People are flying in from all over the country to see Saturday’s May Hill Arbuthnot Honor Lecture, an annual national event hosted this year (for the first time) by the University of Minnesota. Don’t think of it as an academic speech with an uninspiring title. Think of it as a TED talk, only longer. The speaker is Andrea Davis Pinkney, a New York Times best-selling author of more than 20 books for children and young adults, creator of the first major children’s book imprint run by an African-American woman, writer of several acclaimed biographies of extraordinary African-Americans, currently vice president and executive editor at Scholastic, named one of the 25 Most Influential Black Women in Business (Network Journal) and one of the 25 Most Influential People in Our Children’s Lives (Children’s Health). In other words, a force in literature, in publishing, and in our culture today. Award-winning children’s author Kate DiCamillo will give the introduction. Attendees will receive a link to an e-edition of Pinkney’s not-yet-published new book, “The Red Pencil.”
Pinkney’s lecture is at 7 p.m. at Willey Hall. It’s free, with advance reservations required. As of this writing, it’s sold out. Call 612-626-9182 to ask about turnbacks, or just show up and hope to get in. Meanwhile, much of the Andersen Library has been given over to an exhibit related to Pinkney’s talk. Complete with life-sized lunch counter, “Rejoice the Legacy!” explores the history of black Americans, the Civil Rights Movement, how a children’s book is created (including many original sketches by Pinkney’s husband and frequent collaborator, Brian Pinkney), the close, sometimes contentious relationship between author and editor, and the creative process itself. The exhibit runs through May 14.
There’s a new classical music presence in the Twin Cities. Conceived by Mischa Santora, a former associate conductor of the Minnesota Orchestra and a strong advocate for new music, the Minneapolis Music Company is a flexible ensemble of artists who are approaching music differently: as narrative, with visuals. “I have worked with a lot of orchestras worldwide,” Santora told MinnPost. “Classical music ensembles today are missing out on opportunities to tell a narrative about classical music and make it more relevant to an audience not necessarily steeped in the classics the way they were 50-60 years ago, and to take advantage of visual elements society has gotten used to … Part of our mission is to present musical performances in a theatrical, visual way.” He plans to draw on talent already within reach. “We have a fantastic pool of musicians here, and an incredible number of cutting-edge, creative organizations in the performing arts.” In the works: theatrical renditions of works by Stravinsky and Wynton Marsalis, and collaborations with Zenon Dance and Heart of the Beast.
Since “collaboration” is Kate Nordstrum’s middle name, it’s not surprising that MMC will perform its first public concert Tuesday as part of the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra’s Liquid Music series, which Nordstrum curates. The program will feature the premiere of Icelandic composer Daniel Bjarnason’s string orchestra version of “Sleep Variations,” composed for the electrifying young violist Nadia Sirota (who will be here to perform it), plus Bjarnason’s “Bow to String” and New York-based composer Judd Greenstein’s “The Night Gatherers,” newly arranged for chamber orchestra. The event takes place at Amsterdam Bar & Hall. This performance will not include visuals, but it will give us a first listen to what MMC can do. 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, May 6. FMI and tickets ($10).
We’ve been looking forward to hearing about Liquid Music’s next season, and the Walker’s 2014-15 performing arts season, which always includes musical surprises that make us jump up and down, and now the Schubert Club has its own new-music series, Schubert Club Mix. Although it hasn’t yet wrapped up its inaugural year (“ETHEL’s Documerica” comes to Aria on June 3), Mix is first out of the gate with its 2014-15 season announcement. Of the four concerts planned, two will take place at Aria in Minneapolis and two at Bedlam Lowertown in St. Paul.
On Friday, Oct. 3, at Bedlam Lowertown: Anderson & Roe Piano Duo. The Billboard chart-topping, Emmy-nominated pair will play their arrangement of Stravinsky’s “Rite of Spring,” recently released on YouTube. Sunday, Jan. 18, 2015 at Aria: the string quartet Brooklyn Rider with guest Greg Saunier, drummer for the indie rock band Deerhoof. March 10 at Aria: Finnish violinist Pekka Kuusisto and professional juggler Jay Gilligan will perform a Bach program. You read that correctly: juggler. Friday, April 24 at Bedlam Lowertown: Pianist Stephen Prutsman, a former artistic director with the SPCO, will present “Bach and Forth,” a program of short works by Bach and other composers from throughout the ages. Dare we hope for a little Thelonious Monk? Concert packages are available now ($100; $25/concert). Single tickets ($30) go on sale August 4.
Ten Thousand Things has announced its 2014-15 season: three plays that meet the theater company’s unique requirements of meaningfulness, entertainment value and minimal infrastructure. Each will begin its run at prisons, homeless shelters and other nontraditional places before moving into Open Book at the Minnesota Center for Book Arts. TTT performs in plain spaces, without special lighting or other effects, yet its plays connect powerfully with all kinds of audiences. Opens October 10: Shakespeare’s “Romeo & Juliet.” Peter Rothstein directs. Starts Feb. 13, 2015: “The Unsinkable Molly Brown,” a musical TTT first produced 15 years ago. And beginning May 8: “The New Don Juan,” a world premiere by Mellon Foundation playwright-in-residence Kira Obolensky, whose “Dirt Sticks” opens next week (May 9).
Doctors Bellamy, Reuler and McClinton, we presume? Three local theater luminaries will all receive honorary doctorates this spring, Rohan Preston tells us in the Strib. Penumbra founder Lou Bellamy will receive an honorary doctorate of divinity from United Theological Seminary. Jack Reuler, Mixed Blood founder, will receive an honorary doctorate of humane letters from Macalester. Concordia will award an honorary doctorate of humane letters to Marion McClinton, most recently director of “Othello” at the Guthrie.
On sale Monday, May 5 at 2 p.m.: “Rifftrax Live: Sharknado!” If you haven’t heard, the made-for-TV hit is about sharks getting sucked up by a waterspout and dropped onto Los Angeles, where they eat people. Rotten Tomatoes calls it “proudly, shamelessly and gloriously brainless.” As the film flickers on the State Theatre’s big screen, Michael J. Nelson, Kevin Murphy and Bill Corbett, stars and writers of “Mystery Science Theater 3000,” will tell us what they think. This live event will be broadcast to hundreds of movie theaters across North America. Honestly, it’s hard to imagine having a better time. FMI and tickets. (On Wednesday, Syfy greenlighted “Sharknado 3,” so we can look forward to that in summer 2015.)
Our picks for the weekend
Tonight (Friday, May 2) at Flow Art Space: Reception for the group exhibition “Woman.” More than a dozen artists working in metal, watercolor, and other media interpret the expectations placed on women. Some pieces are funny, others not so much. 6-9 p.m. The show continues through May 17. Preview it here.
Tonight and Sunday at Northrop: Echoes of History: Osmo Vänskä & The Musicians of the Minnesota Orchestra. It can safely be said that the Orchestra’s performance at the newly remodeled Northrop is the Big Event of the weekend. Originally scheduled by the Musicians of the Minnesota Orchestra during the lockout, this performance will re-create the first concert played by what was then called the Minneapolis Symphony when Northrop first opened in 1929. Now that the lockout has ended, Vänskä has returned as music director, and Northrop is fabulous, we can only imagine the length and volume of applause that will greet the musicians and Vänskä when they take the stage. The program includes music by Wagner, Dvorak, Liszt, and Tchaikovsky’s “1812 Overture,” for which the Orchestra will be joined by the University of Minnesota’s Marching Band and Chorus. Historic with a capital H. These concerts were sold out, then additional tickets ($35-$75) were released earlier this week. It’s worth a call to the Northrop box office at 612-624-2345. 8 p.m. Friday, 2 p.m. Sunday afternoon.
Tonight and Saturday: Kantorei: How Can I Keep from Singing? For the final concerts of its 26th season, the Minnesota-based a cappella choral ensemble performs the world premiere of “For God So Loved the World” by Minnesota composer David Evan Thomas and music by Josef Rheinberger, Peter Cornelius, Edwin Fissinger, Francis Poulenc, Paul Hindemith, Benjamin Britten, Stephen Paulus and others. 6:30 pm. Saturday at Sacred Heart Parish, 810 Cedar Ave. in Owatonna, Sunday at 4 p.m. at the Saint Paul Seminary, Chapel of St. Mary, 2260 Summit Ave. in St. Paul.
Sunday (May 4) at Powderhorn Park: In the Heart of the Beast Puppet and Mask Theatre’s 40th Annual MayDay Parade and Festival. Has it really been 40 years? Here’s hoping for blue skies and warm temperatures as the parade begins at noon on the corner of 25th St. East and Bloomington Ave. South, travels south on Bloomington to 34th St. East and turns west toward the park. (Regulars, please note the new parade start time: noon, not 1 p.m.) The MayDay Ceremony and Festival commence around 3 p.m. This year’s theme is “Wonder? Wonder!” This year, when the parade is over, it’s still not over. From May 16-18 (Art-a-Whirl weekend), Public Functionary and HOBT will present an immersive retrospective gallery installation about the parade, with puppets up close, artwork, photography and narrative. FMI.
Sunday on your own teevee: Stay home or set your DVR for the first-ever fully LEGO-animated episode of “The Simpsons.” It’s called “Brick Like Me.” Woo-hoo! Here’s the trailer.