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MN Orchestra lockout feels like our own ‘Waiting for Godot’; ‘Driving Miss Daisy’ at the Jungle

MinnPost photo by Corey Anderson
What’s the future of Orchestra Hall? The Strib’s resident satirist James Lileks pictures a CD player on a stool on stage.

We’re living our own version of “Waiting for Godot,” the play in which nothing happens, except we call it the Minnesota Orchestra lockout. Over the weekend, both the Star Tribune and MPR reported that the latest attempt at talks between management and musicians – informal meetings by two representatives from each side, as opposed to the whole negotiating committees – had collapsed. Even the equable Orchestrate Excellence, the citizens’ group that takes the middle ground, is “profoundly discouraged.” Attorney Lee Henderson, part of SOS: Save Osmo, wants Minneapolis to cancel its lease with the MOA, and the Minnesota attorney general to take control of the orchestra’s endowment. Doug Kelley, a member of the management negotiating team and a participant in the latest talks with board member Nicky Carpenter and musicians Doug Wright and Tim Zavadil, believes the musicians are being used by the national union. Zavadil insists the musicians represent themselves, or they wouldn’t vote unanimously on contract proposals, as they have done. What about the money Marilyn Carlson Nelson raised this summer? It’s available until the end of the year. Is conductor Osmo Vänskä gone forever? Board members have met with him about a possible return. Correction: This item has been corrected; Doug Kelley is not currently on the MOA board. However, he has been involved in many past musicians’ contract negotiations, and the MOA bylaws allow non-board member volunteers to serve on committees.

What’s the future of Orchestra Hall? The Strib’s resident satirist James Lileks pictures a CD player on a stool on stage. (Lileks, who regularly makes us laugh, for which we’re deeply appreciative, also keeps calling the lockout a strike. It is not a strike.) And so it goes, or doesn’t. Meanwhile, not many tickets remain for the Musicians of the Minnesota Orchestra’s next self-produced concerts this Thursday and Friday at the Ted Mann, with Stanislaw Skrowaczewski conducting.

The 43-year-old Twin Cities chamber music ensemble The Musical Offering is so small it doesn’t have even one full-time staff person. Yet it recently won a significant grant from Google for making great use of the web. Someone there is savvy enough to realize that a website has to work on a desktop, tablet and smartphone; a recent survey found that just two of the top 25 orchestras in the nation have mobile-friendly sites. TMO’s emails have an open rate that’s twice the industry average. Lacking a ticket office (again, no staff), they use Brown Paper Tickets, a friendly, intuitive website that doesn’t gouge buyers with big fees. And its Facebook page keeps fans up-to-date. TMO will receive up to $10,000/month of Google’s AdWords service and a free suite of app software. Its next concert is Jan. 26 at Hamline’s Sundin Music Hall. FMI.

driving miss daisy
Photo by Michal Daniel
Daisy Werthen (Wendy Lehr) and Hoke Colburn (James Craven) in ‘Driving Miss Daisy’

It begins with a car crash and ends with pumpkin pie. In between, an unlikely friendship forms. Set in Atlanta, spanning 25 years (1948-1973), “Driving Miss Daisy” is a straightforward, compact, linear play that draws you in gently and makes you care. Even if you know the story from the Oscar-winning film, watching it unfold on the Jungle’s stage is moving and satisfying. We couldn’t ask for a better cast – Jungle regular Wendy Lehr as sharp-tongued, set-in-her-ways Jewish widow Daisy Werthan; Charles Fraser as her go-getter son, Boolie; Penumbra company member James Craven as Daisy’s patient, steadfast chauffeur, Hoke Coleburn – or a warmer, more intimate version of Alfred Uhry’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play. Director Bain Boehlke also designed the set, which packs a lot into a small space: Daisy’s home, Boolie’s office, the car (four wooden office chairs and a steering column attached to the floor), changing scenery (Daisy’s yard, Atlanta’s streets, the Piggly Wiggly parking lot) viewed as projections through an arched doorway, and eventually a nursing home. The characters are strong and believable, real people living rather ordinary lives amid the enormity of the civil rights movement. The play is full of powerful moments: Craven’s first entrance onto the stage, his proud, purposeful walk a thing of beauty; Daisy’s judgmental fury when she thinks Hoke has stolen from her; the realization that Hoke is her best friend in the world. If “Driving Miss Daisy” leaves you cold, you must not have a heart. And if you start calling your mama a doodle, blame Uhry.

This Thursday, Nov. 14, is Give to the Max Day. Just five years old, this annual event has become the Black Friday of Minnesota nonprofits, charities and schools. The GiveMN website was launched in 2009 by the Minnesota Community Foundation and its partners. Since then, more than $75 million has been raised online. Almost 218,000 donors have used the site, and nearly 8,000 organizations have received donations. Minnesota holds the record for the biggest giving day in the world: $16.4 million on Give to the Max Day 2012. It’s a fast, easy and efficient way to support the organization of your choice. Do it if you can.

Have you read the “Harry Potter” books? Yes? No? Never mind. You’d have to live under a rock not to know who “Harry Potter” is and what a phenomenon J.K. Rowling’s epic series of books turned out to be – or do you not recall people camping outside of bookstores awaiting the release of book 6? Coming to the O’Shaughnessy Nov. 20 for seven shows: “Potted Potter: The Unauthorized Harry Experience,” a parody by BBC television hosts Daniel Clarkson and Jefferson Turner, that condenses (or “pots”) all seven chunky novels into 70 minutes, with multiple costume changes, songs and silly props. A 2012 Olivier Award nominee for Best Entertainment & Family Show, it’s being hailed as a hit, a hoot, hilarious and awesome. Opens Wednesday, Nov. 20; final show Saturday, Nov. 23. FMI and tickets ($55-$25).

potted potter
Courtesy of the O’Shaughnessy
Coming to the O’Shaughnessy Nov. 20 for seven shows: “Potted Potter: The Unauthorized Harry Experience.”

For you, artists: 1. Proposals for the second annual Creative City Challenge are due at 4:30 p.m. Monday, Nov. 18. There’s a free info session today at noon in room 204AB on the second floor of the Minneapolis Convention Center. The Creative City Challenge is a competition for a $75,000 commission to create a summer-long installation at the Convention Center Plaza in 2014. 2. Northern has announced a call for the sixth round of Art(ists) on the Verge commissions. Five Minnesota-based emerging artists or groups will participate in an intensive, mentor-based fellowship program supported by the Jerome Foundation. Deadline Tuesday, Jan. 21, 2014. Information sessions in December and January. 3. Also from Northern, two calls for proposals for next year’s Northern Spark, to be held June 14, 2014: one for projection projects, one for projects in any medium. The deadline for both is Jan. 13. Northern Spark returns to Minneapolis in 2014. 4. Eager theater beavers can apply for the 2014 Minnesota Fringe starting this Thursday, Nov. 14. Being first or early does not get you extra points or improve your chances in any way, since all Fringe events are chosen by lottery, but it does mean you can check that off your to-do list. 5. The Bedfellows Club is looking for new artists. Your art will become part of a roving art gallery and placed in people’s bedrooms. It will the first thing someone sees on waking, the last thing before sleep. A challenge to the exhibition model, and a way for people to live with art they might not be able to afford, this is a charmingly quirky idea. Email 6. The Walker Art Center and have launched a new Artist Pass program for local artists. Active members of all disciplines are eligible to apply for a $20 pass that includes unlimited free admission to the Walker galleries, discounts on select and Walker events and a subscription to the e-newsletter. FMI and application.

For you, arts admin types: 1. The Minnesota State Arts Board has created a new position, Director of Research and Evaluation, and is looking for qualified candidates. Applications are due on or before Monday, Nov. 25. Here’s the job posting. 2. Minneapolis College of Art and Design needs a Fellowship and Gallery Program Coordinator. The part-time (30 hrs/week), benefits-eligible job starts in January. FMI (click Fellowship & Gallery Program Coordinator under Staff Opportunities).

Our picks for the week

Tonight (Tuesday, Nov. 12) at the Minnesota Historical Society: Poet Chris Martin has spent a month as writer-in-residence at the Minnesota Historical Society Gale Family Library, up to his elbows in collections of materials relating to the American Indians of the Upper Midwest, travel tales from the state’s earliest explorers, and works by lesser-known Minnesota authors. His residency is part of Coffee House Press’s Writers and Readers Library Residency Program. The author of “American Music” (Copper Canyon, 2007) and “Becoming Weather” (Coffee House Press, 2011), Martin will talk about his residency and present new work. 7 p.m. Free and open to the public.

Photo by John Whiting
Roy Hargrove

Tonight and tomorrow at the Dakota: Roy Hargrove Quintet. Last week the Dakota hosted a parade of top-tier jazz musicians: Lynne Arriale, Marcus Roberts and Patricia Barber. This week brings trumpeter Roy Hargrove, a highly respected, seriously swinging two-time Grammy winner who always leaves his audiences happy and wanting more. His stellar quintet includes Justin Robinson on saxophone, Sullivan Fortner on piano, Ameen Saleem on bass and Quincy Phillips on drums. Sets at 7 and 9 p.m. both nights. FMI and tickets ($35/$25).

Wednesday at the Minneapolis Central Library: Bestselling author Amy Tan (“The Joy Luck Club”) reads from her first new published novel in almost 10 years. “The Valley of Amazement,” out this month, follows a mother and daughter, both courtesans in Shanghai, over 50 years and two continents. Doors at 6:15 p.m., program at 7. Free and open to the public. First come, first served.

Thursday at the Humphrey Center: Poet Marilyn Nelson reads in the Givens Foundation’s 10th Annual NOMMO African American Authors Series. Nelson is the author or translator of 15 books and five chapbooks, a two-time finalist for the National Book Award, and a winner of the prestigious Frost Medal and Newbery Honor, among many others. Her poems – about love, motherhood, African American history, faith, her childhood during the Civil Rights era, and more – are richly textured, rhythmic and accessible. 7 p.m. in the Cowles Auditorium. Free and open to the public. Reservations requested.

Thursday at the Amsterdam: An Evening with Patrick Rothfuss and Paul & Storm. To nerds, geeks, and fantasy fans, these three need no introduction. Patrick Rothfuss is the New York Times bestselling author of “The Name of the Wind” and “Wise Man’s Fear.” Paul Sabourin and Greg “Storm” DeCostanzo are famous for their nerdish original comedy music. Rothfuss will read, answer questions and tell stories; Paul and Storm will sing about nuns, chicken nuggets, video games and pirates. Doors at 6 p.m., program at 7. FMI and tickets ($18/$21).

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Comments (11)

  1. Submitted by Bill Schletzer on 11/12/2013 - 09:41 am.

    Lock out or strike – does it matter at this point?

    …Unless you are just looking to assign blame. Seems like the title, Minnesota Orchestra, is past tense now. There’s pay and there’s the “common vision/workplace rules” issue and neither side will give on either enough to satisfy the other side. So they are left with an “orchestra” with no musicians and a bunch of musicians who now have total control over their professional lives but have lost their standard of living. So the chairman gets a bonus for this? The rich protecting their own for knowing the value of a dollar. But the other side doesn’t look much better to me at this point. The rest of us don’t get to tell our bosses how we are willing to do our jobs. When both sides go with the nuclear option, everyone loses.

  2. Submitted by Amy Adams on 11/12/2013 - 10:08 am.

    It very much does matter, Bill.

    Both sides did NOT go with “the nuclear option”…one side locked out the other. You’ve just done management a small favor by making the sides of the dispute equivalent.

    Look at it from the analogy of marital counseling: if one side is grossly abusing power, and refusing to budge until they get their way, that is the single largest obstacle to coming to an agreement…even if a third party says “It takes two to make a marriage fail.” In this case, it takes ONE to lock out the other.

    The musicians do get to say, in the collective bargaining agreement, how they are willing to do their jobs. That’s the heart of the impasse currently: management is not listening.
    (As to “knowing the value of a dollar”…why did MOA cut all that administrative staff and give the equivalent of their salary as a gift to Henson? This is value? This is good business?)

  3. Submitted by Ben Munroe on 11/12/2013 - 12:50 pm.

    Shared governance

    Some of us do work for employee-owned companies or have governance structures that allow us to give input on how we do our jobs. Sorry you don’t, Bill.

    It’s actually very surprising to see that the governance structure of a non-profit organization allows the board and management to insulate themselves so much. This has to change.

  4. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 11/12/2013 - 01:30 pm.

    The dispute

    “Look at it from the analogy of marital counseling”

    This is really a more generic and more common kind of dispute. Each side is getting carried away by it’s emotion. Each side is having a great deal of trouble focusing on the issues. Neither side has the power it thinks it has to force the other side to settle. And neither side wants a settlement enough to make the hard choices needed to bring one about.

  5. Submitted by Ben Munroe on 11/12/2013 - 03:15 pm.

    Hardly “generic”

    This is the longest lockout of any major orchestra (maybe any orchestra) in US history. The contract offer to musicians included unprecedented salary cuts and work rule changes. Even Senator George Mitchell could not get management to negotiate in good faith. And patrons are tired of false equivalencies, projections, deflections, misinformation, and disinformation.

  6. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 11/12/2013 - 04:22 pm.


    It’s a dispute about money, for which there is plenty of precedent.

  7. Submitted by Ben Munroe on 11/12/2013 - 05:06 pm.

    All about money

    You’re right, it’s all about money. It has nothing to do with intangibles such as excellence, quality of life, inspiration, fairness, transparency, integrity. Those can all be trampled on or thrown to the wind, since they really amount to nothing besides “emotion.” And the voices of thousands of patrons don’t matter either (they just make things messy, after all), so lock them out along with the musicians. Then, in your quiet, insulated board room, you can plan how you will use any means necessary to get to the bottom line you want.

  8. Submitted by Ben Munroe on 11/12/2013 - 08:01 pm.

    Nice misdirection

    The severity of the cuts and work rule changes is unprecedented.

  9. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 11/13/2013 - 03:59 pm.

    ” It has nothing to do with intangibles such as excellence, quality of life, inspiration, fairness, transparency, integrity.”

    Take money out of the dispute, and I think progress can be made on all of those things. How much of a cut in pay are orchestra members willing to accept in order to obtain those those intangibles?

    ” Then, in your quiet, insulated board room, you can plan how you will use any means necessary to get to the bottom line you want.”

    It’s not my boardroom, quiet, insulated or otherwise. I am merely pointing out that in order for any negotiation to be successful, each side needs to respond to the other side’s concern, especially as in this case, where neither side has the leverage to compel a settlement. What I do think is that as things stand, this dispute is hopelessly deadlocked. I don’t believe this orchestra is willing to work for what this management is willing to offer. That being the case, one of the parties has to either revise it’s goals, or has to go. In this case, I think it’s management. Their goal to put the orchestra on a fiscally sound basis is simply unattainable at this time. I think they should make the best deal they can, and if that risks drawing the endowment down to zero, so be it. There is simply no point in worrying about the state of the orchestra at some point years in the future, if that means killing the orchestra now.

  10. Submitted by Amy Adams on 11/16/2013 - 05:14 pm.

    At it again, are you?

    Someone, under the name “Hiram Foster,” posted the following comment on the Star Tribune’s article by Nicky Carpenter:

    “How much in dollar terms are the hurt feelings of orchestra members worth? Once we can get a fix on a number, we can include it as part of the negotiation. Don’t forget the cost of Kleenex used to wipe away tears.”

    I think that says enough about your character, Hiram. I don’t understand why you participate in discussions about the Minnesota Orchestra, while making sure to get little hurtful digs in as well…perhaps you just crave attention.

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