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St. Paul seeks to reopen the Palace; a guide to Halloween fun

palace theatre
Mayor Chris Coleman wants to reopen the Palace as a
mid-sized concert hall for contemporary pop music.

Did you know that St. Paul has a pedestrian mall? Located between St. Peter and Wabasha, it’s just a block long, anchored on one end by Great Waters Brewing Co. and Wild Tymes, on the other by Walgreens and Bruegger’s. There’s a lighted arch on the St. Peter side that looks better when several of the bulbs aren’t blown out. Across from the Park Square Theatre (and a thorn in its side) is a marquee advertising “Minnesota! It’s not just for Lutherans anymore …” That Brave New Workshop show (which played in the lobby) closed a decade ago, and the theater – the old Palace, built in 1916 as a movie house and vaudeville stage – has stood empty ever since.

But not for long, if St. Paul gets the $6 million in state bonding it seeks to bring it back to life. As reported in Monday’s Pi Press and on the Current blog, Mayor Chris Coleman wants to reopen the Palace as a mid-sized concert hall for contemporary pop music, to be managed by the people who run First Avenue in Minneapolis.

“It’s the missing link in our cultural scene in downtown St. Paul,” Coleman said during a tour. “It links Rice Park to Mears Park. It’s a block from the light-rail stop.”

Coleman also vowed that the Artists’ Quarter jazz club, located downstairs from Great Waters, will stay open. Owner Kenny Horst recently said the club would close at the end of the year due to rent increases.

Whatever it takes to clean up that mall is fine with us. The dinginess and the constant panhandlers are deterrents. Question: If the new theater will hold up to 3,000 music lovers, which is the plan, where will they park? Anyone who has ever tried to find a parking space in downtown St. Paul on the night of a Wild game or another big event at the Xcel knows what we’re talking about. Lucky the light rail is so close, but still.

The Twin Cities Film Festival announced eight award winners on Saturday, the closing night of the 2013 event. The winners include “August: Osage County” (Best Feature Film), “Antarctic: A Year on Ice” (Best Documentary), “Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom” (Audience Award, Feature), and actress Emily Fradenburgh of “Nothing Without You” (TCFF Breakthrough Achievement Award).

vocal essence concert
Photo by Bruce Silcox
The opening of VocalEssence’s 45th season was glorious — deeply, almost unbearably moving.

If you were at Central Lutheran Church in Minneapolis Sunday afternoon for the opening of VocalEssence’s 45th season, we don’t need to tell you how glorious it was, how deeply, almost unbearably moving. Originally scheduled for Orchestra Hall, the concert was relocated to the church because of the ongoing contract dispute between Minnesota Orchestra management and musicians. The church has fewer seats but soaring ceilings and softly glowing stained-glass windows. It’s so beautiful we almost forgot it was Lutheran, which we get to say because we were raised Lutheran.

Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak gave the welcome, asking us to applaud ourselves for supporting the arts. (Thank you, Mr. Mayor, for setting such a good example.) The program was mostly premieres, a sign of how important VocalEssence is to our cultural scene and to music in general. Aaron Jay Kernis’ setting of Psalm 104, “Glorious Majesty,” a world premiere, was performed by the VocalEssence Ensemble Singers, one of the few choirs that could manage its intricacies and shifting, shimmering dynamics. A selection of hymns by Conrad Susa was supposed to come next, but logistical problems necessitated a replacement. Artistic director, founder and conductor Philip Brunelle chose “The Day Is Done” by St. Paul composer Stephen Paulus, written for VocalEssence five years earlier. Paulus suffered a stroke on July 4 of this year; only recently has he slowly begun coming out of it. As evidenced by the gasps from the audience when Brunelle described Paulus’s condition, many people there had not yet heard the news.

The great St. Olaf Choir sang a selection of hymns, and following the intermission, some 300 performers – the VocalEssence Chorus & Ensemble Singers, the St. Olaf Choir, Northfield Youth Choirs, a full orchestra, and soloists Dan Dressen (tenor) and Maria Jettte (soprano) – squeezed together for the U.S. premiere of Jonathan Dove’s “There Was a Child.” Commissioned by a friend of the composer whose son drowned at age 19, it’s a huge oratorio set to 15 poems that tell a story of birth and childhood, innocence, joy, death, and grief. It’s so big, so room-filling and emotional it’s almost exhausting. It was good to step out of the church and into the late-afternoon sun.

If you didn’t get tickets to either Jerry Seinfeld show at the Orpheum on Jan. 17, don’t despair. Those are sold out, but a third show has been added – 7 p.m., Jan. 16 – and tickets go on sale this Friday (Nov. 1) at noon. In person (no service fees) at the State Theatre Box Office (805 Hennepin Ave.), online or by phone (1-800-982-2787).

To some, Halloween is a Satanic conspiracy to undermine America. To others, it’s the sound of cash registers ringing. (It’s our biggest holiday for candy sales.) And to those who’ve lived in Minnesota long enough, it will always be 1991’s record-breaking blizzard. Snow fell and kept falling – 2 feet in the Twin Cities, three in Duluth. Kids went out as ghosts and goblins, came back as snowdrifts. In the spirit of sweet, sticky fun, we offer a selection of out-of-the-ordinary Halloween-themed events. All happen Thursday, Oct. 31.

Trick-Art-Treat at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts. Cookies, cider and candy, art-making, a Halloween Gallery Hunt and a photo booth feature at this family-friendly, art-focused event. Costumes encouraged; no full masks or hoods. Includes free admission to “The Audacious Eye: Japanese Art from the Clark Collections” exhibition. 5-8 p.m. Free.

monster
Photo by Catherine Ashmore
Benedict Cumberbatch as the monster in the National Theatre's 2011 production of Frankenstein, directed by Danny Boyle.

“Frankenstein” at the St. Anthony Main Theatre. Directed by Oscar winner Danny Boyle (“Trainspotting,” “Slumdog Millionaire”), this 2011 production had a sell-out run at London’s National Theatre. Benedict Cumberbatch and Jonny Lee Miller alternate roles as maker and monster; both won the 2012 Olivier Award. For this Thursday’s performance, Cumberbatch is the monster. 7 p.m. FMI and tickets ($20/$15); click on a showtime. We haven’t seen this but are guessing it’s not for the kiddos. (Can’t come Thursday night? The version with the reverse airs Saturday, Nov. 9.)

Halloween Cocktails at the (Haunted) Castle at the American Swedish Institute. The official event title is “Loki’s Halloween Bash: A Journey through the Nine Worlds of Norse Mythology,” which makes it sound more serious than it will be. ASI’s first Halloween shindig celebrates Scandinavian culture with Norse gods and goddesses, tarot card readings, fortune-telling, séances with the Twin Cities Paranormal Society, mask-making, screenings of Swedish horror films, live music, aquavit shots, and food and cocktails by Fika. Costumes encouraged. 7-11 p.m., 21+. Tickets here ($15).

From Stephen King, John Mellencamp and T Bone Burnett: “Ghost Brothers of Darkland County” at the State Theatre. In the tiny Mississippi town of Lake Belle Reve, two brothers are dead in an apparent murder/suicide, and their nephews seem headed toward the same dark fate. The Southern Gothic story-driven rock concert will be performed here by an ensemble cast of 15 actors and a four-piece live band. King wrote the story, Mellancamp the music; Burnett was musical director. To be clear, they won’t be here; this is a touring production. Jon Bream spoke with Mellancamp for the Strib. 7:30 p.m. FMI and tickets ($39/50-$69.50).

Twin Cities Horror Festival II at the Southern. If you love the Fringe, try Horror Fest. A hit last year, it’s back at the Southern for 10 days of theater, movie and dance. Tonight’s openers: “The Harty Boys in The Mystery of the Mall of America … of Death” from Comedy Suitcase at 7 p.m., “Edgar Allan” from The Coldharts at 8:30 p.m., “The Murderer Did It!” from Four Humors at 10 p.m. and “Hear No Evil” from RawRedMeat at 11:30 p.m. All had big Fringe hits this year; we laughed ourselves silly at The Four Humors’ “Lolita.” FMI, full schedule and links to tickets ($15 each event; $95 unlimited pass to all 7 shows, plus bonus events). Through Nov. 9.

Our picks for the week

Tuesday at the Landmark Center: “To Be … To Ask …” The first of three multimedia evenings combining chamber music for piano, violin and cello with projections of paintings by Spanish master Francisco de Goya. Conceived by Twin cities pianist Ora Itkin, presented by the Schubert Club, the purpose of the series is to provoke reflection and introspection, not to teach about paintings or music. With violinist Karen Kim and cellist Tom Rosenberg, Itkin will perform music by Mozart, Beethoven, Brahms, Bach and Villa Lobos. Coming up: “To Be … To Fear …” on Nov. 5, “To Be … To Imagine …” on Nov. 12. In the Schubert Club Museum on the second floor. FMI and tickets ($12/$16). 

Wednesday at Bryant Lake Bowl: The Theater of Public Policy Presents a Minneapolis Mayoral Forum for the Rest of Us. Following a substantive discussion of key issues, the improvisers of T2P2 will use the conversation as inspiration for unscripted theatrical scenes. This is T2P2’s gift and forte: to listen hard and present serious ideas with wit and humor. Their goal is not to humiliate or skewer their guests, but to enlighten their audience. The topics are serious, the presentations never boring. Co-founder Tane Danger will moderate. Six of the eight top-polling Minneapolis mayoral candidates have confirmed their attendance: Betsy Hodges (who was just endorsed by the Star Tribune), Cam Winton, Jackie Cherryhomes, Bob Fine, Stephanie Woodruff and Dan Cohen. Doors at 6 p.m., event at 7. Free and open to the public. FMI.

Wednesday at Magers & Quinn: How to Read a Novelist: John Freeman in conversation with Louise Erdrich. An award-winning writer and book critic (for the New Yorker, the New York Times Book Review, and the Wall Street Journal, among others), onetime president of the National Book Critics Circle and former editor of Granta, Freeman has reviewed thousands of books and interviewed scores of writers. We can’t imagine a more interesting conversation than the one he’ll have with esteemed novelist, poet, and children’s book writer Louise Erdrich, winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award and National Book Award. 7 p.m., free.

Wednesday at the Amsterdam: The Moth StorySLAM. Do you have a creepy story to share? MPR’s Alison Broeren hosts the monthly open-mic storytelling competition. True stories only; no notes, papers or cheat sheets allowed; five minutes max. So, what makes your skin crawl? 7 p.m. doors, 7:30 stories begin. Tickets here ($8).

Wednesday at the Orpheum: Ballet Preljocaj. First, how to say it? Prezh-oh-kahzh. Named for its founder, Angelin Preljocaj, France’s leading contemporary ballet company comes to the Northrop Dance Season with “And then, one thousand years of peace,” inspired by visions of the Apocalypse in the book of Revelations. 7:30 p.m. FMI and tickets ($32-$59.50). Performance preview at Solera, 6:15 p.m. Free.

photograph
Courtesy of the Walker Art Center
Mitch Epstein, "Poca High School and Amos Coal Power Plant, West Virginia 2004"

Friday at the Walker: “American Power” by Mitch Epstein and Erik Friedlander. Epstein spent five years traveling through 25 states, investigating and photographing America’s cultural relationship to energy. Friedlander’s new compositions for solo cello accompany the visual narrative, and we in the audience explore the power of looking and listening. A collaboration, a Walker commission, and a world premiere. This could be one of those Walker evenings that makes you see things differently. 8 p.m., general admission seating. FMI and tickets ($20/$16). 

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Comments (4)

"dinginess and constant panhandlers?"

Full disclosure: I lived in the former St. Francis Hotel, where the disused Palace is, from 1997 to 1999. It's not the glass-and-steel canyons of downtown Minneapolis; the trendy, hip, quasi-urban vibe of Uptown, Loring Park or Eat Street; or any suburban faux-urban Potemkin village. It does have historical and modern architecture on a human scale and an active nightlife for those who make the minimal effort needed to find it, including some of the best theater, jazz and dining (Kincaid's, Meritage) in the Cities. And even after living there two years I've been panhandled more often on my trips to MPLS, not to mention Chicago or the Big Apple. If you're put off by Seventh Place maybe you need to stay in more.

Staying in more

Or maybe, Doug, you need to be a woman coming out of someplace like the Artists' Quarter, Park Square, the Ordway, the Amsterdam, or any number of places people like to go in St. Paul at night and walking alone to your car in the Macy's ramp or the surface lot on Wabasha. Or maybe you're lucky enough to find a spot on St. Peter and you're followed to your car. It would be different if the streets of downtown St. Paul were busier at night, but most times, it's pretty much just you and the panhandlers. 

point taken

.

As someone once said,

all's well that ends well.