For seven straight years, Kevin Kling, storyteller extraordinaire and MPR artist-in-residence, has been invited by Open Eye Figure Theatre to create an original work of his heart’s desire. Drawing inspiration from Jack London’s “White Fang” and “Call of the Wild,” Kling’s latest, “Humanimal,” which opens tonight, explores the lives of humans with their animals (or is it the other way around?). Kling will be joined by his longtime collaborators Michael Sommers, Simone Perrin, Jacqueline Ultan and Michelle Kinney. Will Kling talk about living with dachshunds? We’re crossing our fingers. Whatever he chooses to share, the Open Eye – a charming and intimate 90-seat venue – is the place to hear him. Tonight is sold out, but you have until Aug. 18. FMI and tickets ($20). Pay-as-able option available for any remaining tickets at the door. Note from Open Eye: “This production contains adult language – some of the animals in these stories swear.”
Open now at the Minneapolis Photo Center: “Mary Ludington: The Nature of Dogs.” Ludington is Kling’s wife. Her book, “The Nature of Dogs,” published by Simon & Schuster in 2007, includes some of our favorite dog photos ever. Through Sept. 1, daily from noon – 5:30 p.m., 2400 North Second St., Minneapolis, on the second floor of the Northwind Lofts.
Time is running out to get in on this year’s Fringe, that glorious stew of all things theater. You have tonight, tomorrow, and Sunday to experience the fun, the excitement, and the infectious community vibe of this amazingly well-run event. Amtrak could learn a thing or two from the Fringe about sticking to schedules. And we haven’t yet met a Fringe volunteer who was anything less than awesome. Read some reviews and reserve a show or two, or ten. Just don’t wait until the last minute. Several shows have already sold out completely.
If you’re a mixed Irish-Polish family, you’ll have to flip a zloty or plan carefully for the weekend, when the Irish Fair of Minnesota and the Twin Cities Polish Festival take place simultaneously. The Irish will gather on Harriet Island in St. Paul, the Poles at St. Anthony Main in Minneapolis for food, music, contests, dancing and entertainment. Headliners at the Irish Fair include #1 Billboard World Album charters Gaelic Storm. Irish Fair hours: Friday 3 p.m. – 11 p.m., Saturday 9 a.m. – 11 p.m., Sunday 9 a.m. – 7 p.m. Free. The Polish Festival features the Maggie D Group, the Fantini Accordion Quintet from Poland, and the Topola Polish Choir. Here’s a video of the accordions. Festival hours: Saturday 10 a.m. – 10 p.m. Sunday 11 a.m. – 5 p.m. Also free. The Polish Film Festival gets an early start tonight (Friday) with screenings of “Mundial: The Highest Stakes,” a David & Goliath story of the Polish freedom movement told through the events of the football World Cup in Spain in 1982, and Roman Polanski’s Oscar-winning “Chinatown.” Also at the Polish Festival: 13-year-old piano prodigy Michael Lu plays Chopin. FMI, full schedule and tickets here.
More people visited the Minneapolis Institute of Arts in fiscal year 2012-13 than in any previous year. Almost 680,000 people walked through the big glass doors, an increase of nearly 50 percent over 2011-12. The MIA’s 2013-14 exhibitions, announced last week, should bring the crowds back. Highlights: “The Audacious Eye: Japanese Art from the Clark Collections” (Oct. 6, 2013 – Jan. 12, 2014), with selections from the humongous gift of 1,700 Japanese artworks the MIA received in June 2013; the grand reopening of the redesigned African Art galleries, a 4,800-square-foot space shaped in part by community input, on Nov. 10; and “Matisse: Masterworks from the Baltimore Museum of Art” (Feb. 23 – May 18, 2014). Something you won’t see every day: “The Look of Love: Eye Miniatures from the Skier Collection” (May 17 – Aug. 24). What on earth are “eye miniatures”? Hand-painted miniatures of single human eyes, set in jewelry and given as tokens of affection or remembrance, usually by secret lovers (supposedly the only ones who would recognize such a detail). A trend begun in the late 18th century by the future George IV, eye miniatures are, in a sense, early selfies without the Carlos Danger ewww factor.
There are bees on the roof of the MIA – four hives full, thanks to the U of M’s Bee Squad. This coming Sunday’s Family Day, “Backyard Buzz,” celebrates all kinds of critters including fireflies, butterflies, and spiders. There’s a video about the bees on the roof, and worker bees from The Beez Kneez will be on hand to chat. (These are the people from whom you can order local, raw honey and they’ll deliver it by bicycle.) 11 a.m. – 5 p.m. Program schedule here. Meanwhile, you can go to the Facebook page and help name the queens. Winners will receive a buzzworthy prize pack.
If you’ve ever turned to the New York Times crossword puzzle, tuned into NPR’s “Weekend Edition Sunday” or solved a Sudoku, you know Will Shortz. The world’s only accredited puzzle master (he has a college degree in enigmatology from Indiana University, and also, BTW, a law degree), he’s coming to the Ted Mann on Thursday, Sept. 12, to discuss his favorite crosswords and how crosswords are created, answer questions about puzzles, and lead audience-participation word games. For word nerds, it’s impossible to imagine a more enjoyable evening. 7 p.m., public reception and author signing after. FMI and tickets ($30 – $5).
Kate DiCamillo, the best-selling, highly lauded children’s author who lives in our midst (some of us saw her strolling through the Uptown Art Fair on Saturday), has written a new book about the friendship between a young girl and a squirrel. “Flora and Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures” will be launched at the Fitzgerald on Sept. 24 at a festive event hosted by MPR’s Cathy Wurzer. Wurzer will interview DiCamillo, who will read from her book and charm the socks off of everyone in the house. 7 p.m. Tickets ($8 – $15) are on sale now, in person at the box office, by phone to MPR members (651-290-1200) or through Ticketmaster. FMI. So far, DiCamillo has won the Newbery Medal and Newbery Honor and a Boston Globe – Horn Book Award. Her books have sold 18.5 milllion copies and been translated into 39 languages. Two have been made into feature films, “Because of Winn Dixie” and “The Tale of Despereaux.”
Those who missed Stephen Yoakam’s indelible one-man performance in “An Iliad” at the Guthrie earlier this year can stop crying. It’s returning to the Dowling in October, so you have plenty of time to plan for it and buy your tickets. Here are our five reasons to see it, posted during the play’s first run in May.
On sale today (Friday) at 11 a.m.: An Evening with Hugh Laurie and the Copper Bottom Band at the Pantages on Tuesday, Oct. 15 ($48.50/$58). Acoustic guitar virtuoso Leo Kottke at the Guthrie on Monday, Nov. 25 ($44/$39).
It has been over a month since St. Paul-based composer Stephen Paulus suffered a stroke on July 4. According to his family, he’s stable, breathing on his own, but still unresponsive. The most recent journal entry on the Caring Bridge site notes that “the plan going forward is for him to move from the ICU early next week and go to a rehab facility” to begin cognitive and physical therapy. The family continues to request privacy and no visitors. A prolific and distinguished composer, Paulus has written more than 450 works in many genres. In 1975, he co-founded (with Libby Larsen) the American Composers Forum, which now supports new work all over the nation. He has touched many lives as a mentor and countless more as a composer of work with the power to move and inspire. On Aug. 14 in Michigan, organist Caron Farmer will perform the premiere of Paulus’s “A Refined Reflection,” commissioned by Farmer as the second movement of “Baronian Suite,” named in honor of Michael Barone, host of public radio’s “Pipedreams.”
Our picks for the weekend
Fans of jazz and improvised music, aka creative music (and many other names), this is your lucky weekend. We could say that about a lot of weekends, but tonight and tomorrow are especially rich.
• Tonight (Friday, Aug. 9) at Studio Z: EKG and Nathan Hanson. EKG is the collaborative electroacoustic duo of Ernst Karel (analog electronics, trumpet) and Kyle Bruckmann (double reeds, analog electronics). They describe their music as “a bizarre yet organic soundworld of shifting tones, sudden and creeping textures, elusive suggestions of possible melody, and microscopic noise.” They’ll present their realization of Martin Feldman’s “Oboe and Orchestra” (for oboe and analog synthesizer) and an improvised set. A member of the Fantastic Merlins, the inventive and captivating St. Paul-based saxophonist Nathan Hanson performs often at the Black Dog. Tonight he’ll play solo. This event is part of the Crow with No Mouth concert series of electro-acoustic composition and improvisation curated by Jesse Goin. 8 p.m., 275 East Fourth Street, Suite 200 in St. Paul’s Lowertown. Tickets here or at the door ($10).
• Tonight and tomorrow at the Artists’ Quarter: The Illicit Sextet. This Twin Cities jazz band released its first CD, “Chapter One,” in 1993 and its second, “Chapter Eleven,” earlier this year. What happened in the 20 years between? As trumpeter Steve Kenny recently told a reporter, the group “went into remission.” And Kenny went into a personal nosedive from which he recovered the hard way. Read Tom Surowicz’s article in last Sunday’s Strib, then head to the AQ for the group’s CD release, a night of exceptional, all-original music by Kenny, Paul Harper (tenor saxophone, flute), David Roos (guitar, autoharp), Chris Lomheim (piano), Tom Pieper (bass), and Nathan Norman (drums). 9 p.m., 408 St. Peter St., St. Paul (in the basement of the Historic Hamm Building). 9 p.m., $12 at the door.
• Tonight and tomorrow at the Dakota: Chris Speed Trio. We last saw New York-based tenor saxophonist Chris Speed at the Walker in April, when he was part of Craig Taborn’s Junk Magic. He’s also in Dave King’s Trucking Company, but he can’t always fly out for the shows. Plus Speed plays with John Hollenbeck’s Claudia Quintet, Tim Berne’s Bloodcount, and other big jazz guns like Dave Douglas, Uri Caine, and Kurt Rosenwinkel. He has several bands of his own including Endangered Blood, Trio Iffy, Human Feel, and the latest, simply called the Chris Speed Trio, which recently made its first recording. Golden Valley-based drummer King is part of it, as is New York-based bassist Chris Tordini. Let’s just say that if you like the progressive and the avant, with a strong chance of thrilling, this is for you. 11:30 p.m. Tickets here or at the door ($10).
• Tomorrow (Saturday, Aug. 10) at Icehouse: Cyro Baptista with Todd Clouser’s A Love Electric. We gave this an early nod last Friday. 11 p.m. FMI and tickets ($10/$12).
All weekend in Duluth: the Bayfront Blues Festival. One of the upper Midwest’s biggest blues blow-outs. Three days, two stages, more than 30 different acts, all in the city’s beautiful Bayfront Festival Park. This year’s headliners include the Robert Cray Band, Irma Thomas, Marcia Ball and Shemekia Copeland. FMI and single-day tickets ($40 advance/$45 at the gate).
Saturday at the Mall of America: Minnesota Renaissance Festival Preview. If you’re counting the days until live armor jousting, hay bales, turkey legs and Puke & Snot, stop by the MOA rotunda between 11 a.m. and 5 p.m. for performances (including medieval dancers) and music.
Sunday at the Cedar: Song Exchange: Chastity Brown and Ben Kyle. The start of an intriguing new series. Chastity Brown will play a set, followed by Ben Kyle (or maybe Kyle will go first), after which Brown will cover three of Kyle’s songs and vice versa. Why not? Doors at 7 p.m., show at 7:30 p.m. 416 Cedar Ave. S., Minneapolis. FMI and tickets ($12/$15).
Monday at the Varsity: Policy and a Pint. Co-presented by The Current and the Citizens League, this series invites the public to discuss important policy issues with community leaders and thinkers in an informal setting, with beer. This time the topic is “Uncivil Discourse: Comments Sections in the Digital Age.” Should comments be unmoderated and totally open? What about trolls? How does a comments section reflect on a company’s mission or brand? Hosted by Steve Seel, with MPR blogger Bob Collins, U of M journalism professor Shayla Thiel-Stern, Pi Press technology reporter and blogger Julio Ojeda-Zapata, and City Pages reporter Aaron Rupar. Doors at 5:30 p.m., program at 6 p.m. 1308 4th St. SE, Minneapolis. Tickets here ($10/$5).