...An animated film couldn't do a sendup of a Broadway number with tap-dancing mice, a pied piper and a princess like this musical does. Cows get tossed over the moon, lyrics mention the tranny wolf (dressed in Grandma's nightgown) and bits parody popular shows from "Les Miserables" to "The Lion King" -- as well as all those fairy tales.
If you're going to do a show that's derivative, flimsy and crass, you might as well have fun.
That seems to be the approach of the accomplished creative team of "Shrek the Musical," which landed with its bevy of well-timed jokes Tuesday at Minneapolis' Orpheum Theatre.
The Broadway tour of the cartoon-turned-musical elicited whoops of laughter and praise from the many children in the audience. They are certainly the target audience for this fairy-tale remix and sendup that is populated by such characters as Pinocchio, the wicked witch and the cross-dressing big bad wolf.
The deft stagecraft and funny book for this love story about a swamp-dwelling ogre and a princess offer humor for adults, too, even if some of it is burping and flatulent.
I have to admit that I laughed a lot. But it's too bad that so much talent has gone into working on such a thin, contrived piece.
This could have been a lazy creation. It would have been quite possible to take the screenplay for "Shrek" and convert it to the stage. I have seen a lot of musicals that do this, and inevitably suffer for it. As much deserved grief as director Julie Taymor currently gets for her Spider Man musical, her stage adaptation of "The Lion King" carefully and quite dramatically re-conceived the musical for the stage. Smart playwrights have followed suit since, and Lindsay-Abaire and his collaborator Jeanine Tesori, who wrote the music, are smart. "Shrek: The Musical" is not "Shrek" the movie. Neither is it William Steig's book that inspired both. It's completely a thing of the stage, and it exhumes themes that the film and the book just touched on. And, more than any other, the theme it is most interested in is as follows: Whatever makes us different also makes us powerful.
You probably already know the story, but, if not, here's as brief an encapsulation as I can provide: A troll and a talking donkey accept a quest from an evil prince to rescue a princess, who herself suffers a curse. Many elements from the film are maintained, including the look of the characters, Shrek's Scottish accent, and the fact that it takes place in a world of fairy tale creatures who know their own fairy tales and riff on them relentlessly.
But I mentioned the imp of the perverse, didn't I? One of the ways this mischievous creature controls the play is in the production's love of stage effects. The play is filled with quick transformations, extraordinary monsters, and images of the fantastic that are generally produced by choosing the creakiest legerdemain possible, being quite obvious about the sleight-of-hand that is occurring, and then referencing it directly.
The villain, Lord Farquaad, is diminutive in stature, and this effect is created by taking a regular-sized actor, attaching spindly legs to his upper thighs, and then having him walk around on his knees. The princess dances with a deer at one moment, and it is clearly an inflatable dummy that she simply drags around the stage with her. She later dances with some rodents, and the effect is created by having a row of tap dancers wear shoes that look like rats. There is a great deal of puppetry in this, including a really enormous, and impressive, stage dragon. And the set moves about constantly, opening and closing to reveal new backdrops, a trick beloved by Victorian melodramas and updated by having what looks to be a giant LED screen at the back of the stage that can transform into whatever is needed.
Shrek the Musical feels overstuffed with tepid numbers, especially in the second act. You wouldn't think of Shrek as a compelling character study, and it's surprising that it comes as close to being one as it does--the fruit of strangely extensive efforts in that direction. You would, however, think of Shrek as a gently irreverent good time, and in that respect, this musical delivers.
...Whatever cleverness was born in the original 1990 book by William Steig and was preserved or sharpened in the 2001 motion picture, it has survived this 2008 musical adaptation--directed by Jason Moore and Rob Ashford--as a steady haze of diffuse wit with occasional peaks poking up through the people-pleasing veneer. My favorite was the surly gingerbread man who barks, "Eat me!"
...The performers who make the strongest impressions are those who seem to know that they have the best material to work with. Vaughn marches around on his knees as the diminutive Lord Farquaad, creating a simple sight gag that at first seems that it will never get old; it does in fact get old somewhere in Act Two, but Vaughn makes a good run of it. Burton's characterization is exceptional; she finds precisely the right tone as a beautiful princess who's a fun-loving ogre at heart.
...Given the wild success of the Shrek movie franchise, it was inevitable that there would be a Shrek musical--and so here it is, and it doesn't suck. "It could have been cut by an hour," observed my mom, "and everyone would have walked out feeling really good about it."
So - have you seen "Shrek?" What did you think? Share your review in the comments section.
The Hennepin County Library and the Guthrie Theater are partnering to bring theater classes to local libraries.
Starting in March, theater professionals will present classes on such topics as storytelling, stage combat, Shakespeare, and games actors play to warm up for a rehearsal.
Registration is both required and limited, with registration for some classes begins in February. The classes are funded with money from Minnesota's Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund.
What I want to know is, are the actors being paid union wages?
Posted at 4:10 PM on February 3, 2011
by Marianne Combs
About this time last year I moderated a panel discussion on race and casting in Twin Cities theater. The discussion was inspired by a series of events that led to non-Asian actors being cast in Asian roles.
Well, as recent events have proven, the conversation is far from over. Community activist Ka Vang urged people to boycott the show "WTF" written by (similarly named) local playwright Katie Ka Vang, because the part of a Hmong-American woman was being played by a Korean-American actress.
The controversy was the subject of a report by the Star Tribune's Rohan Preston, and has inspired another panel discussion, sponsored by the Council of Asian-Pacific Minnesotans.
The event takes place on Sunday February 20 at 2pm at the Minnesota Humanities Center, and will be moderated by the council's head, Ilean Her.