Noah Baumbach says his films often end up sadder than he wants, but his latest "Frances Ha" is different. (MPR photo/Euan Kerr)
"I don't know. I try not to describe it," laughed Noah Baumbach when asked to about his latest film. Nonetheless the director and writer of such cinematic depictions of modern angst as "The Squid and the Whale," "Margot at the Wedding" and "Greenberg" sits in a room in his Minneapolis hotel and considers.
"Frances Ha" is the critically acclaimed movie he co-wrote with Greta Gerwig who also plays the title role. Baumbach was in town for "Visibly Human" a retrospective and dialog at the Walker Art Center recently. Now "Frances Ha" opens this weekend theatrically in the Twin Cities.
"I think the movie for me in many ways was dictated by the character and by Greta," Baumbach said. "And as the character was formed in our writing process it was very clear to me that the movie should celebrate her and I also felt like the movie should reward her too."
"Frances Ha" follows a few months in the life of a 27 year old woman living in New York who is coming to terms that she is on the cusp of adulthood. It's not easy for her. She believes she is a dancer, despite strong evidence to the contrary available just by looking at the other members of her company. She is so close to her best friend Sophie that she breaks up with her boyfriend rather than risk damaging the platonic love she has for her friend. Then Sophie ditches her. Frances is also beset by money problems. Yet throughout it all she remains happy, and optimistic.
Greta Gerwig as the ever optimistic title character in "Frances Ha" (Image courtesy IFC Films)
The film shows Frances soldiering on despite an ongoing series of humiliations both minor and major. Baumbach says the spirit, the buoyancy and the joy of the movie really was inspired by Gerwig initially and then by Frances. Audiences tend to leave the theater in a good mood.
This feeling of contentment may be unsettling to Baumbach fans who appreciate the way the director's past work dwelt on the troubling sides of life. Another surprising thing is the movie seemed to appear as if by magic last year at the Telluride Festival.
Baumbach says he never meant to keep the production hidden. He says the reason no-one knew about it is simple.
"Nobody asked." he said. "We were there. We were making it. It was not as if we were setting out to make a secret movie."
He did however have some goals in how he made the film and says that could have played into the fact that people missed he was shooting a movie on the streets of Manhattan.
"I wanted to do something somewhat intimate." he said. "I wanted it to be a smaller production. I wanted to have a production that was fleet-footed; something we could take on the subway and shoot. Something where we could take our time."
While the film looks almost laid-back, it was shot with such a stripped down crew everything had to be carefully planned.
"There is a lot of work goes into making it seem so informal,' he said. "We did a lot of takes. All those scenes and all those shots I spent a lot of time getting them as close to what I have in my head as possible. It's some level of chaos and control that you are always working with on a movie. When it happens, when you hit it, it creates this great moment."
"It was all scripted, there was no improvisation," insisted Baumbach. "I have always really believed in getting the script as good as I can get it, then going to war with the army you have. Lets make this material work. But I am interested in a kind of informal feeling dialog."
Baumbach says the project was born out of a desire to work with Gerwig, who also starred in "Greenberg." He says as they developed the character, sending ideas and possibilities back abd forth, he quickly got a feeling of Frances, and how Gerwig would appear as her in the film.
"Greta is nothing like Frances," he recalled, "But I had a sense of how she would play it. She just seemed clear to us."
He says characters have always dictated how his films go.
"For instance like the last movie I made 'Greenberg' was about a 40 year old guy who hasn't been able to get out of his own way, and whose ideas of himself and his ideas of how his life would turn out have not come to fruition. And he's having a hard time with that and he's not able to fully acknowledge that. And when he does acknowledge it he becomes angry," he said.
"You know, I love that character but maybe it was a pricklier character to some people than a 27 year old girl who can't get out of her own way, and has ideas of how her life should be, and doesn't know how to maneuver herself in the world. But the character of Frances produced the joy and the hopefulness of the Frances Ha movie. I think that Greenberg got the movie that he should have too. I mean I think Greenberg is ultimately a hopeful movie but it's a different path."
'Frances Ha' represents something different of a different path for Baumbach: the film turned out the way he expected.
"Sometimes I'm not totally aware of the tone. I think this is going to be funnier than it turns out to be. They often feel sadder than I intend them to. But Frances, the final product, is the closest to what I envisioned going into it than anything else I have made."
Frances (Greta Gerwig) and Sophie (Mickey Sumner) playfight in Noah Baumbach's "Frances Ha" (Image courtesy IFC Films)
He says the decision to shoot the film in black and white was intuitive.
"I have always loved black and white movies, contemporary movies as opposed to black and white evoking a period because there is something that is already past tense about it once it is in black and white,' he said. "And I think maybe it was my approach to the material because I am no longer 27 and at that point in my life so that the black and white in some ways for me made it past tense. But at the same time the movie is very of the moment, not that it is topical, but I feel like it is very active movie, it doesn't feel like an artifact, it feels very alive and so I like that kind of contrast."
When asked who "Frances Ha" might be for Noah Baumbach says he made it for everybody.
"I didn't do this movie to take on the current generation and tell their story. I really did it because I felt the characters were interesting and funny and charming, and I wanted to work with Greta."
"These are the things that interested me and the hope is that they interest as many other people as possible."
To borrow the well worn phrase Arnold Schwarzenegger rode to stardom, Chris Kluwe won't be 'bahck' as the punter for the Minnesota Vikings next year. Yesterday he was unceremoniously cut from the team, much to the chagrin of fans who appreciated his booming right leg and singular outspokenness on social issues such as gay marriage.
But Viking or not, Kluwe appeared on the New Century stage yesterday as Ahnold's cyborg assassin "the terminator" for the Minnesota Fringe Festival's annual fundraiser.
Chris Kluwe appears to be enjoying his role as The Terminator, seen here taking out actor Josh Carson
Photo courtesy Minnesota Fringe Festival
Each year the Fringe Festival chooses a well-known movie, book or play, and then assigns five different theater companies each a fifth of the story.
The event is called "Five Fifths of..."; this year it took on the 1984 movie "The Terminator."
Kluwe made his appearance during Mainly Me Productions fifth of the show, taking Arnold Schwarzenegger's role for a scene at a police station.
Kluwe appeared to be enjoying himself as he sent actor Josh Carson through a series of pratfalls to the cheers of the audience.(0 Comments)
Actor Phil Kilbourne finished performing his finest role this past weekend - his own.
Kilbourne, 61, spent much of the past two years battling cancer. A regular performer at both the Jungle Theater and Penumbra, Kilbourne's roles often had an air of mortality about them, whether he was playing the devil in "The Seafarer" or the ghost of a king in "Hamlet."
Phil Kilbourne's headshot
Friends and colleagues remember him for both his professionalism, his humor and for the grace with which he dealt with his illness.
From actor Stephen Yoakam:
Foremost in the present is how vast, far-flung and loyal his community of friends, colleagues and admirers has been over the last two years of his journey. And how incredibly generous, forthright and humorous he and especially his wife Mary Sue have been in sharing all this with all of us through Caring Bridge.
As for Mr. Phil...plain and simple, this was one hell of an actor and one fun person to be in the same room with. Witty, acerbic, most always the smartest guy in the room, he was also warm, giving and kind at the end of the day. An encyclopedic knowledge of film, Shakespeare and trivia that would leave you shaking your head and going "How the hell does he remember all this?!" For those who had the pleasure of his company, when we think of him, most times we will laugh first, then continue to smile long after at his vivid spirit. A helluva guy.
Phil Kilbourne, far left, as the devil in the Jungle Theater's production of Conor McPherson's "The Seafarer"
Photo by Michal Daniel
From Lou Bellamy, Artistic Director of Penumbra Theatre:
Phill won a place in our company several years ago. He's been in at least 4 shows at PTC. All directed by me. We've traveled together in shows in Arizona, Connecticut, and Washington D.C. What I think the company will miss most is Phil's craft and humor. He was a consummate actor who made no big deal about his mastery of craft. With Phil, it was simply "taken for granted." In several of the shows he did at PTC, he had to play multiple roles in the same show. Each character was distinct and well-rounded. I remember when he began dealing with his illness. None of us knew what was happening, but we knew that Phil's memory wasn't as reliable as it had been. In true Phil fashion, when I would call him on some detail that he had forgotten, he'd make some joke about his mistake. Something like, "Sure, blame it on the white guy." Even when he began to be seriously affected by his illness, while we were touring, he still found great humor in his situation. A model of courage and style.
Phil Kilbourne in Penumbra Theatre's production of "Ma Rainey's Black Bottom"
Photo by Michal Daniel
From actor Sam Landman:
When I first met Phil Kilbourne, he scared the s**t out of me. We were doing a show at Penumbra together. And along with a boatload of other anxieties I was having at the time, Phil seemed like an oppressive, belittling character... There's no doubt that he was an imposing presence to me. And I soon learned that THAT'S what great artists do. They challenge you to bring your A-game. They have a way of keeping you from being lazy. But mostly they live in a way that inspires you to follow. Phil was the epitome of a working actor. He travelled where the work was & brought that formidable talent with him. When he was first diagnosed with cancer, he kept working. All the way up until his body betrayed him.
Stephen d'Ambrose and Phil Kilbourne in "The Dazzle" at the Jungle Theater
Photo by Michal Daniel
From actor Joel Liestman:
Two years ago my wife and I ran into Phil and Marysue at the hospital. We were on our way in to see our newborn son who was still at Abbott (he was premature) and Phil was being discharged, finally, after his first long bout with cancer. No matter what I did to ask how he was doing and how happy I was to see him out, he only wanted to talk about our little boy. In typical Phil fashion he looked at our tired, new-parent faces and said, "Let me know if there's anything I can do to help out." That's Phil.
From Bain Boehlke, Artistic Director of The Jungle Theater:
Phil Kilbourne was a favorite Jungle actor - not just of our audiences but of mine as a director. Phil appeared in a number of shows on the Jungle stage and always turned in terrific performances -performances that were nuanced and savvy. Always fun to work with, he was upbeat, witty, and congenial. We shall miss him here.
From actor/director Charlie Bethel:
I directed Phil in a solo version of Xmas Carol he adapted. He really was a tremendous spirit with a huge heart and an incisive brain. The world will be the worse, lacking him.
Do you have memories of Phil Kilbourne that you'd like to share? Please feel free to add your story in the comments section.(2 Comments)
The Minneapolis Institute of Arts is losing a great curator.
On the left: Joe Horse Capture with his weapon of choice - an iPad. Photo by Will Wilson
On the right: Joe's great-great grandfather, Horse Capture, shown with a rifle. Photo by Edward Curtis
Horse Capture, who has been at the MIA since 1997, has helped raise the profile of Native American art, acquired several important pieces for the collection, and for many years mentored the museum program "Young People's Ofrendas: Expressions of Life and Remembrance."
Horse Capture says for a Native curator like himself, the NMAI is nirvana.
"It's an incredible opportunity, and will allow me to work at a national level on exhibitions, expanding the collection, researching their collection, and developing relationships with Native communities all across the country. NMAI will allow me to work at a larger level with the worlds greatest collection of Native works in the world.
But I will miss the MIA and the great people here, and equally important, the Native American community here."
Horse Capture will work at the NMAI's Cultural Resource Center in Suitland, Maryland.
Horse Capture is a second generation museum curator; his father, George P. Horse Capture, recently retired from the NMAI.
This is the second time in recent months an MIA curator has been hired by the Smithsonian. In October of last year Cori Wegener joined the Smithsonian as a Preservation Specialist for Cultural Heritage.(5 Comments)
Set design for the Mill City Opera's 2013 production of "The Barber of Seville." (Image courtesy MCSO, design by J. Winiarski.) Click on image to enlarge
When asked why the Mill City Summer Opera picked Rossini's "The Barber of Seville" for its July 2013 production, Artistic Director David Lefkowich says he wanted to build on the success of last year.
"With 'Pagliacci' we did a lovely tragedy," he said. "And we wanted to see what comedy would do in a space as dramatic as the Mill."
The first production last summer produced an entirely sold out run which packed the audiences into the stylishly restored ruins of the Mill City Museum on the downtown Minneapolis waterfront, just a stone's throw from the Guthrie.
And as with the 2012 this years selection is designed to attract both hardcore opera fans and operatic novices who will still likely recognize the music.
"And that's the sort of audience that we want to attract in these first couple of years," said Lefkowich (shown left during last years rehearsals.) "People who love opera, or people looking for a new kind of experience and maybe they don't even realize how terrific opera can be."
Putting on an opera on in a ruin presents challenges. The company has to basically build a theater within the walls of the courtyard. Things you take for granted in a regular performance space, like wings and a backstage have to be improvised. And there is also the delight and challenge of having a stage open to the sky and the ever changing Minnesota summer weather.
However Lefkowich says the crowds seemed to enjoy last year. The company got a lot of good feedback, he said.
"Across the board people enjoyed that the evening wasn't very long," he said. The Pagliacci show lasted about two hours.
Lefkowich learned a lot during the staging. There were some sightline problems which made it hard for some audience members to see performers in the corners of the set, but he promises those will be fixed this year. He hopes to redefine the space, by using a design to build platforms on the left and right sides of the stage. The central area will be used for performers entrances and exits.
The Pagliacci production was set to be contemporary with the when the Mill was new. The "Barber" will be set earlier, which Lefkowich believes offers exciting possibilities
"This will be our first time delving more in the past, in a time before the mill was operational and we are hoping to get some dramatic interest out of that combination: a newer space and an older period mixed together in one," he said.
Tickets for the production go on sale May 20th through the Minnesota Historical Society. Last year they sold out quickly, which Lefkowich says was lucky. However it set a high bar he'd like to surpass
"I am shooting for something better, but even if we hit what we did last year that would be great as well," he laughed.
Ultimately though he would like to have longevity for the Mill City Summer Opera, to come back year after year, and establish another summer tradition
"There is a real desire for more opera in the Twin Cities and we are really excited to deliver that," he said.
A little more than a year ago, the prognosis for Katie Ka Vang was not good.
Vang was diagnosed with stage four anaplastic T-cell large lymphoma, and had tumors in 60 - 70% of her body. She couldn't even walk.
Now she's not only walking, she's back to performing on stage with her one woman show Hmong Bollywood
Katie Ka Vang
Vang says it's great to be performing again, but it's also scary:
"Something about being in my body really makes me feel alive, again. Up until January, since being in remission, I felt I was on auto-pilot, and I didn't realize it - I mean there has to be a little bit of that in life, but it should never be the "go to". While being on chemo, I was so intentional and it was easier to be present in everything I was doing but the moment I was in remission, it's like I put some kind of expectation on myself and thrust myself back into what I was calling "normal" life; then I finally realized this is my normal now. I'm a part of a new "super hero group!"
Hmong Bollywood is about love, displacement and identity; it's also about Vang's obsession with Bolllywood films. Vang has worked on the piece for years with Pangea director Meena Natarajan; now cancer has a role to play in the show, too.
"Just like life, when you live one more day, you have a little more information about it, if you're paying attention that is," reflects Vang. "So in the midst of life, Hmong Bollywood happened, and when I got cancer it gave me a little more information about my life, it basically gave us an ending to the piece."
But the process hasn't been easy. Vang says she often found herself not wanting to work anymore because it was just too much.
"It became too hard to hold in my body and my mind and I wasn't really sure if I'd be ready for this; but then little things manifest and re-affirm my belief that art and theater should mirror life. Earlier this week I heard a 14 year-old boy say the most profound thing: 'Out of all the art forms, theater and dance are the rawest forms of being with God.' It was exactly what I needed to hear."0 Comments)
Last week a dog named Schoep was inducted into the 2013 Wisconsin Pet Hall of Fame.
Not bad for an animal who, as of last fall, had only weeks to live.
John Unger supports his dog Schoep in Lake Superior as a way to ease the pain of Schoep's chronic arthritis. This photo, taken by Hannah Stonehouse Hudson, went viral online, compelling thousands to make donations for the dog's medical care.
Six months ago a photograph of John Unger and his ailing dog Schoep inspired an outpouring of generosity, which to date totals more than $50,000. Today Schoep is alive and well, and those funds are now helping other sick dogs to get help and find new homes.
Initial donations helped to treat Schoep's severe arthritis. With the excess, Unger and friends have founded Schoep's Legacy Foundation. The foundation's mission is to support efforts to improve animal welfare.
While the foundation is still awaiting certification from the IRS, it has already donated money to a number of Bay Area spay and neuter programs which serve low income people of Northern Wisconsin and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. It also helped the Chequamegon Humane Association to buy a new van.
But perhaps most interesting of all is "The Cider Project." Based in Northern Wisconsin, it helps local shelters by providing medical and surgical care to pets that need extra help to make them more "adoptable." The program is the brainchild of Dr. Erik Haukaas, Schoep's veterinarian.
For example, a Basset-Beagle named Lumpy had a hernia. The Cider Project paid for his medical work to be done, and he's since found a home.
Dr. Erik Haukaas hangs out with Lumpy
Photo: Hannah Stonehouse Hudson
Another dog, a Pomeranian named Midge, suffered from ovarian tumors, which impeded her ability to walk and caused extensive hair loss on the lower part of her body. After treatment, her gait returned to normal and her hair grew back; she's since been adopted.
Due to all the popularity, Unger and his dog now have their own Facebook page, with more than 106,000 fans who check in regularly to get updates on Schoep's health.
But amid all the great news there is a sad story to report. Hannah Stonehouse Hudson, the photographer who captured Unger and Schoep's loving relationship, recently lost her husband in a tragic ice fishing accident. In a bittersweet twist, the thousands of fans she made with her photograph have become a source of support in her grief.
One of the civic leaders posing with shovels when ground was broken on the Ordway Center for the Performing Arts was George Latimer, then mayor of St. Paul. Now in semi-retirement, he continues to promote the city as a point of personal pride -- as when, for example, he brags to old friends from law school. Or when he fires off a few hundred words in a letter to MPR.
Former St. Paul Mayor George Latimer photographed in 2008
MPR Photo/William Wilcoxen
"Our dream was for the Ordway to enliven a downtown that had been in decline," Latimer wrote this week. "Nine million visitors to the Ordway later, I can say our hopes for that patch of dirt we were shoveling have been exceeded.
"Downtown St. Paul is different because of the Ordway. And the arts are different too. The Minnesota Opera has become a leader in its field. Last year it won the Pulitzer Prize for Music, and its most recent opera was reviewed in the New York Times. I hope my old classmates read what the Times' music critic had to say about the new opera that premiered in downtown St. Paul.
"But what about the labor lockout at the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra? What about the future of St. Paul's cultural ambassadors? Well, we seem to be living in an age of lockouts, and none of us are too fond of it. The Wild, the Timberwolves and the Vikings were all locked out in the last two years. Their seasons were disrupted, but they all returned to playing. The same will eventually happen with the SPCO, a point on which management and labor agree.
"Unlike other troubled orchestras across the country, the SPCO has no debt, hasn't taken large draws from its endowment and doesn't own a large building it must run and maintain. However, it did run a sizable deficit last year, its first in more than a decade. So to stay out of trouble - indeed, to continue to grow in quality - its new contract must secure a solid financial base.
"Back in the 1980s, a 'sense of place' was what we hoped the Ordway would deliver. From the day the doors opened it has been a Twin Cities favorite, a gathering place that shows off what is beautiful about St. Paul. It is also the No. 1 cultural destination for public school students, the home of a great Children's Festival, and the state's oldest arts organization, The Schubert Club. One sign of the Ordway's success is the lack of free nights on its calendar.
"Before long this lockout will be over, a blur amidst the other lockouts of this era. By then, the Ordway's new concert hall will be underway, and the finances of those performing at the Ordway will be strengthened by a more robust endowment. The effort to accomplish both of those goals is this generation's contribution to what we built in the '80s. We faced obstacles back then, too, but we persisted. The Ordway has been a winner for this community for decades, particularly for the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra. Their success will continue."
This year's recipient of the Kay Sexton Award has helped many an author write their own books.
Photo: Minnesota Book Awards
The 330 acre estate offers residencies for writers and artists, and hosts several events each year for both writers and readers. Now in its 18th year, the center is the largest artist community in the Upper Midwest.
The Kay Sexton Award is presented at the Minnesota Book Awards each year to an individual for his or her contributions to Minnesota's literary scene.
Hedin has already won two Minnesota Book Awards for his writing. He edited Where One Voice Ends Another Begins: 150 Years of Minnesota Poetry, published by the Minnesota Historical Society Press in 2007 in honor of the state's sesquicentennial.
The 2013 Minnesota Book Awards take place on April 13 in Minneapolis.
Talks between management and locked out musicians wrapped up for the week today, after a possible Friday session was cancelled.
Management has promised to put together a detailed report of how it proposes to save $1.5 million a year from trimming musicians salaries, and deliver it to the musicians by Tuesday. Further talks are likely once that information has been shared.
While everyone agrees it's good the sides seem to be still talking, the musicians are clearly frustrated.
Late this afternoon they put out a release headlined "Musicians of SPCO say Management's failure to compromise jeopardizes continued viability of Orchestra."
Reached by phone musicians negotiator Lynn Erickson said "We have made four proposals to management. Each of them has given more concessions, and management hasn't moved of their original position."
The musicians release argues that the SPCO has saved about $1.7 million through the lock out. It says musicians concessions will save about $3.4 million over three years. The musicians argue that the difference between those savings and the management target of $4.5 million in savings can be made through other fundraising opportunities.
However SPCO Marketing Director Jessica Etten stressed that the financial need of the orchestra has not changed, and the $1.5 million must come out of the existing budget if the SPCO is to avoid future problems. She says that management has been willing to negotiate different ways of doing this, and has put forward a number of proposals to that end.
By all accounts Laura Osnes is not just a 'flash in the pan.' This weekend the actress took to the Broadway stage in the starring role of Rodgers and Hammerstein's Cinderella.
Laura Osnes in the title role of Rodgers and Hammerstein's "Cinderella"
Photo by Carol Rosegg
Born and raised in the Twin Cities suburbs, Osnes has long been involved in musical theater, playing numerous roles throughout her youth at Eagan High School, Children's Theatre Company, and Chanhassen Dinner Theatres.
But as Jeff Lunden report for National Public Radio, Osnes got her big break through a reality TV show called "Grease: You're the One that I Want." As the winner she got to star in the Broadway production.
"I let the whole Grease experience be a springboard for me," Osnes says. "I wanted to use the exposure I got from that very wisely, to continue a successful career. It's taken a lot of work and perseverance."
It's paid off. With Cinderella, Osnes will be playing her fifth lead role on Broadway in six years.
Ted Chapin, president of the Rodgers and Hammerstein Organization, says coming to Broadway from a reality TV show was not a "terribly welcoming circumstance."
"We don't like to be told by television audiences -- well, maybe now with American Idol we can be," he says. "But for Laura to have come to this town in the lead in that Grease production, and then to have turned out to be the real deal is what's so surprising, delightful and wonderful for all of us."
You can read the full NPR story here.
In addition, Osnes was back home in the Twin Cities last year, and sat down for this interview at Chanhassen Dinner Theatres.(0 Comments)
Updated with management statement at 5.25
Representatives of management and locked out musicians of the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra have apparently ended contract talks for the day, and the two sides will meet again Friday.
Musicians negotiator Carole Mason Smith declined to reveal details of the talks but said the sides are exchanging information and still have a lot of things to discuss. She again stressed the musicians remain focused on trying to find a deal.
In late afternoon Interim SPCO President Dobson also issued a short statement: "This morning we continued negotiations with the Musician Negotiating Committee. At this time there is no news to report, but we have agreed to continue the discussion on Friday morning."
Friday's meeting will be the third in five days, a burst of negotiation not seen since the beginning of the lockout in mid-October. Outstanding issues in the talks appear to be over pay, how to reduce the size of the SPCO from 34 to 28 musicians, and the electronic media agreement, which governs the use of SPCO performances on-line.(0 Comments)
"It's not exactly sausage making. It's more like making a banquet or a bouquet. We like to think we are making something really gorgeous," says Peter Brosius. "Not that I don't like sausage!"
The Children's Theatre Company Artistic Director is a bouncing spring of a man, never still in his office chair. His desk is awash in papers, books, and letters, a tideline left by the creative swells passing through his room.
His talk of sausages is not about his lunch plans, but how he put together the CTC's 2013-2014 season, which is released today.
It's a complex mix: knowing the CTC has lots of different audiences to serve, while looking at what original and classic work is available, and who might be available to do it.
"And you have a thing called 'a budget,'" he laughs.
Given all those things, Brosius appears to have put together a remarkable line-up.
"So we have a season, next year, that has three world premieres," he says. "Two extraordinary guest companies coming in, a Broadway musical, a classic that has never been on our stage before, 'Charlotte's Web' and bringing back 'Cinderella.'"
Amongst the premieres is what promises to be a remarkable stage adaptation of a book by one of the great living writers of children's literature
Brosius' son loved it, his teacher loved it and so did Brosius when he read it. He got the rights from Pullman, author of "The Golden Compass" and the rest of the "His Dark Materials" trilogy. Then Brosius commissioned internationally acclaimed Twin Cities playwright Jeffrey Hatcher to develop a stage play.
"It is a remarkable and incredible story," Brosius says. "Sort of a mix. Like if you put Don Quixote and the Wizard of Oz and all kind of stories in a blender and then put them in the gorgeous and inventive comic mind of Philip Pullman and Jeffrey Hatcher. You get this story of this wonderful friendship between this grand and extraordinary scarecrow who is off to seek fame and fortune and valor, and is gorgeously both clown, and fool, and grand presence in his own mind, and this poor orphan Jack who is in need of some food."
Together the pair head out on a series of adventures and end up confronting evil forces set to destroy where they live. Brosius says the play received a number of workshop presentations and Hatcher has reworked the script several times to a point where everyone is very excited about it.
"Jeffrey has done some things that have heightened the heart and the relationship and certainly the incredible humor."
"And he has created a wild anime-inspired action adventure piece about identity called "The Wong Kids in The Secret of the Space Chucpacabra Go!"
It's the story of two youngsters Bruce and Violet who have to save the universe, but first of all they get over the fact they can't stand each other. Ma-Yi will open the show at the CTC and then move it to New York where it will play off-Broadway.
This is the first of two visiting companies in the CTC season. The second is the Mermaid Theatre of Nova Scotia, which specializes in black light puppetry. Brosius expects the company to mark a major milestone while it is in Minneapolis.
"I think they will have their five millionth viewer seeing Eric Carle's "The Very Hungry Caterpillar and other stories," he says. Mermaid has never been seen before on the CTC stage.
The third world premiere is "Balloonacy" by Ivey Award winning playwright Barry Kornhauser. The show is aimed at CTC's youngest audiences.
"For us the work for pre-schoolers is a huge priority for this theater," says Brosius. "This is the story of a little old man who doesn't like much about life, he's a grumpy old thing."
Then a balloon flies in his window and, despite the old man's best efforts, won't leave him alone. Gradually the old man softens and relearns how to play. Brosius says there's a message in "Balloonacy" for all ages.
"Sometimes age can take it away from you, and so this is a lesson for all of us, that sense of play, that sense of invention, that sense of joy, it's all there to be tapped," he says.
There is another local premiere in the list: "Charlotte's Web."
"Wildly it's going to be the first time it's been done here," says Brosius.
Rounding out the season are two returning favorites, the aforementioned Cinderella (below) with what Brosius describes as "the ugliest step-sisters. I love Dean (Holt) and Reed (Sigmund) but, boy, they are not beautiful women," he laughs.
There will also be the return of "Dr Seuss' The Cat in the Hat" (see Thing 1 above) which will be presented in May through July of 2014 as the first of what will be an ongoing series of summer programming at the CTC.
Here is the 2013-2014 season in full:
By Joseph Robinette
Based on the Book by E.B. White
Directed by Greg Banks
September 17 - October 27
The Wong Kids in The Secret of the Space Chupacabra Go!
Co-Produced with Ma-Yi Theater Company
By Lloyd Suh
Directed by Ralph B. Peña
October 8 - November 17
Adapted by John B. Davidson
Original Music by Victor Zupanc
Based on the Fairytale by Charles Perrault
Directed by Peter C. Brosius
November 12 - January 5
Recommended for all ages
The Very Hungry Caterpillar and Other Eric Carle Favorites
Produced by Mermaid Theatre of Nova Scotia
Adapted, directed, and designed by Jim Morrow
Music by Steven Naylor
Narrated by Gordon Pinsent
January 14 - February 23
Grades Preschool +
The Scarecrow and His Servant
By Jeffrey Hatcher
Based on the book by Philip Pullman
Directed by Peter C. Brosius
March 11 - April 6
Shrek the Musical
Music by Jeanine Tesori
Book and Lyrics by David Lindsay-Abaire
Based on the DreamWorks Animation Motion Picture and the book by William Steig Directed by Peter Rothstein
April 22 - June 8
Recommended for all ages
By Barry Kornhauser
Directed by Peter C. Brosius
March 25 - May 4
Grades Preschool +
Dr. Seuss' The Cat in the Hat
Based on the book The Cat in the Hat by Dr. Seuss
Play originally produced by the National Theatre of Great Britain
Adapted and originally directed by Katie Mitchell
Directed by Jason Ballweber
May 22 - July 20
(All images courtesy Children's Theatre Company, except for MPR file image of Jeffrey Hatcher)(1 Comments)
Management and locked out musicians of the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra have been meeting all afternoon. It's the first face-to-face talks the two sides have had in some time. They are trying to hammer out an agreement which may get the musicians playing again, and ultimately lead to a settlement in the long-running contract dispute.
The musicians see this week as really important, as they are concerned management may be about to cancel more concerts, and effectively wipe out the rest of the SPCO season. During the dispute management has been canceling concerts about six weeks out.
In recent days management has been pitching an offer to play and talk, that is resume concerts while the final details of a contract are negotiated. However there are some details in that play and talk proposal which are hard for the musicians to swallow, and that is what they are negotiating today.
They have so much to discuss it's unlikely they will have a resolution today, but both sides seem eager to keep the talks alive. The musicians say they are prepared to meet every day until they reach an agreement. Before the meeting management said they hadn't heard the details of how that would work yet, but they want to get a deal too.
The three main sticking points are: pay, how to reduce the size of the SPCO from 34 to 28 positions, and the electronic media agreement, that is the use of SPCO performances online.
The pay issue is complex, because management has proposed not only to cut salaries, but wanted to impose a two-tier system where current musicians will be guaranteed an over-scale payment, essentially a bonus over the rate which any new musicians will get.
The musicians didn't like that because they said it builds in an inequality. So now management is offering two options: one with the base salary plus bonus for current musicians, and one with a higher base salary and no bonus for everyone. This would keep things equal, but in effect mean an even bigger pay cut for current musicians.
When it comes to the reduction of the size of the orchestra, the musicians have apparently said they are willing to consider it, as long as no-one is fired. Management is offering a retirement package for musicians 55 or older. An important question however is how the SPCO maintains its orchestration, that is making sure they have the right combination of players. Management has offered to create a committee of musicians and management representatives to oversee that mix. A big question here is whether there are sufficient people, and in the right combination, who are willing to retire to make this work.
Finally there is the electronic media agreement, which has been contentious. Traditionally this part of the agreement has been negotiated by the national union, the American Federation of Musicians. However the SPCO management wants to have electronic media be part of the local contract. The AFM filed a grievance against the SPCO last year, and last week filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board accusing the SPCO leadership of unfair labor practices.
Meanwhile over at the Minnesota Orchestra the two sides are still exchanging suggestions about how to do the independent analysis of the the Orchestras finances requested by the musicians. The players say it is necessary before they can consider a possible counter-proposal to management's current offer.
(SPCO image courtesy SPCO)(3 Comments)
Artist Ai Weiwei isn't afraid to speak his mind.
For instance there's his self-portrait. It features him naked, jumping in the air, holding a llama doll in front of his private parts.
The caption reads in "Grass mud horse covering the middle" which, when said in Chinese, sounds an awful lot like "F*** your mother, Communist Party Central Committee."
Weiwei has publicly criticized the Chinese government for, among other things, the shoddily built schools which collapsed in a 2008 earthquake, killing more than 5,000 students in Sichuan.
Tonight at 10:30pm tpt2 will broadcast Alison Klayman's documentary "Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry" which won the Sundance Film Festival's Special Jury Prize. It profiles this man who continues to challenge oppression with irreverence, and sometimes an almost childlike glee.
The documentary is being broadcast as part of the Independent Lens series.(0 Comments)
The Grammy Award-winner's topic was "What You Hear is What You Get: A Composer on Composing." As you might expect her address was both informative and energetic.
And as you might also expect, when she took questions from the audience at the end she received several queries about her thoughts, as a composer, on the current labor conflicts at the Minnesota Orchestra and Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra.
This is what she said:
Because I am not an orchestral musician, nor am I an administrator, I can watch and consider the situation from a little different perspective, though I am a performing musician and I sat on the Orchestra League Board of Directors for a number of terms, and also the Minnesota Orchestra Board of Directors for a number of terms.
So I think I see the 100 year situation that is currently afoot here in the Twin Cities. And it's a tragedy, because no music is being made. And to not hear the music and to only hear about the current business situation of the music is really a tragedy.
Now, will it be solved? Yes, it will be solved one way or another. Are there sides? In my opinion there are no sides. It's a huge situation that has gotten out of control. Not with this orchestra, with ALL orchestras in the country. And it needs to find its new footing - whatever that is. And Minnesota is the place where I think we are going to find out. We are after all pioneers. We love great ideas. We love to see how things play out. After all we did elect Jesse Ventura!
So I have high hopes that however the situation plays out, it will be played out in the Scandinavian collective way we do things here in Minnesota. And if it plays out well, which will probably be long term, then we can be a very strong model for really what is about a 100 year problem. Which I'd be happy to lecture on, but probably not today.
You can hear Larsen's entire address on MPR News Presents at noon today and will be posted later on the program's web page.
Here is an example of Larsen's work sung by the San Francisco Girls Chorus:
(Submitted photo of Libby Larsen)(2 Comments)
Wise musicians know they must take careful care of their instruments, but Terje Isungset (right) maybe has to take more care than most.
The Norwegian plays music on marimbas, trumpets and harps all made from ice, some of it thousands of years old carved from glaciers in his homeland.
Isungset brings his Ice Music show to the Cedar Cultural Center on Monday evening. However he will be in Minneapolis this weekend preparing his instruments. He'll be working at a local ice vendor, and possibly cutting ice from a local lake.
However he points out It's not every piece of ice which can become part of an instrument. There is a lot of selection and tuning to be done. You can get a sense of his work from this video.
A further challenge faces the Cedar itself, which it has to be admitted can become quite warm when packed with a crowd of music heads. The Cedar's Mike Rossetto says the stage crew is looking at how it will adjust the heating in the venue, which usually includes vents which blow on stage.
There is also the question of lighting. Ice looks really pretty when it's lit properly, but the lighting guy doesn't usually run the risk of destroying a performer's instruments by making it look good.
Beautiful music mixed with the possibility of disaster: what's not to love?
(Ice trumpet image courtesy of the Cedar Cultural Center)(0 Comments)
"Let's talk theatre" host Sarah Bellamy (MPR photo/Euan Kerr)
It's quiet in the offices of Penumbra Theatre in St. Paul, but Sarah Bellamy is getting ready to get it jumping.
A few months back when a financial crisis forced the nation's premier African-American theater to cancel its entire season things looked pretty bad.
"I describe the experience as both harrowing and totally revitalizing at the same point, says Bellamy. "The first few weeks it was like somebody died round here. It was really, really sad."
"It's thrilling. We are so excited and so honored and humbled," she says with a grin on her face.
"Spunk" opens in mid-March, but tonight Bellamy, who is officially the company's education director, will begin laying the groundwork for the production as she puts on her hat as the host of Penumbra's "Lets Talk Theater" series.
Bellamy says the series started last year.
"And the idea was how do we engage people differently around the work that we do and talk more broadly about some of the issues theater bumps against or draws out for us," she said. "What we found was our community, the people who come to see the plays, they want social opportunities to come together and talk to each other."
Penumbra launched evenings where the company offered a chance to enjoy a wine and happy hour paired with a discussion of deeper theater topics.
"So we started last year with one about James Baldwin for "The Amen Corner" and we did one on the artistic impact of Penumbra, which was neat. And people really loved them," said Bellamy.
First two attracted about 60 people, and Bellamy is expecting about the same tonight, where the topic will be the Harlem Renaissance.
George C.Wolfe based his play on three stories gathered in the 1930's by Zora Neale Hurston. While many people know her as a memoirist and author of such classics as "Their Eyes Were Watching God" Bellamy points out she was also a folklorist who doggedly traveled through the African-American community to collect the stories shared for generations that were in danger of being lost in the early part of the 20th century.
Also Bellamy says while Hurston was a pillar of the Harlem Renaissance, she may not be someone many people might recognize as having an interest in the theater and playwriting
"In fact Zora Neale Hurston was really interested in theater as a tool to change the understanding of the black image more broadly. She was a folklorist, she loved stories she loved sharing those stories with audiences. But she was really adamant about authentic African-American voices, about authenticity."
Bellamy says she's excited about talking about how that played into the Harlem Renaissance. Hurston worked with artists such as the poet Langston Hughes to spread the word about what she was doing. She also worked with many other people in the dynamic artistic community that became known as the Harlem Renaissance.
"So what I plan to do on Monday night is really have a conversation about some of the pillars, but also perhaps those people who don't know about," she said.
People like Lorenzo Dow Turner and Sterling Brown for example, who worked in comparative anonymity to preserve evidence of a vibrant culture ignored by the rest of academia.
"People who are contributing to the idea of preserving African American folklore and whose work wasn't really recognized because frankly they didn't have access to faculty positions at prestigious school and universities," says Bellamy.
"You start to see a group of incredibly well intentioned activist artists who believe they have something to contribute that will push forward social goals towards racial equity and justice. And then that picture becomes so much deeper and richer. So our engagement with the play "Spunk" becomes not just about the folklore but about the mission of these artists and what they were trying to do."
Bellamy says the activism in Harlem and the artistic developments were passed slowly through the rest of the African American community throughout the country. She says it took a while and the letters and books got pretty dog-eared, but they kept on going. She also admits there were many white patrons who didn't always appreciate the focus on what they saw as stories which should be left to fade away. There were a lot of African Americans who felt the same thing.
She says Wolfe carried on the work when he wrote the play in the 1980's. "Spunk" won an Obie in 1989.
Bellamy says the issues of cultural preservation are still alive today
"So may decades later we are still having the same conversations," Bellamy said. "About what's valuable to retain and what we want to draw forward from the past and how do we do that in a way that is authentic to our experience and not something that comes commodified and pre-packaged to shore up expectations that don't come from within our culture. And I feel that's why Penumbra exists and the artists working on the play are doing the same thing."
The ""Lets Talk Theatre" event will also include a musical selection from Sanford Moore. Harry Waters Jr., H. Adam Harris, and Austene Van will all read extracts from "Spunk".
Bellamy says people who come will have a window into the play that is unique.
"Training new audiences is important and ushering new audiences in, to see the value of theater as being more than just being entertained, especially for Penumbra that does mission critical work."
She expects the audience tonight to include people who have a deep knowledge of theatre, and those who know a lot about the community but are eager to learn about Penumbra.
"And I love sort of creating an opportunity for those people to cross-pollinate and have interesting conversations that I don't steer. At that point I kind of sit back and watch. We all sort of marvel at our knowledge of various communal things and that is really fun."
The event runs from 5.30 to 7.30 tonight. Tickets are $15
"We are really invested in Penumbra being around for, hopefully, another 36 years," said Bellamy.
Mohannad Ghawanmeh is a serious guy when it comes to film. Not only has he curated Mizna's Twin Cities Arab Film Festival, he teaches film, and is also the author of the eclectic Arab film blog Cinema Arabiata. He was also the star of "Triumph 67" a Minnesota made film which premiered in 2011.
However, Ghawanmeh also has a wicked sense of humor, which is evident from the promo he has put together for this years Arab Film Fest.
The dates for this year's events are March 13-17. Opening night will be at the Walker Art Center, and then the rest of the event will roll out at the historic Heights Theater in Columbia Heights.(0 Comments)
On February 28 local rapper and singer Dessa will give a performance at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts.
Image courtesy of the artist
Ticket sales from the event will seed a new scholarship fund for under-served teens.
Tickets are $20 and go on sale this Wednesday at 10am.
Dessa is known for her work mentoring teens and young adults, which has included public speaking and leading writing workshops.
According to MIA marketing manager Kim Huskinson, the museum is working to engage with teens of all backgrounds, and to raise awareness of the art classes it already offers youth.(0 Comments)
Editor's Note: Thanks to Rupa Shenoy for this report.
Twin Cities musician Steve Kramer has died. He was 59.
Kramer's business partner, Bob Hest, confirmed that he died in his sleep on Saturday night while attending the Sundance Film Festival in Utah.
Twin Cities musician Steve Kramer in a December 2011 file photo.
(Photo courtesy MPR)
Kramer was an accordionist best known for his punk-polka band The Wallets. He led the band and wrote much of the music before the band folded in the late 1980s.
The Wallets were known as one of the most original and unique bands in the Twin Cities. They traveled by converted ambulance on cross-country tours, and Kramer later said those grueling drives were the reason the band folded.
Kramer and Hest went on to form an advertising company and created jingles for clients including Target, Buick and MTV.
In 2011, Kramer collaborated with storyteller Kevin Kling in a production called "Of Mirth and Mischief" at the Fitzgerald Theater in St. Paul. Kling said they were working on a new production for the Children's Theater Company in Minneapolis.
"He made things live anew and made you feel like you're hearing a kind of music for the first time," Kling said. "All across the board -- his breadth -- like the four songs he'd written for our new piece -- all of them, just completely different from the next. All of them, just a mastery of each form."
Kling said Kramer was one of the most gifted composers he knew.(0 Comments)
While 34-year-old Franco is best known for his work in 127 hours and Sam Raimi's Spider-Man trilogy, the actor is also a writer, director and painter with a near-obsessive passion for learning. He holds an MFA in poetry from Warren Wilson College and an MFA in creative writing from Brooklyn College.
James Franco as Allen Ginsberg in the movie "Howl"
Franco's work in film has often involved poetry, whether he was portraying Allen Ginsberg or Hart Crane, or directing films inspired by poetry.
Directing Herbert White is scheduled to be published in April 2014. Graywolf editor Jeffrey Shotts describes the poems as a series of portraits of American successes and failures from within Hollywood.
"They are also smart and highly aware notes of caution of what can happen when the filmed self becomes fixed and duplicated, while the ongoing self must continue living and watching," added Shotts in a press release.
In 2010 Scribner published a collection of Franco's short stories titled Palo Alto to mixed reviews. He's also published a chapbook of poetry titled Strongest of the Litter.
Graywolf plans to bring Franco to Minneapolis for a book launch event in the spring of 2014.
Eagan native Nicholas Mrozinski will be coming home after placing third on NBC's vocal competition show "The Voice."
Mrozinski, known to audiences of "The Voice" as Nicholas David, impressed viewers with his soulful crooning reminiscent of both Marvin Gaye and Joe Cocker. His song choices consistently reflected a message of love and optimism, from "Lean on Me" to "Somewhere Over the Rainbow." In tonight's finale, he sang a duet with Smokey Robinson.
But the love and harmony wasn't enough to earn him the most audience votes; the popular winner was contestant Cassadee Pope.
Pope's victory is unsurprising, from a reality TV angle. One of the driving forces behind The Voice is iTunes sales, and Pope's inoffensive mall-pop vocal stylings and ever-so-slightly-edgy appearance make her an easily accessible candidate, especially for the download-hungry tween and teen market. Mrozinski, on the other hand, appealed to older generations of music fans with his soulful take on classics by Bill Withers and Marvin Gaye.
It's unclear at this point what Mrozinski's future holds; while he won't be getting the first prize recording contract, his newfound popularity makes it unlikely he'll continue in such intimate local venues as The Happy Gnome.
Mrozinski has said he's looking forward to spending some quality time with family. He's the father of two boys; he and his partner are expecting a third baby in February.
Nicholas David - a.k.a. Nick Mrozinski - sang his heart and soul out tonight on NBC's vocal competition show "The Voice."
The Eagan native took his on-stage energy to new heights with his rendition of Jerry Lee Lewis' "Great Balls of Fire" which morphed into Jimi Hendrix's "Fire." Mrozinski performed on a flaming piano before taking to the floor with some dance moves and high kicks.
Later on in the program Mrozinski took a more relaxed tone as he sang Bill Withers' "Lean on Me" with a casually dressed choir sitting behind him. The song echoed a sentiment expressed at the opening of the show with the cast's performance of Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah" in memory of the 26 people - mostly children - killed Friday at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut.
Finally Mrozinski sang a duet with his coach CeeLo Green, whose title could have been a directive from CeeLo himself: "Play that Funky Music" by Wild Cherry. Aerialists with big hair and a "mini CeeLo" showing off his dance moves rounded out the performance.
Now it's up to the audience to decide who wins 'The Voice.' Fans can vote for their favorite contestants either by phone, text message, online, or by purchasing the song they performed on iTunes.
Voting is open in the Central time zone through 9:00am Tuesday. The winner, who gets to sign a record deal, will be announced on "The Voice" tomorrow night.(6 Comments)
It's been two emotional evenings in a row for the final four contestants of NBC's "The Voice."
After a brief return home to visit their families, Nicholas David, Cassadee Pope, Terry McDermott, and Trevin Hunte all took to the stage Monday night for the penultimate round of the national singing competition.
Eagan native Nicholas David - a.k.a. Nick Mrozinski - was particularly soulful as he sang Joe Cocker's "You Are So Beautiful" to his wife and kids who were standing just off the stage.
Tonight it was announced that just one contestant would be eliminated from the competition - Trevin Hunte - leaving the remaining three to compete in the final round next week.
While David is known for his fine skill with classic R&B tunes, his competition are more solidly in the "pop" vein. He's received consistent praise from the judges, but ultimately the winner will be selected by his or her popularity with viewers.(4 Comments)
Fans of Nicholas David - a.k.a. Nick Mrozinski to his Twin Cities friends - were left holding their breath until the end of NBC's"The Voice." In the final minutes Mrozinski was standing with fellow contestant Amanda Brown, knowing only one of them would make the next round.
On Monday Mrozinski got the audience dancing to Earth Wind and Fire's "September" and then later crooned "Somewhere Over the Rainbow." Despite the fact that judges wished Mrozinski had taken more risks with his vocal stylings - rather than relying on his back-up singers to hit the high notes for him - ultimately fans voted in great enough numbers over the next several hours to keep Mrozinski on the show.
Tonight's "Jingle Ball" at the Xcel Energy Center brings together some of the hottest acts in the pop music scene, including the South Korean phenomenon Psy(his real name is Park Jae-sang).
Psy is the man behind "Gangnam Style," a video that has gone viral over its funny dance moves, catchy tune and campy humor. The video is a send-up of the posh Gangnam neighborhood in Seoul.
Gangnam Style has inspired numerous parodies, including this one from the Oregon Duck:
Psy was even invited on to the Ellen Degeneres show to teach Brittney Spears his horse-back riding dance moves; unfortunately she was wearing a rather move-limiting tight skirt.
It's interesting that despite Psy's amazing popularity, American media doesn't seem interested in learning much else about him.
Diane Brady of Bloomberg Businessweek writes that while Psy is represented by one of the biggest agents in the business- LA talent manager Scooter Braun- he's not getting the same star treatment as Braun's other clients.
Ellen DeGeneres was one of the first to secure the man behind Gangnam Style, yet she barely spoke to the artist when he came to her show on Sept. 11 to teach Britney Spears his signature dance. (The pop-star had previously tweeted that she wanted to learn the moves.) Britney's first words to Park were "show me" while Ellen immediately assumed a dancing stance. (Meanwhile, Simon Cowell, also on hand, couldn't bring himself to get off the couch.) Psy gamely responded by saying, "By the way, can I introduce myself, not just dance? I'm Psy from Korea. How are you?"
This year marks the 100th anniversary of the birth of the late Gordon Parks, a groundbreaking African-American photographer, filmmaker, writer and musician who spent his teen years in St. Paul.
Student Peter Rodriguez (left) performs during a celebration of the life of Gordon Parks on Nov. 30, 2012, at Gordon Parks High School in St. Paul, Minn. The piano, painted by Twin Cities artist Jesse Golfis and the school's students, showcases images of the late Gordon Parks, who once lived in St. Paul.
MPR Photo/Nikki Tundel
Recently MPR's Nikki Tundel visited Gordon Parks High School, an alternative learning center that provides a fresh start for those who struggled at other schools.
According to Principal Micheal Thompson students at Gordon Parks, the school, have a lot in common with Gordon Parks, the teenager.
"Gordon Parks started out when he was 15 years old on the streets of St. Paul with no place to live, no job and no prospects. And then he became this international Renaissance man," Thompson said.
Thompson highlights Parks' tenacity in hopes of motivating students to find their own paths to success.
On this morning, a group of students paints a mural to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Parks' birth. Their canvas: a grand piano.
As some students paint the instrument, others play its keys.
"It's like a tune which would set the tone for the painters and set their mind free and they would paint what they feel, which correlates to Gordon Parks because he loves music himself," student Tony Vang said.
"I'm just making designs for the piano. I think they represent me," student Pheng Lor said, continuing to paint.
Rodriguez agrees, "That's like putting our soul pretty much into the piano."
You can read more about the students at Gordon Parks High School - how the photographer continues to inspire them - here.
The co-author of the hugely successful book Three Cups of Tea, which raised awareness of the plight of children's education in Pakistan and Afghanistan, has taken his own life.
Journalist David Oliver Relin was born in Rochester,
MinnesotaNew York. In his career he was drawn to telling stories about worldwide inequities involving children. Which is why he was assigned to write a book about fellow Rochester, Minnesota native Greg Mortenson, a mountain climber who had an inspiring story about building schools.
The book sold over four million copies, but as the New York Times writes, some readers found details of the tale suspicious.
In 2011, the CBS News program "60 Minutes" and the best-selling author Jon Krakauer in an e-book called "Three Cups of Deceit" questioned major points in the book. This included a crucial opening anecdote about Mr. Mortenson's being rescued by the townspeople of Korphe, Pakistan, after stumbling down a mountain when he was dehydrated and exhausted. It was their care and concern, the book said, that inspired Mr. Mortenson to build schools.
The reports also said some of the schools that Mr. Mortenson's charity, the Central Asia Institute, said it had established either did not exist or were built by others. There were also charges that the institute had been mismanaging funds and that a substantial portion of the money it raised had been used to promote the book, not for schools.
Mr. Mortenson acknowledged that some of the details in the book were wrong. Mr. Relin did not speak publicly about the charges, but he hired a lawyer to defend himself in a federal lawsuit that accused the authors and the publisher of defrauding readers. The suit was dismissed this year.
In April, the Montana Attorney General's office announced that Mr. Mortenson had agreed to repay the charity more than $1 million in travel and other expenses used to promote the book, including "inappropriate personal charges."
David Oliver Relin died on November 15, 2012 in Corbett, Oregon. He was 49.(1 Comments)
Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper in "The Silver Linings Playbook."
Author Matthew Quick has an easy description of his best-selling novel "The Silver Linings Playbook."
"My one line pitch is that it's about a man who thinks his life is a movie produced by God," he said during a recent visit to the Twin Cities.
The novel is the basis for the romantic comedy "Silver Linings Playbook" opening around the country this week, although Quick admits the part about deity as movie producer doesn't appear in the screen adaptation.
It's the story of Pat (Bradley Cooper) whose manic behavior has led to a brush with the law, a restraining order from his wife, and a few months of court-ordered treatment in a secure unit at the local mental health institution. On his release he meets Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence) who has just gone through her own brush with mental health issues after the death of her husband. Together Pat and Tiffany prove to be an explosive combination, and the film is a rollercoaster ride of humor and pathos.
"Their struggles in many ways mirror a lot of my struggles," Quick (left) says, then continuing that the issue of mental health is near and dear to his heart.
"I consider myself part of the mental health community," he says. "I deal with depressions and anxiety. I have worked in the mental health community, I counseled troubled teens for seven years when I was a high school English teacher."
"For me, you always want to be laughing at the absurdity of the situation, you mine the comedy from the absurdity of life. You don't want to be laughing at these people, because they are people, they have real struggles, and I think they are depicted that way in the novel and the film, but we can laugh at just how absurd these situations are, and how wild life often is."
Quick has just gone through the experience of having a celebrated director David O. Russell ("The Fighter") make a movie out of his novel without consulting him.
Quick told the audience at an advanced screening of the film in St Louis Park about how Hemingway described selling the movie rights to a novel as being like a bank robbery, where an author walks up to a wall and throws his book over the top. Someone on the other side then throws a bag of money back, which the author should grab and run away as fast as possible.
It wasn't quite that way for the Silver Linings Playbook. Matthew Quick is very pleased with how the movie has turned out.
Russell called Quick before the author saw the finished flick, and talked Quick through how he had written the screenplay. Quick says while Russell changed some things from the book were changed, at it's center the movie preserves the important things about the story.
Quick describes Pat as "a guy who is trying to reinvent himself, and he is trying to practice being kind rather than right, he is trying to get physically fit, he's trying to learn how to treat women well, and kind of atone for some of the past sins that he had."
Pat has to do this despite being surrounded by a family whose members have their own sets of foibles, not least his father, played by Robert de Niro. He's a bookie, whose love of the Philadelphia Eagles verges on the obsessive compulsive.
Quick says he was very pleased by how Russell and his actors filled out the characters.
"Jennifer Lawrence's Tiffany is probably the most authentic rendering of my character from book to screen. It was clear to me that she embraced that character."
"Pat in the movie is a little bit different than the Pat in the novel. I think Bradley Cooper did a phenomenal job," he said. In keeping with the novel's theme of reinvention, Quick says Russell wanted to re-introduce Bradley Cooper as a performer.
"And so David wanted the audience to see Bradley Cooper, not at 'People's Sexiest Man' but as this new character. That's why in the first scene when you see the movie come up, you are on Bradley Cooper's back, because David consciously wanted to evoke this question 'who is this guy?'"
And it really works. Cooper gives one of the best performances of his career so far.
Matthew Quick has been touring the country for previews of the film and has loved audience reactions. He says it's allowing people to speak openly about troubling issues - while also having a good time.
"The silver lining of that if you will is that I think we are really getting people to talk," he said. "When people are seeing something on the screen that they feel is authentic in some cases things that they are struggling with at home, be it bipolar disorder, or depression, and they say 'that was really authentic, that represents what I am going through, any yet I am leaving the theater with a smile on my face and feeling uplifted.'"
Quick says he believes romantic comedies have been demonized by some people, as incapable of being important or significant. He hopes that changes with "Silver Linings Playbook."
"I would like my readers and the viewers of this film to leave feeling maybe a little bit better than they came in. And there is nothing wrong with that. I think that's beautiful."
(All images courtesy the Weinstein Company, except for image of Matthew Quick which is an MPR photo/Euan Kerr)
Alexandria native John Hawkes likes a challenge. But the actor who received an Oscar nomination for his portrayal of an Appalachian meth addict in "Winter's Bone" initially felt the role in his new film "The Sessions" might be beyond him. Hawkes told MPR's Euan Kerr that he had misgivings about taking on the role of poet and journalist Mark O'Brien, a man ravaged by polio who decided he didn't want to die a virgin.
He told Lewin he should cast an actor with disabilities in the part. Lewin told Hawkes he had searched extensively for such a person, but no one was right.
"When he told me that he had done his due diligence, that took some of the hesitation away on my end," said Hawkes.
Hawkes faced other challenges, like the responsibility that comes with portraying a real person. O'Brien died in 1999, but Hawkes met several of the people involved in the story, including the surrogate Cohen Greene.
In addition to reading O'Brien's articles, Hawkes watched an Oscar-winning short documentary about O'Brien called "Breathing Lessons." For an actor who loves to research his roles it was a huge gift.
"There was his body. There was his attitude. There was his voice and his dialect. All those I was able to study and emulate and put to use," Hawkes said.
Still, Hawkes had to learn how to play a character who had almost no ability to move. He also had to perform a series of intimate scenes for the story. He said there was no spoken agreement, but he and Hunt somehow realized they should have little contact before filming.
"We didn't know each other," he said "And we didn't rehearse. And so all of that awkwardness, the unfamiliarity, the nervousness, the, even, humor at times, well, it was all there."
And it worked. "The Sessions" took the coveted Audience Award and the Special Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival. And Hawkes' name keeps being mentioned as a likely best actor Oscar nominee.
You can find out more about the movie, and John Hawkes preparation for the part, here.(1 Comments)
Movie star Brad Pitt is giving a total of $100,000 to the Human Rights Campaign in the hopes that it will motivate others to do the same in the final days before this year's election.
The Human Rights Campaign is the nation's largest lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender civil rights organization, and has been lobbying in favor of marriage equality in key states.
$25,000 of Pitt's contribution is going to their work here in Minnesota. The rest is going toward efforts in Maine, Maryland and Washington State.
"It's unbelievable to me that people's lives and relationships are literally being voted on in a matter of days," said Pitt in an email today to HRC members and supporters. "If you're like me, you don't want to have to ask yourself on the day after the election, what else could I have done?"
You can find out more about Minnesota's marriage amendment here.
Locked out musicians of the Minnesota Orchestra today announced former Music Director Stanislaw Skrowaczewski will conduct them in what they call a "season opening concert" on October 18th.
Minnesota Orchestra management cancelled all concerts through the end of November shortly after locking out the musicians early Monday. French horn player Ellen Smith says having the conductor who led the Minnesota Orchestra from 1960 to 1979 - during which time Orchestra Hall was built - means a great deal to the players.
"Because we know that it won't be a gesture taken lightly by our management," said Smith. "They won't be happy about it. But it truly shows that he supports us fully in what we are doing."
The musicians will announce later this evening where they will perform the concert.
UPDATE: Musicians union negotiator Tim Zavadil said on TPT's Almanac the concert will be at the Minneapolis Convention Center Hall.
Management wants major wage concessions from musicians to fix what it says are major financial problems. Musicians say the proposed cuts would destroy the Minnesota's world class sound. No further contract negotiations are currently scheduled.(3 Comments)
Today the folks at Franconia Sculpture Park are remembering a great artist and good friend who died in the attacks on the World Trade Center 11 years ago today.
Image courtesy Franconia Sculpture Park
The public is invited tonight to the dedication the permanent installation of the late artist Michael Richards' sculpture "Are You Down?"
Richards was born in Brooklyn, New York and raised in Kingston, Jamaica. Franconia Artistic Director John Hock says Richards was an internationally recognized artist in the midst of a promising career.
In 2000, Michael received an FSP/Jerome Fellowship at Franconia Sculpture Park. During his residency he created the sculpture "Are You Down?" It's a multi-layered artwork that raises awareness of the Tuskegee Airmen's impact on World War II and the history of achieving civil rights for African-Americans.
After working at Franconia, Michael was selected as artist-in-residence for 'World Views', Lower Manhattan Cultural Council's residency program in the World Trade Center. Michael was working in his studio during the September 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center.
Michael Richards, standing next to his work "Tar Baby vs. St. Sebastian"; many of Richards' works were inspired by the Tuskegee Airmen
Image: The Studio Museum in Harlem
Hock says that while Richards was working on the original "Are You Down?" - which is made of fiberglass resin - he mentioned that he eventually wanted to cast it in bronze, but he never got the chance. In the years since his death the resin sculpture - still at Franconia - began to deteriorate.
In order to honor Michael Richards's life and legacy, the staff and Board of Directors at Franconia Sculpture Park have discussed ways to make the artwork permanently on display at the park. Rubber molds were taken off of the original work in order for it to be recreated in bronze, which is an archival material. Hundreds of hours of volunteer time went into restoring "Are You Down?". The East Central Regional Arts Council provided two grants of $15,000 each to help fund the project and we launched a Kickstarter project to raise the additional $14,603 to help with the remaining costs and installation.
In "Are You Down?" three parachutists who have fallen from the sky sit disconsolate on the ground in what appear to be puddles of tar.
Image courtesy Franconia Sculpture Park
"Are You Down?" is composed of three life-sized human figures, cast from Richards' own face and body. They represent three downed aviators from the all-black Tuskegee Airmen's Squadron of the Second World War. Hock says the work speaks not only of the exhilaration of flight but also of the dreams of freedom that have crashed to the ground.
During his tragically short career, Richards' work challenged oppression and addressed issues of social injustice. Are You Down? is a multi-layered sculpture that raises awareness of the Tuskegee Airmen's impact on World War II and the history of achieving civil rights for African Americans. The sculpture not only memorializes and preserves Richards' artistic legacy, but also carries with it the weight of this pivotal moment in U.S. history.
This is the first permanent installation at Franconia Sculpture Park. Normally the park's exhibition is constantly changing. However Hock says Richards' death was significant both for the immediate community and the country, and merits this remembrance.(1 Comments)
In Minneapolis, today is "Suzy Greenberg Day" thanks to a proclamation by Mayor R.T. Rybak.
Greenberg died suddenly on August 16, 2012 of natural causes. Tonight's event will be an opportunity for friends and colleagues to exchange stories and celebrate the impact of her life on the Twin Cities arts community.
Dominique Serrand, Steve Epp (left)and Nathan Keepers are throwing a party this weekend. The founders of the Moving Company say the idea is to have some fun, but also get a little serious about what they are doing.
"To just talk about the work, and the future," said Serrand. "We call it 'Footprint.' And to talk about the past and how we will manage the work in the future."
The trio rose from the rubble of Theater de la Jeune Lune, the much celebrated company which collapsed in 2008 under the weight of accumulated debt as the economy tanked. Now Serrand says they are working on creating a three part model for a national company.
"It's a partnership with universities in terms of creating the work," he said of the first part. So far they have developed pieces at UC Davis, and more recently at the U of M, where "The War Within" was developed as a student production. Projects at UNC and the University of Iowa are now in the works.
"It's great because we get commissioned, so it is not a burden on the company," Serrand said."Not only are we developing the work when we get there, but we are teaching. And we are scouting the landscape and see new and young artists with whom we want to work in the future. So it's all benefit."
The second element in the Moving Company Grand Plan is to then develop the work for professional theater.
"The next part, which I guess is the most difficult, is once tjhe work has been researched through this collaboration is to bring the work up on its feet here in Minneapolis, which requires investment," says Serrand.
That happened with "The War Within" which received a professional production a few months after its run at the U of M.
Finally the Moving Company wants to place their shows in other parts of the country.
"The last part, which is to get picked up, takes time," says Serrand. He says companies are planning a year and a half in advance.
At the gathering this weekend they hope to spread the word to supporters. Serrand is working on a video, and they are even hoping to raise a little money.
It's not an easy time to be doing this. This week Penumbra Theater announced it laid off staff and cancelled all its shows for the season.
"I have been there so I know how it goes," said Serrand. "When I looked at the article in the paper I went 'Oh no! Not again!"
However he says he thinks Penumbra is very smart to hold on.
He says there are always doubts when you try something.
"You never know if it will succeed. But to quote the big man last night," he said referring to the convention speech by President Obama," I would say, these kinds of efforts that we are doing, that we are making on our own, give us all hope. And so we need to pursue what we are doing and hopefully things will get better."
Earlier this week the Duluth News Tribune reported that a hiker had discovered Andrew Wagner's body inside his car on a logging road near the city of Orr, Minnesota.
The cause of death is believed to be suicide.
Wagner, known in the Twin Cities theater community for his inventive set pieces, went missing on May 3, a week after his good friend lighting designer Jen DeGolier died.
Before disappearing Wagner said goodbye to several people, and visited the grave of a friend who had died five years earlier.
In the weeks following his disappearance, friends led a search effort for him.
Now those friends and colleagues are coming to terms with the reality of his death. I asked a few of them to share their memories.
From Bedlam Theater's John Francis Bueche:
I think of Andrew as a WHY NOT kind of person constantly ruffling feathers in an I DON'T KNOW MAYBE kind of world.
Not flashy and out front, but where it really counts, behind the scenes, grabbing on to visions and making 'em happen. He was a skilled, determined workhorse who filled the smoke breaks speaking philosophically, poetically and passionately about why performance mattered.
He was full of fun onstage as well, whether straight up theater, fronting a band or impersonating Elvis. Produced/directed consistently mad cap adventures. But his extreme generosity as a collaborator is what truly identifies him.
For Bedlam's 2002 sci-fi hit TERMINUS we had a few hundred bucks and Andrew Wagner to engineer a 36ft diameter spinning spaceship to wrap around the audience. 2004 I think of him working with the creative team of UNHINGED to help them become their own designers, in a few hours skipping over years of schooling to discover what a wide open community effort can accomplish. 2006 with a teetering load of rusty bicycle frames heading to the A Mill Machine shop to invent the world for Frank's MOTHER COURAGE. All nighters to make holiday sets for Miss Richfield through the early 2000s at Illusion Theater. Last year, one of my favorite projects was installing 178 local-made puppets into the McGuire auditorium at the Walker - Andrew was there to smoothly say, yes, this other puppet should fit, yes, its worth this one being twisted just three feet to the left... refusing to stop until every little creature was just so.
In the meantime, there were wash-tub basses to create the soundtrack to a cabaret, heading out to see what a "Draft Horse Field Day" is all about, discussing the next big idea over pancakes.
There are thinkers, and doers... Andrew was both and then some.
Andrew Wagner and John Francis Bueche transporting the wagon from Frank Theatre's production of Mother Courage
Image courtesy Wendy Knox
From Frank Theatre's Wendy Knox:
Andrew helped Bueche build the set for MOTHER COURAGE, including building a wonderful old cart out of recycled bicycle parts. It was awesome and when the show closed, we couldn't trash it. It was part of a "parade" from the A mill where the show took place to Andrew's then home in Seward, where it lived in his back yard, serving as an outdoor bar and other things for a few years. When Andrew moved from that apartment, he called me and asked if I wanted the wagon. Of course, I said yes. So he and Bueche walked/dragged the wagon through the Seward neighborhood, across the then new Sabo bridge, past the Hi-Lake shopping center, through Corcoran to my house, where it has lived for the past several years.That trip caused more people to stop and wonder than you can imagine; it was an awesome piece of performance art. Just last April, I said to Bueche that I thought the wagon needed one more outing and that I thought Bedlam should take it for a ride in the May Day parade. Bueche had been texting Andrew about that possibility just before he disappeared. During the time that he has been gone, the wagon has sat behind my garage as a kind of haunting memory of Andrew, but the memory of the absolute ridiculous day that the guys dragged the thing over here is a heart-warming reminder of Andrew's fabulous spirit.
From choreographer Megan Mayer:
I was so sad to read about Andrew's death, even though we'd suspected he wasn't coming back based on what folks had known of his leaving town. Still, so very sad.
I didn't know Andrew well, but I had the pleasure of working with him a couple times. Once when he was crew chief for the Walker/Southern Momentum New Dance Works (2009) and he made us laugh and feel so at ease backstage when I was terribly nervous. Then again a few years ago shortly after he'd left the Walker. I needed some set pieces built for a dance piece I was premiering at The Southern (June '10), and he enthusiastically offered to do the work. Not only did he make beautiful work that exceeded my expectations, he charged a generously fair price for his efforts.
I knew he'd done work with Bedlam, and my impression of him has always been to be extremely supportive of the artists involved with any work he did. He believed strongly in what people were doing and did everything in his power to help execute that vision.
If you have a memory of Andrew Wagner you'd like to share, please add it in the comments section.(5 Comments)
Back in March we reported on the bizarre and debilitating illness that had forced performer Kate Eifrig to take an extended break from performing.
This weekend the Star Tribune reported Eifrig has decided that break is a permanent one.
"I've been very fortunate with work, which has kept me putting one foot in front of the other, which is what it always comes down to," said Eifrig. "But the personal toll was too great. Nobody likes to talk about the tremendous financial insecurity of it all. You win a McKnight [fellowship] and do a show on the Guthrie stage, and people can't quite believe that you have to get government assistance. You live public and very glamorous lives, and yet you have to go around the house and sell anything you can get your hands on to make the bills. If you worked every week of the year, you would make only about $30,000 a year. How are you going to pay the mortgage or keep your health insurance? Combine those with a medical issue and ... ," her voice trailed off.
"I know a lot of people who have severe anxiety and depression who are actors," she continued. "Acting sometimes can be like a fun house of mirrors. Everything is distorted and nothing is true. It is fun to lose yourself in it, slip into someone else's soul. But in this business, burnout is inevitable. I've been experiencing this sense of aging very quickly. I'm now playing myself, and it's the hardest role I've ever played."
On a positive note, Eifrig's friends and fellow theater professionals raised nearly $30,000 to help pay for a mental health service dog. Eifrig is scheduled to get the dog early next year.
The Twin Cities' arts community has lost one of its champions.
Suzy Greenberg, founder of Soo Visual Arts Center or SooVAC, collapsed suddenly while working out. The precise cause is still unknown. She was 44.
The following statement was posted on the SooVAC website:
It is with the most profound sadness and broken hearts we share that our founder, inspiration, mentor and friend Suzy Greenberg passed away yesterday. Words can't express how many friends, artists and community members Suzy inspired and supported. Her passion and creativity will always be remembered and honored. Our thoughts are with her family and loved ones. We are committed to ensuring Suzy's legacy by continuing the vision she created with SooVAC.
A date for a memorial service has not yet been set.(2 Comments)
Editor's Note: I attended Ann Marsden's memorial service, and thought that I might use this space to give a first-person account of the event. But I thought better of it after hearing the many wonderful eulogies offered by her friends and family, who captured the spirit of the day far better than I ever could. So here instead is the tribute of her brother-in-law Reverend Dorsey McConnell, who is also the Bishop-elect of the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh.
Photo: Dorsey McConnell
A few weeks before she died Betsy and I were visiting Annie. For the moment things were relatively good. Her pain and her nausea were sort of under control. She wanted to talk. And she had something on her mind. She asked my wife to hand her a little box by her bedside, and out of it she took something small and precious, kissed it, and placed it in my hand. It was this little pocketknife, silvery and bright with a hammered surface to make it look like roughed up tree bark, the very essence of childhood treasure from the 1950's. I knew how much this knife meant to her, and I was nearly speechless. "Annie, it's beautiful." I said, finally. "Yah," she said. "Ya like it? It's a Camp King. It's got two blades and a bottle opener. Grampa Jack gave it to me one summer when we were in Pipestone. He said, 'As long as you got this with ya, you can do just about anything.' I thought it was magic."
I loved my sister-in-law from the day I met her, partly because she so loved my wife, and later because of how she loved my son, but also because when I was with her I felt like I was walking out into open ground where I could say just about anything, laugh about anything, be outrageous, swim way out over my head, and still find a safe way back together with her. Nearly every time I talked with Annie I found myself stumbling into that brilliant joy which we all suspect is at the core of our existence, but to which we so often can't seem to find the door, or have misplaced the key, or from which we have gotten distracted by our tasks and worries and wounds. A few minutes with her and that door would burst open with all it's open-hearted glory fueled by love. Sometimes that could feel like magic. But if there is a better word for that experience, for what I always received in her presence, it would be grace.
This photograph by Ann Marsden was projected on the screen behind the Reverend Dorsey McConnell as he gave his tribute.
Grace was what Annie gave to anyone who was ever in front of her lens. Annie had subjects for her photos, but never objects. She never treated people like things, and (as you can see from the slide behind me) even things in her field of view were handled with a kind of tenderness that made them seem both fragile and enduring. If you were the subject, she somehow made you unafraid to let out what was really inside you; you could be yourself in ways you couldn't know until they happened, and when you saw them captured in an image you marveled at the truth of it, and at how little it hurt to see who you really are in the light of love. That is more than magic. That is grace.
As a minister, I always wanted to ask her directly where she thought this grace came from, but on a few occasions she volunteered the answer. It wasn't a pat answer (no surprise here), certainly not a religious answer. She was, to put it mildly, offended and exasperated by most of American Christianity because of the countless ways we had hurt "her tribe," though she always gave me, her brother in law the preacher, a pass. She could speak frankly, even passionately, about God. "I actually really like Jesus," she once said to me. "It's just Christians I can't stand." "I understand," I said. "There are plenty of days when I feel the same way myself." So, while her answer had nothing to do with religion, it had everything to do with faith. She marveled that the grace she so freely gave away had mysteriously been given to her, was in, around and through every moment of her life. She saw the evidence everywhere-- not only in the extravagances of light and shadow revealed by her camera, but grace in the gift of her sobriety, grace in the steadfast love of her family and friends, grace above all in the devotion of her partner Ann, who gave the sometimes frenetic whirlwind of Annie's soul a calm center to return to, cool shade in the heat of the day, and a secure embrace in the end where she could lay down her head and rest.
If there was one Christian image that captivated her, it was the Sacred Heart of Jesus, not an image she would have known from her Presbyterian upbringing: the crown of thorns pressed down over Christ's wounded heart. For her it showed the beauty and the cost of true compassion. It illuminated the fierce sense of justice that burned in her heart. She was always for the underdog, the oppressed, the powerless. She would give you the shirt off her back, and frequently did. She would give you, in fact, the last glimmer of her soul if she thought it could help. Give her two days in a hospital and she would know the personal histories of most of her nurses, and would have listened helpfully to the details of their chief sorrows and joys, even in her weakness spending herself to make one more small difference in someone else's life. That bright life is now fully spent, and we are all immeasurably richer for it.
In my own prayer I have thought that when Annie woke up in whatever you want to call whatever may lie on the other side of this life, in the eternal moment when she was born into all that glory and all that love, the first thing she noticed was the light. I wonder if she reached for her camera before she got the joke that she is the camera, now. In fact, she always was. What took those pictures was not her lens, but her soul. Even the best of those images was only an approximation, a foretaste of the grace she knew and passed on to us, and that now lifts her more and more deeply into Life. And for us who are still on this side, walking our own pilgrimage, under her now fully joyful eye, she might want one thing: that we could see ourselves and one another the way she saw us, that we might learn to trust the love that is all around us waiting to be taken and given away. It isn't magic. It's just grace, sheer grace, and as long as you've got it with you, you can do just about anything.
Many thanks to the Reverend Dorsey McConnell for his permission to reprint this tribute.
David Rakoff in the MPR studios in March 2007 (photo:Euan Kerr)
David Rakoff had an unsettling way of looking at you, as if he was working out whether you were someone who he found interesting or someone he would have to politely find a way of escaping.
He was unfailingly polite, and often in reality he was not judging, but merely considering how to respond.
News of his death at age 47 from cancer has me thinking back, and looking at the blurry picture above.
Rakoff came into the studios in 2007 when he presented a film called "Intolerable" at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis. He travelled with the director Alison Maclean and we spent a delightful time in the studio discussing the implications of what is a strange little movie.
It's about an audition for a film where a casting director asks the actors coming through to do something so horrible that one by one they run screaming from the room, past the line of others awaiting their turn.
Rakoff laughed when I called his role demonic.
"A whiff of sulfur?" he said with a huge smile.
The film really has to be seen to be believed and I won't give away what happens but Maclean admitted it was a cross between a social experiment and a documentary.
Rakoff said he didn't consider himself an actor, but he enjoyed playing the role, demonic or otherwise.
"I'm there as kind of both an interviewer or a co-improvisor or a tormentor or someone who is sort of friendly," he said. "It was interesting because it brought to bear some of the things I do daily in my work."
That daily work was writing, an art over which he displayed his mastery time and again in some of the great publications, and on the air with "This American Life." He talked about how acting in "Intolerable" was great for him just because he usually spent so much time alone at his desk, and it was good to be with other people even if he was being mean to them.
"The guy that I play is not the nicest guy in the world at certain times which in ways that are very embarrassing that's not a hard character for me to access," he said. Then he laughed and added "I'm not a mean guy. I love being seen as mean guy, it's kind of exciting, but it was tremendously difficult."
The difficulties in Rakoff life were more evident when he returned to MPR for an event with John Moe to talk about his collection of essays "Half Empty." He talked about his cancer, and how he was contemplating what life might be like if he was to lose his arm and shoulder to the disease as he had been told might be the case. He was quite calm, and again after a great deal of consideration seemed at ease. In a way it was quite breath-taking.
Looking back on the picture I took of him back in 2007, I see it's a little blurred. I have to admit I like it. While David Rakoff always seemed so still, behind those eyes things were moving fast.
I'm going to read a little Rakoff this weekend. How about you?
The town of Stratford, Ontario is home to one of Canada's largest cultural institutions, the Stratford Shakespeare Festival. But as Bob Mondelo reports for National Public Radio, in the early 1950s Stratford was on the verge of becoming a ghost town:
The town's chief industry was repairing steam locomotives, a trade that was all but dead by the time hometown reporter Tom Patterson flew to England to plead with stage legend Tyrone Guthrie.
The town was already called Stratford, Patterson told him, the river Avon (pronounced AAH-vun in Ontario) ran through it, and kids went to schools named after Falstaff, Romeo and Juliet. Would the great British director come there and do Shakespeare?
To nearly everyone's surprise, Guthrie said yes.
"It was going to save the town," marvels Polley. "The decision to have the Shakespeare Festival was actually an economic one."
A circus tent was brought from Chicago and raised on a hillside. Alec Guinness started rehearsing Richard III, and critics and audiences flocked to see what these distinguished theater folks were up to in the Canadian wilderness. Meaning the little town that was going bust had another challenge: where to put everybody.
People opened their homes to strangers because there weren't enough hotels, remembers Polley, and churches hosted dinners. "It was all about the little town and how they got behind what was, I think for most people, a ridiculous idea," she says.
A ridiculous idea that has certainly paid off. What began as two plays in a tent is now a seven-month season, employing more than 1,000 people and attracting half a million ticket-buyers to this tiny town.
Of course, Minnesota theater fans know that Sir Tyrone Guthrie later came to Minneapolis, where he established the Guthrie Theater in 1963.
David and Jackie Siegal in "Queen of Versailles" (All images courtesy Magnolia Pictures)
While Lauren Greenfield has been using photography to explore the sociology of American life for 20 years, it turns out that one of her pivotal pictures was of a handbag.
Greenfield, who was working on a project about wealth and consumerism and the American Dream, found herself at a Donatella Versace event in Beverly Hills, where she met one of the designers biggest customers, a woman called Jackie Siegal.
"And I made a photograph of her purse and two other purses, very gold, very blingy purses, that Time Magazine used in their photos of the year to illustrate what they were calling the New Gilded Age" said Greenfield. "This was in the end of 2007. And when Jackie told me they were building the biggest house in America I was hooked."
It turned out that Siegal, and her husband David, the president of the largest time-share organization in the world, were in the process of building a huge edifice on a large lot in Orlando Fl. using a design based on the palace of Versailles in Paris, and the Paris Hotel in Las Vegas
Greenfield (right) asked if she could make a film about the house, and the Siegals agreed.
Greenfield says she was interested in the way that homes had become not just a place to live, but a symbol of success and identity. During the real estate boom a few years ago the Siegals took the phenomenon to new heights.
They decided they needed more space, and designed their 90,000 square foot dream home, complete with grand staircase and stained glass domed roof. Even as builders worked on putting up the walls the building was eye-popping.
However Greenfield soon saw her film would revolve round Jackie. She's a woman who had survived a hard-scrabble upbringing, and a bad first marriage to become a beauty queen and then wife of a billionaire 30 years her senior. At times she is quite humble, and at others wildly ostentatious. She relates how she never wanted to have many children, but when she married David she knew she didn't need to worry about money, so she had seven, and then had a troubled teenage niece move in too.
Jackie Siegal and some of her children in "Queen of Versailles"
The film crew got to follow Jackie as she purchased truckloads of furnishings for the uncompleted house. It was a garish mixture of valuable antiques and 21st century knick-knacks where volume was as important as quality. She also took the crew on tours of the cavernous skeleton of the house as work continued, pointing out her enormous closet which a friend mistakes for a bedroom. There is even a special balcony designed so the family can watch the nightly fireworks over Disney World.
Then the real estate bubble burst, and Lauren Greenfield found herself making a very different film.
Work stopped on the house, David laid off thousands of workers in the time-share business, and the giant Siegal household had to downsize. Things got so tight, David realized he had to sell Versailles
"In 2010 when they had to put their house on the market, when Jackie and David had to put their dream house of Versailles up for sale and had to give up that dream, at that point I realized that their story was really an allegory for the overreaching of America, and a supersized version of what so many people had gone through," said Greenfield.
"The Queen of Versailles" follows the Siegals increasingly desperate attempts to stay above water. Because the Siegals are so open, and in many ways like the family next door, Greenfield found she could relate to the family's troubles.
"It begins as something you might take vicarious pleasure in," said Greenfield. "And by the end you realize its the story that happened to all of us and when David says no-one is without guilt, this is a vicious cycle, we can all put ourselves in that place too, whether it's spending too much on your credit cards or using our homes as piggy banks."
She describes it as the hardest project she has ever done, but now the film is done, and has been drawing great critical attention, Greenfield says it's been worth it.
"Making a documentary is kind of an existential experience in that you don't really know if it will see the light of day and if anyone will care," she said. "And so to have a documentary being released in the theaters is a filmmakers dream, and the fact that it opened Sundance is a huge honor for me."
Of course the story isn't done. The house went into foreclosure, but since the film was completed David found a way to get it out. He says he still intends to finish it, even though it will take $30 million more to do that.
"It does seem, in the post-crash world, it seems very ambitious to the point of irrationality to finish the house," says Greenfield.
Meanwhile David Siegal is suing Greenfield for defamation, even as Jackie is making publicity appearances on behalf of the film.
"Despite the lawsuit," she said "I am very very grateful to the Siegals for the access that they gave me and the candor with which they shared their lives."
"They are at once completely outsized and in a fantasy, and at the same time strangely familiar and even down to earth in a crazy way. That is the contradiction of the American dream."
Posted at 3:30 PM on July 27, 2012
by Euan Kerr
Filed under: People
Garrison Keillor's mother Grace passed away this morning at age 97. Her passing was announced in this message from the A Prairie Home Companion office.
Grace Keillor died Friday morning at her home in Brooklyn Park. She was 97. She was the mother of writer Garrison Keillor.
"Mother had a good long life and was still lucid a couple weeks ago and even had a good laugh about a dream she had had," Keillor said. "She died in the house Dad built in 1947, with her children around her holding her hand and singing hymns."
Grace Ruth Denham was born in Minneapolis on May 7, 1915, the day the Lusitania sank on its way to England. She was the last survivor of the 13 children of William and Marion Denham, who emigrated from Glasgow, Scotland, in 1911. She grew up on Longfellow Avenue in the Powderhorn neighborhood, attended Roosevelt High School, trained as a nurse and went to work at Eitel Hospital, across from Loring Park.
She married John Keillor in 1936, who had courted her by singing hymns with the word "grace" in the title. They attended the Grace & Truth Gospel Hall on 14th Avenue South. John went in the Army in 1942 and Grace and her three children lived with various relatives in St. Paul, Bettendorf, IA, and Anoka.
"Throughout her life, when adversity hit, my mother was strong, determined and persevering," said her daughter Linda. "She did what had to be done -- whether it was selling cookies door to door during the Depression, learning how to plant a garden or caring for a very sick husband. Besides her sense of fun and her love of family, what sustained Grace through good times and bad was her unwavering faith in Jesus Christ, whom she firmly believed loved her and gave his life for the salvation of all of us. She loved having children. And when times were tough, she sheltered us from the fact that we were living life sometimes at the very edge. When John suffered a severe concussion after falling off a barn roof and when he battled spinal meningitis and some of her younger children had to move in with relatives, she painted it all as if it was going to be an adventure."
After his service in World War II, he bought an acre of cornfield in Brooklyn Park, a stone's throw from the Mississippi, and dug a basement and built a white frame house on it. They raised six children in that house and kept a half-acre vegetable garden. After his retirement from the Railway Mail Service, they enjoyed travel to Scotland, Nova Scotia, and around the U.S.
For the next two years, my mother and her three children -- Philip, Judy and Gary -- moved from home to home to live with various family members in Minnesota and Iowa. It wasn't easy but she taught us throughout her life how important her family -- both Keillors and Denhams -- were to her. She was Grace, the grateful for the help they provided.
John Keillor died in 2001, after 65 years of marriage. Grace lived on in the house surrounded by tall trees they had planted in 1948, entertaining her family, playing Scrabble, reading, singing hymns, and praying for her loved ones. In the last five years, she was cared for at home by Sharon, Nicole, Ramona, and Diane.
She is survived by five children: Judith E. Locke, of Greenville, SC, Garrison (Jenny) of St. Paul, Steven J. (Margaret) of Askov, Stanley W. (Kay Gornick) of Mendota Heights, and Linda Keillor Berg (David) of Minneapolis, and by 14 grandchildren and 21 great-grandchildren, as well as many nieces and nephews. Preceded in death by son John Philip Jr., siblings Mary, Marion, Ruby, Jean, Margaret, William, James, Ina, George, Elsie, Joan, and Dorothy. Services will be private.
The founder of Ragamala Dance is enjoying an exceptional run of accolades and recognition.
Ranee Ramaswamy, founder of Ragamala Dance
Photo courtesy the McKnight Foundation
This week President Obama announced his intent to nominate Ranee Ramaswamy to the National Council on the Arts. The NCA advises the Chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts (currently Rocco Landesman) on agency policies and programs.
This latest news caps a string of achievements and honors that started in March of 2011, when Ragamala was awarded rave reviews for its performance at the Maximum India Festival in Washington, D.C.
Shortly thereafter, Ramaswamy was named the 2011 McKnight Distinguished Artist.
Ranee and her daughter Aparna Ramaswamy recently received a McKnight Foundation Choreographic Fellowship. Aparna's sister Ashwini Ramaswamy received a McKnight Foundation Dancer Fellowship.
Congratulations to Ranee Ramaswamy and Ragamala Dance!
For the last couple of weeks a group of stalwart performers has been braving the heat and touring Minnesota to present a production of Chekhov's "The Cherry Orchard." The wrinkle is the actors mount the show in, and around, historic houses in small towns. Audience members sit sometimes just inches from the actors as they perform, and then follow action as it moves to other rooms, or even outside the house.
As the play details the trials of an impoverished aristocratic family losing its long-time home, each of the historic venues become a character in the production.
Luverne Siefert during rehearsals of "The Cherry Orchard" in Kenyon, Mn (All pictures MPR images by Euan Kerr.)
Luverne Siefert and his wife Darcy Engen organized the tour, and both act in the play. With the trip well underway Siefert agreed to answer some questions about the show and what the cast is learning about it as they perform.
MPR sent him five questions, and in true creative spirit Siefert decided to combine some of them.
1) You are approaching the halfway point of the tour: what has the high and the low of the trip so far?
2) One of your concerns before you left was the heat. How has it been putting on shows in these uncoupled historic houses?
4) You add local actors and musicians into the cast at each venue. How have they localized each show?
1, 2 and 4) The lows of the trip so far have certainly been dealing with the heat. However, we have been quite successful in keeping the audiences cool by serving ice water and keeping the air conditioning on high. The actors probably struggle the most running around in their period costumes. But they are keeping a positive attitude and keeping hydrated.
Unquestionably the highlights of the tour are meeting and working with the actors in the community. Since we have a new group of community performers in each town we visit, we adjust the characterizations to the assets of the performers and so you will see a very different interpretation in each town.
Also, the houses each provide their unique characterizations as well. We are currently at the Musser Mansion in Little Falls and the house is jaw-dropping. Our outdoor scenes all take place with the mighty Mississippi roaring in the background. The house is stunning and we are fortunate enough to stay in it while we are performing here. We spend the evenings after the show preparing meals and dining on the back porch. We are living the life of the characters in the show during more prosperous times.
Actor Sarah Agnew chases Luverne Siefert with a lawn mower during the production of "The Cherry Orchard."
3) This production of The Cherry Orchard mixes bawdy comedy with the deep sadness of a family losing its home. How has it resonated with the audiences during the tour? Do you see differences in the communities?
It's remarkable how well the Cherry Orchard works as a tragic-comedy. The audiences have universally embraced these flawed and quirky characters through the comedic choices we have made. By making the characters likable, the audience builds a much stronger understanding of the devastation that the family faces at the end of the play. We root for these people to overcome their plights, but realize that they are too flawed to succeed.
The exciting part about greeting the audiences after the play is that we get to hear the stories of the house. At the Gunderson House in Kenyon, people talked about the previous owner who never let anyone see the house until she left. They tell us that they come to visit the house every chance they get. We also had a woman who told us that her grandmother was a maid in the house.
It's inspiring to see the pride the communities hold for these homes and the history that is contained inside these houses. Last night after the show in Little Falls a man came up to us to tell us that his father was a chauffeur for the Musser family and that he worked at the home as a young man. So, after we give our performance the audience shares their stories with us and we are equally entertained. Also, new to the show in Little Falls is that the Ljubov family arrives in an antique 1940's convertible. One of the board members at the Musser Mansion is letting us use it. You can't imagine a more picturesque arrival.
Since Taylor's Falls and Blue Earth are almost sold out and Worthington is 3 plus hours away, I would say that if people from the Twin Cities want to see the show they should come to Little Falls this weekend. It is really a magical place and we get numerous comments from the audience members that they feel like they are watching a film. You won't be disappointed if you make the trek up.
5) You have worked with many different companies in your career, and now also teach drama at the U of M. What does working on a show like this bring to you personally as a performer?
As an artist I always struggled with, if given the chance to lead a project, what story would I tell? I feel deeply connected to people who don't have the same opportunities as those with the greater resources because I grew up in a small southern Minnesota township and my family had little money and my dad only attended school till 8th grade.
Through the encouragement of my friends and a federal government that supported college students at the time, I had the privilege of attending college. So, when I thought about applying for a Minnesota State Arts Board grant, I knew I wanted to come back to my home town to share the what I've learned about theatrical storytelling.
After researching plays, I read Chekhov's "The Cherry Orchard" and I knew it would resonate with people in rural communities. It had the eccentric characters that only small towns can produce and it had the story of losing a home in a time of financial hardship. A story many of the communities know all too well.
And we hear these stories from the community after the performance. A teary-eyed man in Kenyon told us the story of recently having to sell the family farm in his family. There is so much history in these homes; babies being born, people dying, the great storms, the great floods, the lean times, the fruitful times. It brings back memories from my Grandfather's farm. My grandpa feeding chickens on the front lawn, the sound of the squeaky windmill in the distance, the smell of the fire from the wood burning stove in the basement. Being back in these communities, I'm flooded with the emotions of my childhood.
The Cherry Orchard tour continues to Taylors Falls (July 25-29,) Worthington (August 1-5) and Blue Earth (August 8-12.)
South African musician Johnny Clegg - often referred to as the "white Zulu" - will perform with his band at the Cedar Cultural Center this Thursday.
Johnny Clegg dances on stage with his longtime backup singer Mandisa Dlanga, with whom he has worked for 26 years.
Image courtesy of Appleseed Recordings
Known for taking a stance against apartheid with the mixed-race band Juluka, but as Euan Kerr reports, today's more peaceful political climate still inspires Clegg's craft:
The age of apartheid is over. But Clegg says South Africa faces the struggles common for any young democracy. It's all fodder for new music.
"I just feel that I am still learning," he said. "I am seeing stuff that I thought would never happen."
Clegg says he's not as driven as he once was to react daily to what he sees around him. But he still writes regularly after what he calls a more gentle process.
"Finding common threads of culture, common threads of humanity, common threads of melody, common threads of rhythmic polyphony," he said, "those are things that have always intrigued me."
You can read the full story here. Or listen to it by clicking on the link below.
Photographer Ann Marsden died last night at home after a long battle with cervical cancer. She was 55. Among those at her side were Ann Prim, her partner of 12 years, and her best friend Lisa Nebenzahl.
Photographer Ann Marsden at a benefit in her honor at The Dakota in January 2011. Her mother Mary Marsden is seen in the background.
Photo by Terry Gydesen
A true photographer and artist to the last, Nebenzahl says Marsden asked for her partner to create a website and post photos there of her treatment and decline. You can see those photos here.
She wanted people to see what cancer looked like, as an artist and as a photographer - there are images up on the site that are very hard to see if you loved this woman... this woman who has made so many people look beautiful. It's about witnessing the truth of the disease, the devastation, and what it truly looks like.
Nebenzahl says just in the last few months Marsden created a series of photographs that were in essence a poem about cancer, and even in her last hours she was talking about making pictures.
Known for her portraiture, her photography of local theater companies, and for her own personal art, the Minnesota native made friends easily with her intensely engaging personality. She was a regular photographer for Penumbra Theater, Jungle Theater, Minnesota Orchestra, MPR and many other Twin Cities cultural institutions, as well as a host of actors and musicians.
Portrait of Stacia Rice by Ann Marsden
Theater artist Stacia Rice worked with Marsden on several occasions. Rice also helped organize a Christmas carol sing in Marsden's front yard when she was too weak to receive visitors.
I don't know what I can say to encapsulate someone so magnificent. It's hard to imagine her gone, because she had more life in her than anyone I've ever known. She knew how to capture the very essence of people she sat in a room with - that is why she is such a great photographer, and that is why she is so loved. I can only think that she is meant to go on to do greater things - that's the only way I can understand her being gone.
Portrait of Stephen King by Ann Marsden
Longtime friend and fellow photographer Larry Marcus repeatedly uses the word "brilliant" when describing Marsden. He remembers the day he met her.
I believe it was 1974 or 75 - I was wandering around in St. Paul, shooting pictures and I wandered into Finn's Camera, and I was greeting by this young beautiful person in the store, who immediately engaged me in meaningful and interesting conversation. I came in a few more times, and then she invited me to a party. We became friends and shared a studio together for close to twenty years - we were young people trying to make our way in the world and shooting photographs together.
The same intensity and intelligence and brilliance and affection that I experienced that first day at Finn's Camera I experienced up until the very end with her. I saw her on Friday - she was having a good day.
Marcus said as a portrait photographer Marsden made "a place for people to really reveal themselves... and she did that by really opening up, too."
Terry Gydesen and Ann Marsden at a James J. Hill House exhibit in 2009
Photo by Lisa Nebenzahl
Marsden taught photography for many years, and has numerous devoted mentees who credit her for their successful careers, including friend Terry Gydesen.
I think she is one of the greatest artists in Minnesota - she just was such a giver. Most people don't like to have their picture taken, yet she always could draw out the essence of who somebody was, and just nail it. She could see inside the souls of people, and make their inner beauty shine. Every one of her photos has that special Ann Marsden quality - that light. I don't know anybody who could get it the way she did.
Portrait of Minnesota Orchestra conductor Osmo Vanska by Ann Marsden. Vanska was an admirer of Marsden's work, and appeared at her benefit.
Another devoted mentee is Dani Werner, who shared studio space with Marsden starting in 2003.
She took me under her wing and it's because of her I've had a really great career. Ann is so creative and innovative with photography - she was always finding new ways to use light and express her vision. She could take a walk around the block and end up with a series of insightful and beautifully composed photos. She always had her camera on her hip or over her shoulder - it was like another limb for her. She was both passionate and intuitive with her work.
One person who wasn't able to talk today is Marsden's partner Ann Prim. Lisa Nebenzahl says Prim was Marsden's full-time caregiver for the last two years. Nebenzahl says Prim's career as a filmmaker helped Marsden to explore her own artwork in new and profound ways over the last decade.
You can hear Marsden talk about her work and career in her own words in this video from 2009:
Mu Performing Arts is looking for a successor to founder Rick Shiomi beginning in September 2013.
Today the Asian American theater and taiko drumming ensemble posted a job listing for a new Artistic Director, stating that it is "is looking for a strong visionary leader to bring the organization through the next phase."
Required qualifications and skills for the position include:
• Passion for working with Asian American artists and helping them succeed
• Ability to build and nurture trusting working relationships with a diverse group of artists,
volunteers, funders, board of directors and peers in the arts community
You can learn about Rick Shiomi's career, and how he came to found Mu Performing Arts, here.
Musician Brother Ali was among 13 protesters arrested in South Minneapolis last night.
Brother Ali's act of civil disobedience was part of his ongoing advocacy of the Occupy Homes movement.
Hennepin County Jail photo
The Current's Andrea Swensson reports Ali's act of civil disobedience was part of an ongoing occupation of a foreclosed home in South Minneapolis, and occurred as over 125 people rallied in support of a family fighting against a bank error to keep their home:
It's not the first time Ali has spoken out about the Occupy Homes movement and shown support for the Cruz family fighting to keep their residence at 4044 Cedar Ave. When Ali was in our studios recently for an interview with Barb Abney, he touched on why this issue has become so important to him.
"When the Occupy movement sparked off, I think a lot of people -- myself included -- had lost a whole lot of faith in the electoral process and electoral politics," he said. "And I started realizing that it's going to take something more on behalf of the people, there's going to have to be a movement to actually disrupt things, to actually disrupt some of these corporate injustices that are happening to people, to our real neighbors."
Read the full story here.
The Artistic Director of the Twin Cities Gay Men's Chorus, Dr. Stan Hill, is getting ready to retire. Tonight and tomorrow mark the last performances he'll direct here in the Twin Cities; he'll direct the chorus for the last time at the GALA Festival in Denver, Colorado.
In advance of his departure Dr. Hill was kind enough to answer a few questions about his career and the work of gay choruses in general.
1. Why are you retiring now?
Because I will be 66 in August, because I have had twelve wonderful years here in MN and because I am a California kid and my family is there.
2. Before leading the TCGMC, you spent 11 years with the San Francisco Gay Men's Chorus. Why are GALA choruses important? Put differently, what can they offer that other choruses can't?
If we don't tell our story, who will? The legacy of the GALA Choral Movement is not only that when they sing a specific text, such as a gay men's chorus singing "the Man I Love," it takes on an entirely new meaning, but also that we can tell our own story by commissioning new music that tells our story.
3. Looking back, how have GALA concerts and their audiences changed over the years?
It has helped thousands become aware of gay men as almost anything other than the stereotypes with which society has painted us. The audiences here in the MidWest honestly appreciate choral music because of the rich choral traditions of St. Olaf, Luther, and other. And so a choral concert attracts choral music lovers. But when they attend a TCGMC concert, they leave with a greater appreciation of the GLBT community having shared our loves, our thoughts and our passions.
4. I understand that while you were in San Francisco, you had to deal with the loss of many chorus members due to AIDS... now you're retiring just as Minnesota takes up the Gay Marriage Amendment. Any thoughts on how the quality of life for gay men has changed (or not) over the course of your career?
There is no question that being gay does not have the onus that it did when I was a teenager in the 50s and 60s. However, we have a long way to go. As long as hate and prejudice, and attitudes of "otherness" still exist, the chorus has a job to do.
5. Finally, is there anything else you'd like to add or think I should know?
My retiring is merely the turning of a page in the rich and wonderful story of TCGMC. It is my hope that our wonderful audience and the thousands of supporters over the years will continue to support TCGMC. I think the chorus is the best face of the gay community and with that support it can continue to grow and develop into one of the most dynamic and positive components of our society as a whole.
(Photo of Dr. Stan Hill by Paul Nixdorf)
St. Paul native LeRoy Neiman, known for capturing the high action of the world of sports with his paintbrush, has died. He was 91.
Neiman was known for his bold use of colors, and for his equally colorful life.
Artist LeRoy Nieman signs autographs at the 100 Days to Vancouver Celebration on November 4, 2009 at the Rockefeller Center in New York City. Nieman, a native of St. Paul, Minn., died June 20, 2012 at age 91 in New York.
Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images for USOC
Born LeRoy Runquist in St. Paul, Neiman would later describe himself as a "street kid" growing up in a rough blue-collar neighborhood. An excerpt of his biography on his website details his youth:
He attended a Roman Catholic primary school, where, he told Max Millard for the New York City Westside TV Shopper (January 27-February 2, 1979), he "was always drawing pictures and getting special treatment... showing off, copping out of other things." During recess periods he would inscribe pen-and-ink tattoos on his classmates' arms. A painting of a fish that he made in sixth grade won a prize in a national art competition. Starting in adolescence he earned money from local grocers by painting calcimine images of fruit, vegetables and meat as sale items, and portraits of the shopkeepers themselves on the windows of their stores. As a high school student, he created posters for school dances and athletic events. He participated in boxing matches in the basement of his church, which started a lifetime interest in prize fighting.
Neiman briefly attended the St. Paul School of Art before moving to the School of The Art Institute of Chicago. After serving in the army he returned to the institute to teach for a decade. In the 1950s and '60s his artwork appeared regularly in Playboy magazine, in a series called "Man at His Leisure."
Neiman also had his turn as a film star, appearing in four of Sylvester Stallone's Rocky movies as the ring announcer.
LeRoy Neiman's painting of Secretariat
Neiman's autobiography "All Told: My Art and Life Among Athletes, Playboys, Bunnies, and Provocateurs," was published earlier this month.
In celebration of what would be photographer Gordon Parks' 100th birthday, the Gordon Parks Foundation - along with the Museum of Modern Art in New York - threw quite a party, drawing such big names as actress Sarah Jessica Parker, fashion designer Karl Lagerfeld and photographer Annie Liebowitz.
In Southwest Minneapolis Weinstein Gallery is hosting its own celebration, offering a more intimate look at Parks wide-ranging photographs.
Parks had a career that any photographer would dream of, but it came from the roughest beginnings. Born in Kansas, he was forced to drop out of high school when his mother died, and moved to St. Paul to live with his aunt. However her husband kicked him out shortly thereafter, leaving him homeless until he found work, first as a piano player in a brothel, and then later as a waiter on a train.
As the Minnesota Historical Society details, Parks loved to tell the story of how he got his start as a fashion photographer:
It was 1938 when he walked into Frank Murphy's, an exclusive women's clothing store in downtown St. Paul, and asked if they needed anyone to take photos of the store's runway models. He didn't mention that he didn't own a camera and that his only experience with models was a recent perusal of Vogue magazine. Frank Murphy turned him down, but on his way out of the store, Mrs. Murphy suggested that Parks return after the store closed. "Later I asked her why she took a chance on me, and she said she had just had an argument with Frank and was trying to get under his skin," Parks recalled. "Actually, I think she was just a woman who had a great heart."
From Frank Murphy's he eventually moved to Chicago, and went on to work with the Farm Security Administration, the Office of War Information, Vogue, Glamour, and for over two decades with Life magazine. He excelled at documenting the hardships of race and poverty.
Poverty Board, 1968
All of the more than forty images on display at the Weinstein were printed during Parks' lifetime, and came to the Weinstein from the Gordon Parks Foundation. They feature portraits of Martin Luther King, Duke Ellington, and Gloria Vanderbilt, as well as street photography of life in Harlem, landscapes and war scenes.
As Weinstein Gallery director Leslie Hammons put it, "he was around for everything."
His images reveal a photographer both insatiably curious and deeply nuanced. His portrait of Ingrid Bergman, in the midst of her affair with Roberto Rossellini, captures both how society was judging her, and her own unease.
Ingrid Bergman at Stromboli, Italy, 1949
It's also important to remember while looking at these photographs that they represent just one facet of a multi-talented man. He was a writer, a composer, and the director of the classic film "Shaft."
At a time when so much was judged by the color of one's skin, Parks managed to gain people's trust and tell stories that laid bare the human condition. Sadly, many of those social ills are still prevalent today.
Self Portrait, 1945
The Schubert Club is celebrating a remarkable birthday with a remarkable voice.
Photo: Schubert Club
The 2013 program will feature American songs and spirituals, both new and old.
Norman, who is 66, has appeared three times before in recitals on The Schubert Club's International Artist Series.
Tickets for the celebration go on sale July 23, 2012; subscribers to the Schubert's International Artist Series may purchase tickets now by phone.
The operatic diva is also working on a memoir; titled "Stand Up and Sing!" it's scheduled for release by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt late next year.
Dancer and choreographer Deborah Jinza Thayer was set to perform a new solo work June 14-17 at Red Eye Theater as part of its new works series, but that now appears to be impossible.
Red Eye Theater's Miriam Must shared on Facebook the news that Thayer was run over by a car yesterday.
She has 4 cracked vertabrae and 2 cracked ribs, among other injuries. We will keep you posted on her condition and how to reach her. Right now she is not answering the phone, but has friends in the room with her. We will keep you posted about her condition and the best way/s to reach her and assist. Obviously, she will not be able to perform in two weeks...we will make an announcement about that weekend's offerings as soon as possible.
Thayer was to be part of a dance and theater double feature, alongside actor/musician Stephen Peabody.
Charlotte (Maggie Gyllenhaal) sees signs of success in "Hysteria" (All film images courtesy Sony Pictures Classics)
Tanya Wexler admits it's hard to keep a straight face when talking about her movie "Hysteria."
"The puns are numerous and I go headlong into them," she said when she visited the MPR studio recently.
Why? Well, her film is a romantic period comedy about the machine which she says was granted just the third ever patent for an electrical device, and has been sold ever since as a "muscle relaxer."
She got the idea from a producer friend who turned up at her doorstep and announced she had the perfect topic for her next film.
"She said 'It's a romantic comedy about the invention of the vibrator in Victorian England,'and I laughed and I said, 'No, really. What's it about?' And she said, "No, really!' And I said 'That's amazing. You are absolutely right!'" Wexler recalled.
Despite said device's long history, and wide use, it's still not considered a polite topic of conversation in many places, which Wexler admits made the movie a tough sell. She spent a long time getting the tone right in the script: bawdy but not puerile, entertainingly informative but not lecturing.
It took seven years from that initial conversation to the point now when the movie, which stars Maggie Gyllenhaal, Hugh Dancy, Felicity Jones, Rupert Everett and Jonathan Pryce, is opening in the Twin Cities.
"It was really, really tricky," Wexler said. "I don't know why really because (the movie's) fairly innocent. Truthfully, there is no bad language, there is no nudity. The women are wearing hats for God's sakes!"
Tanya Wexler in the MPR studios (MPR photo/Euan Kerr)
The story revolves around on Dr. Mortimer Granville (Dancy,) a forward thinking young physician in London in the 1880's who keeps losing his job for insisting things like germs exist, or that many patent medicines prescribed by his bosses are quackery.
He is very pleased to get a job as an assistant to Dr. Robert Dalrymple (Pryce) who has an extraordinarily successful clinic treating what was then known as hysteria. It was a catch-all diagnosis only applied to women which covered everything from headaches and cramps to depression.
"I say it was a diagnosis for the condition of being a woman, and some of our characters say that possibly half the women in London at the time were effected," Wexler said.
Hysteria, which was believed to originate in the female reproductive system, was taken very seriously and in some cases was used as an excuse for confinement, hysterectomy, and even lobotomy. However in the movie Dr Dalrymple is an exponent of a simpler, hands-on approach which Wexler said many clinics offered at the time to deal with what we would now recognize as sexual frustration.
"They would do 'manual massage to paroxysm,' as they called it," she said.
According to Wexler it wasn't considered sexual as most doctors seriously believed women were incapable of sexual response.
"Hysteria" follows young Granville's initial meteoric success at the clinic. Yet his life is soon complicated by the attentions of his boss's two daughters.
There's Emily (Jones) a demure young woman and enthusiastic phrenologist who believes she can predict a person's lot in life through feeling the bumps on their head. There's also Charlotte (Gyllenhaal) a headstrong activist who dedicates her life to caring for the needy at a nearby settlement house. It has to be said that as advanced as Granville's medical thinking may be, when it comes to other matters he is very much in the Victorian mold. He quickly finds himself engaged to Emily but fascinated by Charlotte.
"I made somehow a feminist romantic comedy about a guy at the center," Wexler laughed. "I don't know how I did that!"
Mortimer (Hugh Dancy) and Edmund (Rupert Everett) take a scientific approach in "Hysteria"
The film is a lot of silly fun, particularly as the young doctor becomes so successful at what he does, that he develops carpal tunnel syndrome. He turns to his eccentric inventor friend Edmund (Everett) for help. What Edmund produces makes them all a lot of money - all in the name of medical science of course.
"For me really the big joke was the cultural denial," Wexler told me. "You know this sense the truth was right in front of your face, and we are going to medicalize it, we are just going to just pretend it's something else, not call it its name."
While the story seems outlandish now, Wexler says it's made her think about some of the things people do today, like Botox treatments.
"Sometime in the not-to-distant future will we look back and say 'can you remember when everyone was putting botulism in their forehead? It's just crazy!" she laughed.
While "Hysteria" is mildly risque and laugh-out-loud funny at times, it is also about some very serious issues about how women were treated at the time.
"I think in many ways it's a story about women's right to their own happiness, maybe," said Wexler, shown here during the shooting of the movie.
When I told her "Hysteria" reminded me of "A League of Their Own," she liked the comparison. She sees it as sharing the same cultural space as "The Full Monty," being a little bawdy, but with heart.
As a mother of four she said she knows there is an audience out there comprised of parents who rarely get out to the movie theater because of the young ones in their houses, and who don't want to squander the opportunities they do have. These are the people for whom she made "Hysteria."
"I wanted something that spoke to me as a woman, that had a little bit more to say, but was entertaining," she said.
Wexler says she didn't want to make a battle of the sexes movie, and she's been surprised how well the movie has done with men, and young men in particular.
While she admits her movie still faces some obstacles even now over the subject matter, she has a plan she thinks could well work for "Hysteria."
"If I can get every woman who went to the Avengers for their boyfriend to now bring their boyfriend to our movie then we'll do just fine," she said.
Artist Patrick Scully has lost his most recent battle for the right to swim naked in a public area.
The founder of Patrick's Cabaret, Scully's own performances have often involved nudity. Last July he was ticketed for swimming at Twin Lakes in Golden Valley (it's a misdemeanor offense to not wear proper attire in a public park, with the exception of theatrical, musical and other artistic performances).
Scully had intended to battle the ticket in court on the premise that he is an artist and was performing in the park that day.
Photo courtesy of the artist
But the afternoon before the trial two additional charges were added, including indecent exposure. That meant if Scully lost the case, he would potentially be placed on the Minnesota Sex Crimes Registry. Scully posted on his Facebook page that "I did not feel that what I could gain in this struggle by trying to fight the new charge was worth what I might lose, if I lost fighting that charge."
I will find other ways to work for my goals (resisting encroachment on artistic freedom and obtaining our collective right to be naked in the sun and water). The good news is that I am headed to Berlin in a few weeks where I can enjoy a month of being naked in various lakes without having to worry about such idiotic laws.
Scully pleaded guilty Wednesday, and was fined $378. If he's charged with a similar crime in the next year, he will have to serve 60 days in the Hennepin County workhouse.
Ganymede and the Eagle, by Bertel Thorvaldsen is on display at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, which is visited by 500,000 people each year, including tens of thousands of school children.
Image courtesy of the MIA
All this begs the question, is nudity obscene? Why is it we can stare at sculptures and paintings of naked men, women and children in a museum, but to see the real thing is considered by many to be vulgar?
In San Francisco, nudists recently protested to protect their rite to sit in a restaurant in the buff. While in Barcelona it only recently became illegal to walk the city streets naked.
Each society has its own standards in regard to what's appropriate dress... but why the disconnect between what we are willing to look at in a gallery or a museum, and what we are willing to see "in the flesh?"
For those of you who are missing winter after the muggy weekend Vermont's Sandglass Theater arrives just in time with "All Weather Ballads." It's a lyrical production capturing the delights of rural life in a northern climate. Led by celebrated puppeteer Eric Bass, Sandglass explores ice-fishing, apple-growing, and the delights of sawing logs.
Here's the company's trailer for the show. Be warned there is a brief display of puppet nudity.
Sandglass will be the guests of In the Heart of the Beast Puppet and Mask Theater and Pangea World Theater. the shows will be at 8pm Friday and Saturday at HOBT theater on Lake Street in Minneapolis. Details at the In the Heart of the Beast website.
If you're at a performance tonight at a Twin Cities theater, you may notice something different at curtain call. The lights will go down, while the performers all gaze up at the sky.
They will all be remembering Jen DeGolier, a 36-year-old lighting designer who died too soon.
Cause of death is as of yet unknown, but her family suspects it may have been severe asthma, which took her father's life at the age of 27. Update: Jen DeGolier died of cardiomyopathy (heart muscle disease), which also took the lives of two of her uncles, according to a family member.
Photo: John Autey
DeGolier has put shows in their best light all over the Twin Cities, and done so with with enthusiasm and charm. Here are some remembrances from her friends:
From Craig Johnson, actor and director:
The Twin Cities theater community is a sprawling, loose-knit family, as we constantly regroup for each show. Jen DeGolier really was a bright light in our midst. She joyfully and tirelessly moved from professional theaters to community theaters to school shows, large and small, in the Twin Cities and across the state. Her work often kept her up all night on ladders hanging and focusing lighting equipment in her trademark skirts and ever-changing hair color.
I was blessed as an actor to have been lit by Jen in so many shows. She made us all look good. But I'm especially remembering three shows I directed recently that Jen designed: "Dangerous Liaisons" for Torch Theater, "The Full Monty" for Paul Bunyan Playhouse, and "Street Scene" for Girl Friday Productions.
I remember for "Street Scene" walking into a Saturday tech rehearsal and having Jen flop down next to me and say, "Well, it's rough right now, but don't worry, Craig, it'll be art by Thursday." And it was.
A Walking Shadow production, lit by Jen DeGolier
Image courtesy Amy Rummenie
From Amy Rummenie of Walking Shadow Theatre Company:
Jen was in every way cooler than I ever could be. My immediate image of her is perched atop a ladder, mismatched pigtails of brilliantly bright hair, in a skirt, barefoot, laughing. She could see through to the heart of any problem with a minimum of BS. On our shows she always slipped out the door before the first read-through-- preferring to do her dreaming alone and come in later when things had pulled together a bit. And then she would work... magic. Full of bold colors or a subtle sunset, we went to Jen when we wanted something that took an immense amount of hard work, but looked effortlessly beautiful. I know we're all going to miss that level of trust and imagination and bold zest for fun in the world.
From her friend Cheryl Willis:
Jen is kindness and loveliness.
"The Juliet Letters," a production lit by Jen DeGolier
Photo courtesy Jake Endres
From Southern Theater's Damon Runnals and his wife Meg DiSciorio:
Jen was a staple of the Twin Cities Theatre Community. Having worked with her for both the Southern Theater and Swandive Theatre, I have many fond memories of late nights and early mornings dealing with lighting looks. Jen used to say that she was creating "sexy lights" and we all knew that it was her beautiful use of color on stage that made a DeGolier design complete. She was an avid Twins fan and would often have a radio in the space with the game on when doing afternoon lighting notes. She will be greatly missed by my wife and I.
Jen DeGolier with her niece Samantha Mae. Jen's brother Jeff writes that Sammie, who is now four, refers to her pink-haired Barbie as "Aunt Jenny."
Image courtesy Jeff DeGolier
From actor Paul Reyburn:
She was one of the most free spirits I have ever met. Rooms were always brighter when she was in them. Her designs were among the best I have had the privilege of performing under. She was always ready with a smile, hug, or snack. It was a joy to see her run up and down ladders in her bare feet, not worrying what might be on the floor. This is a stunning loss to our community. A wonderful soul gone far too soon.
From Kirby Bennett of Girl Friday Productions:
An exceptional artist and loving collaborator, Jen's evocative designs graced our productions of "Our Town," "The Skin of Our Teeth" and "Street Scene." Gone too soon, she is deeply missed. We love you Jen and know that you will continue to light our way.
Vanessa Veselka looks to the future (All images MPR photos/Euan Kerr)
Vanessa Veselka, author of the cult hit dystopian novel Zazen, is a complicated kind of writer. This time last year she says she was driving a cab over night and living off food stamps. Now she's touring the country with her book. It's the latest twist in a life which has produced an eye-grabbing biography.
It reads: Vanessa Veselka (Portland, OR) has been, at various times, a teenage runaway, a sex-worker, a union organizer, a student of paleontology, an expatriate, an independent record label owner, a train-hopper, a waitress, and a mother.
Veselka admits she wrote it in a burst of frustration a while back.
"I had been applying for jobs and getting turned down," she said during a recent visit to MPR. "And I don't mean high-end career jobs, I mean like McDonalds won't hire me, all these kinds of things. And part of it is when you put my resume together there are large holes in it everywhere."
These were the result of a peripatetic life often driven by circumstance rather than design. She was reluctant at first to include many of her experiences because they rarely seemed like good career building moves. Finally she said something snapped.
"And I went and I wrote my real resume like teenage sex worker, sold flowers on the LA freeway - learned to deal with different multi-racial cultures!" she laughed. "I wrote down in human resources-speak, which is kind of offensive to me. I sat and I wrote down my real life experience with no breaks."
She admits she sometimes still asks herself if it's the best idea to have this floating out there as her biography.
When I jokingly say I'd hire her she immediately responds "Yeah, to do what? That's the question, right?"
The answer to that seems to be as a writer.
Veselka is an energetic conversationalist, who weaves together ideas, stories, and recollections into an experiential blanket. Her writing takes this even deeper, although it is so easy to absorb a reader may not be aware initially how much is going on below the surface.
Her debut novel is "Zazen," named for the Buddhist meditation practice. It is the story of Della, a young woman living in a community a little in the future and not too different from our own, but apparently on the brink of destruction. At 27 she is recovering from a breakdown after finishing her doctorate in paleontology.
"And in the world that she is in there are multiple wars," Veselka said. "Bombs are starting to go off, people are leaving the country, some people have moved to the mountains, some people are starting urban farms, people are throwing sex parties, people are organizing unions, people are building box mall churches, and she looks at all of these ways to respond to the world she sees, and none of them work for her."
Della wants to escape, but doesn't have the energy. So Veselka says she loses herself in a macabre project.
"She becomes obsessed with people who set themselves on fire in the beginning of the book and begins to track immolations."
The story weaves the complicated circumstances of Della life around what Veselka said are Della's two basic issues.
"The dominant question for her with the title Zazen is this question: can you sit still on fire? When you don't like anything around you when all the options don't seem to lead anywhere can you sit still on fire? This is the question that is behind her mind in the book."
"Also the question: are you in or are you out? She wants to step back, if she doesn't engage then it's not her fault. she's not sure if she wants to be part of the human race."
Veselka will admit she drew on her own experiences in writing the novel. She describes novelists as 'terrible scavengers.'
"We can take the most precious meaningful intimate situation and just break it open and stick it somewhere else, you know pretty callously. So I just completely ravaged my history for details, because what you need when you are writing is lots of details."
But she stressed that only goes so far.
"What I know as a writer she is not me. What is me, is her urgency," she said
Veselka said she's the kind of person who constantly wants to figure things out, and she admits sometimes it's not a pleasant way to live.
Veselka's bleak vision has attracted a great deal of reader love. One fan, who apparently doesn't believe in capital letters, wrote on the Goodreads.com site the far-reaching extent of his affection.
"I'm going to publicly declare unadulterated book love. if i could marry this book, i would, but human-biblio marriages are not yet on the public radar. if i could have this book's baby, i would. if it were my life or this book's life, i would throw mine down gladly. five stars is not enough; if i could adorn this book with the night sky, i'd do it."
While the book is a little difficult to find in the stores, Veselka's readings have drawn rock star crowds.
Veselka said it's been a blast, and the success of the book has led to a lot of freelance writing gigs and the prospect of more novels.
Veselka is part of a wave of female writers wrestling with a dystopian view of the world. Suzanne Collins' "Hunger Games" trilogy is the most high profile series at the moment. When asked why she thinks this is happening, Veselka said she thinks it's an interesting question.
"I think there has always been within sci-fi this feminist utopian,' she said, "Starting from like Doris Lessing and Ursula le Guin, this really socially utopian direction that has also question gender and class a lot."
She says women writers bring a different perspective to the dystopian narratives.
"I think that there is this sense that needing to navigate those social utopias gone wrong, brings in the question of who survives? There is a different pressure in the narrative for women to survive," she said bluntly. "They are breeders. When a woman survives it has a different meaning, just at the basic level than if a man survives."
She said she believes women writers are finding their toughness now, and that is what may be coming through.
One of the weirder parts of her experience has been how so many things which she wrote about in "Zazen" have become part of the news since the book has been published. There has been a remarkable number of self-immolations recently, a fact which has not escaped the notice of her fans. They keep contacting her about how the real world reflects her fiction.
"It does have that ghost walking over your grave kind of feeling," she said. She said it's been a strange experience to see it happen.
"And it's not because I am psychic," she laughed. "I wish I was psychic because that would make it so much easier."
You can listen to Vanessa Veselka read the opening to 'Zazen' below.
Joan Baez and Bob Dylan sing together at a 1963 civil rights rally (Image courtesy National Archives/Getty Images )
President Barack Obama today named Bob Dylan as one of the latest recipients of the nation's highest civilian honor, the Medal of Freedom. Also honored are Madeleine Albright, John Glenn and Toni Morrison.
A release from the White House today describes the Medal of Freedom as being "presented to individuals who have made especially meritorious contributions to the security or national interests of the United States, to world peace, or to cultural or other significant public or private endeavors."
The release continues to describe Duluth native Dylan as: "One of the most influential American musicians of the 20th century, Dylan released his first album in 1962. Known for his rich and poetic lyrics, his work had considerable influence on the civil rights movement of the 1960s and has had significant impact on American culture over the past five decades. He has won 11 Grammys, including a lifetime achievement award. He was named a Commandeur dans l'Ordre des Art et des Lettres and has received a Pulitzer Prize Special Citation. Dylan was awarded the 2009 National Medal of Arts. He has written more than 600 songs, and his songs have been recorded more than 3,000 times by other artists. He continues recording and touring around the world today."
The awards will be presented in the late spring(5 Comments)
Yesterday on the Daily Circuit host Kerri Miller interviewed Mary Bly, who has penned a memoir of her year in Paris under the pseudonym Eloisa James.
MPR Photo/Stephanie Curtis
Bly, the daughter of poet Robert Bly and writer Carol Bly, says while she had other plans for her time in Paris, she ended up writing the memoir in part because she wanted to capture those fleeting, precious moments
It was a year in which I thought a great deal about memory, and about what we lose as our memories go. I was thinking about my family, and losing my mother. So I wanted to capture the year...
When asked about the current health of her father, who suffers from Alzheimer's, Bly responded:
You know he's very happy. So... not very happy but he's happy. So I'm very grateful that he's not experienced the personality changes that sometimes accompany that sort of loss. But it's sad, it's very very hard for someone whose life is made up of looking at a tree and turning it into a poem - so your whole life flows by you in words - to not be able to manipulate words is a terrible thing.
For a good part of my childhood my dad was working on short prose poetry. And he used to make us - the children had to do it along with him! Our dinners were often made up of impromptu poetry readings. So in a way this was my tribute year to him, too, because that's the kind of writing he did when I was growing up. He worked very hard on very small sets of words.
...My stepmother was talking about watching a video of him - and he sparked with ideas all the time - and he hasn't lost his sense of humor so he said "I like that guy!" And then he said "I wish I knew him." So it was very hard for my step-mother in that moment. But he's both recognizing what's happening - his sense of humor is not gone at all - and acknowledging that life has different phases.
Jiro Ono in "Jiro Dreams of Sushi' (Image courtesy Magnolia Pictures)
When film maker David Gelb decided to make a movie about the best sushi in the world he started by approaching Tokyo food writer Masahiro Yamamota. He asked the writer which eateries he needed to visit.
"And he told me that he only had one sushi restaurant that I needed to go to,' Geld told me recently from New York.
It was the restaurant run by Jiro Ono, in a tiny spot tucked away beside a subway station. Gelb had heard of the place. After all it does have three of Michelin's coveted stars.
He's also heard of the septuagenarian owner who is a living legend.
"Chefs from all over the world revere him and travel to his restaurant just to try the purest most delicious sushi," said Gelb.
However he was not prepared for the experience of eating there. He says he was absolutely blown away.
"The sushi was both beautiful to behold and absolutely delicious to eat," he said.
He asked Jiro-san as he calls him if he could make a film about how he does what he does. It was a bold move, as Jiro is known for being a no-nonsense kind of guy who is only interested in improving his craft.
Amazingly he agreed, and the result is "Jiro Dreams of Sushi" a remarkable 90 minute documentary opening in Minnesota this weekend.
"I think that Jiro was into the idea that he would be able to tell his story from his perspective and be able to show sushi from his perspective," said Gelb.
David Gelb in a Tokyo fish market (Image courtesy Magnolia Pictures)
"Sushi is very misunderstood," Gelb continued. "A lot of people think it is just fish and rice. What I hope the film does is that it shows the amount of thought and effort that goes into not only selecting the fish but preparing the fish so it can be in it's most delicious state at the moment of service."
Jiro only buys the best and freshest fish, and then makes sure it is prepared perfectly. For instance any octopus coming into the restaurant gets a 45 minute kneading from one of his apprentices.
The same thought and preparation goes into making the rice which is bought from a special dealer and then cooked in a very specific way. The temperature of the rice and the fish are both monitored carefully so they will be served in the best possible way.
"And then the rice and the fish are paired together specifically in order to bring out the flavor of the fish," said Gelb. "So what appears to be simple requires a vast amount of work and Jiro has been working on these balances for 60 years."
Now Gelb faced the challenge of trying to convey those sensual delights in a medium which allows for no sense of taste or smell.
He says he shot the food using a very limited depth of field, which allows the eye to linger on the most succulent spots in each piece of sushi. They are incredibly beautiful, so much so one critic referred to Gelb's movie as "food porn," which makes him laugh.
"Well I find that flattering," he said. "Because again if you are able to take a visual image and create a reaction in an audience member that makes them very, very hungry, I think that's a successful moment."
But Gelb says in a way the eye-catching food food is just a means to an end for him
"I think the movie is more than food porn, but there is food porn in it surely. You can consider the food porn to be sort of like the action scenes in a thriller but there is still a human story that carries it through and gives a context to the food porn so it is meaningful."
That is the story of how Jiro developed his skills and his reputation through incredible hard work, and how he has drilled his staff, including his two sons on the art of sushi making.
An important part of the films is the fact that Jiro is well past retirement age, and his oldest son Yoshikazu, now in his fifties and a sushi master himself, has had to live in his shadow for decades. Japanese tradition decrees that he will take over the business, but no-one, even Jiro, knows when that might be.
Jiro at work with his son Yoshikazu (Image courtesy Magnolia Pictures.)
Gelb says he and his crew bent themselves to Jiro's philosophy of hard work in making the film. He shot 60 hours of video during a visit to Japan, and then brought it back to the US to edit. He calls it a master class in the philosophy of hard work. First they had a team of experts translate every second of video they had. Then they began cutting.
"We were building and taking the film apart and then rebuilding it over and over again all just to make it a little bit better and just to mean a little bit more," Gelb said.
After eight months they were in good shape with just a few holes to fill. Gelb returned to Japan to shoot the extra material. It would be 30 hours at most he thought. He says it would have been much easier if the footage he shot could have fit in easily to the holes, but as is often the case in documentary making, it didn't.
"So what was originally meant to be 30 hours of targeted footage became another 60 hours of story, and so the movie completely transformed again when I brought this material back," Gelb said. He can kind of laugh about it now, but he says his editing crew were not happy on his return.
But they got the job done, and "Jiro Dream of Sushi" has been drawing raves wherever its been shown.
"But what I was most surprised by was how much people who don't eat sushi, or don't even like sushi have still enjoyed the film," said Gelb. "I think that's the greatest compliment we have received because it has transcended the subject."
And perhaps most gratifying of all to Gelb is Jiro Ono likes the film.
" I wanted to make sure that Jiro would still be around to see it and fortunately he is and he is still working every day as hard as he can. He works at the restaurant 6 days a week doing lunch and dinner."
Not only making the best sushi in the world, but striving to make it even better.
Garrison Keillor says opening an independent bookstore wasn't the smartest move.
"I lost an obscene amount of money, but it's all fine. It's all good," he said, standing in the large, empty space a couple of days before the arrival of the shelves for his new bookstore at the corner of Snelling and Grand in St Paul.
"It was a choice in between going into the bookstore business or having a party in the parking lot burning $20 bills. Bales of them. It would have been fun but wouldn't have lasted long."
At least he got a few years out of his first store.
Keillor was in the new store to chat about the upcoming opening. He said the first Common Good Books in Cathedral Hill wasn't right: too small, in the basement and invisible.
"I sort of opened it and walked away from it," Keillor said. But he's ready to give it another go.
"If you are an author and grew up in the stacks of the Anoka Public Library you owe it to the people to try one more time," he said.
The new store will be double the size of the first store and, much to the delight of the staff, has large windows. Keillor, who has been helping with the ordering of new stock (some John McPhee and Updike, along with books on Midwestern architecture), expects to expand the number of titles by about a third, although he says the numbers aren't crucial.
"This sort of store can't be a bookstore of record," he said, rolling the leg of his eyeglasses round and back. "You want to have a representative, interesting collection," he continued. "Books that Macalester students and faculty deserve to know about."
Keillor says he has insisted on a long shelf to allow for the display of as many as 200 books laid flat so customers can see their front covers.
"Even with e-books, they are still designing book jackets," Keillor said. "They are very compelling."
He also wants to have many tables, and maybe even a desk where he can work. He says he intends to spend more time in the store, although there is the problem that he has been unable to master working the till.
The new Common Good Books will have a soft opening on Monday, April 9, but will celebrate in a grand style for three evenings beginning May 1. That night, a "Spring Poetry Free-for-all" in the Macalester chapel will let members of the public select poems to perform at the open mike, with a jazz trio as backing.
On May 2, in the space adjacent to the new store, Keillor will be joined by Prairie Home Companion regulars Sue Scott and Tim Russell for a dramatic reading of Keillor's new book, "Guy Noir and the Straight Skinny."
Finally, on May 3, Keillor will invite people to join him on stage and tell him a story. Then, he says, he gets to ask some questions. "Like a little master class," he said. He wants to guide them to the interesting part.
All three events will start at 7 p.m.
Keillor said after the Guy Noir novel he thinks he may be done with writing fiction.
"People don't want that anymore," he said, staring out into the traffic on Snelling. He says he's been writing essays instead. He talked about an essay on cheerfulness, which started as a newspaper column and somehow was now around 11,000 words.
"My people were cheerful people at heart," he said. "And I have misrepresented them in the News from Lake Wobegon."
He mentioned his mother, who is 96 and has always made a point of trying to be cheerful, unlike his own generation and those that have followed. He's not sure where these essays might be published, however. He says he needs a magazine for which to write, noting that he hasn't written for the New Yorker since Tina Brown became editor, and while she has now moved on, he's inclined to let it lie.
He has been rewriting the screenplay for his Lake Wobegon movie. He says it got too dark, and he needed to lighten it up. "People don't want to pay to go see a Lake Wobegon movie and get bummed out," he shrugged.
But in the meantime there is a bookstore to open. Keillor seems pleased by the idea.
"It's important for people to hold books in their hands," he said. "Who knows what will happen to books in the next 20 years?"
(All photos are MPR images by Euan Kerr)(5 Comments)
>"Return to the Aeolian Islands" trailer in Italian (Films at the festival will be shown with subtitles.)
Anna Bonavita says the US has been missing out, and this weekend, along with her friends at the Italian Cultural Center, she hopes to change that a little.
"Italian film has been under-represented in the United States for years," she told me the other day.
She says while there was huge interest in Italian film in the days of Antonioni and the like, the modern marketplace means it's rare for contemporary Italian movies to appear in US theaters.
"And there has been this vacuum, after the great Italian Cinema which reached America there was this silence, emptiness," she said.
Bonavita grew up in Europe and says she was aware of the great film-making still going on in Italy.
"And especially now with the economic crisis," she said. "There are a lot of problems in Italy, there are some fantastic movies which never reach America. So we see this gap and we see this opportunity to introduce Italy, not the glossy one, but the real one with all it's problems but also all it's beauties to Americans."
To that end the lights will go down Friday for the opening of the short but intense program of movies Bonavita, who co-chairs the festival, has put together with her colleagues. The event features film, music, a visiting director and expert speakers to round out the program.
Friday night features the Angelo Longoni's 2007 movie on the life of Renaissance painter Caravaggio, famed for the way he used light in his paintings, and infamous for his use of prostitutes and vagrants for his models in religious paintings.
"And this is the time when the Cardinals were all collecting art, and they were competing for who will have the best painters," said Bonavita.
The painter was also known for his violent outbursts, which led to accusations of murder and a life on the run.
"A very difficult, very volatile personality, and at the same time very talented," said Bonavita. "It's just amazing to see how calm and concentrated he could be when he was working on a piece, and how volatile and aggressive he could be the moment he finished a piece of art. So he had to run from city to city to save his life, and even though he had protectors he eventually ran out of chances."
The evening will feature music of the period performed by Consortium Carissimi, a talk on Caravaggio and his times by U of M Visiting Associate Professor Roberta Bartoli, and a display of Baroque clothing on loan from the Guthrie and the CTC.
Bonavita is also very excited about the screening on Saturday of "Return to the Aeolian Islands" a documentary by Giovanna Taviani, who will be present. (See the trailer above.)
"It's a journey in a beautiful boat with red sails though this archipelago of volcanic islands off Sicily," said Bonavita who goes on to stress that this is much more than a travelogue.
"So here comes history," she said, "Of immigration, of exile. And the history of Italian cinema is there. Antonioni shot movies there." She continues that Rossellini first met his future wife Ingrid Bergman when he took her to the Islands to film "Stromboli." "And 'Ill Postino' which the American audience knows very well and loves a lot what shot there."
Taviani, who is the daughter of one of the famed Taviani brothers, will lead a master class in film making on Sunday.
Bonavita also admits to a special liking for "20 Cigarettes" a movie being shown on Sunday about a politically active young man whose life is changed radically when he gets a job on a crew filming a documentary about an Italian army unit in Iraq.
"20 Sigarette" trailer in Italian (Films at the festival will be shown with subtitles.)
The full details of the festival can be found here.
While this is the fourth festival in the Twin Cities, it's the first time the Italian Cultural Center in Minneapolis has arranged pretty much everything by itself. Anna Bonavita is hoping for great things.
"This is where we see the value of the festival," she concluded. "Look at Italy, look at the real problems that people encounter there: laugh, think and feel enriched through the whole experience."
Hunger Games Tributes prepare:what will they read when they are done? (Image courtesy Lionsgate.)
As a buyer at the Red Balloon Bookstore in St Paul Julie Poling was one of the people who received an advanced readers copy of Suzanne Collins "The Hunger Games." She says she knew immediately it was going to be a huge hit.
"I just knew," she said. "It was so well written."
It was late 2007, or early 2008 and she read it aloud with her daughters who were then 11 and 13.
"We just plowed through it," she told me the other day. "Loved it. Every minute of it. They were just blown away by it, And my daughter said at the end 'This is it. This is the kind of book I ant to read,' and she has been into that dystopian thing ever since."
She admits they did the same with "Catching Fire," and "Mockingjay," the other books in the Collins trilogy, but they had to swear in advance to the distributors that they would not reveal anything about the books till they were released to the public.
Poling says there is nothing new about young readers fascination with dystopian portrayals of our world could go horribly wrong. She points to how Orwell and Bradbury produced the stories which thrilled and chilled slightly older generations.
Which led to the inevitable question to someone sitting before a wall of books: given that many fans have already inhaled the Hunger Games trilogy, what does she recommend to readers with a dystopian appetite?
"The best book ever written, I say, or the best book written so far, and I have been reading books for a long long time, is "Knife of Never Letting Go." by Patrick Ness," Poling said.
It's the first book in the Chaos Walking trilogy. It's about a boy called Todd Hewitt growing up on a planet where due to a strange germ everyone can hear what everyone else is thinking. They can even hear and understand what the animals around them are thinking. Todd has to learn how to deal with what they call the Noise that is all around him, and as he does he begins to learn the dark secrets of his community.
"And then there is "Maze Runner," continued Poling. The James Dashner book about young people living in a maze filled with hideous monsters is a 2011-2012 Maud Hart Lovelace nominee in the Minnesota Youth Reading Awards. As a result Poling says it sells well on its own.
"There's a new one just out that's just fantastic called "Divergent"" Poling continued. The Veronica Roth book is set in a dystopic Chicago where young people are assigned to warring factions based on an aptitude test.
So gentle dystopian reader, what might you recommend? Please post your answers below!
I've long been a fan of Michal Daniel's photography. As a journalist who often uses press images to accompany my features or blog posts, Daniel's images have always stood out as particularly gorgeous. For many years he was the choice photographer for Theatre de la Jeune Lune's productions, and the results were breathtaking.
So I was particularly pleased to see that Daniel was singled out for a profile by TPT's "Minnesota Original." It's a lovely feature, and gives you a sense for his true passion for the work, as well as his Czech heritage, and his recent move to working with such high profile companies as The Public Theater. Enjoy!
Allan Naplan who has been president of the Minnesota Opera since last March announced today he is resigning for personal reasons.
In a statement released by the Opera Naplan said "I am grateful to the extended Minnesota Opera community for making my young family feel so welcome during my time with the company. Minnesota Opera has a tremendous profile in the Twin Cities and throughout the opera industry, and I feel privileged to have been associated with this fine organization."
Minnesota Opera Board Chair Chip Emery declined to elaborate on Naplan's departure, other than to say it was Naplan's decision and the organization is sorry to see him go.
The board has appointed the Opera's Production Director Kevin Ramach as the interim managing director.
Emery says there are no immediate plans to create a search committee to find a replacement. He says the organization is in good shape, with the best subscription sales in a decade, so in the meantime Ramach will work with artistic director Dale Johnson to guide the company.
Emery said the board will keep an eye on how things develop. "And perhaps sometime, six, nine months , a year down the road, no set time period, go back and re-evaluate what we do want in a president and general director in the future," he said.
In the meantime Emery doesn't expect major changes in the recently announced plans for the Opera's 2012-2013 season.
If you're a fan of Twin Cities theater, chances are you've seen Kate Eifrig on stage. The statuesque dark haired actress is known equally for her skill with drama and comedy, and has been a regular presence in the work of the Guthrie Theater, Ten Thousand Things, and other highly regarded companies.
But at the same time as she was giving stellar performances onstage (Tony Kushner raved about her performance of First Lady Laura Bush in "Tiny Kushner"), Eifrig was increasingly suffering from a mysterious illness which took its toll on her both physically and mentally. Numerous specialists were unable to come up with a firm diagnosis. According to a website dedicated to her recovery, "By 2010 she had had four episodes of tree-trunk edema (usually only found in seniors and the more elderly) and by March of 2011 she'd lost and gained 20-25 pounds five times."
After several depressive episodes which led to trips to emergency rooms, in July of 2011 Eifrig was forced to admit herself into the hospital.
Kate Eifrig in Blithe Spirit at the Jungle Theater
Photo by Michal Daniel
Doctors now believe that Eifrig suffers from what is known as "treatment resistant" or "treatment refractory" major depression, which, as its name implies, is not easily treated through medication or other methods.
Close friends, like Melodie Bahan, have rallied around Eifrig to provide what support they can. Bahan says Eifrig is now entering her fourth consecutive year of a depressive episode.
One of her doctors described her condition to her as analogous to someone walking around with untreated heart disease. Her job right now is to focus on getting better. Even though her health started to decline in 2008, she continued to do amazing work until October of last year, when she did "August/Osage County" at Park Square. I know work has gotten progressively more difficult for her over the years and the last few shows took a toll - although you wouldn't have known that if you were sitting in the house watching her. But now, not only is she unable to act, she can't even work a "day job."
Kate Eifrig as First Lady Laura Bush in "Tiny Kushner" at the Guthrie Theater
Photo by Michal Daniel
While traditional treatments have had no positive effect on Eifrig's condition, she is hoping that an alternative treatment may provide her some relief, and even a little joy.
When a psychotherapist recently asked Eifrig if there was anything that had ever helped her depression, she responded jokingly "a dog."
"I've prescribed dogs for people."
Unfortunately, mental health service dogs come at a steep price. Eifrig's friends have created a website to help her raise the $20,000 necessary for the dog and its training - training that will be specific to her condition and needs. This is a treatment that's not covered by health insurance. And while Eifrig has health insurance as a member of Actors Equity, that coverage will lapse if she doesn't return to the stage.
Kate Eifrig as Catherine Petkoff in "Arms and the Man" at the Guthrie Theater
Photo by Michal Daniel
At this point, Melodie Bahan admits she doesn't know if Eifrig will ever be able to return to acting:
This is the sort of illness that is definitely life-changing. Given her history, I wouldn't be surprised if Kate gravitated toward working in the mental health field - perhaps combining her artistic talent with her life experience in some way. I just want her to get her life back, to be able to work, to be able to walk without pain, to be able to live. I believe a mental health service dog is going to give her the healing she needs to accomplish that.
Mike Doughty made a name for himself as front-man of the band Soul Coughing, but it's a period of his life that was marked by insecurity and heavy drug use. He describes these struggles in his new memoir, "The Book of Drugs."
Image courtesy of the artist
Doughty spoke to Kerri Miller this morning about his addiction. He says he doesn't regret his drug use.
"I can't renounce drugs," he wrote in his memoir. "I love drugs."
And yet--he's well-acquainted with the chaos, destruction and despair that addiction causes. He confesses: "I loathe myself in a lot of these stories."
When asked if he ever thought about what the drugs might have done to his brain, his answer is blunt: "No."
"It was basically all I had - the only worthwhile thing in the world for me. There were instances where it was clear that I might have died - and that wasn't an enticement to stop because if you've only got one good thing in life - you've gotta live for it."
Doughty says the drugs shut off what he called a "core of self-loathing," but ultimately it stood between him and the music he wanted to make.
You can hear the entire interview by clicking on the link below:
One of the most significant figures in Twin Cities arts philanthropy has died.
John Cowles Jr., 82, succumbed to lung cancer Saturday evening, surrounded by family.
John Cowles, shown here with his wife Sage. Cowles died Saturday evening from lung cancer
Image courtesy Cowles Center for Dance and the Performing Arts
While his family has a long history in the newspaper industry, Cowles also made his own indelible mark in the arts.
He lured director Tyrone Guthrie to Minneapolis to realize a vision for a professional regional theater company. Cowles helped raise the money for the orignal Guthrie Theater; 40 years later he served as co-chairman of the architecture committee for the new Guthrie complex.
Along with his wife Sage - after which the Sage Awards are named - Cowles also held a pivotal role in the world of dance.
Most recently the couple were recognized with the naming of the Cowles Center for Dance and the Perfoming Arts.
Services are pending.
Lynne Ramsey cuts to the chase in a conversation in a way that's both refreshing and startling.
"Kids can be pretty cruel, ghastly creatures, you know," she said on the phone from London recently, "As well as beautiful lovable ones."
Ramsey is the director and screenwriter on "We Need to Talk About Kevin," a deeply disturbing film opening in Minnesota this weekend.
Critics have lauded the film, and in particular the performance of Tilda Swinton as Eva, a mother dealing with the aftermath of a high school massacre perpetrated by her son Kevin. Many tipped Swinton as a likely Oscar contender, but the Academy passed over her when announcing the best actress nominees.
Ramsey adapted Lionel Shriver's novel of the same name which was a best-seller in the UK, and much lauded in the U.S.
"I thought it was a modern classic in a way," said Ramsey in her soft Glaswegian accent. "It picks up in these ideas that I think are pretty taboo but really struck a chord with people."
The taboo is not the violence however. "We need to talk about Kevin" explores the world of a woman who is deeply worried about her antipathy towards her first-born child. Ramsey says she was attracted to the novel in the way it peeled back layer after layer of how what many people consider a basic human interaction can go horribly wrong.
"form>"It's kind of a fantasy about your deepest fears as a parent," Ramsey said. "What if you don't feel that instant bond? What if you don't feel that instant connection you are meant to feel? And what if the child perceives that? And on top of that the child is a very difficult child?"
Ramsey says Shriver's epistilatory novel proved a challenge to adapt. In letters to her husband Franklin Eva writes about what it's like to live in the community devastated by her sons actions, and how her own fears about Kevin grew over the years. Eva began worrying that Kevin is manipulative and antisocial very early on, but Franklin never witnesses Kevin's malicious side, and becomes feels Eva is imagining things.
Ramsey liked the subjective ambiguity the letters introduce into the story, but felt simply reproducing the letters even in part would make for a weaker film. She didn't even want to use any voiceovers because she believed that too would lessen the sense of subjectivity
She decided that she had to write from a viewpoint right inside her character's head.
"What if I put myself completely in Eva's position: almost take the form of the book and smash it up but in the way keep the same structure. It's very much she's looking back and trying to figure this out one way or the other. You are never quite sure whether what she is seeing is reliable or not."
In time though she also found she had to get inside Kevin's head.
"Sometimes it was thinking about almost having an empathy for him almost was very strange. To me I almost thought of it as a perverse love story."
"He knows that she doesn't like him," she continued. "She might be his mother and through that bond even love him, but liking and loving are very different things."
Ramsey says she didn't immediately think of Swinton as a potential Eva. However they are friends and when she sent the script to the actor Swinton responded with immediate interest.
"We naturally gravitated to one another and I guess I didn't know what a coup that was at the time.," Ramsey said.
Minneapolis lost a devoted arts advocate this week with the passing of Carol Daly.
Last June 11, on the occasion of her retirement, Mayor R. T. Rybak declared it "Ms. Carol Daly Day."
Public Arts Administrator Mary Altman had this to say about Daly:
When it came to the arts, Carol was the most enthusiastic and avid participant and volunteer that I have ever met. She was a walking advertisement for whichever event she had most recently attended, and she often went to several a week. She loved her work as a Minneapolis Arts Commissioner and former board member of Forecast, and was a passionate spokesperson for artists, arts groups and public art.
Jack Becker at Forecast Public Art added the following:
Carol was naturally inquisitive, a life-long learner, and she took that spirit wholeheartedly into the arts. But it was her style of sharing her enthusiasm for what she learned and what she loved that made Carol the significant torch-bearer for the arts and humanities here. Her stubborn attitude of "why not?" meant that she would fearlessly challenge status quo and confront leaders to consider the aesthetic and creative and innovative -- not simply the functional or economical. She went to more plays and museums and musical events than anyone I know -- and that's saying a lot! And then she had to TALK about whatever she saw -- to anyone who would listen... How can you NOT be an arts enthusiast after all that?
A memorial service will be held for Daly at the First Unitarian Society of Minneapolis at 11am this Saturday with a family greeting beginning at 10am. In lieu of flowers, it's requested that donations are made to the Minneapolis Arts Commission.
It seems like every day there's a new release talking about how a certain famous person will be blessing the Twin Cities with his or her presence.
Here's who I've heard about in just the past week:
Right now: Actress Tippi Hedren - star of Alfred Hitchcock's movie The Birds is in town.
On March 16 Harry Belafonte will be at the Walker Art Center for a screening of his new documentary.
The very next day (March 16) First Lady Michelle Obama will be at the Walker Art Center for a fundraiser for her husband's re-election campaign.
Kathleen Turner will star in the national tour of the stage drama "High," which runs April 18 through 22 at the Pantages Theatre in downtown Minneapolis.
Just yesterday Hennepin Theatre Trust announced that acclaimed singer/actress Kristin Chenoweth will be stopping in Minneapolis on her world tour. She performs at the State Theatre on June 17; tickets go on sale Friday.
So who are you excited to have come to town?
Some helpful Minnesotans may not have quite realized just whom they were aiding over the last couple of days.
"They are so helpful. I am in Minneapolis right now," Tippi Hedren said on the phone Tuesday. "And I was walking through the Skyways and trying to find something, and I had a map as to where I was going, and several people helped me. They just stopped and and said 'Can we help you? Are you lost?" And these are the kind of people I remember as Minnesotans."
Hedren who shot to worldwide fame when she appeared in Alfred Hitchcock's classic thriller "The Birds" lived in Minneapolis as a girl. She moved there when she was five, from the southwestern part of the state.
"I lived in the little town of Lafayette," she said. "But Lafayette was so small it didn't have a hospital that I had to go to New Ulm to be born. But I never lived in New Ulm."
Hedren is in Minneapolis to introduce a screening of "Marnie," the second, and final film she made for Hitchcock. The free event at the Heights Theater in Columbia Heights is part of a nationwide series of screenings to promote the TCM Classic Film Festival in Hollywood in April. Hedren will join critic and TCM host Leonard Maltin to talk about the film, and what it was like to play the title role.
"Marnie" tells the story of a young woman whose deep psychological scars as a result of a traumatic childhood incident cause her to behave in a variety of strange ways, not least that she becomes an expert at stealing from businesses where she works. It's only with the intervention of the dashing owner of a company she's trying to rob (played by a post-Dr No Sean Connery) that she begins to come to terms with her life. Its psycho-sexual undertones were cutting edge when the film came out in 1964.
"Looking back at it now, and how films are made today, it was very tame" Hedren said. "It really was."
However Hedren flung herself into preparation, starting with the original Winston Graham novel which the writer sent to her personally. "It was an incredibly intriguing story," she said.
"I studied Marnie at great length through the book. I talked to psychiatrists about her, just to get kind of an idea just how this would manifest itself into a later life. But it was a really treasured role. Every actress in Hollywood wanted to do that role."
Hedren had already experienced the wonders, and the horrors of a plum role after Alfred Hitchcock spotted Hedren while she worked as a model, and cast her in "The Birds." She remembers how all went well until they had to shoot the climactic scene of her climbing a tower alone where she was to be attacked by the birds. Hitchcock promised her they would use mechanical birds for the scene.
Then on the day of the shoot the assistant director came to her and told her the mechanical birds didn't work and they would have to use real ones.
"And I picked my jaw up from the floor and went out to the set," she recalled. "An they had no intentions of using mechanical birds. There was a cage built around the door that I come in, and there were three or four huge cartons of ravens, and seagulls and a few pigeons thrown in. Bird trainers who had leather gauntlets up to their shoulders, and they hurled birds at me for a week."
Much has been made of Hedren's tense relationship with Hitchcock, who tried to control not just her performance, but also her career. However Hedren is generous in crediting him for teaching her the job of being a film actress.
"I had technical background," she said. "But not how do you get into a character, how do you break down a script, how do you analyze the relationships between the different characters in the film. So Alfred Hitchcock was probably the finest director I could have possibly had."
Hedren was delighted to hear the Guthrie is presenting a stage adaptation of "The Birds" and is hoping to take in the show during her visit.
Tickets for Thursday night screening of "Marnie" are free, but need to be reserved through this site.
March 7 - 15, the Walker Art Center is screening four films featuring Harry Belafonte, including the area premiere of his new biographical documentary, Sing Your Song.
Image courtesy Walker Art Center
Today the Walker announced that Belafonte himself will be in town for the documentary screening on March 15. The film will be followed by a "Regis Dialogue" in which Belafonte will talk with Scott Foundas, associate director of the Film Society of Lincoln Center, and take questions from the audience.
Since Belafonte is a longtime advocate for humanitarian causes (he was blacklisted in the McCarthy Era), Sing Your Song is not just about music, but about protest.
Sing Your Song was produced by Minneapolis native Bill Eigen, who also produced the documentaries Isn't this a Time and the Emmy Award-winning Pete Seeger: The Power of Song.
Former Replacements guitarist and beloved singer-songwriter Bob "Slim" Dunlap is in the hospital this week recovering from a serious stroke, which he suffered on Monday morning. According to his wife, Chrissie, he was admitted to the Surgical Intensive Care Unit at HCMC after suffering "a right middle cerebral artery stroke."
Dunlap performed with the Replacements from 1987 until their breakup in 1991, filling in for guitarist Bob Stinson after he left the group, and went on to release two solo albums, The Old New Me and Time Like This. The title track for the latter release is serving as a bittersweet comfort for friends and fans reeling from the news of his illness this week.
You can find out more about his condition, and his recovery, by reading The Local Current blog.
This coming fall the Guthrie Theater will stage works by playwright Christopher Hampton, show films he adapted for the screen, offer a master class with the playwright, and interview him before a live audience.
Not familiar with the name Christopher Hampton? Well then, perhaps you're familiar with these titles: "Dangerous Liaisons," "Atonement," and "A Dangerous Method." These are all films based on novels which Hampton then adapted for the stage and screen.
The Guthrie celebration, similar to the 2009 celebration of playwright Tony Kushner, will include the staging of three of Hampton's works.
Appomattox is an opera based on the American Civil War for which Hampton wrote the libretto and Philip Glass composed the score.
Tales from Hollywood tells the story of German émigré intellectuals such as Bertolt Brecht and Thomas Mann in Los Angeles during World War II.
Total Eclipse depicts the relationship between French poets Paul Verlaine and Arthur Rimbaud.
Dates for the runs of the shows have yet to be released.
Editor's Note: This post comes from our fabulous music writer Andrea Swensson; you can follow her regularly at the Local Current Blog.
Justin Vernon, of Bon Iver, poses backstage with the award for best alternative music album for "Bon Iver" at the 54th annual Grammy Awards on Sunday, Feb. 12, 2012 in Los Angeles.
Mark J. Terrill/AP
It's not every day you get the opportunity to see Justin Vernon of Bon Iver tucked into a theater seat behind Rihanna and Paul McCartney. But such is the nature of the Grammys, whose increasingly schizophrenic and chaotic approach to celebrating the fragmented music industry kept returning back to lesser-known artists with Midwestern ties during last night's ceremony.
Vernon was a big winner at last night's awards, taking home the coveted Best New Artist award and beating out more mainstream artists like Nicki Minaj and J. Cole.
"It's hard to accept, because when I started to make songs, I did it for the inherent reward of making songs. So I'm a little bit uncomfortable up here," Vernon said, his acceptance speech brimming with earnestness while his girlfriend Kathleen Edwards beamed at him from her seat. "But with that discomfort I do have a sense of gratitude, to all the nominees, and the non-nominees that have never been here and never will be here, all the bands I toured with, all the bands that inspired me and all the artists."
"I also want to say -- sorry," he said, pausing to apologize for his nervousness. "I also want to say thank you to all the voters, of course. Sweet. Sweet hook-up."
The Best New Artist win was a surprising one, especially given the mainstream viewership's expectations that awards will go to familiar faces and Top 40 celebrities, and follows in the footsteps of last year's similarly surprising Grammy nods to Esperanza Spalding (who edged out Justin Bieber in the Best New Artist category) and Arcade Fire (who won Album of the Year). While it's considered a big win for fans of independent music, it also drives home just how "famous" a musician has to be these days to register as a blip on the radar of the average American viewer. Naturally, the Who is Bon Iver? Tumblr lit up like a switchboard in the wake of the awards show, with a number of viewers puzzling over this new band "Bonny Bear."
In addition to the Best New Artist win, Bon Iver took home an award for Best Alternative Music Album for their 2011 sophomore release, Bon Iver, Bon Iver. They were nominated for a total of four awards, but lost out to Adele's massive hit "Rolling in the Deep" in both the Best Song and Best Record of the Year categories.
Speaking of Adele, Twin Cities music fans might have recognized a familiar face behind the six-time Grammy award winner last night. When she took the stage to accept her biggest award, Album of the Year for her record 21, she was accompanied by a line-up of songwriters and producers who helped assemble the record including Minnesota's own Dan Wilson. Wilson, who started out his career in the Minneapolis band Trip Shakespeare and later found commercial success with Semisonic, has transitioned into a co-songwriter role recently and has helped pen hits for the Dixie Chicks (whose song "Not Ready to Make Nice" earned him a Song of the Year trophy in 2007), Mike Doughty, Dierks Bentley, and another of this year's Best New Artist nominees, the Band Perry. For more on Wilson's success as a songwriter, Jon Bream penned an excellent profile in the Star Tribune.
Adele also gave a personal shout-out to Wilson while accepting the award for Best Pop Vocal Performance for her song "Someone Like You," which she said she wrote with the help of Wilson, noting that "My life changed when I wrote this song."
Additional Minnesotan artists who were nominated this year included Brian Setzer, whose Setzer Goes Multi-Instrumental lost to Booker T. Jones' The Road From Memphis in the Best Pop Instrumental Album category, and Stokley Williams of Mint Condition, whose contributions to Kelly Price's single "Not My Daddy" earned nods in the Best R&B Performance and Best R&B Song categories.
Meeting Tracie Bennett, the live-wire actor playing Judy Garland in the Guthrie's production of Peter Quilter's End of the Rainbow," was quite an experience.
The show, which opens Friday, rests squarely on her shoulders, as she propels the cast through the at times hilarious, but ultimately tragic story of a concert series Garland played in London just three months before her untimely death from an overdose at age 47. The show moves between the hotel room she shares with her new fiance Mickey Deans, and the Talk of the Town Theater, where shows can be a triumph one night, and a humiliating disaster the next.
It's a complex story and Bennett compared playing the role to riding a stallion. She has been on that ride for over a year now: first in the Olivier-nominated run on London's West End, followed by a UK tour. Now she is in Minneapolis with a new cast, and a new band, preparing for a move to Broadway.
Sitting in her dressing room, she apologized for the heady perfume in the air. She had dropped a full bottle of her favorite fragrance a couple of nights before and it may linger there a long time she laughed.
We then turned to what it takes to play a role where she is on-stage for almost the whole show, and has to hurtle from highs to lows in moments, while belting out showtunes in between.
"The pressure for me here is I am aware I am a Brit playing a legend from America," she said bursting into a throaty laugh. "And if i thought about that I probably wouldn't go out on stage."
She launched into how she changed her diet to help her concentrate: salmon, broccoli, and spinach. "I'm like Popeye," she chuckled in her Lancashire accent.
She says she and the new cast are fine-tuning their interactions, working to get just the right balance as Garland, Deans, and Anthony, the music director for the Talk of the Town shows, struggle and fight their way the concert run.
She wants audiences to like the piece
"I want them to understand how difficult it is (for performers) in the hotel rooms, because you don't usually see people talking in hotel rooms about how difficult it is to go onstage."
She says a lot of the success of the show comes down to taking responsibility for her role in the show: taking responsibility for herself, for the other cast members, for the show itself. She says it starts with the material, can go through her special concentrations diet, and then extend everywhere.
"You have to watch your every move - crossing the road!" she says, admitting she nearly got run over Tuesday night after the evening's preview. "Because I was going through the lines, going home after the play, in my head. I was doing a speech in my head, going 'I really must sort that out' and 'blah-de-blah-de-blah' And I just kind of crossed - you don't hear cars here, they are so quiet! It must be the speed or something, or the snow. And I just didn't look in time."
She says she actually looked the wrong way, as she still hasn't become accustomed to cars that drive on the right side of the road. She heard a noise and turned to find herself face to face with a truck which had stopped just before hitting her. Luckily the driver had been watching out and see her.
"And it was right here," she said, putting her hand two inches from my face. "And I could have been run over."
"You have to think about getting out of the bath and not slipping," she continued. "Stupid things that I would never think of before. You have to watch your every move."
Given I had been in that preview and was realizing how close we all came to having seen the FINAL show of "End of the Rainbow," but for the fast reactions of an unknown truckdriver, this made an impression.
The Fargo-Moorhead Symphony has lost a gem of a performer - one who had real staying power.
Mary King Osterfield
Violist Mary King Osterfield played with the orchestra for 46 years, up until a fall combined with kidney failure forced her to retire at age 99. She had hoped to perform at least once at age 100, but that wasn't to be.
I had the pleasure of meeting Osterfield while on a visit to the Fargo-Moorhead area just over a year ago. I was attending a rehearsal of the FMSO, and watched Osterfield's bow fly just as fast as those of the young musicians next to her. Many of them were her former students.
Afterward we chatted, which is when she really charmed me. Born in Northern Ireland, Osterfield had a lilting accent and a sparkle in her eye that was absolutely infectious.
An obituary on inforum.com quotes Osterfield as having stated "when I get that viola under my chin I feel like I'm 21."
This past weekend the FMSO performed a work in Osterfield's memory, leaving a chair empty where she would have sat. She'll be deeply missed.
Twin Cities playwright Katie Ka Vang is currently in the University of Minnesota hospital after being diagnosed with stage four anaplastic T-cell large lymphoma.
According to Vang's Caring Bridge website, a PET scan revealed there were tumors in about 60-70% of her body.
For patients with this degree of lymphona, there is a 50% chance that they will live longer than five years. Doctors say Vang's young age and her strong spirit are working in her favor.
Vang is also keeping a video blog of her experience, which can be found here. In her most recent clip she ended with the following.
I really appreciate and value all of the great energy that everyone has been sending me. It's really been helping my spirit alot, and I don't think that I can get through this without everyone's support. I am truly humbled by this, and I ask that you keep the prayers and good thoughts coming, because they are working tremendously for me.
The hospital has set a tentative release date of Tuesday for Vang, with the expectation that she will be strong enough to walk by then and can continue treatment from home.
Information about making donations to offset Vang's medical expenses can be found at the Caring Bridge site.
It was on December 8, 1980 that music legend John Lennon was shot and killed.
This weekend in Edina, the Galleria hosts "Yoko Ono Presents: Imagine Peace, the Artwork of John Lennon." It's a travelling show of John Lennon's artwork and includes drawings, songs, lyrics, and photos between 1964-1980.
89.3 The Current's Jim McGuinn recently spoke with Ono about the exhibit, as well as tonight's annual tribute with Curtiss A, The Minnesota Beatle Project and Lennon's inspirations throughout the years.
Ono says she still feels responsible for continuing to manage Lennon's artistic career, even 31 years after his death.
His artwork is just as incredible and interesting as his music, and there's a connection between his art and his music - you will see it. In his art he has an incredible sense of humor and that shows, too.
Asked why she thinks Lennon's music still endures, even with young audiences, she replied "He was real and told the truth, as simple as that."
You can hear the entire interview here:(1 Comments)
Is he or isn't he? Nine months after saying he'd retire as host of A Prairie Home Companion in the spring 2013, Garrison Keillor again said he's reconsidering.
In the Sioux City Journal report Thursday, Keillor tells the paper he thought about leaving A Prairie Home Companion.
And then it panicked me ... which got me to rethinking the whole brilliant idea. The show is going well. I love doing it. Why quit?
David O'Neill, APHC's marketing director, said in an email to MPR News that Keillor has no specific plans to retire.
Keillor in McEnroe's post:
I'm starting to doubt that myself. I've been thinking about it, thinking: what else would I do? And I can't come up with anything....If I didn't do it I would wind up in a tiny walk-up apartment with a couple of cats.
Keillor's first public mention of retirement came in this interview in the AARP Bulletin in March.
I am planning to retire in the spring of 2013, but first I have to find my replacement. I'm pushing forward, and also I'm in denial. It's an interesting time of life.(5 Comments)
I'm thinking somebody should proclaim December "Kevin Kling Month."
The storyteller, playwright and performer is starring in three shows and celebrating the publication of two books, all in the span of a few weeks.
One of the books is called "Big Little Brother," which was published just in time for the Thanksgiving holiday and has already garnered a rave review from the New York Times. It's Kling's first book for children, and is largely inspired by life with his younger (but bigger) brother Steven.
When asked if his brother collaborated with him on the book, Kevin Kling wryly responds "yeah... when he was four."
Another book "Come and Get It" is being released on December 10 at the Minnesota Center for Book Arts. It's the MCBA's annual Winter Book, and features text by Kling along with illustrations by his friend and artistic cohort Michael Sommers.
The book tells the story of Marty, a farm kid who loves the earth, but dreams of being an artist, too. It was originally produced as a theater piece for Open Eye Figure Theater.
Kling says he is honored to have the story selected for MCBA's annual project, which is hand printed and bound by the center's staff:
The artwork - the book itself, the paper they chose - there's so much work that goes into it. It reminds me of theater because it's such a collaborative process. And in the end it's an object that you want to hold - it's so beautiful what they do - it's a work of art in itself.
In addition to his books Kevin Kling is on stages all over the Twin Cities. Currently he's the master of ceremonies for Interact Center's cabaret "Joy", which earned a rave review from Minnesota Monthly's Tim Girhing:
Any show featuring Kevin Kling with a Guido mustache and an Eye-talian accent, reeling off jokes like Chico Marx, is worth the money. The real treat of Joy: A Holiday Cabaret, the new holiday show by Interact Theatre, is that Kling is consistently and delightfully upstaged by the Interact performers who dance, sing, and mug their way through this tribute to what makes them, well, joyful. You won't find a more genuine, touching holiday sentiment this season.
Kling will have to step down for the final week of "Joy" because he's got another show to perform: "Of Mirth And Mischief" at the Fitzgerald Theater. It's the first show to come out of his new residency with MPR.
The show pairs Kling with musician Steve Kramer, formerly of the band The Wallets.
He feels like a brother to be quite honest. We just have the funnest time; his music is unbelievable! We've been working on the writing and music at the same time, and he's got this amazing band - it's like a who's who of Minnesota musicians.
Band members include Haley Bonar, Aby Wolf, James Diers and Jennifer Armour. You can listen to some of the music they've created for the show here.
This Saturday night Kling will tell stories at the Cedar Cultural Center as part of the celebration for The Brass Messengers' new CD Metal Harvest.
And more music will ensue this coming Monday night at the Guthrie Theater, when Kling takes the stage for his annual chestnut "Tales from the Charred Underbelly of the Yule Log." The show has evolved over the past 20 years from a one-man show to more of a cabaret, and this year will include the music of Simon Perrin, Dan Chinouard, and Peter Ostroushko.
Kling, who has always been a pretty prolific writer and storyteller, says nothing in particular has changed this month: it's just that projects he worked on earlier in the year are all finishing up at the same time.
All of it's fun - sometimes I go crazy because I'm so busy, but I just love all of it.
It doesn't look like Kling will be slowing down in the new year; he's already gearing up for a bunch of storytelling festivals and for a show in February at the O'Shaughnessy all about love.
Back in mid-September actor Warren C. Bowles gave a heart-stopping performance.
Actor Warren C. Bowles
Image: Nathan Howard/Post-Bulletin
It was opening night of "Neighbors" at Mixed Blood Theater, and in one of the final scenes Bowles suffered a cardiac arrest and collapsed.
Now the actor is giving thanks to those who made sure he'd see the curtain rise again.
Tonight at 8:30pm Bowles is publicly thanking the Hennepin County Medical Center paramedics who arrived on the scene.
In a release sent out today, Bowles acknowledged that he doesn't have any memory of the events that evening, but that doesn't matter:
"Someone said the work of the paramedics and first responders was miraculous. I didn't have a heartbeat and wasn't breathing. I was dead. But they saved me," said Bowles.
According to HCMC, Bowles was fortunate, because his cardiac arrest was witnessed by others, and CPR was administered right away.
HCMC says Bowles was also fortunate to have his heart attack in Hennepin County, because according to a recent report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Cardiac Arrest Registry to Enhance Survival (CARES), people who suffer a cardiac arrest in Hennepin County have some of the best survival rates in the country.
Bowles will meet and thank Hennepin County Medical Center paramedics Gio Caponi and Wayne Schneider, and EMS Dispatcher Jake Cree, who were all involved in his care on the night of September 16.
A startlingly diverse crowd packed the UBS Forum tonight for the live recording of Top Score podcast presenter Emily Reese's conversation with Assassin's Creed composer Jesper Kyd.
Hipsters, gamers, and classical buffs came to learn a few of the secrets behind the immensely popular video game franchise, which released its fourth title Assassin's Creed:Revelations on Tuesday.
Kyd (right) is a Dane who is unusual among video game music composers in that he didn't begin his career in film. He began composing what he laughingly called bleep music on what was then his cutting edge Commodore 64. He moved on to an Amiga with its whopping four channels and joined the European Demoscene where he and his friends composed music like maniacs. He said he tried to do a tune a day.
"Don't take it that seriously," he said of learning how to write music. "That's important. I didn't really care. I wrote a lot of music that really sucked, but I had a good time."
He said he also got to know a lot of other people in the scene too, composers and graphic artists all drawn together by the maverick spirit, and it was an almost natural progression that they put their skills together to create a game. It was so good Sega bought it, and he moved to the US.
Kyd has done the scores for all four of the Assassin's games so far, and he told Emily Reese the music provides an interesting challenge. While much of the action in the first game occurs during the Crusades, and in the second in 15th century Italy, with the third being a combination of both, the storyline is actually set in 2012. It's really a science fiction travel adventure, with strong historical elements.
Kyd says he works hard to keep that science fiction element in the scores, while also conjuring the feel of those historical times. Part of his secret is his use of electronic music, and his delight in manipulation and sampling. He always uses a live choir for recording the music, but will digitally alter the sound to get the effect he is after.
He has little time for those who claim orchestral music is superior to electronic material. Instead of having many players he says, an electronic musician creates a framework alone, and then builds around it.
"You have to create that awesomeness of your own," he said. He researches a great deal as he composes, but bluntly says most people today find the music of the Crusades primitive. He says the trick is not to be accurate, but working on creating the music so people feel it is accurate.
He also talked about the difference between composing for a game and writing music for a film. A film is finite, and a composer knows what is going to happen. For a game however a lot depends on how a gamer is playing.
"A lot of it is to try to work out what would be cool (to hear) when you are playing," he said.
There is also a lot of opportunity to explore musical themes and variations. He said for Assassin's Creed II he delivered three hours of finished music.
Jesper Kyd signs copies of Assassin's Creed games after appearing on Top Score
"Assassin's Creed: Revelations" is so new Kyd admits he hasn't actually played it. In fact he's not entirely sure how his music is used in the game.
When asked if he is working on the next game in the series he smiled and said "I can't really talk about that. I'd get into trouble." He paused for a moment and continued, "But there is more music on the way."
After talking and taking questions for an hour the final piece of business was a drawing for two collector's editions of the new game.
When Reese asked him if he wanted to draw the XBox or the PS3 entries, he smiled and said "That's a loaded question," making the gamers in the audience roar with laughter.
He went with the XBox.1 Comments)
Garrison Keillor on my show today saying he's rethinking retirement from PHC in 2013.
"I'm starting to doubt that myself. I've been thinking about it, thinking: what else would I do? And I can't come up with anything....If I didn't do it I would wind up in a tiny walk-up apartment with a couple of cats."
Of course, anyone who has been following this story closely will know the Old Scout has mused about the various possibilities of stepping down from Prairie Home in coming years, and even experimented with a guest host on the show.
However, while he has ruminated about retiring with various outlets, most notably the AARP, he has never actually set a date. In recent weeks people working on the show have told me the topic of retirement hasn't really come up.
A call to the Prairie Home office this morning revealed Keillor is again on the road, doing a city-a-day tour on the east coast, and so he was unavailable for comment. So, the mystery continues...
Over the past 48 hours remembrances and tributes to the beloved sound effects man of Prairie Home Companion have flooded the media, especially here at MPR. Simply put, the loss of Tom Keith (a.k.a. Jim Ed Poole) is beginning to really sink in.
Image courtesy Prairie Home Productions
This morning it was announced Garrison Keillor and the folks at PHC will host a Tom Keith Tribute Performance on Saturday night, November 12 at the Fitzgerald Theater. Tickets will be free and available the night of show, with some space reserved for family and friends. The majority of the 1,000 seat theater will be available to the public at no charge. Doors will open at 4pm.
In the meantime, here are links to some of the most compelling remembrances:
Midday Broadcast: Gary Eichten talks with Keith's colleagues at PHC, including Garrison Keillor, and his longtime Morning Show co-host Dale Connelly. Among other things, they discuss the story behind the name "Jim Ed Poole."
Prairie Home Companion's tribute site has collected a wealth of information, tributes, interviews, images and more.
Dale Connelly's website includes a very loving remembrance to Tom, and lots of sweet comments from adoring fans.
Washington Post's obituary interviews his sister and writes a great deal about he found/created sounds.
News Cut: The Passing of Tom Keith includes a beautiful clip of Peter Ostroushko and audience singing "You Are My Sunshine" to Tom Keith and Dale Connelly on the last Morning Show broadcast.
There is a pallor of sadness around MPR today as we process the loss of our friend Tom Keith who died Sunday night. We will have a story about him on All Things Considered tonight, more on Morning Edition, and an hour of the Midday program tomorrow dedicated to him and his art.
Tom was a man of many parts, and his generosity and quiet good humor were a hallmark of this place. We will miss him.
Garrison Keillor worked with Tom for thirty years or so and this afternoon released this statement.
Our colleague the actor and sound-effects man Tom Keith died Sunday night of a heart attack at his home in St. Paul. He performed on the show October 22 at the Fitzgerald with the cast and guest John Lithgow -- played a zombie and a beery Elizabethan bartender, did the sound effects for "Lives of the Cowboys" and "Mom" and did a wonderful and shocking sound effect of a grade-school teacher being shrunk from six feet to three inches, using a balloon, some small sticks, and vocal thwops and splorts, and then did the voice of a three-inch-tall female. He complained of shortness of breath the next week, but put off going to see a doctor, and collapsed Sunday night around 6 p.m. He was conscious afterward but died in the ambulance on his way to the hospital.
Tom was one of radio's great clowns. He was serious about silliness and worked hard to get a moo exactlyright and the cluck too and the woof. His whinny was amazing -- noble, vulnerable, articulate. He did bagpipes, helicopters, mortars, common drunks, caribou (and elands and elk and wapiti), garbage trucks backing up, handsaws and hammers, and a beautiful vocalization of a man falling from a great height into piranha-infested waters.
He was an engineer at Minnesota Public Radio in 1971, when I did the morning show in the studios in Park Square Court in Lowertown St. Paul, and he took the name Jim Ed Poole, did the sports segment, and talked about his pet chicken, Curtis, who lived with him at the Hotel Transom. When "Prairie Home Companion" started in 1974, he engineered most of the first two seasons, using a five-channel mixer, and then graduated to the stage where he played three roles in the ongoing "Buster the Show Dog" -- the dog, Father Finian, and Timmy the Sad Rich Teenage Boy. He was Maurice the maître d' at the Café Boeuf and he was Larry who lived in the basement under the Fitzgerald stage.
He was an ex-Marine (who could do a fine drill instructor), a good golfer, a sturdy, reliable, can-do colleague, a gifted performer with the unassuming demeanor of a stagehand. Whenever Tom came onstage for a sketch, I could see the audience's heads turn in his direction. They could hear me but they wanted to see Tom, same as you'd watch any magician. Boys watched him closely to see how he did the shotgun volleys, the singing walrus, the siren, the helicopter, the water drips. His effects were graceful, precise, understated, like the man himself. All of us at the show are shocked by his passing and send our sincere condolences to hisfamily and also to the listeners who enjoyed his work so much. -- GK
An announcement about the forthcoming "Animinneapolis" event arrived via Twitter today. The big event will be held in Bloomington June 29 - July 1, 2012.
Aimed at fans of Japanese animation it will feature screenings of classic anime and the latest offerings, chances to meet the top voice-over specialists who lend their talents to dubbing stories fresh from Asia, and of course there is the chance to dress up as a favorite character.
Of course there are rules, and the Animinneapolis folks have already posted them. Frankly they kind of make you think. And wonder...
Please behave responsibly while at the convention. Remember you are representing the convention, the entire Minneapolis anime community, and every other attendee. Be considerate of all guests, attendees, and AniMinneapolis staff.
Any violation of rules can result in the suspension of membership privileges to the convention. You may be asked to leave, and in extreme cases you may be asked to never return. In addition, any attendee found breaking state or federal law will be reported and suspended from the convention. We reserve the right to determine what is and is not acceptable, and we may revise the code of conduct at anytime without notice.
"You break it, you buy it." If you damaged, deface, or otherwise break any equipment you are to pay for a replacement out of your own pockets.
If you win any prizes but are not present during the allotted time limit, the prize may be handed down to your follow up. Please consider checking your cellphone and in Con Ops regularly, and be aware of when the prizes will be handed out.
Masquerade department staff members may be allowed to participate in one cosplay event during the whole convention. Staff members may be pulled out if help is needed elsewhere, however. Staff can not win any awards during the Cosplay Masquerade.
Anyone found willfully damaging another individual's costume or harassing another cosplayer, will be ejected from the convention and likely prosecuted.
(Image courtesy Wikipedia, Photo taken by: Alton Thompson, 2009)(1 Comments)
Posted at 5:35 PM on October 26, 2011
by Euan Kerr
Filed under: People
Belated congratulations to University of Minnesota Associate Professor Tetsuya Yamada, for winning the grand prize at Gyeonggi Ceramix International, held in Gwangju, South Korea.
The contest is now one of the largest and most prestigious of its kind in the world. Yamada receives $50,000 in prize money for his piece 'heavenly thought' (2010) pictured below. It's the larges cash prize in contemporary ceramics.
According to a release from the U of M, Yamada was born in Tokyo, Japan, and came to the United States in 1994. He earned an MFA from Alfred State College, SUNY and has been with the University of Minnesota since 2004. Additionally, he has served as artist-in-residence at the European Ceramic Work Centre in Hertogenbosch, the Netherlands and the John Michael Kohler Arts Center in Sheboygan, Wisconsin.
Minnesota troubador Bob Dylan is causing a stir in the New York gallery scene.
Evidently his paintings, now on display at the Gogosian Gallery, were billed as "painted from life" from his travels in Asia, when really they should have been billed as "painted from Life magazine." His paintings are almost exact copies of old photographs, some of which are in the public domain, some not.
On the left, Bob Dylan's painting "Opium"; on the right a photograph by Léon Busy, taken in Vietnam in 1915.
Images from Gogosian Gallery and Musee Albert Kahn, respectively, via ARTINFO
The evidence is overwhelming - click here to see a slideshow of the paintings next to the photographs at ArtInfo - and it's also not the first time Dylan's been accused of plagiarism, according to NPR reporter Joel Rose:
A song from his 2001 album, Love and Theft, lifted these lines from the Junichi Saga novel Confessions of a Yakuza:
My old man, he's like some feudal lord
He's got more lives than a cat
I've never seen him quarrel with my mother even once
Things come alive or they fall flat
Dylan was also caught borrowing quotes and anecdotes from Mark Twain, Marcel Proust, Jack London and a host of other sources in his memoir, Chronicles: Volume One.
Fans and critics largely defended him in those cases, but this time even some longtime Dylan watchers are dismayed
Michael Gray, a blogger and author of the Bob Dylan Encyclopedia, says he's disappointed about what Dylan has presented as his own work.
"Lots of people paint from photographs," he says. "But ... the entire composition, the exact composition of a painting -- Dylan has copied that. That just seems to me to betray a lack of ideas, a lack of originality about the whole thing."
Neither Dylan nor the Gagosian would grant interviews for this story, and the gallery no longer claims that the show is based solely on Dylan's travels in Asia.
What do you think? Is Dylan using the show as an opportunity to put on a performance, and challenge our ideas of what's original? Or is he simply making money off of other people's images?(3 Comments)
So former Governor Tim Pawlenty's portrait was unveiled last night in a private ceremony, and starting today the portrait is available for public viewing at the Minnesota State Capitol. Let's take a look, shall we?
Portrait of former Governor Tim Pawlenty, painted by Rossin
Image courtesy Minnesota Historical Society
You've got to admit, it's a lovely portrait in the realist style, with clean crisp lines, a dignified pose, and a nice rendering of the state capitol in the background. There's not much symbolism going on here, just a straightforward and confident "this is me" feel.
Pawlenty chose the painter Rossin to complete his portrait. Rossin is a Bulgarian-born painter based in Atlanta, Georgia and was the portrait artist of both President George H. W. Bush and President George W. Bush. At the time, Pawlenty was gearing up to run for president himself, and the selection of Rossin underscores Pawlenty's desire to look like real presidential material.
Frankly I think Pawlenty's portrait is actually more captivating than that of the Presidents Bush.
I'm a little confused by the lighting. If you look at the top of the capitol, it appears as though the sun is off to the right. However if you look at Pawlenty's face, and the shadow it casts, it appears as though the light is coming from the above left (a traditional technique in still lifes). Still, a really lovely painting.
(And is it just me, or does Pawlenty have a little bit of a Martin Landau thing going on?)
Now, for context, let's take a look at a couple of Pawlenty's predecessors. First, former Governor Jesse Ventura:
Former Governor Jesse Ventura
painting by Stephen Cepello
Image courtesy of the Minnesota Historical Society
This is, at first glance, a very different painting. First off, it's much darker, even stormy. Ventura's time in office saw the terrorist attacks of 9-11, so the darkness could be a reflection of that. Ventura also is looking off into the distance, leaning on a sculpture of Rodin's "The Thinker" - implying he's a deeply thoughtful, even philosophical person (Ventura often complained of being misunderstood, even hounded by what he called the "media jackals").
Oh and then there's the tie and the medals. Ventura is showing his deep-felt patriotism, his Navy Seal training, as well as his sometimes unorthodox fashion choices.
Now, let's take a look at former Governor Arne Carlson:
Former Governor Arne Carlson
Painted by Stephen Gjertson
Image courtesy of the Minnesota Historical Society
What does this portrait say to me? This guy is not planning on running for president, and he's not feeling misunderstood, either. He's relaxed, comfortable, and sporting his U of M letter jacket (he was a grad student there and is a huge fan of their sports teams).
Carlson chose Minneapolis native Stephen Gjertson to paint his portrait. Gjertson compensated for all the gray stone in the picture by adding a couple of colorful butterflies (who knows, maybe they were actually there?) which lend an even more care-free and friendly atmosphere to the portrait.
So what do you think of Pawlenty's portrait? Or governor portraits in general? Share your thoughts in the comments section.(7 Comments)
There was a bit of a flurry in the MPR news arts department these last days as rumor spread that Hibbing native Bob Dylan was a serious contender for the Nobel Prize for Poetry.
But wait! There's still a "Minnesota connection."
One of the few people translating Tomas Transtromer's poetry into English is Minnesota poet Robert Bly, and one of those collections - The Half-Finished Heaven - was published by Minnesota's own Graywolf Press.(1 Comments)
A graduate of the Minneapolis College of Art and Design, Seekins is a bit of a work of art himself. He dresses either entirely in white, or entirely in black, with a trademark wavy mop of hair pushed up by a headband. Then there's the pencil-thin mustache, the chin-length sideburns and the round spectacles.
Scott Seekins (with scarf) surrounded by current MCAD students
Image courtesy of MCAD
Yesterday, a group of MCAD students paid tribute to their fellow alum by creating a flash mob of Scott Seekins look-alikes and descending on the Twin Cities marathon finish. One of them ran the marathon in Seekins-like attire for the entire 26.2 miles.
This is not the first time a crowd has dressed in Seekins fashion - just check out this video by Pink Mink for their song "Seekin' Scott Seekins."
Some days I'm just in awe of my colleague Chris Roberts. He's been an arts reporter for countless years, yet he's always looking for fresh ways to talk about the arts, especially music.
His most recent series involves sitting down with artists and asking them to talk about a song in detail. As a result listeners get a backstage pass into the creative process.
In his latest report, Roberts sat down with Haley Bonar and talked about two tracks on her album "Golder" Both tracks are instrumentals, but that doesn't keep them from conveying strong feelings.
Bonar, who's days away from giving birth to a baby, says both songs remind her of her childhood.
Give a listen to Bonar as she talks her way through "Sad Baby" and "Leo" while sitting at a baby grand piano in MPR's recording studios.
Humorist Calvin Trillin's September 28th appearance at the Talk of the Stacks series in Minneapolis has been cancelled.
Trillin, who has been touring with his new book "Quite Enough of Calvin Trillin: Forty Years of His Funny Stuff," has returned to New York as a result of a medical emergency. A release from the Hennepin County Libraries which sponsors Talk of the Stacks, says Trillin is doing well, but the tour has now been postponed.
Organizers hope Trillin's appearance may be rescheduled for later this year or early in 2012.
The Minnesota Orchestra today announced violinist Erin Keefe will be its new concertmaster.
Keefe succeeds succeeds Jorja Fleezanis, who departed the Orchestra in 2009. Keefe is an accomplished chamber musician, who most recently was a member of the the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center. Featured on Live from Lincoln Center three times with the Society, she has performed regularly with both the Brooklyn Chamber Music Society and Boston Chamber Music Society.
During the search for a new concertmaster Keefe played with the Minnesota Orchestra a number of times.
In a release this morning Minnesota Orchestra Music Director Osmo Vanska declared "I look forward to welcoming Erin to the Orchestra and to making extraordinary music."
For her part, Keefe says she is honored to accept her new position.
"I am thrilled to become a member of such a world-class ensemble, and I am looking forward to an exciting season working with the musicians and Maestro Vänskä," she said.
She said she's looking forward to the challenges of a new orchestra and a new repertoire.
"I still have to lead and follow, which is what I do in chamber music. It's just sort of on a larger scale," she said. "But I am excited to tackle this whole new massive repertoire."
Keefe will appear as concertmaster for the first time at the Orchestra's season-opening concerts September 29 to October 1.
Warren C. Bowles performing in the role of Martin Luther King Jr.
Image: Nathan Howard/Post-Bulletin
Warren C. Bowles was on stage at the Mixed Blood Theatre in Minneapolis Friday night when he suffered a cardiac arrest.
Bowles, 63, is a veteran Twin Cities performer and an instructor at Augsburg College. He was giving a monologue near the end of the opening night of "Neighbors" when he collapsed.
At last report, Bowles was at Hennepin County Medical Center, where he is in the Intensive Care Unit.
According the Mixed Blood website, performances of "Neighbors" have been suspended for the weekend.
Perhaps it's fitting that painter Kevin W. Kluever lives in a former schoolhouse. "I'm completely self-taught," he says. "It took a lot of practice, and the learning part of painting came from copying painters and paintings that I liked."
Kluever (pronounced "cleaver") counts Regionalist Grant Wood, Tonalist George Inness and Impressionists Camille Pissarro and Alfred Sisley among his influences. "I would try to figure out not so much how they did things but why they did things as far as colors and texture and placement and balance," Kluever says. "My own style came out of combining those influences and my ability."
The 1893 converted schoolhouse that Kluever lives in with his family -- and in which he has his studio -- is nestled in the Minnetrista countryside. Having grown up on an Iowa dairy farm, Kluever finds the rural Midwestern landscape inspiring. "It's in my blood," he says. "The color draws me, the plays of light and shadow -- and I love the sky, the way it looks late in the day."
"Autumn Landscape" by Kevin Kluever. (image courtesy the artist)
In 2003, Kluever began showing his original artwork, winning awards for excellence at the Hopkins Center for the Arts and in Maple Grove. But a turning point in his career came in 2007, when Thom Flug, the director of Mound's Threshold Arts Center, asked Kluever to paint a mural for him. Kluever's workload snowballed from there; murals in Excelsior and Long Lake followed. "And Maple Plain has been quite fruitful for me," Kluever says.
Maple Plain, a town of 2,000 people, is situated on a curvy rise of Highway 12 where the marshy western edge of Hennepin County begins its gentle cross-dissolve into the rolling hills of central Minnesota. "It has one foot in the rural and one foot in the suburban," says Melanie DeLuca. "People who live in Maple Plain love that."
DeLuca is director of community education for the Orono School District (of which Maple Plain is part) and a member of the Maple Plain Design Team, which exists to beautify the community. The team pursued a Metropolitan Regional Arts Council public-art grant program called Creative Intersections. "We put a call out to artists to submit a mini-grant proposal for public art that would enhance the city of Maple Plain," DeLuca recalls. "That's how we first met Kevin."
Kluever's first project was a mural on a side wall of the Maple Plain City Hall. Later projects followed in subsequent rounds, including a gymnasium mural, a double-sided "welcome" sign along Highway 12, a wraparound mural on a pumphouse in the city's Northside Park, and murals on the park's baseball dugouts.
Mural by Kevin Kluever on the Maple Plain City Hall. (image courtesy the artist).
When he has a commission for a mural, Kluever begins by taking a photo of the space to be painted, then creates a small-scale prototype. He counts rows of bricks or uses features such as windows to determine placement. When his prototype is approved, Kluever gets his paint at the local hardware store. "It's house paint," he says. "Just latex exterior paint. I simply match my colors with the swatches, and obviously there's some mixing involved as I'm doing the project."
Pumphouse in Maple Plain's Northside Park, with mural by Kluever.
"His work has really captured the feelings and the emotion that the community wanted to capture," DeLuca says. "With public art, I think you need a much different sensitivity than someone who does their art and then you either like it or you don't. Kevin really was a good listener. He understood the feel and the atmosphere and the look that would be portrayed through the public art and then was able to capture that. It's a special kind of artist who can really adapt his or her work to this very particular kind of setting."
Chad Edworthy has lived in Maple Plain for 20 years and is the bartender at McGarry's Pub on Main Street. He's also president of the men's softball league and coach of the town baseball team. Asked about Kluever's work, Edworthy replies with admiration. "It's very good -- I think the pumphouse portrays what the ballpark is meant to be," he says. "And the city hall one shows the old-town feeling, and that makes people feel comfortable."
Kluever's objective in creating public art is similar. "What I like most is when people look at what I've done and smile and basically say, 'That's someplace I want to be, I'm drawn to that'," he says. "I am, too, so that's what I'm trying to get out of it."
This welcome sign along Highway 12 in Maple Plain features Kluever's depiction of the town's Main Street.
Martin Sheen in "The Way"
Martin Sheen and his son Emilion Estevez are on a journey across America promoting their new film about a different kind of journey.
Called "The Way," the movie follows the father (played by Sheen) as he retraces his dead sons steps on the Camino de Santiago de Compostela. The son is played by Estevez, who also directed the film.
On Midmorning today, Estevez says in his mind "The Way" is in some ways loosely based on "The Wizard of Oz." Like Dorothy, Martin Sheen's character meets a series of characters on his journey along the yellow-marked camino.
Making this movie was a personal journey for the actors, who have family history in Northern Spain.
The conversation was wide-ranging, including the nature of pilgrimages and personal discovery, Sheen's family history, acting, and of course Estevez and Sheen's father-son relationship.
What didn't get discussed? Mention of Sheen's other son, Charlie, was noticeably absent from the conversation.
You can hear the hour by clicking on the audio link below:
An acclaimed local photographer is joining the University of Minnesota's art department this fall.
Paul Shambroom is a nationally recognized photographer whose images explore layers of power in American culture, from town hall meetings to national security. Most recently, Shambroom has been looking at shrines made from artillary and aircraft on public display in communities across the United States.
Photograph by Doug Beasley.
Now Shambroom will be sharing his insights on the profession with students as a member of the U of M's Department of Art faculty.
A graduate of both Macalester College and the Minneapolis College of Art and Design, Shambroom has lectured and taught as a visiting artist at institutions including Harvard University, New York's International Center for Photography, and Westminster University in London.
After five years in London running that city's sinfonia, Barry Kempton is returning to St. Paul to lead Minnesota's oldest arts organization, the Schubert Club.
Kempton will assume his responsibilities sometime after the first of the year.
"People don't like artists," she said. "They're suspicious of artists. They resent them, if you've figured out that the people saying that they want to be an artist because they're going to their job every day, and they're resentful about it. I understand that. 'Well how come she gets to do that?'"
The comment inspired a series of reactions, which became the subject of yet another blog post.
That inspired a response from Seichrist, in which she both questioned some of the reactions, and offered this elaboration:
I don't need everybody to like me...
One reason, I made the statement was because I have seen that reaction to other artists that I have known. Also, because it's a mean culture. It's a bully culture. And a gutless one. And I have been bullied many times for being who I am. And I have seen others bullied in the same way. The direct line of the bullying messages was about being an artist. Being myself.
...I would dare to say it again: people don't like artists and um.....women. They don't like women. And uh, the person that shows them what they could do. Oh and they don't like me. Oh and they don't like when their motives are exposed for the opportunistic ones they are! And they don't like themselves sometimes so they say they don't like someone else.
The idea that I am supposed to shut up about it or take it quietly up the shoot is not my philosophy.
There you have it.
The cast of A Prairie Home Companion
While Garrison Keillor continues to dodge questions about his future plans (on Midday last week he said "all I know about is yesterday, the day before that, and maybe the day before that"), he obviously has a good sense of how the next year is going to go.
In the following weeks, there will be five more live APHC broadcasts at the Fitzgerald Theater: September 24, October 1, 8, 15, and 22.
APHC's touring shows are as follows:
10/29 - Colorado Springs, CO
11/5 - Murray, Kentucky
11/19 - Northfield, MN
The next four shows - (Nov 26, Dec 3, 10 and 17) are at New York City's Town Hall.
Upcoming guests include singer/songwriter Nick Lowe, Metropolitan Opera tenor Raúl Melo, author/actor John Lithgow, guitar ace Steve Wariner, Alison Krauss & Union Station, Gillian Welch, and many, many others. For more details on the season - and tickets - click here.
Some artists are happy staying in their own niche, whether it's musician, painter or dancer.
Then there are those who defy categorization, who see everything as potential tools for artistic expression.
Poster for Patches and Gretchen's new variety show
Gretchen Seichrist falls into the latter category. As the creative engine behind the band Patches and Gretchen, she's now taking the music and combining it with theater in a new variety show called "Headquarters and Dime" at the Loring.
MPR's Chris Roberts reports "As a performer, Seichrist is like an absurdist incarnation of Lucille Ball. As a singer, she's Marlene Dietrich's bluesy, drawling, American cousin."
She's viewed by some, including writer and musician Jim Walsh, as one of the most interesting, poetic, provocative performers in the Minnesota art scene.
Walsh remembers one Patches and Gretchen show, in which Seichrist carried around an oversized water bottle. Walsh laughed when he realized it was a comment on the ubiquity of water bottles, and the commercialization of water.
"You could take that right now and put that in the Walker, that water bottle," he said. "Whether or not that is a validation of art, it's really funny. And that's the other thing that Gretchen is. She is really funny, and a very wry observer."
As a songwriter, Seichrist doesn't provoke mild responses. Those who are drawn to her claim they've never seen anything like her. Seichrist is aware others may not like her style. But she also suspects they're put off by her devotion to being an artist.
"People don't like artists," she said. "They're suspicious of artists. They resent them, if you've figured out that the people saying that they want to be an artist because they're going to their job every day, and they're resentful about it. I understand that. 'Well how come she gets to do that?'"
Do you think Seichrist is right? Do people resent artists? Share your thoughts in the comments section.
You can listen to the entire story by clicking on the link below:(10 Comments)
Gary Eichten interviewed Garrison Keillor today at the State Fair.
MPR Photo/Jeffrey Thompson
While Midday generally presents two distinct topics each hour, each day, sometimes the conversation from the first hour bleeds into the second.
For instance, today Gary Eichten interviewed economist Chris Farrell in the 11 o'clock hour, and Garrison Keillor in the second. Lo and behold, Keillor's first question from the audience was an economic one.
Mike from Minneapolis asked how Keillor thought English majors could contribute to the health of the economy.
Here's Keillor's response:
They can take themselves out of the economy by writing poetry. Poetry has no economic impact whatsoever - very little money ever changes hands. And so you become a neutral force in the economy.
And poets have very little expectation of prosperity - they do it for the love of what they're doing, and that's not a bad place to start. I think that if you were advising young people going out into the job market, in this very tough job market, I'd say find something that you're passionate about, regardless of what the prospects are. Do what you are passionate about and stay interested in it and it will work out for you some how, one way or another. Because there's unemployment among lawyers for Heaven's sake, there's unemployment among MBA's, so why go the practical route?
Do you agree with Keillor? Share your thoughts in the comments section.
And here's the audio from the entire hour with Keillor:(1 Comments)
However she's only going as far as the University of St Catherine near St Paul's western boundary where she will become director of The O'Shaughnessy.
Spehar became managing director at the History Theater in 2007. Prior to that she was managing director of Mu Performing Arts where she was involved in Minnesota's first Asian American Play Festival. She has also taught at the University of Florida and in the University of Minnesota's Department of Theatre Arts and Dance.
In making the announcement St. Catherine University Vice-President Tom Rooney said Spehar's blend of skills will be an asset to the theater and the school.
"As the leader of The O'Shaughnessy, she will fill a key role guiding strategic planning and programming for our unique arts and academic space while helping advance the St. Catherine mission," he said.
And the History Theater also has been heaping on the praise, crediting her with helping it weather the rough economy including developing the Turnaround plan to stabilize the organizations finances. Among the many shows and events she brought to the theater was the broadcast of "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart" during the 2008 Republican National Convention.
Artistic Director Ron Peluso wishes her well in her new job. "With Kathleen's passion for performing arts, her instinct for community collaborations, and her keen business sense, the O'Shaughnessy will definitely be in good hands and History Theatre will miss her," he said.
Of course the two organizations share natural affinities, and Spehar suggests there may well be opportunities for collaboration on the future.
And just for fun, here's a reminder of that Jon Stewart Show:
The Managing Director of the Children's Theatre Company in Minneapolis is leaving to take over as CEO of the Walt Disney Family Museum in San Francisco.
Gabriella Calicchio has served at the CTC since 2007, working with Artistic Director Peter Brosius to restructure and streamline the theater in the face of the economic downturn.
In a release this afternoon CTC Board Chair Peter Carter celebrated Calicchio's tenure in Minneapolis.
"Gabriella's management skills and passion for the mission of CTC will be missed," he said. "Her drive brought us through a tough recession and today we have a stronger infrastructure, increased donations and tickets sales and a budget surplus. She leaves us stronger than when she came which is a testament to her effectiveness as a leader. We wish her well as she heads back to the warmer climes of California."
Calicchio moved from the West Coast to take the CTC job. She starts her new job in November. The CTC Board says it will begin a search for a replacement immediately.
Potter Alex Wilson retrieves a bone-colored cylinder from his toolbox. "With this, I can actually draw designs on a pot," he says. "It's a cow horn with a quillish-type device stuck in the end."
Alex Wilson's slip-trailer is a cow horn fitted with an artificial goose quill he made of wire insulation and pen pieces.
Wilson, one of three potters at Red Wing Pottery in Red Wing, Minn., is describing the tool he uses for slip-trailing, a method of creating designs on ceramics using watered-down clay -- called "slip" -- that has pigment added to give it color. Wilson uses a mixture of cobalt oxide and zirconium oxide to make his slip bright blue.
Wilson holds a salt-glazed crock he made featuring a slip-trailed design of a dog in a garden.
Salt-glazing gives the pottery its speckled, tawny appearance. Wilson says Red Wing Pottery fires its kiln once per month, with an average of 400 pieces inside. When the kiln reaches about 2250° F, "we just take bean cans full of salt and fling them in there." As much as 1,000 pounds of salt is used in a typical firing.
Originally from Kilmarnock in Scotland, Wilson first trained as a potter at what is now the University of Cumbria in Carlisle in northwest England, then he spent three years' additional training at Wetheriggs Pottery down the road in Penrith. "For me, ceramics was the obvious direction," Wilson says of his artistic path. "It's immediate: You see a shape in your head and you make it with your hands."
Wilson later relocated to Iowa, and on a visit to Continental Clay in Minneapolis, he spotted an advertisement for a job at Red Wing Pottery, where he has now worked for 11 years. "I'm part of the second production wave," he says.
According to Jennifer Komar Olivarez, Associate Curator in the Department of Decorative Arts, Textiles and Sculpture at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, Red Wing's first ceramics production wave began in the 19th century with the manufacture of functional stoneware.
The first wave of ceramic production in Red Wing began in the 1860s. This photo of 19th-century workers hangs on the wall at Red Wing Pottery.
Olivarez says the consolidated stoneware companies known as Red Wing Potteries enjoyed a heyday in the 20th century, particularly in the '30s, '40s and '50s.
"They sought out very talented designers to explore different areas and bring in a more national or international sensibility to what they were trying to do to create art pottery. They were not content to follow trends, but to set trends. If you asked a curator at MOMA what comes to mind when you say 'Red Wing Pottery,' they would say Eva Zeisel's Town and Country."
Zeisel, Olivarez explains, is a Hungarian émigré who designed the biomorphic -- or amoeba-shaped -- Town and Country dinnerware line (images of her work remain strictly protected, but it can be viewed here). "It was considered really contemporary, trendy in the way it followed that kind of push for design aesthetic," Olivarez says. "When we stop and think, 'Oh -- that was made in southeastern Minnesota,' it's kind of interesting!"
Red Wing Potteries ended production in 1967. Wilson reports less expensive, post-World War II imports had priced Red Wing wares out of the market.
Ruins of disused kilns stand as evidence of Red Wing's earlier pottery production era.
Kilns in Red Wing mostly sat cold until 1984 when, according to Wilson, a potter called John Falconer started Red Wing Stoneware Company. Then in 1996, Scott Gillmer -- the grandson of Red Wing Potteries' last general manager from 1967 -- launched Red Wing Pottery. Wilson says Red Wing Stoneware Company and Red Wing Pottery amicably coexist, with wares from both companies on display in the same shop.
Olivarez isn't as familiar with Red Wing's current ceramics production, but she has some impressions. "From what I've seen, it seems to be the more traditional, functional wares," she says, "the late 19th, early 20th century collectible spongeware and things like that."
Wilson describes an annual anniversary firing where Red Wing Pottery creates six unique, numbered pieces. "I did some dragon banks this year, which naturally I have no photographs of," he laughs. "We tend to get caught up in the whirlwind of the event and things like photographs tend to get forgotten."
Potter Alex Wilson
But Wilson doesn't spend much time pondering how collectible his work may be. "My part in all this is to make something that people enjoy using," he says. "When they go in the cupboard and they see the mug that they bought from you, if they like using that mug, that's the one that they'll pick because it feels good or looks good, or feels and looks good.
"That's the trick of it, I think, is to make something that people find pleasing."
Minnesota Public Radio's Fitzgerald Theater is engaging local famed humorist, author and playwright, Kevin Kling in a three year residency. During that time Kling will create original productions for the Fitzgerald stage, share commentaries on MPR and conduct storytelling workshops in St. Paul and Duluth.
Obviously as an MPR employee I'm slightly biased, but c'mon, how cool is that?!
Folks will have a chance to see the first results of Kling's residency on the Fitzgerald stage in December. It's a holiday show for all ages "Of Mirth and Mischief." The show's musical director, Steve Kramer, is partnering with Haley Bonar and James Diers of Halloween, Alaska to compose and perform original music for the show.
According to a news release, '"Of Mirth and Mischief" is inspired by the experiences, tragedies and mishaps that have shaped Kling's and Kramer's lives and made them who they are today. The show has a rocker's edge with a distinct sweetness that takes theatergoers down a path of irony through tales of inner-city elves, broken fairies and holiday collisions.'
I'm guessing tickets are going to go fast for this show, so here's the pertinent info:
Of Mirth and Mischief
WHEN: Friday, December 16 and Saturday, December 17, 8:00 p.m. and Sunday, December 18, 2:00 p.m.
WHERE: The Fitzgerald Theater, 10 E. Exchange St., St. Paul
TICKETS: December 16 and 17, $29/$27 for MPR members/$20 for kids 12 and under. For December 18, all tickets are $20. Tickets can be purchased beginning August 30 at the Fitzgerald Theater, 651-290-1200.
Dates have yet to be set for the storytelling workshops.(2 Comments)
This Friday poets and performers are gathering to remember one of their own.
Photo: Liz Welch
Poet Roy McBride died July 29 at the age of 67, after suffering from Alzheimer's for two years. He leaves behind a legacy of education and community activism that touched many lives.
In The Heart of the Beast, where McBride once worked, is hosting a celebration of McBride's life, featuring many of the people he influenced. Performers include:
J Otis Powell!
In addition, there will be a memorial service for McBride on September 16, 4pm at Friends Meeting House, located at 44th & York in Minneapolis.
You can also read a lovely remembrance of McBride here, which includes several of his poems.
Booklovers, the moment you've been waiting for has arrived. Kerri Miller's ever-popular Talking Volumes series will be back this fall for its 12th season, with a new line-up of edgy writers. Here are the details:
Jennifer Egan, A Visit from the Goon Squad
When: Wednesday, September 14 at 7:00 p.m.
A Visit from the Goon Squad won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction as well as the National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction in 2010, and is being adapted into a series for HBO. The book has been praised for its playful structure. The Pulitzer judges called it "an inventive investigation of growing up and growing old in the digital age, displaying a big-hearted curiosity about cultural change at warp speed." Egan is a bestselling author and journalist who writes frequently for the New York Times Magazine.
Stacy Schiff, Cleopatra: A Life
When: Wednesday, October 5 at 7:00 p.m.
In Cleopatra: A Life, Stacy Schiff turns the legend of Cleopatra into a timeless tale of how one shrewd ruler used power, wealth and politics to change ancient history. Booklist called the biography a page-turner, and said "Ancient Egypt never goes out of style, and Cleopatra continues to captivate successive generations." Schiff has won many prizes for literary nonfictions including a Pulitzer for Véra (Mrs. Vladimir Nabokov).
Colson Whitehead, Zone One
When: Wednesday, November 2 at 7:00 p.m.
Set in Manhattan after the apocalypse, Zone One is full of "dark humor one imagines actual survivors adopting in order to stave off madness," according to Publisher's Weekly's rave review. Colson Whitehead's work has been widely published in the New Yorker, Harper's and the New York Times. He has received many prizes for prior novels and a Macarthur "Genius" Grant.
Chuck Palahniuk, Damned
When: Thursday, November 17 at 7:00 p.m.
"Are you there, Satan? It's me, Madison," declares the whip-tongued eleven-year-old narrator of Damned, Chuck Palahniuk's subversive new work of fiction. The author, who built a reputation on shocking his readers, doesn't disappoint in this vision of Hell full of demonic young sinners. His protagonist has to figure out how hell works, how she got there and what to do about it. Palahniuk's social media following is flourishing, but he may be best known for his first novel, Fight Club.
Season tickets go on sale August 9; seats for individual shows go on sale August 16 for $25. Tickets can be purchased through The Fitzgerald Theater Box Office at 651-290-1200
MPR Classical has chosen its latest "artist-in-residence," and he's only 17.
Photo: Donna Wheatley
Youth hasn't prevented violinist Chad Hoopes from racking up a remarkable resume.
He's performed with the Minnesota Orchestra, the Cleveland Orchestra, the San Francisco Symphony and more. He's also appeared at several European festivals and received substantial media attention.
Hoopes first began his violin studies at age four in Minneapolis, and continued his studies at the Cleveland Institute of Music after moving with his family to Shaker Heights, Ohio.
You can read more about Hoopes and his remarkable career here.
Classical MPR's Artists-in-Residence program began two years ago with the residency of the Parker Quartet, and continued last year with the local choral ensemble Cantus. The Artists-in-Residence participate in performances, interviews and other interactive projects in collaboration with Classical MPR.
In an economy where brick and mortar big box book behemoths keep failing, the Red Balloon Bookstore in St Paul has sailed along.
Not that there haven't been bumps in the road admits Michele Cromer-Poiré. She and Carol Erdahl founded and opened the store in 1984, and they have remained at the helm ever since, weathering the storms of the book business against all odds.
The Grand Avenue store has become a St Paul institution, with a reputation for being well stocked with both classics and new releases, and as a great place for author readings.
Now Cromer-Poiré and Erdahl are retiring. Cromer-Poiré says they've been thinking about it for a while.
"Our husbands have been retired for, actually, decades," she laughs.
But she says they didn't want to just walk away
"We wanted to keep it going, and we think of it kind of as our legacy," Cromer-Poiré said. "We found these fabulous women and we think the Red Balloon has a fabulous future with them."
On August 1st Holly Weinkauf of St. Paul and Amy Sullivan of Minneapolis will become the Red Balloon's new owners. Cromer-Poiré is delighted by what she sees as the similarities between Weinkauf's and Sullivan's experiences and how she and Erdahl felt as they launched the store.
Cromer-Poiré says she thinks the Red Balloon has survived because she and Erdahl were, as she puts it "intrepid." They forged ahead, no matter the challenges, while keeping a close eye on finances to keep the store viable.
She says she never thought they wouldn't make it.
"No, I don't think that ever crossed our minds," she said. "One of the smartest things that we ever did was that we managed to own our own space, so we are not beholding to a landlord, and because of that we can control our occupancy costs."
But it's taken more than good financial management to make the Red Balloon the success it is. Cromer-Poiré says its a combination of good customer service, by staff with decades of experience, all working towards an important goal.
"We have really been focused on connecting kids with literature, with books, with authors with illustrators, and through that been promoting literacy and fun with reading."
The Red Balloon has been around for 27 years. When asked to predict how things will be in the book industry in 27 more, Cromer-Poiré doesn't miss a beat.
"I see the Red Balloon still surviving, I don't know that childrens books and quality childrens booksstores will go away ever. There's something special about the relationship between a parent and a child when the child is sitting on the lap and the parent is reading to the child."
She recalls how people predicted the introduction of audiobooks would spell the end of the paper books. That didn't happen, and while the Red Balloon does sell ebooks, she says they will never replace a good picturebook."
She won't be there behind the counter but Michele Cromer-Poiré says she'll still be there regularly.
"We wrote into the purchase agreement that Carol and I will get an employee discount," she said with a laugh. "I'm always going to buy my books from the Red Balloon!"
"My true love," says Minneapolis painter Jane Elias, "is community art." Flip through Elias's portfolios of photos and newspaper cuttings that highlight her work, and that much is clear.
Elias has been a muralist for 25 years, bringing color and life to previously unremarkable spaces: Hospitals, daycare centers, public areas and private businesses throughout Minnesota (and even as far as California and Florida) bear the hallmarks of her work. On her own time, Elias has created community art gardens in Powderhorn and in North Minneapolis. Her latest project is unfolding in Tangletown, in the city's southwest quadrant.
Samples of Jane Elias's murals from a daycare center (bear, deer, bunnies) and an area business (dog under hairdryer).
Earlier in her career, Elias had a studio in Northeast Minneapolis, but after marrying and starting a family, she says Northeast wasn't the easiest place to get to from her home in Tangletown. "There's a lot of really great artists over here, too," she observes.
Elias was inspired to open a studio in her own neighborhood. "I always envisaged having a lot of artists use the space with me and having a drop-in studio where people could come in and we could teach," Elias says.
That was the basis for Simply Jane Studio and Alleyway Arts. Located near 54th and Nicollet Avenue South in Minneapolis, it's a studio where Elias and her colleagues pursue their various art forms -- including painting, illustration, ceramics, mosaics and papermaking -- and they also teach classes. By autumn, Elias and her studio partners plan to establish the studio as a full artists' co-op.
Although southwest Minneapolis is not known for loft space, Elias credits a supportive landlord for encouraging her vision for the ground-floor lease. Elias removed a retail-esque drop ceiling to expose wooden beams and a large skylight; a steel-plated, early 20th-century fire door lends the space additional industrial cred. In pastoral counterpoint to those elements, Elias painted a garden path through the center of the studio. In the alley out back, Elias plans to build an art garden and herbaceous border with a shaded deck area for extra space in summer.
The interior of Simply Jane Studio comprises industrial and idyllic elements.
"I think that sometimes studios and artists can be intimidating to the general public," Elias says. "I've always felt like I'm between an artist and a designer, so I design these spaces and these environments that the general community at large feels comfortable in."
Creating an unintimidating space was vital to Elias, especially since she and her colleagues offer classes and host open studio time for art-curious people. "I tell everybody, 'We're all artists, we're all creative'," she says. "The adults think I'm just saying that, but it's true."
Architect Jerome Ryan of Uptown likes to attend open studio with his kids.
The work at Simply Jane doesn't mean Elias has no time for the broader community. She's recently received three grants from the Tangletown Business Association to finance new murals in the neighborhood; assisting Elias will be high school-age artists who apply for mentorships with her. "I'm not an artist who has some deep, inner thing that I need to express, to communicate to the world," Elias says. "I just like making pretty things."
Why is her studio is called Simply Jane? "I have eight siblings and they all have middle names and I'm the only one who doesn't have one," Elias laughs. "I guess I still haven't got over it!"
Some people make a fuss when they leave town: others just slip away.
Ryan Oestreich, who has been a pillar of what's now known as the Film Society of Minnesota for the last four years, tried the latter approach, but we found him anyway.
He says leaving the Film Society was hard.
"We probably are in the best position we have been in in the last seven years," he said this morning on the phone from Chicago.
Oestreich is heading via a roundabout route to Denver where his girlfriend is entering grad school.
The last few years have been pretty wild at what was once Minnesota Film Arts (and before that the U Film Society.) During Oestreich's time there the organization went from presenting programs at two theaters, the Bell and the Oak Street, while mounting the annual Minneapolis St Paul International Film Festival, to being an organization focused primarily on the Festival, to where it is now, doing repertory programming at St Anthony Main across from downtown, where it shares space with the regular multiplex fare. Then at Festival time in the early spring it takes over the entire complex.
"The film festival that just wrapped is now the biggest it's ever been," he said. "With over 200 feature films and 80 short films, and then you have year-round programming."
Oestreich says 2011 could be shaping up to be a record year for number of movies shown, very different from four years ago when he first began working with founder Al Milgrom, where he admits things were "kind of stop and go."
While he says its hard to point to one thing which changed everything, he says there is now a clearer direction to the organization and with the help of the board, and Executive Director Susan Smoluchowski's grant-writing expertise, Oestreich says the Film Society is on firmer financial ground.
"The idea was, let's raise more money with the film festival so that can influence the year round programming." Oestreich said. "What happened was the members and the patrons noticed. So the membership doubled and is now is only increasing."
He says a lot of people are discovering, or rediscovering, the Film Society.
"And suddenly you have the best outcome which is more films, more programming, more diversity," he said.
For a long time what was then the MFA was locked in an internal struggle between factions who passionately believed the organization had to focus on the Festival, and those who just as passionately believed in repertory film year-round as the foundation. There were passionate meetings and ruffled feathers.
Oestreich says time has shown a need for both.
"The idea of bringing back repertory is coming along," he said, pointing to recent programs where current releases are paired with similarly themed classics. But what had to happen first was, you sort of have to throw everything out of the house before you start rebuilding it."
"Yeah, there was probably a concern on many people's parts," he admits. "But in time everything came back around, and is sort of getting back into a rhythm that I think people recognize."
He believes the move to St Anthony Main also helped, giving a focus both to the festival and the programming the rest of the year. He says it is a product of the audience wanting a central location.
"It's a place people want to go," he said, pointing to the availability of restaurants, bars and even Segways nearby.
"It's a very strong organization again, and so it's hard to leave at this moment," he said. "And the people that are there are extremely passionate about the mission."
He said he recognizes his own passion for film in the staff he leaves behind and that makes make him feel he's leaving the organization in good hands.
He's hoping to latch onto something in film in Denver, but doesn't have anything set up yet.
When I ask him if there is anything else we should talk about as he leaves town, he counters with the true cineaste statement: "I don't know - have you seen anything good lately?"
Oestreich says he doesn't know what the future will bring, but he's not ruling out a return to the Twin Cities at some point.
Matt Harding, the guy known for dancing badly - but happily - around the world, is getting some dance lessons at the Walker Art Center's sculpture garden this Saturday. And he'd like you to join him.
The self-described deadbeat from Connecticut became an internet hit when he produced a video of himself dancing in unique locations. Stride Gum saw great marketing potential, and sponsored Harding to make two more videos. In the third, and probably most inspiring video (above), he invited fans to join him.
Now Harding is on tour with his video camera again, and this time he's decided to learn some new moves.
If you plan to go, he asks that you register as "attending" on his Facebook page so he know how many to plan for.
When the news word came in that playwright and talent agent Tom Poole died last night, I thought rather than just report the news, I'd let those who knew him share their own memories.
Well, the memories and tributes have been pouring in. First, this remembrance from Mo Perry:
Tom was dearer to me than I know how to explain. I didn't know him long. We met in early 2010, but I quickly recognized him as a kindred spirit--someone capable of great joy and warmth who reveled in the absurdity of life. A crackerjack wit and fascinating mind with a shining heart. He became something of a mentor to me in so many areas--he gave me my first book on running when I was just starting to get interested in it, and he encouraged me along every step of my path toward running my first marathon (of which he's run several). We were frequent daily Facebook correspondents, and I just dug up this message he sent me several months back. I had posted this survey in a note on FB, and responded to it and asked my friends to do the same. Tom sent his replies directly to me in a private message. Here they are:
1. What is your idea of perfect happiness?
My experience of happiness is that it just comes to you. It is not so much the product of things you like happening to you as it is a feeling of yourself in the world. I have felt unbearably happy beside swimming pools, walking down snowy streets. listening to bands, cuddling with dogs, kissing, drinking cold water, not running anymore, reading. I think happiness is the natural state of humans free of oppression, which I have luckily almost always been.
2. What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?
I don't deplore anything in myself. I'm sorry about many things I see in the world, but don't feel responsible for them, or responsible for fixing them.
3. What is your greatest extravagance?
My greatest extravagance is having done what I wanted, as I wanted, as much as possible, without regard to getting rich.
4. How wealthy are you?
I am immeasurably wealthy by my own understanding of wealth.
5. What is the quality you like most in a woman?
Love, and the bravery to follow it to the best of her understanding.
6. What is the quality you like most in a man?
Love, and the bravery to follow it to the best of his understanding.
7. Which words do you most overuse?
8. When and where were you happiest?
Many unmemorable moments when the world opened around me like a flower.
9. Which talent would you most like to have?
The ability to learn and teach.
10. If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
My incredible desire to eat late at night.
11. What do you consider your greatest achievement?
12. Where would you like to live?
In the desert, in the forest, by the ocean, on a mountain, in a city, on a farm. But most of all, in the future.
13. What is your most treasured possession?
14. What are you reading?
Brief Interviews With Hideous Men
15. Who are your heroes in real life?
Very many writers.
16. What is your favorite food?
Everything I'm not allergic to.
17. What is it you most dislike?
18. If you were to die and come back as a person or thing, what do you think it would be?
19. What is your greatest regret?
20. How would you like to die?
On some faraway beach.
It seems appropriate to me that these lovely responses be shared with people who loved him now. I think they offer great insight into his mind and heart and could be comforting to those grieving the loss of him.
I'd like to think that Tom is right now romping happily, as a dog, on some faraway beach.
From Dawn Frederick:
Tom was one of the kindest, funniest, and smartest people I know. He always provided a valuable perspective on things, and had the uncanny ability to make one laugh during toughest situations. Seeing him with his wonderful family (Geanette, Molly, & Nora) was always a treat, as his face would always light up when any of them walked in a room. I know all of us would agree that we've lost a very special person yesterday. Rest in peace Tom....
From Joseph Scrimshaw:
It seems odd to have other people come up with elegant, moving, funny things to say about a man who was so elegant, moving and funny. I imagine Tom might say his movement wasn't elegant but that's what made it funny. In search of quotes of that ilk, I trolled through the volumes of e-mails and facebook messages between myself and Tom. I found an off-the-cuff quote I like very much. Tom was working on building a website for a video project and wanted some feedback. The site was of course hilarious, but work was still being done on the technological bells and whistles. Tom had this to say about the process, and at the risk of being hyperbolic, it seems like something he might have said about life in general: "I got no idea how to do this f***ing stuff, but that hasn't stopped me yet."
From Brian Beatty:
I've not known Tom as long as many in the local arts community, but in the little over a year that we were friends he inspired me and motivated me in invaluable ways.
Tom first caught up with me after some performance I did at the Bryant Lake Bowl. He wanted to buy me a beer and chat about a few things he thought I could be doing creatively. Had I ever considered trying voiceover work? What about recording a comedy album? Did I have a book of my little humorous poems or stories together? Tom was full of great ideas for me that I'd never bothered to imagine for myself.
It turned out we'd graduated from the same creative writing MFA program a bit over a decade apart and knew many of the same writer-types back in Ohio. We both had a thing for the writings of David Foster Wallace, too, and the idea of not pandering to audience expectations. Which Tom made sound so much easier than it's been in my experience.
In the little over a year we were friends, Tom and I bounced many ideas off each other. Mostly by chat and email and mostly about what I could or should be doing with my writing and comedy. Tom certainly didn't need my advice.
The last time I saw Tom was at the 331 Club about a month ago. He'd showed up to watch me open for a couple of musical acts to a disinterested audience of about 25 people. During my set, following a joke that had gone over so-so, Tom heckled me. But his oddly timed heckle pulled me out of my distracted performance head and back into the moment -- and what I fired back at him got a much better laugh. After my half-hour set was over, Tom bought me a beer and reminded me that I still hadn't recorded my comedy album.
I owe Tom so much more than just a couple of beers.
From Bethany Whitehead:
A number of years ago Tom and I met at Borders. Not as shoppers, but as co-workers. There we were, two underpaid book and music sellers with master's degrees, and we quickly developed a rapport. I would look forward to working the same shift with Tom as he excitedly talked of the music he was currently loving, great books he was reading, and his current theater project. I do believe Tom was the first person who I met who called himself a playwright- an actual playwright! I loved that he was writing and developing theater and would eagerly ask of his progress and process. Despite our eventual departures from the bookstore, we kept in touch because of our shared interests, and as soon as I was hired this year as the Membership Manager at the Playwrights' Center, Tom was naturally one of the first people I contacted. His charisma, passion, and enthusiasm for life was unrivaled and the creative community of the Twin Cities will feel his loss for a long time.
From Catherine Hansen:
Other than the enormous amount of warmth Tom radiated when I first met him and every time I saw him after that, I remember our conversation at the last Talent Poole holiday party where he explained to me the scientific difference between a geek and a nerd.
From Phyllis Wright:
His little dog, which according to Tom was a "TERRHUAHUA." Tom wrote and directed pieces that were always challenging, wild and wonderful to be in.
From Michael Venske:
It was always a pleasure to see Tom. He wasn't from Minnesota, he was from Arkansas. Silly as it may sound --the fact that he was from the south and one of the most charming people I've met -- perpetuated this idea that Tom was a true southern gentleman and the only thing missing was a Mint Julep and perhaps a porch.
In the fall of 2009 Commedia Beauregard presented "Master Works: The Goya Plays" at the Bryant Lake Bowl. Tom had written a short play inspired by Francisco Goya's "The Chinchillas" and recommended me to act in the show. If you search for an image of "The Chinchillas" you'll see exactly what the 3-person cast looked like on stage that night.[Editor's note - see below]
The greatest memory I have of Tom, aside from our run-ins at the Talent Poole office, is performing in "The Chinchillas." Acting while blindfolded on stage in a straightjacket being force-fed mashed potatoes was the most fun I've ever had in a show and I have Tom to thank for that. And if that sounds ridiculous, it was in the most innocent, playful, beautiful way... Just like Tom.
You can also read a lovely tribute to Tom Poole by friend and theater critic Tad Simons here.
FYI, I corresponded with Tom's brother-in-law George Roberts, and asked if the family wanted to contribute anything. Understandably, they're just trying to come to terms with the loss right now. But maybe someday they'll be able to read this post, and have a sense of just how much Tom's presence meant to so many people.
Playwright Christopher Hampton
Photo by Heidi Bohnenkamp
You'd think one requirement for a book being translated into a movie is that it be really well written.
Not necessarily so.
Today on Midmorning Hampton argued that, when looking for a book to adapt for the screen, great writing is one thing you don't want.
Sometimes you have to be careful of a book that's really well written, because that's the one quality that won't show in a movie. If the prose is beautiful, that's a novelistic thing, not a dramatic thing, so you look for... the novels that work when they're translated to theater or to film are novels with a dramatic line. And often a beautifully written book or even a powerful book that will haunt you for years will not work as a movie.
Hampton is in the Twin Cities this week in preparation for an upcoming celebration of his plays at the Guthrie Theater. He'll be seeing God of Carnage. a play that he translated into English, at the theater tonight.
You can listen to Kerri Miller's entire conversation with Christopher Hampton by clicking on the audio link below:
John B. Davis, an educator known for his ability to save struggling schools and arts organizations, died Tuesday from a rare brain disease. He was 89.
John B. Davis
Photo courtesy of Macalester College
MPR's Curtis Gilbert looked back on Davis' career, which in retrospect appears almost superhuman:
Davis was developing a reputation as someone who could turn around the most troubled of institutions. So in 1984, when the founder of the Children's Theater Company was charged with sexually abusing three students, the theater asked Davis to take over. At the time, Davis vowed the theater would survive with the help of the community.
"Parents, members of the board of directors and friends of the theater have all rallied and have assured that when the situation has cleared, that great theater and school shall be preserved. And I shall be one of the instruments working to that end," Davis told MPR at the time.
Davis went on to help Minnesota State University-Mankato improve relations between faculty and the administration. He helped the Minneapolis College of Art and Design through a difficult stretch and came to the rescue of the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, too. In 1993, when the Minneapolis School Board suspended its superintendent, they called Davis back to the job until a permanent replacement could be found. He even served as chairman of the Minneapolis Federal Reserve during the 1980s.
You can listen to the entire story by clicking on the link below, or read the full story here.
Earlier this week I reported on the tragic news that Minnesota playwright Tom Poole was hit by a car and was in the ICU at Regions Hospital.
Today I spoke with George Roberts, Poole's brother-in-law, about the latest. While Poole's basic vital signs are stable, he has not regained consciousness. Here's an excerpt of an update he posted to Tom's Caring Bridge website:
The most challenging question which remains, Dr. McIver told us, is when will Tom wake up? All the tests they are doing - the command/response queries, the ear pinching, etc. - are designed to lead to an answer of that question. Encouraging Tom to become more active in his own recovery by changing the levels of support in his medicines and sedatives requires a delicate balance. Too much agitation might lead to elevated blood pressure which might invite new bleeding in Tom's brain. Not enough reduction in medicines might not provoke the hoped for response. Dr. McIver reminded us the indications of progress they are looking for are small. They are the necessary first steps to further, larger recovery steps.
The goal in the ICU is to get Tom breathing on his own, able to protect his airway (cough, swallow), and to respond to commands. Tests will continue all weekend toward reaching these goals. We will look at the results with Dr. McIver again on Monday with an eye toward considering replacing the breathing tube in Tom's mouth and throat with a tracheotomy and the feeding tube in his nose with one in his abdomen. These procedures would be done to make Tom more comfortable.
Roberts says good wishes and prayers have been flowing in; the most useful gestures have been those to help Poole's family (wife Geanette, daughters Nora and Molly) get through daily life - cooking, laundry, dog-walking, the loan of freezer space for food that's come in, etc.
Those efforts are being coordinated by a family friend at this website.
Meanwhile, playwright Alan Berks has compiled essays written by Poole for Minnesota Playlist, which give a great sense of Poole's personality. Here's an excerpt:
My secret conviction is that anything that's "a good idea for a play" has absolutely no chance of ever becoming a play I'd want to watch. If you can tell me briefly about your play, and I can immediately grasp what you are up to and how it can be promoted, then we are probably sharing our recognition of a cliche that you hope to freshen for the market. On the other hand, if the description of a new play begins, "Well, it's kind of complicated," I find that promising, especially if I'm talking to the writer, the director, or a cast member two days before opening.
For me, the real test of my own new project is always whether I want to do the work required to turn a given idea into an actual play more than I want to eat kettle chips and watch reruns of Ultimate Cage Fighting. It's a cruelly high standard, but you can't write all the time.
I wrote a five act revenge tragi-comedy in verse based on Thomas Pynchon's description of a fictional performance in his novel The Crying Of Lot 49. When the play was read at the Playwrights' Center, Lee Blessing said it was the best five act revenge tragi-comedy in verse he'd ever seen there. Such are the rewards of new work.(1 Comments)
MPR's Kerri Miller gets people to reveal some rather interesting things about themselves in her interviews, and her conversation with author Ann Patchet was no exception.
In this case, Miller brought up an incident involving a small boat, the Amazon river, and a 15 foot Anaconda - all part of Patchett's research for her latest book "State of Wonder." Patchett admitted it was a frightening experience, but that snakes do not top her list of pathological fears. What does?
You know what I'm afraid of? Really super-realistic looking baby dolls... of the kind my sister adored. Take a good hard look at one, in their plastic coffins lined up next to each other... it's like a row of dead babies in plastic boxes. It's beyond horrifying.
You can hear their entire conversation by clicking on the link below:(1 Comments)
Tom Poole was hit by a car on Saturday night, after getting off of a bus near his home. Poole is a core member of the Twin Cities theater community, serving as everything from playwright and screenwriter to actor and talent agent.
Poole suffered severe brain trauma in the accident; doctors had to remove three pieces of his skull to relieve brain swelling. He is currently in the Intensive Care Unit at Regions Hospital. Based on reports from close friends it appears he is still unconscious, but his doctor believes he did respond to at least one request to move his toes.
People interested in tracking Poole's progress can find more information here.
John Waters peaks out of one of the works that are included in "Absentee Landlord," an exhibit he curated at Walker Art Center.
MPR Photo/Jeffrey Thompson
In it, Waters argues that this exhibition is just a natural extention of his other work:
Mr. Waters compared his stint as guest curator to making his own mixtape and said it was of a piece with his other work. "Ever since I started collecting art in the late 1980s, it's become another way I tell stories," he said. "I make movies, but I couldn't get a movie made right now with the economy, so I wrote a book," he continued, referring to "Role Models," his 2010 memoir. "In my book I wrote about art. I made the film 'Pecker' in 1998, which is about the contemporary art world -- I think a loving picture of it. It's all one career. I'm telling stories."
You can find out more about just what kind of story it is by listening to Euan Kerr's story:
Bob Mould is widely considered one of the major players of the Minnesota music scene in the 1970s and 80s. A member of punk band Hüsker Dü, he went on to play in Sugar, and has had a solo career all his own.
Mould has released a new autobiography, out today, titled "See a Little Light: The Trail of Rage and Melody."
MPR's Chris Roberts interviewed Mould about the book, but rather than pose a bunch of typical reporter questions, Roberts went to some of Mould's old colleagues to find out what they were curious to know. The result is a very personal, dynamic interview.
At one point, Mould admits he never expected to live to the age of 30, given his pretty brutal lifestyle.
And while he broke up with Hüsker Dü bandmates more than 20 years ago, he says he doesn't see them ever getting back together, even just as friends:
I don't know if it'd be in anybody's best interest. I have no ill will. I'm still stinging a little bit, but life goes on.
You can read the full story here, or simply click on the audio link below:
John Waters peaks out of one of the works that are included in "Absentee Landlord," an exhibit he curated at Walker Art Center.
MPR Photo/Jeffrey Thompson
John Waters - filmmaker, performer, art collector - has let his creative spirit flow freely, bringing several disparate works of art together in a show called "Absentee Landlord" at the Walker Art Center.
He even offers you his own personal invitation to the show:
Speaking of the "flooding MacDonalds" video - Euan Kerr interviewed Waters late last week, during which he came up with another performance video idea:
"Maybe if this is the success that I hope it will be they could do 'Flooding the Walker,'" he smiles. Standing behind him a Walker staff member looks mildly distressed.
For now the museum appears to be much more comfortable flooded with Waters than with water.
Mark Rylance accepts the Tony Award for Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Play for "Jerusalem" during the 65th annual Tony Awards, Sunday, June 12, 2011 in New York. (Jeff Christensen / AP)
Actor Mark Rylance has a thing for Minnesota poet Louis Jenkins.
Three years ago, whilst accepting a Tony award for his part in "Boeing-Boeing," he quoted Jenkins' poem "The Back Country."
Last night, in accepting the award for leading actor in the production "Jerusalem" he quoted Jenkins' poem "Walking Through A Wall."
The New York Times tried to get an explanation for the choice:
Asked after his victory why he chose to share Mr. Jenkins's thoughts about the art of "walking through walls," Mr. Rylance said, "I just think it's good advice."
However, if you take a look at Jenkins' website, you'll see this tidbit:
Louis Jenkins is currently working with Mark Rylance, actor and former director of the Globe Theatre, London, on a stage production titled Nice Fish! based on Mr. Jenkins poems.
By the way, you can hear Jenkins recite "Walking Through a Wall" in its entirety at his website.
Last night high school students from around the state performed on stage at the Orpheum Theater in Minneapolis as part of the annual Spotlight Showcase Awards.
There to present the awards was Broadway star Linda Eder. Eder says she got her start in musical theater playing Mother Abbess in "The Sound of Music" at her high school in Brainerd. She says she was instantly hooked.
It's the oddest thing in the world and the most wonderful thing in the world because it's like playing. Remember how when you were young and your parents would take you over to someone's house and the kids would always go to the basement and we would just be playing non-stop for hours until they called down and said "we're going home," and we'd all be "aaawhhh!" Everything was fun - no matter what you did, it was fun. And that's kind of what theater is like/ It's an isolated world - small, confined, intimate...and the fact that you have a living breathing audience there. It just all adds into this thing that is surreal and magical and if you have that in you at all - the minute I step foot on a stage I knew that was what I wanted.
You can hear Eder's interview with MPR's Euan Kerr by clicking on the audio link below:
Posted at 3:25 PM on June 6, 2011
by Marianne Combs
Filed under: People
It's hard to imagine one man running the many-ringed circus which is Cirque du Soleil.
But sure enough, if one were to dream up a character fit for the title, it would be Guy Laliberté.
Once an accordion-playing, fire-eating street performer, Laliberté knows how to set his sights high:
"There are three capitals of entertainment in the world: Las Vegas, New York and London," announces Mr. Laliberté, the only person smoking in the vast campus here where two-fifths of his 5,000 employees work. "So far the only one I truly conquered is Vegas. New York and London are still on my checklist."
But when it came to accounting for the failure, Laliberté was, well... unavailable.
Mr. Laliberté, who owns an island, a boat and seven homes, was hard to reach during some of the troubles; he was orbiting Earth, after paying $35 million to be the seventh space tourist, giving him one of the greatest excuses in the history of show business failure. "I kept hearing there are too many songs, too much like a Broadway show," said the "Shpeel" director, David Shiner. "Guy wanted to do something different. But he was in space."
You can read the full profile here.
Actor David Hyde Pierce
If you were out enjoying the great hot and humid outdoors yesterday, chances are you missed Midday's noon hour, which would be a real shame.
It featured a recent conversation between Guthrie Theater Artistic Director Joe Dowling and former Guthrie actor David Hyde Pierce, who went on to great acclaim for his portrayal of Dr. Nile Crane on the sit-com "Frasier."
Pierce shared some great moments from back in the mid-80s when he was on the old Guthrie thrust stage in such shows as "A Midsummer Night's Dream" and "The Seagull," under the direction of the rather strong-minded Romanian Lucian Pintilie.
One of the advantages of this sort of authoritarian, Romanian directorial style is you didn't have a lot of choice about what you were going to do, and I was probably pushed or allowed to do a more experienced performance than I was actually capable of giving because I was fulfilling Lucian's vision of the play.
It was a four act play and we started with the fourth act - in the production. So when the audience came in, somewhere in the middle of the fourth act, with no explanation - that's where we started. And we went to the end of the play and then we started back at the beginning and went through again. And there were reasons for it, but that too was a really cool thing as a young actor to think "oh wow - you can take a classic play and just ruin it, if you have a good reason."
Also, I remember I loved the Guthrie audience because at one point we'd got to the end and we were doing our curtain call, and some very old man in the audience screamed out "Where's Chekhov?!" So people were very passionate about how it should and shouldn't be done.
Pierce goes on to recall a tech rehearsal for "The Seagull" that involved an oil-based fog on a steel set that sent him and the woman playing Nina flying across the stage.
You can hear more about his days at the Guthrie, as well as much about his time on "Fraser" and then in the Monty Python musical "Spamalot" by clicking on the audio link below.
Ranee Ramaswamy, founder of Ragamala Dance and Theater
Photo by Ed Bock
The honor is bestowed each year upon an artist who has made "significant contributions to the quality of our state's cultural life over the course of their career." It also comes with a $50,000 cash award.
It's a significant recognition for a woman who only started dancing professionally at the age of 30, but went on to create a company that has earned national accolades by making an ancient Indian dance form not just accessible but enticing to modern audiences.
"This is the first time a dancer has received this award, and for the McKnight Foundation to have chosen Bharatanatyam (classical south Indian dance) as the art form makes it all the more exciting," Ramaswamy wrote in an e-mail. "This has been my life's work, spreading the greatness of this dance form all throughout Minnesota for the last 30 years. I was looking at a map of Minnesota the other day and I couldn't find a town that I haven't visited! It feels wonderful to be recognized for doing something that I care so much about -- educating western audiences about Indian dance and culture -- and I plan to continue teaching, choreographing, and performing for many more years."
In addition to staging traditional Bharatanatyam performances, Ragamala Dance and Theater has also collaborated with artists from a variety of other backgrounds, including tap, jazz, ballet, African dance, Japanese drumming and poetry.
Previous McKnight Distinguished Artists include publisher Emilie Buchwald, composer and choral director Dale Warland, sculptor Judy Onofrio, writer Bill Holm, theater director Bain Boehlke, printer Kinji Akagawa and sculptor Siah Armajani.
Without any prompting, Dessa herself offered up the answer:
For the record, at 14 I was listening to Skunk Anansie, on repeat, repeat, repeat. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qQ7ZeSU8ZXM
To save you the effort of that extra click, here's the video in question:
How do you pay tribute to one of the most revered musicians of all time?
Evidently, you make him a music video.
But in the case of Johnny Cash, it's not just any music video. The Johnny Cash Project takes artwork inspired by actual images of the Man in Black, and then strings them together to the song "Ain't No Grave" to create a massive tribute by thousands of his fans.
The video already has more than enough stills for every frame of the song, but the submissions keep rolling in; now viewers can choose which stills they want to see, using various criteria (most popular, most realistic, most brushstrokes, etc).
Interested in submitting a frame? You can, right here.
Over 7 million people tuned in to The Oprah Winfrey Show each week; what are they going to watch now?
This morning NPR reporter Elizabeth Blair paid a visit to a nail salon in the hopes of finding out:
Controlling the remote at Patsy's Nail Bar in Washington, D.C., is receptionist Crystal Jones. She says she puts on what the clients want to watch. "We go from Ellen to Oprah to the Cash Cab," Jones says. (If you've never seen it, Cash Cab is part reality show, part game show. It runs on The Discovery Channel.)
Jones says she is often riveted by some of Winfrey's interviews. Now she has to figure out how to replace her. "There is going to be a big empty space," Jones says. "We'll probably watch movies or those makeover shows on cable, like What Not to Wear."
When The Oprah Winfrey Show began a quarter-century ago, choices were limited. Today viewers will have many more places to look for something else. Discovery hopes they'll switch to Oprah's new cable network. Crystal Jones says she has tried the Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN), but so far it is not the best fit for a nail salon. One recent Saturday the network was running a marathon of Oprah's series on women in jail. "That's a little bit much," Jones says. "Nobody wants to see that while they're getting their pedicure."
Who do you think will replace Oprah as the next daytime television icon?
Folk singers Joan Baez and Bob Dylan perform during a civil rights rally on August 28, 1963 in Washington D.C. (National Archives/Getty Images)
So a certain boy from Hibbing is turning 70 today, and everybody's finding a way to mark the occasion. Here are just a few of the ways you can partake in the celebration:
1. Tune in at noon today to KNOW 91.1FM in the Twin Cities (or listen online) for "Boy from the north country: Bob Dylan in Minnesota." While you're listening, check out these images spanning Dylan's career.
3. Explore Rolling Stone's special "birthday edition."
4. Is all this birthday talk a little too bright and cheery for you? Not to worry, you can always check out this interview from weeks before Dylan's 25th birthday - only recently published - where he discusses his heroin addiction and suicidal thoughts.
5. Of all places, the AARP Website has a series of tributes to Dylan from the likes of Judy Collins, Martin Scorsese and Bruce Springsteen. There's even a bit of juicy gossip from Marianne Faithful...
Of course you could just put on some songs by Dylan and enjoy the music.
Are you celebrating Dylan's birthday today? How?(2 Comments)
The Producing Director for the U of M's Department of Theatre Arts and Dance, Tom Proehl, died suddenly in early April.
Today the U of M announced it has found in interim replacement for Proehl while they search for a new producing director: Peg Guilfoyle.
Guilfoyle has worked in the Twin Cities for a long time, for both the Poets in the Schools program and the Guthrie Theater (she's the author of the book "The Guthrie Theater: Images, History, and Inside Stories." Her work has also included projects at the Ordway, at Mixed Blood and the Triple Espresso Company. Additionally, she has written commentary and nonfiction for newspapers and for Minnesota Public Radio.
Shanan Custer is an extraordinary comedienne, actor and writer. She's also a veteran of Brave New Workshop. Today on MinnesotaPlaylist.com, Custer writes about the jobs one chooses, sometimes for the love of the work, and sometimes to pay the bills.
It's a hilarious rant, but one comment she made stuck out at me:
The business we work in is strange for many reasons, but particularly for this: we apologize or see it as a possible liability if we do any work that is popular to a wider audience. Put another way, if a lot of people like something then, ipso facto, it must not be very good (this is the first time I've used the phrase "ipso facto" in a sentence and I think it went pretty well). The issue revolves around the term "wider" audience, I think. If a show is meant to connect with a certain segment of the population that we find socially undesirable (people with jobs and houses in mostly white neighborhoods with gun racks in their basement) then we say, "Well, it is what it is! I'm getting out as soon as I can to do some real stuff! Pays the bills!" If the show connects with a more desirable audience (people with jobs and houses in properly diverse neighborhoods and no gun racks), then we say, "I'm so proud to be a part of this! I feel so lucky!"
We know that sometimes great works of art aren't popular straight off the bat. That's why we have non-profit organizations in the first place - because they could rarely get by on ticket sales. But does being popular imply a lack of artistic quality?
Julie Andrews at the Perpich Center for the Arts
MPR Photo/Jeffrey Thompson
Yesterday I posted Dame Julie Andrews' talk at the Perpich Center for the Arts, but in all the rush to get the story on the air I didn't have time to include the audio of our interview, which took place after her talk.
So, here it is; we discussed why she's in Minneapolis, writing children's books with her daughter, and what she's looking forward to doing next with her life.(1 Comments)
Author Michael Ondaatje
Tonight Dave Eggers is at the Hopkins Center for the Arts as the final guest of the Pen Pals Author Lecture Series. And as part of the event, the Minneapolis Library Foundation is announcing the featured authors for the 2011/2012 season.
It's an impressive list - see for yourself:
October 27/28, 2011
Jhumpa Lahiri received the Pulitzer Prize in 2000 for Intrepreter of Maladies, her debut story collection that explores issues of love and identity among immigrants and cultural transplants. Alongside her Pulitzer Prize, Jhumpa Lahiri has won numerous awards including the PEN/Hemingway Award, an O. Henry Prize, and the Addison Metcalf Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. Her second novel, The Namesake, was published to great acclaim in 2003 and adapted for film in 2007.
December 1/2, 2011
Michael Ondaatje is one of the world's foremost writers -- his artistry and aesthetic have influenced an entire generation of writers and readers. Although he is best known as a novelist, Ondaatje's work also encompasses memoir, poetry, and film, and reveals a passion for defying conventional form. In his novel, The English Patient, which was adapted into an Academy Award winning film, he explores the stories of people history fails to reveal, intersecting four diverse lives at the end of World War II. His forthcoming novel, The Cat's Table, will be published in the US in the fall of 2011.
March 15/16, 2012
Wallace Shawn is beloved for his comedic roles as a film and stage actor, in such works as My Dinner with Andre and The Princess Bride. As a playwright and an essayist, he is revered for his exploration of difficult, often controversial themes. Much of his writing in his collection Essays (2009) has the same cadence as the dialogue in his award-winning plays and screenplays -- bold assertions, often provocative, that outrage and even startle. In 2005, Wallace Shawn received the PEN/Laura Pels Foundation Award for "showing the way to a new kind of theater...."
April 19/20, 2012
Dr. Brian Greene is one of the world's leading theoretical physicists and author of the national bestsellers, The Elegant Universe and The Hidden Reality. A brilliant, entertaining communicator of cutting-edge scientific concepts, Greene was described by The Washington Post as "the single best explainer of abstruse concepts in the world today." In 2008, he co-founded the annual World Science Festival. The Festival's mission is to take science out of the laboratory, making the esoteric understandable and the familiar fascinating to the general public.
May 10/11, 2012
Arthur Phillips was born in Minneapolis and educated at Harvard. He has been a child actor, a jazz musician, a speechwriter, a dismally failed entrepreneur, and a five-time Jeopardy champion. His first novel, Prague, was named a New York Times Notable Book and received The Los Angeles Times Art Seidenbaum Award for best first novel. He is the author of five novels, including Egyptologist, The Song is You and The Tragedy of Arthur. His work has been translated into twenty-five languages and is the source of three films currently in development.
Perpich senior Ben Schultz and Dame Julie Andrews
MPR Photo/Jeffrey Thompson
This afternoon, the students at the Perpich Center for the Arts were treated to an appearance by theater royalty. Dame Julie Andrews visited the Golden Valley school, which draws students from across the state.
She was there thanks to senior Ben Schultz, who has been corresponding with Andrews' agent for the past two years in the hopes of convincing her to visit.
So why is Schultz such a big fan?
She's always conducting herself with grace and poise. Everything you see her in - it's not a skanky role, it's not dirty. Every time she's on tv - like Oprah - she's never snotty or rude. Every single student here, we look up to her just because of the work she's done for theater and how successful she's become.
Andrews is in Minneapolis in part for a visit with Target Corporation, and also to promote her most recent children's book; it's thanks to Schultz she added the school visit to her itinerary.
The student body leapt to its feet with a roar when Andrews walked on the stage of the school theater.
She spoke to the students about the importance of the arts, and how they are a force for good in the world. When asked for her advice to budding performers, she offered this:
I think that if you're passionate about what you do - opportunities will float by when you least expect them. Since those moments could happen at any time, my best advice is do your homework. Learn what it is you love. Learn all about it, read as much as you possibly can, be ready because you never know when that special moment is going to be offered to you.
Afterwards, sitting in the makeshift "green room" (the boy's locker room), Andrews admitted that, while she attended an arts school herself, it was her family that played the most formative role in her career.
My mother was a fine pianist, my step-father was a wonderful tenor and he began giving me singing lessons when I was about seven years old - my mother's sister, my aunt was a ballet school teacher - actually she ran the local village ballet school and she did it very well. They encouraged and inspired me, and it just so happened that I was blessed with a kind of freak soprano voice that spanned four octaves. I didn't know anything else but theater growing up.
At the age of 75, Andrews is still looking at future film roles as well as directing opportunities. All this in addition to the more than twenty books she's published with her daughter.
I'm still learning, and I've worked my whole life. - I don't know how I would feel if I wasn't doing something that turned me on, so I'm always looking for the possibility of something fresh, something new something that I could embrace - I really love it.
Here's the audio from her talk to the students at the Perpich Center for the Arts, which includes a lovely recollection of her late husband Blake Edwards:(6 Comments)
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.
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.
After ten years as the Guthrie Theater's face to the media, Melodie Bahan has decided to move on.
In an e-mail sent out this morning, the longtime Director of Communications said "The decision was not an easy one for me, but I'm at a point in my life where I'm ready for a change and some new challenges. The time is right."
Bahan has seen the Guthrie through its move from the Walker Art Center grounds to the Minneapolis riverfront, and since its relocation, has managed the publicity for full seasons on three different stages to both local and national media.
Bahan said she plans to take time off before transitioning to a new job.
Comedian Mary Mack is bouncing back from a difficult year that almost knocked her off the circuit. In an article in the Star Tribune, Tom Horgen writes:
A year ago, Mack seemed destined for even bigger things, but then her momentum slammed to a stop. In June, her 70-year-old father died from heart disease. Mack was extremely close to her dad, a small-town mechanic. "I got my sense of humor from my dad," she said. "He was a great storyteller." Almost a year later, she has a tough time holding back tears when talking about him.
"It was really hard," she said last week. "I lost my motivation."
She quit booking shows for a time. When she would perform, her sets included less and less about her father, who was -- as with the rest of her family -- the bread and butter of her routine.
Fortunately, for us, Mack is back in action, having just finished up a string of performances at the Acme Comedy Club in Minneapolis.
For me, the big surprise was in how Mack got her start. It turns out she's a classically trained musician with degrees in both conducting and clarinet. She didn't explore comedy until audiences for her polka band made it clear they liked the parts where she stalled between numbers better than the numbers themselves.
Polka's loss is comedy's gain.
"Life is Struggle," by David Feinberg, and collaborators
University of Minnesota associate professor David Feinberg is going to show his work in an unusual, but appropriate location.
The curator of the U.S. State Department's ART in Embassies program, Sally Mansfield, thought Feinberg's piece was a fitting choice for display at the U.S. Embassy in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo.
According to a release from the U of M:
The artwork, "Life is Struggle," was made through Feinberg's "Voice to Vision" collaborative studio project and will be displayed as part of the Kinshasa Embassy exhibition Voices. The exhibition addresses the voices and voicelessness of victims of genocide, rape, AIDS, homelessness, poverty and discrimination. It will be displayed for the tenure of U.S. Ambassador James Entwhistle, from spring 2011 to fall 2013.
According to Mansfield, "Professor Feinberg's 'Voice to Vision' project with Holocaust and genocide survivors is a perfect fit for this exhibition. His artwork 'Life is Struggle' addresses many issues of the exhibition simultaneously, in an admirably collaborative manner."
You can find out more about Feinberg's collaborative process - and how "Life is Struggle" came to be - here (scroll down to the last image).
Photo by Leif Hagen of Eagan Daily Photo.
On May 7, Anthony Caponi, the founder and artistic director of Caponi Art Park, turns 90. In honor of that event, Governor Mark Dayton has declared May 7 "Caponi Art Park and Learning Center Day."
The art park, if you're not familiar with it, is a 60 acre wooded area that includes located a 20 acre sculpture garden, an outdoor amphitheater and miles of walking paths. The park regularly hosts free concerts and performances, and hosts "Family Fun" days where families can try out a variety of art forms and learn about different cultures. The park is open free to the public Tuesday through Sunday from May through October. For more information, check out this story by MPR's Chris Roberts.
Here's the language of the proclamation (I always get a kick out of these):
WHEREAS: Caponi Art Park and Learning Center, located in Eagan, Minnesota, is a nonprofit center for the arts and a place where visual and performing arts are presented and fostered in a natural setting; and
WHEREAS: Caponi Art Park and Learning Center was founded by former Macalester College Art Department head Mr. Anthony Caponi, an Italian sculptor, educator, poet, author, philosopher, innovator and engineer who has lived in Minnesota for over 55 years and made significant contributions to Minnesota's vibrant art community; and
WHEREAS: On May 7, 2011, the day of founder Mr. Caponi's 90th birthday, Caponi Art Park and Learning Center will celebrate the achievements of the Art Park, its founder, and create public awareness of the arts.
NOW, THEREFORE, I, MARK DAYTON, Governor of Minnesota, do hereby proclaim May 7, 2011 as:
CAPONI ART PARK AND LEARNING CENTER DAY
in the State of Minnesota.
The public is invited to celebrate this honor and the 90th birthday of park founder, Anthony Caponi, at the park's annual Open House from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday, May 7. The park is located at 1220 Diffley Road.
The Minnesota Opera may be deep in the throes of "Wuthering Heights" on stage at the Ordway in St Paul, but back at the Opera's rehearsal rooms in Minneapolis they've been knee-deep in the trenches of World War I.
This week singers and orchestra have been running through "Silent Night," the latest Minnesota Opera New Works Initiativecommission. The multi-million dollar program aims to develop and perform new American operas.
"Silent Night," based on the 2006 film "Joyeux Noel," tells the story of the 1918 Christmas Truce, where soldiers laid down their weapons, to cross no-mans-land, and celebrate the holiday with the men they had been shooting at just hours before. The production will receive its world premiere at the Ordway on November 12th.
In addition to all the people involved in the Minnesota production watching the workshop representatives from other US opera companies were also in the audience listening in to see if "Silent Night" might be a good fit for them in the future.
Of course listening most intently of all were composer Kevin Puts and librettist Mark Campbell. Two earlier workshops held over the last year were just for singers and piano, so this was the first time they'd heard the whole production with orchestra.
Puts, who has been working on the score for two years, describes it as an amazing opportunity to have this happen some seven months before the opera opens.
"To try everything with orchestra and just to get an idea of the colors I am using, and if they work," he said. "And other things too that aren't just orchestral: issues of pacing and timing, and issues that Mark finds related to the libretto."
And the libretto is far from simple. As befits a story of the Great War, no fewer than four languages are heard: English, German, French, and Latin.
Campbell says he decided early on that he had to do it in so many tongues.
"I thought it was a very important aspect of these three cultures trying to communicate with each other, and not necessarily knowing each other's languages," Campbell said. Starting out with his own French skills he also used translators to make sure everything was correct. He believes the work is worth it though for strengthening the depth and meaning of the opera.
"It made it incredibly challenging," he said, but he thinks Puts had the tougher task. "Kevin had to set these words and keep the sound of the language in his music."
Puts says his French is stronger than his German, but the French has been more of a problem as he has tried to match the rhythm of the language to the tempo of the music.
"Essentially everything is, sort of, an equal syllable," he says of French,"But music is in rhythm, and it's in meter, and there are divisions of the bar, so you have to choose some syllables that are on strong beats and that's actually difficult know where those should be sometimes."
Luckily Campbell says he and Puts collaborate well, almost on an instinctual level, and they have been able to work through the kinks efficiently.
They have discovered a few other hurdles they will have to leap, such as the problem of the bagpipes. The instruments were used by Scottish regiments on the battlefield, even in World War I. Puts said hearing the pipes played in the rehearsal was a learning experience.
"I guess I underestimated the volume of them," admitted Puts with a smile. "It's a wonderful color and something we think we need in the opera. Unfortunately you can't hear the singers when the pipes are playing."
Puts has some ideas about how they'll deal with this, but he and Campbell want to keep them quiet for the moment.
Campbell's work is essentially now done for "Silent Night" until the last minute tweaking at rehearsals later this year.
But Puts is going to be very busy, working through the things they discovered during the workshop.
"There are moments that just are sort of dead," he said. Those moments will need to be changed. He says he will have to remove the dead time and tie the musical ends together.
"It sounds kind of easy, but it takes some effort," he grins. "And then some orchestral colors that weren't just the way I wanted."
There are moments where he wants to add more time, to let the emotion of a scene expand a little more. In coming months he'll rewrite the entire orchestral score, and the piano-vocal score which the singers will use for rehearsal, beginning in October.
"A lot of trees get killed," Campbell laughs.
"But fewer than they used to," Puts counters. He says he's though about counting how many emails are in his Minnesota Opera folder after the production is done.
"I think there are about 1500 at this point," he says.
There's a lot of work ahead they say, but they like where they are now, and they are looking forward to November.
Ryan Oestreich looked remarkably calm the other day, nestled behind his desk in the corner of the Minneapolis St Paul International Film Festival. He's the festival co-ordinator, and for the moment he's a happy guy.
A huge board festooned with Post-it notes hung nearby. It's the festival schedule, and a very full schedule at that.
"Two hundred and forty, 250 films," Oestreich said. "Last year we were at 170, so this is a big jump. A really big jump. But we have three weeks."
There are flicks coming in from all over the world, and Oestrich points out that almost all of them will get two screenings, and some three. When asked about possible strategies for wading through the offerings he suggests going with what you love, to see where it takes you, at least on the MSPIFF schedule.
"Basically find a film that you like," he said, "And search by like a title, or a director, or a theme that fits that."
He also suggests checking out movies where the people involved will be there to present their work.
"We have not a few, but 40 to 60 film makers," he said. "Lots, I think 20 to 25, just Minnesota film makers."
When asked why he looks so remarkably calm, he launches into a discussion of what he calls 'the festival high.' He says he only usually notices it when it's gone.
"You only know you have it, when you don't have it," he said. "So two days after the festival you realize you are not feeling as much stimulation, you're just kind of like, moping around. And you think to yourself 'why is this happening?' And you realize 'Oh, it's because I'm not stressed out, I'm not seeing a million movies, and I'm not running around trying to schedule all these things. And that's because of the festival, and it's very strange."
Oestreich describes it as an unquantified fact about film festivals. He smiles and sits back in his seat. We'll have to check in with him in a few days, after tomorrow nights opening festivities if he still doesn't know if he has it.
Ananya Dance Theatre performing Kshoy!
The founder of Ananya Dance Theatre (ADT), has been awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship for Choreography. The fellowship includes a cash award somewhere between $40-50,000 (while Chatterjea has been listed on the foundation's website, she has yet to hear from them directly).
According to the foundation's website - when it was up and running - "The Fellowships are awarded to men and women who have already demonstrated exceptional capacity for productive scholarship or exceptional creative ability in the arts."
ADT is known for its use of dance as a means to talk about issues involving women and the environment, and for working with communities and activists.
During the fundraiser, the company will perform an excerpt from the new work "Tushaanal: Fires of Dry Grass," the second piece in a four-year anti-violence project exploring the experiences of women of color across the globe. The piece premieres at the Southern Theater in September.
Chatterjea has been singled out by Ms. Magazine as one of the "choreographers who are pushing the boundaries of what it means to be a woman and a dancer."
Singer and actor Greta Oglesby
This weekend Greta Oglesby will give two performances at the Capri Theater in Minneapolis, singing some of her favorite songs from both gospel and Broadway. The event brings together her love of music and her love of acting, in a venue with which she has an intimate connection. But if you'd asked her when she was a kid what she wanted to do with her life, you would heard a very different answer.
"I always wanted to be an accountant - I was fascinated with numbers," Oglesby chuckles in retrospect.
At the age of 30, Greta Oglesby had a finance degree and was working for the City of Chicago as an accountant. She thought she had found her calling.
But then, theater intervened.
"I was in my office flipping through the Chicago Times and saw an audition for a little musical," she explains. "I didn't have anything; they asked for a headshot, a two minute monologue and a song, and the only thing I had was a song. So I committed a Langston Hughes poem to memory." She laughs as she recalls her stage debut. "My monologue sucked hard, but my song got to them."
For Oglesby, being in the play was a revelation; she says she can only describe it as "I came into myself."
"I thought I was living my dream as an accountant for the city, but I found that I loved acting, and I didn't even know it. And suddenly I couldn't live without it."
Fastforward to 2009, and Oglesby wowed audiences at the Guthrie Theater as the title character in the musical "Caroline, Or Change" by playwright Tony Kushner. Kushner himself said she gave the defining performance of the role. Since then work has picked up for her noticably - she's just returned from performing "Ma Rainey's Black Bottom" on tour, and will soon be in The Gospel According to Jerry at the Minnesota Jewish Theatre. Then she'll be in a Pillsbury House production of "In the Red and Brown Water."
In 2012 Oglesby will reprise her role as Caroline in a production at Syracuse Stage, directed by the Guthrie's Marcela Lorca. One of the key songs of the show is one she'll be singing this weekend - "Lot's Wife." In the song, the character of Caroline has a total breakdown.
"I never thought I'd want to sing that song again in my life - but I've grown to love it," she says. "It's so challenging, physically and vocally; in rehearsals I dreaded every time I had to sing that song. But once we were into the run of the show, it just became a part of me. I finally made peace with it."
Oglesby says for her, both acting and singing on stage feel like a form of ministry. It's something she's been called to do.
"I know that these are God-given gifts, and two things that just come really naturally to me, and so I want to use these gifts in a way that honor him, that help people."
The accomplished actress never saw a play when she was growing up; there was no drama department in her high school. She wishes she'd had been exposed to theater earlier, and so she's put her energy into teaching kids in the Plymouth Christian Youth Center, who use the Capri Theater for their performances. She gets them excited about Romeo and Juliet, and gets them to write their own plays.
"I think it's so very very important that we do here with PCYC and the kids here; it so enriches their lives. It not only broadens their horizons but gives them life skills. I just watch them transform themselves. It enhances the lives of these kids in a way that is phenomenal and I see it day in and day out."
At the end of the year she's directing the kids in a play called "Dance on Widows' Row" - but this weekend it will just be Oglesby on stage, singing her heart out and giving thanks for the gifts she's been given.
Posted at 9:53 PM on April 6, 2011
by Marianne Combs
Filed under: People
He may have only been 46 when he died Tuesday night, but Tom Proehl had already had a profound impact on the performing arts scene in the Twin Cities.
The Moorhead native got his start working in the box office of the Guthrie Theater, then worked his way up to general manager, helping the theater to transition to its new home on the riverfront. He served as interim director fo the Minnesota State Arts Board for a year, and after a stint working with the American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco, returned last August to work at the University of Minnesota as the producing director of the theater arts and dance department.
The Star Tribune's Graydon Royce has written a nice obituary of Proehl, which you can read here.
Peter Fischli and David Weiss
The Snobs (the fashion show) from Wurst Series, 1979
Part of "Absentee Landlord" at the Walker Art Center
It's a press release that had me calling back the Walker just to make sure it wasn't an April Fools' prank.
John Waters, the man who has raised filth and sleaze to a subject of high art and cultural fascination, will bring his particular eye to the Walker Art Center in an exhibition titled "Absentee Landlord." It's comprised of 60 works, including pieces by Andy Warhol, Yves Klein and Willem de Kooning, among others. It opens on June 11.
Not content with keeping his art within gallery walls, Waters will also provide an audio accompaniment in Pig Latin, and custom designed admission tags. It will be interesting to see how his sound installation (featuring car crashes and squealing tires) will go over with patrons attempting to park in the Walker lot.
A filmmaker, writer and photographer, Waters is best known for his films "Pink Flamingos," "Hairspray" and "A Dirty Shame" but also has an extensive career as an installation artist, and is a performer in his own right.
As part of his visit, Waters will perform "This Filthy World," a sort -of vaudeville monologue lauding the world of filth, on June 10.
And now for this public service message:
Sheila Smith, Executive Director of Minnesota Citizens for the Arts, is heading to the White House. Smith, along with Minnesota State Arts Board Director Sue Gens, have been invited to take part in an arts briefing there on Tuesday afternoon.
Their trip is part of National Arts Advocacy Day, an event which actually takes up two days.
Smith says as part of the trip, Minnesota advocates will be talking with their members of Congress.
We know there is a big budget fight going on in DC and arts funding is a very small part of the big picture, but the arts are vitally important to our economy and huge employers, so we will be talking jobs. Some of our members of congress are important committees with jurisdiction over various arts things (For example, Betty McCollum of St Paul is high ranking minority member on Interior which funds the NEA) so when we meet with them we will be focusing on whatever committee they are on.
Smith says this is the first time in her memory that there's been a "White House Arts Briefing." Smith, who's been the MCA's Executive Director since 1996, says the last time I was at the White House was the day after Jesse Ventura was elected Governor:
It was for the presentation of the President's Arts & Humanities medals. Pres. Clinton made fun of Minnesota electing a pro-wrestler and I was very embarassed.
We'll check in with Smith when she gets back to find out just what gets discussed.
After a search which took a little longer than expected, the Minnesota Historical Society has named Stephen Elliott as its director and chief executive officer, effective May 1, 2011.
According to a release, Elliott has been the head of the New York State Historical Association since 2005, which involved leading both the Fenimore Art Museum and The Farmers' Museum. Before that, Elliott was the executive director of the First Freedom Center in Richmond, Va. He's also served on numerous museum, history, education and civic boards and currently is the chair of the American Association of State and Local History and the vice president of the Museum Association of New York.
Longtime MNHS director and CEO Nina Archabal announced her retirement in April of 2010, and expected to have a replacement ready when she stepped down at the end of the year. But when January came around, the search was not yet over, and so longtime staffer Michael J. Fox became interim director. Fox joined the Society in 1987; to ensure a smooth transition he will remain on staff until his planned retirement at the end of May.
Anton Treuer, professor of Ojibwe at Bemidji State University, takes home this year's Sally Award for Education.
Each year the Ordway Center for Performing Arts presents the Sally Awards to recognize individuals and institutions that have made outstanding contributions to the the state's culture and quality of life. This year the Ordway presented a newly expanded list of Sally Awards. In addition to the traditional categories of "Vision," "Education," "Initiative" and "Commitment," this year the Ordway added a fifth category: "Access."
So without further ado, here are the winners for the 2010 Sally Awards:
Education: Anton Treuer
Sometimes educating a future generation means also safeguarding the past. AntonTreuer is the editor of the only academic journal of the Ojibwe language.
Professor of Ojibwe at Bemidji State University, Treuer is the author of eight books including "The Assassination of Hole in the Day" and "Ojibwe in Minnesota," recently named "Minnesota's Best Read for 2010" by The Center for the Book in the Library of Congress. According to the Ordway's announcement, "Dr. Treuer has championed Minnesota's traditional indigenous art forms and has worked tirelessly to expand our definition of the arts to include oral narrative and story performance, especially as they intersect with the Ojibwe language."
Vision: Michelle Hensley and Ten Thousand Things Theater
Michelle Hensley, Artistic Director of Ten Thousand Things theater company, was awarded the 2010 Sally Award for Vision.As the founder and artistic director of Ten Thousand Things Theater, Hensley has filled a void by providing compelling theater to people who would normally not have access. That means she takes her veteran performers to prisons, homeless shelters and housing projects. Not satisfied with just performing to segregated groups, Hensley encourages audiences who would normally never step foot into a homeless shelter to make the journey with her, and rewards them with free performances.
Initiative Award: Kathy Mouacheupao and the Center for Hmong Arts and Talent (CHAT)
Over the years the Center for Hmong Arts and Talent has grown from a creative hub to social justice organization, using the arts to create change. Kathy Mouacheupao is the executive director for CHAT, which is now widely recognized as the leading Hmong American arts organization in the country. According to the Ordway "the annual Hmong Arts and Music Festival, sponsored by CHAT, has become a community celebration of Hmong culture, arts and expression." In addition, CHAT now hosts the "Fresh Traditions Fashion Show," featuring functional art designed by Hmong artists and blending contemporary designs with traditional Hmong fabrics.
Arts Access: Amy Stoller Stearns and the Historic Holmes Theatre/DLCCC
The first recipient of Ordway's "Access" award, Amy Stoller Stearns moved from Minneapolis to Detroit Lakes, Minn. in 2002. She got a job working as the box office manager of the newly opened Detroit Lakes Community Cultural Center, housed in the Historic Holmes Theatre. Today she's the executive director, and the DLCCC offers everything from local and regional acts to national and international performers. In order to make its programming as accessible as possible, the center offers artist visits to schools, discounted or free tickets to school groups, and a diverse array of performances.
As the Ordway announcement states, "when it opened nine years ago, no one quite knew what the Holmes Theatre would become, but today it's hard for most to imagine life in Detroit Lakes without it."
Commitment: Willie Murphy
Minneapolis native Willie Murphy is a charter member of the Minnesota Music Hall of Fame, and has performed with the likes of Bonnie Raitt, Joan Baez, Muddy Waters and Carl Perkins. He joined with folk musician "Spider" John Koerner to produce "Running, Jumping, Standing Still" in 1969. He formed "Willie and the Bees," whose music came to define R&B and Soul music in the 1970s and early '80s. In 1985 he launched his own record label, Atomic Theory. Not one to fade out in his later years, Murphy just released his latest album, "A Shot of Love in a Time of Need," in February. Oh and July 2 is "Willie Murphy Day" in St. Paul.
Congratulations to the winners!
Today on A Prairie Home Companion's website, Garrison Keillor updated his blog where he replies to fan questions. This time he took the opportunity to reply to the news this week that he plans to retire in the spring of 2013 (I've bolded the lines I think are of particular interest):
I'm in London, walking around under an umbrella with my daughter in hand, looking at fields of yellow and white daffodils, the flower that excited Wordsworth. This morning a reporter rang me up, as they say here, to ask if I am retiring in the spring of 2013, as reported in the papers. There isn't a simple answer to that. The simple fact is that mortality is a helpful prod that keeps us trotting along, mindful of our place in life, and awakens us to the beauty of spring daffodils (there being fewer springs ahead than behind) and reminds us performers not to hang around too long. There is a point at which people start to worry for you onstage and that's when you should hang it up. It's a delicate illusion we create and if we dodder and dither, the game is over. We've all seen old gaffers who pushed the public's loyalty much too far and it's not a pretty sight. Some performers put out twenty-year-old publicity photos. Mine show a 68-year-old man with bushy gray eyebrows and in some pictures he looks every bit his age. I was 32 when I started "A Prairie Home Companion" and now I'm looking down the road at 80. So what? Big deal. Welcome to the world.
I love this radio show which has been a solid fixture in my bumpy life and I want it to push on bravely into the future with new hosts and a new spirit, and to that end I am planning for the future. The spring of 2013 strikes me as a good time to step quietly into the wings and watch some younger livelier person step out. I am on the lookout for replacements. I hope to keep a gentle paternal connection to the show for years to come and to go on with "The Writers Almanac," and meanwhile I am looking forward to Nashville on the 26th and then New York and a flowering spring.
While Keillor did not take MPR's request for a phone interview, he did respond to an Associated Press query via e-mail.
Keillor told The Associated Press in a follow-up e-mail Wednesday that he'll be 70 in the spring of 2013, "and that seems like a nice round number."
"The reason to retire is to try to avoid embarrassment; you ought to do it before people are dropping big hints. You want to be the first to come up with the idea. You don't want to wait until you trip and fall off the stage," Keillor told the AP.
You can tune in to All Things Considered at 5:50pm to hear my update on the story with host Tom Crann.(1 Comments)
Posted at 3:48 PM on March 16, 2011
by Marianne Combs
Filed under: People
I should have noted earlier - YES, I've put in a request to interview Garrison Keillor. David O'Neill, his public relations person, replied saying "Sorry, he's unavailable."
Now you may be thinking "but you're MPR! And he's Garrison Keillor!"
Both facts are true, but just a reminder that Garrison Keillor ceased being an employee of MPR years ago, when he formed the company "Prairie Home Productions."
So while MPR's parent company American Public Media distributes A Prairie Home Companion to other radio stations, the show is produced by a separate company. So if Keillor doesn't want to talk to us, he doesn't have to talk to us.
Posted at 3:12 PM on March 16, 2011
by Marianne Combs
Filed under: People
A Prairie Home Companion is not just a big money-maker for Minnesota Public Radio; MPR's parent company American Public Media sells the show to public radio stations across the country. In turn, those stations use the show to draw in listeners, and garner both membership and underwriting support.
So as soon as word hit that Garrison Keillor is proposing "spring 2013" as his retirement date, American Public Media reached out to its many clients with the following message:
You may have seen today an AARP online interview regarding Garrison's new book "Good Poems: American Places". In it, Garrison discusses his future and retirement in two years:
Garrison has been open in talking about his own future and in working out ways for A Prairie Home Companion to continue for many years to come. Both Garrison Keillor and APM are very committed to the success of the program now and to planning and preparing for the next phase of APHC. APM is supportive of Garrison's plans for the program in the near and longer term and we will keep stations informed as planning unfolds. We know this is important to you. APHC is continuing in its present form for the foreseeable future.
Stay tuned - soon I'll have one radio station manager's response to the situation.
Just chatted with MPR President and CEO, Bill Kling, who takes a rather blasé attitude toward Keillor's announcement that he plans to retire from A Prairie Home Companion in the spring of 2013.
"I don't consider it news because Garrison has been talking about things like this for the last couple of years and when Garrison says it, it doesn't necessarily mean anything more than that morning's musings," said Kling.
"I've known him for 44 years and I don't think there is a version of Garrison that you could call 'retirement.' So you can't sit down and say 'well there's a date given, he's going to retire on that date, that will be the last show, a search firm will be engaged to find a new Garrison Keillor' - none of that fits."
Instead Kling imagines there's going to be a very long transition as Keillor tries out new and different ideas for the show, and gradually cedes more artistic control to people he trusts.(3 Comments)
In an interview with the AARP Bulletin Keillor names his planned retirement date. When asked if he plans to "scale back," Keillor responded:
"I am planning to retire in the spring of 2013, but first I have to find my replacement. I'm pushing forward, and also I'm in denial. It's an interesting time of life."
A flurry of chatter and dismay erupted in mid-January when it was announced that Keillor would step aside as host for the Jan. 15 performance at the Fitzgerald Theater in St. Paul, instead appearing as a guest.
Speculation immediately began that this was a precursor to retirement for Keillor, who has hosted the show since he created it in the 1970s.
I'll be working on a more in-depth story for tonight - stay tuned.
Patrick Castillo is very proud of his band.
"This is a very good Baroque band," he said the other morning. "And so we're going to have those muscles of the orchestra flexed with the music by Bach and the music by Handel."
His band, by the way, is the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, and he's the artistic planning director. He was talking about the SPCO's 2011-2012 season which is released this morning.
"We are also going to have five world premieres so showing a very broad spectrum of music that I think the SPCO excels at," he said.
The new season samples works from half a millenium, but really highlights new music. The season opens with a new oratorio by New York composing phenom Nico Muhly, who has been playing regularly at the Southern Theater over the past few years.
Castillo says if the season has a theme it's simply to explore great music.
"We have the music of Bach and Handel, but we also have five world premieres and a lot of other living composers represented in our 11-12 season," he said.
He singles out a string symphony by Lara Auerbach which will also premier in the fall.
"She is a very dynamic composer, pianist, poet. Really kind of a consummate artist," he said. "A little bit of a throwback to the comprehensive artistry that we saw with the composers of the late 19th century. You know, these piano virtuosos who took the stage in their own piano concerti. So she'll be performing her works as well during a week-long residency with us."
Castillo says the artistic partner model which the SPCO has been using for several years now continues to work well, with both the commissioning of new work and the deeper exploration of the music of the past. He points to a series of concerts planned for Dawn Upshaw.
"If you want to play Bach, you don't just play Bach, but you play Bach with the best Bach people and I think our artistic partner roster allows us to do things like that."
The SPCO will also revamp its website, and build up the availability of archived concerts online.
Doug Block's daughter Lucy is no stranger to cameras. With a documentary maker for a dad that's not surprising.
"She always loved being on camera, and we always enjoyed shooting each other over the years," he told me from New York the other day. Block (left with Lucy as a girl) says video was just part of their lives. "I really liked interviewing Lucy periodically, and she really liked to interview me."
While he wondered over the years about whether these chats could turn into something more, he always dismissed the idea because he didn't think anyone else would want to watch it.
However the idea never totally disappeared. He says while he has seen many movies about parenting, in fact he'd even made one himself called "51 Birch Street," he'd never seen a film about the subject actually from a parent's perspective.
Then when he woke up one morning and realized it was just about a year till Lucy was likely to head to college. The idea of doing a sweet little film about his child evaporated as he realized how much he worried about what was going to happen. Another movie idea began to form.
"It was probably a bit more bittersweet film about bringing a child up, only to let her go" he said. He decided that could work and he swung into action.
Block will introduce the 7.15 screening of the resulting film "The Kids Grow Up" at the Film Society at St Anthony Main tomorrow night. .
The movie tells the tale of that last year, mixing the narrative with the material Block has gathered throughout Lucy's girlhood. In some ways she has changed a great deal, in other ways the same personality shines through.
Lucy then and now Images courtesy Shadow Distribution
That final year wasn't a simple shoot. As Block's anxiety mounted Lucy began to chafe. With the time of her departure drawing near, she suddenly announced the filming was weighing down on her, and tore into her father as his camera rolled.
"Suddenly I was confronted with that nightmare of the documentary film maker which is what do you do?" Block said. "I am a parent first and a film maker second. Yet we are right at the end of the shooting and the film has become my baby, and you are protective of the film as well. It just caught me totally off guard."
It's tough to watch, but Block says she never explicitly told him to turn off the camera. He went with his gut and kept rolling, knowing he was on dangerous ground..
"You are trying to live your life and at the same time film it and be objective: stand at a distance and see yourself as a character in a film and yet really the top priority is that you are living your own life, and you are really there for your own family. I don't recommend it," he said.
It's then the film takes on a subplot of whether it will ever get finished.
There are other tough moments in the film, including some scenes where his wife Marjorie deals with a depressive episode which confines her to bed.
Block admits many people might feel the scenes of Lucy's meltdown and Marjorie's illness are to use his words "wildly inappropriate." However he says neither of them stopped him from including them in the film. In fact he says Marjorie is proud that what happened to her is shown.
This isn't the first film Doug Block has using his own family as subject matter. "51 Birch Street" began as an exploration of his parent's long marriage. However it developed a twist after his father married his former secretary very shortly after he mother died.
Block says he doesn't film his family continuously, just five minutes here and there, before he quickly puts the camera away. However he now has a huge archive of material on which to draw as he considers his personal history.
He believes the film making has actually brought his family closer together. He says Marjorie told him he never listens more carefully to her than when he interviews her.
"And so we have these very honest conversations on camera. It gave me the chance to watch and observe my family," he said.
In "The Kids Grow Up" the conversations between husband and wife are brief but intense, as they navigate what turns out to be a tumultuous year.
Block says Lucy was shown the first cuts, including the toughest scenes, and she was given the chance to nix the film if she didn't want it to go forward. She gave the project her blessing.
The film premiered last year, and Block says he's now taken it to about 20 different cities. It will air on HBO in June around Father's Day. He says people really like it when they see it in a theater.
"Now and again we run into someone, usually when they have seen it on DVD, not in a theater, who gets a little taken aback at my seemingly excessive recording of my daughter and probably thinks I am the worlds worst parent and should be locked away forever," he laughed.
The critics have loved it too. Block says the reviews are the best he's received in his career.
He's now working on the DVD of "The Kids Grow Up," which includes the only interview he's done with Lucy since the day they dropped her off at college. It answers the question he is always asked at screenings about what she thinks of the film. Block admits Lucy's reactions are mixed.
"On the one hand she thinks its a really good film, and she's happy that audiences really respond to it," he said. "On the other hand there's one or two scenes that embarrass her."
While he's now making a film about long term marriages, drawing on wedding videos he's shot over the years to supplement his other work, Block also says the Lucy project is truly over.
At the end of "The Kids Grow Up" he talks about how he looks forward to having wonderful conversations with his daughter without the camera rolling.
"And," he said, "That's exactly what we've had for the last three and a half years."
It's been almost a year since Patrick Dougherty (right) visited the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum to build a huge site-specific sculpture out of sticks and twigs he collected nearby.
The Arboretum's Manager of Interpretation & Public Programs Sandy Tanck admits staff were worried that what Dougherty named the "Uff Da Palace" might not do well in with the season's heavy snowfall.
"We weren't sure, but it managed to weather all of our snow this winter beautifully," she said when I visited last week.
It has changed however. Now, 10 months after work finished this is how it looks.
Tanck says every day she sees people stop to stare, and even to clamber inside to check out the intricately woven interior, and the views out of the various windows and doors.
"It seems to be limitless in its ability to inspire wonder and just serve as a magnet to draw people right into it," she said. This is even though the recent thaw freeze cycle has coated the floor with a bed of ice, which leaves some people clutching at their companions as they slip and slide through.
Dougherty tells the places where he builds to expect one excellent year from one of his works, and then one good year. He generally suggests taking them down after that as the elements take their toll.
Tanck says the Palace has become a fixture, and this summer's sculptural exhibit of Steve Tobin's Steel Roots series was designed with the interplay between the new show and Dougherty's work in mind.
"That one is a remarkable piece in that it's got this playful aspect that kind of suggests forts and I have overheard children say "Dad we've got to build one of these in our back yard. All the adults walking by are just mesmerized by it too."
"It's been a very interesting experience for the Arboretum to explore using art to connect people with plants," Tanck continued, "because there are these artists working in this arena who are creating amazing works."
The Steel Roots exhibit doesn't open until April, but many of the pieces are already in place because riggers wanted to take advantage of the frozen ground to get the heavier pieces in place. Things didn't entirely go to plan, but more of that later.
Even as I write Chris Roberts is putting together a great piece deconstructing one of the tracks on Sims' new "Bad Time Zoo" album. Sims and his Doomtree collaborator Lazerbeak will mark the albums release with a party tomorrow night at the Fine Line in Minneapolis, with Dessa, POS, Cecil Otter, and Mike Mictlan all lending a hand. You can hear Chris grill Sims and Lazerbeak on Monday morning, but in the meantime here's a cracking video they put together with the folks at MPLS.TV, featuring the album's title track.
Frank L. Sonntag took a tour of his new home today and he admits it was both exciting and emotional. The recently named executive director of the Cowles Center for Dance and the Performing Arts says he was stopped short by the sight of a class underway at the Minnesota Dance Theater School.
"And I was standing looking through a glass wall into the studio that was filled with these, you know, four-year old, five-year-old ballerinas. They were doing stretching exercises, bending back and forth, and the hallways were lined with parents. and... I got a little choked up," he said this afternoon.
He notes this is a sight he's likely to see a lot in coming months and years. Not only does the Cowles Center, which comprises the Shubert Theater and the Hennepin Center for the Arts, serve as a performance and rehearsal space, it's home to some 20 dance and performance groups, and two dance schools.
"It's astounding, the level of activity that happens right here," he said.
The Cowles Center will celebrate its grand opening on September 9th.
At a time when the tough economy has put paid to a number of dance venues around the country, a new dance venue is a rarity. Sonntag, who was general manager at the Brooklyn Center for the Performing Arts in New York, says being able to shape such a venue from the ground up is "the opportunity of a lifetime."
He's filled with praise for Kelly Lindquist and the rest of the ArtSpace team which has wrestled with the project for years and brought it to this point. He says the way they have put it together is very smart.
"I think it's remarkable and I think that it's rare," he said. He says the Cowles set-up is very sound
"In part because of the economies of scale that is created by having all of these cultural non-profits in one building, and that's very appealing."
He's looking forward to helping provide a new level of support for these organizations in terms of marketing, fundraising, and management advice as needed. Not only is his goal to make the organizations stronger, the Cowles Center mission is to grow the dance audience in Minnesota.
He also likes the Cowles Center education component, including a distance-learning project which is available to every teacher in Minnesota.
Sonntag officially takes up his new post next week, and he's very much in the getting settled mode. But he says he's ready.
"The challenges, they are many. Fundraising is always a challenge, and anyone who says fundraising is easy is lying, because it isn't, and particularly in this kind of economic environment it gets much more difficult. But you know a lot of the heavy lifting has been done."
"I am coming in for the sexy part," he continued. "The bricks and mortar are rising, and I just walked through the theater, and when you stand in the auditorium and look at the proscenium opening it's very exciting. And I think that the community here will get more and more excited about it as the finishes come on- line, and I really look forward to that."
David Hyde Pierce
If you've ever walked the halls of the Guthrie Theater and checked out the many images of past performances, you probably recognized the face of David Hyde Pierce. The actor, best known for his role as Kelsey Grammer's brother Niles in the long-running comedy "Frasier," was a member of the Guthrie Theater acting company from 1983 to 1986, appearing in such shows as The Seagull, Cyrano de Bergerac and A Midsummer Night's Dream.
On Sunday, March 13, Pierce will return to the Guthrie stage - not to perform, but to talk - as part of the Guthrie Theater's In Conversation series, hosted by Artistic Director Joe Dowling. Tickets go on sale February 17.(1 Comments)
Minnesota artist Carl Bohnen painting a portrait of Governor Theodore Christianson
Image courtesy of the Minnesota Historical Society
As soon as I posted the news late yesterday that Governor Pawlenty had chosen Rossin to paint his official gubernatorial portrait, I started getting comments - via Facebook, MPR e-mail, and in person - questioning the decision. There are plenty of Minnesota artists who do portraits - so why not keep the tax dollars funding the painting (which is costing $25-30,000) in the state by hiring a Minnesotan?
Now I knew that Governor Ventura had also gone beyond the state borders to find the artist who painted his portrait (Arizona native and California resident Stephen Cepello), but I wondered, how many other governors had made this same choice?
Not many, according to the Minnesota Historical Society's art curator Brian Szott. Szott did me the favor of digging into the MHS archives, and found that only one other governor - Orville Freeman - was painted by a non-Minnesotan (Hungarian born portrait artist Elisabeth Mihalyi). In one other instance, for Governor Luther Youngdahl's portrait, it is unclear if the artist Louis A. Grendahl was ever a Minnesota resident.
So out of 39 governors, three (possibly four) chose to go outside the state of Minnesota to find a portrait artist. Why? Is it because we're now living in a more globalized society? (not likely - Orville Freeman served in 1955) Is it a political thing? (also unlikely, since those who chose non-Minnesotans were a democrat, an independent and a republican, respectively). Or were they concerned about their image at the national level? Hmm....
I've put a query into the Governor's Office to ask for Pawlenty's reasoning, and I'll post it here as soon as I get a response.(5 Comments)
Governor Tim Pawlenty, like other governors before him, will have a painting of his likeness hanging in the state capitol.
While Minnesota has plenty of great artistic talent to choose from, Pawlenty has chosen Rossin (a.k.a. Ross R. Rossin - he likes to simply go by his last name), a Bulgarian-born painter based in Atlanta, Georgia. Rossin was the portrait artist of both President George H. W. Bush and President George W. Bush. Rossin and his family moved to the United States in 2001, and he became an American citizen earlier this year.
A portrait of the two Presidents Bush, painted by Rossin
Rossin is also known for his incredibly lifelike portraits of American icons such as Jackie Kennedy and Britney Spears.
Governor Pawlenty's official portrait will be unveiled in 2011 in conjunction with the Minnesota Historical Society. The cost of the portrait - between $25,000 and $30,000 - will be paid with funds from the Governor's Office budget.
For reference, Governor Jesse Ventura's portrait was painted by Stephen Cepello, who works in California.
So if you were going to have someone paint your portrait, who would it be?(2 Comments)
On a Saturday visit to Minnesota artist Ken Moylan's studio, I felt as if I were overlooking a garden in Kyoto, Japan, even though my feet were planted in St Louis Park.
Moylan (no relation to MPR reporter Martin Moylan) creates three-dimensional artwork that gives the viewer the sense of standing in a space, looking through a window and onto a view. His artwork typically consists of an intricately detailed window frame surrounding an oil painting that contains the realism and plays of light similar to the work of American landscape painters such as Thomas Moran or Albert Bierstadt.
Much of Moylan's work depicts places he's actually visited. Kyoto's Ginkaku-ji Temple, for example. "It's communicating the way I see things, trying to give as much of an experience of that," Moylan says. "I communicate through my work."
Ken Moylan's Ginkaku-ji (2006)
Moylan's art combines what he calls "the big three": painting, sculpture and architecture. "Those are the three widely accepted strong categories of fine art, historically," he says. "I thought the combination was a great idea for making grounded, strong work and for having a fertile ground of ideas, references and inspirations."
A recent work is Moylan's Great Buddha of Bamiyan, which portrays a view of a massive stone carving in Afghanistan. The actual Great Buddha was created circa 300 CE but was destroyed by the Taliban in 1999.
Great Buddha of Bamiyan (2010)
"I was inspired to preserve the memory apart from what the fanatics did to it," Moylan explains. "It's like when someone close to you dies, you don't necessarily want to have their death mask around. You'd rather remember the good memories, so maybe it's similar to that."
A full-time artist since 1981, Moylan grew up in Eveleth, Minn., and attended the Minneapolis College of Art and Design, where he studied printmaking, painting and drawing. Moylan's unique artwork evolved from a vision he had that riffed on Marcel Duchamp's 1924 sculpture Fresh Widow. He's been expanding on that vision ever since.
"I have an order in which I do things, and it's totally opposite of the order that any other artist works in," Moylan says of his process. "Most artists make a painting and then they'll frame it or get it framed. Mine physically starts with the frame."
When he begins a new work, Moylan makes a scale drawing and determines time of day, direction of light, materials and composition. He then builds the wooden frame, using inlay techniques such as intarsia and marquetry to develop the architectural space. From there, he'll do any stonework or carving. The final steps involve applying gesso to the surface that will be painted, then using oil paints to create the view outside the window. "I go through rolls and rolls of masking tape," Moylan chuckles. "All the detail work I do at the end is done with really small brushes, and I burn through them at a ridiculous rate."
Paintbrushes in Ken Moylan's studio
Japanese landscapes are close to Moylan's heart. His wife is originally from Japan and after spending much time there, Moylan was inspired to do a series of Japanese places. He's currently working on a piece called Hiroshima Hypocenter, which depicts a view from a shattered casement after the 1945 atomic blast. "Since that moment 65 years ago, the whole world just shifted, just changed, and it affected everything about everything from that moment on," Moylan says.
Hiroshima Hypocenter (2010)
He's also delving into the world of imagination by bringing to life the fantastical works of Giovanni Battista Piranesi, an 18th-century engraver who etched a series of imagined views. True to form, Moylan is creating an architectural space the viewer can inhabit.
Moylan poses with his Piranesi-inspired work, still in progress.
Although he has made many standalone paintings, Moylan thinks his works that integrate the frame communicate more powerfully. "If they were just paintings, I don't think that they would be really anything all that special," he says. "To me, it's not enough. I have something else to contribute. ... I think having that added illusion and that added sense of point-of-view creates a much more engaging work to experience."
More of Moylan's work as well as a list of his exhibitions, commissions and the collections in which his work appears are on his website, kenmoylan.com.(4 Comments)
The Ramsey County Medical Examiner has ruled the death of 28 year-old Mike Larsen, known to his fans as Eyedea, the result of an accidental overdose that led to "opiate toxicity."
Larsen was half of hip-hop duo Eyedea and Abilities; he was found dead in his apartment on October 16. Thousands attended a memorial for Larsen held at the Crowne Plaza Hotel. Musicians organized a tribute concert at First Avenue on November 9th, Larsen's birthday.
Larsen and his childhood friend, Max Keltgen, recorded three albums as Eyedea and Abilities under Atmosphere's label, Rhymesayers Entertainment. Eyedea and Abilities were Atmosphere's backup rapper and turntablist in the late 1990s.(1 Comments)
As a high school student in California, I loved listening to broadcasts of LA Theatre Works on the local public radio station. Each week LATW presented dramatic readings of notable play by famous actors, and my imagination got to create the staging.
So it's with a bit of nostalgia I read the news that Penumbra Theatre's Artistic Director Lou Bellamy will be heading to Los Angeles this month to directo LATW's production of "A Raising in the Sun" by Lorraine Hansberry. The show runs November 17-21 at the Skirball Cultural Center in the hills of Santa Monica, and then will be broadcast at a later date on MPR's sister station KPCC in Southern California, as well as on public radio stations in Chicago, Boston, Atlanta, Seattle, and San Francisco (but alas, not in the Twin Cities).
The LATW show stars Judyann Elder, James Gleason, Noah Gray-Cabey (Heroes), Deidrie Henry, Terrell Tilford, Rutina Wesley (HBO's True Blood) and Mirron Willis.
Lou Bellamy directed a fully staged performance of A Raisin in the Sun at the Guthrie Theater in March and April of 2009.
Patricia Mitchell says one of the best parts of her job is when she serves as a "one person prize patrol."
As President of the Ordway Center for the Performing Arts she gets to drive around Minnesota to quietly tell the winners of the annual Sally Awards that they should turn up to the gala celebration in March. Then she has to swear them to secrecy.
To complicate matters, she also has to ask them if there are any friends who should get invitations to the gala, although again there can only be a hint as to why.
"We have a little slip that goes into the invitation that says 'This invitation is sent to you at the request of one of this year's honorees.' And Wendy Lehr, who was honored the year before last, said 'The women in my bridge club kept saying they'd got this invitation, and they just couldn't figure out why,'" Mitchell laughed.
Mitchell is out beating the bushes for a couple of reasons this year. First of all there is a new Sally, the Legacy award.
"There have been until now four category of awards: for vision, committment, initiative and education. And this year inspired by the Legacy Amendment, we have decided to add an award specifically to reward individuals or programs that increase the access to the arts for people in Minnesota."
So what does that mean?
"Well, the interesting thing is you get other people's ideas as to what access means," she responds." When I think of it, it's ways to connect people and arts experience, either by giving them direct experience of practicing art, or witnessing it, or listening to it or participating in it. Anything that brings people and art together is increasing access in our book."
Mitchell is also getting the word out that she's looking for nominations from all over the state of Minnesota. The Sallys have always had a healthy metro representation, but she knows there is great art going on all over the state.
Nominations are open now through November 15th. Mitchell stresses anyone can make a nomination, and you can nominate yourself, (as people have already done.) The awards ceremony is March 22nd, but Mitchell will have been on the road on her secret trip before that.
"So if you get a mysterious invitation, come," she laughs again.
Jeff Rathermel, the new Executive Director of the Minnesota Center for Book Arts in Minneapolis.
After a six month search for a new Executive Director, the Minnesota Center for Book Arts has named its own Artistic Director, Jeff Rathermel, to the position.
For the past six months Rathermel has been serving as interim Executive Director in addition to his curatorial and program management duties. While the MCBA board conducted a national search, in a letter to members Board Chair Luca Gunther stated "Jeff Rathermel stood apart outstandingly from the other applicants" due to his deep understanding of the craft, his sense of innovation and his management experience.
A press release announcing Rathermel's appointment stated it "is a sign that MCBA is refocusing its mission on the artist."
Back in April the MCBA let go of its then Executive Director, Dorothy Goldie, just as the organization was celebrating its 25th anniversary, citing a desire to expand its scope and reach as an organization.
This just in from the Museum of Russian Art in Minneapolis: Executive Director (and former Minnesota State Auditor) Judi Dutcher is resigning her position at the museum to become Executive Director of the Bentson Foundation in Edina. The Museum's Board also announced that Bradford Shinkle, IV will rejoin the Museum, resuming the position of Executive Director that he previously held. The transition of Executive Director of the Museum of Russian Art takes effect December 1, 2010.
Shortly after the thousands of runners thundered past the theater for the Twin Cities marathon Guthrie patrons had the opportunity for a different kind of marathon: spending a day watching all three parts of Tricycle Theatre's "The Great Game: Afghanistan."
I was unable to make the full committment, but took in the first two parts on Sunday. Even at just 5 hours it was an overwhelming experience, with a huge amount of information and history crammed into the show.
One of the advantages of doing the daylong event is sharing the experience with the same group of audience members, and chatting with them at the intermissions, and between the parts.
Here are some observations and thoughts arising from the experience.
---This morning listening the latest news out of Afghanistan and Pakistan on the radio suddenly made a lot more sense. Well, maybe not sense, but it was a little more understandable.
---If ever there was an embodiment of the statement 'those who do not learn from history are destined to repeat it' it is Afghanistan. There were more than a few ironic guffaws from the audience during Part One, which examines the British attempts to control the area starting in 1842, at statements from the would-be conquerors of the 19th century, which sound uncannily close to contemporary views of the outside interests in Afghanistan.
--- Despite its epic length, The Great Game displays the power of the short drama, comprising as it does of a dozen plays, interspersed by statements and speeches from major figures in Afghan history. Some of the plays are more engaging than others, and almost all of them are heavy on the exposition. However as Tricycle's Artistic Director Nick Kent mentioned when we talked a week or so ago, they are indeed like buses. If you don't like one, just wait a bit, and another will be along behind it.
---The first two parts of "The Great Game: Afghanistan" ended with the lights suddenly coming up, leaving the audience blinking in mild bemusement. Several people commented on how it felt abrupt, and incomplete. On reflection though this sense of dislocation seems appropriate as a mild reminder of the abrupt changes which many people have experienced over the years as a result of the conflicts in Afghanistan.
--- In the audience, some people were taking the epic side of "The Great Game: Afghanistan" very seriously. I met a gentleman called John from Denver who declined to give his last name, who, having read that Oskar Eustis of the Public Theater in New York thinks this show is one of the most important pieces of drama to be shown in the US this year jumped in his car and headed to Minneapolis. When I met him on Sunday afternoon he was partway through his second viewing of the entire cycle. He told me he was seeing linkages between the plays which he had not experienced the first time round. John said he didn't think seeing the plays one night at a time could have the same effect. He wasn't sure when he was leaving for home, as he was still pacing himself.
---It turned out there were other challenges during the first day of the entire cycle. Apparently the automated city parking lot across the street from the Guthrie has ticket machines which are designed for a maximum of 10 hour stays. To watch the entire cycle with all the breaks takes 12 hours, and a lot of people found themselves on Saturday night unable to exit the lot. The Guthrie staff say it's all been sorted now.
---During the second part of the show, which covers the Russian Invasion of Afghanistan and the rise of the Taliban, I sat next to Said Lotfullah Najafizada, an editor with the Quqnoos News Agency in Kabul. He's in the Twin Cities as part of the World Press Institute Fellowship. He specifically asked to see the Russian section as it covered the part of history before he was born. He somewhat wistfully pointed out he had lived through the third part of the play covering from September 2001 to 2008. As the lights came up at the end, he was blinking too. When asked what he thought he said he thought it was good, although there were some elements where it was clear Tricycle has used a lot of dramatic license. I told him about the much used-quote from Robert Burns asking that "some great power give us the gift to see ourselves as others see us," but it seemed to me he needed more time to process what he had seen and to give me a considered response.
---One of Sunday's weirder episodes for me was sitting next to two two long-time denizens of the Twin Cities theater scene, who taken together must have close to a century of dramatic experience. For some reason the first show launched without the now traditional exhortation to mute, kill, or otherwise control your mobile communicators. Perhaps as a result I witnessed these two gentlemen who I think I should not identify for various reasons, spent a good 10 minutes grunting, beeping, groaning and generally wrestling with some misbehaving cell phone function. They relocated for later parts of the show.
Now, 24 hours after leaving the theater the images and voices of "The Great Game: Afghanistan" are still running through my thoughts.
If there is anyone else who went through the experience and wants to share their observations please feel free to share in the comments box.
Jonathan Franzen talks with Kerri Miller on the "storied boards" of Fitzgerald Theater.
Attending Jonathan Franzen's talk at the Fitzgerald Theater Tuesday night was surprisingly delightful. But then I didn't go with much more information in my head than "he writes really big books that the critics love, and he dissed Oprah."
So imagine my surprise when Franzen, author of The Corrections, and more recently Freedom took the stage, and what unfolded was a conversation of great honesty, humor and warmth.
If you weren't able to get a ticket to the event (it was sold out quite early on), it was rebroadcast on Midmorning today, and the audio link is above. But for those who don't have an hour to spare, here are a few choice quotes:
1. On Minnesota, that "convivial planet" where his family hails from, where he spent many summers visiting relatives, and where much of Freedom is set:
It's a refreshing thing to come to the Twin Cities because there's... it really is a great cultural center and people take things like books and theater and music and good radio seriously in a way they don't everywhere in the country.
I was thinking about the fact that my parents were not particularly good at culture - they weren't readers, and the Nutcrackers was almost the extreme end of their classical taste - and that's no diss to the nutcracker - but I was thinking that what they had in common was some notion of at least acknowledging the authority of important ideas and of serious, well-made things.
They expressed that in different ways but I think that's money in the bank for somebody growing up who's going to be a writer or actor or something to come from a place were people still at least notionally take things a little seriously.
2. On writing - Franzen said some of the most formative books of his youth were Gone with the Wind and Watership Down, and that he had no desire to write a novel set in Washington D.C. because how could you top the great political drama that is reality?
You really don't have to know that much to write novels - that was the great attraction to me. It's more about creating a vivid and persuasive simulacrum - it's not about having the facts.
3. On fame, and how it inspired him to write a memoir at a relatively young age.
I'd been so exposed; I'd lived in blissful obscurity without realizing it was blissful. It didn't seem very good to me and I was desperately trying to get out of it, but once I was out of it there were some bumps along the way. and just the sensation of being explosed - some in very direct obvious ways - being on tv, being on the radio, seeing my picture in the paper, things like that - especially seeing a particularly bad AP picture over and over... and in a more general way, people say nasty things when you're getting a lot of attention, so I wanted to try to expose myself in a way that would paradoxically restore a bit of privacy - put on a mask, try to make the mask as life like as possible, but knowing it's a mask, would enable me to go on having my life behind it. That was the impulse behind it.
4. Lastly, on Oprah, and how Franzen went from being "uninvited" from her book club back in 2001, to invited once again just last week:
People have been coming up to me at book signings and writing me letters saying "I'm so glad you didn't do that show- I hate that woman!" How many times do I have to say "I don't hate that woman?"She's done wonderful things for books. And her project - which is daring - to try to expand the audience for not-so-easy reading is a noble one.
I actually don't think I was the first writer to be uncomfortable with the special [Oprah] covers that interrupted the design of the jacket, and the B-roll footage of you walking around, looking contemplative in your home town. I was just the first person to talk about how phony it was... I think others writers had been uncomfortable with this and at least one other author got in touch with me to say that she, too, hated it. And Oprah honestly didn't know - and I think she was genuinely apalled.
It will be interesting to see if Oprah gets as interesting and honest a conversation with Franzen when he appears on her show in November.
Yesterday I had two opportunities to hear Norwegian novelist Per Petterson speak. Last night the acclaimed author of Out Stealing Horses and I Curse the River of Time spoke before an audience at the Guthrie Theater, and earlier in the day he appeared on MPR's Midmorning with Kerri Miller.
If I had known in advance just how much he would repeat himself in the two conversations, I might not have bothered attending the evening event. But I'm glad I did.
Petterson, a diminuitive, soft-spoken man, went into great detail about the way in which he writes, which many aspiring writers might find surprising.
Rather than start out with a plot outline, or a character sketch, Petterson simply begins writing.
I just start on the first page. Perhaps I have an image, or a first sentence. I think it's going to be one story but then it turns into something else. And I tell the reader what I know as soon as I know it. I don't keep any secrets - that's cheating.
Petterson's stories draw heavily from his own family life, whether it's the character of the father in Out Stealing Horses or the mother in I Curse the River of Time. Petterson says he doesn't write about what happened, but about what could have happened.
Petterson decided he needed to be a writer when he was 18. He wanted to create in others the feelings that his favorite authors created in him.
For the next two weeks, he said, he suffered with the desire to create something amazing, but in total fear of failure. That's when he realized that to be a writer was to suffer.
Seventeen years later he finally finished his first story.
"When it's unfinished it still has som much potential," he chuckled, "but when it's finished you see how small it really is."
Petterson said he also doesn't believe a good book should necessarily be entertaining, or easy. He said a truly great story should reveal to the reader some truth about their own life, and often times it's a painful revelation. "I always move toward the pain," he said, in a conversation with Graywolf Press' Editor Fiona McCrae on the Guthrie stage.
McCrae, for her part, talked about what the editors at Graywolf call the "Petterson ache," after one editor finished reading Out Stealing Horses and dubbed it "achingly good."
Director Amir Bar-Lev doesn't mince words about the central character in his new film, which opens in the Twin Cities this weekend.
"The icon Pat Tillman is a guy the real Pat Tillman would have hated," he says over the phone. "Because Pat Tillman was by all accounts a guy who was incredibly loyal, incredibly driven, and had incredibly strong beliefs. But one of his greatest qualities was he was always willing to challenge his own beliefs."
Tillman was the talented football player who caused a sensation by setting aside a contract with the NFL to join the US Army after the September 11th attacks. He served a tour of duty in Iraq and then died during his second tour, this time in Afghanistan. At first the US Army reported he died protecting his platoon. Weeks later the military changed its story and admitted "friendly fire" killed Tillman.
The admission came with an apology, but Bar-Lev says it's not worth much.
"If you look back over the last four or five years you'll find that the military, the government have repeatedly apologized to the Tillman family for the mistakes that they have made. This is one of these apologies that's not an apology at all. It's actually a piece of the deception."
Bar-Lev's compelling documentary "The Tillman Story" explores what happened, before during and after Tillman's death. He's also blunt about what he sees as a government cover-up.
"The smugness with which they lied to the American people, it reflects poorly on all of us really," he says.
"The Tillman Story" points its finger all the way up the chain of command, and attacks the claim that the generals and the Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld didn't know about an effort to suppress the fact that Tillman died as a result of his own side's attack.
Yet Bar-Lev says the responsibility needs to be shared even further.
"I think it's all to easy to try to chalk this up on the last administrations or something like that. But look, their lies worked because the press ate it up, and the press ate it up because we ate it up."
He readily admits the film's debt to Danny Tillman, Pat's mother, who never accepted the official line on what happened. Bar-Lev says the military made a major miscalculation about Danny.
"They handed over 3500 pages of documents related to Pat's death, over to Danny, expecting that she would never actually pour through them," he says.
But go through them she did, despite the fact that many of the pages were black with redactions. She enlisted help from a former Army Ranger who explained and further researched what the official documents said. Bar-Lev says his film stands on the shoulders of Danny Tillman's work.
Bar-Lev says his own view of Pat Tillman changed as he learned more.
"The more we got to know Pat, the more we liked him, the more human he got and the more heroic we actually felt he was," Bar-Lev says. "You know it's hard to emulate a cartoon character. That's one of the things this family's been struggling to correct. If we want to have heroes we can live up to, who we can try an teach kids about, these have to be people who aren't one dimensional caricatures, and that's exactly what Pat has become in his death."
Bar-Lev's last film "My Kid Could Paint That," explored the story of Marla Olmstead, a young girl whose abstract paintings began fetching huge money from collectors. Then people began questioning whether she was actually creating the pictures.
Bar-Lev says there are real parallels between the films. Both are about story-telling he says, and they are both about people who didn't talk publicly about their motivations, Tillman because of his personal philosophy, and Olmstead because she was eight.
"Neither of them said much," Bar-Lev explains. "And in their silence the rest of us came in and spoke volumes about them while disregarding who they actually were, or what were the actual facts."
When asked what impact he hopes for "The Tillman Story" Bar-Lev says he wants members of the public to be more skeptical about what they are told.
"This is a story which should cause people to question something the next time it sounds like a Hollywood thriller," he says.
He also says the story isn't over. He expect there will be more revelations in time.
"When you hear that word 'mistakes' and you'll hear it more and more as this film gets more widely disseminated, you know that the government has not yet come clean," he says.
He has a couple of other things he wants to come of the movie.
"What we hoped would happen with this film is in a way we are giving Pat back to his family and taking him away from this realm of the mythological."
"Because I think we all kind of grabbed at Pat after his death. The Right grabbed at him. Then the Left grabbed at him. The press grabbed at him and he doesn't belong to us. He belongs to his family."
You can hear the first of my conversation with Amir Bar-Lev here: Listen
And here he talks about the iconography surrounding Pat Tillman: Listen(1 Comments)
Twin Cities dancers are gathering to support one of their greatest allies.
Jeff Bartlett, longtime dance presenter,was focusing lights up in a Genie lift at Burnsville Performing Arts Center on August 19 when the lift fell over. He suffered multiple fractures in eight ribs, a broken shoulder blade, a broken arm, a collapsed lung and three fractured vertebrae. Doctors say he is very very lucky to be alive.
Tonight and tomorrow, nine different dance companies will perform at the Ritz Theater in Minneapolis in what is being billed as a celebration and fundraiser for Bartlett. A reception will follow Friday's performance, and the opportunity to give additional donations will be available in the lobby.
As the artistic director of the Southern Theater, Bartlett created a venue where local dance companies were welcome to perform. Frequently he also did the lighting design for their shows. In 2008 the board of the Southern Theater let Bartlett go after thirty years of service, for reasons that are still not publicly known. Since then, Bartlett has been working as a freelance lighting designer, and most recently, as Dance Community Liaison at the new Cowles Center for Dance and the Performing Arts.
Bartlett was expected to attend the performances, but an infection forced him to return to Hennepin County Medical Center for further surgery. According to Ritz staff, they are working on setting up a skype connection between the hospital and the theater.
The companies that will be performing are:
Ballet of the Dolls
Ethnic Dance Theatre
Flying Foot Forum
Jawaahir Dance Company
Katha Dance Theatre
Shapiro & Smith Dance
David O'Fallon, CEO of MacPhail Center for Music, has accepted the position of President of the Minnesota Humanities Center, beginning November 1.
O'Fallon is a Minnesota native with a distinguished career in the arts, from creating several arts leadership programs for the University of Minnesota, to serving as director of arts education for the National Endowment for the Arts, to his role as staff director of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.
O'Fallon returned to Minnesota in 1995 to head the Perpich Center, then joined the MacPhail Center for Music in 2002. Under his leadership the student enrollment more than doubled in seven years, the center entered into several community partnerships and satellite teaching centers, and added a music therapy program. It also moved into a brand new building.
O'Fallon fills the position previously held by Dr. Stanley Romanstein, who joined the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra as president and CEO in May after serving nine years as president of the Minnesota Humanities Center.
The MHC works directly with teachers, schools and communities statewide to create more engaging and meaningful learning experiences for all students. It also works with schools to make sure the curriculum connects with students from a variety of cultures, ethnicities and experiences.
MacPhail's directors are in the process of determining a succession plan; O'Fallon will remain with MacPhail through the end of October.
In honor of the close of Walker's inaugural summer of "Open Field" - it's physical embodiment of a "cultural commons" - renowned "commoner" Lewis Hyde is speaking tonight. Hyde is the author of "Common as Air: Revolution, Art and Ownership."
Hyde defines the cultural commons as "that vast store of unowned ideas, inventions and works of art that we have inherited from the past and that we continue to create." As opposed to intellectual property, which belongs to a person or a company, our cultural commons is something we all share, and are all influenced by in different ways.
Hyde argues that our cultural commons suffers from "a kind of public invisibility, a lack of political, economic, and juridical standing" that makes it hard to fully value and protect.
Hyde will talk tonight at 7pm at the Walker Cinema, but if you can't make it, check out the above excerpt from a talk he gave, in which he uses Bob Dylan to explain the influence of the cultural commons on an individual's work.
The Saint Paul Conservatory for Performing Artists is honoring its Artistic Director Emeritus, Wendy Lehr, by naming its new theater after her. .
At 5:30pm the Lowry Theater in downtown St. Paul will become the Lehr Theater. The Saint Paul Conservatory for Performing Artists purchased the theater to serve as an instructional space, and the school's performance venue. It will also host professional arts organizations.
Wendy Lehr is a veteran actress and instructor, having for many years served as director of the The Children's Theatre Company school. She served as Artistic Director of the SPCPA from 2005 to 2009, and is considered an architect of the school's curriculum.
You can read a lovely article on Lehr by the Star Tribune's Rohan Preston here.
Paul Reubens in Todd Solondz' film "Life During Wartime." (Images courtesy IFC films)
Director and screenwriter Todd Solondz says he was a little surprised when he found himself writing about people who originally appeared in his 1998 movie "Happiness,"
"I never imagined I would revisit those characters or storylines," he says on the phone from New York. "But that just goes to show my imagination wasn't fertile enough, because in fact, about 10 years later I found myself just writing the first scene of this movie which involves some of these characters."
"Happiness" explored the troubles of three middle class New Jersey families. Actually troubles is a weak word to describe the tale of child abuse, betrayal, and other sordid goings-on. A decade later Solondz decided there was more material to mine and explore.
The result is "Life During Wartime," a disturbing but compelling film which looks at how the characters have developed and changed (or not,) in the ensuing years. It opens in the Twin Cities this weekend.
Solondz (left) recast the characters, drawing in a host of very fine actors for the roles, ranging from Charlotte Rampling, Alison Janney and Ciaran Hinds to Michael Kenneth Williams and Paul Reubens,
All of the characters are flawed people, but with good traits. Some of them have behaved despicably towards people they love. Solondz' question is whether they can forgive and forget.
Central to this is Bill (Hinds) who is in prison for sexually abusing a family member. Solondz says pedophilia serves as a metaphor for all that is demonized, feared and loathed.
"It's hard to beat," he says. "I think most Americans would feel more comfortable having Osama bin Laden at their dinner table than a convicted pedophile, so it becomes a kind of crucible, a test in some sense for those of us in questioning the extent when we say we embrace humanity and love mankind, to say what extent are we capable? What are those limits? Because to be human, of course, is to recognize and to be defined by those limitations. It's a kind of moral exploration."
And Solondz' exploration does a remarkable job of drawing in the audience. The film is filled with twists, turns, and revelations. . As the multi-part story spins out we see each character in very different lights. Not everything is as it first seems - although a lot is. Everyone has much to forgive - and much for which to be forgiven.
Solondz says the situations he deals with in "Life During Wartime" may be unpleasant, but they are constantly in the media, so he thinks audience members are well aware of the issues. Looking for new ways to explore those questions in an accessible drama.is what interests Solondz.
"When I go to the movies, I do want to be provoked and engaged in fresh ways. That's what I look for. In a sense the movies can make you feel a little more alive for those 90 minutes, because they have the power to articulate things that remain unspoken even amongst our intimates."
He admits casting Paul Reubens in the film brought an added element given the actors much publicized fall from grace after an indecency arrest.
"You are not just aware of the talent, but also the so-called baggage that everybody comes with," he says.
"With Paul Reubens, he had read for me years ago for something else. And what I liked here was first of all being able to share with audiences some of what he is able to do as an actor which I don't think anyone had ever imagined. But beyond that his whole history lends a certain poignancy and pathos, and sorrow to his performance, which I think would be absent from most other comedic actors of his stature."
"They financed the film so I am very fortunate that during very difficult economic times they were able to pay for this movie," Solondz says. "Because I really don't think it would have been financed otherwise."
"Life During Wartime" has done well on the festival circuit, taking the award for best screenplay at the Venice Film Festival where it was also nominated for the best film.
When asked what he hopes people will take away from the film Solondz responds this way:
"I suppose in some sense with movies there is always one message that comes loud and clear to anyone who feels very responsive to a film, and that's 'you are not alone.'"(1 Comments)
Faced with a losing a soloist just days before its high profile European tour, the Minnesota Orchestra today announced Grammy Award-winning violinist Gil Shaham (left) will step in to replace the ailing Lisa Batiashvili who has had to withdraw from the tour because of illness.
The Orchestra will play four high profile dates in just four days, starting with two concerts at the Proms at the Royal Albert Hall in London on August 27th and 28th. (Both concerts will be broadcast live on Classical MPR stations at 1.30 CDT.)
It then travels to the Edinburgh International Festival for a concert on Sunday the 29th, before wrapping up the following day at the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam.
Lisa Batiashvili was scheduled to play at the second Proms concert and in Amsterdam,. Shaham will step in to play the same repertoire as previously announced: Berg's Violin Concerto at the Proms, and Mozart's Fifth Violin Concerto at the Concertgebouw.
Cellist Alisa Weilerstein will remain as soloist for the other two concerts.
While losing Batiashvili so close to the concerts is a blow, having the more established Shaham step in can only add to the excitement generated by the tour.
"Work of Art" finalist Miles Mendenhall stands alonside his co-contestants Abdi and Peregrine.
Over the past several weeks Miles Mendenhall has gone from a University of Minnesota student to a nationally known TV star. On Wednesday night, Bravo's reality show "Work of Art: The Next Great Artist" came to a close, and Mendenhall came in a surprise 3rd place. Surprise, because many people had him pegged as a favorite.
If you read my blog post "Going for Miles" last week, then you know that Mendenhall has a background in theater, and approached this entire reality TV experience as a sort of experiment.
So when I spoke to him this afternoon by phone, my first question for him was "is the performance over now?"
His answer? "No."
The entire point I was interested in was this notion of a dual existence. I'm a person here in Minneapolis, but now I have this second persona that exists on television and in the world of pop culture.
Mendenhall said he purposely tried to create a character that was ambiguous, and kept both the cameramen and the audience guessing. He played with different character traits, sometimes lovable, sometimes detestable. In the weeks leading up to the show he ate barely anything so that he looked particularly skinny, and then ate obsessively throughout the course of the taping. By the end he'd gained 17 pounds.
So sure, he went into this as an experiment, but wasn't there at least a part of him that wante to win the competition?
I think the idea of winning something like that would be horrific; that comes with a title and level of pressure I didn't want to have. In all honesty - examining this sort of thing - it was more about how much of this [media frenzy, public criticism] I can take. I guess I would have liked to win the money and then give it away - it would have been a way to give the middle finger to the makers of the show.
Some of that criticism involved other artists on the show calling him an "arts pussy" and a "douchebag."
So how does he feel for Abdi, the artist who won the competition?
I'm proud of Abdi - He really wanted this.
As the winner, Abdi gets a check for $100,000 and a solo exhibition of his work at the Brooklyn Museum of Art.
As a runner-up, Mendenhall received $5,000 which he spent on testing the limits of screen printing. And he also got himself a show in New York City.
Where? Mendenhall can't tell, because of his contract with Bravo. His exhibition will be up at the same time as Abdi's, and therefor is seen as competition by the network.
Mendenhall says if anything, the show has given him a better pespective on the "game" that surrounds art.
Art is this pure thing that we perceive as a pure act, but in order to survive it needs to interact with commerce, and it's that interaction, that game that this show really dealt with. That, and also how the personality of the artist affects how we see the art. [In "Work of Art"] you were not charged with making good art, you were charged with dramatizing the making of art.
Mendenhall says despite his feelings about the premise of the show, he actually has enjoyed watching it.
I thought the editing was hysterical - people ask me how I watch it. It's just too funny - I wasn't interested in being successful or good, I was more interested in the show's horrendous nature.
Mendenhall says since he returned to Minneapolis from the taping, he's been working on ways to put his experience to good use, and to provide some tangible proof of him not actually being an "art pussy" or "douchebag." He's donated prints of his work to the U of M to help raise money for student scholarships, and he's curated their most recent BFA show. Soon he'll head to New Mexico to work on carbon printing, in preparation for a show at Franklin Art Works in April.(11 Comments)
Minnesota Artist Miles Mendenhall is a strong candidate to be "the next great artist" in Bravo's reality show "Work of Art."
I have to admit - I am not a fan of reality television. To me such shows just radiate "we're not willing to pay for writers." But when I heard about this new show on Bravo called "Work of Art: The Next Great Artist" in which a University of Minnesota student was a contestent, well, I was obligated to check it out.
Next confession: I actually kind of like it.
Evidently I'm not alone. As the weeks have progressed, more and more people have gathered to cheer Mendenhall on as he competes against other artists in weird, contrived competitions (for your next act, you'll create a canvas from this trash heap!). He's creative, has lots of energy, can work with practically any material, and is a little obsessive-compulsive, which makes him fuss more than most over the details.
Chair of the U of M Art Department Alexis Kuhr is one of Mendenhall's professors, and considers him a friend. Because Mendenhall has worked campus jobs, many U of M staff think of him as not just a student, but a colleague. Kuhr notes that while Mendenhall is a visual artist, he's also studied performance, and this show is allowing him to do both at the same time.
We knew he was approaching this show as a fun opportunity. For Miles, who's really interested in how much of being an artist is a performance, it's been a playground. He's been able to explore character at the same time as he's been making really interesting artwork. It fit his art-making practice, and what it means to be an artist in this culture. If he was taking this seriously I think it would be a problem - if he actually thought that he won this that he would actually be "the next great artist," but he went into this thinking this is a game, and within this game I can explore this character.
Of course, at the same time we'd really like him to win - because we've gotten really into the game!
The U of M organized viewing parties of the show, which has ten episodes (the 9th airs tonight). It started as an event for U of M staff, but quickly grew and moved to Bedlam Theatre's rooftop. Local artist Karen Haselmann has been providing post-show commentary using shadow puppets. For the final two shows, the parties are taking place at the outdoor sculpture courtyard at the Regis Center for Art, where guest artists will install light pieces that will play on the walls of the art building. Kuhr says it's a way to take this odd televised event and bring it back into the local community.
Karen Haselmann's jetpack shadow puppetry
At this point I should mention that this show was of course filmed months ago, and Miles Mendenhall is back at school. By contract he can't reveal if he won the competition, or any other crucial details. For that reason I'm not going to bother interviewing him until the show is over.
But I was curious to hear what the Chair of the U of M's Art Department thinks about a reality TV show in which artists compete in timed trials for a wad of cash and a high profile solo exhibition.
Quoting shadow puppet commentator Karen Haselmann, Kuhr admits "we're horrified, but we can't look away."
It's really great entertainment. As a premise, every artist I've talked to has said either "this is problematic because now people are going to think this is how art is really made - quickly, with little time for thought" or "putting art in a competitive art is a problem." But this is a reality tv show - a game - and if you approach it with that in mind, then you can have some fun with it.
Kuhr says she hopes the show does give people a backstage view of how artists create, and she says one moment in the show inspired a bunch of people to stand up and cheer for abstract art, something she's never seen before.
In one episode of "Work of Art," Mendenhall created a "death mask" portrait of fellow contestant Nao.
So does Kuhr think Mendenhall will win? She says he hasn't given her any indication of whether or not he won the competition, but those attending the viewing parties have noticed some trends.
There's a device that goes on in the show. If anyone calls Miles a name in the show they are eliminated, and anyone Miles critiques in the show is eliminated. It's gotten to be pretty funny.
Since Mendenhall returned to town from the shooting, Kuhr says he's been looking for ways to turn his very surreal experience on the show into something more meaningful. To that end, the U of M has commissioned him to make a series of prints which will be sold to raise money for scholarships. And the day after the final episode (which airs August 11), the U of M's Nash Gallery will hold an opening reception for an exhibition of student work curated by Mendenhall.(4 Comments)
Gaiman argued that three of the characters in artist Todd McFarlane's series were derivative of characters Gaiman had previously created for McFarlane, and therefore he was owed royalties.
McFarlane, who created the Spawn series back in the early 1990s, denied in court that the characters were derivative, but U.S. District Court Judge Barbara Crabb ruled against McFarlane, saying the characters Dark Ages Spawn, Domina and Tiffany were indeed derivative of Gaiman's creations Angela and Medieval Spawn.
In her ruling Crabb noted that, like Angela, Domina and Tiffany were "warrior angels with voluptuous physiques, long hair and mask-like eye makeup. all three wear battle uniforms consisting of thong bikinis, garters, wide weapon belts, elbow-length gloves and ill-fitting armor bras."
This is not the first time Gaiman has taken McFarlane to court. After McFarlane hired Gaiman to write an issue of Spawn, McFarlane continued to use the characters Gaiman had created (Angela and Medieval Spawn) without making any royalties payment to Gaiman. In 2002, a Wisconsin court awarded Gaiman joint ownership of the characters, but eight years later neither side has agreed how much Gaiman is owed.
Rachel Weisz is blunt about the subject of her character in "Agora," which opens in Minnesota this weekend.
"I had never heard of this Hypatia, this 4th century philosopher," she says. "I must have missed that day in school. So when I read the script it was news to me that she had ever existed."
"Agora" is Spanish director Alejandro ("The Sea Inside," "The Others" Amenábar's epic story of the clash between religion and science in Alexandria in Egypt. It's set at the time the Roman Empire was in decline and Christianity was taking hold as a major religion.
Weisz (pronounced VICE "Like the opposite of virtue," she jokes) who has delighted audiences in an array of movies ranging from "The Mummy" franchise, through "The Brothers Bloom" and "The Constant Gardener" (which netted her a best supporting actress Oscar) to Wong Kar-wai's "My Blueberry Nights."
In "Agora" she plays Hypatia, a philosopher who is fascinated by the movement of the planets. She works at Alexandria's famed library, teaching the sons of the city elite, who in time will rule. It's a true story about a unique woman at a pivotal moment in history.
"As well as being a philosopher she was a magical teacher," Weisz says. "I had one very magical teacher when I was at school who really inspired me. I think there are not many films about magical teachers - or not enough."
Not surprisingly several of Hypatia's students have crushes on her, although as Weisz points out for Hypatia knowledge trumps everything.
"She's not interested in love and she is very passionate about her work. Meanwhile she lives at this time which is at the end of the age of enlightenment and the beginning of I guess what we call the dark ages, which was the rise of Christian fundamentalism."
Hypatia's story spins out over several years as she continues working even as the Parabolani, a hardcore Christian militia becomes the defacto power in the streets under the command of the Archbishop Cyril.
Anyone who opposes them risks being denounced and physically attacked. In time the Parabolani set their sights on the most senior Roman in Alexandria, the Prefect, who has converted to Christianity, but has not bowed to their rising influence. Weisz says this larger conflict leaves Hypatia increasingly vulnerable
"So she lives at this extraordinary moment in history, so you see through her story how attitudes to a woman who is a pagan, who won't convert to Christianity, and who is also looking at the stars, and basically they thought she was a witch."
Outside the Alexandria Library (Images courtesy Newmarket Films)
The role of Hypatia brought a number of challenges. Not only does Weisz have to present what is a very intimate story of an individual in turbulent times, she also has to do this within with director Amenábar's huge cinematic vision, which includes spinning the audience out into space to look back on the tiny individuals shaping the philosophical future of western civilization.
"I guess I was just up for the challenge," she laughs.
And as the central character Weisz really does have to carry the whole film - a task in which she delighted.
"It's really fun to carry a film. It's really fun. It's exhilarating. It's terrifying as well. I once worked with Dustin Hoffman and I asked him, 'Does it get any less scary?' And he goes, 'No. Every time I do a job I'm terrified.' And you need that. You need the fear to fuel the energy to do it. But it's delicious fear."
Part of Weisz's interest in the project is how the story is centuries old, it has a very modern ring about a culture clash.
"As soon as I finished reading it, I closed the script and I thought 'Oh, my goodness, this is a contemporary story, set in the 4th century. Because really, obviously, what it's about is how little has changed."
"It's really about how in a way, we can go to the moon and we've got antibiotics, and freedom of speech most places, but there's a lot that really hasn't changed. Religious tolerance is one of them."
She says she knew she wanted to make the film as soon as she read the script, particularly because she has long wanted to work with Alejandro Amenábar. She admits though there's no guarantees of success in moviemaking.
"Making a movie is alchemy. You can have a great script, great director, great actors and the movie can completely suck. There's no recipe for a movie, which is why it's so interesting."
Released in Europe last year "Agora" has done well, winning critical praise and a ton of awards. The new challenge is now America, and Weisz admits she has no idea how it will play here.
"What do you think?" she asks.
It's a question which Hypatia would ask, but only time and the box office will answer.
There was a welcome sound at the end of the advance screening of "Inception" the other night - people coming out of the theater talking animatedly.
Christopher Nolan's film explores the dreamscape through the eyes of Don Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio,) a gentleman who makes his living by extracting information from people's dreams. He's on the wrong side of the law, both because what he is doing is industrial espionage, and he's on the run from his past in the US.
This complicates matters no end, because entering dreams tends of have unforeseen consequences and the past can come back to bite you if you aren't prepared. Cobb is tormented by the death of his wife and his estrangement from their children, but he can't admit how much this may effect what he is doing.
Cobb assembles a team of fellow extractors to try something never done before: to plant an idea in the subconscious of another person. The client is a hard-as-nails executive Saito (Ken Wantanabe) who wants the job done on the heir to the founder of a competitor company. Cobb knows from the start it's not going to be easy.
Cobb's world is fascinating. He is a master at entering and manipulating the subconscious mind of his victims, but he can't do it alone.
He enlists his old compatriot Arthur (Joseph Gordon-Levitt,) Eames (Tom Hardy) an old-style British adventurer abroad, Yusef (Dileep Rao) a brilliant pharmacologist who induces the sleep in which to dream, and Ariadne (Ellen "Juno" Page,) a young designer who comes up with the architecture of the dreams where the team members will work their deception.
As with Nolan's 2000 hit "Memento," "Inception" is a film which demands careful attention. To make the deception work takes a lot of careful planning. It also demands that the team create dreams within dreams, going deeper and deeper into the subconscious, and shifting in time and space.
The film is action packed, as the team takes on the fearsome figures we all know from our own dreams. Yet the real action ends up being philosophical. From the beginning sequence the audience is challenged to work out what is reality and what is a dream.
Nolan, who also wrote the script, has wicked fun with his characters, throwing well-aimed wrenches into their carefully built plan.
One hugely entertaining action sequence is predicated on something which is happening to the physical body of a character in another dream, creating a gravity-defying fight which has to be seen to be believed (or not, if you follow the film's philosophical viewpoint.)
Which brings us back to that chattering audience. This is a film which makes you think, and then discuss what you have seen.
At one point Cobb is challenged to choose between what he knows and what he believes. That question, never straightforward in the best of circumstances, becomes even more difficult in the dream world. It's a lot of fun to see what Christopher Nolan does with it, and even more fun to play with it in those post-movie discussions.
The Librarian of Congress James H. Billington today announced the appointment of W.S. Merwin (William Stanely Merwin) as the Library's 17th Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry for 2010-2011.
In a statement to the press Billington stated the following:
William Merwin's poems are often profound and, at the same time, accessible to a vast audience. He leads us upstream from the flow of everyday things in life to half-hidden headwaters of wisdom about life itself. In his poem 'Heartland,' Merwin seems to suggest that a land of the heart within us might help map the heartland beyond--and that this 'map' might be rediscovered in something like a library, where 'it survived beyond/ what could be known at the time/ in its archaic/ untaught language/ that brings the bees to the rosemary.'
Merwin will take up his duties in the fall, opening the Library's annual literary series on Oct. 25 with a reading of his work.
Merwin has now received nearly every major literary award, including the National Book Award in 2005 for Migration: New and Selected Poems.
Merwin succeeds Kay Ryan as Poet Laureate. Past laureates have included Charles Simic, Donald Hall, Ted Kooser, Louise Glück, Billy Collins, Stanley Kunitz, Robert Pinsky, Robert Hass, Rita Dove and Richard Wilbur.
To read more about Merwin's life, and a selection of his poems, click here.
The Playwrights' Center's new Producing Artistic Director Jeremy Cohen
After an extensive search that required starting over from ground zero, the Playwrights' Center has found itself a new Producing Artistic Director in Jeremy B. Cohen.
Cohen comes to Minneapolis from Hartford, where he's served as the Director of New Play Development at Hartford Stage. Previous to that he started Chicago's Naked Eye Theatre Company, where he developed and directed 20 new works.
Cohen replaces former Producing Artistic Director Polly Carl, who left the Playwrights' Center to become the Director of Artistic Development at Steppenwolf Theatre Company in Chicago.
The Playwrights' Center, based in Minneapolis, supports playwrights and the development of new plays across the country.
Emerson's Parlor, 2005 by Siah Armajani
Image courtesy of maxprotetch.com
The McKnight Foundation has named Minnesota-based sculptor Siah Armajani as the 2010 McKnight Distinguished Artist.
The award, which includes $50,000, recognizes individual Minnesota artists who have made significant contributions to the quality of the state's cultural life.
Locally, Armajani is best known for the bridge he designed joining the Walker Art Center's sculpture garden to Loring Park.
The Irene Hixon Whitney Bridge, built by Siah Armajani in 1988
Image courtesy of the Walker Art Center
Inspired by architecture and democratic ideals, Armajani has created footbridges, benches, reading rooms and gazebos which serve the public worldwide. Many of them are imprinted with text.
Born in Tehran in 1939, Armajani moved to the United States in 1969, and graduated from Macalester College in 1963. He lives and works in Minneapolis. Armajani is notoriously shy, refraining from interviews with the media, and public appearances
"Siah Armajani is one of Minnesota's great assets, an ambassador to the world," says Kate Wolford, president of The McKnight Foundation, "One fundamental role of great art is to help us interpret and understand our world. Never shying away from reality as he sees it, Siah shines a spotlight on life's challenges and inequities. He unites humankind's hardest truths with the optimism that we can do better, if we acknowledge and understand the bridges that brought us here."
While we agree that Siah Armajani is a high profile international artist based in Minnesota, the arts and culture unit at Minnesota Public Radio is scratching its collective head over the McKnight Award. Has Armajani made a "significant contribution to the quality of the state's cultural life?"
What do you think?
Carl Kasell says he has no concerns that his stint on "Wait Wait Don't Tell Me" will somehow tarnish his reputation as a trusted newsman. And he knows he has a captive audience in Peter Sagal.
It takes a lot to get the MPR newsroom really excited (unless there's free food, of course), but this morning the building was abuzz. It wasn't the president stopping by, nor was there some major rock band coming in to perform. Nope, what had us all aflutter was getting to meet some of the rockstars of our own industry - namely Carl Kasell and Peter Sagal.
I had the pleasure of hosting Midmorning while they were in, and while their show is a topic I know pretty well, I have to say it was one of my more challenging hours of live radio. How to focus on your next question when you're so enthralled with the answer to the last one?
Carl Kasell has the reputation of newsman, and Peter Sagall that of showman, but both of them are quite adept at either role. Last night Sagall conducted a fabulous interview of arctic explorer Ann Bancroft (which will air on Wait Wait this weekend) and Carl Kasell jogged onto the stage to slap the hands of the panelists like a pro football star. He obviously knows how to get the crowd worked up.
You can hear the Minneapolis Wait Wait on Saturday, but in the meantime, you might want to check out their hour on Midmorning. Sagal talked about the challenges of being funny yet balanced, and not bitter, and Kasell talked about his days with Charles Kuralt and hiring Katie Couric as an intern. Plus there's tape of Kasell singing "What's New, Pussycat?" for someone's answering machine. Who can resist that?(1 Comments)
The contestants of "Work of Art: The Next Great Artist"
Image by Andrew Eccles, Andrew Eccles/bravo
Last night Bravo debuted its new reality show "Work of Art: The Next Great Artist," which pits fourteen aspiring artists against one another to compete for both a solo show at the Brooklyn Museum and $100,000.
One of those fourteen artists is Minneapolis resident Miles Mendenhall, and in the first hour of the series Miles emerged triumphant from the initial challenge - to create a portrait of one of the other contestants in less than thirteen hours. Mendenhall created a death portrait of colleague "Nao" (the contestants go by first names only) assembling a make-shift light studio in the process.
The fact that Mendenhall won the first round means that he can't be eliminated in the second round.
Want to see the show? You can find it here.(1 Comments)
The Minneapolis Institute of Arts' Director and President Kaywin Feldman has been appointed president of the Association of Art Museum Directors. Her term, which begins today, is for one year.
The Association of Art Museum Directors represents and supports 198 art museum directors in the U.S., Canada, and Mexico, and works to increase the contributions of art museums to society.
"I am honored to have been chosen by my fellow museum directors to lead
AAMD for the next year," said Feldman. "As we implement AAMD's strategic plan,
we are also focused on making art and art museums essential to everyone. That is
the central message of our new plan, and will be a focal point for my presidency."
Feldman previously served on AAMD's board from 2007 to 2009.
Egret in Florida Pond, by Francis Lee Jaques
Image courtesy of the James Ford Bell Museum of Natural History
It is the curious charge of the James Ford Bell Museum of Natural History (known to most people as simply "the Bell Museum") that it showcase both science and art as it pertains to the natural world. So while many associate the Bell Museum with the stuffed birds and animals that fill its glass display cases, Curator of Exhibitions Don Luce is particularly proud of the art on the walls behind those creatures - dioramas depicting different ecologies by the painter Francis Lee Jaques.
Part of our mission is to encourage people to study nature, and through Jaques' art you get an idea of how he did this, not as a scientist but as an artist. The foundation of science, and his art, is to observe carefully.
The Bell Museum owns approximately 20 dioramas by Jaques (pronounced "jay-kweez"), along with 100 paintings and scratchboard drawings, bequeathed by his wife Florence upon her death. His work is the core and foundation of the natural history museum's art collection, and is the subject of a new exhibition, "The Shape of Nature: The Art of Francis Lee Jaques," on display through September 5.
Lee and Florence Jaques, standing in the backyard of their North Oaks, Minnesota home in the 1960s. Photograph courtesy of the James Ford Bell Museum of Natural History
It's fitting the largest collection of Jaques' artwork resides in Minnesota, for his drawings and paintings played a large role in the conservation of Minnesota lands. Born in Illinois, and raised partly in Kansas, Jaques moved with his family to Aitkin, Minnesota as a teenager. He fell in love with the Boundary Waters in 1913 while working on a steam engine, bought himself a canoe and began exploring the wilderness. He and a friend made some of the earliest maps of the lakes.
Over the years Jaques worked as a lumberjack, a taxidermist, a railroad fireman and an electrical engineer at the Duluth power company. He served in the first World War, returned to work in the Duluth shipyards, but soon left them in favor of a job as a commercial artist. He continued to develop his artistic talents, but wasn't inspired much by the subject matter. It was the memory of a diorama of a mule deer in a snowy forest he saw at the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco while serving in the army that finally inspired him to pursue a career as a wildlife artist.
Ironically he first applied for a job at the Bell Museum, and was turned down. But he persisted, and was taken on by the American Museum of Natural History in New York.
The Road West, by Francis Lee Jaques
Image courtesy of the James Ford Bell Museum of Natural History
Don Luce says what sets Jaques' work apart from his peers is how he painted wildlife within the context of its environment.
Roger Tory Peterson said Jaques was the first bird artist NOT influenced by J.J. Audubon. Unlike most artists of the time, who were very interested in miniature anatomical detail of scales, feathers, etcetera, Jaques knew animals from experiencing the outdoors; he knew them in their environment, and in motion. He distilled the bird or animal down to its essential shape, and captured the experience of witnessing that animal in its environment.
Luce says Jaques is considered one of the top three diorama painters of all time. His job at the American Museum of Natural History took him all over the world. He sailed the South Pacific for months at a time, discovering new birds and painting them in their natural setting.
Mallards Dropping Fast, by Francis Lee Jaques
Image courtesy of the James Ford Bell Museum of Natural History
When Jacques married Florence in 1927, he took her back to the Boundary Waters for their honeymoon. She later wrote the first book on "recreating" in the northern lakes, "Canoe Country" which Lee illustrated. Over the course of their marriage they partnered this way on several books, including a sequel titled "Snowshoe Country." The Jaques used proceeds from the sales of the two books to help preserve Susie Island in Lake Superior. It's now known as the Francis Lee Jaques Memorial Preserve in his honor.
A few years after Jaques retired from the American Natural History Museum, he and Florence settled down in North Oaks, Minnesota, and he joined the staff of the Bell Museum. Jaques soon became good friends with environmentalist Sigurd Olsen, and illustrated several of his books, including "The Singing Wilderness."
Caribou on Ice, by Francis Lee Jaques
Image courtesy of the James Ford Bell Museum of Natural History
Curator Don Luce says Jaques' artwork - in more than 40 books and on the walls of several natural history museums - did more than just convey what it was like being in the great outdoors; it planted the seeds for the environmental movement.
I think of Rachel Carson [author of "Silent Spring"]. Would she have been as effective if there hadn't already been this background of nature artists who helped people connect to the natural world? Jaques laid the foundation for a "wilderness ethic." By conveying their beauty, he convinced the public that these landscapes merited protection.
"The Shape of Nature: The Art of Francis Lee Jaques" is on display through September 5 at the James Ford Bell Museum on the University of Minnesota campus. If you're in Aitkin, you can see more of his artwork at the Jaques Art Center, located in the old Carnegie Library.(1 Comments)
Posted at 5:50 PM on May 25, 2010
by Marianne Combs
Filed under: People
Folk musician Bill Hinkley, of the duo "Bill Hinkley and Judy Larson," died yesterday at the VA hospital in Minneapolis. He was 67.
Hinkley and Larson were on the first PHC broadcast back in 1974 - the "Original Powdermilk Muffins" as Garrison Keillor calls them.
Hinkley, a long-time West Bank native, taught classes at the West Bank School of Music, and was a pro at the mandolin, the fiddle and the banjo, among other instruments. In 1999, he was inducted into the Minnesota Music Hall of Fame, and in 2000 he and Larson received a lifetime achievement award from the Minnesota Bluegrass and Old-Time Music Association.
Currently on the PHC website you can listen to its reunion show from 2008, featuring Hinkley and Larson, along with Butch Thompson and Pop Wagner.
Hinkley is reported to have died due to a blood disorder.
Gordon Parks was by all means a Renaissance man, and a trailblazer. Over the course of his career he was a photographer, musician, poet, novelist, journalist, activist and film director (popular culture will remember him best for directing the movie "Shaft").
This afternoon Metropolitan State University is honoring Parks, a St. Paul native, by renaming its gallery "The Gordon Parks Gallery." Starting at 4pm there will be a ribbon cutting, jazz, a program with photographer Wing Young Huie, and screenings of Parks' films.
Fittingly, the first exhibition in the newly named gallery is a retrospective of Parks' own work. In addition to working both in the Office of War Information and for Vogue, Parks spent two decades snapping photo essays for Life magazine. One of his most famous portraits was actually an early work, "American Gothic, Washington D.C."
American Gothic, Washington D.C.
A true photojournalist, Parks covered everything from fashion to sports, from Broadway to poverty, as well as racial segregation.
Yes, we know, it can be really hard to raise money to pursue your muse. But yet most artists still manage to resist the impulse to steal in order to further their artistic careers.
Evidently musician Steven Mark Renner could not. Earlier today he was sentenced to 18 months in prison on four counts of tax evasion totalling $1,133,000 in federal income taxes.
In addition, according to a Minnesota State Department announcement, "Renner diverted substantial funds from Cash Cards International ("CCI"), his Internet-based, stored-value and money-transmission business, to pay his living expenses as well as to make personal investments in coins, oil wells, art, stamps, and vintage musical instruments. He also used CCI funds to promote his blues-rock band, 'Stevie Renner and the Renegades.'"
I'm sure the next 18 months will provide Mr. Renner with lots of great material for future blues tunes.
Poets House is a national poetry library and literary center. This past fall it moved into its brand new home in Battery Park, New York. As the construction workers finished off their work, Poets House decided to honor them with their own poetry reading, presented by actor and comedian Bill Murray. The result, as you can see above, is both awkward, surreal and slightly moving, especially when Murray reads the following work by "corny gal" Emily Dickinson:
I dwell in Possibility--
A fairer House than Prose--
More numerous of Windows--
Of Chambers as the Cedars--
Impregnable of Eye--
And for an Everlasting Roof
The Gambrels of the Sky--
Of Visitors--the fairest--
The spreading wide my narrow Hands
To gather Paradise--
The video is worth a watch just to see the guys react to Bill Murray's call for them to perform their own original poems.
6/14/09: suburban life
Brock Davis is a very creative guy. He works in advertising as a designer, is an artist and photographer, and also makes music in the band Work Of Saws.
But Davis decided he needed something more. He needed to challenge himself to be creative every single day. So at the prompting of a friend, he took on a challenge to Make Something Cool Every Day in the year 2009. Here's how he describes it:
It was excruciating, exciting, nerve-wracking, fun, difficult; it was all these things. I'm definitely glad that I did it, but now that it's over, I don't think I'd do it again anytime soon.
Davis is married with a couple of kids, so he often didn't even get started on his daily project until 10pm. If he missed a day, he'd make up for it by doing two images the next day. In the entire year, there is only one day missing an image.
1/03/09: Rules - blank paper + thread + tape + exacto
Davis says his strengths are in drawing and photography, but with an entire year of "cool stuff" to make, he was pushed to try everything from sculpture, to telling stories using M&M's as characters, to creating a self-portrait using his own shavings in the bathroom sink.
5/30/09: stubble self portrait (drawn with toothpick)
The need to create something no matter what meant that, inevitably, some days were better than others. But they still went up on the web. Davis says the experience was both humbling and liberating:
I think the interesting thing is that with this project people can see all of your sides. You can't really hide from anything. So you pretty much have to be prepared for letting people see everything. Seeing your successes, seeing your failures - so I pretty much accepted the fact that I would be showing people everything. If it's cool, that's great, if it's not, that's fine too. It helped me relax a little bit.
In some ways, Davis felt the project took him back to his childhood:
When you're a kid you have this free imagination, there are no clients, no real deadlines, you just look at everything around you, you're inspired by it, you create - it really taught me to pay more attention to everything around me. Objects that are seemingly uninteresting at first glance can be really interesting if you know how to extract that from them.
Over the course of the year, Davis found inspiration in things like bananas, milk cartons, a fly stuck in a cobweb, and a glass table-top. And his eye become drawn to simple actions, like cutting vegetables, or fabric.
While Davis' project was born - and lives - on the web, it is now moving from the digital world into a physical show, opening Saturday at Creative Electric Studios in Minneapolis. Director David Salmela is also Davis' bandmate in Work of Saws, and says while he's always interested in Davis' work, this project particularly struck him.
This project has already been lifted up on the web all over the world. At Creative Electric we're just really interested in the idea of making work,and so what we like about this is... I hope it will inspire people to want to make things, explore their own creativity, and see what's possible.
Salmela says the exhibition will feature all the images from the year, in chronological order, organized similarly to a calendar. Because Davis is an experienced photographer, Salmela says printing the images has revealed a whole new layer of artistry.
So, if Davis is so happy the project is over, does he recommend anyone else take it on?
You bet he does.
There are other folks out there doing similar projects - photo a day, song a day - I think that structure keeps you motivated and inspired, and for me it definitely kept my brain sharp. This process can't help but improve what I do in my work, too.
Brock Davis' series "Make Something Cool Every" will be on display at Creative Electric Studios starting May 1, with a reception from 6:30 - 11pm.(2 Comments)
Director of the Minnesota Historical Society Nina Archabal is stepping down. Archabal has served as the society's director for the past 23 years, and its deputy director for nine years prior to that. Under her leadership, the Minnesota History Center has grown into the state's premier history museum and library, and the society created the Mill City Museum. The historical society is also responsible for a statewide network of historic sites and museums, including Historic Fort Snelling, Split Rock Lighthouse, the James J. Hill House and the Mille Lacs Indian Museum. Archabal says she will continue to serve as director until her replacement is found, which she expects to be no later than the end of this year.
Noah Bremer is an actor, artistic director of Live Action Set theater, and soon to be a clown with Cirque du Soleil.
Noah Bremer has always wanted to join the circus. And now, at the age of 33, his dream is coming true. The world famous Cirque du Soleil has offered him a part - a significant part - in its touring show "Varekai." He starts training on June 3, which begins in Montreal (where he'll learn how to do his own make-up - a 2 hour process - among other things) and then takes him to Frankfurt, where he'll shadow the performer he's replacing.
So, how does it feel to have a dream come true?
Both terrifying and obscenely fulfilling. It's funny - Cirque really likes people who are a little more established, who have a real presence and character. What's difficult about that, is that by the time you've achieved all that, you've set some roots down. It was easier to contemplate running away with the circus when I didn't have such a great community of friends, and my own theater company.
Noah Bremer had to study this piece and replicate it as precisely as he could for his audition.
Bremer has been performing in the Twin Cities for years, and in December took on the position of sole Artistic Director of Live Action Set. But then in February, he got the offer from Cirque du Soleil.
Rather than drop the job with Live Action Set, Bremer says he's going to continue working as Artistic Director... from Frankfurt, Belgium, and wherever else the circus takes him.
Our company has always been experimental - and now even the way we run the theater is going to be experimental, too.
Bremer says his colleague Joanna Harmon will transition into the role of Executive Director, handling the day to day details, while Bremer continues to set the vision for the company - via Skype - from abroad. Bremer jokes that he's been overcommitted all his life, and he doesn't think the circus is going to stop that. He also thinks it will be important to maintain a strong connection to Minneapolis while he's on tour. Otherwise, he says, it would be easy to lose his identity in the huge performance machine of Cirque du Soleil.
Bremer is producing and performing in one last show with Live Action Set before he takes off. It's called "The Happy Show," and it's a collaborative piece that will take over the Bedlam Theatre's entire building with multiple vignettes.
The idea is during difficult times, this group of happymakers comes and performs the ritual of happiness. But it's dangerous, because if they don't succeed the world will literally explode.
Bremer says the play is responding to what's going in the world right now, i.e. NOT happy stuff.
Every time I turn around there's another natural disaster, or a pirate ship... it's just there's a lot of sadness in the world. We're not trying to be trite with this, we're looking at what is happiness, and whether you can be happy in this climate, through an experiential event.
"The Happy Show" runs April 29 through May 14.
Poet Theo Dorgan, winner of the 14th annual O'Shaughnessy award for poetry, bestowed by the University of St. Thomas.
Sitting in an MPR studio yesterday morning, poet Theo Dorgan jokingly grumbled that the O'Shaughnessy award is the only award for poets that comes with a week of hard labor.
Dorgan, the 14th recipient of the prestigious University of St. Thomas award, has been spending the week talking to students, speaking at the Minnesota Book Awards and, of course, visiting with the local media. He'll cap the week with a reading on the university's campus Friday night at 7:30pm.
While Dorgan is a native of Cork, Ireland, his work also speaks to a deep affinity for Greece (his most recent collection is titled "Greek"). Dorgan and I talked about his connection to the Greek Islands, his visit to Minnesota, and the role of the poet in political life, which you can listen to by clicking on the link below (note: the interview is 15 minutes long, and he has a lovely accent).
Listen to the interview with Irish poet Theo Dorgan:
A couple of Dorgan's remarks particularly stood out for me. One is the notion of how nations' cultures are in conversation with one another, and how that conversation is far more lasting and important than international politics:
You know, no country is properly represented by its professional, political class, or by its foreign policy. America is represented by its authors and its filmmakers and its musicians far more thoroughly and far more comprehensively. And it will be interesting to see in 20 or 30 years time when a cultural historian will look at transformations within Ireland and will, I think, be surprised by the extent to which it's influenced by that "greater" America.
Dorgan is former director of Poetry Ireland, an organization that fosters poetry throughout Ireland. He also is a member of the Irish academy of arts and letters, and serves on the Arts Council of Ireland. And he's a passionate editorialist, not known for pulling punches.
The poet Michael Hartnett, in a very prescient poem he wrote in about 1982, said "poets with progress will make no peace or pact/ the act of poetry is a rebel act." And I like that - the act of poetry is a rebel act. But at the same time we hold language in common with everyone - bus drivers and pediatricians, nursery workers and senatorial aids - we all have language in common and nobody owns it, so you have a duty to language to keep it clean and keep it clear.
Dorgan calls poets "the ecologists of language:"
You can't have a world where people bend a word like justice to mean "my justice" - there has to be a common understanding of what justice is. The word "honor" - we don't hear the word "honor" in a political context much, for very obvious reasons I suspect, but a poet can bring the word "honor" in to her poem and make us all think about it and say this word means something, it has a history, it has a value in both private and public discourse.
While Dorgan's editorials are pointed, his poetry is lyrical and romantic. Enjoy!
Listen to Theo Dorgan read his poem "The Backward Look"
Listen to Theo Dorgan read his poem "Me, John Wayne and the Delights of Lust"
The $5,000 O'Shaughnessy Award for Poetry, established in 1997, honors Irish poets. The award is named for Lawrence O'Shaughnessy, who taught English at St. Thomas from 1948 to 1950, formerly served on the university's board of trustees and is the retired head of the I.A. O'Shaughnessy Foundation.(1 Comments)
Bob Jacobsen in Guizhou Province, China, in April of 2008. Photo by Dan Dennehy.
After sheparding the MIA's Asian Art collection into national prominence over the course of 33 years, curator Bob Jacobsen is resigning his post.
Jacobsen, who started at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts in 1977 as its first curator of Asian Art, is recognized in particular for his work partnering with philanthropists Ruth and Bruce Dayton to expand the museum's Chinese galleries.
In an internal memo, MIA Director Kaywin Feldman wrote "Bob departs the MIA having established a lasting legacy through the museum's renowned collections, several scholarly publications, and the installation of two unique Chinese period rooms."
Jacobsen's last day is April 30. In honor of his contributions to the museum, Feldman has named him "curator emeritus." Jacobsen plans to continue working on an occasional basis - including writing about the MIA's collection - and so the departure is considered a resignation, not a retirement.(1 Comments)
While the Icelandic volcano introduced more pain into international travel in recent days, it's also brought a little pleasure.
Singer and broadcaster Archie Fisher who played the Celtic Junction in St Paul on Sunday discovered he couldn't get back to his home in Scotland as a result of the volcano induced flight restrictions.
This means that we, and in particular the listeners of Radio Heartland, get to enjoy a little more of his company. He came into the MPR studios to record a session today with host Dale Connolly.
Fisher, has been performing for more than 50 years, has presented BBC Radio Scotland's Travelling Folk program for more than a quarter century. He also has a long standing relationship with Red House Records in St Paul.
In the spirit of full disclosure I should reveal my own peripheral involvement in this. Years ago Fisher agreed to do an album for Red House, but one thing led to another and it never arrived.
Back in 1990 I moved to Glasgow for a couple of years where I worked for Radio Scotland. Red House Records owner Bob Feldman asked me to ask Archie about the album if I saw him.
I actually would bump into Fisher fairly regularly as the Travelling Folk office was on the way from the newsroom to the BBC canteen. I'd be carrying a huge tray of cups of coffee and tea and there would be Archie and his producer Danny Kyle. Danny was a man had a huge selection of fish ties which he wore daily as part of his ongoing campaign against dress codes
And so I asked about the recording every once in a while, and Archie would smile, and we would talk about something else.
Apparently the album became somewhat of a legend at Red House, and some believed it would never arrive. Then one day an email from Fisher dropped into the label's corporate in-box. It enquired where he should send the finished recordings. The album "Windward Away" came out in 2008.
You can hear Archie Fisher on the Dale Connolly Show on Radio Heartland in coming days.
72 year old Fred Gaines will be remembered as a playwright, a collaborator, and a champion of theater.
Gaines died yesterday morning at his home in Appleton, Wisconsin after a long battle with pancreatic cancer.
Gaines, who earned his PhD in Theater at the University of Minnesota, was a writer in residence for the Children's Theatre Company for several years under the artistic direction of John Clark Donahue. It was while there he wrote adaptations for "A Christmas Carol," "Sleepy Hollow," "King Arthur" and "Oliver Twist," among others.
Donahue remembers Gaines as a kind and caring soul who gave himself over to theater projects wholeheartedly:
I always believed a playwright should be associated with the theater company and the process, not alone at a desk but in the trenches making theater. And I presented that idea to Fred and he embraced it wholeheartedly. He embraced the company, and as a result we got beautiful writing with great theatric viability. And he would work with the human clay of actors, not just the ideas drawn from the literature. He was inspired by the energy of actors like Bain Boehlke, Wendy Lehr and others.
Bain Boehlke, now artistic director of the Jungle Theater, performed the role of Ichabod Crane in Gaines' "Sleepy Hollow," and Scrooge in Gaines' "A Christmas Carol:"
He did just a fabulous adaptation of "A Christmas Carol," and of course he's from the old days, the 60s and 70s, when theater was taking off here. He was a major player in that as a playwright.
In a book titled "Five Plays from the Children's Theatre Company in Minneapolis," Gaines expounded on his view of the rold of a playwright, stating "theater must be a sharing of ideas or it becomes presumptuous."
Too much time is devoted to the playwright's vision... I don't think that playwrights are prophets, but I hope that they are accurate and that they have access to their emotions. I think that the techniques a writer uses aren't much different from those a sculptor might use.
Too often writers and directors feel that they must just be themselves, express themselves in their productions and the uniqueness of the production will carry it. That's nonsense. When we met to talk about plays, we constantly spoke about the play in terms that revealed our debts. We talked about creating a setting like Rackham's illustrations, we talked of creating a specific moment onstage like that created by a particular ballerina in a particular performance; we talked of music that would evoke in the audience (as it did in us) the memory of childhood carols.
These are borrowings. Not plagiarisms, but borrowings. We took the images of other works and let them work through us, let them reemerge in a coloring that was our own. That's the only way theater can work. If any part of the theater machine becomes selfish, a vehicle for personal dictatorship, then I think the theater is hurt by it.
Director Gary Gisselman remembers Gaines as a mix of "Eric Bentley and Bill Holm, all wrapped up into one." He says Gaines was a great intellect who felt a deep love of the land. His family had a farm, to which he would invite staff to work on plays.
We worked on a number things but most closely on Oliver Twist. I've known Fred as an actor and a playwright and as a friend. He was always so generous with the collaborators. He didn't have a huge ego, not to say he didn't have strong ideas. When Polanski's "Oliver Twist" came out a few years ago I got a note from Fred saying "Ours was better."
In 1977 Gaines joined the staff of Lawrence University in Appleton, Wisconsin, where he taught theater. Former student John Middleton wrote a touching tribute to Gaines back in January, which you can read here.
After Gaines' retirement in 2000, he continued to teach as a volunteer in the Outagamie County Jail, the Oneida Reservation, Renaissance School for the Arts and Central High School, all in Northeast Wisconsin.
On March 4, Gaines sent out his last "Chemo-newsletter" in which he wrote about his decision to stop the chemotherapy. That decision was announced in a previous e-mail, titled "Turning Inward." This last e-mail was titled "P.S."
I saw in myself (and in others) a physical turning inward, a hollowing in of the shoulders as if we were trying to hold and protect something at the center of ourselves and I know there's some truth in that - our heart is there, the lungs that carry our life blood is there and, in a different way, our sense of ourselves. "Stand up, Freddy." "Attention!!" "Let me see how that shirt fits you, honey."
When we were growing up together in Grand Island, the Catholic and protestant churches felt like different institutions. We were - we protestants, that is - greatly ignorant of the people who went to the cathedral. When I asked Judy at lunch which of the saints it was dedicated to, neither of us was sure but decided on St. Mary's. It was a building that dominated our small town and few of us entered it who did not belong to it. When I first saw; representations of the Bleeding Heart of Jesus, there it was, at the center of the image, a heart, a flame, life, and it is that, perhaps, that we try to cover when we round our shoulders to keep the cold from our source. My source remains the same, not the centuries old ikon that good Catholics kept in their homes, but in the love between all of us.
Great words to end a life on.
A memorial for Fred Gaines' family and friends will be held this coming Saturday at 11am at Cloak Theatre inside the Lawrence University Music Drama Center.
Thanks to the University of Minnesota Press for permission to reprint the excerpt from "Five Plays from the Children's Theatre Company in Minneapolis."(3 Comments)
The trailer for the upcoming doc "Babies" has been floating around the internet for a few months now, but after watching it a few times today, I am curious how it makes people feel.
The premise of the movie is simple - and smart: Send crews out to follow the first year in the lives of four babies living in very different parts of the world, and then compare and contrast. Thus we meet Ponijao in Namibia, Bayarjargal in Mongolia, Mari in Tokyo, and Hattie, who lives in San Francisco.
Can there be a more important issue than the way children are raised? Possibly not. I am keen to see the film, but I have to admit my heart-strings were being yanked pretty hard by this trailer, almost to the point where it feels like manipulation.
Of course, that's the whole point of a trailer: manipulate your interest so you'll go see the film. But for some reason this feels different.
Schubert Club Executive Director Kathleen van Begen has a huge smile on her face today.
The Club just announces its 2010-2011 International Artists Series, and it's a doozey.
It opens in October with the return of soprano Renee Fleming.
"She loves the Ordway," says van Bergen. "She loves singing on that stage."
This will be Fleming's third visit to the Schubert Club, and will include the music of Mahler in the program. This is in part because some letters by the composer owned by the Schubert were displayed at the Lincoln Center this year which Fleming saw.
Another big show follows in November when Alison Balsom comes to the Ordway to perform the first ever trumpet recital in the Schubert Club's history.
"We've been looking high and low about what can you do in the 128th (season,) that's fresh and exciting and a first. Ukulele would have been one route to go," she laughs.
But instead the trumpet beckoned as did the chance to have Balsom, who is taking the brass world by storm.
"The range and sound of the trumpet is really compelling, engaging, and we look forward to our first trumpet recital," van Bergen says.
Van Bergen is also really excited by the final concert of the season where soprano Genia Kühmeier, mezzo-soprano Bernarda Fink, tenor Michael Schade, and bass-baritone Thomas Quasthoff, will be joined on stage by pianists Malcolm Martineau, and Justus Zeyen for a program of Schumann and Brahms, including Brahms' rarely programmed Liebeslieder Waltzes. It's unusual to have this number of top performers together for one concert.
"It's only being performed in four places in North America," van Bergen says. "We are tickled, just really delighted. If you are going to present Liebeslieder Waltzes, we really believe you should have the highest quality of artists, and it should be a defining moment for all of us. Personally, I have been attending concerts for decades and I have never heard them live. So this is something I am really looking forward to and I hope that many share in that experience."
Van Bergen also points out that the Schubert Club tickets are remarkably affordable particularly compared with venues on the coasts.
"Just another good reason to live in the Twin Cities," she says.
And then she smiles again.
You can listen to our conversation here
Buildings made from trash
Architect Mitchell Joachim is referred to by many as a "radical architect." Rather than design a new style of building, he rethinks the concept of a building entirely. In looking at his home, New York City, he sees potential to turn its darker, dirtier side into a competitive advantage:
We make a lot of trash - 36,000 tons per day. In fact if I were some alien peering down on New York I would think the city was some sort of apparatus to make trash, that its primary function is to produce waste.
Joachim thinks that trash should be put to use, namely in the construction of buildings. A life-size replica of the Statue of Liberty would require (according to Joachim) only one hour's worth of the city's compacted waste; a skyscraper could be built with a single day's worth. In a conversation Friday on Midmorning, Joachim said we should stop filling landfills, and instead start building housing and businesses. Some clean-up of the trash would need to be made, he says, but that shouldn't stop the city from taking advantage of a vast resource.
The In Vitro Meat Habiata is intended to be a "victimless shelter", because no sentient being was harmed in the laboratory growth of the skin.
Joachim recognizes that his ideas have some hurdles to leap before gaining wide acceptance. Take, for instance, his "In Vitro Meat Habitat" made from mass manufactured pig cells. The "habitat" would be a completely organic structure that didn't hurt a single pig in the making. But as the picture above indicates, Joachim needs to do some more work on curb appeal.
So, are you willing to live in a house made out of trash in order to save the planet? Do you think Joachim's ideas have the potential to gain mass appeal?
Each year the Ordway Center for the Performing Arts presents the "Sally Awards," naned for Sally Ordway Irvine, who founded the center. Four awards are given to people or institutions who've played a significant role in the state's cultural scene. The categories are Vision, Commitment, Initiative and Education. This year's winners are:
For Vision: VSA Arts of Minnesota
First up - Vision In the category of Vision, VSA Arts of Minnesota won for creating a community where people with disabilities can learn through, participate in, and access the arts. Not just accessible to wheelchairs, but things like large print programs, and creating opportunities for people who are blind to touch works of art. In other words, finding ways to making performances and exhibitions come alive for people with disabilities.
For Commitment: Myron Johnson
Johnson said while accepting his award "Theater saved my life. I had a very difficult family situation, and if it weren't for theater I doubt I'd be alive, let alone standing here accepting this award."
Myron Johnson first tried out for a play when he was seven, and he's been involved in theater and dance ever since. His company "Ballet of the Dolls" combines his love of ballet with his love of fashion, imagination and storytelling. And he says he'll never leave the Twin Cities:
I would never consider being anywhere else - this city has been so supportive of me, my work and my ideas. There's nothing I can say about what Minneapolis and St. Paul mean to me - they mean everything to me. My work with Ballet of the Dolls is my life - they help me make dreams come true. For a child who couldn't speak, I've learned to talk - and that's because of the arts, and theater.
After the awards ceremony, I asked Johnson what it felt like to receive such a mainstream award for his anything but mainstream art.
It's so awesome. It's shocking to me - I'm sort of the bad boy. The next show I'm doing is "The Dance of the Pink Flamingoes" inspired by John Waters. It's just so great that I've been able to do whatever comes to my mind and people support it here. I didn't try to win an award - I just did what I loved.
Johnson actually met Sally Ordway Irvine when he was a kid working at the Children's Theatre Company. He thinks she'd be happy to know that a kid who got his arts training at an organization she so believed in went on to win an award in her name.
For Initiative: Bedlam Theatre
A literal hotbed of theater and community engagement, Bedlam has grown from a budding experimental theater company to a place to hang out, eat perogies, and get involved. Many of the folks who work at Bedlam also work at Seward Cafe. Bedlam core member Maren Ward says the cafe's ethics and values have strongly influenced the theater's own work.
Bedlam lends its community space out for classes, meetings and workshops. In addition it hosts an on-site bicycle workshop and outdoor performances near the Cedar-Riverside LRT stop. The theater gives discounts for audience members who arrived by bike or LRT, and its restaurant offers a local food menu.
In 2004 Bedlam was named by American Theatre Magazine as one of 12 innovative companies to watch nationwide, and McKnight Foundation's Neal Cuthbert says other theaters are looking at Bedlam's model to see how they can engage their own audiences.
For Education: T. Mychael Rambo
T. Mychael Rambo is an actor, a singer, a writer and a motivational speaker. He can often be found talking to students at Central High School or Gordon Parks High School. Rambo is not just a believer in the transformational power of the arts, he has experienced that transformation first hand.
In a moving acceptance speech, Rambo recalled a much darker time in his life, when he was sleeping at Dorothy Day Center and spending his days sitting in Rice Park, just outside the Ordway. Rambo said he couldn't have imagined back then he'd one day stand on an Ordway stage to accept an award.
"Art is to service what bud is to flower" said Rambo, "and my transformation speaks to the power of art." Quoting Martin Luther King Jr he went on to say "'We may not remember the words of our enemies, but we remember the silence of our friends' - this is a room filled with people who recognize we cannot be silent."
Each awardee of the Sally Awards receives a cash prize in support of their work.
Noomi Rapace as Lisbeth Salander in "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo." (Image courtesy Music Box Films.)
"The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" and "Repo Men" will pull in very different audiences, yet they share one thing: a story based on two people who have to deal with the moral challenges of their work together.
"The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" is the Swedish adaptation of Stieg Larsson's hugely successful novel, the first in the Millenium trilogy. It's the story of a disgraced investigative journalist Mikael Blomquist who sets out to solve a 40 year old mystery, the disappearance of Harriet Vanger, a 16-year-old member of a powerful family of industrialists. He's hired by Harriet's uncle who believes one of his close relatives killed the girl. Blomquist's efforts attract the attention of Lisbeth Salander, she of the tattoo, who is a brilliant but eccentric investigator. She is so successful because she is a hacker who has no qualms about diving into other people's hard drives. Salander is perhaps the most anticipated character in Scandinavia, and certainly amongst fans of the books.
"Repo Men" is a very bloody futuristic tale of a world where medicine can provide replacements for just about every human body part. That's the good news. The bad news is they are expensive devices, so expensive in fact that most people have to get them on a long term payment plan. If you don't pay, then the company sends the Repo Men to take back its property. Few patients survive the repossession. Jude Law plays Remy, a repo man who loves his work. His partner Jake (Forest Whitaker) loves what he does even more, even taking on extra repos on the weekend, much to the disgust of Remy's wife.
Things go well until Remy has an accident and wakes up with an artificial heart in his chest. He's suddenly on the other side of the fence, and sees things very differently as he struggles to pay his bills. In time he has to start worrying about whether Jake will hew to his mantra of 'a job is a job.'
The plot of "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" is known to many of the people who will see the film, and "Repo Men" plays out in relatively predictable ways. What makes them interesting is the relationship between the two central characters. In "Tattoo" Michael Nyquist and Noomi Rapace make for a compelling couple, in part because Rapace is wonderful at maintaining her character's glowering distance from Blomquist, even as they become physically entangled. The film explores themes of violence against women, and the ethics of modern journalism, and where to draw the line in dealing with the first and preserving the second.
Law and Whitaker also are the most compelling thing in their film, adding levity to what might be seen as a heavy-handed commentary on healthcare funding. They face their own moral dilemmas too, and if you can stomach the blood, there's some food for thought here too.
It'll never happen, but one has to wonder about how much fun it would be to have a post-screening discussion on morality, and whether ends justify the means, involving audience members from both of these movies.
Posted at 4:17 PM on March 8, 2010
by Marianne Combs
Filed under: People
Comedian-turned-politician Al Franken is getting his own "comic" treatment. "Political Power: Al Franken" is the latest edition in Bluewater Productions' "Political Power" line of biography comics, due out in May. Other figures profiled include Barack Obama, Joe Biden, Colin Powell and Ronald Reagan.
Bluewater Productions also puts out a series called "Female Force," featuring Hillary Clinton, Condoleeza Rice, Michelle Obama, Sarah Palin, Caroline Kennedy and Princess Diana. Other series with the Bluewater Productions label include "Judo Girl," "Claw and Fang" and "William Shatner Presents."
"Tweedledum and Tweedledee, the Dormouse, and the White Rabbit seem mystified in Tim Burton's adaptation of "Alice in Wonderland." (Images courtesy of Walt Disney Pictures)
There's a danger in messing with childhood favorites, no matter how much they may deserve it. As Spike Jonze showed with "Where the Wild Things Are" it can work very effectively to take a beloved story and flesh it out in ways that add whole new dimensions.
However adding that flesh has to add muscle to a whole body. Tim Burton's adaptation tries to do this, but just succeeds in adding appendages which get in the way.
Burton's Alice is not a girl, but a 19-year-old, who is chafing against the plans the rest of the world has for her. When she discovers she is being railroaded into marriage with a chinless wonder of an aristocrat she bolts, chasing a white rabbit she's noticed running through the bushes.
Moments later she falls down a rabbit hole and her adventures begin
Or re-begin. Alice, played by Mia Wasikowska (pictured here with Burton,) apparently has been here before, she just doesn't remember it. This isn't Wonderland, but Underland, a place which holds much more menace for someone with Alice's now adult understanding of the world. She meets Lewis Carroll's characters, many of them augmented with the wonders of modern CGI wizardry. Johnny Depp becomes an eye-bulging, fright-wig body-popper of a Mad Hatter, who is still keeping company with a tea-cup hurling March Hare, and a mildly homicidal Dormouse.
It is they who tell Alice how they are also struggling against the murderous Red Queen (Helena Bonham Carter) whose obsession with beheadings has the entire country trembling. Alice also learns she is the one who prophesy has anointed as their savior - if she is indeed 'the right Alice.'
Burton is exploring issues of growing up, responsibility, conspiracy theories and responsibility, yet the film doesn't add up, and lapses into a fantasy action film near the end.
You can't help but wonder if this movie had come out 6 months ago, before "Wild Things," before "Avatar," indeed before the whole new 3D revolution, whether this film might have sparkled. But it didn't, and despite some great performances from Depp, Bonham Carter, and Wasikowska, "Alice in Wonderland" just doesn't satisfy.
As ever we want to know, if you have seen the film, what did you think?(2 Comments)
Penumbra Theatre in St Paul announced its next season this morning, which includes trips to the Guthrie and the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C.
In announcing the season Penumbra founder and Artistic Director Lou Bellamy (above) says he chose the season with the idea that everyone is feeling the reverberations of the recession.
"Still, many have shown incredible resolve. To honor this spirit of determination, I've selected plays that celebrate ordinary people showing extraordinary courage when life tests our mettle. Art plays an essential role in trying times: it reminds us of our humanity. The stories this season promise to open our eyes as well as our hearts."
The season opens with the regional premiere of "Sleep Deprivation Chamber" by Adam P. Kennedy and Adrienne Kennedy in September, followed by the popular holiday production of "Black Nativity: Now's the Time" which opens in late November.
The new year begins January 20th with "Julius by Design" by Kara Lee Corthron, a world premiere production directed by Bellamy, followed by "Ma Rainey's Black Bottom" by August Wilson. This is the latest show in Penumbra's committment to present all of Wilson's 20th Century cycle, and will be performed at the Guthrie Theatre.
The final show, opening April 21st, is "I Wish You Love" by Dominic Taylor, the second world premiere. It will travel to the Kennedy Center after its St Paul run.
Bellamy encapsulates the plays like this: "'Sleep Deprivation Chamber' is a riveting look at a mother's struggle to save her son. Again "Black Nativity" testifies to the power of faith and family. "Julius by Design" insists upon humanity in the wake of a murder. In Wilson's gritty blues drama "Ma Rainey's Black Bottom," pride is deadly in the face of racism and greed. And finally in I Wish You Love, Nat "King" Cole represents a uniquely American dilemma; how could a dapper and elegant star so endear white audiences and also be required to endure the insult of racial prejudice?"
You can find more details at the Penumbra web site.
"The Virgin and Child with St John the Baptist and an Unidentified Saint" by Titian (All images courtesy Minneapolis Institute of Arts.)
The Minneapolis Institute of Arts' Patrick Noon is not one given to hyperbole, but it's clear he's very pleased by the exhibit he's bringing to Minneapolis
"This is a very special show," he told me. "Because of the quality of the pictures and the importance of these in the history of western art."
The show is called "Titian and the Golden Age of Venetian Painting: Masterpieces from the National Galleries of Scotland" will be on view February 5, 2011, through May 1, 2011.
It contains paintings and drawings from several major major Renaissance painters, but Noon says Titian is the star. Tiziano Vecellio to give him is full name was highly sought by the crowned heads of Europe to paint work for their palaces. Two of the works in the show, scenes from the goddess Diana's life were commissioned by King Phillip II of Spain.
Diana and Callisto" by Titian
"They are simply astonishingly beautiful and well preserved," says Noon."His use of color is brilliant, stunning brushwork. These are the things artists look to emulate, especially the Romantic painters in the 19th century."
The pictures have an interesting history. After centuries in private hands, Diana and Callisto, painted in 1556 - 1559 and Diana and Actaeon painted around the same time were given as a long term loan to the National Galleries of Scotland in 1945.
Two years ago the NGS, together with the National Gallery of London, were offered the works. Together they raised the money to buy Diana and Actaeon over a period of five months. They are now raising the funds for Diana and Callisto.
Patrick Noon is blunt when he talks about their importance. "These are the finest works by Titian outside Italy and Spain."
The exhibit also includes works by Tintoretto, Veronese,Bassano, and Lotto.
"The Virgin and Child with Saints Jerome, Peter, Francis and an Unidentified Female Saint," painted by Lorenzo Lotto about 1505
When asked if this is a big feather in the MIA's cap Noon admits a show like this doesn't come about without a lot of work. But he thinks it's worth it.
"I think people will really enjoy seeing them," he says. "These are really beautiful things."
Ralph Remington's phone was ringing off the hook today as word got out he'd snagged the job as director of theater and musical theater for the National Endowment for the Arts.
As both the founder of Pillsbury House Theater and a former member of the Minneapolis City Council, he has a broad skill set which will come in handy in his new job.
It's going to be a big job. He'll oversee theater grantmaking, developing partnerships, and large scale theater projects including the NEA's new play initiative.
"It's very exciting," he said this afternoon just after his appointment was announced.
He also sees a lot of challenges ahead. The NEA is always the target of political discussion as an independent federal agency. He also will be dealing with the extraordinarily complicated world of US theaters, which range in size, focus, budget, and needs. Somehow he has to find ways of nurturing the entire US theater scene at a time when money is tight.
He says his time on the council gave him experience drawing dispirit groups together to try to find a mutually beneficial conclusion. He'll also bring what he calls his theater eye from his time at Pillsbury, and his time as an actor at the Guthrie and Illusion Theaters.
He says coming from the Twin Cities is an advantage.
"When you come from Minneapolis, your theater chops are pretty much well known," he says. "It's one of the biggest theater cities in the nation, so I think there was an appreciation for that. And there are a number of folks at the national endowment who have connections to Minnesota and Minneapolis, so I think that helps."
As he talked to NEA staff he says he found "it was a natural fit."
Remington says he's pleased that NEA Chair Rocco Landesman is using the slogan 'Art Works.'
"Because it does," Remington says. "And not just something that sits on a hill and is pristine and precious, but art works on the everyday lives of people. It helps people learn to negotiate how to get a job for instance, it helps folks learn what to do with their healthcare. It helps folks to do all kinds of things. So art can be not only be a source of enjoyment and entertainment, it can also be utilitarian."
Remington says he applied for the NEA job after being impressed with what he saw working on the Obama campaign. Then he liked what he saw as the President and the First LAdy's committment to the arts.
"I wanted to be part of this national conversation," he says. "So I put my hand up and I wanted to move forward with it."
And move he will. He'll leave Minneapolis shortly to begin his job in Washington DC on March 15th.
As the temperature drops here in St Paul, and it seems like winter will never end, this video dropped into my in box and warmed things up a little. It's of Malian musician Bassekou Kouyate and his band Ngoni Ba who will be coming to the Twin Cities to perform in April at the Cedar Cultural Center in Minneapolis.
Kouyate plays the ngoni, an ancestor of the banjo. His music echoes back over the centuries, but is at the same time very modern. Last year he was honored with the BBC Radio Three award for best world music. He'll come to Minnesota as part of a huge tour, part of which he appropriately enough be supporting banjo master Bela Fleck.
There's a lot to learn about the background to this music, but frankly on a day like today, it's just really pleasant to roll the video, and let the sounds of a warmer place wash over you.
Our colleagues upstairs at The Current 89.3 are all atwitter this morning (actually they were last night) at the news that Prince is giving them a new song to debut.
The Purple One has recently thrown his weight behind the Current, appearing (but not playing) at the recent 5th anniversary party at First Avenue in Minneapolis.
Now comes the song, "Cause and Effect," which the Current music blog describes as a rocker - filled with virtuosic guitar work, explosive drum breaks, a poppy chorus, trademark shrieks and whoops, some intriguing lyrics ("if I had the chance to do it all again / I wouldn't change a thing except my next of kin") and a call to mankind ("you need compassion.")
The song will debut at 7 am on Friday on 89.3. It will be intriguing to see what kind of attention the song draws, particularly because of the wide audience the station attracts through streaming on the web.
Prince produced a new rouser for the Vikings a few weeks back, which got a mixed response, but the folks at the Current see this as more of an indicator that Prince is back in town and getting ready to rock.
The State of North Dakota is offering film makers the chance to make a movie inside the Ronald Reagan Minuteman Missile State Historic Site. This is one of the decommissioned missile silos which were once the both the backbone of the USA's nuclear deterrent, and the source of great peacenik discomfort.
Now the North Dakota Historical Society and Friends of Oscar Zero are calling for independent film makers to submit proposals to make films at the site. The crews selected will be able to shoot later this year, and into the spring of 2011. The finished films will then be submitted by the end of June. Those films will then compete for cash prizes.
The competition rules do not restrict the kinds of film to be made, but the silo has been a historic site for some time and film makers will have to follow state guidelines. The aim of the competition is to as the call for entries states "enrich the interpretation of the site by cinematically presenting aspects of the tense and complex interplay of military preparedness, politics, culture, and social life during the Cold War period."
It will be very interesting to see what comes about as a result of this unique opportunity. You can find details here.(1 Comments)
Marco Breuer doesn't like to interfere with the way people see his pictures.
For instance, what do you see in the image below?
We'll get back to what it is in a moment, but in the meantime meet Breuer, an academically trained photographer who decided a few years ago he wanted to follow his own path.
"I think that photographers tend to find the longest way to the image," he says. "What I am after is the other end of the spectrum, the shortest way, the most direct, immediate interaction with photographic material."
In other words, Marco Breuer usually doesn't use a camera. He says his work really goes back to the idea of a photogram. He tends to work directly with photographic paper, stressing it, as he calls it with abrasive materials, or even a heat gun to create his images. Sometimes this is done before the paper is processed, sometimes after.
Several of Breuer's images are on display at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts beginning this weekend. It's simply called "New Pictures:2"
The images are all very different. There is the swirling image above, but there are others with intricate patterns scratched into their surface.
"I want these images to read photographically," he says. He creates images in one way, but due to the way people tend to see photographs, they can appear to be something else.
For instance one piece looks as if it is textured like a rug, until you get close-up and see the lines are the result of pieces of fluff and other material produced by scoring the paper before processing. The image is quite flat.
"What I don't want the images to be is kind of a check list," he says, meaning people should not be able to readily identify certain things in the images. "There always remains a degree of openness in the whole matter."
Breuer takes this almost to extremes. He has had a long standing rule that his own face does not appear with his work. He's a photographer who sees problems in having his own image appear with his work. He chuckles a little when asked about it, but then explains
"From my own experience there are certain artists that I wish I didn't know what they look like. I wish I had never seen a photograph," he says. "I just want to experience the work. And so a while back I made the decision that for myself I would just take my likeness out of the equation. What I have to say is in the work, and there it is."
Breuer's process is ever-evolving however, and this is true of this show.
After the exhibit has been open for about a month, Breuer will return from his home in New York state to redecorate the gallery where his pictures are now on display. He'll paint all the walls, which are currently creamy white, with black paint, creating a giant blackboard. He says he'll use chalk to "join the dots," fill in more information about the images. All of the pictures will be in the same place, but everything else in the show will have changed.
He did give me a small preview of what that might reveal.
He says the image above was created through putting photographic paper in a plywood box, with a lens attached to the front. (He points out that he does sometimes use what is essentially a camera.) He then attached L.E.D.'s to his finger tips. The image was created by the movement of his fingers as he loaded a 12 gauge shotgun. It's a snippet of information which, at least for this viewer, entirely changes the perception of the image.
We'll run more of my interview with Marco Breuer on the air next week.(1 Comments)
As City Artist in Residence Marcus Young doesn't beat around the bush when asked what he wants from the third annual Sidewalk Poetry Contest in St Paul.
"We want your back-of-napkin poems, your classroom poems. We want your deepest secrets in poetry form. And then we will publish your poems in the sidewalk, in the public realm, to create these delightful moments of out door reading," he says. "We live in a very big blank book, so this is the time to begin writing in our blank book."
The idea is quite simple: write a poem of 250 characters (including spaces.) It can be a maximum of 10 lines, with a maximim of 40 characters in a line. Once your piece is polished yo your satisfaction submit it to the contest by March 28th.
If you are one of the winners chosen by the judges, your piece will be transformed into a giant stamp, which will be applied to new sidewalks being installed around the city this summer. (One caveat, the contest is only open to St Paul residents. Would-be sidewalk poets elsewhere should talk to their own city public works departments about poetic possibilities.)
"Right now we have 261 poems installed around the city from a collection of 26 poems," Young says. "It's quite interesting how often people see them, although they are not everywhere. I'm just surprised that people notice them, and enjoy them."
I mentioned that I had stumbled across some of the poems as I was out walking in my own neighborhood.
Don't say stumble," Young laughs. "The Public Works Department doesn't want a trip hazard. You'll get me in trouble."
OK, so I have happened upon some of the Sidewalk Poetry, and it has always come as a surprise, or even a shock, given that the pieces I found were a little on the dark side.
Young (at left with a poem about to be stamped into wet concrete,) says the idea is to create a gentle surprise as people are out and about.
"I mean how many times do we in our lives do we get such gentle pleasant surprises that are just meant to hopefully spark something in your imagination, or create a moment of joy, simple joy."
Young says some people wonder if the poetry is vandalism, or something that the homeowner has done. He likes that mystery.
Some people wonder who is paying for it, and Young likes to poinbt out there are many sources of funding including The Public Art Saint Paul's program fund, the City of Saint Paul, and Readings by Writers; and is produced in collaboration with the Department of Public Works.The project also receives support from several local foundations.
The City of St Paul replaces about 10 miles of sidewalk each year, and Young aims to get about 100 poems printed in cement each summer.
Now he wants more. The winners will be announced in May. Young encourages allcomers to submit a poem.
"We have funny poems, we have thoughtful poems, we have dark poems. You just have to be concise," Young says.
Dawn Upshaw says she's excited to be invited back.
Given the acclaim which has surrounded the world famous soprano, there seems to have been little double that the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra would be very keen to retain her services, but Upshaw says she is looking forward to working more with the SPCO.
"These musicians really respond to text and to singers," she said. "I think if you were to speak with them they would tell you they especially love working with singers."
Upshaw was speaking shortly after the SPCO announced it had extended Upshaw's contract through the 2012-2013 season. She says she has enjoyed working regularly with the SPCO over the first three years of her tenure.
"My musical world is kind of built around my collaborations and so this is just one which happens to be with a whole group rather than one individual, and is as inspiring to me," she said.
As in the first three seasons Upshaw will continue to commission a new work each year to perform with the SPCO as a world premiere. The next piece will be with composer Gabriela Frank, to be performed in 2011.
"There is something very much of the earth about her music," Upshaw said. She worked with Frank at the Weill Music Institute composer-singer workshop in 2004. "And I hear life stories in her music."
Upshaw says she knows what Frank is working on for the commission, but says as it may well change before the performance she's reluctant to share details at present. Upshaw has presented a broad variety of works during her tenure so far, including the commissions by Osvaldo Golijov, Maria Schneider, and Alberto Iglesias.
"I think of music sometimes like food," she laughed. "Food for my soul. But you know we all love different kinds of food, and I am also interested in trying new foods. So I like to discover, either on my own, but usually through someone else's suggestion, new musical voices and ideas that are expressing new things in a different way."
Along with Upshaw the SPCO's 2010-2011 roster of Artistic Partners includes Roberto Abbado, Edo de Waart, Christian Zacharias and Thomas Zehetmair, each who bring their own international acclaim to St Paul.
A quick Foot in the Door Update: If you are wondering about what's happening with all those Foot in the Door artworks at the MIA you can follow the action on Twitter through the #fitd4 hashtag.
Reports from this afternoon suggest that after filling two galleries, there may be need for another. Originally there had been a plan just to spill out into the atrium.
You can also see pictures of the progress, such as this one which also gives you access to a plethora of images gathered during the submission process and during the hanging.
It's Valentine's Day Sunday, for those of you who have somehow missed the onslaught of V-Day sales pitches coming from all directions. Here are a couple of possibilities of the arts lovin' kind which may help your weekend.
At the 318 Cafe in Excelsior poets Todd Boss and Terri Ford will join Mother Banjo and and Chad Elliot for an evening of words and music, accompanied by a three course Valentine's meal. Boss has become one of local poetry's most outspoken advocates, and has developed "Motionpoems," animated versions of the work of several renowned poets, (including the example of his own work above.) There are two shows at 6 and 8.15 pm. Reservations are strongly recommended as last years events sold out.
At the Guthrie in Minneapolis, you can catch the new theatrical adaptation of Noel Coward's "Brief Encounter." The show, about the illicit affair is based on a one act play Coward wrote in the 1930s, and then adapted to an award winning movie in the waning days of World War II.
Director Emma Rice of the British Kneehigh Theatre company, says it's a show everyone can relate to, as she believes there's hardly anyone out there who hasn't fallen in love with someone they shouldn't, or been in love with someone who has fallen for someone else. She's also developed a huge appreciation for Coward and the depth of his work.
"This was a gay man in the 1930s," she says. "He knew what it was like to feel love that he wasn't allowed to feel. And yet the generosity of putting those words into two heterosexual people's mouths and genuinely charting the pain, the simple pain, of what was impossible. I mean, I've got goosebumps even thinking about it."
"Brief Encounter" is now in previews and opens Saturday.
And finally, you can't help but feel the love at the new retrospective of Wing Young Huie's work which is now open at the Janet Wallace Fine Arts Gallery at Macalester College. Huie has documented the people around him in the Twin Cities for three decades, creating an impressive body of work, usually displayed in series such as "Frogtown" and "Lake Street USA." The Mac show is a sampler, taking selections from Huie's work over the years, including the University Avenue Project which will be displayed along its namesake street later this summer.
Emma Rice says she's regularly asked whether Noel Coward is relevant today. She's patient in her reply in a room at the Guthrie Theater where her company Kneehigh Theater, from Cornwall in England, is about to mount its critically acclaimed production of "Brief Encounter."
She admits that for a long time she had a cliched view of Coward as just the witty performer who stood around in a white jacket smoking a cigarette in a long holder. Then she began to delve into his works as she prepared to adapt and direct "Brief Encounter." She says, yes, the jacket and the cigarette were definitely Coward.
"But he is also the man who wrote amazing poetry about the barrenness of love and loneliness," she says, before noting he also wrote bawdy songs like "Alice is at it Again," and popular songs like "Mad about the Boy."
"As I began to read more and more of him he becomes this amazing everyman." she says.
It all comes together in "Brief Encounter," which began life as a one act play, and then Coward rewrote as a film which was made just at the end of World war II. It's the story of a chance meeting at a railway station between a man and a woman. They are both married to other people, but they fall in love. Rice says she believes the story speaks deeply to most people.
"I feel it's sort of basic to the human condition," Rice says. "There can't be many of us who haven't fallen in love with someone we shouldn't, had a partner who's fallen in love with someone they shouldn't. It's really what being human, and passionate, and alive is about."
Rice and her company arrived over the weekend and are now rehearsing the show in preparation for opening this weekend. The play is not a simple recreation of the movie. Rice adapted the original script and has blended in not only some of Coward's songs, but her company wrote original music for some of his poetry and blended that into the show.
Rice says she's been struck by how well the adaptation of what many people see as a quintessential British story has done in the US, with each city reacting in a slightly different way.
She admits that after working with the material for two and a half years her own understanding of the play has changed, in part because she has changed. She's looking forward to that continuing.
"I think this will speak to me for the rest of my life," she says.
The folks at the MIA anticipated they'd attract more entries for the 2010 Foot in the Door show than the 1,700 they received for the last Foot in the Door in 2000. However their guestimate of 3,000 was way low.
By the time the submission period ended at 4.30 on Sunday afternoon in excess of 4,500 artworks had survived the curatorial process (that is they had fit into the one foot cube 'Curator' box shown above,) and been accepted for the show. The on-line video submissions are not included in that number, so clearly the final number could be significantly higher.
The MIA's Ann-Marie Wagner tells me there was a huge press of people on Sunday afternoon, hoping to make the deadline. There were so many people in fact that the line went twice around the second floor rotunda in the MIA's Target wing, down the stairs, twice round the ground floor rotunda, then out the door, across the park, though the atrium of the Third Avenue, and out onto the sidewalk beyond.
The line was so long that at 3pm staff realized they wouldn't be able to fit in any more people by the 4.30 deadline, so they cut off the line.
Chris Atkins of the MAEP program which organizes "Foot in the Door" says by Sunday they were getting about 100 submissions every 45 minutes or so. He says most people had to wait about an hour or 90 minutes in line, and there were some cases of a two hour wait, but he says once people actually got to the head of the line they were usually processed in just a few moments.
When asked how many people were unable to get in, he says he doesn't really know.
Atkins says the job of hanging and displaying the work has already begun as they prepare for the opening of the show on Thursday February 18th.
"We've got them stacked 11 or 12 high on the wall," he says. It sounds as though visitors might want to take a leaf out of the Walker's "Benches and Binoculars" show and bring some opera glasses with them.
There are two galleries set aside for Foot in the Door 2010, but it looks as though it's going to have to spill out into the atrium, even with the plan to assign each piece just one square foot of space.
"I've got some geometry to do with the registration crew to actually see, gridding things out," he says. The pieces will be hung roughly in the order they came in. There will be a system which will allow people to quickly find specific pieces.
While the majority of the submissions came from the Twin Cities, Atkins saw work coming in from all over the state. He mentions pieces from Willmar, Albert Lea, and Grand Marais. "A lot of zip codes from all over the state," he laughs.
Several teachers from schools and colleges around the area brought in multiple works, sometimes 40 or 50 for students in their classes.
All of the entrants were also invited to the opening night party along with family and friends, so it's likely to be packed, and probably one of the biggest ever openings in MIA history.
"Yeah, it'll definitely be up there," says Atkins. "It's hard for us to anticipate exactly how many, but we'll do everything we can to make sure people can come in, they get into the galleries, and have a good time that night."
The show is scheduled to run through June 13th, a total of about 15 weeks. Atkins says he's excited about how it's all coming together.
"It's going to be a lot more work over the next 10 days," he says, "But it's going to be a great show on the 18th."
Two of the 10 nominees for best picture have heavy Minnesota connections: "A Serious Man" and "Up." The former is the Coen Brothers' homage to life (although they claim not their own) in 1960's St Louis Park, and the latter is Bloomington native Pete Docter's animated exploration of old age, balloons, and to hear him tell it, Midwestern sensibilities.
Now of course we will get into our regular debate as to whether Minnesota can really claim people who have not lived here for years, but let's leave that aside for a while.
Both "A Serious Man" and "Up" are little cinematic gems and if the nominations get a few more people to see them it's no bad thing.
Of course, with 10 nominees, and with "Avatar" and "The Hurt Locker" in the mix, both of them have to be considered back in the pack, despite their great merits.
The same sadly is true for "Coraline," up for the best animated feature award, which is based on the gloriously creepy novella by Neil Gaiman, who tells people he lives in Minneapolis in part I believe to avoid having to explain he's really living in Wisconsin near the Twin Cities. "Coraline" was one of the first in the new wave of 3D movies which really uses the extra dimension to enhance the storyline. However it's up against Pixar's "Up," Wes Anderson's "Fantastic Mr. Fox," Disney's "The Princess and the Frog" and "The Secret of Kells."
A similar writerly connection links Minnesota and "Up in the Air" which is based on a novel written Walter Kirn who hails from Stillwater. (H/T Curtis Wenzel.)
One other local connection is St Paul native Joe Chisholm who masterminded the clandestine operation needed to get images of a dolphin slaughter which is chronicled in the controversial film "The Cove," which is nominated in the best documentary category.
In the same category "Food Inc." an exploration of the impact of factory farming on the health of consumers, was producer by Minneapolis native Bill Pohlad.
Update: Lucinda Winter at the Minnesota Film and Television Board points out another two we should mention:
1. ART DIRECTION, MAKE-UP, COSTUME DESIGN (3): YOUNG VICTORIA (Apparition is the US distributor, Bill Pohlad is a partner with Bob Berney in Apparition)
2. COSTUME DESIGN - BRIGHT STAR (Apparition is distributor, Bill Pohlad is a partner with Bob Berney in Apparition)
The Movie Maven and I were looking for other vague Minnesota connections. She came up with the fact that "The Hurt Locker" star Jeremy Renner was in "North Country" the Charlize Theron vehicle about sexual harrassment on the Iron Range. And of course "Crazy Heart" writer/director Scott Cooper, says he learned the importance of story while working on "Bill's Gun Shop" in the Twin Cities.
What is remarkable is the number of people from these films who have been on the MPR airwaves over the past months. We've had Peter Docter, members of the cast from "A Serious Man," and "Up in the Air" writer/director Jason Reitman.
We had writer director Oren Moverman talking about "The Messenger," which snagged a best original screenplay nomination (and a best supporting actor nod for Woody Harrelson.) We had writer/director Armando Iannucci talking about "In the Loop" which is nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay. There is also an interview with Christophe Barratier director of "Paris 36" which scored a nomination for best song.
And then in the longest Minnesota stretch ever, we should mention Helen Mirren, who is nominated for Best Actress for "The Last Station" She has a tattoo on her thumb, which she recently declared she hates because as she told Good Morning America "I decided to get a tattoo because it was the most shocking thing I could think of doing. Now I'm utterly disgusted and shocked because it's become completely mainstream, which is unacceptable to me."
And where did she get that tattoo? Many years ago while travelling through Minnesota.
In December we ran a feature on a long ignored group of musicians in Sri Lanka.
The Kaffirs are descendents of Africans brought over by Portuguese colonists hundreds of years before. Producer Jesse Hardman who told us the story, also left a pile of CD's of the show he arranged for the group in Colombo for us to give away.
All but five have now gone. If you would like one please email me. First come, first served.
Little is as it seems in the village at the center of Michael Haneke's "The White Ribbon." (Images courtesy Sony Pictures Classics)
Director Michael Haneke creates quiet worlds where nastiness if not flat out evil erupts for reasons which the audience only gradually come to learn. They are deeply disturbing works, scarring even, which can slither back into a person's consciousness weeks, months even years after seeing them.
I still think of scenes from "Cache" which give me goosebumps, even though I saw it in September 2005. Ask my colleague Chris Roberts about "Funny Games" (which Haneke made first in German in 1997 and then remade in English in 2007) and he physically shudders.
So why torture ourselves? Because Haneke's bleak view of the world tells us so much about the human condition.
His latest film "The White Ribbon," which opens in the Twin Cities this weekend, takes us through a few months in a village in northern Germany just before the outbreak of World War I. Outwardly it's an idyllic place, a quiet community where flaxen-haired children play in large courtyards amongst the chickens, as their parents work hard but cheerfully on the Baron's estate.
Yet very quickly we learn the village is uneasy as the result of a bizarre attack on the local doctor. Someone stretched a wire across a path near his home which trips his horse, and lands the doctor in a remote hospital.
It's just the first of a number of incidents which spread fear through the community, which (as it is after all the 20th century) is beginning to chafe under the semi-feudal system which has them under the thumb of the Baron. Suspicion swirls through the village, but as with all Haneke stories there are no easy answers.
As the film unfolds he provides glimpses into the families: the pastor who rules his children like a tyrant. There are the workers who are torn between their loyalty to and their resentment of the Baron. And there is the village teacher who gets to witness far more of this than he really wants.
At the center of the story are the children, who live a dual existance. When they are with their parents they are yoked into their place as determined by their family's social position. But away from the adults they have their own society, and it seems their own secrets - many of them quite ugly.
Haneke weaves the multiple stories of the villagers into a dense clump, using the soft tones of his black and white film to highlight the secrecy and hypocrisy of the place.
While he resolves some of the mystery, he leaves his audience teetering with the feeling that something worse is on the way. These are people who are about to be plunged into a world-changing war. And these are the children who will in a few short years be flocking to support Hitler and the fascist cause.
"The White Ribbon" has been hailed as Haneke's masterpiece, and it's easy to see why.
Detail of self portrait by Vincent Van Gogh, 1889, Oil On Canvas
For 40 minutes this morning I was transported from the icy streets and gray skies of downtown St. Paul to the sun-drenched fields of wheat and sunflowers in southern France. And I was immersed in the colors and brush strokes of one of the most popular painters of all time.
Detail of "Undergrowth with Two Figures" by Vincent van Gogh, oil on canvas
The film, created by French filmmakers Peter Knapp and François
Bertrand, takes viewers not just to southern France where Van Gogh painted some of his best work, but to Musée D'Orsay in Paris and the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam, where many of his works hang today. We move from the actual fields in which he painted, to the paintings themselves. Often the shot of the painting is so close up that it stretches across the entire dome of the Omnitheater, giving viewers the sense that they are standing in a painted cornfield, or walking through a painted room. It's as though you're seeing the world through Van Gogh's eyes - an intimate perspective that simply isn't possible when you are in front of the original work.
Above, a shot of the Church at Auvers-sur-Oise... below, a detail from the painting it inspired
The film serves as a reminder of Van Gogh's amazing productivity; in just under ten years he painted more than 900 canvases. In the last months of his life he was finishing sometimes three works a day. The creative frenzy ceased abruptly when he shot himself in the chest. He was just 37.
A close up look at Van Gogh's letters
Perhaps the only flaw to be found in the film is the conceit on which it is made - as an "entertainment experience." Indeed, this is no documentary. The film features three characters - Ellen, a fictional museum researcher (portrayed by actress Hélène Seuzaret), Peter, a film director ("played" by Peter Knapp, the co-director of the film), and the narrator, supposedly Vincent van Gogh himself (the voice is that of 52 year-old Jacques Gamblin, making Van Gogh sound far older than he ever was). When Van Gogh admires Peter Knapp in the course of his narration, I personally was left skeptical. Really? Would Van Gogh have liked this director? Isn't that a bit vain?
While the debate around what exactly happened to Van Gogh's ear still continues, in this film "he" says he cut it off himself, and makes no allusion to the fact that some believe his friend and fellow painter Gaugin did it in a drunken fight (this may in part be due to the fact that this film came out last year, around the same time as the most recent academic arguments).
Regardless of its artistic license or the distraction of both fictional and factual characters, the film succeeds at doing something truly remarkable. That is to take the work of a painter, and turn it into a world unto itself for us to explore.
"Van Gogh: Brush with Genius" runs January 29 - March 11 as part of Omnifest 2010.
If you click on the image you'll get a better view of the full wind and snow blown effect.
However being an enterprising guy, and handy with the holiday decorations, a few well placed lights transform the piece as you can see below.
Again, click on the image for a larger view.
Many of us have Christmas viewing traditions. My sister and one of her best pals always watch "It's a Wonderful Life," a tradition that is now decades old. Some people have the "Ronia, the Robber's Daughter" at the Oak Street, and there's of course "A Christmas Story" or even the viewing of the Lord of the Rings trilogy at the Riverview Theater in Minneapolis which happened last Sunday.
Some people flock to the end of year lists, or in this case, end of decade lists to pick something they missed.
My family tries to sit down together with something we have all loved in the past, or that one of us feels everyone will really enjoy. We were going to watch "Clueless" in memory of Brittany Murphy, but decided that was too sad, and so we somehow settled on "Death at a Funeral" which perhaps says something about how we think.
But what about you? What movie traditions do you share with your family at this time of year?
And while you are thinking about that, have a listen to Tay "Cherry Chocolate Rain" Zonday sing a seasonal favorite. Happy Holidays.(1 Comments)
This time I caught him eating breakfast in a hotel in Milwaukee, where he spoiled the rhapsodic description of his steal-cut oatmeal and fruit by admitting a 3 am chicken strip eating contest had taken the edge of his appetite.
This is just all part of life when you are trying to re-calibrate the movie distribution system in America.
Sklar is on his way to the Trylon Cinema in Minneapolis tonight where he and his pals on the Range Life Entertainment bus will end their 2009 national tour by showing two movies: the comedy noir "Assassination of a High School President" (with Mischa Barton and Bruce Willis) and the air-drumming comedy "Adventures of Power" (with Michael McKean and Jane Lynch.)
They are two of the 14 films which Sklar has had on the road since early September. (This is the second visit to Minnesota on the tour.)
The movie theater isn't big but the idea is to build buzz. When Sklar went on the road last year he took movies that didn't have distribution deals. This year that's still true of about half his stable, but the other half do have deals, and as in the case of both "Assassination" and "Adventures" got a lot of festival love before falling foul of the economy.
"While we were kind of honing in and figuring out how to make this little road apparatus work as a distribution method," Sklar says, "I think the rest of the distribution landscape continued to fall apart. I think they thought that everything bottomed out and levelled out last year, but the sky was still falling apparently because at this point it's interesting that a lot of the larger films, and even the films that we are working with partners on, are even more excited and more aggressive on what they are doing with us than some of the smaller ones."
Sklar admits that sometimes he's not as convinced as the folks he's working with that what they are doing is working.
"I don't know that I necessarily feel that it's working, but everybody else feels like it is," he laughed. "I know we all feel like there's a lot more to improve."
Sklar says some of the films had offers from companies which then went bankrupt. He says films which might seem like naturals for the movieplexes have ended up sitting on the shelves for months. He calls them "PoW's of this whole thing."
Sklar claims that there are now so many gatekeepers in the distribution business that it makes it hard for some worthy movies to get into theaters. So that's where Sklar comes in with his quick hit shows at colleges and art houses.
"It's easier for us to do that than for a distributor to open for a week in 40 cities," he says. He points to "Assassination" as a case in point. After several attempts to get it into theaters failed, the distributor asked Range Life to take it on the road.
"We have no business being a part of a movie like that," Sklar says. "But at the same time it's very indicative of the current state of the film industry." He immediately agreed to the deal.
Sklar says Range Life offers a low-cost, high efficiency way of generating interest in a movie before it comes out on DVD.
Meanwhile he is still promoting his original mission, promoting low-budget movies that don't have a distributor, but he thinks deserves an audience.
Another less publicized part of this tour is Sklar and his associates have been creating a network of people in each city they visit which they hope they can use to promote some of the movies when the Range Life van isn't on the road. He hopes they can be showing films, or even making films which can come together through this network.
"A little 'Range Life' army around the country," Sklar says. He hopes it could lead to what he calls a whole new generation of content. He says he couldn't have made his own first feature without help and this could provide a framework for future film makers.
As for his own film work it has been on hold because of the touring, but he hopes to have a couple of pieces in play soon. He just produced a film with writer/director Dean Peterson called "Incredibly Small" which he hopes will be out in the spring. He is also writing a film with one of the stars of "Box Elder" which they will shoot in the summer. "It's taken a lot longer than it probably should have," he says.
He promises a Minneapolis show.
"The Twin Cities is the core of what we do," Sklar says. "You've got to bring it back home.
Sklar and his pals will be at the Trylon tonight at 7 for "Adventures of Power" and 9 for "Assassination of a High School President."
The Southern Theater, which went through a shake-up in leadership back in July of 2008, has announced it's hired Gary Peterson to be its new Executive Director, replacing interim Executive Director
Steve Barberio. Patricia Speelman.
Peterson is probably best known for serving as the Executive Director of the James Sewell Ballet, but he's also on the board of directors for Ananya Dance Theater, and has worked with the Twin Cities Gay Men's Chorus. Peterson writes about the arts on his blog "Minnesota Mist."
The unexplained firing of Jeff Bartlett from the position of Executive Director for the Southern created a rift between the board and the artists who regularly perform there, as well as longtime audience members. However efforts to be more transparent, and to include artists on the board, appear to have quelled the original bitterness.
Peterson assumes his new duties January 1, 2010.(2 Comments)
According to the City Pages, Bruce Allen will be taken off life support tonight. Allen, 54, has suffered from numerous health problems that led to uncontrollable internal bleeding and organ failure. The guitarist was known not just for his music, but his graphic designs (including the Twin/Tone record label logo). Have a favorite memory from a Bruce Allen/Suburbs performance? Feel free to share it here.
Greg Yolen (above) has a simple programming philosophy for the Minneapolis Underground Film Festival.
"The films just kind of programmed themselves," he says
He put the MUFF's address on the web site and received 45 films from nine countries.
"Everyone else can judge the work," he says. "I just want to show it."
All of them are in the 2009 festival which runs this weekend at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design. Audiences will be asked to vote on the films to decide prizewinners at the event.
He says he learned a lot last year.
"Basically I saw this real interest in films, not only local films, but international underground films, that I didn't know existed," he says.
He also learned about timing, and how an event in August, like the first MUFF has to compete with a lot of other distractions. Thus the new December date.
Yolen says the digital revolution has leveled the movie-making playing field, with people making quality flicks in their homes. He says the problem of independent film has usually been story, or lack of it. However he says this year's entries show film makers are working hard to change that.
He has scored a coup in getting local director John Koch, of Cinema Revolution fame, to present the world premier of his just completed film "The Seducer."
"He took the whole problem of story out of the equation," Yolen says. "He's goy the best writer in history. He shares a writing credit with Fyodor Dostoyevsky. So you've got a great story, just put it in a modern context."
Yolen says he's a huge fan of Koch's film making and the special way he tells stories.
Another of his top picks is "Paddle to Seattle," and adventure documentary made by two friends who built their own kayaks and paddle from Alaska through the inland passage to Seattle.
"It's just beautiful," Yolen says, who also recounts terrifying scenes of suddenly finding themselves in the midst of a school of humpback whales.
The MUFF also offers the opportunity to catch up on some locally made films which you may have missed earlier. Melody Gilbert's "Disconnected" gets a screening, as does "Living Arrangements," about a vegan couple in Minneapolis who find their deep committment to animal rights is tested when they discover a werewolf living in the attic of their new home. There is also a screening of James Vogel's "The City."
The festival is also showing a pile of short films, and some grittier material at its late night screenings.
The full schedule is here, including a number of trailers.
Yolen says he hopes the MUFF will grow and become an important event. He also hopes it will serve as an inspiration for local film makers. He says he's already encouraging people to make piece for the 2010 festival. He sees it all as part of developing and maintaining a thriving film scene.
"I'm just trying to get through this weekend," he laughs. "Then I'll figure it out."
The state's self-proclaimed flagship center for dance has a new leader. After breaking ground just two weeks ago, the Minnesota Shubert Center has named Mary McColl its new executive director.
McColl, who was trained in ballet, is former Vice President and General Manager of the Ordway Center for Performing Arts. She also served as V.P. for Operations at the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra. Most recently she was director of labor relations for the Broadway League in New York. McColl is looking forward to assuming her new role.
"As a center for dance that integrates affordable space to work, teach, rehearse and perform, the Minnesota Shubert Center has the potential to help lift the Twin Cities dance community to new heights of visibility and excellence," said McColl. "It is a dream opportunity for me to help launch this new institution and join staff, board, and partners in pursuit of a transformative vision."
McColl replaces Colin Hamilton, who will move to other projects as vice president for Artspace Projects. Artspace is the Minneapolis organization overseeing the Shubert restoration.
Today's announcement also marks the return of Jeff Bartlett to Twin Cities dance. The Minnesota Shubert Center has chosen Bartlett to be its dance community liaison. In that role, he will implement a plan funded by Dance USA to engage the dance community and support audience expansion efforts.
Bartlett is founding artistic director of the Southern Theater and a much loved figure in the local dance scene. Bartlett had to resign in 2008 when the Southern's board instituted a change in leadership, a move that generated controversy in the dance community.
A couple of years ago Curt Ellis (left) and his friend Ian Cheney decided to teach themselves about agriculture by planting, growing, harvesting, and selling an acre of corn in Iowa. They filmed it all of course and released a documentary about the experience called "King Corn."
The neophyte farmers travelled the country with their movie which explored the impact of subsidies on US farms, and on food choices for American consumers.
Now they are back with a sequel. Curt Ellis admits that's a little unusual in the documentary game.
"I think that's probably for good reason," he laughs.
Yet they have done it all the same.
"I guess from the minute we finished 'King Corn' we had a realization we hadn't told the full story. 'King Corn' is really the food story of one acre of Iowa farmland, and we spent a year growing one acre of corn and following our harvest off the farm. But by the end of the year, having learned our harvest was going to become high fructose corn syrup and corn-fed confinement-raised meat, we realized there was something else at least as valuable as the corn we had grown, and that was the land we had tended and the way we had tended it."
Ellis and Cheney went back to Iowa and explored the ecological impact they'd had on their acre of soil, through the way they had plowed it and applied various chemical herbicides and fertilizers.
"We really only spent two hours over the course of the year actually farming," he says. "And most of that time was spent spraying things, injecting anhydrous ammonia, or spraying a cocktail of herbicides on our field of corn that had been genetically modified to make it withstand a direct spray. So there was clearly a chemical process as much as a biological process going on. "
Ellis and Cheney followed the run-off from their land through the watershed and into the Mississippi. They also talked to various experts about the health impact of modern farming methods.
"The goal of the "Big River" film was to create a follow-up to "King Corn" that would introduce people to these consequences that are hidden behind our everyday meals," Ellis says. He talks about the dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico caused by the flow of fertilizers in the run-off from Midwestern farms, and about reports of cancer clusters in some farm communities.
Ellis will bring both films to a screening at the Riverview Theater in Minneapolis on Wednesday. Several local organizations are sponsoring the show, which will include a panel discussion of some of the issues raised.
He says at other similar events there have been a number of farmers in the audience and there has been a great discussion. He expects that to be the case in Minneapolis too.
"It's not always friendly," he says. "But I've been pretty amazed by how friendly it is. Both "King Corn" and "Big River" are pretty moderate films. We are not taking a finger-wagging approach to these problems. You know we are really all in this together. The reality is our food system is in trouble right now, and the only people who can fix that are all of us coming together."
"Big River" is just 30 minutes long and Ellis hopes it will have use as an educational tool in schools and for environmental advocacy groups.
Ian Cheney and Curt Ellis look to the future in "Big River" (Image courtesy WickedDelicate Films)
Ellis laughs when asked if there will be a King Corn III, but then mentions the next big project will be called "Truck Farm" which is about how the two film makers took the rust 1986 Dodge pick-up truck which appeared in "King Corn" and put a roof on it so they could grow vegetables. In time they turned it into a community supported agriculture subscription farm serving 20 people. This maybe the only farm which can actually drive around town.
"It started just because Ian and I moved to Brooklyn after we finished our film projects and we wanted to grow food, but we didn't have any land, so we turned to the only open space we knew of which was the bed of the old pick-up truck."
You can see episodes from the project at WickedDelicate films. Ellis sees it as a fun way to spur discussions of the very real problem of so-called 'food deserts,' areas in cities where healthy food is hard to find.
"We had a neighborhood kid who kept eating the parsley down to a stump," Ellis says. "So that was our only pest problem."
The hour-long version of "Truck Farm" will probably premier next spring. They are also working on a film about light pollution from urban areas.
You can hear our conversation here: Listen
It was a strange night at the Mall of America last evening. "Twilight Saga:New Moon" fans filled the rotunda for the appearance by Edi Gathegi and Jamie Campbell Bower. Meanwhile upstairs in the movie theater a wondrous collection of pumped-up Boondock Saints fans were howling at the arrival of director Troy Duffy and star Sean Patrick Flanery (pictured above.)
Duffy and Flanery came to introduce "Boondock Saints 2: All Saints Day," and to grow the legend of one of the stranger film stories in recent years.
In case you missed it, here's the thumbnail: in the late 1990's Troy Duffy became a Hollywood hot property because of his "Boondock" script. The story of a pair of gun-toting Irish vigilantes blasting Boston baddies seemed ideal for studios eager to build on the success of "Pulp Fiction." He got a huge advance from Miramax, a budget for his film which he was also to direct.
Then things went south real fast.
Duffy alienated Miramax with his behavior, and the studio pulled out. He also had agreed to let some friends make a film of his experience in the Hollywood limelight, and when things went bad it got captured on film. The resulting documentary "Overnight" portrayed Duffy as an egomaniacal bully. Duffy made his film on half the budget he's had from Miramax, but then found in post-Columbine days no distribution company would touch a movie about a pair of black coat clad guys shooting people. The film opened briefly on a handful of screens, got ripped by critics, and that appeared to be that.
However as Duffy and Flanery told the MOA crowd, that's when the Boondock fanbase began kicking in. As the film appeared in video stores it began to attract fans who made sure their friends all saw it. Then they in turn turned on their friends. Official estimates say about $50 million worth of discs have sold over the years since. Duffy and Flanery toss around much larger numbers than that.
Now after a decade, and lawsuits, and a lot of other strange stuff the Boondock Saints are back, and judging by the reception the movie got from the Minnesota crowd it's not a moment too soon.
The Troy Duffy who appeared in the movie theater was not a monster. In fact, while he does delight in the use of expletives, he was thoughtful, and even charming in a blunt kind of way. Flanery was also clearly having a ball, and described making Boondock 2 as the best experience he ever had making a film, with Boondock 1 being the second.
"It was like they gave a bunch of blue collar dudes the keys to Hollywood," he proclaimed at one point.
After the q and a and a signing where the Boondocks posed for dozens of pictures, they sat down with me for a long chat. We'll air some of it tomorrow evening.
As they left, I mentioned the Twilight Saga folks were there too.
"So who would win in a fight?" I had to ask. "The Boondock Saints or the vampires and the werewolves?"
Sean Patrick Flanery smiled back and said, "I could take five of them myself."
Walker Art Center film curator Sheryl Mousley recalls what she had to do when she travelled to China in 2001hoping to see some of the underground social issue documentary films she'd heard were being made at the time.
She made some contacts and was told "This is totally illegal to show these films in China. But if you show up at this bar at noon, anybody who MIGHT want to show you something MIGHT be there."
Mousley says she was there at noon, and found a VCR set up. Over the next few hours, a stream of people turned up to show her their films. She brought some of the tapes back and screened them at the Walker.
Her interest in Chinese film has resulted in the latest Walker Film event "The People's Republic of Cinema" which celebrates the 60 years of movie-making in mainland China since the Revolution in 1949.
Mousley says she hopes the event will offer a chance for people to learn a little more about China through the stories it has told about itself.
"The very first one, made in 1949 tells us of the coming revolution," she says of 'Crows and Sparrows.' The early films capture the stylized look of socialist realism. Later films from the Cultural Revolution have a starker appearance.
"Then the reaction to that by the next generation of making films, but still working within the government system, making films that were classic rural films of still challenging the system, but in a revolutionary way," Mousley says. "And then the next generation comes along and it's urban and gritty and making films about what they are seeing now."
The images are remarkably recognizable, but Mousley says that's perhaps not surprising when we think of how much of US history has come to be thought of in terms of cinematic scenes.
"Going back to the Civil War, we would probably show 'Gone with the Wind' and it would be that great image of Tara, and then we would show 'Bonnie and Clyde' in the thirties. We have all these iconic images of our own history through the cinema as well and so that is what we know."
Some of the films in "The People's Republic of China" are well known here, but some have never been screened in the US before. In fact some of them haven't been shown much even in China.
"So we are seeing a China that not even Chinese people always see," says Mousley. "So it's a very interesting mix of information."
She says repeat attendees will be able to follow the evolution of Chinese cinema. She saw it herself. When she went back to China just four years later in 2005 to do an artist-in-residence program and she asked to see some work in advance. She was expecting trouble again, but that time round the film makers told her they would just post them to her web site.
The People's Republic of Cinema runs through November 23rd in association with the University of Minnesota. Some of the films will screen at the Walker and others at the Bell Auditorium at the U.
Luminaries from the Minnesota literary world will gather this evening at Plymouth Congregational Church in Minneapolis to remember Bill Holm and to read from his latest work (published posthumously), "The Chain Letter of the Soul."
Those reading from his new book will include Minnesota Poet Laureate Robert Bly, Holm's wife Marcella Brekken, Milkweed Editions' publishers Emilie Buchwald and Daniel Slager, and poets Phil Bryant, Phebe Hanson, Jim Heynen, Jim Lenfestey, Freya Manfred, Joe and Nancy Paddock and John Rezmerski.
Pianist Sonja Thompson will accompany the evening, performing selections of Hayden (one of Holm's favorite composers) and other classics.
A new exhibit at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis traces the career of Dan Graham. "Dan Graham: Beyond" includes examples of Graham's magazine pieces, films, sculptures and live performances that go all the way back to the 1960s. One of the subjects that Graham has been intrigued by throughout his career is pop music. He's written about the Kinks and the Rolling Stones, punk rock and the place of women in rock and roll. Graham came to Minneapolis for the opening of the exhibit and Minnesota Public Radio's Jim Bickal asked him what music he's interested in right now. Bickal found the response interesting, and passed it my way to share:
"I'm intrigued by Bob Dylan's new persona. On the album "Together through Life" his persona is that of an 80-year-old guy who has a romance in a nursing home and takes his new girlfriend or wife to Niagara Falls. It's 1940s or '50s songs, very trite. There's a lot of doggerel I think. He's using accordion and trumpets. And I think when he had his satellite radio program he got very involved in the '50s and '40s, but his persona is like an old guy now. I think ("Together Through Life") is a great album. It's all about cliches; it's very humorous. I think he's going back to his teenage years.
I think on the new album "Christmas in the Heart" he's trying to be like his hero, Dean Martin. He's always loved Dean Martin. Of course there's the whole idea of if he's doing things from the heart or not; he's dealing with the cliche of doing things from the heart. In "Chronicles" (Dylan's autobiography), he talks about being a normal family man, having a good marriage, but in fact he was cheating on his wife the entire time. So, I think he's trying to portray himself as somebody who has heart."
What do you think of Bob Dylan's image? Do you see an attempt to recreate himself, or to rewrite his history? Oh and if you haven't heard the new Christmas album, you must check this out.
Inspired by my recent trip to the Textile Center, I decided to pay a visit to a local star in the weaving world. Kelly Marshall actually got her start in weaving at the
Textile Center Weaver's Guild of Minnesota when she was 19, then went on to study in Sweden, and now runs a nationally recognized business from a studio in the Northrup King building in Minneapolis.
Marshall's studio has four large looms in it, and a staff of three full-time weavers to work them. While weaving is often considered a solitary art, Marshall says she's always wanted company:
When I started weaving for a profession, I took a business class at Women Venture to help me get my mind around running a business as a weaver. One of the first things we did was project what the business would look like in 5 years. My vision was a large, sunlight room with several looms and myself and several weavers working on the looms. I have always wanted to share the craft of weaving, making the textiles, with others.