A (moving) play in a park: ‘The Tempest’ at Franconia; Davina and the Vagabonds at the Dakota

Courtesy of Franconia Sculpture Park
The cast of Franconia’s “Tempest”

Shakespeare’s most magical play, “The Tempest” begs for a magical setting – like the Franconia Sculpture Park in Shafer, a 25-acre expanse on the St. Croix Trail, home to 105 monumental-scale sculptures. On the first weekend in September, you can see it there in a new production that leads you around the park and ends as the sun sets.

“The Tempest on Franconia Island” is co-directed by Harry Waters Jr. and Barbra Berlovitz, who will also portray Prospero and Caliban. Berlovitz as Caliban – she was the Jeune Lune’s co-founder and co-artistic director for 25 years – is one of many twists being introduced. “We’ve cast the show multiculturally, flipping genders around,” Waters says. “Ferdinand is a woman, one of the lords is a woman, and we have a group of people I call the Quality, instead of sprites or spirits.” Waters  known for his role in “Back to the Future” as Marvin Berry, recently seen at Pillsbury House Theatre in “The Road Weeps, The Well Runs Dry,” with Dark & Stormy in “The Receptionist,” and at the Bedlam Lowertown in “AKA: Fathers/Sons”  has always wanted to play Prospero, the magician and deposed Duke of Milan.

Staging “The Tempest” at Franconia was Waters’ idea. “I had gone up on a consulting gig when I said, ‘This is a great place to perform. Has anything ever been done here?’” The answer was yes to music and dance, not yet to theater. With help from a Cultural Community Partnership Grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board, they went to work. “We’ve done some editing and brought it down to about an hour and a half,” Waters says. “And we pulled a lot of our resources. We’re getting costumes and props from Macalester” (where Waters teaches theater and dance), “and masks from Heart of the Beast – classic masks they never let out. And technical support from Bedlam. Franconia is giving us housing for the week we’re up there, and food. It’s a great opportunity for us to be not only on the landscape but living there with the artists who are working at the sculpture garden. Visual artists and performing artists, working together. Several have made pieces for us that will be in the play.”

Showtime is 6:30 p.m. If you go, plan to arrive by 6. Wear walking shoes and bring a chair or blanket to sit on, plus an umbrella if it looks like rain. FMI and tickets ($5 for kids 10 and under, $10 for adults).

As we continue to follow theaters around (yesterday it was Off-Leash Area and its upcoming Garage Tour), we can now report on where Dark & Stormy will touch down next. The venue for its regional premiere of Harold Pinter’s “The Hothouse” will be the atrium of the Artspace Grain Belt 1906 Bottling House in Northeast Minneapolis. This will be D&S’s second partnership with Artspace. Last year’s “The Receptionist” was presented in a vacated office in the Traffic Zone Center for Visual Art in the warehouse district. 

Graywolf Press poet Tracy K. Smith, whose “Life on Mars” won the 2012 Pulitzer Prize, has received the Academy of American Poets Fellowship, the Academy announced yesterday. The $25,000 award recognizes distinguished poetic achievement. Past recipients include Gwendolyn Brooks, Robert Frost and Ezra Pound. Read about all winners of the 2014 American Poets Prizes here.

The Picks

Tonight (Wednesday, Aug. 27) at SubText: Poetry by Steve Mueske and Jefferson Carter. Savage, Minnesota resident Mueske is a poet and electronic musician whose new book, “Slower Than Stars,” has been described as “playful, irreverent, surreal, and deeply lyrical.” Tucson-based Carter has been called a “twisted, punk Billy Collins.” Both are widely published. 7 p.m., free.

Tonight at the Amsterdam: The Moth StorySLAM: “Altered.” Hosted by comedian and improviser Mike Fotis (Wits, The Importance of Being Fotis, Ferrari McSpeedy), tonight’s slam is about moments when reality shifts. Prepare a five-minute story or just come to listen and applaud. Doors at 7 p.m., stories begin at 7:30. Tickets here ($8 general admission). 200 seats are available; first come, first served.

Thursday at Textile Center: “20 for 20” opening reception. Celebrating its 20th birthday, our national center for fiber art presents work by 20 artists from its borderless community, including students, teachers, emerging artists and masters of everything from basketmaking to art cloth. Refreshments in the dye garden at 5:30 p.m., opening reception at 6. Free.

Thursday at Studio Z in Lowertown: Atlantis Quartet. Trumpeter Steve Kenny’s weekly “All Originals Jazz series” continues with this fine, tight quartet, all imaginative composers of original music. Here’s a generous sampling on Soundcloud of what they can do. Brandon Wozniak on saxophones, Zacc Harris on guitar, Chris Bates on bass, Pete Hennig on drums. 8 p.m., doors at 7:30. $10 at the door.

The Weekend

Friday at the Dakota: Davina and the Vagabonds. Catch them while you can; they’re about to leave on a far-flung tour that includes a stop in Hell (Hell, Norway, for the annual blues festival). 8 p.m., $15. Call 612-332-5299 to reserve.

Saturday at the Prior Lake Library: Club Book: Louise Penny. Mystery lovers know Penny’s Chief Inspector Armand Gamache of the Sûreté du Québec. “The Long Way Home,” the tenth book in the New York Times bestselling series, came out yesterday, so the ink may still be wet on the copy you buy to have signed. 16210 Eagle Creek Ave. SE in Prior Lake, 2 p.m. Free.

Saturday at the Cedar: Afrisota: Sounds & Culture of Africans in Minnesota. An evening of live music, spoken word, DJs, fashion and food, hosted by Brad and Jojo, hosts of KFAI’s “African Rhythms” radio show. With Zuluzuluu (Afro hip hop), Black Market Brass (a Minneapolis-based 11-piece Afrobeat/Afrofunk group), Ugandan singer/songwriter/bass player Mpambara, the West African drum and dance ensemble Titamba, award-winning poet Ibe Kaba, and more. Doors at 7 p.m., show at 8. FMI and tickets ($10, advance, $12 day of show).

Plan Ahead

James Taylor comes to the Xcel on Nov. 2 with his All-Star Band. Tickets go on sale Sept. 5 ($65–$89.50) online or at the box office.

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