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CVA closing surprised students, alumni; Walker names Galligan deputy director

College of Visual Arts
College of Visual Arts
St. Paul's College of Visual Arts is scheduled to close its doors this summer.

The College of Visual Arts’ closing was news to a lot of people, including its own students, alumni, and faculty. Most heard about it first from MPR. CVA will hold an information session on Wednesday (Jan. 23) for the confused, the angry and the curious. An email about the meeting alerted us to the likelihood that “this meeting will be emotionally charged, and full of intrigue and accusation.” In another email, Fiona Eustathiades, who graduated from CVA in 2000, wrote, “Alumni were never informed the school was in any danger of closing … I had no idea the school was struggling to the extent that the buildings are being listed for sale … Right now, we all need information, and there is an inexcusable lack of it.” 6 p.m., CVA Western Building, Room 441, 173 Western Ave. N., St. Paul.

David Galligan
David Galligan

The Walker Art Center has named a new deputy director/COO, and it’s a name we know. David Galligan was Walker’s COO/treasurer from 1985-2002 (originally hired by Martin Friedman, continuing through Kathy Halbreich), after which he served as president and CEO of the Ordway Center and then as a nonprofit management consultant for clients including the Guthrie and the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles. Executive Director Olga Viso has restructured her senior management team to include a deputy director position reporting directly to her. Galligan will also focus on donor cultivation, board recruitment, government relations, and development of new revenue streams.

Twin Cities musician Steve Kramer, frontman for the 1980s band the Wallets, has died. The Star Tribune reports that he died in his sleep while attending the Sundance Film Festival. Kramer was 59. A memorial service celebrating his life is scheduled for this Sunday, Jan. 27, at Lake Harriet United Methodist Church in Minneapolis. City Pages has more about his music, with links to videos. At the time of his death, Kramer was working with playwright Kevin Kling on a new musical for the Children’s Theatre.

Local record label Secret Stash, which we have to thank (profusely) for “Twin Cities Funk & Soul: Lost R&B Grooves from Minneapolis/St. Paul 1964-1979,” one of the best releases of 2012, is featured on the YouTube-produced web show “American Hipster,” along with local artists Broken Crow, the restaurant Travail, and the “Vote No” movement (the show was filmed last fall). Here’s the vid.

The Chopin Society’s Feb. 3 recital with award-winning young Russian pianist Daniil Trifonov has sold out. He played the same concert he’ll perform here (Scriabin, Liszt, Chopin’s 24 Preludes) at the Kennedy Center last weekend. Words from the Washington Post review: “virtuoso … he mesmerized his listeners … distinctive and other-worldly and spiritual …. a visceral experience … a knockout.” You can’t say we didn’t warn you. 

We haven’t yet seen crowds carrying torches in protest of the Minnesota Orchestra and SPCO lockouts, but the people are gathering and getting restless. More than 1,000 MnOrch supporters, donors, and patrons have already joined Orchestrate Excellence, a newly formed coalition independent of musicians and management and co-chaired by Paula DeCosse. The members of Save Our SPCO recently wrote a letter to SPCO board members, directors and governing members, offering to mail each one a file containing the names of all 3,000 people who signed a petition on behalf of that orchestra.

Musicians of the SPCO will be at the State Office Building on Wednesday to provide entertainment at a hearing in the Commerce and Consumer Protection Committee to consider whether the Legislature should consider rules on lockouts by entities (like pro teams and orchestras) that accept public funding. The hearing was announced earlier, and although the NHL lockout is over, it’s still on. In a statement issued Jan. 7, committee chair DFL Rep. Joe Atkins wrote, “Lockouts have been happening more and more frequently with groups who received taxpayer dollars, despite promises by those groups of economic activity and jobs. We have an obligation to taxpayers to find ways to minimize the economic impact of those lockouts in the future.” 4 p.m. in the basement of the State Office Building, Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. near John Ireland.

As we watched Eugene O’Neill’s “A Long Day’s Journey into Night” last weekend, we were perversely reminded of another play we saw at the Guthrie last March, Noël Coward’s “Hay Fever.” Both center on a dysfunctional family with two indolent grown-up children, a father who works in the arts, and a mother who dwells on her past glories. Both are set in summer houses, and they take place within a dozen years of each other: “Journey” in 1912, “Fever” in 1924. And there the similarities end, because while “Fever” leaves you laughing, “Journey” makes you want to jump off the Guthrie’s bridge to nowhere. If only it were higher.

John Skelley (Edmund Tyrone) and Helen Carey (Mary Cavan Tyrone) in the Guthrie
Photo by Michael Brosilow
John Skelley (Edmund Tyrone) and Helen Carey (Mary Cavan Tyrone) in the Guthrie Theater's production of 'Long Day's Journey into Night,' by Eugene O'Neill.

O’Neill’s Pulitzer Prize-winning masterpiece has been called the greatest American play. The playwright shone a harsh spotlight on his own family: alcoholic brother, morphine-addicted mother, despotic, parsimonious father. “Journey” is so painfully autobiographical that O’Neill had a contract drawn up stipulating that it not be published for 25 years after his death. His third wife and widow found a loophole and it opened in 1956, not long after O’Neill died in 1953. It’s a draining three hours. Imagine that you took every cruel thing you ever dreamed of saying to anyone, then said them all during a single day to the people you love most. Gasps rippled through the Guthrie crowd several times, and the ending is a nuclear blast. 

Which is not to say you shouldn’t go. “Journey” is a case of it hurts so good. John Lee Beatty’s set — a two-story house that squats and grows gradually darker, whose side porches are pincers — is almost a fifth character. The cast — rock-solid Peter Michael Goetz as father James Tyrone, Helen Carey as mother Mary Tyrone, John Catron as alcoholic son James, John Skelley as tubercular son Edmund — is riveting. Especially Carey, whose character shifts from doting mother to hazy junkie, desperately lonely woman to harpy. (BTW, Catron also appeared in “Hay Fever” as a houseguest.) Each role is exhausting. One can’t help wonder what happens when the play ends. Does everyone go backstage and hug? Directed by Joe Dowling, the Guthrie’s first-ever production of “Long Day’s Journey into Night” runs through Feb. 23 on the thrust stage. FMI and tickets.

We have a rare opportunity to see two productions of O’Neill’s play this winter, if we can stand it. (How often does this happen? In 2009, both the Park Square and Ten Thousand Things staged “Othello.”) Starting Thursday, Feb. 7, St. Paul’s Gonzo Group Theatre presents its take on “Journey.” Big differences off the bat: Gonzo is a 2-year-old avant-garde company without a permanent home. Its “Journey” takes place in the main hall of the James J. Hill House. It was funded as a Kickstarter project. It’s pay-what-you-can. They swear “this isn’t your parents’ ‘Long Day’s Journey into Night’" and have made some changes; the character of Cathleen, the maid, has been turned into Carlotta, O’Neill’s third wife. Why the Hill House? “Because it’s awesome” and because there’s a mysterious connection: James and Mary Hill, James and Mary Tyrone. (Cue “Twilight Zone” music.) Veteran actors Richard Ooms and Claudia Wilkens lead the cast, which also features their son Michael. It’s a real-life family affair. Yee-ouch. Through Feb. 23 (just like the Guthrie). FMI and reservations.

Opening Friday at the Children’s Theatre: “The Biggest Little House in the Forest,” a play for toddlers. Two-year-olds and up. At the theater? Isn’t that asking for trouble? In fact, CTC is the only theater in the U.S. that works with artists from around the world to create high-quality work for 2- to 5-year-olds. MinnPost spoke with CTC’s artistic director Peter Brosius last March, when the 2012-13 season was first announced, and we’ve been saving this bit ever since:

MinnPost: What are the main things you need to know when you put on a play for toddlers?

Peter Brosius: We’ve learned to make the theater as welcoming as possible. We have the performers greet the audience in the lobby, welcome them, and lead them into the theater. We make sure they can all sit comfortably and see the stage. We create an intimate environment where they can have a direct relationship. Contrary to popular media, which tends to bombard, we take a gentler pace and approach. We change the look and feel of the space. We give children room to respond and receive the material. In this particular play, we find discreet moments of audience interaction and invite them to participate. At the end, we have the performers personally thank the audience for coming. Learning to do this properly – whew! We have pioneered this in the U.S. and set a standard. There’s almost nothing more important that we can do.

"The Biggest Little House" is about a butterfly who finds an abandoned house in the woods and makes a home for herself and her friends, a mouse, frog, rabbit, and bear. It’s told by one actor, Autum Ness, with help from several puppets. Children may sit or dance. Through March 17. FMI and tickets.

Ends this weekend:

“Elton John and Tim Rice’s Aida” at the Pantages. Theater Latté Da’s Peter Rothstein directs a local cast in a show that’s been getting great reviews. (Rothstein was at the Guthrie on Saturday night, enjoying, if that’s the word, “Long Day’s Journey into Night.”) Through Sunday, Jan. 27. FMI and tickets.

“China’s Terracotta Warriors” at the Minneapolis Institute. And that’s the last we’re going to say about that. Maybe. Extended through Sunday; open nightly through Saturday. FMI and tickets. 

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