Penumbra suspends programming as it works to stabilize income

Lou Bellamy
Penumbra founder Lou Bellamy

Troubling news on the arts scene: Penumbra Theatre has temporarily suspended its programming – meaning no plays this year – and eliminated six full-time staff positions to address what it calls “an immediate cash-flow challenge.” One of the staffers let go is associate artistic director Dominic Taylor, whose new-plays program has also been put on hold. If the fall fundraising efforts are successful, the Penumbra will present “SPUNK,” an adaptation of three tales by Zora Neale Hurston, in March 2013. For that to happen, the theater must bring in an additional $340,000 by Dec. 30. Penumbra’s financial struggles led it to shorten its 2011-12 season by canceling two plays. Its most recent production was “The Amen Corner,” presented at the Guthrie earlier this year.

Contract negotiations are usually made public after the ink has dried. With current contracts for both the Minnesota Orchestra and the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra set to expire Sept. 30, we’re hearing a lot more than we usually hear from both sides, maybe more than we want. This week, top brass sent emails to stakeholders outlining their points of view. Minnesota Orchestra board chair Jon Campbell and president and CEO Michael Henson emphasized the need for “our players to play their part in maintaining our financial health” and made the surprising move of posting its April 12 contract proposal online — all 50 pages. (As MPR’s Marianne Combs said on Facebook, “Time to put the green eyeshades on.”) SPCO president Dobson West began by welcoming us to the 2012-13 season, which starts this weekend. (The Minnesota Orchestra’s season doesn’t begin until Oct. 18. At least the SPCO will get a few concerts in before the end of the month.) After which he noted that “musicians’ salaries and benefits comprise the single largest expense item in the SPCO budget and we are now looking for the contract to be part of the solution.” West spoke with MinnPost last week. The musicians have their own websites here (Minnesota Orchestra) and here (SPCO). Both groups are giving free concerts to win public support. We heard players from the SPCO at the Fair on Aug. 28; on Sept. 16, musicians from the Minnesota Orchestra will perform at Lake Harriet.

On a brighter note, the Minnesota Council on Foundations reports that Minnesota grantmaking to the arts is up, following an almost steady decline that began in 2004. In 2010, grantmaking to the arts, culture, and humanities grew to $129 million, 20 percent above 2009 levels. Corporate grantmakers accounted for nearly half of the total amount — $63 million. More than half of that ($34 million) came from Target Foundation and Corporation, Minnesota’s largest arts funder since 2002. Private foundations contributed $44 million to arts, culture and humanities; the McKnight Foundation gave almost $10 million. Community/public foundations donated $22 million to the arts, an 85 percent jump over 2009. Where did the money go? Almost $48 million in arts-grants dollars went to the performing arts, $24 million to museums, the second-largest subcategory of grant recipients.

Graywolf Press has received a Minnesota Nonprofit Excellence Award from MAP for Nonprofits and the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits. The award recognizes Minnesota nonprofits that . . . well, the description is kind of wonky and has to do with “effective accountability principles,” but congratulations anyway, Graywolf, for being cool and publishing great books and operating in the black for 18 years.

School has started, the Fair has ended, and leaves are dropping, so let’s squeeze every second of outdoor fun from the remaining mild days.

• Through Saturday: Concrete and Grass, the free Lowertown music fest now in its sixth year, began last night and continues with Mississippi Peace, the Butanes, Dosh, the Copper Street Brass Quintet, performers from the Minnesota Opera, and more. The music starts at 5 p.m. tonight, 4 p.m. Saturday in Mears Park.

• Saturday in St. Paul: the 11th annual Selby Ave. Jazz Fest features a full day of jazz by area, national, and international artists including Dick and Jane’s Big Brass Band, Pippi Ardennia and Yolanda Bruce, and guitarist Abdul Zuhri with vocalist Cheryl Pepsii Riley, plus family activities and food. The music starts at 11 a.m. at Selby and Milton in the Summit-University neighborhood.

• Saturday in Excelsior: Apple Day. Fall means apples. The weather has hurt this year’s crop, making each Honeycrisp and Haralson that much crisper and sweeter. This one-day family-friendly street fest, now in its 28th year, celebrates the apple in all its varieties. 9 a.m. – 4 p.m. along Water Street in downtown Excelsior.

• Saturday and Sunday in downtown Wayzata: James J. Hill Days is Wayzata’s largest community festival, now in its 37th year. Food, fun, and family activities, arts and crafts, a parade, and wiener dog races.

• Saturday and Sunday at Centennial Lakes Park in Edina: The last of the summer’s big art fairs? A chance to do some early Christmas shopping? Fall into the Arts presents more than 225 juried artists, demonstrations, entertainment, and food. 10 a.m. – 6 p.m. Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday.

• Sunday on and around the 24th Street Pedestrian Bridge: Artists in Storefronts partners with Interact Center and Bridging Minneapolis to host the 2nd Annual Bridging Festival, an art-inspired event designed to connect two South Minneapolis neighborhoods. With live music, a parade, a puppet show, dance, a neighborhood skit, potato sack races (just announced), and a drum circle (maybe). Starts on the Whittier side of the bridge and ends on the Phillips West side. 3 p.m. – 6 p.m. Free. Costumes encouraged.

• Sunday at Bryant Lake Bowl: “Rock for Democracy” Block Party with Mark Mallman, Heiruspecs, Zoo Animal, Live Action Set, Chicks on Sticks and more. Free. 3 p.m. – 9 p.m.

• Sunday in South Minneapolis (21st Ave. between 41st and 42nd streets): Freedom to Marry Street Party. [PDF] Live music, a bouncy castle, family entertainment, activities for kids, and a 4:30 program featuring Scott Dibble, Betsy Hodges, and other speakers. Free (but a fundraiser; proceeds benefit Minnesotans United for All Families), 3 p.m. – 7 p.m.

...a seagull
Courtesy of Gonzo Group Theatre
“…a seagull” casts Checkhov’s “The Seagull” in a new light.


Opening tonight at the Baroque Room: “ … a seagull,” the Gonzo Group Theatre’s interpretation of Checkhov’s “The Seagull,” influenced by the modern sitcom “Arrested Development” with “choose-your-own-adventure” staging. Tickets are name-your-own-price, anything-is-something. Opening Saturday in the Guthrie’s Dowling Studio: The Brothers Size.

Friday and Saturday at Icehouse: Happy Apple. Yes, that Happy Apple, with all three original mad genius members: saxophonist Michael Lewis (who spends much of his time these days on the road with Bon Iver), electric bassist Eric Fratzke, and drummer Dave King (of The Bad Plus, Dave King Trucking Co., Gang Font, Halloween Alaska, etc.). How long has it been since we’ve seen them live? King says it’s been two and a half years. That must have been at the Walker’s “King for Two Days” celebration back in March 2010. (In case you missed it at the Film Fest, the “King for Two Days” concert documentary is now available on DVD and digital copy.)  For this event, Icehouse is raising its usual $5 cover to $10. 11 p.m. both nights.

Courtesy of Altered Esthetics
Kyle And — “Mo(hawk)na Lisa.” Part of ©reative Property

Opening tonight at Altered Esthetics: “©reative Property.” Can a person claim ownership of an intangible asset? The 20+ artists in this show incorporate appropriated images, literary works, and popular characters into their artwork. (According to a ruling last Thursday by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, Marilyn Monroe belongs to the public, not her estate.) Reception 7 p.m., artists’ discussion Saturday, Sept. 22 at 1 p.m., closes Sept. 27.

Saturday and Sunday at the Ordway’s McKnight Theatre: music that means to elevate and inspire. Composer and pianist Alan Raymond Fine performs “Heaven & Earth,” his contemporary classical work of 18 harmonically intertwined pieces about creation, the kingdom of heaven, angels, passion, love, and the divinity in our world. Listen here and here. Saturday at 8 p.m., Sunday at 2 p.m. Tickets here.

Sunday at the Sabes JCC:The Hebrew Lesson,” directed by Zaraawar Mistry, performed by Esther Oura, with live music by Tim O’Keefe, Maryam Yusefzadeh, and Greg Herriges. “Not recommended for youth.”

On view starting Monday at the Hillstrom Museum of Art at Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter: “150 Years of Swedish Art: Highlights from the Swedish National Collections in Stockholm.” Forty-four paintings on loan from Sweden’s two most important art museums give an overview of Swedish art from 1862 – present day. Through Sunday, Dec. 2.

On sale now:

Joss Stone at the O’Shaughnessy, Thursday. Oct. 4.

The Big WAM Bash at the Weisman, Saturday, Oct. 27. Interactive art, organic hors d’oeuvres, signature cocktail, and music by Chris Koza and Aby Wolf under the direction of John Munson. 

Tickets to the Met’s 2012-13 “Live in HD” season. Twelve operas including 7 new productions, transmitted live to movie theaters around the world. Participating theaters in the Twin Cities include the Showplace Icon, AMC Eden Prairie 18, Eagan 16, AMC Rosedale 14, and Brooklyn Center 20. 

On sale today at noon: Graham Parker & The Rumour at the Fitz, Wednesday, Dec. 19. 

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