Good news for theaters: Hennepin Trust adds Bernhardt-Norvell; Penumbra finances back in the black

Fawn Bernhardt-Norvell
Photo by Christine Freund
Fawn Bernhardt-Norvell

Hennepin Theatre Trust has hired a social activist as its new director of development. Fawn Bernhardt-Norvell comes to the Trust — owner of the Orpheum, State, Pantages and New Century Theatres and a major player in the Hennepin Cultural District partnership — not from Broadway but from the Jeremiah Program, which works to transform families from poverty to prosperity, and before then, Wellstone Action (where she was a founder) and the Center for Victims of Torture.

Bernhardt-Norvell serves on the board of Growth and Justice and was also on the board of Project SUCCESS. In 2007, Minneapolis/Saint Paul Business Journal named her one of the “40 Under 40” young leaders to watch in the Twin Cities. She shared her thoughts on Wellstone with MinnPost last year. We can’t wait to see how her previous experience will cross over.

Good news from Penumbra Theatre Company: According to an audit released Sept. 23, it ended fiscal year 2013 in the black. Contributions and special-event revenues were up considerably over 2012, contributions receivable are strong (which bodes well for the future), debt is current, and management and fundraising costs are down.

The historic St. Paul theater was in big trouble as recently as September 2012, when a cash crunch forced it to temporarily suspend its programing and cut six full-time staff positions. “We are proud to share this audit,” Penumbra board chair Bill Stevens said in a prepared statement. “It speaks volumes about the character of this board and staff — but most importantly, it is testament to the value the community places on this theater.”

Up next at Penumbra: “Black Nativity: A Holiday Concert” with a Who’s Who cast that includes Dennis Spears, Greta Oglesby, Yolande Bruce, Latonia Hughes-Kendrick, Sanford Moore and the Fellowship Missionary Baptist Church Mass Choir, with narration by Lou Bellamy. Dec. 12-22. Tickets here.

If you were at the Amsterdam last Tuesday, you heard a first: the classical string ensemble Accordo playing music by Mozart and Brahms. How did that go? According to Barry Kempton, the Schubert Club’s artistic and executive director, very well. And not just because the concert — shorter than the formal performance at Christ Church Lutheran the night before, more casual, with drinks and conversations with the musicians led by MPR’s Steve Staruch — drew proportionally more young people than the usual Schubert Club date.

Kempton avoids that bandwagon. “We need to think about new audience members more broadly,” he wrote on the Schubert Club’s website. “If we succeed in attracting a music lover or music liker to a live performance for the first time, does it really matter whether they are 35 or 55 or 75? For me, the most important goal is to find ways to make our organization — and our live music presentations — relevant to as wide a sector of our community as possible — not just age diversity.” In January, the Schubert Club launches a new series, the Schubert Club Mix, at Aria in downtown Minneapolis. Kids, bring your geezer parents. Parents, bring your hipster kids.

On the topic of audience-broadening, we’ve been pondering last Wednesday’s “Night of Social Wonder” at the American Swedish Institute. A sold-out crowd of arts types, ASI members and the curious came to hear five panelists — Maja Heuer of Sweden’s The Glass Factory, Sarah Schultz of the Walker, Steven Dietz of Northern Spark, Kim Bartmann of Bryant-Lake Bowl and the Red Stag, and Caroline Casey of Coffee House Press — talk about how they’re shaping new markets for the arts.

A few words from the Walker: “The more digital we become, the more we want to connect.” From Coffee House: “Engagement is not something you can fake.” “How people engage with art will always be changing.” From the BLB: “Quit tearing down old things.” And the Walker again: “At the core of any good social space is beer.”

Seriously, arts events with a social component are where the action is. There’s no other explanation for the tremendous success of the Internet Cat Video Festival, which drew thousands of people to the Walker and, more recently, the State Fair to see a bunch of YouTube videos they could have watched at home.

ibsens ghosts
Courtesy of ASI/Jenn Stromberg
Thomas Ward and Briana Patnode as Jakob Engstrand and Regine Engstrand in Ibsen’s “Ghosts.”

Did you know that the Swedish Institute now has a theater? This spring, Theatre Coup d’Etat presented “Hamlet” in the former ballroom at the top of the Turnblad Mansion — and won an Ivey Award. The company returns this week with Henrik Ibsen’s “Ghosts.” If you go on a Wednesday, you can dine before at the fabulous FIKA — if you can get in. It doesn’t take reservations. Pay-what-you-can preview tonight (Tuesday, Oct. 15); opens tomorrow (Wednesday, Oct. 16) and runs through Nov. 3. FMI and tickets.

This weekend in the Guthrie’s Dowling Studio, six Minnesota veterans will give their first-hand accounts of their lives and the military. Not off-the-cuff, but as part of an original three-act play called “Telling: Minnesota” written from interviews with the performers. Stories range from capture and escape in Southeast Asia to flying injured soldiers out of Iraq and Afghanistan, from military sexual trauma in the Army to accompanying country singer Lynn Anderson to the Marine Corps Ball.

The cast features Keneth Plant (USMC), Angie Gagnier Batica (Army), Vincent Undis (Navy), Stu Rawling (MN Air National Guard), Theodore John (UMC), and J.A. Moad II (Air Force). The Saturday performance (10 a.m.) is for active service, veterans and their families only. The Sunday performance (1 p.m.) is open to the public, and a post-play discussion will follow. Free, but tickets are required. Call 612-377-2224 or 1-877-44STAGE (447-8243).

Love light shows and spectacles? What about full-body, glow-in-the-dark puppetry? “Lightwire: The Show” comes to the Burnsville Performing Arts Center in March with what will likely be a combination of their current programs — stories, fables, and fairy tales with positive messages and kid-friendly humor. Here’s a video from their “Ugly Duckling” and a snippet from their dinosaur battle on “America’s Got Talent.” Presale through Thursday, Oct. 17. Use code PACLWR. 

Our picks for the week

Tonight (Tuesday, Oct. 15): “The Yarn Whisperer” at the Bookcase in Wayzata. For knitters, friends of knitters, and people forced to live with knitters. Author Clara Parkes will present and sign copies of her new book, “The Yarn Whisperer: My Unexpected Life in Knitting.” Twenty-two essays, each a masterful yarn, because apparently Parkes’ life has been a stitch. 7 p.m., free. (Shameless plug: yours truly is knitting something for the silent auction at MinnPost’s 6th Anniversary Party.)

Tonight: “The New Midwestern Table” at Common Good Books. Winner of a James Beard Journalism Award, Amy Thielen grew up in rural northern Minnesota, waiting in lines for potluck buffets. She spent years cooking in New York City’s best restaurants, then moved back home in 2008 and rediscovered heartland cuisine. “The New Midwestern Table” features 200 recipes for fresh-from-the-land dishes. Take that, French Laundry. 7 p.m., free. Red Table Meat Co. will provided samples of their new head cheese.

Wednesday: Time/Travel” fashion show at Union Depot. A runway show inspired by the past and future of travel, held in the waiting room of the newly renovated Union Depot. Featuring original clothing designs by top local designers, with elaborate lighting and visuals, this sounds like a lot of fun. With musical street performers, train attendants passing complimentary  hors d’oeuvres, and a cash bar. 7 – 8:30 p.m. General admission $12, VIP seating (great views plus a swag bag) $28. FMI. TicketsCORRECTION: This event takes place Wednesday, Oct. 23, not Wednesday, Oct. 16. We apologize for the error.

Wednesday: “Pentagon Papers” attorney James C. Goodale at the Cowles Center. The “Pentagon Papers” litigation happened more than 40 years ago. According to James C. Goodale, who was then vice chairman and general counsel of the New York Times, we’re still dealing with many of the same issues of national security and press freedom. Has the Obama administration overstepped its constitutional authority in its efforts to shut down leaks? How far can the government go in its pursuit of people like Edward Snowden and Bradley Manning? Can journalists who publish classified material be forced to reveal their confidential sources? How can we balance the public’s right to know with the government’s claims of national security? Goodale is the author of the new book “Fighting for the Press: The Inside Story of the Pentagon Papers and Other Battles.” For some reason, he’s much in demand as a speaker these days. 7:30 p.m. in the Cowles Auditorium. Free and open to the public.

Thursday: Nerd Thursday at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts. Nerds — you know who you are. And you know what you like. For this month’s Third Thursday, you can make a Lego van Gogh with Brickmania, dig into the MIA’s prints and drawings collection with curator Tom Rassieur (we met Rassieur during the Rembrandt show in 2012, and trust us when we say you’ll enjoy every second you spend with him), or play Tipsy Pixels’ video game tourneys. Yet another shameless plug: two activities have MinnPost connections. Name your alley in Andy Sturdevant’s “Alley Atlas” exhibit (Andy writes “The Stroll”) or take part in MinnPost’s news junkie quiz show. Don’t expect the quizzes to be easy. A gift pack is at stake. The winner will be announced on MinnPost Friday morning. Event 6-9 p.m., free. Refreshments (including beer) available for purchase.

Thursday: Real-Phonic Radio Hour at the James J. Hill Library. An evening of music run like a radio show, set in a room full of books, dark wood, and tall Grecian columns. Fat Kid Wednesdays opens for Memphis upright bass player Amy LaVere. With Erik Koskinen, Molly Maher and the Real-Phonic Band. Tickets are half off if you bring a donation for the St. Paul food shelves. Wine and beer available. 8 p.m. Tickets online or at the door. 

Thursday: The Twin Cities Film Fest opens at the ShowPlace ICON. Ten days, 50 movies, including many Hollywood award hopefuls — all premieres. Examples: “Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom” (starring Idris Elba), “Nebraska” (Bruce Dern, directed by Alexander Payne), “August: Osage County” (Meryl Streep, Julia Roberts), “Last Vegas” (Robert DiNiro, Michael Douglas, Morgan Freeman). Plus more than 20 world premieres of locally produced features and short films. Through Oct. 26. FMI (including the complete schedule) and links to tickets

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