Mill City Opera’s ‘Guns n’ Rosenkavalier’; a charming ‘Cat in the Hat’ at Children’s Theatre

The Mill City Summer Opera, whose stage is the Mill City Museum’s spectacular outdoor Ruin Courtyard, has become one of the year’s snooze-and-lose must-sees. Tickets for this summer’s “Tosca” have already sold out, and if you want a chance at the just-announced second production, “Guns n’ Rosenkavalier,” act fast: Tickets go on sale today starting at 10 a.m. What’s “Guns n’ Rosenkavalier”? The company describes it as “a rock-recital that melds art song with rock song,” featuring “arrangements and mash-ups blending everything from Kate Bush to Brahms and Schubert to Springsteen.” Featuring Willmar native and Minnesota Opera star Andrew Wilkowske and the all-female “horn experience” Genghis Barbie, this sounds like the perfect hot-town, summer-in-the-city evening. FMI and tickets ($25-$50).

Photo by Spencer Lloyd
Genghis Barbie will provide a “horn experience” for “Guns n’ Rosenkavalier”

It seems that all the news from the Minnesota Orchestra these days is good news, including yesterday’s announcement that walk-up ticket sales have returned to Orchestra Hall. What musicians and many members of the public decried as a really dumb decision – to eliminate the physical box office, except for two hours before a concert – has been reversed, at least in part. You can’t get into the actual box office anymore, except when Orchestra Hall is open (the remodel eliminated the drive-up and separate door), but you can go to the Stage Door on the Marquette side of the building Monday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. The Stage Door will be staffed with two people during those times, one dedicated to ticket sales. (We were told back in February that on-site ticket sales would resume “by May at the latest.” June 2 is close enough for a big Cuban cigar.) The lobby box office will continue to be open two hours prior to all ticketed performances. It will also be open for additional daytime hours starting in July to coincide with Sommerfest and season renewal period. 

Mixed Blood Theatre Company has announced its 39th season, almost a year’s worth of plays you’re not likely to see anywhere else – in part because they’re new plays and premieres, in part because they’re outrageous and courageous, zeroing in on themes of immigration, sexuality, gender fluidity, disability and social change. October 10-November 9: Andrew Hinderaker’s “Colossal,” starring Toby Forrest, a quadriplegic actor from Los Angeles, as a former star football player in love with a teammate. Performed in four 15-minute quarters with a half-time show. Feb. 27, 2015 – March 22: “Hir,” penned by Obie Award-winning drag icon, queer performance artist and playwright Taylor Mac. A soldier named Isaac returns from Afghanistan to find that his sister is now his transgender brother. Sally Wingert is their mother. April 17-May 10: Katori Hall’s “Pussy Valley.” If Hall’s name sounds familiar, she wrote “The Mountaintop,” the play about the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s final night that ran at the Guthrie earlier this year. “Pussy Valley” centers on the lives of four strippers in rural Mississippi.

Also at Mixed Blood: four new plays (one a world premiere) by, about, for and with Africans and Muslims in America. A microfest of new plays by local Arab American theater makers. A concert and two plays by Mu Performing Arts. Eight Fringe shows. A play from Walking Shadow Theatre Company, and a student production by the St. Paul Conservatory of Performing Arts. Memberships (which include guaranteed admission to the whole Mixed Blood-produced series) are on sale now, starting as low as $35. FMI and tickets. And don’t forget Mixed Blood’s “radical hospitality” policy: no-cost access to all mainstage productions for any audience member.

Are you writing a book? Would you like an expert critique, maybe even for free? The Loft has just launched a new Manuscript Critique and Coaching service. Teaching artists will work with you one-on-one on your work of fiction, creative nonfiction, poetry, children’s book, YA novel or screenplay. Rates are by word count and turnaround is prompt. FMI. Did we say “maybe for free”? The Loft is offering one free critique to a piece of prose 3,000 words or fewer. To enter, you’ll have to tweet a photo. Here’s everything you need to know. The contest deadline is noon on Monday, June 9.

“Crimes of the Heart,” the Southern Gothic comedy now on the Guthrie’s main stage, ends June 14. Fritz Jean-Noel of Theoroi, a young professionals’ group sponsored by the Schubert Club, wrote this preview for MinnPost: “The play is the story of three sisters who come together to help each other out when one of them commits a ‘crime of the heart.’ The story touches on many aspects of relationships, including dysfunction. I am interested in seeing how the dynamics play out among the three sisters, and I’m hoping I can learn something from their story that helps me in my own relationships with family and friends. Written in 1978, the play won a Pulitzer Prize, became an Oscar-nominated film, and has had multiple productions throughout the world, so it has stood the test of time. I’m also looking forward to visiting the Guthrie again, which in itself is a work of art.” FMI and tickets ($29-$65).

Theoroi is seeking members for its fourth season. If you’re in your 20s or 30s or know someone who is, check it out. Unlike most other arts-related young professionals groups, Theoroi doesn’t just stick with its home organization. One of its goals is to expose members to a variety of arts experiences, which it does by carefully curating a season of 10 different events: music, theater, dance and more. Members get VIP treatment – backstage tours, artist meet-and-greets, premium seating. It’s so much fun that some people re-up for a second year.

We’re all being pelted with Kickstarter and Indiegogo and other crowdfunding pleas, but this is how a lot of arts (and other) projects are being funded these days, and it’s not a bad thing. If we want something to happen, and if we can afford it, why not pay a little up front? “Robert Bly: A Thousand Years of Joy” is a film we hope very much to see someday. Here’s the link.

Photo by John Whiting
Dancers doing the “Light Rail Shuffle” at TPT’s “TV Takeover”

We had a great time at TPT’s “TV Takeover” last Friday. In an unprecedented programming move, TPT is turning over five Friday nights in a row to five Twin Cities arts organizations. Starting right after “Almanac,” each show features stories, skits, short films, conversation and a live audience – not sitting politely in rows, but eating, drinking, chatting, participating and milling around. We were at the one co-hosted by Springboard for the Arts. This Friday (June 6) it’s Northern.Lights.mn, the organization behind Northern Spark (happening June 14). Then (June 13) MPLS.TV. Then (June 20) Works Progress Studio. And finally (June 27) Saint Paul Almanac. All will be different and each costs $10, which gets you drink and food tickets. FMI. Here’s last Friday’s episode.

“The Cat in the Hat” takes about five minutes to read. How does it hold up as a one-hour play? It may be the fastest hour of your life, even in a room full of children (or, in the words of someone we know, “a shriek of children”). Originally produced by the National Theatre of Great Britain, the production now back at the Children’s Theatre after last year’s successful run is nonstop fun. The book has so few words that there’s ample room for physical comedy, sound effects, wordplay, scene changes and mayhem. Douglas Neithercott and Elise Langer are terrific as Boy and Sally, two bored children home alone; Dean Holt is superb as the Cat, insouciant and conscience-free; Gerald Drake is so good as the Fish that you forget he’s a man in a suit with a puppet on his hand. As Thing 1 and Thing 2, Ana Christine Evans and Diogo Lopes are riveting little monsters. When Evans extends her lower lip so she can blow her blue hair out of her face, you kind of want to hug her, except you know she’d bite. Complete with a jazzy soundtrack, the play is charming in every way. And it’s utterly devoid of the sly winky-winks at adult humor and subject matter so often slipped into kids’ entertainment. FMI and tickets ($16-$42). Ends July 27. Bring a kid or go on your own.

Our picks for the week

Tonight (Tuesday, June 3) at Aria in Minneapolis: ETHEL’s Documerica. This needs a bit of explaining, but stay with us. ETHEL is a brilliant new-music string quartet based in New York City. (One of its members, violinist Kip Jones, is originally from Minnesota; you might have seen him play at Maude or Barbette or Studio Z.) Documerica is a collection of more than 80,000 photographs dating from the 1970s, when the newly minted Environmental Protection Agency hired freelance photographers to fan out across the land and document environmental problems and everyday life. This was a time when our rivers were dying and the air of our cities was thickly polluted; the photos, many now digitized and available online, are stark reminders of the days before environmental legislation and conservation. ETHEL’s Documerica combines newly commissioned music by four composers – the Twin Cities’ Mary Ellen Childs, Jerod Impichchaachaaha’ Tate, Ulysses Owens Jr. (some of us know him as a jazz drummer), and James Kimo Williams – with manipulated images from the Documerica archive. Easy listening? Probably not. Passionate, exciting, emotional, provocative? Definitely. Plus Aria (the old Jeune Lune) is an informal, nontraditional space to hear classical music; think warehouse shabby chic, with crystal chandeliers and cocktails. Co-present with the SPCO’s Liquid Music, this is the final concert in the debut season of the Schubert Club Mix series. FMI and tickets ($25) – a few still available as of this writing, all general admission.

Photo by Stephanie Berger
The members of ETHEL

Wednesday through Sunday at the Mall of America: Out Twin Cities Film Festival. Now in its fifth year, Minnesota’s official LGBTQ international film festival has a new home at Theatres at Mall of America, a new Family Friendly Program on Sunday, a Provocateur Section on Friday (for grown-ups), and a full schedule of films including “The Rugby Player” (about Mark Bingham, who died on United Flight 93 on 9/11); “To Be Takei” about George Takei, a.k.a. Sulu on “Star Trek,” who has become a huge star on social media; and “Such Good People,” a contemporary screwball comedy, with labradoodles.  FMI, trailers, and tickets (screenings $10 each, all-access pass $200).

Thursday in Minnehaha Park, Minneapolis: Harmony in the Park. A free outdoor choral concert presented by Classical MPR, featuring ensembles from the Land of 10,000 Choirs. With The Singers, VocalPoint, and Six Appeal, hosted by Brian Newhouse. 7 p.m.  Also: Sunday, June 8, at 7 p.m. in Mankato’s Riverfront Park with the Minnesota Valley Chorale, St. Peter Choral Society, and another ensemble TBA, hosted by Alison Young, and Sunday, June 15, at 4 p.m. in  Duluth’s Leif Erikson Park with Twin Ports Choral Project, Lake Superior Youth Chorus, and Echoes of Peace Choir, hosted by Steve Staruch. All concerts are free and open to the public.

Thursday through Saturday at Intermedia Arts in Minneapolis: Heliotrope X. After taking last year off to regroup, the Twin Cities’ long-running independent festival of underground and underexposed music is back with a diverse line-up of old favorites and new blood. It’s trying out a new venue – Intermedia Arts in the heart of LynLake – that seems better suited to its anything-goes spirit than previous sites like the Lab and the Ritz. Plus we’re promised music in the lobby between sets (curated by Casey Deming of the Madame Tuesday avant-garde/improvisational music series), and a companion event at Bryant Lake Bowl on Friday at midnight featuring Paul Metzger and Elaine Evans. Parts will be messy, parts will be loud, and parts will be incredibly beautiful. Ranging from acoustic solo performances to “the Greek mythology-influenced death metal act” House of Atreus, Heliotrope is about as free, unpredictable, and out-there as music gets. 6 p.m. – 12 a.m. all days. FMI and tickets (day pass $12, three-day pass $30). 

Thursday through Saturday at Orchestra Hall: the Minnesota Orchestra performs Mozart’s three final symphonies. British conductor Christopher Warren-Green, music director of the London Chamber Orchestra and Charlotte Symphony Orchestra, leads the musicians of the Minnesota Orchestra in symphonies No. 39 in E-flat, the great G-minor (No. 40), and the “Jupiter” (No. 41). Incredibly, Mozart wrote all three during the summer of 1788. Let’s look at our plans for the summer and do something great, or at least something besides drinking beer and swatting mosquitoes. Thursday at 11 a.m., Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 8 p.m. FMI and tickets ($22-$84).

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