Whenever we think the American Swedish Institute couldn’t get any livelier, it does something further out of the box. This time it’s “KOM HIT!” (“Come Here!”), a dance-theater piece created for and performed in the Turnblad Mansion, ASI’s turreted castle. Dancer Sally Rousse and theater innovator Noah Bremer partnered on a new work that leads audience members up and down stairs, through doors, around corners, and in and out of most of the mansion’s 33 rooms. All 15 dancers are dressed in white. Feathers drift through the air. Live music wafts through the halls. Dancers emerge from kitchen cabinets, squeeze into corners, pair up to act out love and struggle, play dead, and dance solo on the rooftop of the ASI’s new addition (the Nelson Cultural Center), visible from the sunroom.
We saw “KOM HIT!” on opening night, had only a vague idea what was happening, but liked it very much anyway. If you go, you might want to know more than we did ahead of time. We spoke last week with Rousse, who moves through life on her toes as easily as the rest of us clomp along flat-footed.
MinnPost: We heard you approached ASI about doing a site-specific dance in a historic home. Since they were about to open a photography exhibit about Swedish author and playwright August Strindberg, they asked if you could relate it to him.
Sally Rousse: They were worried that the exhibit might be dark and gloomy, like a lot of Strindberg plays. They asked if I could animate the ballroom [on the third floor of the castle]. I said – I don’t want to do just that. I’d like to animate all the rooms. I knew that my friend and colleague Noah Bremer was really good at this. He’s done the [Soap Factory’s] Haunted Basement and huge pieces for 500 people at Union Depot in St. Paul.
MP: You all wear white, like ghosts.
SR: We wanted to be the ghosts of Strindberg, his real-life family and friends, and the ghosts of his characters, which were based on real life. So it’s a mixture of all these things – helping him come back to his soul and complete his search. He seems to have been such a searching soul. He was a Lutheran, and then he was a pagan, and then he was interested in the occult, and then he claimed he was God. He traveled so much outside of Sweden, grasping at different identities. He was married three times. There are a lot of interesting themes in his life and his plays that I thought could be housed in this castle.
MP: Do you each play one character, or several characters?
SR: Several characters. In [Strindberg’s] “A Dream Play,” several actors play multiple characters. He liked things that were this and that, true to themselves and then completely contradicting themselves.
MP: “KOM HIT!” isn’t linear – it depends on where you end up, and people go in different directions. But can you give us just a little bit of narrative?
SR: The best I can do is seek connections from the lovers [a pair of dancers] in the dining room. There’s a lot of betrothal stuff, engagement and marriage, relationship stuff, and that moves into the gender imbalance issues that he dealt with. And then there are the offspring, the children; there are two children in the cast [including Rousse’s daughter]. And power struggle. These are the themes we stuck to: gender imbalance, power struggle, paternity, maternity, parentage.
MP: Anything else we should know about “KOM HIT!”?
SR: You don’t need to know anything about Strindberg. You should definitely come 10 minutes early so you can run through the Osher Gallery [“The Image of Strindberg” exhibit]. It’s incredible. He was pretty cool.
“KOM HIT!” has been so popular that people without tickets are being turned away. As of this writing, tickets are still available to the final performance on Thursday, July 10, at 7:30 p.m. Buy online ($20) or reserve by phone (612-871-4907). You will be asked to wear a small stick-on moustache (hint: Strindberg had a moustache). You will be touched (gently), led and guided through the Turnblad Mansion. Go with the flow.
Saved: the Bell. The James Ford Bell Museum of Natural History on the U of M’s Minneapolis campus – aging, too small, badly in need of repairs, barely accessible to people with disabilities, with challenging parking – will move to a new home on the St. Paul campus, complete with planetarium. Bill Salisbury reports for the Pioneer Press on the end-of-session legislative deal that led to funding, and the tenacity of House Capital Investment Committee Chair Alice Hausman, the St. Paul DFLer who fought to save this important scientific and cultural resource. Oh, joy; a planetarium!
Wondering about the art you see while waiting for a train along the Green Line? All 18 new stations feature public art rooted in the surrounding community. You can learn the stories behind the art through Sound Point, a collaboration between Metro Transit and MPR. Text a short code or scan a QR code (printed on posters at each station) to hear the artist(s) talk about the art. Or listen anytime online. Go here for a list of direct links to station pages. On your smartphone or tablet, go here via your browser, then add the site to your home screen.
Tonight (Tuesday, July 8):
- On the Minnesota Centennial Showboat at Harriet Island: “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.” The previews sold out, opening night was a hit, and the next 17 performances were postponed, thanks to the mighty Mississippi. The waters have receded, the free parking lot is open and dry, and the play resumes at 8 tonight. Cheer the hero, hiss the bad guy, and enjoy nostalgic musical olios by Vern Sutton. Matinees and evening shows through Aug. 16. FMI and tickets ($20/$25). To re-book previously purchased tickets, email firstname.lastname@example.org FMI.
- At the Westminster Town Hall Forum: Walter Mondale. One of our most distinguished public servants talks with MPR’s Gary Eichten about “The State of Politics Then and Now.” Noon. Free. Come early for music with the Mary Louise Knutson Trio.
- Outdoors at the Minnesota History Center: Somali Camel Band with Abdulkadir Said and Najiib Elmi. Urban and traditional Somali folk dance and song. Part of the History Center’s “9 Nights of Music” summer line-up. 6:30 p.m. dance instruction, music at 7 p.m. Free.
- Friday at the Fitz: “Talking Volumes” with Elizabeth Gilbert. The bestselling author of “Eat Pray Love” presents her new novel, “The Signature of All Things.” Hosted by MPR’s Kerri Miller. 7 p.m. FMI and tickets ($23/$25).
- Saturday at St. Catherine University: Art at St. Kate’s. A juried art fair of fine crafts and fine art. 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. on the triangle lawn at Randolph and Cleveland. Free. FMI.
- Sunday at the Lake Harriet Bandshell: The Minneapolis Pops Orchestra. They’ve been playing free summertime concerts at Lake Harriet and other parks since 1950. For that, we are grateful. 5:30 p.m.
Plan ahead: On sale Friday at 10 a.m.: The Brian Setzer Orchestra Christmas Rocks! Tour (Friday, Nov. 14 at the Orpheum). On sale Friday at 11 a.m.: The Johnny Mathis Christmas Show (Thursday, Dec. 4 at the State). Online or by phone (1-800-982-2787).