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Provocative ‘Clybourne Park’ raises questions some have stopped asking

ALSO: Billy Crystal bringing one-man show here; History Theatre on tour; ‘Sweet Revenge’ to open on Showboat; quilt show in Duluth; and more.

Ansa Akyea (Kevin), Emily Gunyou Halaas (Lindsey) and Jim Lichtscheidl (Steve) in the Guthrie Theater's production of "Clybourne Park," by Bruce Norris.
Photo by Michael Brosilow

“Clybourne Park,” which opened Friday at the Guthrie, is a play everyone should see. You’ll love it and hate it. You’ll feel angry, frustrated, embarrassed and sad. You’ll cringe and squirm and laugh at appalling jokes. Bruce Norris’ brilliantly constructed social satire, winner of the Pulitzer, Tony, and Olivier awards, is an in-your-face examination of topics that should be old news in our supposedly post-racial society. Except they’re not; we just use more complicated and multisyllabic PC language to dance our way around them.

Norris’ response to “A Raisin in the Sun” borrows its setting (a fictional white neighborhood in Chicago), theme (integration), even a character (Karl Lindner) from Lorraine Hansberry’s iconic play. The first part is set in the same year, 1959. A white couple has just sold their house to black buyers, alarming members of the community who fear for their property values. The second part moves ahead 50 years to 2009. The formerly white neighborhood is now a black neighborhood undergoing gentrification. Now it’s the whites who want in and the blacks who seek to protect what is theirs: history, character, memory.

“Clybourne Park” raises questions some of us have stopped asking, or have tired of asking, or mistakenly believe were answered with the election (and re-election) of our first black president. Will we ever figure out how to talk with each other? Will we ever get over ourselves? Norris’ use of the same actors playing two different but related casts, the same set (which ages during intermission), even the same phrases (listen for “Do you ski?” and “You can’t live in a principle”), all serve to conflate time and further underscore that the more things change, the more they stay the same. This is not light entertainment; if you want that, and there’s nothing wrong with wanting that, “Pride and Prejudice” is just around the corner. But if you seek a play that provokes, that makes you think, that continues what is probably our most important national conversation, “Clybourne Park” is unmissable. Through Aug. 4 on the McGuire stage. FMI and tickets. Note to parents: the play contains profanity, but nothing your kids haven’t heard before. 

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Kyu-Young Kim
Courtesy of the SPCO
Kyu-Young Kim

SPCO Principal Second Violinist Kyu-Young Kim will become senior director of artistic planning  for the orchestra, the SPCO announced Monday. This is big news for several reasons. First, it means that Kim won’t be leaving for the New York Philharmonic after all. He had requested a leave of absence from the SPCO in February after winning a position with the Phil. It may mean that his wife, cellist Pitnarry Shin, won’t be leaving her position with the Minnesota Orchestra. (We haven’t confirmed that, but it seems safe to assume it.) The musicians of the SPCO will have something they have long wanted: an accomplished professional musician in senior management, someone who understands them from the inside. This will be the first time in SPCO history that a member of the orchestra has served in a senior management role. Yes, Kim will also continue to perform. It’s a win-win (win-win-win).

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Billy Crystal is bringing his Tony-winning, one-man autobiographical play “700 Sundays” to Minneapolis before it opens on Broadway. We’ll be the only city to see it before it hits the Great White Way. Written and performed by Crystal, it’s about growing up in the jazz world of Manhattan, his teenage years, and adulthood; Crystal plays numerous characters who influenced his life and career. At the State Theater, six performances only, Oct. 22-26. Tickets go on sale Saturday, June 22, at noon

Emerging film and video makers, you have until July 19, 2013 to apply for the 2013 Minnesota Film and Video Grant Program, a project of the Jerome Foundation. The program awards grants for production and post-production of experimental, narrative, documentary and animated films and videos. FMI and online application.

“African Summer” starts tonight at the Cedar with a performance by Tuareg guitarist and singer Omara “Bombino” Moctar, whose latest album, “Nomad,” was produced by Dan Auerbach of The Black Keys. Here’s a taste. The truly amazing lineup of African superstars continues through July with artists including Femi Kuti, Amadou & Mariam, Vieux Farka Touré and Afrobeat drummer Tony Allen. FMI and tickets. Did you know the Cedar was named Best World Music Venue in the World in the about.com Readers’ Choice poll? Seriously, it’s a treasure. Plus it’s newly air-conditioned.

If you’ve been wanting to see “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” at the Chanhassen with your kids or grandkids, here’s good news: all summer long, from June 18-Aug. 7, children ages 5-17 get in free on Tuesday and Wednesday evenings. The roolz: buy one adult dinner and show ticket at regular price, receive one free dinner and show ticket for a child. “Joseph” is a fast-paced, colorful, family-friendly production, just 90 minutes long – about the length of a typical animated film. FMI and tickets

Graywolf Press author Kevin Barry has won the 2013 International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award for his novel, “City of Bohane.” The prestigious annual award for fiction carries a cash prize of 100,000 Euros (about $130,000). “City of Bohane” is Graywolf’s second IMPAC award winner; Per Petterson’s “Out Stealing Horses” took the prize in 2007.

scene from beyond the rainbow
Photo by Scott Pakudaitis
MGM studio president Louis B. Mayer (Clark A. Cruikshank) tries to talk to Judy (Norah Long) while the memory of her ex-husband Vincente Minelli (Peter Moore) haunts her in History Theatre’s production of “Beyond the Rainbow: Garland at Carnegie Hall.”

History Theatre has hit the road, taking two productions to communities around Minnesota. “Beyond the Rainbow: Garland at Carnegie Hall” will travel to the Historic Holmes Theatre in Detroit Lakes (June 13), the Myles Reif Performing Arts Center in Grand Rapids (June 15), and the Dawson-Boyd Performing Arts Center in Dawson (June 18). “Beyond the Rainbow” was written by William Randall Beard, whom some of us also know as a classical music writer for the Strib. “Lombardi” by Eric Simonson, the story of football coach Vince Lombardi, will play Alexandria’s Theatre l’Homme Dieu during its summer season (July 9-14). FMI and links to venues

Starting July 11, Illusion Theater’s annual “Fresh Ink” series presents three new works-in-progress by emerging and established playwrights. July 11-14: Leslye Orr’s “What I Thought I Saw: Random Acts of Blindness” is a look at the low-vision adventures of a one-eyed comedienne in a 3-D world. July 18-21: “Fruit Fly: The Musical” by Sheena Janson and Max Wojtanowicz is an expanded version of the 2012 Fringe hit about a gay man (a fruit) and a straight woman (a fruit fly). Must they “quit each other” to find true love? July 25-28: “Jeffrey Hatcher’s Hamlet.” Hatcher’s one-man show about his experiences as a 10-year-old playwright. All plays take place at the Illusion Theater in the Cowles Center. FMI and tickets.

California’s Triangle Lab wants what we have: Ten Thousand Things Theater’s unique way of bringing theater to all kinds of audiences, including those who have little or no access to the arts. Triangle Lab – a joint program of California Shakespeare Theater and Intersection for the Arts, an arts and community development organization – will take  TTT artistic director Michelle Hensley to Berkeley to direct her all-female production of Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night” and guide staff and artists there through TTT’s production model: no sets or lights, minimal props and costumes, and intimate proximity to the audience. Hensley previously brought TTT’s model to the Public Theater in New York City. 

kluwe
MinnPost photo by Jana Freiband
Chris Kluwe

On Sunday, June 30, former Vikings punter Chris Kluwe will read at the Loft. We’re telling you now because there are just 170 seats in the performance space at Open Book, where the reading will take place, and only 70 more in an overflow room broadcasting the event, and it’s first-come, first-served – no tickets or reservations. (Not even media get a pass; we can come for the first 10 minutes, but then we have to leave.) Kluwe will read from and discuss his new book of essays, “Beautifully Unique Sparkleponies: On Myths, Morons, Free Speech, Football, and Assorted Absurdities,” published by Little, Brown. 6 p.m. (following the closing of the Pride Festival). At the Loft, 1101 Washington Ave. S., Mineapolis.

Our picks for the week

Tonight (June 11) at the Minneapolis Central Library on Nicollet Mall: Talk of the Stacks with David Rhodes. Rhodes published three acclaimed novels before a motorcycle accident in 1977 left him paralyzed from the chest down. In 2008, after a 30-year silence, he returned with “Driftless,” which won the Milkweed National Fiction Prize. His latest, “Jewelweed,” features several characters from “Driftless” and a protagonist struggling to adjust to life after a period of incarceration. Doors at 6:15 p.m., program at 7. Free and open to the public.

Tomorrow (June 12) at seven Minnesota multiplexes: “Spirit of the Marathon II: Rome Marathon.” Follow seven runners from around the world as they journey to the starting line of the 2012 Rome Marathon. Includes interviews with marathon greats Stefano Baldini, Paula Radcliffe, and Frank Shorter. Ticket sales benefit The One Fund Boston, which assists families affected by the tragic events of the 2013 Boston Marathon. 7 p.m. at the Eagan 16, Eden Prairie 18, Arbor Lakes Megastar 16, Brooklyn Center 20, Showplace ICON at the West End, Rosedale 14, and Movies 8 in Mankato. FMI and tickets.

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aberration of starlight
Courtesy of the Lowry Lab
“Aberration of Starlight: A Play About Emily Dickinson” promises something very different from “that Hallmark card of a play,” “The Belle of Amherst.”

Opens Thursday (June 13) at the Lowry Lab: “Aberration of Starlight: A Play About Emily Dickinson.” Forget the prim and proper poetess of “The Belle of Amherst.” Playwright Walter A. Davis promises something very different from what he calls “that Hallmark card of a play” – a look at “the real Emily, a deeply erotic human being.” The original press release cautioned, “The play includes adult situations not suitable for children.” We asked Davis about a cut-off age. “I think most kids today are pretty aware,” he responded by email, “and given the lyric nature of the play I’d say any teen could handle it – perhaps with profit.” 8 p.m., 350 Saint Peter St., St. Paul. Through June 22. Tickets here ($20/$10). Pay-what-you-can performance on Monday, June 17.

Opens Thursday (June 13) on the Minnesota Centennial Showboat: “Sweet Revenge! (Or No Mother to Guide Her).” There’s nothing like an old-fashioned melodrama on a summer’s evening. Especially one aboard a showboat with a view of downtown St. Paul. Lillian Mortimer’s campy play about a repentant criminal who steals the heart of a farmer’s daughter (only to have his former corrupt partner claim her for his own! Dastardly villain!) is interspersed with Vern Sutton’s olios – musical interludes from the days of vaudeville and Tin Pan Alley. Peter Moore directs. We saw “The Vampire!” on the Showboat last summer (also helmed by Moore and Sutton) and loved every moment. We’re told that “Sweet Revenge!” includes a whiskey-swilling grandmother and a raging storm complete with tornado. Cheer the hero, hiss the bad guy, and step back into simpler times. The Showboat is docked on the banks of the Mississippi at Harriet Island; its 200-seat theater is styled after a vaudeville house. Yes, there are bars on the boat. Through Aug. 24. FMI and tickets.

Starts Thursday (June 13) in Duluth: the Minnesota Quilters Inc. 35th Annual Quilt Show. With hundreds of quilts from around the country on display; challenge quilts by five groups (including Twin Cities Quilting, Minnesota Contemporary Quilters, and Block Swappers in South Central Minnesota); quilts made by Duluth students; a special exhibit of Mariners Compass quilts; “Greetings from Finland,” with wall quilts and fabric postards from quilting guilds in Finland who are exhibiting in the U.S. for the first time; plus classes, lectures, and 102 vendors. Through Saturday, June 15, at the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center, 350 Harbor Drive. $10/$25 for multi-day pass. FMI.