The cast of "after the quake"
Photo by Dan Norman
Walking Shadow Theatre Company presents "after the quake" based on the novel by Haruki Murakami. The play runs through May 21 at the People's Center Theater in Minneapolis.
Thinking about seeing the show? Check out these excerpts of local reviews; click on the critic's name to read the full review.
As Japan grapples with the results of the recent earthquake, tsunami and meltdown at the Fukushima nuclear plant, the play seems fresh. But this show was adapted by Frank Galati from Murakami's stories in response to an earlier tremblor -- the Kobe earthquake of 1995.
Directed simply and effectively by Amy Rummenie for Walking Shadow Company, "Quake" interweaves two stories -- the fanciful "Superfrog saves Tokyo" and regret-filled "Honey Pie." In the first, a frog appears to a midlevel banker named Katigiri (Kurt Kwan), teaming up with him to do battle with underground forces and prevent an earthquake.
The other narrative revolves around three college friends. Jock Takasuki (Kwan) hooks up with Sayoko (Katie Bradley) and has a child with her even though it is the shy writer Junpei (Eric Sharp) who truly loves her.
Brant Miller and Kurt Kwan in "after the quake."
Photo by Dan Norman
The three actors at the center carry most of the story's weight, and they do it very well. Eric Sharp as Junpei walks a tightrope, making the character very likeable (he's kind, considerate, and quick to tell a story) but with heavy-duty flaws. Junpei keeps his desires hidden through the first half of the play, letting the story unfold to identify what's eating at his soul.
Kurt Kwan gets handed two rather different roles to play, the well-meaning but something-of-a-jerk Takatsuki and the lonely but tough Katagiri, who collects on bad loans given to gangsters and other folks of ill repute. It's not just that Kwan manages to create two distinct characters, he is also able to find connections between the two in his performance, and connections to Sharp and Junpei.
The final side of the triangle is Katie Bradley as Sayoko. Her performance is as reserved as the rest, but Bradley makes the character a warm charmer, so it's clear why both men would fall in love with her.
Katie Bradley, Eric Sharp, Cory Grossman
Photo by Dan Norman
This is rich, subtle material, its romantic sweetness nicely balanced by its deadly serious intention. The play (which runs for an intermissionless ninety minutes) uses long sections of the Murakami text in Book-It style narration: characters frequently turn and address the audience directly. The formality of this is perfect; it's not just a love story ("Honey Pie") or a dream-like melodrama ("Superfrog"). There is something else going on, something mysterious, and it keeps us riveted. The payoff, which I will refrain from describing, thrills.
...That this play goes up so soon after Japan's recent quake/tsunami has given the production an unwelcome resonance. Walking Shadow handles this well: some visual material has been eliminated and the producers are properly aware of and respectful to Japan's current suffering. Don't let this keep you away.
Did you see "after the quake?" If so, what did you think?
Posted at 12:36 PM on May 11, 2011
by Marianne Combs
Filed under: Theater
The Tibetan Institute of Performing Arts ensemble
A few years back I put on my bucket list "meet the Dalai Lama."
And yet for no good reason, I was not in attendance at His Holiness' visit this past weekend.
Luckily for me, I can still get a taste of Tibetan happiness.
TigerLion Arts is hosting the Tibetan Institute of Performing Arts (based in Dharamsala, India) for a two-and-a-half week run of "Kipo! A Circus of Song, Spirit and Dance." The performance was performed as part of the festivities surrounding the Dalai Lama's visit.
Kipo literally means "happy," and the show, which was created by local Tibetan performer Tenzin Ngawang and Markell Kiefer of TigerLion Arts, celebrates the culture of Tibet while also treating the universal values of simplicity, honesty and compassion.
Kipo! was first performed in the 2007 Minnesota Fringe Festival with 19 students from the Tibetan American Foundation of Minnesota. The current production, which runs through May 22nd, features the ensemble of the Tibetan Institute of Performing Arts.
Republican strategist Karl Rove and 2008 GOP vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin have expressed displeasure at the White House for inviting the rapper known as "Common" to participate in a poetry event.
They say the musician has glorified the killing of police officers with his lyrics. The line they find offensive? "Your power and pride is beautiful. May God bless your soul."
That might not seem offensive at first, but the title of the song in question is "A Song for Assata," about convicted cop-killer and former Black Panther Assata Shakur.
According to the Associated Press, the White House is standing by its decision to invite the rapper. Spokesman Jay Carney says President Barack Obama has spoken out
against violent and misogynistic music lyrics, and that media reports about Common's participation in Tuesday night's East Room event distort what the rapper stands for.
One media outlet suggests conservatives should actually be thrilled with Common's participation, as one of his songs is anti-abortion.
This Friday I'm going to talk with author Dave Eggers as part of the Minneapolis Library Foundation's Pen Pals Series.
Eggers' bio reads a bit like a superhero who's pen is mightier than the sword. Of late, it seems that each book he writes spawns a foundation bent on making the world a better place. With his latest book Zeitoun, he depicts one family's true story and, by doing so, simultaneously takes on rebuilding New Orleans, and interfaith understanding. Prior to that he wrote "What is the what," a novel based on the real life story of one of the Lost Boys of Sudan. That book led to the creation of the Valentino Achak Deng Foundation, dedicated to building secondary schools in southern Sudan.
In the video clip above, Eggers talks about how he's managed to partner 1400 volunteers with students for one-on-one after-school tutoring in the same building where he runs his publishing house McSweeney's.
Interested in hearing Eggers speak this week? You have two opportunities.
Posted at 2:38 PM on May 11, 2011
by Marianne Combs
Filed under: Dance
The Cowles Center has been a long time coming, with efforts to renovate the old Shubert building spanning twelve years.
But finally, this fall, the new center for dance and the performing arts will open to the public, and it's just revealed the details of the inaugural season.
Some acts are no surprise - James Sewell Ballet, Minnesota Dance Theatre, and the Illusion Theater - as they've had a longstanding relationship with the Hennepin Center for the Arts and/or the lobbying efforts for the new Shubert.
But it's impressive to see so many different Minnesota dance companies lined up at the same venue. Take a look at who's going to be on stage this season:
Minnesota Dance Theatre
Beyond Ballroom Dance Company
Black Label Movement
Native Pride Dancers
James Sewell Ballet
Mathew Janczewski's Arena Dances
Stuart Pimsler Dance and Theater
Katha Dance Theater
Shapiro and Smith Dance Company
Zenon Dance Company
Buckets and Tap Shoes
Breaking Boundaries Dance Company
The details of the season - and tickets - will be available on the Cowles Center website starting Monday.
Posted at 3:34 PM on May 11, 2011
by Marianne Combs
Filed under: Music
One of the oldest music societies in the world, the Royal Philharmonic Society, has bestowed its Large-Scale Composition on University of Minnesota composition professor James Dillon.
Dillon's piece "Nine Rivers" got its premiere in Glasgow last November by the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra and is a whopping four hours long (I'm thinking the musicians deserve some awards, too!).
This isn't Dillon's first accolade, by far. In fact it's his fourth RPS award, making him the most celebrated winner in RPS Music Awards history.
Just for reference, the Royal Philharmonic Society is the same society that commissioned Beethoven's 9th.
Director Marion McClinton
In the course of the story, Director Marion McClinton makes a pointed comment:
"It's hard to find a black actor on the stage. It's hard to find a black actor as an usher there. And that's sad."
Kerr contacted the Guthrie Theater press office to get their response. They point to productions like Caroline, or Change and The Scottsboro Boys, as well as their hosting of production by Penumbra Theater as proof to the contrary.
Actress Sonja Parks says this show different; she says she's tired of productions about African-Americans always being about being downtrodden.
What do you think? Does a show about "the downtrodden African-American" keeping us from truly forwarding racial equality? Could the Guthrie do a better job of presenting racial equality on its stage?