ARTshare: Southern Theater to host 15 performing arts groups
The Southern Theater

It sounds like the Southern Theater will soon be sort of like the Cowles – many small companies sharing space – except you’ll buy a membership instead of single tickets. And sort of like the SPCO, where a low monthly fee gets you a lot. In a new initiative called ARTshare, the Southern plans to bring 15 different theater and dance companies together under its roof, with shows running in repertory. Pay the fee and attend as much programming as you want throughout the year.

This is good news all around. It means that several companies will now have a home, including Black Label Movement, Four Humors, Live Action Set, Savage Umbrella and Sossy Mechanics. It means the intimate and lovely old Southern has survived after a financial crisis in May 2011 nearly brought it down. It has served in the interim as a rental with a staff of one, Damon Runnals, who hung in there, raised money, kept the lights on, and figured out what to do next. Originally hired as the production manager, he’s been the executive director since 2012.

Memberships go on sale next Tuesday, July 22. The official launch party takes place at Town Hall Brewery next door from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. Sign up for a membership, get a free beer. Here’s the Facebook event page. There’s a minimum 12-month commitment of $18/month. Members will always get first dibs on shows, before tickets go on sale to the general public.  Shows begin the first week of January 2015. FMI (some pages are still under construction).

Part of the controversial $50 million Orchestra Hall redo – controversial because the renovations took place during the lockout – the glass-enclosed Target Atrium was the scene of last Saturday’s Oscar Peterson tribute concert by Sommerfest Artistic Director Andrew Litton. Before an audience of (wild guess) 300 people, Litton alternated between playing note-by-note Peterson, transcribed from recordings, and jumping up to entertain us with anecdotes: “I play piano mostly to remember how hard it is. If you’re going to spend your life telling people how to play music while standing on a box, you’d better know how hard it is. … It took me three months to learn ‘Round Midnight’ the way Oscar Peterson played it just once. … This is only the second solo recital I’ve played in 32 years. It’s also the last.” After what sounded to most of us like a perfectly reasonable start to “How Long Has This Been Going On?” he lifted his hands from the keyboard and said, “Let me try this again. That stunk.”

The concert, which began at 10:30 p.m., was enjoyable, the two-story room spectacular, and the views of Nicollet Mall and the city at night were the sprinkles on the sundae. Let’s use this room more, please. For solo or small group recitals by our Minnesota Orchestra musicians? For a new jazz series? Some of you may recall a late-night set with pianist Fred Hersch at Orchestra Hall in the summer of 2005. The audience was small and the big hall swallowed him up.  But the atrium would be perfect for someone like Hersch. What if atrium concerts were broadcast live onto Peavey Plaza and Nicollet Mall?

Travel is good, a fact the Jerome Foundation acknowledges each year by awarding travel and study grants of $1,000 to $5,000 to emerging artists in Minnesota and New York City. Fifteen Minnesota artists and groups working in dance, film and video, and literature are the recipients of this year’s grants, which are funded by the Jerome Foundation, the General Mills Foundation, and the Art and Martha Kaemmer Fund of HRK Foundation and administered by the Jerome Foundation. Ashwini Ramaswamy, a dancer and emerging choreographer with Ragamala Dance, will travel to Chennai, India, to work with a world-renowned teacher of Bharatanatyam. Mong Vang will go to Khek Noi Village in Thailand, the “Hmong Hollywood,” to study Hmong filmmaking and build relationships for future collaboration. Jennifer Bowen Hicks, founder of the Minnesota Prison Writing Workshop, will journey to prisons in Norway, Louisiana and Arkansas to gather information for a new book.

Last Wednesday, membes of the U.S. House of Representatives Interior Appropriations Subcommittee slashed $8 million each from the FY 2015 budgets for the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH). Yesterday, they put the money back. Americans for the Arts credits the bipartisan support that quickly formed to protect NEA and NEH funding. Next up, a battle with the full House to maintain each endowment at the $146 million level of funding.

According to a new study released earlier this month by Americans for the Arts, both Minneapolis and St. Paul are strong in arts-related businesses and jobs. Almost 9 percent of all businesses and over 4 percent of all jobs in Minneapolis are arts-related; in St. Paul, nearly 6 percent of all businesses and over 2.5 percent of all jobs are related to the arts. Minneapolis is the 47th largest city in population but ranks 3rd in terms of arts-related businesses.

The Picks

Tonight (Wednesday, July 16) at The Bookcase in Wayzata: Cynthia Bond, “Ruby.” A PEN/Rosenthal Fellow, Bond is winning high praise for her debut novel, just out from Random House. The Christian Science Monitor wrote, “It’s tempting to call up Toni Morrison or Alice Walker or Ntozake Shange.” Well then. 7 p.m. Free.

Tonight at a movie theater near you: “The Enchanted Island.” An encore presentation of the Baroque fantasy opera that originally aired in January 2012 as part of the Met’s “Live in HD” series. Inspired by Shakespeare’s “The Tempest” and “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” it stars David Daniels as Prospero, Joyce DiDonato as Sycorax, and Placido Domingo as Neptune. FMI and link to tickets (you’ll enter your ZIP code).

Thursday at Eat My Words Bookstore: David Housewright, “The Devil May Care.” Summer reading, anyone? St. Paul resident Housewright has won both the Edgar Award and the Minnesota Book Award (twice) for his crime fiction. “Devil” is a mystery thriller set in the Twin Cities. A reading will be followed by conversation and book signing. 7 p.m. Free.

The weekend:

Sunday at Orchestra Hall: An Evening of Chamber Music: Mozart’s Gran Partita. In the first half, Minnesota Orchestra principal cello Anthony Ross and pianist/Sommerfest director Andrew Litton will team up for Prokofiev’s lyrical Sonata in C major, originally written for Mstislav Rostropovich. After the intermission, Courtney Lewis will conduct members of the Minnesota Orchestra in Mozart’s Serenade No. 10 in B-flat major, “Gran Partita,” a stately and elegant work for 13 winds. You’ll be out in 90 minutes, with plenty of time after to stop for a drink or snack somewhere along Nicollet Mall. 7 p.m. Good tickets are still available ($25).

This will be Lewis’ final appearance as the orchestra’s associate conductor. He was recently named music director of the Jacksonville Symphony and assistant conductor of the New York Philharmonic. His goal was to become a music director before turning 30; he’s still 29. He’ll return next season as a guest conductor.

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