Artist Mankwe Ndosi wins grant for Phillips project

Mankwe Ndosi
Photo by Michele Spaise
Mankwe Ndosi

Twin Cities artist Mankwe Ndosi, a music-maker, performance artist, educator and activist, has won Forecast Public Art’s largest 2014 grant, the $50,000 McKnight Project Grant, to create digital soundtracks unique to the Phillips neighborhood in Minneapolis. They will include contributions from neighborhood residents, field recordings and her own vocal work, and will be available digitally and physically at listening posts. Ndosi calls herself “a Culture Worker — an artist using creative practice to nurture and be useful to my community, my ancestors, and my planet.” Her previous recordings include the acclaimed “Science and Spirit” (2012), a fusion of hip-hop, soul and improvisation. Other Forecast grants went to Lisa Bergh and Andrew Nordin from Rural Aesthetic Initiative, to expand the territory of their Traveling Museum; Andrea Steudel, to research how artistic lighting projects could become a permanent part of all cities’ lighting infrastructure; Mara Pelicis, to create a community-driven public-art series commemorating the 22 soldiers and veterans lost to suicide every day; and Aaron Squadroni, to research abandoned mines around his Iron Range home and create a site-specific installation of graphite drawings.

The Loft will receive a $55,000 Art Works grant from the National Endowment for the Arts to support in-house and online classes, workshops, conferences, mentorships, readings and author dialogues designed for both casual participants and writers with literary career goals. In all, 27 Art Works grants totaling $2,809,490 were given to arts organizations in Minnesota. Among the other recipients are Arts Midwest ($1,404,690), the Minnesota State Arts Board ($735,300), Cantus ($20,000), MCAD ($40,000), the Minnesota Chorale ($15,000), the Minnesota Orchestra ($40,000), Ten Thousand Things ($35,000), MPR ($47,000) and Skylark Opera ($12,500). For a complete list of all Minnesota winners and their projects, go here and click on Minnesota.

Andy Sturdevant, who writes The Stroll for MinnPost and hand-draws the maps, is the latest participant in Coffee House’s imaginative Writers and Readers Library Residence Program. The author of “Potluck Supper with Meeting to Follow,” he’ll spend time during the next two weeks at the Northeast Public Library on Central Avenue, working with the collection to create new work. On Wednesday, May 28, he’ll return to the library to report on his activities. Whatever Sturdevant takes in usually comes out in interesting ways, whether in his writings, drawings, or public conversations (he hosted the monthly Salon Saloon at the Bryant Lake Bowl, now on hiatus, from 2010-2013). City Pages just named him 2014’s Best Local Author.

We had heard that Minnesota Orchestra principal cellist Tony Ross might be leaving for a new job in Chicago. Instead, he and his wife (Beth Rapier, assistant principal cello in the orchestra) have decided to stay put. Euan Kerr reports that Ross made the announcement before a Minnesota Orchestra concert at South High School on Wednesday. (The concert was closed to the public but open to the media.) Ross told the crowd, “We decided to, I won’t say take a risk, but have faith that this orchestra will remain, as it was, world class.” Meanwhile, former music director Osmo Vänskä and the MOA are still negotiating.

Writing for vita.mn, Sheila Regan reports that Ballet of the Dolls is in trouble. Founder and artistic director Myron Johnson has been hospitalized for anxiety and stress, the two remaining productions of the 2013-14 season have been cancelled, and Michael Rainville, chair of the Dolls’ board and the Ritz Foundation, describes the financial picture as “grim.” Established in 1986 by Johnson, a choreographer, Ballet of the Dolls was the Twin Cities’ first year-round dance-theater program; it has been a fixture in the arts community ever since.

On sale today starting at 10 a.m.: author and humorist David Sedaris (“Let’s Explore Diabetes With Owls,” “Me Talk Pretty One Day”) at the State Theatre, Oct. 29. Go here or call 1-800-982-2787.

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You’ve never seen anything like “The Magic Flute” now at the Ordway. Created by director Barrie Kosky of Berlin’s Komische Oper and the radical British theatre group 1927, presented here in co-production with LA Opera, which gave the first U.S. performances in November and December of last year, it’s funny, fast-paced (even at nearly three hours, with one intermission) and visually stupendous. It’s also the most successful show in Minnesota Opera’s history.

Photo by Michal Daniel
You’ve never seen anything like “The Magic Flute” now at the Ordway.

Mixing live performances with wildly inventive projected animation, with which the singers interact, it’s part “Fantasia” and part silent film, seasoned with steampunk and old horror movies. Most of the action happens in the animation; the singers, often several feet above the ground, appear and disappear as doors open and close and small platforms rotate them on and off. The talky parts in German have been replaced with short, clever projected captions in English. Selections from Mozart’s piano sonatas underscore those transitions; some sound as if they’re being played on an old upright barroom piano. The Queen of the Night is a monstrous animated spider with a hideous head, and Papageno has a new companion: an animated black cat that drew frequent laughs from the crowd.

Mozart’s comic opera — a sometimes confusing blend of Freemasonry and Enlightenment philosophy, Egytian gods, witches, a dragon, three boys up past their bedtimes, names that sound too much alike (Tamino and Pamina, Papageno and Papagena), symbolism, ritual, silliness and magic — actually makes more sense here than in more classic versions. “Flute” is a surreal, crazy masterpiece with splendid music. The over-the-top visuals give an old favorite a powerful reboot. At the Ordway, two casts alternate in the lead roles. The night we saw it, Jesse Blumberg was a loose-limbed Papageno, Aaron Blake an elegant Tamino and Christie Hageman Conover a lovely Pamina. Conductor Aaron Breid met two challenges brilliantly: to lead his orchestra through the score and meet the timing demands of the animation. Only four performances remain, and if you want to see it, don’t delay. Wednesday, April 23 is your best bet. FMI and tickets ($20-$190).

Our picks for the weekend

Tonight (Friday, April 18) at the Parkway: “Oh What a Night.” If the Temptations, the Stylistics, the Drifters and the Dells ring a bell, this is for you. Led by Ronn Easton, some fine Twin Cities vocalists — Willie Walker, Maurice Jacox, Sonny Knight and Maurice Young — will sing sweet doo-wop and soulful R&B from the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s. 7 p.m. Tickets at the door or online ($18-$20). P.S. The Parkway is owned by Pepito’s, so you can bring Pepito’s food and drinks into the theater. Two words: spicy pork.

Tonight and tomorrow at the Cowles: Shapiro & Smith Dance. Last night at the Ordway, we watched a couple take selfie after selfie in the lobby, oblivious to the crowd milling around them. Tonight Shapiro & Smith premieres its newest work, “Narcissus.” It’s a dance about reflections: what we see and don’t see, what we want to see and ultimately, what is really there. So ancient, yet so now. Also on the program: a reprise of three S&S favorites “Jack,” “Dance with Two Army Blankets,” and “What Dark/Falling into Light.” Tonight’s performance includes a discussion with the artists after. 8 p.m. FMI and tickets ($27-$31). Some nudity, so mature audiences please.

Saturday at Franconia in the City@Casket: Opening reception for Rollin Marquette’s “Natural Beauty.” If you saw Marquette’s “Untitled” at the Minneapolis Institute’s MAEP show, you haven’t forgotten it. The large, floating black ring took up two rooms and pierced the wall between them. It was magnificent and disturbing. Marquette’s new sculptural environment, “Natural Beauty,” is a decagonal steel chamber that almost completely occupies the gallery space. Walk inside to find yourself in a clear box engulfed in smoke. How will that feel? Claustrophobic? Mysterious? Threatening? You won’t know until you try. 6-9 p.m. Free and open to the public. Artist talk May 8 at 7 p.m.

Saturday at Studio Z: Cory Healey 4Tet. Iowa native, ex-Chicagoan and current Minneapolis resident via NYC, drummer Healey has performed with Fareed Haque, Kenu Wheeler, Dr. Lonnie Smith, John Abercrombie, David Berkman and other luminaries. At Studio Z, he and his band Jake Baldwin (trumpet), Zacc Harris (guitar) and Eric Fratzke (bass) will play an evening of Healey originals plus songs from Charlie Parker, Tony Williams, Charles Lloyd, Bob Dylan and others. Part of the Jazz at Studio Z series. 6 p.m. workshop (free), 7 p.m. show ($10).

Every day but Monday at the MIA: Matisse: Masterworks from the Baltimore Museum of Art. The largest collection of Matisse’s paintings, sculptures and prints ever assembled in Minneapolis won’t be here forever, and if you miss it, you’ll be sorry. FMI and tickets ($16 weekday/$20 weekend, free to members). Docent-led tours at 11:30 a.m. and 3 p.m. Tuesdays-Sundays, and Thursdays at 7 p.m. Ends May 18. 

Saturday all over: It’s Record Store day at the Fetus, Cheapo, Treehouse, Hymie’s, Fifth Element, Know Name, Extreme Noise, Roadrunner and who knows where else. A big day for music lovers, with live bands and rare finds. Here’s a list of participating Minneapolis stores; here’s St. Paul; here’s the state of Minnesota; here’s Wisconsin. Dust off the turntable and bring home some vinyl.

Saturday at Orchestra Hall: Bobby McFerrin’s “Spirityouall.” McFerrin remains one of the most creative, surprising and satisfying performers we’ve ever seen, and we’ve seen him a lot. At the end of one of his shows, you feel good — not because you’ve been manipulated or sedated, but because his joy in music, in life, in communicating with the audience is infectious. In “Spirityouall,” the 10-time Grammy winner goes where the spirit leads him, from gospel songs to the Twist, Bob Dylan to “Wipeout.” The Minnesota Orchestra does not perform on this program, but McFerrin’s daughter, Madison, does. And he’s bringing a band. 8 p.m. FMI and tickets ($45-$93).

Saturday at the Hillcrest Center Theater in St. Paul: “The History of Invulnerability.” You know who Superman is, but do you know where he came from? Easy answer: Krypton. More interesting answer: the imaginations of Jerry Siegel and illustrator Joe Shuster. Minnesota Jewish Theater Company waited two years for the rights to David Bar Katz’s play, the story of the creation of a superhero and his rise to iconic status during the 1930s and ’40s. With Jim Lichtsheidl as Siegel, Alex Brightwell as Shuster, Dan Beckmann as Superman and Joanna Harmon as Lois Lane. 1978 Ford Parkway, St. Paul. FMI and tickets ($19-$28). Through May 11.

Photo by Janette Beckman
José James’ music music is soulful, seductive, tinged with jazz (he started out as a jazz musician) and without limits

Monday at the Cedar: José James. Born and raised in Minneapolis, where he once sang at Fireside Pizza in Richfield with his high school music teacher, Denny Malmberg, James is now a citizen of the world, a Blue Note recording artist and a star in Europe who keeps reinventing himself. His music is soulful, seductive, tinged with jazz (he started out as a jazz musician) and without limits, embracing (at the moment) gospel, hip-hop, R&B, pop, rock, electronica and Moroccan Gnawa. He’s very much a global musician for today, but we can still call him one of our own. James’s next album on Blue Note, “While You Were Sleeping,” is due out June 10, and he’ll preview it for us Monday. Here’s the new single, “EveryLittleThing.” Pianist Kris Bowers, a member of James’s band with his own debut album on Concord, “Heroes + Misfits,” will open. 7 p.m. doors, 7:30 show. FMI and tickets ($20-$25).

Monday at the Trylon: “Psycho.” Movies are easier and more convenient at home, but still bigger, better and more fun at the theater. Even at 54 years old and pre- most of the special effects we’re used to seeing today, Alfred Hitchcock’s masterpiece has the power to make you swear off showers for the near future. In the cozy little Trylon, you’ll hear your neighbors’ hearts pounding. 7 p.m. FMI and tickets ($8).

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