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College of Visual Arts supporters aim to avert closing; Northrop ‘re-branding’

ALSO: Independent Film Project; Liquid Music series’ “Penelope”; Ten Thousand Things offers hip-hop “Thebes” version; and more.

Is there a chance the College of Visual Arts will survive? The late January announcement that the 89-year-old St. Paul institution will close its doors on June 30 came as a shock to many. A group calling itself CVA Action, which formed soon after the announcement, is not yet ready to give up. The group includes alumni, students, parents, faculty, staff and community members “dedicated to searching out and presenting alternative solutions” to the closing.” So far, it has raised more than $55,000. A benefit Friday at the Amsterdam will feature the old-timey jug band Roe Family Singers and the Irish rock band the Tim Malloys. 7-9:30 p.m., $10 cover. Both and the Daily Planet have good background on CVA and the closing.

Independent Film Project Minnesota has named Andrew Peterson its executive director. Peterson was appointed interim executive director last August, after IFP’s board ousted Jane Minton, who had served the organization for 25 years. Peterson has held diverse film-related leadership positions and produced or co-produced several independent feature films. Last week he shared some of his plans for IFP’s future with the Strib’s Kristin Tillotson. High on his list: “rebuilding the film industry in Minnesota. Back in the day we were the fourth largest market behind only New York, L.A. and Chicago, and now the fact that Oklahoma does better than us is absurd.” Wondering what films have been made in Minnesota besides “Purple Rain” and “Grumpy Old Men”? We found a list at the Minnesota Film and TV commission’s website. “Thanksgiving at Denny’s” starts shooting on the Iron Range this spring.

Northrop at the University of Minnesota is one of four organizations nationwide chosen for the Innovation Lab for the Performing Arts, funded by a $1.6 million grant from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation. Northrop is in the midst of a major overhaul and is scheduled to reopen in spring 2014. According to the project description provided to Innovation Lab, its curatorial practice is changing from “presenting artistic content” to “facilitating social orchestration.” Those are some mighty big words. Branding changes are under way. No more “Northrop Concerts and Lectures,” no more “Northrop Auditorium.” The Innovation Lab press release used “Northrop Performing Arts Center.” We’ll be watching as Northrop reinvents itself.

Sarah Kirkland Snider and Shara Worden
Photo by Murat Eyuboglu
Sarah Kirkland Snider and Shara Worden

The Liquid Music series continues Tuesday night and Wednesday with composer Sarah Kirkland Snider, singer Shara Worden and the chamber group yMusic, all challengers of convention. They’ll perform excerpts from Snider’s “Penelope” along with new works. We’ve been inviting members of Theoroi, a group of “arts ambassadors” ages 21-35 sponsored by the Schubert Club, to preview events they’re attending and tell us what they think. Mark Sweeney has five reasons to catch this performance: “1. ‘Penelope,’ an original song cycle arranged by yMusic for Shara Worden, was inspired by Homer’s ‘Odyssey.’ It tells of a soldier’s wife nursing her husband’s memory when he appears on her doorstep after an absence of many years. 2. Snider’s song cycle has been given universal acclaim. Pitchfork called it ‘a hauntingly vivid psychological portrait.’ 3. After listening to ‘Penelope,’ I would encourage anyone who is looking for a fresh take on chamber music to check it out. Worden, as Odysseus’ wife, grounds this moody, cinematic piece of musical storytelling. 4. Aside from the Midwest premiere of Snider’s song cycle, the evening will feature works by Worden’s band My Brightest Diamond and yMusic. All three deserve their own concerts, so to see them collaborate will be well worth a trip through the winter’s night. 5. I caught Worden’s appearance with My Brightest Diamond at the Cedar last spring and it was one of the best concerts I saw all year. She masterfully connects with her audience, and her clear, controlled and versatile voice is suitable for art song, jazz, folk and rock.” Both performances are sold out; check with the box office for turnbacks at 651-291-1144. 7:30 p.m., The Music Room at SPCO Center, St. Paul. UPDATE: On Tuesday afternoon, the SPCO announced a program change: “Members of yMusic were notified yesterday by the Musicians’ Union (AFM – Local 802) that union regulations do not permit them to perform in this program, which takes place during an ongoing labor dispute by the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra Society and its union musicians.” AFM – Local 802 is the New York musicians’ union to which yMusic belongs. Worden will perform a 45-minute My Brightest Diamond duo set on both nights. All tickets will be refunded. 

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If you can’t get into Liquid Music, Carleton College in Northfield is hosting a performance of the complete “Penelope” song cycle with Worden and yMusic on Thursday (Feb. 28). 8 p.m., Skinner Memorial Chapel, free. UPDATE: This concert will take place as planned.

Mike Fotis
MinnPost photo by John Whiting
Mike Fotis

The Moth StorySLAM returns to the Amsterdam Wednesday night (Feb. 27). We were at the debut Jan. 30 and thought it had a few bugs to work out. The show started 40 minutes late, there weren’t enough seats for people who paid for so-called VIP seating, and the Dam waited too long to open the whole room. A couple standing in front of us gave up and left. But once the stories began, we all had fun, and this could easily become a destination event. Dan Kennedy flew in from New York to host in January; Mike Fotis takes over Wednesday. Twin Cities comedy fans know Fotis from the Fringe and the Brave New Workshop. Tomorrow’s theme: “Love Hurts.” Doors at 7 p.m., show at 7:30. Tickets here.

“Seven Against Thebes” is an old play — one of the oldest, written by the Greek playwright Aeschylus more than 2,400 years ago. Ten Thousand Things has made it new in “The Seven,” a hip-hop adaptation by Will Power that’s part play, part musical and all up in your face. A DJ sets the scene with a few words from the original, non-hip-hopified version, played on a boombox. Blind King Oedipus struts on stage in an emerald-green jacket with sequined lapels and bellows, “I’m the original gangster!” The story unfolds in song (rap, soul, Broadway, R&B), dance, plentiful pop-culture references and tightly choreographed fight scenes. Greek tragedies, by definition, don’t end well, and we know from the start that when Oedipus curses his sons, Eteocles and Polynices, they’re toast — just as Oedipus was, and his father before him, doomed by an inescapable prophecy. But we can’t help watching as the play races toward its foregone conclusion: “Slaves in a field, kings with crowns, everybody’s going down.” Bruce A. Young is volcanic as Oedipus; H. Adam Harris and Kinaundrae Lee give his sons bluster and vulnerability; Brian Sostek excels as the slimy Right Hand to the king. As always with TTT, “The Seven” plays in the round, with minimal sets, no stage lighting, and actors in multiple roles. It’s a lot funnier than we expected, and more outrageous, full of the N-word and F-bombs. It’s also one of the best things we’ve seen in the past year. Sarah Rasmussen directs. Through March 10 at Open BookFMI and tickets. Act quickly; some of the few remaining nights have already sold out. 

Bruce A. Young in “The Seven”
Photo by Paula Keller
Bruce A. Young in “The Seven”

Where to go, what to see

Tonight (Tuesday, Feb. 26) at the Dakota: “Brothers in Bamako: Eric Bibb and Habib Koité.” Honey-tongued bluesman (and godson of Paul Robeson) Bibb meets Mali’s biggest pop starHere’s a tasteFMI and tickets.

Tomorrow (Wednesday, Feb. 27) at Dayton Avenue Presbyterian Church: Twin Cities newsman Stan Turner hosts “It’s a Crime: An Evening of Minnesota Crime” with true-crime authors William Swanson (“Dial M: The Murder of Carol Thompson,” “Black White Blue: The Assassination of Patrolman Sackett”), Larry Millett (“Strange Days, Dangerous Nights,” “Murder Has a Public Face”), and Joe Kimball (“Secrets of the Congdon Mansion”). Sponsored by SubText: A Bookstore. The church is at 217 Mackubin St. in St. Paul. 7 p.m., free.

Tomorrow at the Weisman: the second annual “Words at WAM” literary open mic. Come at 6 p.m. for the social hour, sign up if you want to read your work (fiction, poetry, nonfiction, spoken word; 4-minute limit), stroll through the galleries, and enjoy. Readings start at 7; Matthew Ullery and Tish Jones close the evening. Co-presented by WAM and Hazel & Wren. Free.

Tomorrow and Thursday (Feb. 28) at the Chanhassen: “Woodstock.” Climb aboard the wayback machine for songs from the legendary 1969 concert at Yasgur’s farm. Alex Ligertwood (former lead singer for Santana) and the Fabulous Armadillos will sing songs you know and love: “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes,” “The Weight,” “Oye Como Va,” “White Rabbit,” “Foxy Lady.” 8 p.m. FMI and tickets.

Now at the Park Square: the regional premiere of Liz Duffy Adams’ “Or,” a comedic romp set in 1666 Restoration England. Elizabethan verse meets modern prose in a style reminiscent of “Shakespeare in Love.” Through March 17. FMI and tickets.

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Now at the U’s Regis Center for Art: “The Dance of Words,” a group exhibition of works that reference the use of text and calligraphic traditions found in many languages and cultures. The opening reception Thursday (Feb. 28) includes a performance by the Amwaaj Arabic Music Ensemble. Through March 15. Free.

Plan ahead

Coming to Minneapolis March 6-9: the Fifth Annual Women of the World Poetry Slam. The National Poetry Slam descended on St. Paul in 2010 and was a smashing success, with nightly throwdowns at the Artists’ Quarter and Wild Tymes. This is the first time Minneapolis will host the WOW slam. Eighty competitors (some from as far away as New Zealand) will vie for three nights, and the top 12 will advance to the final round. Here’s the schedule: March 6, 8 p.m.: Last Chance Slam and Opening Night Party at Kieran’s Irish Pub. March 7-8 at 7 p.m. and 9 p.m.: preliminary bouts at Kieran’s and the Institute of Production and Recording (IRP). March 9 at 7 p.m.: championship finals at Aria. FMI and tickets.

Poet Cynthia French
Photo by Cole Sarar
Poet Cynthia French

For fans of “The Voice”: Tony Lucca, second runner-up on Season 2, will perform at Bunkers on April 11. Tickets are on sale now at the Electric Fetus and all Ticketmaster locations, or buy them at the door on the night of the show. Doors at 8 p.m., music at 9 p.m. 21+. Season 2 finalist Chris Mann will play the Pantages on June 4 at 7:30 p.m. FMI and tickets.

In November of last year, much to his surprise, local author William Alexander won the National Book Award for his first YA novel, “Goblin Secrets.” His second novel, “Ghoulish Song,” comes out Tuesday, March 5. Billed as a “companion” to “Secrets,” “Song” takes place at the same time, in the same city, and shares several characters. The launch party happens Tuesday at Dr. Chocolate’s Chocolate Chateau in St. Paul, with live music from local band Dreamland Faces. 7 p.m., free. Alexander will also be at DreamHaven Books on March 8 (7 p.m.), Red Balloon Bookshop on March 9 (2 p.m.), Wild Rumpus on March 16 (1 p.m.), Uncle Hugo’s on March 18 (1 p.m.), and Birchbark Books on March 30 (2 p.m.). There’s no excuse not to see him.