Cognitive dissonance happens when the pastor in a Lutheran church reminds the congregation that the musician leading worship this Sunday morning recently swept three Grammy categories.
René Clausen had brought his Concordia College Choir from Moorhead to Duluth last Saturday to kick off a tour of the central United States. The next morning, the choir performed for the 8:30 service at Duluth's First Lutheran Church. A member of First Lutheran's regular choir, which had the day off, admitted to a visitor that the music wasn't usually this good. "We're pathetic in comparison," he said.
But who isn't? The Concordia Choir has a wonderfully disciplined and blended sound. And its conductor, Clausen, picked up Grammys this month for a new CD of his choral music, "Life and Breath." He's been leading the choir for 27 years.
Minnesota listeners will have one more chance to catch the tour before the choir heads for points south: at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, at Christ the King Lutheran Church in Bloomington. The program includes Bach, Distler, Christiansen and, yes, Clausen. The tour will touch most states between here and Texas before wrapping up with a homecoming performance in Moorhead March 10.
If you can't see them in person, there's always this:
-- Eric Ringham(0 Comments)
For Dean J. Seal, founder of Spirit in the House, it's time to talk about forgiveness.
Seal, a former Executive Producer of the Minnesota Fringe Festival, is in an ordained Presbyterian minister whose work focuses on using the arts to stimulate interfaith dialogue.
For the next two weekends he's organized a symposium on forgiveness that will feature both artwork and a variety of performances, including a one-man show by Ari Hoptman, spoken word by Bobby Wilson, a staging of Dracula, and a new play called Marietta.
What inspired you to organize a symposium around forgiveness?
Three years ago, Stephen O'Toole brought me the play, Marietta, a true story about a woman who forgave the kidnapper of her daughter. We did two readings of it, one at the Playwrights Center, and it seemed to hold up. Forgiveness on that scale is like going to the moon. As Jack Kennedy said, "We don't do it because it is easy, we do it because it is hard."
Then I kept thinking about other things that could connect to it, and I suffer from "mission creep." Forgiveness is very complicated, and like a diamond, there seem to be many facets, but not all of them are beautiful.
There are a couple issues about forgiveness that bring up ugliness. First is a problem that has come up with the Amish. There are beautiful stories of them forgiving murderers and drunk drivers. But there are ugly stories about, say, a teenage girl raped by her brother, who then has to forgive him, and then he rapes her again. Or you can go into a more widespread problem of women who forgive a man who beats them up and then apologizes. There is an old Carole King song, "He Hit Me and It Felt Like A Kiss." That's about the idea that he hit me because he cares so much. That's not the realm of good forgiveness. It's the realm of wrong forgiveness.
Do you think we lack forgiveness as a culture?
Yes, I think people who forgive are considered to be losers. It's another way we are not healthy. Dr. Frederick Luskin talks about the cardio benefits of forgiveness- it can lower your blood pressure, reduce your heart rate. It's part of the us-versus-them, no-compromise fever that has taken over the media-political landscape. Chris Christie and Obama show what we could be, and we haven't seen that in 20 years.
With individuals, it can be crucial in maintaining relationship. I've been married 27 years, and you don't get that far without a lot of forgiveness. The Buddha has a great punch line on this: "Holding a grudge is like holding a hot coal in your hand, that you will throw at the person you are mad at the next time you see them." Some people would rather be right than to forgive, and that just kills a relationship, because we all need forgiveness.
Why use theater and comedy to talk about it?
Let's start with comedy. The best comedy is about serious subjects. The people with the best sense of humor are the survivors. If you saw comedian Tig Notaro's bit about getting cancer and the death of her mother, it was powerful, heartwarming, and funny. Comedy opens people up, and then they can receive a deeper, more powerful message.
Theater comes out of Greek funeral services and also Medieval Church services. They both share this intent, to make an event happen that carries meaning. Good theater is an emotional construction that brings you into someone's world, so you can live through something, and learn what thy learned, without having to actually suffer what thy suffer. Compassion is when you allow yourself to feel someone else's pain, and that is something theater can evoke.
What do you hope to accomplish?
This is all an introduction to several conversations about forgiveness that are happening. It's part of therapy, medicine, restorative justice, the Dakota Wars, the years of American slavery, the Holocausts of Jews in Europe, it's about marriage, and sanity. It's about a 20 year war in Northern Ireland- how do you stoop the vengeance? There are also spiritual and religious aspects. I hope to get people talking. There's plenty to talk about.
Is there ever a time when it is okay to NOT forgive?
In the aforementioned instances of misplaced forgiveness, where forgiving just sets you up for more abuse, then it's wrong and bad. Also, in therapy, you should not forgive if you have not worked through your anger. And that may take a while. It may take forever. But if the anger is still there, it may be too soon to work on forgiveness.
Finally, there is the ambivalent state of Jews and Native Americans, where they live in a state of awareness of a Holocaust, and the people around them either won't acknowledge the seriousness of the pain, or acknowledge that their own people are part of it. Christians need to understand that the Nazi Holocaust was mostly sold as a Christian thing. White people in America need to acknowledge that killing the Indians was a Christian thing that all of us, like me, still benefit from, and that Native Americans still suffer PTSD from. And if we cannot understand that we need forgiveness for that., we keep committing more holocausts. Like 3 million dead Vietnamese, or Army guys killing themselves faster than the Taliban can kill them. If we shield ourselves from the need for forgiveness, we become repeat perpetrators.
Finally, Bram Stoker's Dracula has a message of forgiveness? Really?
When I asked Megan Wells for a show about forgiveness, and she said Bram Stoker's Dracula, I said, "I guess I have no idea what you are talking about." But the second woman victim warned her would-be saviors, "You can't kill him with hate. He is as much under this evil power as anyone. If I fall under this spell, will you kill me with hate? You can only kill him with pity." And as a fan of Dr. King, that goes straight to his assertion that evil cannot drive out evil- only love can drive out evil. Plus, Megan is just a great storyteller.The Forgiveness 360º Symposium runs November 9 - 18 at Concordia University in St. Paul.
The hounds have a dark, somber french ballet interpretation of "Snow White," an art show elevating overlooked matriarchal figures in Islamic religion and culture, and a sad vampire comedian's stand-up routine on their radar this week.
(Want to be an Art Hound? Sign up!)
Minneapolis mixed media artist Veronica G. Ochoa calls "Great Mothers of Islam" at Vine Art Center in Minneapolis a "can't miss" exhibition. It features the works of two women artists, Hend Al-Mansour and Leili Tajadod-Pritschet, in what the Vine Art Center describes as an exploration of "the inherent feminine power in the Islamic tradition." Tajadod-Pritschet, an Iranian Shiite, and Al-Mansour, a Saudi Arabian Sunni, each depict a great woman in Islamic history. The show is up through April 14.
If you'd like to dive into the darker, more eroticized side of "Snow White," Twin Cities theater and dance agent Christine Tschida would like to bring Ballet Preljocaj to your attention. The renowned French dance troupe, which rarely tours in the states, has gotten raves for its edgy interpretation of the fairy tale, complete with costumes by Jean Paul Gaultier and partial nudity. Presented by the University of Minnesota's Northrop Auditorium at the Orpheum Theatre, April 13 & 14.
In terms of belly laughs and humorous food for thought, Minneapolis actor Clarence Wethern says Joseph Scrimshaw's company Joking Envelope has never disappointed. Joking Envelope's latest show is called "The Sad Vampire Comedy Hour" in which a morose melancholic vampire comedian shares his schtick. The show will be at the Bryant Lake Bowl in Minneapolis Fridays and Saturdays through April 28.
Art Hounds is powered by the Public Insight Network.
Meriam Bouderbala. (Tunisia, 1960). Untitled. (Undated). Mixed media. (28 x 20 cm)
In the weeks following September 11, 2001, Americans as a whole suddenly had a much greater awareness of the Middle East and Islam, and a deep interest in learning more about both. While there was a lot of fear in the air, it was also a time that seemed heavy with potential for cultural exchange and understanding - an opportunity to break down stereotypes and reveal more complex truths.
In the now close to nine years since, what have we learned?
An exhibition at St. Catherine University provides us with the opportunity to find out. Titled "Breaking the Veils," the show is not - as you might well assume - aimed at raising awareness of the oppression of muslim women. Rather it's concerned with helping us to lift the veils that filter our own perceptions.
Sharifah Fatimah Syed Zubir. (Malaysia, 1948). Evening Glow. (1991). Acrylic on canvas. (120 x 130 cm)
Jordanian Princess Wijdan Al Hashemi conceived of the exhibition in the wake of 9/11 as she saw news reports and witnessed some of the deep misunderstanding that persisted in the following months. "Breaking the Veils" first opened to the public in Rhodes, Greece in 2002 before embarking on an international tour. Her Majesty Queen Rania-Al Abdullah of Jordan attended the launch and spoke about the exhibit this way:
"Breaking the Veils" features work from 51 women artists from the Islamic world. They work in different media and styles. They have had different life experiences, and they come from more than 20 different countries. But they have something in common that is more important than any dissimilarity. That "something" is the essence of Islamic art, of all art. It is the spirit of creativity and humanity. Real art connects. It connects us with ourselves and one another. It leads us to discover new truths and helps to illuminate the humanity we share. The work of these artists light up not only the Islamic world, but the human world as well. Through this exhibit they are helping to break the veils of misunderstanding and ignorance.
The artists featured in the exhibition are not just muslim, but buddhist, christian and hindu, as well; but they all were raised in Islamic countries. Their work varies dramatically in theme and image, but they all show a high level of talent and skill. As a whole, the exhibition reveals a candor and diversity that defies many commonly held stereotypes about the Islamic world.
Fahda Bint Saud. (Saudi Arabia, 1953). Three Women. (1992). Watercolor on paper. (65 X 84 cm)
Dr. Khalid Khreis is the Director General of the Jordan National Gallery of Fine Arts, and is overseeing the exhibition's international tour. He says the goal of the exhibition is to help stimulate a cross cultural dialogue, and to underscore the difference between religion and culture.
People think that all muslim women in the world are like those found in Afghanistan or Saudi Arabia. We wanted to show that Islamic women are like all women all over the world. We have artists, teachers in universities... Of course we all have our problems; we just wanted to show the reality.
One of the more startling works is "Three Women" by Fahda Bint Saud (pictured above). In it she depicts what appears to be a reluctance on the part of Saudi women to recognize the reality of their restricted lives. Khreis says it's a piece that might not have been allowed if it weren't for the fact that Fahda Bint Saud is in fact a daughter of Saud bin Abdul Aziz, king of Saudi Arabia from 1953 to 1964.
Laila Shaw. (Palestine, 1940). The Deal. (1994). Silkscreen on paper. (48 x 68 cm)
There is also work critical of the United States and its involvement in Middle Eastern politics, particularly Palestine. But on the whole the art is much more personal, displaying deep introspection, a passion for women's issues, and spirituality.
What is most surprising about this exhibition is that it did not reach the United States until 2008, after having toured most of Europe and Australia. It finally reached the Clinton Presidential Library, thanks in large part to Susan Anderson of the ArtReach Foundation. The foundation uses art programs to help people heal from traumatic experiences, including the conflicts in Bosnia and Lebanon, and natural disasters such as Hurricane Katrina. Anderson attended the opening of the exhibition in Greece, and immediately saw a connection between the artwork, and her own work using art to heal wounds and start conversations.
Karima Bin Othman. (Jordan, 1972). Unity. (2002). Acrylic on canvas. (60 X 72 cm)
St. Catherine University plans to launch a dialogue of its own in conjunction with the exhibition. On Tuesday, March 2, I'll be hosting a panel of muslim women from around the Islamic world. They'll share stories about misconceptions surrounding their religion and culture, and give a sense of just what their lives are like. The talk runs from 7-9pm at the Rauenhorst Ballroom.
"Breaking the Veils: Women Artists from the Islamic World" runs Feb. 6 thru April 1 at the Catherine G. Murphy Gallery Visual Arts Building on the campus of St. Catherine University.
Minneapolis film maker Patrick Coyle says he doesn't know what it is, but "Into Temptation," the small budget film he wrote, directed, and acted in, seems to have grown legs. The film's run at the Lagoon Theater in Minneapolis has just been extended again.
"I had to use all my powers of persuasion to get one week," he says. "And it's turned into five and going strong."
The film follows a young Minneapolis priest as he tried to find a young woman who comes into the confessional to ask for absolution for a sin she has yet to commit. She says she is going to kill herself on her birthday, but then runs out of the church before he can identify her.
The film has now screened in Minneapolis, New York, Los Angeles, and Coyle's hometown of Omaha. He says the film seems to hook people, and not only do they encourage their friends to see it, they appear to be coming back to see it again.
"The gratifying thing is it's not just Catholics," Coyle says. "It's kind of cross-demographic. Age and gender and religion. So I don't know. It's really fun. That's all I know for sure, it's really fun," he laughs.
"I do think that people are hungry for a story that resonates truthfully with people you care about, that speak in complete sentences."
The big numbers in Minneapolis and Omaha have apparently attracted the attention of First Look the film's distributors, and the Landmark chain, so plans are already underway for runs in other cities, including Duluth and Fargo.
"We don't have national release, but we are going city by city, and we are trying to get to as many cities before the DVD comes out."
Coyle describes it as a race against time, because that release date is October 27th. It's been a busy time for Coyle because even as he is pushing his film, he also plays Lou Grant in the Torch Theater production of "The Mary Tyler Moore Show," which has also become a hit.
Coyle was speaking to me from Omaha where he is scheduled to introduce the film tonight. "Into Temptation" smashed the Dundee theater's box office record over the weekend.
"They grossed more Friday, Saturday and Sunday at "Into Temptation" than they ever had at this theater and it's been open since the Depression," Coyle says. He admits his family publicity machine has probably helped, but now word of mouth has taken over.
Coyle admits he is mystified as to what the secret is behind the films success.
"One day I might understand it, but I don't now. People see it, they love it and they are telling people about it."
Which makes it a challenge to recreate for his next project. But Coyle is happy that this success improves the chances that will happen.
"I love film making, and think this is definitely going to get me to my next project, and that makes me very happy," he says.
The run at the Lagoon is now scheduled to end on October 1st, but Coyle says he is looking into screenings at other theaters in the Twin Cities.(4 Comments)
I'm feeling a little immersed in the Coen brothers at the moment. Anticipation abounds for their latest film "A Serious Man," which is set in their home town of St. Louis Park and features some great local actors, including Ari Hoptman and Claudia Wilkins. The film opens on October 2.
But if that seems like forever-and-a-day away, not to worry - in the weeks leading up to the premiere, the Walker Art Center is hosting a Coen brothers retrospective, called "Raising Cain." That begins September 18th.
This weekend, fans of the Coen brothers' movie "The Big Lebowski" are dressing up as their favorite characters and heading out to "Lebowski Fest." Friday night features a movie party at First Avenue, while Saturday night is all about bowling at Memory Lanes.
But wait, there's more! Tomorrow I'll be filling in on Midmorning, and at 10am I'll be interviewing the author of "The Dude Abides," an exploration of religious and moral themes in the Coen brothers' canon. Author Cathleen Falsani is an ordained priest of "Dudeism" (as well as the religion columnist for the Chicago Sun Times).(1 Comments)
Looking for something to do tonight? How about taking a mystical journey through love, ending with perfection?
That's a crude explanation of what the whirling dervishes of Turkey do when they spin to music. It's a form of prayer that is also incredibly pleasing to watch.
Dervishes are members of the Mevlevi order, who follow the teachings of 13th century Persian poet and theologian Jalal ad-Dīn Muhammad Rumi.
Tonight the Whirling Dervishes of Rumi perform at the Ted Mann Concert Hall in Minneapolis. It's sponsored by the Northern Lights Society of Minnesota, an organization created by Turkish Americans dedicated to promoting dialogue among all faiths and cultures.