Posted at 12:55 PM on June 3, 2011
by Marianne Combs
Filed under: Events
Imagining Northern Spark. Maquette and photography by Rasun Mehringer. Design: Matthew Rezac
This weekend a bunch of Twin Cities arts lovers are going to attempt to pull an all-nighter. Northern Spark begins at sunset Saturday night, and lasts until sunrise Sunday morning. More than 200 artists and organizations are presenting approximately 100 different performances or installations all over the metro area, There's everything from music and dance to light projections and performance art.
Feeling up to the challenge? Even if you're not able to stay up as late as you used to, you could probably take in a fair amount by midnight. Here are some of the more provacative items on the program:
1. Start it off right
There are not one, but two opening ceremonies for Northern Spark - one in St. Paul and one in Minneapolis. Both take place at 8:55pm. If you're in St. Paul you can enjoy an Art Car Fanfare while in Minneapolis you can enjoy another sort of horn concert along the Stone Arch Bridge.
2. Take a trip down the river
Get on board the Mississippi Megalops, a boat ride featuring singers, scientists and storytellers, bringing the nature and history of the river to life.
3. Enjoy a beautiful nightmare
Not all nightmares have to be scary, but they should be haunting... Andrea Stanislav's "Nightmare" fits the bill. An image of a white horse appears to gallop on the river - it's actually a very large video screen placed on a barge.
4. Ping Pong!
Ping with Wing! Wing Young Huie presents a retrospective of his photography (that's more than 1500 images) in an empty lot on the West Bank, but if you tire of looking at images and want to practice your forehand, you can participate in any one of several mini ping-pong tournaments going on in the lot, using - of course - glow in the dark balls (really useful for when you accidentally over shoot it into the bushes).
5. Getting from Here to There
Northern Spark offers free bus rides all night long to get from one event to the next, but why let the time in transit go to waste? Please Remain Seated offers an artistic look at the bus-riding experience through "short enigmatic prounouncements" to "passenger dance lines."
6. What's your frequency, Kenneth?
Station Identification transforms the Foshay Tower's observation deck into a radio compass, in which visitors roam the radio dial with their feet.
7. It's for you
Barbarra Claussen's red phone booths are not some retro send-up of British quaintness; they are about power, who has it, and how they communicate it. Modern Monoliths Migrating are a series of phone booths playing taped messages that force, reward, and persuade the masses to do what's desired.
8. Make your mark
Thanks to the Soap Factory, on Saturday night you can mark local buildings and not get charged with the clean-up. Laser Tag is large scale virtual graffiti projected into the night a monumental scale. Volunteers will be on hand to show visitors the ropes.
9. Gather round the fire
Starting at 3am, people will congregate on Target Field at the Walker Art Center to share stories - bedtime stories, to be precies. A series of local writers will each tell a story approximately ten minutes long, with the sole goal of NOT putting you to sleep.
10. Get some sleep
Can't keep your eyes open any more? Not to worry, because upstairs in Walker Art Center's Gallery 8, you can curl up on the floor and be sung to sleep... while people come and look at you. Hey - now you're the art!
Meanwhile, MNOriginal profiled the show last night.
What caught me off-guard was the realization that in all my years of covering the theater, I had never bothered to ask Artistic Director Lou Bellamy how he came up with the name. Last night, he explained it this way:
The name "Penumbra" began when we began the company in 1976. I knew that I wanted our program to be professional. We were a program of the Hallie Q. Brown Community Center; you've got to remember at this time, we weren't able to get State Arts Board funding because they said we were doing social service, not art.
Penumbra is a Latin term that means "partial shadow" - it's that place than an artist needs to go to create that world that is neither light nor dark. It also sort of symbolized the marginalization of the culture, and all that sort of stuff.
These are all afterthoughts; it was fun to say Penumbra - it's a fun word to say!
There you have it.
Posted at 3:09 PM on June 3, 2011
by Marianne Combs
Filed under: Funding
The Southern Theater
The Southern Theater has announced it's making some changes, although the details of those changes remain vague at this time.
My colleague Chris Roberts is pursuing the details this afternoon, and we'll update accordingly, but in the meantime, here's what we know:
For now, the Southern Theater has been reduced to a staff of one. The Board of Directors has named 32-year old Damon Runnals as General Manager. Up until now Runnals has served as the theater's production and operations manager since 2008.
The position of Executive Director, held by Gary Peterson, is being eliminated as of June 10. Peterson has been elected to the Southern's Board of Directors. His position is the ninth position to be eliminated in recent weeks.
The Southern's budget for the next year totals $165,600. This is a marked decrease of its past budget totalling approximatley $1.1 million.
According to Anne Baker, chair of the board of directors, "This plan allows us to stabilize and to focus on the chronic issue of negative cash flows caused by organizational, strategic, managerial, and operational problems."
"For at least seven years, the theater has shouldered too much of the financial risk of presenting and producing performances of dance, music, theater, and film, and has not effectively made the case to enough individuals, foundations, and corporations that donations, sponsorships, and underwriting will produce sufficient added value to merit full support," said Baker.
In a release the Southern said it's new plan involves "keeping it simple by establishing a reliable platform of earned income." Just how that will look wasn't immediately clear.
More as we know it...
Editor's Note: Eric Ringham oversees the commentary section of MPR News. He's also active in the Twin Cities theater scene. While in conversation he mentioned to me his experience seeing "Steerage Song" last night, to which I said, 'hey, you should write that up.' Kindly, he obliged.
Sometimes, in journalism, the simple selection of a topic constitutes an expression of commentary. That's the case in "Steerage Song," a journalistic piece of musical theater - or is it a theatrical piece of musical journalism? - that opened Thursday night at the Fitzgerald.
The point of the commentary is this: The immigrant experience is an abiding piece of the American character, passed down from one generation to the next. Those who dislike newcomers today come from people who once were disliked newcomers themselves. And so it goes, until you reach back as far as the people who were here first.
"Steerage Song," a production of Theater Latte Da, concerns itself with a brief period that saw an explosion in immigration, roughly 1845 to 1920. A cast of singers and versatile instrumentalists roams through a list of 40 songs and assorted spoken texts, cobbled together by co-creators Dan Chouinard and Peter Rothstein. The show does an effective job of rendering the hopes and fears of that time in the words and songs of the people who lived it.
It's also effective at getting across the message that a country founded upon immigrants has no business looking down its nose at further immigrants.
For me, the point had a particularly sharp edge. Midway through the first act I thought back to an evening last February, when I watched 250 immigrants from 59 countries take their oaths of citizenship in the same theater. I was there because I knew one of the newcomers, but would have found it moving even if I hadn't known a soul.
The message of that night last February was the same as the message of "Steerage Song." We didn't get here all together, and some of us not by our own will, but we're a better country because we came from a bunch of different places. Though we seem destined to keep forgetting it, diversity is a strength.
James Stewart in Hitchcock's "Rear Window," 1954
Co-presented by 89.3 The Current, the program runs the first four Mondays in August (August 1, 8, 15, and 22). Music begins at 7 pm, films begin at dusk (approximately 8:30 pm).
Monday, August 1
Music: Haley Bonar
Movie: Rear Window
Current DJ: Bill DeVille
Monday, August 8
Music: No Bird Sing
Movie: 1,000 Eyes of Dr. Mabuse
Current DJ: Mary Lucia
Monday, August 15
Music: Buffalo Moon
Current DJs: Steve Seel and Jill Riley
Monday, August 22 (Open Field, Walker Art Center)
Music: Dark Dark Dark and the Modern Times Spychestra
Current DJ: TBA
Posted at 4:42 PM on June 3, 2011
by Marianne Combs
Filed under: Theater
How many theaters can one street have?
Evidently, if it's Hennepin Avenue, a lot.
The old Century Theatre, ca. 1937
Image courtesy of the Minnesota Historical Society
This is addition to the three venues it currently programs: the Orpheum, the Pantages and the State.
According to the HTT, the New Century Theatre will be a 300 seat, flexible use performance space on the street level of City Center in downtown Minneapolis.
The New Century Theatre's programming will complement that of the other three main stages, with shows similar to those it scheduled at Hennepin Stages, in addition to more local performances and student cabarets.
The New Century Theatre gets its name from Century Theatre, one of four historic theatres that used to operate near the site of what is now City Center. The original theater opened in 1908 as a 2,000-seat vaudeville house called the Miles.
View from Wabasha Bridge towards downtown shows Ramsey County Jail in Red Brick and old West Publishing to the left
All images courtesy the American Institute of Architects
Sometimes it's hard to understand the logic behind the decisions of our forebearers.
For instance, why would someone build a jailhouse on prime riverfront real estate?
The Ramsey County Adult Detention Center was built in 1979 and many credit its striking architecture and rooftop garden with helping to revive the riverfront. It even received a National Honor Award from the American Institute of Architects for its contribution to urban renewal in St. Paul.
A typical jail cell, complete with a view of the Mississippi
But since the inmates were moved to a larger facility in 2003 the jailhouse has sat empty. Numerous attempts to sell the property to developers have fallen through.
What to do?
This weekend, architects and designers will gather to brainstorm their best ideas for making use of the jailhouse. The event is called "Unauthorized Design" and takes place all day Saturday. The public is invited to a presentation and discussion beginning at 4:30pm in the 3rd floor conference room of the neighboring Ramsey County West.
Jail Commons - Each pod has approximately eight jail cells opening off of a two-story community space