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Dowling to direct 3 plays in his last Guthrie season; Rock the Garden lineup

MinnPost photo by Jana Freiband
Joe Dowling (shown here performing at MinnRoast 2013) is the longest-tenured artistic director in Guthrie history.

After 20 years as artistic director of the Guthrie, Joe Dowling will step down after the 2014-15 season, the Guthrie announced late last week. The longest-tenured artistic director in Guthrie history, under whose leadership the Guthrie broadened its repertoire, worked with visiting international theater companies, collaborated with local theater companies, trained hundreds of young actors and moved into its big, blue building on the Mississippi, Dowling will direct three plays, all personal favorites: Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” Arthur Miller’s “The Crucible” and Sean O’Casey’s “Juno and the Paycock.” Four playwrights will have their first productions at the Guthrie: A.R. Gurney, Anne Washburn, Sarah Ruhl and Mary Zimmerman. Among the other plays scheduled for 2014-15 are Wendy Wasserstein’s Pulitzer Prize winner “The Heidi Chronicles,” the Guthrie’s first-ever staging of Meredith Willson’s “The Music Man” and its 40th annual production of “A Christmas Carol.” Plays scheduled for the intimate Dowling Studio include Tarell Alvin McCraney’s “Choir Boy,” directed by Peter Rothstein. Subscriptions go on sale June 17.

How many prizes can an independent publisher in Minneapolis legally win? When the 2014 Pulitzers were announced yesterday, Graywolf Press was on the list  for the second time. Its book “3 Sections” by Vijay Seshadri took this year’s prize for poetry. The Pulitzer committee described “3 Sections” as “a compelling collection of poems that examine human consciousness, from birth to dementia, in a voice that is by turns witty and grave, compassionate and remorseless.” Born in Bangalore, India, in 1954, Seshadri has lived in the U.S. since age 5. Graywolf’s first Pulitzer was for Tracy Smith’s book of poems, “Life on Mars,” in 2012.

Also among this year’s Pulitzer winners is composer John Luther Adams, who was in St. Paul the first week of April for the premiere of his work “Become River,” which he wrote for the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra. Maybe you saw him at the Composer Conversation April 2 at the Amsterdam. Adams won the music prize for “Become Ocean,” which was premiered in June of last year by the Seattle Symphony.

The line-ups for the cities’ biggest summer outdoor music shows, Rock the Garden (June 21-22) and the Basilica Block Party (July 11-12), are being revealed this month. Tune into 89.3 The Current at 4 p.m. today (Tuesday) to hear the Walker’s Philip Bither and the Current’s Jim McGuinn announce Rock the Garden, which has now been expanded to two days. Tickets ($59 single day, $100 two-day pass; VIP options) go on sale Thursday, April 17, at 11 a.m. exclusively to Walker and MPR members. Go here for the link to purchase tickets from Etix. (Online sales only; no phone sales.) If you’re not a member, your chances of scoring tickets are slim, and even if you are a member, you’ll have to act fast. Any remaining tickets go on sale to the general public April 19.

Courtesy of the Walker Art Center
A scene from Rock the Garden 2012.

On Thursday, April 24, the 20 bands performing at the 20th annual Basilica Block Party will be announced live on Cities 97. A limited number of presale tickets go on sale Saturday, April 26 at 10 a.m. to Cities 97 Frequent Listener Club members. General admission tix are available Saturday, May 3 starting at 10 a.m. Single-night passes are $45-$60, depending on when you buy them; two-night passes $80-$100. Tickets at the Electric fetus, Etix, or by phone at 1-800-514-3849.

Music in the Zoo has added several shows to its line-up for the summer, including Jonny Lang (June 21), Los Lobos (June 22), Taj Mahal & Mavis Staples (June 29), Marc Cohn (July 19) and “The Voice” Season 3 finalist Nicholas David (Aug. 15). Complete information here. Tickets on sale Saturday, April 26, at the Electric Fetus, the Sue McLean website and Etix.

Seems that Etix is increasingly the online ticketer of choice for many venues and promoters. As of October 2013, the company’s software could handle 2,000 transactions per second. In theory at least, Rock the Garden could sell out in five seconds.

If you’re attending tonight’s sold-out concert at Orchestra Hall – where superstar violinist Joshua Bell performs with the Minnesota Orchestra, led by Osmo Vänskä – the citizens’ group Save Our Symphony Minnesota (SOSMN) hopes you’ll wear blue and white and bring a Finnish flag to wave. Their “Finnish It!” campaign asks the Minnesota Orchestral Association board to “finish” the task of reinstating Vänskä as music director. Negotiations between MOA and Vänskä are reportedly continuing, but when and how they will end is anybody’s guess. Meanwhile, September’s Symphony Ball, the Orchestra’s main annual fundraiser, was canceled last week when the co-chairs resigned, saying the current climate at the orchestra did not lend itself to celebration.

Last year’s Symphony Ball was held when the musicians were still locked out and attendees were quickly escorted into Orchestra Hall under the watchful eyes of Minneapolis police. So we’re not entirely clear on what constitutes a sufficiently festive climate. We know, for example, that the musicians are glad to be back at work, the fans are happy to be attending concerts again, and the Minnesota Chorale, which was hit hard by the lockout, felt pretty good last week about making its first appearance on the Orchestra Hall stage since June 15, 2012, just before the hall closed for renovations. Bob Peskin, the Chorale’s executive director, had this to say: “The Minnesota Chorale is delighted to return to Orchestra Hall to perform with our friends and colleagues in the Minnesota Orchestra. As busy as the Chorale was during the lockout by presenting self-produced concerts and collaborative performances with superb ensembles, our relationship with the Minnesota Orchestra is at the heart of our work as a symphonic chorus.” We’ll celebrate that.

Do you have an idea for the arts in St. Paul? The Knight Foundation has committed $4.5 million over the next three years for fresh, exciting ideas, and they really want to give that money away. Anyone can apply; no idea is too crazy. Applications are being accepted now until May 5Tatiana Hernandez has come to Minnesota from Knight HQ in Miami to explain how simple and non-bureaucratic the process is. She’s presenting a series of community Q&A sessions that explain the Knight Arts Challenge St. Paul in plain language, complete with insider tips. Two sessions remain: one tonight (Tuesday, April 15) at Neighborhood House at the Wellstone Center (179 Robie St. E., St. Paul), one tomorrow (Wednesday) at Penumbra Theatre (270 North Kent St., St. Paul). Both are at 6 p.m. They’re free, informative, encouraging, and they last about an hour. 

We might have to come up with an award to give Minneapolis children’s book author Kate DiCamillo, just so we don’t feel left out. After winning her second Newbery in January for “Flora & Ulysses,” DiCamillo will receive the Christopher Award on May 15. Now in their 65th year, these annual awards go to “films, TV, and books that affirm the highest values of the human spirit.” DiCamillo also currently serves as National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature, a position at the Library of Congress … Debuting at No. 11 on this week’s New York Times bestseller list for paperback nonfiction is Leslie Jamison’s “The Empathy Exams,” published by Graywolf in Minneapolis. Graywolf just ordered the sixth printing of Jamison’s book of essays … The great Minnesota poet Robert Bly reads tonight. Check the picks below.

Photo by Michal Daniel
Ben (John Middleton), Mary (Angela Timberman), Sharon (Anna Sundberg) and Kenny (Tyson Forbes) in the Jungle's “Detroit.”

The morning after seeing “Detroit,” the dark comedy now at the Jungle, we read that Sears is dying. Just as Sears was once the place where America shopped, the neighborhood in which Lisa D’Amour’s Obie-winning play is set – a fictional first-ring suburb, not literally the city of Detroit – was once the sort of place where Americans aspired to live: safe, new, solid and comfortable. That those days are gone is evident from the first meeting between laid-off loan officer Ben (John Middleton) and his wife, Mary (Angela Timberman), and their shady new neighbors Kenny (Tyson Forbes) and Sharon (Anna Sundberg), recently moved into the dilapidated house next door. They all have secrets they’re trying to hide but desperate to share, and the tension builds as they socialize in their backyards, which the Jungle’s small size brings unnervingly close. Joel Sass directs and also designed the set, which undergoes an astonishing transformation near the end, after a Bacchanalian party scene that will burn itself into your brain. Playwright D’Amour has strong Twin Cities ties; she’s a core member of the Playwrights’ Center and recipient of Jerome and McKnight fellowships. “Detroit” runs through May 25. FMI and tickets.

On sale today: Garrison Keillor reads from his new book, “The Keillor Reader,” at the Fitzgerald Theater on Thursday, May 1, at 7 p.m. He’ll also take questions from the audience, then hang around to sign. “The Keillor Reader” is a collection of stories from the New Yorker and the Atlantic, monologues from “A Prairie Home Companion,” excerpts from novels and newspaper columns, poems, personal reminiscences and memorabilia. A GK sampler, if you will. $10 gets you admission to the event and a $10 off coupon for the book. Tickets at Common Good Books or the Fitz box office.

Our picks for the week

Tonight (Tuesday, April 15) at the University Club in St. Paul: Readings by Writers. Maybe because it’s National Poetry Month, St. Paul poet laureate Carol Connolly has arranged a constellation of stars for this month’s installment of the smart and popular series. Robert Bly, Louis Jenkins, Freya Manfred and Thomas R. Smith will all read from their writings and sign copies of their books. Bly’s latest, “Stealing Sugar from the Castle,” spans his remarkable career – over 60 years of poems lyrical, political, loving and raging. Louis Jenkins’ play with Mark Rylance, “Nice Fish,” was part of the Guthrie’s 2012-13 season. Freya Manfred’s most recent book is “Swimming with a Hundred Year Old Snapping Turtle.” Poet Thomas R. Smith edited “Airmail: The Letters of Robert Bly and Thomas Tranströmer,” published earlier this year by Graywolf. Doors/music at 7 p.m., reading at 7:30. Free.

Tonight at the Bryant Lake Bowl Theater: Café Scientifique. Presented by the Bell Museum, this monthly happy hour brings in experts for discussions about science, environment, and pop culture. Tonight’s topic: our disappearing bees. Entomologist, U of M professor, and MacArthur “genius” grant winner Marla Spivak is among many researchers who are working to discover the causes and consequences of colony collapse. Doors at 6 p.m., program at 7. FMI and tickets ($5-$12, sliding scale).

Wednesday at the Guthrie: “The Mountaintop.” The Guthrie’s proscenium stage hosts the Penumbra Theatre/Arizona Theatre co-production of Katori Hall’s play imagining Martin Luther King Jr.’s final night before his assassination. This acclaimed two-person drama stars James T. Alfred as King and Erika LaVonn as Camae, a maid who brings coffee to his room at the Lorraine Hotel. 7:30 p.m. FMI and tickets. Ends this Saturday, April 19.

Photo by Tim Fuller
James T. Alfred (the Rev.Martin Luther King, Jr.) in the Guthrie Theater's presentation of the Penumbra Theatre Company and Arizona Theatre Company production of "The Mountaintop," by Katori Hall.

Thursday at the St. Anthony Main Theater: “Giselle.” See the ballet Northrop chose for its grand reopening, performed by a company featured in its 2013-14 dance season. Part of the Minneapolis Saint Paul International Film Festival. 2:20 p.m. FMI and tickets ($6-$12).

Thursday at Jazz Central: Lucia Newell. The always excellent jazz singer promises an evening of songs about spring. Newell brings an easy warmth and intimacy to her performances, which nearly always include some softly swinging Brazilian rhythms. With sympatico pianist Phil Aaron. 7:30 p.m. Jazz Central is at 407 Central Ave. SE in Minneapolis, across from Aveda. Go through the door, down the hall and down the stairs. $10 suggested donation.

Thursday at the Lab Theater: “Romeo and Juliet.” Collide Theatrical Dance Company tells the old story of young love with dance, live music performed by a string quartet, and a few strategic shifts: the action moves from Renaissance Verona to contemporary Brooklyn, and the Montague-Capulet blood feud is rooted in politics. 7:30 p.m. FMI and tickets ($22-$40 VIP). Through Sunday, April 20.

Correction: An earlier version of this article had incorrect dates for John Luther Adams' visit to the Twin Cities.

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