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‘Triple Espresso’ is returning; renovated Uptown Theatre to reopen

ALSO: TC arts news makes New York Times; ‘Batman Live’ coming to Xcel; see ‘Plan-It Hennepin: The Plan Preview!’ at Central Library; and more.

triple espresso logo stuff

The longtime Twin Cities favorite “Triple Espresso” is coming home for the holidays. The 90-year-old theater at 14th and Nicollet where it ran for 12 years (originally the Loring Theater, then the Music Box Theater, then the Loring again and now back to Music Box) reopens Sept. 27 after “minor renovations and improvements.” (Let’s hope they fixed the buzzy sound system.) Two shows are currently scheduled: Rob Becker’s “Defending the Caveman” (Sept. 27 – Oct. 13) and the much-loved “Triple Espresso” (Nov. 20 – Jan. 6). New owners The Daniel Group are also working with playwright Jeffrey Hatcher on a play based on a little-known book by Charles Dickens. FMI and tickets.

Our local arts went national this week when the New York Times included the Minnesota Orchestra, SPCO’s new “Liquid Music” series, and the Minnesota Opera in its Fall Arts Preview. “The Minnesota Orchestra faces a season of wandering as its Orchestra Hall is being renovated. … Osmo Vänskä has worked artistic wonders as the orchestra’s music director, and he can probably be counted on to steer it through these extracurricular shoals as well.” “The St. Paul Chamber Orchestra … will offer a new series of six boundary-crossing programs … [with] guest artists of many alt-classical stripes mingling with the members of the orchestra.” “Reeling from the recession, opera companies across America are playing it safe. But the Minnesota Opera … continues to program new work and thoughtful, theatrical productions of the classics.”

The Times also covered the crisis at Penumbra Theatre and spoke with Penumbra’s Lou Bellamy and the Guthrie’s Joe Dowling. “If this is happening to us it is the canary in the coal mine,” Bellamy said. Dowling offered encouraging words: “He’s not alone – it’s all over the country. … The community will rally around them.” Meanwhile, an email went out to “friends of Penumbra” that included last week’s media release and a plea for donations. In a situation like this, shouldn’t supporters be notified before the press? It’s the difference between the knock at your door and learning bad news on television. One Penumbra actor we ran into over the weekend had been signed for two plays and is now looking for work. So it’s not just the six Penumbra employees who were laid off.

If you followed “Talk-It Hennepin,” a series of conversations held earlier this year on re-inventing Hennepin Avenue, you’ll want to attend “Plan-It Hennepin: The Plan Preview!” tomorrow (Wednesday, Sept. 12) at 5 p.m. in the Doty Board Room of the Minneapolis Central Library. Hosted by Hennepin Theatre Trust and partners Walker Art Center, Artspace, and the City of Minneapolis, the event is an opportunity to view a draft plan and comment further on the future of Hennepin Avenue. Cookies and coffee will be served. 5 – 6:30 p.m. Free. 

Wednesday at the Loft Literary Center at Open Book: An evening of award-winning poetry by Joseph Campana and Paul Otremba. Campana is a poet, critic, and scholar of Renaissance literature; his latest book, “Natural Selections,” won the Iowa Poetry Prize. Born and raised in Minnesota, Otremba is the author of the poetry collection “The Currency.” 7 p.m., free. 

“Walker and Driver” and 10 animated shorts collected from other Minnesota animators will be featured at ‘MinnAnimate.’

Minnesota animator John Akre wants Minnesotans to start seeing more animation. So he’s hosting the first-ever MinnAnimate event at the Ritz on Thursday (Sept. 13). The screening will include Akre’s newly completed animated feature “Walker and Driver” and 10 animated shorts collected from other Minnesota animators. Here’s the lineup. Funded in part by the Legacy Amendment. 7 p.m. $5 at the door.

Are you sad that we’ve seen the last (supposedly) of the “Batman” movies? “Batman Live: The World Arena Tour” touches down at Xcel Energy Center Thursday. Trailer here. This over-the-top production (the Pi Press called it a “Cirque de Soleil for comic-book nerds”) derives from the movies but could easily deliver a few biffs, bams, pows and pops. Tickets here.

Under way from Freshwater Theatre: “Better (or) Worse,” a festival of plays by local and national playwrights on the topic of marriage. The theater promises a bit of history, a comedic perspective, and no safe or concrete answers as it attemps to pin down the moving target of modern marriage. Proceeds benefit Minnesotans United for All Families. Performances are at Nimbus Theatre. Through Sept. 22. FMI and tickets. If you still have your Fringe Button, you’ll save a couple dollars.

new movie seats

Courtesy of the Uptown Theater
The newly renovated Uptown Theater features “generously sized single seats and two-person sofas.”

After months of desperately needed renovations, the Uptown Theatre reopens Friday, Sept. 14, with the Sundance Audience Award winner “Sleepwalk with Me” by comedian Mike Birbiglia and Ira Glass (“This American Life”). The SF Chronicle called it “an idiosyncratic indie charmer.” Sounds perfect. Trailer here. Ticketing is now reserved (as it is at the Showplace Icon in St. Louis Park), and I can’t promise that tickets for opening weekend are still available (MPR members got first dibs), but you can visit the website and see for yourself. Birbiglia and Glass will be present for post-show Q&As – Glass on Friday, Birbiglia on Saturday afternoon, both on Saturday evening. 

Compared to the old Uptown, the new Uptown sounds like paradise. Writing for the Strib, Colin Covert described “generously sized single seats and two-person sofas,” a new screen “almost 50 percent larger,” state-of-the-art digital projection, and two bars on the main floor and mezzanine serving cocktails and local craft beers. Next up for a Landmark Theatres facelift: the Edina? Pretty please with real butter on it? BTW we drove past the Uptown on Saturday afternoon, the doors were open, and all we could see were ladders and construction supplies, so they’re probably working around the clock.

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September is Books for Africa’s Reading Month. If you don’t know Books for Africa, this laudable and respected Twin Cities nonprofit, founded by Tom Warth in 1988, has a single mission: to end the book famine in Africa. Since 1988, it has shipped more than 27 million books to 48 different countries. It has also earned five consecutive four-star ratings from Charity Navigator for fiscal responsibility. Four local bookstores are serving as collection points for new and gently used children’s books: the Bookcase of Wayzata, Common Good, Micawber’s, and the Red Balloon. FMI. Please, no books with culturally specific themes such as American holidays or history.

Because we live in the Twin Cities, home of the Walker Art Center, we get to see a preview of this year’s NY Art Book Fair even before New Yorkers do. (They have to wait until Sept. 27.) Heaven for book lovers – and there are enough here to support an organization like Minnesota Center for Book Arts – “Over-Booked” features a prime selection of artists’ books, catalogs, monographs, periodicals, and zines available for browsing and buying in the Walker Shop, plus three days of programming: an opening reception, local fair, talk by James Jenkin of Printed Matter (the legendary New York bookstore that presents the fair), panel discussion, Walker Art Center Library Open House, and (just announced) a make-your-own-booklet Open Studio with Duncan Hamilton of the Pratt Institute. Sept. 13-15, free. FMI.

Earlier this year, Hennepin Theatre Trust, bringer to town of Broadway hits like “The Book of Mormon,” announced a partnership with Minneapolis Musical Theatre and gave it a home at the New Century Theatre in City Center. The 2013 MMT season includes “Reefer Madness” (Feb. 1-24), a satirical morality tale inspired by the 1936 cult classic film about the evil weed, jazz, sex and violence, and “Sunset Boulevard” (May 31-June 23), the Broadway hit based on the 1950 Oscar-winning movie about fading star Norma Desmond (“All right, Mr. DeMille, I’m ready for my close-up”). Two-show subscription packages here. Single tickets are not yet available.

Single tickets are available to the “The Book of Mormon” starting Friday, Sept. 21 at 5 p.m. (in person at the Orpheum Theatre Box Office) and at 7 p.m. online or by phone (1-800-982-2787). A presale to American Express cardmembers begins at 10 a.m. Wednesday, Sept. 12 and ends Tuesday, Sept. 18. With book, music, and lyrics by Trey Parker (“South Park”), Robert Lopez (“Avenue Q”), and Matt Stone (“South Park”), this Broadway blockbuster runs Feb. 5-17 (2013). Snooze and lose.

zach manske as billy elliot

Photo by Doug Blemker
Woodbury native Zach Manske is one of four young actors playing the title role in ‘Billy Elliot’ at the Ordway.

On the topic of musicals, “Billy Elliot” opens at the Ordway Oct. 9. Based on the hit film starring Jamie Bell and Julie Walters, with music by Elton John, the production has won 81 national and international awards including 10 Tonys. Of the four young actors alternating in the title role, one is from Woodbury. Zach Manske has danced competitively with Woodbury Dance Center and received junior national champion titles  at major competitions. Six days, eight performances; through Oct. 14. FMI and tickets