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'Minnesota Original' to pilot a new music series

TBT on Lowertown Line
Courtesy of Minnesota Original
Duluth band Trampled by Turtles will be featured on the first episode of "The Lowertown Line," Minnesota Original's new music series.

Are the Twin Cities about to get their very own “Austin City Limits”? Fingers crossed. Minnesota Original is piloting a new music series called “The Lowertown Line” that could turn into something; there’s no shortage of talent to choose from. (All the music heard on mno is by Minnesota artists.) Hosted by Dessa, the series will be produced at tpt’s studios in Lowertown before a live audience. The pilot, scheduled for taping on Oct. 24, will feature Trampled by Turtles and a surprise guest. Minnesota Original has had big ears from the start, so we’re hopeful this series will also venture into classical, new music and jazz.

The Musicians of the Minnesota Orchestra are preparing for their send-management-a-message concert this Thursday, Oct. 18, at the Convention Center. Tickets here. The SPCO is dark this week but returns next Thursday-Saturday with “Baroque Invention,” a program of sparkling gems by Bach, Purcell, Albinoni, Vivaldi and other composers. Tickets here. No further talks have been scheduled between either orchestra and its management. If you haven’t heard, the Minnesota Orchestra has been locked out, and the SPCO continues to “talk and play,” but the threat of a lockout looms. Update: The Musicians of the SPCO will hold a "Don't Stop the Music" rally at noon today (Tuesday) in St. Paul's Rice Park.

On sale this Friday, Oct. 19: tickets to the Walker’s incredibly popular annual event, the British Arrows Awards. Why would we pay to see the TV ads we normally skip through on our DVRs? Because British ads are smart, funny, sometimes very moving, and not weighed down by the self-conscious prudism of many American ads. There are more than 70 screenings from Nov. 30 through Dec. 30. If this year is like past years, most will sell out completely. FMI and tickets.

Lots of literary events to choose from this week; most are free. All day today (Tuesday, Oct. 16) and tomorrow, Carleton College in Northfield hosts a marathon public reading of Charles Dickens’ “David Copperfield” in the Sayles-Hill building. Faculty members, students and administrators (including college president Steve Poskanzer) are taking turns reading chapters aloud. On Thursday at 5 p.m. in the Boliou Hall Auditorium, University of Southern California professor James Kincaid will give a lecture cheerily titled “Great Expectations and Death.” Tonight (Oct. 16), award-winning Ojibwe author Brenda J. Child will speak about her new book, “Holding Our World Together: Ojibwe Women and the Survival of Community,” at Minneapolis Central Library. Child will be introduced by Susan Allen (D-62B), the first Native American woman elected to the Minnesota Legislature. 7 p.m.  Also tonight, Antonya Nelson will read at the Weisman. Nelson has published six short-story collections and four novels, most recently “Bound” (2010), a New York Times Notable Book. 7:30 p.m.

On Wednesday (Oct. 17) at SubText in St. Paul, former Twin Citian Mary Sharratt presents her newest, “Illuminations: A Novel of Hildegard von Bingen,” a portrait of the 12th-century abbess and intellectual. On Thursday (Oct. 18) at Common Good Books, Jennifer Wilson will read from “Running Away to Home: Our Family’s Journey to Croatia in Search of Who We Are, Where We Come From, and What Really Matters.” Though the subtitle could be pared down, this was named Best Nonfiction Book of 2011 by the American Society of Journalists and Authors. 7 p.m. Also Thursday, Once Upon a Crime will host a themed launch party (with refreshments) for Jess Lourey’s eighth Murder-By-Month mystery, “December Dread,” in which a candy cane becomes a serial killer’s calling card. 7 p.m.  Still Thursday, Micawber’s will welcome Cheryl Strayed, who'll discuss “Wild” and “Tiny Beautiful Things.” 7 p.m. Friday morning (Oct. 19) at Hopkins Center for the Arts, Salman Rushdie will launch the 2012-13 Pen Pals Author Lecture Series. (Thursday’s 7:30 p.m. event is sold out, but as of Monday afternoon, there were still tickets left for Friday.) $40-$50; buy online or call 612-543-8112. A pre-signed copy of his new book, “Joseph Anton: A Memoir by Salman Rushdie,” is included in the ticket price. 11 a.m.

prudence johnsonPrudence Johnson

dan chouinardDan Chouinard

On Thursday at the Central Library in downtown Minneapolis, singer Prudence Johnson and pianist Dan Chouinard present their original show, “Tiptoe Through the 60s,” a musical history tour with stories, songs, and over 300 images on two giant TV screens. Sing along to “Surfer Girl,” “Blowin’ in the Wind,” “My Boyfriend’s Back,” “Hey Jude,” and more. 7 p.m. Free, but advance registration is required. Register online.

If you’re a Nachito Herrera fan who frequents his Dakota shows, start taking your withdrawal pills now. Through mid-November, the incendiary Cuban pianist who makes his home here is on tour with the National Symphony Orchestra of Cuba. The first American tour by the orchestra since its founding in 1960 begins tonight in Kansas City and ends Nov. 10 in West Palm Beach. It does not stop in the Twin Cities. Herrera will be back at the Dakota’s Yamaha on Saturday, Nov. 24.

“2 Pianos 4 Hands” will return to Park Square Theatre as this year’s holiday show. It sold out and won raves in 2010. Michael Pearce Donley (creator of “Triple Espresso”) and Peter Vitale reprise their roles as whiz kids who dream of being concert pianists in a play written by Ted Dykstra and Richard Greenblatt, loosely based on their lives. Imagine having to act and play the piano. Tom Frey directs. Ages 11 and up. Previews Dec. 5-6; through Dec. 30. Here’s a video from the last time around. FMI and tickets.

Someday before too long, you’ll be able to view all of the world’s great art without leaving home. (We hope you won’t actually do that.) A new website called Art.Sy is positioning itself as the “art genome” – think Pandora for art instead of music. (Pandora’s chief executive was a consultant to Art.sy.) Browse styles or movements, mediums or techniques, regions, subject matter and contemporary art; build your own art collection; learn more about art; follow artists you like; get pulled into the flow of clicking from page to page (so far Art.sy has digitized 20,000 images). Another time-sucking website! But it’s art, so it’s good for you.

Meanwhile, Hypoallergic reports that the Metropolitan Museum of Art just made 643 of its catalogues available online, including 358 out-of-print titles. Plans are to one day offer nearly all catalogues, bulletins and journals published since the museum was founded in 1870. In-print titles can be previewed, searched, and ordered online; everything else can be read, searched, or downloaded for free (“read online” takes you to Google Books).

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James A. Stephens (Henrik) in the Guthrie Theater's production of Embers, by Chr
Courtesy of the Guthrie Theater/Heidi Bohnenkamp
James A. Stephens (Henrik) in the Guthrie Theater's
production of "Embers," by Christopher Hampton.

The third and final play in the Guthrie’s Christopher Hampton triple crown, “Embers,” opened this weekend in the Dowling Studio. Based on a once obscure novel by Austro-Hungarian writer Sándor Márai, it’s a dense and tense period piece about passion, obsession, friendship, betrayal, grief, frustration, rage and revenge. It unfolds over an hour and a half in words and gestures. The elastic Dowling has been configured as theater-in-the-round, an intimate setting for a psychological drama. There are just three characters, Henrik (James A. Stephens) and Konrad (Nathaniel Fuller), together on stage most of the time, and Nini (Barbara Bryne), making brief but potent appearances at the start and finish.

Henrik and Konrad, old friends and now old men, haven’t seen each other for 41 years. Henrik, an imperious and elegant aristocrat, is at home in his castle in the forest. Konrad, who has spent much of his life in the tropics, has come from London, a dangerous journey; it’s 1940 and Europe is at war. Why meet now, after so long and at such risk? As Henrik prepares for Konrad’s arrival, he takes a gun from a desk drawer and checks it. For the rest of the play, we don’t forget that gun.

Almost all of the play is talk; almost all of the talking is done by Stephens as Henrik. The longer second act is virtually a monologue, with Fuller in the differently demanding role of responding with facial expressions and body language. The language is eloquent, intelligent, and descriptive: the forest at dawn on the morning of a hunt, the smell of oil and metal, the look of an Indian shawl, a journal bound in yellow velvet, blue candles, a French davenport in a Viennese apartment.

A play of all talk and little action can be deadly. “Embers” is not. We were caught up from the first. Hampton describes “Embers” as a “private piece.” It’s a pent-up piece that reveals itself reluctantly, the opposite of a spectacle, but it rewards you with deep feeling that lingers. There are moments when the play feels like a novel, and it seems you’re curled up in one of the chairs on stage, turning the pages. You could read the book. See the play. Through Oct. 27. FMI and tickets.

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