Nonprofit, independent journalism. Supported by readers.


Powerful Requiem by MoMO; Penumbra shares its vision

ALSO: Seinfeld at the Orpheum; ‘The School for Lies’ at Park Square; ‘Paint Nite’ comes to Minneapolis; and more.

Saturday’s performance by the Musicians of the Minnesota Orchestra and the Minnesota Chorale was especially powerful and affecting.
Photo by John Whiting

Hearing Mozart’s great Requiem is always a mixed blessing – it’s so beautiful you’re transported, so sad you want to die – but Saturday’s performance by the Musicians of the Minnesota Orchestra and the Minnesota Chorale was especially powerful and affecting. You can’t attend a MoMO concert without knowing that the musicians have been locked out by management since Oct. 1, 2012 – 471 days. The list of musicians in Saturday’s program included 20 occurrences of the word “vacant” and nine names with symbols beside them indicating leaves of absence. The Chorale, which serves as the orchestra’s principal chorus and has also been effectively locked out, is in trouble.

Under such circumstances, one Requiem isn’t enough. Guest conductor Hugh Wolff also led the musicians in Britten’s Sinfonia da Requiem, whose tonal center is D for death, and Beethoven’s Overture to “Coriolanus,” about a general who agrees to an honorable truce, then is promptly murdered. The concert, titled “Memory and Reverence,” was a tribute to Julie Haight-Curran, Minnesota Orchestra personnel manager, who retired in December. (Musicians aren’t the only ones who are leaving.) In the lobby, volunteers sold T-shirts and mugs in the now-familiar green. As happened at the MoMO concert before this one, at the Convention Center under Eiji Oue, the mugs sold out. We walked in behind Maestro Stanislaw Skrowaczewski, the musicians’ indefatigable supporter, who was seated near Michael Anthony, whose eloquent review you can read here.

In the fall of 2012, Penumbra Theatre suffered a fiscal crisis so severe the company calls it “near-fatal.” The largest African-American theater in the U.S. suspended programming, cut staff, slashed its FY13 budget by $800,000, and set a tough goal: to raise $340,000 by the end of the calendar year. Then those who were left got busy. By year end, Penumbra had raised $359,000. “Spunk,” an adaptation of Zora Neale Hurston’s “Three Tales,” opened in March, 2013. In June the board approved a five-year business plan, developed under the guidance of Michael Kaiser, president of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, known as the “turnaround king” for his work with struggling arts organizations. Six and a half months later, the theater has raised $1.5 million in multiyear pledges, grown its board, hired a new marketing manager (who starts this month), and planned its next two seasons.

At a presentation Monday evening, Penumbra gave its donors, board members, actors and supporters a glimpse into its future. Effective immediately, founder Lou Bellamy and his daughter, Sarah Bellamy, who literally grew up in the theater and has most recently been associate artistic director, are co-artistic directors. In January 2017, Penumbra’s 40th anniversary, Lou will retire and Sarah will succeed him. Her vision: an activist theater that will honor the past, engage the future, and create social change. “Central to our mission is the elimination of racism,” she told the crowd, and if a theater ever had a worthier goal, we don’t know what that could possibly be. “Recognizing the value of black theater is recognizing the value of black people,” she said. And “The role of theater of color is not to serve white theater.” And “We will never obscure the truth of history to make it pretty.” And “Theater is a doorway; you should be different on the other side.” You can expect to be different on the other side of Penumbra’s next play, “The Ballad of Emmett Till,” which opens Feb. 6. In August 1955, not that long ago, Emmett Till was brutally murdered in Mississippi for supposedly whistling at a white woman. He was 14 years old. “We chose to stage ‘Emmett Till’ in the wake of the Trayvon Martin hearings,” Sarah Bellamy said. FMI and tickets.

Article continues after advertisement

IFP Minnesota asks on Facebook, “Who needs $50K?” then explains, “Applications for the New Media Project Grant are due FEBRUARY 11. So far, exactly zero applications have been submitted. Just saying.” This is the last year the McKnight Foundation will fund this generous grant. If you’re an artist working in film, video, interactive games, mobile apps, radio and other forms of new media, or you know someone who fits that description, here are the application guidelines. Lu Lippold, who administers the program at IFP MN, says, “We generally don’t get applications until near the deadline, but don’t procrastinate.”

McKnight’s annual letter, sent last Friday, reaffirms the Foundation’s commitment to the arts. “McKnight’s grantmaking in 2014 is slated to total roughly $85 million across all programs,” president Kate Wolford wrote. “When our Arts program updated its grantmaking guidelines this year, we continued to place our greatest emphasis on the people driving our state’s rich cultural community – the artists themselves. We believe Minnesota thrives when its artists thrive.”

Meanwhile, the Minnesota Film & TV Board could not have been too pleased with Kristin Tillotson’s front-page article in Sunday’s Strib. In June, the Legislature gave the board $10 million in “Snowbate” funds to attract filmmakers to the state. Six months later, Legislative Auditor Jim Nobles is calling for a formal examination of the board, a private nonprofit. Minnesota had a healthy film industry in the 1990s (“Fargo,” “Grumpy Old Men,” “The Mighty Ducks”) but has struggled since then. Here’s a list of films made in Minnesota from 1970-2011.

Among the films made here in recent years are “Dear White People” (2013), now showing at Sundance, and “Space Junk 3-D” (2011), which screens at the Minnesota Zoo’s IMAX theater next Monday, Jan. 20, at 6:30 p.m. Bring the kids; it’s family night, and tickets are just $5 at the box office. Arrive early (5:30) for Subway sandwiches, Pepsi and Sam’s Club drinks.

In Minnesota, as in most states, the arts tend to concentrate in the cities. One of the goals of the Legacy Amendment is to spread the wealth statewide. This year’s Arts Tour Minnesota grants – 41 grants totaling more than $1.7 million, awarded last Wednesday by the Minnesota Arts Board – will support touring performances, exhibitions, and related activities from Duluth to Chatfield. Grantees include Ananya Dance Theatre, Arts Midwest, Asian Media Access, Cantus, the Cedar (which will load a bus with five former participants of its 416 Club Commissions program, then send them off to perform scheduled concerts and pop-up gigs), Minnetonka’s Great Northern Union Chorus, Joe Chvala and the Flying Foot Forum, Minneapolis Guitar Quartet, Mu Performing Arts, the Sutter Brothers, VocalEssence, and Zeitgeist. Also among the grantees: the Minnesota Orchestra, which will partner with Common Chords Bemidji for a week of events, if the lockout ever ends. Here’s the complete list of grantees.

The Loft has announced the recipients of the 2014 Spoken Word Immersion Fellowships for artists of color and indigenous artists. Nimoh Farah of Mineapolis, Nikki Patin of Chicago, and Christy Namee Eriksen of Juneau, Alaska, will each receive up to $7,000 for a self-defined project to be performed later at the Loft. Farah will work with the Somali community; Patin will focus on sexual violence and survivors; Eriksen will work with Korean adoptee populations.

Emily L. Taylor

St. Paul artist Emily L. Taylor has been selected to create the 2014 Minnesota State Fair Commemorative Art. Her original interpretation of the Great Minnesota Get-Together will be informed by years of personal experience; she and her family live only blocks away from the fairgrounds. Now a professional artist and teacher, Taylor grew up in Minneapolis, graduated from South High, and earned her BFA at MCAD. Proceeds from the commemorative poster, limited-edition prints and other merch featuring Taylor’s art will help preserve and improve State Fair buildings, grounds and educational experiences.

Works Progress, a public art and design studio led by Colin Kloecker and Shanai Matteson, has been chosen to create public art for the new Arlington Hills Community Center. Currently under construction at 200 Payne Ave. in St. Paul, the 40,000-square-feet facility will include a branch of the St. Paul Public Library, a fitness center, teen digital media lab, and community meeting rooms. Works Progress projects are known for encouraging collaborations between individuals and organizations.

There’s a new game in town: “Paint Nite.” Guided painting sessions in a social group in a bar. Founded in Boston in 2012, “Paint Nite” has spread to more than 60 cities across the U.S. and Canada, and given our bar scene, it was only a matter of time before it came knocking. In the words of co-founder Dan Hermann, “You don’t need to have an ounce of artistic ability, you just need to be open to having fun!” Choose a painting and a place, buy a ticket, show up (not in your best clothes), and you’ll be given a 16″ x 20″ canvas, acrylic paints, brushes, a smock, and professional instruction. Drinks and food are on your dime, and you get to keep your painting. We’re going to try it later this month and will report back on our experience. Or you can go and tell us what you think. (Reviewing Paint Nite in San Jose, someone wrote on Yelp, “What can I say … if you add alcohol with paint brushes and paint … you will end up with a masterpiece to take home.”) This month’s Paint Nite events are being held at Buffalo Wild Wings at the Mall of America and Mason’s Restaurant Barre in downtown Minneapolis. FMI and tickets ($45).

Article continues after advertisement

Our picks for the week

Tonight at the Bryant-Lake Bowl: Two Chairs Telling: “Forget the Cold, it’s Warm in Here.” Globe-trotting, award-winning storyteller Gerry Fierst and Twin Cities-based storyteller, actor, poetry slammer, puppeteer and Fringer Mahmoud Hakima share the stage in BLB’s cozy theater. 7 p.m., doors at 6. FMI and tickets (sliding scale $8-$12).

Wednesday at the St. Anthony Main Theatre: Science on Screen: “The Bride of Frankenstein.” The launch of an imaginative new series from the Film Society of Minneapolis/Saint Paul in collaboration with the Bakken Museum. Watch the lovingly restored print of the 1935 film starring Boris Karloff and Elsa Lanchester (the late, lamented Roger Ebert thought it the best of the Frankenstein films). Come early to learn about the science behind the film (and the science inspired by the film) with engineer Rebecca Bergman, a vice president in Medtronic’s Cardiac Rhythm Disease Management. (Did you know that the “in vitro” pacemaker used in the film by Dr. Frankenstein inspired Earl Bakken to invent the pacemaker? Neither did we.) 5-7 p.m.: pre-reception at the Aster River Room, 125 SE Main Street. 6-6:45: film intro and commentary by Bergman. 7 p.m.: film screening at the St. Anthony Main Theatre in the same complex (you don’t even have to walk outdoors). Informal post-screening gathering back at the River Room. FMI and tickets ($15/$10).

Wednesday at the Amsterdam: Composer conversation with Matthias Pintscher. If you plan to see this important young German composer and conductor lead the SPCO on Friday or Saturday, make time Wednesday to hear him talk about his work, and how composing and conducting complement each other. Composer conversations are free, but reservations are required. 7 p.m. Make reservations here. Learn more about the concerts (Bach, Stravinsky, Mendelssohn) and get tickets here.

Thursday, Jan. 15 at the Park Square: “The School for Lies.” David Ives (“Venus in Fur”) based his wickedly funny satire play on Moliere’s “The Misanthrope,” then wrote his bawdy script in iambic pentameter including rap and four-letter rhymes. Kate Guentzel and John Middleton are Celemine and Frank; Amy Rummenie (Walking Shadow Theatre Company) makes her debut as a Park Square director. This is the area premiere of a play that was a hit for Chicago Shakespeare Theatre Company. Rummenie calls it “a brassy and prickly comedy of aristocratic manners and high society posturing, yet there’s a genuine core of honesty and humanity underneath it all.” Great costumes, too. Tonight’s performance is a preview; Friday is opening night. 7:30 p.m. Through Feb. 2. FMI and tickets.

Courtesy of Hennepin Theatre Trust
Thursday and Friday at the Orpheum: Jerry Seinfeld.

Thursday and Friday at the Orpheum: Jerry Seinfeld. The megastar comedian performs his signature stand-up routine. Thursday at 7 p.m., Friday at 7 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. Tickets ($50-$81).