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‘Devilish Dances’ coming up; ‘Dear White People’ opening today

Here’s a Sunday for you: check out the Day of the Dead celebration at the History Center, then take in some Victorian ghost stories at the James J. Hill House.

A rehearsal of “Devilish Dances”
Photo by Bill Wensel

If you’re a new music organization launching your first season, you might as well be bold. Next week, the Minneapolis Music Company will join with the physical theater and dance troupe Live Action Set to present “Devilish Dances,” a program built around a rarely heard work by Wynton Marsalis.

The Minneapolis Music Company was begun earlier this year by Mischa Santora, a former Minnesota Orchestra associate conductor. It gave its first performance in May at a Liquid Music concert at the Amsterdam. “Devilish Dances” will feature the Twin Cities premiere of Marsalis’ “A Fiddler’s Tale,” a contemporary version of Stravinsky’s “The Soldier’s Tale.”

Stravinsky’s work tells of a Russian soldier who trades his fiddle to the devil for the promise of unlimited wealth. Marsalis moves the action to the Mississippi Delta, where Beatrice Connors, a young fiddler, is seduced by the smooth assurances of a record producer named Bubba Z. Beals.

Marsalis chose to use Stravinsky’s unconventional instrumentation – violin, bass, clarinet, bassoon, cornet (or trumpet), trombone, and percussion – and so does Santora, who describes Marsalis’ music as “an eclectic mix of Stravinsky, neoclassicism, contemporary music, blues, jazz, and bluegrass.”

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The musicians include a founding member of a baroque chamber music ensemble, a studio instructor at Macalester, a member of the Copper Street Brass Quintet, an associate professor of music at St. Olaf, and three members of the Minnesota Orchestra. “One of the ideas behind the Minneapolis Music Company is to try to bring together people from different musical institutions,” Santora said.

“The Soldier’s Tale” was written as a theatrical piece “to be read, played and danced.” “A Fiddler’s Tale” will be acted and danced by Live Action Set founding member Noah Bremer and Ballet of the Dolls dancer Stephanie Fellner, both recently seen in “Crime and Punishment” at the Fringe and “KOM HIT!” at the American Swedish Institute.

MinnPost’s 7th Anniversary party

You’re invited to a festive party and silent auction on Thursday, Nov. 6, at Solera Restaurant in downtown Minneapolis.


Marsalis’ work includes a narrative text by Stanley Crouch; it will be read here by actor Raye Birk (“The Sunshine Boys” at the Guthrie, “King Lear” at Park Square). “One of the things that drew me to this piece is the text,” Santora said. “As great as the music is, the text is sensational.”

Santora promises that “Devilish Dances” will be “very casual, very accessible. Part of our mission is to try to be accessible to all kinds of audiences, from seasoned concertgoers to people who have never been to a concert.” Plus “the devil is always a good Halloween topic.”

Given that Bremer is the evil genius behind the Soap Factory’s terrifying Haunted Basement, we had to ask: How dark is this new production? Santora was reassuring: “It’s not as dark as it sounds, but it’s definitely a cautionary tale. It’s probably not a kids’ show.”

We’ve been excited about this since we first heard of it in September. It walks and talks like the start of something big. See “Devilish Dances” Tuesday, Oct. 28 at the Soap Factory or Thursday, Oct. 30 at the Bedlam Lowertown. It starts at 7:30 p.m. both nights and lasts about an hour. FMI and tickets ($25). 

The Picks

Tonight at the movies: “Dear White People” opens nationwide. Nothing is black and white in this witty, provocative movie about race, filmed at the University of Minnesota. Justin Simien’s directorial debut has been winning raves and thoughtful reviews, like this from the New York Times: “You will want to see this movie, and you will want to talk about it afterward, even if the conversation feels a little awkward. If it doesn’t, you’re doing it wrong. There is great enjoyment to be found here, and very little comfort.” Here’s the trailer.

Tonight at Studio Z: Pat O’Keefe’s “Contents May Differ” CD Release. A member of Zeitgeist, Brazilian ensembles, a world music group and the improvisation ensemble AntiGravity, Pat O’Keefe can do pretty much whatever he wants on the clarinet and bass clarinet. We’ve heard him most often with other top improvisers in the cities – people like Nathan Hanson, Doan Brian Roessler, Pat Moriarty, George Cartwright and Viv Corringham – and know that if what you want is virtuosic, imaginative, creative playing, O’Keefe is your man. He’s just released his first solo CD on the Innova label, with music by David Lang, Scott Miller, Paul Cantrell and others. He’ll be joined by fellow Zeitgeist member Patti Cudd on percussion, Jane Garvin on flute, Laura Harada on violin, Cantrell on piano and Ashley Hawk on bass clarinet. 7:30 p.m. FMI and tickets ($10).

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Tonight through Sunday at the Cowles: James Sewell Ballet: “Ribcage.” The world premiere of a new ballet based on the poem by Minneapolis poet Anna George Meek, about a journey through the human skeleton. The music is performed live by Carrie Henneman Shaw (soprano), Jesse Langen (electric guitar) and Marc Levine (baroque violin). The live music is supported by the Schubert Club. What? How did that happen? Schubert Club director Barry Kempton filled us in. Each year, the Schubert Club provides financial support and programming help with live musicians at a James Sewell Ballet performance, a practice that began when Kathleen van Bergen was director. “As for why it has continued during my tenure,” Kempton said, “I think it’s an interesting way for the Schubert Club to put recital and chamber music in front of a mostly different audience, dance fans – and in Minneapolis, where we don’t have such an extensive presence. There’s no long-term commitment, but while there’s mutual interest and good ideas, we’ll try to follow through.” It’s such a good idea that perhaps more music organizations will want to step forward. Also on the program: “Guy Noir: The Ballet,” a murder mystery ballet inspired by Garrison Keillor’s radio private eye. 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday. Also Oct. 31–Nov. 2. FMI and tickets ($20–$36).

Sunday at the History Center: Dia de Los Muertos (Day of the Dead). An annual family day program with music, folk dancing, puppet presentations, traditional Mexican games, art workshops, printmaking, and more. 12 p.m. – 4 p.m. $6–$11; free for kids ages 5 and under and MNHS members. FMI.

Sunday at the James J. Hill House: Victorian Ghost Stories. Dramatic readings of works by Edgar Allan Poe, Edith Wharton, the Brothers Grimm and more in the dimly-lit parlor of the Hill House, followed by a tour and hot cider. Not for children under age 8. Two time slots: 6 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. FMI and registration ($12, $10 MHS members).

Monday, Oct. 27 and Wednesday, Oct. 29 at the movies: National Theatre Live: “Frankenstein.” Benedict Cumberbatch and Jonny Lee Miller swap roles as Dr. Victor Frankenstein and his creation in this hit production directed by Danny Boyle (“Trainspotting,” “Slumdog Millionaire”). Who would you rather see with a stitched-together head? It’s Cumberbatch on Monday, Miller on Wednesday. 7 p.m. FMI and tickets (click on Buy Tickets, enter your ZIP).

Monday in the meeting room at Byerly’s St. Louis Park: Adoption Play Story Circle. Have you been affected by adoption? Led by Minnesota theater artists Leah Cooper and Alan Berks, Wonderlust Productions is creating a new play about the adoption experience. Come to a story circle, share your stories, and be part of “community-driven theater,” a way to make plays that brings together the real experiences of a community with the craft of professional artists. The result: a new play, and a transformative community experience. No story is used directly or without permission. The stories are blended together into a fictional story. Refreshments are provided. 8–9:30 p.m. Free, but reservations are appreciated. Email FMI and a schedule of upcoming story circles.