You can call her the Honorable Kate DiCamillo, then wait for her famous, all-out laugh. The Newbery winner and best-selling author of books including “Because of Winn-Dixie” has been named our national ambassador for young people’s literature, a position formed in 2008 by the Library of Congress and the Children’s Book Council. DiCamillo lives in Minneapolis, where she moved almost 20 years ago. She must really like it here, because by now she’s successful enough she could live pretty much anywhere, except maybe New York City or San Francisco. DiCamillo is the fourth person to hold the ambassador’s post; she follows Jon Scieszka, Katherine Paterson and Walter Dean Myers. If you’re in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 10, the Library of Congress will be holding an inauguration ceremony for her.
The third inauguration of St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman (Jan. 3) won’t be just another boring ceremony. The arts-loving mayor is throwing a party at Union Depot, with poetry from St. Paul Poet Laureate Carol Connolly and live music by the New Standards, the 9/16s, the Solomon & Aja Parham Quintet, and the Central Chamber Singers. Ceremony at 4 p.m., celebration at 5. Free and open to the public, but RSVPs are required. If you go, be sure to check out the public art throughout this great space.
Dan Newton’s Café Accordion Orchestra has been a guaranteed good time for 20 years. A local treasure, they’ll celebrate this milestone anniversary at the Cedar with a concert on Saturday, Jan. 11, of their signature music – a lively blend of French musette, Gypsy swing, Latin and movie tunes, led by Newton’s accordion – and a dance on Sunday, Jan. 12. Saturday’s concert will feature all of the original, current and recording members of the band including Brian Barnes, Diane Jarvi, Tony Balluff and Gordy Abel, plus giveaways and raffle prizes. Sunday is just for dancing on the Cedar’s big old wood floor. They’ll be playing songs from all of their CDs, and if you have a favorite you’d like to request, let them know on their Facebook page. Show at 8 p.m., doors at 7. Dance at 3 p.m. FMI and tickets ($18/$20 seated show, $12/$15 dance, $25 both). Fair warning: The last two CAO shows at the Cedar sold out.
Hearing and seeing plays in the works – new, untested, still tweakable – is a fresh and engaging way to experience theater. It’s also cheaper and sometimes free. This month, the History Theatre’s Raw Stages New Works Festival will present four staged readings of scripts being developed by Minnesota artists. On Tuesday, Jan. 14, at 7 p.m.: “Boundary Waters” by Carlyle Brown, directed by Marion McClinton, set in the Boundary Waters in the winter of 1837. On Wednesday, Jan. 15, at 7 p.m.: “Debutante Ball” by Eric Pogi Sumangil, directed by Randy Reyes, set in Minnesota’s Filipino-American community. (This reading will also be a fundraiser for the storm relief effort in the Philippines.) On Thursday, Jan. 16, at 7 p.m.: “Glensheen” by Jeffrey Hatcher, music and lyrics by the New Standards’ Chan Poling, directed by Anya Kremenetsky, about the Duluth estate that was the scene of the infamous 1977 murders of Elisabeth Congdon and her nurse, Velma Pietila. On Sunday, Jan. 19, at 2 p.m.: “Radio Man” by Garrison Keillor, in which the creator of “A Prairie Home Companion” is visited by some of his characters including Guy Noir and residents of Lake Wobegon. All readings are at the 3M Auditorium in the Minnesota History Center. FMI and tickets ($10 each or $25 for a Raw Stages pass).
More? Yes, please. For its 22nd Annual New Eyes Festival, Mu Performing Arts has partnered with the Playwrights’ Center – a new collaboration, and hurray for collaborations. Randy Reyes will direct four staged readings of plays from the Asian American canon under consideration for future main stage productions at Mu. Thursday, Jan. 23, 7:30 p.m.: “The Divorcee Diaries” by Twin Cities-based playwright May Lee-Yang chronicles the Hmong sexual revolution. Friday, Jan. 24, 7:30 p.m.: “Purple Cloud” by multi-racial, Minneapolis-based playwright Jessica Huang tells the stories of her family. Saturday, Jan. 25, 7:30 p.m.: “You for Me for You” by Mia Chung follows two North Korean sisters as they attempt to flee their country. Sunday, Jan. 26, 2 p.m.: “Sam the Ham” by Andrew Saito is the tale of a man trying to escape his past. Readings are free, but reservations are recommended, and if you want to make a $5 donation at the door, all the better. Reservations here.
Get a move on if you want to see “Maya: Hidden Worlds Revealed” at the Science Museum (closes Sunday, Jan. 5), “Say It With Snap: Motivating Workers by Design, 1923-1929” at the Goldstein Museum of Design (also closes Sunday, Jan. 5), “The Audacious Eye: Japanese Art from the Clark Collections” at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts (closes Sunday, Jan. 12), and “Claes Oldenburg: The Sixties” at the Walker (also closes Sunday, Jan. 12). We want to paper our walls with the motivational posters from “Say It With Snap,” which are only about a thousand times more interesting (conceptually and graphically) than today’s cheesy scenes and slogans.
Who are the Twin Cities’ top 20 Twitterers? According to City Pages, two of them work for MPR and one is a self-described lady cab driver. Fellow MinnPosters, sounds like we need to step up our game. But we will never, ever catch up with Ali Lozoff, whose tweet count stood at 31,251 on Thursday morning. Or – hold on – Kyle Matteson with 123,937. Do they tweet in their sleep?
Although we are not, repeat not, food critics by any stretch of the imagination, we were shocked to see this headline on Minneapolis-St. Paul magazine’s website Thursday: “Breaking: Jack Riebel OUT at Butcher & the Boar.” The former Dakota chef (and before then, executive sous chef at Goodfellow’s) told MSP mag’s Stephanie March that “he is no longer part of the day to day operations of Butcher & the Boar and his ownership shares have been bought back by the other partners.” March goes on to say, “To be quite frank, I think B&B has lost a force. Riebel is one of those chefs who works, and works hard, in his kitchen. All year you’ve been able to see him cooking on the line, which is harder and harder to find in top restaurants.” Butcher & the Boar has been a sensation since it opened. If the smoked cheddarwurst goes away, we are not responsible for our actions.
Suggested New Year’s resolution: to broaden your arts horizons. Do something new. Anything. Heaven knows we have plenty to choose from, any day of the year.
Tonight (Friday, Jan. 3) at MacRostie Art Center in Grand Rapids: Opening reception and artist talk for “Bridge” by documentary photographer Vance Gellert and “Original Designs in Wool” by designer Laurie Jacobi. Gellert’s show tells the stories of people affected by the 2007 collapse of the I-35 bridge in Minneapolis, including survivors, family members of victims and first responders. Jacobi’s rugs, blankets, clothing and accessories are informed by legends from around the world. 4-8 p.m., 405 First Ave. NW, Grand Rapids. Exhibition continues through January.
Tonight at the Woman’s Club of Minneapolis: Schubert’s “Winterreise.” Baritone John Taylor Ward and pianist Scott Lykins give a rare performance of Schubert’s monumental song cycle about young love lost. Lykins and Ward are the artistic directors of the Lakes Area Music Festival in Brainerd. 7 p.m. Free and open to the public. Cocktail hour begins at 6 p.m. FMI.
Saturday at Bryant-Lake Bowl Cabaret Theater: Lorna Landvik’s Party in the Rec Room. Local author and actor Landvik will mix margaritas in the blender and create characters on the spot. Full bar and menu service available throughout the performance. See the show in the casual, intimate little theater, then bowl a lane or two. 7 p.m., doors at 6. Tickets here ($15 advance/$18 day of show). Also Jan. 5, 10, 11, 12.
Sunday on your teevee: the season 5 premiere of TPT’s Emmy-winning “MN Original.” We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: what a great series, and what a great use of Legacy money. Has any other state documented its arts scene so thoroughly, so enthusiastically, and with such a broad brush? Since 2010, the series has featured nearly 2,000 artists of all kinds, across all disciplines and cultures. Plus, in case you didn’t know this, all of the music heard in the series is by Minnesota musicians. Sunday’s episode features poet Robert Bly, artist Judy Onofrio, Artaria String Quartet, and Minneapolis rock band the 4onthefloor. Airs at 6 p.m. and 10 p.m., before and after the “Downton Abbey” Season 4 premiere, during which no one dies.
Monday at the Dakota: Roberta Gambarini. She fell in love with jazz as a child growing up in Turin, Italy, came to the States on a scholarship in 1998, and two weeks later took third place in the Thelonious Monk International Jazz Vocal Competition. Today she’s known around the world as one of our finest jazz singers, with a gorgeous voice, an instinctive sense of swing and a Grammy nomination for her 2010 release, “So in Love.” She’s bringing her own excellent band, with George Cables on piano, Ray Drummond on bass, Victor Lewis on drums and Justin Robinson on alto sax and flute. Prepare to be thoroughly charmed. 7 p.m. (no 9 p.m. show). FMI and tickets ($35). Also Tuesday, Jan. 7.