MIA to feature Habsburg masterpieces; We Theater presents ‘The Shadow War’

Courtesy of the Minneapolis Institute of Arts
Giuseppe Arcimboldo, 1527 – 1593, Milan. Fire, 1566.
66.5 cm x 51 cm. Kunsthistorisches Museum Wien.

Europe’s longest-ruling royal family – rising in the late Middle Ages, declining at the end of World War I – the Habsburgs had the time and the money to acquire a lot of art. Paintings by Rubens, Tintoretto and Titian. Greek and Roman antiquities. Arms and armor. Court costumes and carriages. In February 2015, a major traveling exhibition titled “The Habsburgs: Rarely Seen Masterpieces from Europe’s Greatest Dynasty” will bring nearly 100 artworks and artifacts to the Minneapolis Institute of Arts from the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna. Most have never left Austria until now. From here, where it debuts, the show will go to Houston’s Museum of Fine Arts and Atlanta’s High Museum of Art.

Key works include Caravaggio’s “The Crowning with Thorns,” a portrait of Jane Seymour by Hans Holbein the Younger, and Correggio’s “Jupiter and Io,” a jaw-dropper showing a nude Io being embraced by Jupiter in the form of a giant, menacing yet furry gray cloud. Be ready with a story to tell the kids about that one. Opens February 15, ends May 10.

A week before conducting two “Echoes of History” concerts at the newly remodeled Northrop, Osmo Vänskä will be at the Kennedy Center, leading the National Symphony Orchestra in three nights of music by Sibelius, Aho and Mendelssohn. Speaking last week with the Washington Post’s Anne Midgette, Vänskä touched on his feelings about resigning last October as the Minnesota Orchestra’s music director.

Months before, Vänskä had said he would quit if the then-unresolved lockout prevented the orchestra from performing at Carnegie Hall in November. When the orchestra’s board canceled the Carnegie dates in late September, “I wanted to give a pressure so that they could make an agreement,” he told the Post, then added, “I was very surprised that they, that the board allowed [the resignation] to happen.” And hurt? the Post asked. “Oh, yeah. Of course.”

Vänskä’s future remains uncertain. He’s still talking with the Minnesota Orchestral Association about a possible return. He continues to guest conduct around the world; the NSO concerts were already on his calendar when he left the MOA, but he has also been free to accept more last-minute dates. “There is a temptation to think about doing only guest conducting,” he told the Post, “because you don’t need to take all the headaches that the music director has to. It’s obvious that I am still living with many question marks.” As are the musicians and the audiences.

Twenty years after a split so bitter that Prince changed his name to a glyph and wrote “slave” on his face, he’s back with Warner Bros., the label he first signed with in 1977. The new deal includes a 30th anniversary “deluxe reissue” of his classic album “Purple Rain,” the release of long-awaited, previously unheard material and a new studio album, probably with his band 3RDEYEGIRL. Plus Prince will regain ownership of all the master recordings made when he was previously with Warner. “If you don’t own your masters,” he once told Rolling Stone, “your master owns you.”

Prince said in a statement, “Both Warner Bros. Records and Eye are quite pleased with the results of the negotiations and look forward to a fruitful working relationship.” Shortly before midnight on Friday, Prince released a surprise new single, a ballad called “The Breakdown.” Listen here.

Benedict Cumberbatch – the “Sherlock” star, “Star Trek” villain and voice of Smaug the dragon – will not be attending Wizard World Minneapolis Comic Con, coming up this weekend at the Convention Center. (We’re thinking the rumors that he would attend started because Cumberbatch was booked for – and recently appeared at – the Oz Comic Con in Adelaide, Australia.) But William Shatner will be here, as will Dean Cain, Ernie Hudson, James Hong, Matt Smith (the new Doctor Who), Lou Ferrigno (Hulk!), Robert Englund, Sean Astin, and many more, plus a slew of creators, writers and artists. C.J. has a hilarious interview with Shatner. FMI and tickets ($35-$45 single day, $75 weekend, more at the door).

On Thursday, Shatner fans will also have the chance to see their staccato hero on screen in “Shatner’s World,” the film version of the one-man Broadway show Entertainment Weekly called “agreeably ramshackle.” FMI and tickets. In the Twin Cities, “Shatner’s World” will screen at the Showplace Icon in St. Louis Park, Eden Prairie 18, Brooklyn Center 20 and Rosedale 18.

Minnesota Citizens for the Arts tells us that according to a new national study, Minnesota has 13,835 arts-related businesses that employ 55,040 people – up 2,785 businesses and 2,091 people since the Legacy Amendment kicked in. Using data from Dun & Bradstreet, the study includes nonprofit museums, symphonies and theaters as well as for-profit film, architecture and design companies. “Arts businesses and the creative people they employ stimulate innovation, strengthen America’s competitiveness in the global marketplace, and play an important role in building and sustaining economic vibrancy,” the study said. If you like, you can download and peruse the complete “Creative Industries: Business & Employment in the Arts” reports here. You’ll need to create a log-in.

Also from MCA: Eight of ten of our representatives in Congress are members of the Congressional Arts Caucus. This includes six of our eight Congressional representatives – Democrats Keith Ellison, Betty McCollum, Rick Nolan, Collin Peterson, and Tim Walz and Republican Erik Paulsen – and both of our senators, Al Franken and Amy Klobuchar (both Democrats, they joined the Senate Cultural Caucus). Which two haven’t signed on? Republicans Michele Bachmann and John Kline.

The Rochester Art Center has received a $40,000 grant from the Jerome Foundation in support of its 3rd Floor Emerging Artist Series. Jerome has helped to fund this series since its launch in 2004. So far, 40 Minnesota artists have presented solo exhibitions at RAC. Additionally, a $5,000 grant from the Carl & Verna Schmidt Foundation will support RAC’s upcoming exhibition “Lamar Peterson: Suburbia Sublime” and accompanying programs. If you live in or near the Twin Cities and haven’t yet visited RAC, it’s a nice drive and not too far.

For artists: Applications for the Loft’s 2014-15 Mentor Series program are due by 11:59 p.m. on April 28, 2014. Now in its 35th year, the Mentor Series offers 12 writers the rare and precious opportunity to work closely with bestselling, award-winning writers in workshops, craft seminars and individual conferences, plus give a public reading. If you’re chosen, it’s free. The 2014-15 mentors are Ru Freeman and Diego Vázquez (fiction), Dani Shapiro and Kao Kalia Yang (nonfiction), and Matt Rasmussen and Patricia Smith (poetry). FMI. … The 7th annual Minneapolis Underground Film Festival (M.U.F.F.), scheduled for Oct. 2-5, 2014 at the St. Anthony Main Theater, is accepting entries in the feature film, documentary feature, experimental/avant-garde feature, music video, short film and MN-made categories. FMI.

It’s the final full week of National Poetry Month, and Thursday is Poem in Your Pocket Day. Choose a poem, carry it with you, and share it with others. Need a poem? Go here, click a pocket, and print out a PDF. Or visit a local bookstore and head for the poetry section.

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In a metro area with more live theater than any sane person can keep track of, there’s a new theater with a new play worth seeing. Especially if you have ever wondered, “Why are there so many Hmong people in the Twin Cities?” (Minnesotans elected the first Hmong-American legislator in the U.S. Mee Moua of St. Paul served in the Minnesota Senate from 2002-2011.)

Originally from Laos, thousands of Hmong came here after the communist takeover of Laos in 1975. During the Vietnam War, when they were trained, funded and armed by the U.S. government, they fought a secret guerrilla war against the Communists; after the Americans withdrew, hundreds of thousands tried to escape the massacres and re-education camps.

Photo by Scott Pakudaitis
Gregory Yang and Song Kim in “The Shadow War”

American playwright Amy Russell was a child in Laos during the war. A play that began in her memories and took shape over four years, with help from the Hmong community and Hmong actors including Sandy’Ci Moua, “The Shadow War” combines Hmong, Lao and American perspectives on the war, giving us glimpses into the complexities, loyalties, politics, and immense human costs of a conflict most of us know little or nothing about. It’s a play produced on a shoestring and presented on a mostly bare stage; each of the five actors plays four or five roles, and the scenery consists of shadow puppets and images projected on a white backdrop. The story and the passion of the actors draw you in.

Last Friday’s performance was followed by a talkback with Russell, the cast, We Theater founder Teresa Mock, a Hmong veteran who served in Laos, and dramaturge Lee Pao Xion, who told the mostly Hmong audience, “I was one of those kids that got on one of those planes in Long Tieng [the CIA-operated military base] … When the plane landed, it kept taxiing and Dad pushed us on.” Many in the audience brought their young children. “The Shadow War” continues through this Sunday, April 27, at the Wellstone Center. FMI and tickets ($10-$15; tonight only, Tuesday, it’s pay what you can).

Our picks for the week

Tonight (Tuesday, April 22) at Northrop: Trey McIntyre Project. After two years on Hennepin, the Northrop Dance Series has officially moved back home. Meanwhile, the Trey McIntyre Project has announced that it will end its full-time dance company to pursue new artistic projects. So this performance is both hello and good-bye. “Mercury Half-Life” is set to the music of Queen, “The Vinegar Works: Four Dances of Moral Instruction” is inspired by the work of Edward Gorey, who loved the ballet (and cats, and books). 7:30 p.m. FMI and tickets ($40-$60; free for U of M students).

Wednesday at the U of M and Carleton College (and probably other places, too): Shakespeare’s 450th Birthday. Forsooth, the Bard is a very old dude! Celebrate his birthday at the U outside Murphy Hall on Church Street from 4-6 p.m. with live music, food, and special guests. Theatre arts and English students will perform their favorite scenes, readings, sword fights, sonnets and songs. Share your own tales about Shakespeare at the open mic. If you’re near Northfield, stop by Room 172 of the Carleton’s Weitz Center for Creativity on 3rd St. E. two blocks south of the campus for performances, displays and refreshments. Both events are free and open to the public.

Wednesday at the Black Dog: Poetry About Food & Sex. An attention-getting title for a poetry reading, for sure. Celebrate National Poetry Month with performances by poets, activists and storytellers Robert Karimi, May Lee-Yang, Jessica Lopez Lyman and Chaun Webster. The Black Dog promises “special aphorodisiac surprises” on its menu. 7:30 p.m. No cover, donations accepted.

Wednesday at the Regis Center for Art (East): Public reception for the new exhibition “The Enduring Spirit of Labor.” Organized by Anna Meteyer, an undergraduate senior at the U majoring in global studies and studio art, this show speaks to injustices rampant in labor industries and celebrates the struggle against systemic forces of injustice. Much of the art shares two common themes: the underlying social, political and economic systems that maintain injustice in labor industries, and the detrimental effects of hardening, mechanized work on the human psyche. Featured artists include David Bacon, Rachel Breen, Meteyer, and Xavier Tavera. Public program on art and activism with the curators and artists at 6 p.m., reception from 7-9. Free and open to the public. The exhibition continues through May 3.

Courtesy of the Regis Center for Art
Xavier Tavera, Stone Worker, 2014 Digital photo, inkjet print 35 x 35 in.

Thursday at the Dakota: Evan Shinners. Bach is not old music. Bach is about the newest music there is, especially when performed by someone like recent Juilliard grad Shinners. His playing is joyous, fearless and infectious. (We’re reminded of something Bobby McFerrin said Saturday night at Orchestra Hall: “We’re musicians, and we play for a living.”) Here’s Shinners performing Bach’s “French Overture” on two pianos, because Bach wrote it for a harpsichord with two manuals. He also reportedly tells stories and sings songs. 7 p.m. (one show only). FMI and tickets ($20).

Thursday and Friday at the Hopkins Center for the Arts: Art Spiegelman. Winner of the Pulitzer Prize for his Holocaust narrative “Maus” – told as a graphic novel with Jews as mice and Nazis as cats – artist and illustrator Spiegelman has been a major force in changing how the public perceives comic books. He appears not at Comic Con but at the Pen Pals Author Lecture Series, a ticketed series benefiting the Friends of the Hennepin County Library. What could a cartoonist possibly have to say? We heard Roz Chast last year in this series and she was fascinating. Friday at noon, Saturday at 7:30 p.m. FMI and tickets ($40-$50).

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