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Tesfa’s new choral gig; a trio of art fairs — and The Fringe

ALSO: A sing-along ‘Grease’ at the Ordway; a new season in Dowling Studio; The Copper Street Brass Quintet at Plymouth Church; and more.

Tefsa Wondemagegnehu has been appointed manager of MPR’s choral works initiative and conductor of the yet-to-be-formed APM (American Public Media) Radio Choir.
MinnPost photo by Jana Freiband

We’ll be seeing and hearing more of Tesfa Wondemagegnehu, now that he has a new job with MPR. He first came to the Twin Cities in 2013 from Orlando, Fla., where he was director of choral activities at Freedom High School, to serve as assistant artistic director for VocalEssence. Over the past year, he began working part-time at Classical MPR, expanding the reach of its 24/7 Choral Stream through blogging, social media, community-building, outreach and education.

Wondemagegnehu (“won-dih-MAWG-knee-you”) has been appointed manager of MPR’s choral works initiative and conductor of the yet-to-be-formed APM (American Public Media) Radio Choir. In his new role, he’ll visit Minnesota schools several times a month to work directly with students, lead the formation of the APM Radio Choir, a community-building group of young singers who will perform across the state, continue building awareness of the Choral Stream and play a larger role in programming.

Wondemagegnehu also has a magnificent tenor voice and powerful stage presence. In April, he stole the show at MinnRoast with his high-energy rendition of “Rich State,” a song loosely based on “If I Were a Rich Man” from “Fiddler on the Roof,” with new lyrics by Al Sicherman. We’re already the land of 10,000 choirs and expect that number to double or even triple once Tesfa starts roaming the state.

On the ninth floor of the Guthrie, far above the two main stages, is the black-box theater known as the Dowling Studio. In case you’ve never been there, we strongly recommend a visit for two reasons. One is the cantilevered lobby with its floor-to-ceiling amber-hued windows, with views of the Mississippi and the Minneapolis skyline. (For added fun, there’s a window set into the floor; step onto it and look down nine stories.) The other is the theater itself, an intimate, flexible space. (Most recently at the Dowling: Black Label Movement’s “Wreck.”) The Guthrie has announced more of the theater’s 2014-15 programming, which includes several reasons to return.

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Starts Sept. 12: “Marcus, or the secret of sweet” by Tarell Alvin McCraney, directed by Marion McClinton, co-produced by Pillsbury House Theatre and The Mount Curve Company. The final installment of McCraney’s “The Brother/Sister Plays” trilogy features Nathan Barlow in the title role. Nov. 13–23: “Relics” by Sarah Agnew, Nick Golfis and Chantal Pavageaux. The year is 2314, and archaeologists have discovered a 300-year-old colony in what used to be called North America. Instead of sitting and watching a play, we’ll move through exhibits, dioramas, and reenactments of our own lives, rituals and battles. Sounds fascinating. Dec. 19–28: “Jonah and the Whale: A New Musical,” produced by 7th House Theater, set on the banks of the Mississippi to a bluegrass score. March 6–15, 2015: “Telling: Minnesota 2015,” performed by a cast of Minnesota veterans and military family members. March 20–April 5: “The Nature Crown,” a world premiere production from award-winning director and playmaker Jon Ferguson. May 7–17: an evening of percussive dance by Joe Chvala’s Flying Foot Forum. July 10–11: “DeMayda’d,” a Mu Performing Arts developmental work directed by Randy Reyes, featuring Twin Cities pop-funk musician Mayda Slice.

Previously announced Dowling shows include “A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court,” adapted by Jeffrey Hatcher, playing in repertory with Shakespeare’s “Macbeth,” performed by the New York-based The Acting Company, and Tarell Alvin McCraney’s “Choir Boy,” directed by Peter Rothstein. More will be added in the months to come.

Dr. Robert Goodale, pioneering surgeon and arts supporter, has died. He and his wife, Katherine, were philanthropists who gave more than $3 million to the Cowles Center to restore its theater, which is now called the Goodale Theater. Dr. Goodale was also a dancer, and he played the trombone. A memorial is scheduled for 2 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 5 at St. Mark’s Episcopal Cathedral in Minneapolis.

The Picks

Tonight (Tuesday, July 29) at Plymouth Church in Minneapolis: The Copper Street Brass Quintet. A young and lively quintet with a large repertoire of classical and contemporary music. 7 p.m. Free.

Wednesday and Thursday at the Ordway: “Sing-a-long-a Grease.” Look at me! I’m Sandra Dee! Dress up as Danny or Sandy, a T-Bird or Pink Lady and sing your little heart out to the movie, with on-screen lyrics. Erin Schwab hosts what’s sure to be a fun evening. If you’re a fan, you know you want to go. 7:30 p.m. both nights. Tickets are tight but decent seats are still available. FMI and tickets ($17-$39).

Thursday in Uptown, downtown and on the West Bank: The Fringe begins. Last week, executive director Jeff D. Larson gave us the lowdown on how to manage “Minnesota’s Theater Invasion.” Here’s the facebook page. Here are videos from the two Fringe Previews shows. If you’re free Wednesday at 7 p.m., head over to Mixed Blood Theatre in Cedar-Riverside for the Touring Artist Showcase, in which out-of-towners will preview their shows. Admission is a 2014 Fringe button, which you can buy at the door. You’ll need one anyway.

Thursday at the Dakota: Mark Summer and Tierney Sutton. An evening of chamber jazz celebrating the music of Joni Mitchell, with Grammy-winning cellist Mark Summer of Turtle Island Quartet and vocalist Tierney Sutton. Both are Dakota favorites, having played the club several times before, but never together. For jazz, Joni and chamber music fans, this is a no-brainer. 8 p.m. (one set only). FMI and tickets ($30).

The Weekend

Gird your loins and download your free MetroTransit ArtPass for the biggest art fair weekend of the year. If the weather is kind, Uptown, Powderhorn and Loring Park, all juried events, will draw big crowds of browsers and buyers. Uptown is the oldest and largest, with more than 350 artists, a youth fair, live entertainment, an outdoor wine garden, art activities and a culinary arts competition. Friday, noon – 8 p.m., Saturday 10 a.m. – 8 p.m., Sunday 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. Winding around Powderhorn Lake, where Minne the Lake Creature has taken up residence this summer, Powderhorn is the most laid-back and neighborhoody, with 184 regional and national artists, entertainment, and a community showcase. Loring Park is the sleekest and most urban, with 140 artists, strolling musicians, stage performances and children’s activities. Saturday 10 am. – 6 p.m., Sunday 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. All have plenty of food and drink for sale.

Saturday at the Loft: WordSong with Florestan Recital Project. Five songs by five composers on Langston Hughes’ poem “Harlem” (“What happens to a dream deferred?/Does it dry up/like a raisin in the sun?”). Based in Boston, WordSong is a new concert format in which one text is presented in several newly composed settings, with conversation among performers, composers, and audience. Co-founder and artistic director Howard Frazin teaches at the New England Conservatory. Florestan Recital Project is pianist Alison d’Amoto and baritone Aaron Engebreth. Recommended if you’re into music, poetry, song, and the chance to talk about it all. 7 p.m. FYI. Free. UPDATE: We’ve just learned that this event is NOT free. Tickets here ($12-$24).