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Jewish, Italian, international: film festivals galore

ALSO: ‘Hay Fever’ opening at Guthrie; Flying Foot Forum at Cowles; Cirque du Soleil Michael Jackson show coming; and more.

Minnesota, land of 10,000 film festivals. The Minneapolis Jewish Film Festival opened Thursday with a screening of the romantic comedy “Dorfman” and continues through April 1 with 13 more films – including several Minnesota premieres. Selected films are followed by panel discussions. At the Sabes JCC. FMI and trailers. Tickets here.

You can watch “Under the Tuscan Sun” anytime, but real Italian films? From Friday, March 30, to Sunday, April 1, the 4th annual Italian Film Festival of Minneapolis/St. Paul occupies MCAD with seven contemporary Italian pictures — dramas, comedies and documentaries. The festival begins with “An Evening With Caravaggio,” featuring Italian food and wine, baroque music from Consortium Carissimi, an introduction to Caravaggio’s art and times by U of M visiting professor Dr. Roberta Bartoli, and a screening of Angelo Longoni’s 2007 feature film “Caravaggio.” Baroque costumes are encouraged. All films are in Italian with English subtitles. Schedule and tickets here.

Mark your calendars for the 2012 Minneapolis-St. Paul International Film Festival, April 12 to May 3. You can still save 5 percent on a gold pass if you buy before April 1.

More film news: If you missed “Harry Belafonte: Sing Your Song” when it screened at the Walker on Thursday, you can see it at the St. Anthony Main Theatre starting tonight thanks to the Film Society of Minneapolis/St. Paul. Through Thursday, March 22. FMI. Trailer here.

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Richard Hansen has stepped down as director of Sound Unseen, Minneapolis’ annual festival of films on music. Since moving north, Hanson has founded a gallery in Duluth, started the Duluth/Superior International Film Festival, and had a son. Jim Brunzell will serve as Sound Unseen’s new director.

Wishing you were at SXSW? The Current has sent Mark Wheat, Andrea Swensson, and program director Jim McGuinn to the famous Texas festival. Follow them on the Current’s website. Also, the Fetus has partnered with Waterloo Records in Austin to web stream dozens of live in-store performances. Go here.

Hay Fever at the GuthrieCourtesy of the Guthrie Theater/Michael BrosilowCharity Jones (Myra Arundel) and John Skelley (Simon Bliss) in the Guthrie Theater’s production of “Hay Fever” by Nöel Coward.

Opening tonight: Noël Coward’s “Hay Fever” at the Guthrie. A comedy of bad manners. The best kind. FMI and tickets. “American Family” at the Park Square. A world premiere commission, Carlyle Brown’s new play explores African-American identity through the lens of an interracial family. Previews through March 22, opening night March 23. FMI and tickets.

The Flying Foot Forum celebrates its 20th anniversary this weekend in two highly anticipated performances at the Cowles with the New Standards: John Munson (Trip Shakespeare, Semisonic) on bass, Chan Poling (The Suburbs) on piano, Steve Roehm (Billygoat, Electropolis) on vibes. Flying Foot has choreographed its favorite songs from the Standards’ catalog. Expect guest appearances by company members past and present, fierce dancing, and wit. Tickets are scarce, but when we checked on Thursday, a few were still available. Friday and Saturday, March 16 and 17, 8 p.m. Tickets here.

Katie McMahon album coverWays to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day: At the O’Shaughnessy, where former “Riverdance” lead singer Katie McMahon will perform with her band and the O’Shea Irish Dancers. Saturday, 7:30 p.m. Tickets here. At the Riverview Wine Bar and Café, where singer-fingerpicker Papa John Kolstad, violinist Gary Schulte and bassist Tom Lewis will play what’s being described as a “traveling medicine show.” Blues, jazz and folk. Saturday, 8 p.m., $13 at the door. 

Love Michael Jackson? Love Cirque du Soleil? Prepare to empty your wallet for “Michael Jackson THE IMMORTAL World Tour from Cirque du Soleil,” coming to the Target Center March 27-28. Tickets here. Is the show any good? Reviews are mixed. From the San Francisco Chronicle: “If you are the type who enjoyed watching Michael Jackson tributes and specials after his death, this is about a thousand times better than that. But if you’re expecting Cirque’s ubiquitous French clowns, highbrow allusions to Greek mythology, and superhuman feats of strength and flexibility, this isn’t the ideal choice.”

Grammy-winning, multiplatinum-selling pianist and singer Diana Krall has announced a huge “Summer Nights” tour of 40 cities across the U.S. Not included: anywhere in Minnesota. The closest she’ll come is Milwaukee.

Is there an arts organization in your community that’s making a difference — helping artists and arts activities to thrive, integrating the arts into the community, clueing people in to the public value of the arts? Nominate your favorite small or small-ish arts organization for an MRAC Arts Achievement Award. Two winning groups will each receive $5000 cash. Guidelines here. Nominations due April 16.

Small and small-ish arts organizations can learn to use social media like Facebook and Twitter to get results at a free workshop offered by the Metropolitan Regional Arts Council on Wednesday, March 21 from 3 p.m. until 6 p.m. “How to Fully Engage Social Media Strategies” will be presented by Jamie Millard, co-founder and managing director of Paper Darts and communication/marketing strategist for the Charities Review Council. Register here.

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Caponi Art Park in Eagan has received a $21,265 grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board to continue Creative Adventures, a program that provides arts education free of charge to youth in the south metro area with limited access to the arts.

For you, artists: On Tuesday, March 20 at the Varsity, the Current’s Steve Seel, singer-songwriter Jeremy Messersmith, graphic designer Mike Davis, and attorney Mick Spence will discuss the changing landscape of copyright law and intellectual property at “Policy and a Pint.” Presented by Citizens League and the Current, the event has sold out, but if you register for the wait list you’ll likely get in. FMI.

The Soap Factory is seeking submissions for its 2013 season — for visual, performance, video, and installation art, and “everything in between.” Postmark deadline is April 30, 2012. Submission guidelines here.

Out and about

The Theater of Public Policy is improv with issues — like politics, education, immigration, transportation, economic inequality and, on the night we were there, the Vikings stadium. Housed in the HUGE theater in Uptown, this upstart troupe draws a diverse crowd (including, on our night, a bachelorette party) willing to be engaged as well as entertained. The premise, which sounds goofy but works: Interview an expert on a hot topic, then improvise a series of humorous/serious sketches based on what is said. Co-creators Tane Danger and Brandon Boat, who met as students at Gustavus Adolphus, got the idea when they saw a theater improvise on celebrities’ lives. Why not start with something more meaningful? On the night we were there, Cory Merrifield of was a good sport, and the actors responded with riffs on seat licenses and Elliott Park. I liked it a lot, and I learned something, which turned out not to be too painful. 

Hairspray at ChanhassenCourtesy Chanhassen Dinner Theatres“Hairspray”

Two musicals about integration, “Hairspray” and “Memphis” couldn’t be more different. “Hairspray” at the Chanhassen is a delight from beginning to end. Based on the 1988 film by John Waters, it’s high-energy, wickedly witty, and over the top, yet touching. Therese Walth is a terrific Tracy Turnblad, and Keith Rice is superb as her oversized mom, Edna. Nicole Renee Chapman and Julianne Mundale are obnoxious as Amber and Velma Von Tussle, but they’re supposed to be. Ginger Commodore recently stepped in for Aimee K. Bryant as Motormouth Maybelle and now she owns the role. I was wedged between a couple from Walker and a wooden railing, but I loved every minute. Ends May 26. “Memphis” at the Ordway won a fistful of Tonys but left me kind of cold. I found the storyline predictable and the main character, Huey (Bryan Fenkart), grating. The music by David Bryan, a founding member of Bon Jovi, was so-so, although Gator’s (Rhett George) “Say a Prayer” at the end of Act I raised the hair on the back of my neck. Through March 25

Free or cheap

Fresh from a musical residency in New York, French chanteuse Emilie Lesbros sings at the Black Dog on Saturday (with saxophonist Nathan Hanson) and again on Sunday with Ill Chemistry (Desdamona and Carnage), with whom she shared a stage in Paris. Lesbros combines improvisation, experimental jazz, classical, rock, spoken word, and contemporary music with raw creativity. She’s wild and wonderful. Video here. Friday at 8 p.m., Sunday at 6 p.m. No cover; tip jar.

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High school students from around the state compete in Poetry Out Loud, a national recitation contest, on Monday at the Fitz. The program satisfies language arts standards, introduces kids to poetry, and helps them master public speaking skills. The Minnesota state winner receives $200 and an all-expenses-paid trip to Washington, DC to compete for the national championship. FMI about the program. Monday at 9:30 a.m. Free and open to the public.

Tickets on sale now

To the second annual benefit concert at Minneapolis’ Pioneers and Soldiers Cemetery (2925 Cedar Ave. S.) on Saturday, June 9. Indie rockers Low headline, with guests Zoo Animal. Proceeds support the Friends of the Cemetery’s efforts to restore the historic steel and limestone pillar fence that borders the cemetery along Lake Street and Cedar. Tickets at the Fetus, Hymie’s, Treehouse Records, and here.

To “An Evening with the Gipsy Kings” at the State Theatre on Saturday, April 28. Here they are singing “Volare.” An exciting performance, no doubt, but whoever shot the video was a bit obsessed with busty dancing blondes in the audience. Next time, show us some men dancing, if you don’t mind. Tickets here.