Photo by Greg Helgeson
The Detroit Orchestra went on strike for six months.
The Philadelphia Orchestra declared bankruptcy.
Such stories of orchestras under financial stress are on the minds of close to a thousand people in the Twin Cities this week for the annual League of American Orchestras conference.
In fact, this morning's plenary session is titled "Red Alert!" Here's the description:
The warning signals have been there for years: persistent deficits, less-than-packed houses; concerned patrons and funders questioning continued support, communities that are changing and asking more of us than we ably deliver; and too many concerts that are not aligned with the changing nature of demand.
Despite great sacrifices from musicians and staffs, and stepped up giving from boards and volunteers, too many orchestras--though not all, for sure--are in critical condition. We can and must act--first by speaking openly and frankly about our challenges, and next, by looking deeply at how we operate.
You can find out more about the conference, and about the challenges orchestras face, by listening to Euan Kerr's report:
The Minnesota State Fair's official commemorative art for 2011, by Steve Thomas
Artist Steve Thomas of Lino Lakes says the piece is essentially a snapshot of his own fair experience.
The look of this year's piece marks a return to the sharp lines and iconic images that were typical of the state fair's earlier marketing posters.
The original acrylic will be on display in the Fine Arts Center during the fairʼs
This year's artwork is also the result of a change in the selection process. Last year fair officials switched from nominating an artist to putting out an open call for submissions.
By all accounts, it appears the new method is a success.(2 Comments)
Tracey Maloney (Annette Raleigh), Jennifer Blagen (Veronica Novak), Chris Carlson (Bill Novak) and Bill McCallum (Alan Raleigh) in the Guthrie Theater production of "God of Carnage" by Yasmina Reza.
Photo by Paul Kolnik
God of Carnage by Yasmina Reza runs through August 7 at the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis. Thinking of seeing the show? Check out what the local critics think. Have you already seen the show? Then share your review in the comments section.
Ostensibly, the play is about two couples meeting to hash out an apology. The son of Veronica and Michael (Jennifer Blagen and Chris Carlson) has lost two teeth in a playground battle with the son of Annette and Alan (Tracey Maloney and Bill McCallum). The four gather at Veronica and Michael's tastefully uncomfortable home to discuss the unruly kids but, more important, to demonstrate that when it comes to unruliness their children are rank amateurs. By the end of the afternoon, insults, cellphones, purses and plenty of even more unpleasant things have been hurled.
Yasmina Reza's play often gets compared to Edward Albee's "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf," which also is about a long, drunken encounter between two couples where the balance of power keeps shifting. That comparison is not fair because "Woolf" is a masterpiece and "Carnage" is a much more modest affair - the sort of evening of semi-outrageous entertainment that will immediately be forgotten afterward when you're deciding what to eat to finish off the evening. It's a glib little play (translated, like all of Reza's comedies by Christopher Hampton, whose own work - including the play, "Dangerous Liaisons," and the film, "Atonement" - is more ambitious than Reza's). But it feels like it's aware that it's not terribly insightful, so it gets in, gets some laughs and gets out inside of 90 minutes.
... But if their dialogue gets less compelling, these fine actors still manage to raise the stakes in their argument until, by the end, it's clear both that they're not bickering about a playground feud and that the collateral damage of a couple teeth is nothing. Heck, with these people for role models, it's a miracle their little monsters didn't rip each other's lungs out.
Jennifer Blagen (Veronica Novak) and Chris Carlson (Bill Novak) in the Guthrie Theater production of "God fo Carnage" by Yasmina Reza.
Photo by Paul Kolnik
We are having such a good time watching the bile fly, the repressed recriminations rise and the unvarnished brickbats sting that we can be lulled into enjoying Yasmina Reza's "God of Carnage" as a high-toned sitcom. Indeed, in venues less polite than the Guthrie's proscenium theater, we might hear the catcalls ("You go, girl!") or the swelling assent as a juicy insult lands ("Woooooooooh!").
Ah, but we are in the THEE-ah-tah, and perhaps our society's assumed gentility is the mark for Reza's stiletto.
"Morality decrees we should control our impulses," says Alan, a suave legal shark and one of the combatants. "But sometimes it's good not to control them."
Really? Where would we be without centuries of carefully crafted religion, law, ethics and manners to hide behind?
"I'm a Neanderthal," shouts Michael, Alan's opposite, and we wonder whether he might be the most honest character in this parlor farce.
...Certainly, the joy of "God of Carnage" lies in watching "folks like us" savage each other for 90 minutes. Reza's strong suit is an ear for dialogue, yet don't discount her ideas. Like a dagger, their impact may not occur until we notice much later the blood flowing from our ribs.
Bill McCallum (Alan Raleigh) Chris Carlson (Bill Novak) and Tracey Maloney (Annette Raleigh) in the Guthrie Theater production of "God of Carnage" by Yasmina Reza. Photo by Paul Kolnik
... when Michael breaks out the high end rum, the play takes on a truly frightening spin. That these people are so well groomed, so contained, so perfectly upper class makes their shrieking deterioration lusciously comic. Ms. Reza's feel for these sweetly nasty characters (it helps that she is French) is flawless.
At the end of this ninety minute free-for-all, the characters, the playwright, and the audience are spent. "What do we know...?" someone asks, panting. Indeed. God Of Carnage is a long day's journey into... well, perhaps not that much. But it is, thanks to the smart writing, a hoot and then some, and the Guthrie cast makes the trip well worth taking.
Posted at 3:54 PM on June 8, 2011
by Marianne Combs
Filed under: Theater
Hennepin Theatre Trust President/CEO Tom Hoch, Sarah Cartwright, Ryan McCartan, SpotLight Spokesperson Linda Eder
Photo credit: Brianna Kopka
Earlier this week some of Minnesota's top young talent performed on the Orpheum stage as part of the Hennepin Theatre Trust's SpotLight Showcase.
Two of them, Sarah Cartwright and Ryan McCartan, were deemed "triple threats" and will continue on to represent Minnesota at the National High School Musical Theatre Awards later this month in New York City.
Sarah Cartwright and Ryan McCartan in "Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On" Medley
Photo credit: Brianna Kopka
Sarah Cartwright is a 2011 graduate from Eastview High School in Eagan, and Ryan McCartan is a 2011 graduate of Minnetonka High School. In addition to high school theater productions the two have been in professional productions by the Guthrie Theater, Children's Theatre Company and Theater Latté Da, among others.
According to an announcement, the two were chosen through "a vigorous series of auditions and evaluations." As part of the national process, Cartwright and McCartan will get private coaching, participate in master classes and rehearsals and compete for the opportunity to receive the national "Jimmy Award" for Best Performance by an Actress and Actor.