Patty and the Buttons matinee event; ‘Beaverdance’ at Bedlam Lowertown

Photo by Elizabeth Windsperger
Patty and the Buttons plays old-timey tunes shaped by New Orleans traditional jazz, early blues and vaudeville.

Artscape will go dark next week and return Tuesday, Dec. 2. So we’re featuring some events today for Thanksgiving weekend. Meanwhile, we’ll be posting throughout the week on our Facebook page.

Led by the preternaturally gifted button accordionist Patrick Harison, Patty and the Buttons plays old-timey tunes shaped by New Orleans traditional jazz, early blues and vaudeville. But their “old-timey” does not equate to musty or dusty. Like Pokey LaFarge and Nellie McKay, they go back to get the good stuff that was left behind, then show us how amazing and how modern it still is.

On Saturday, Nov. 29, they’re releasing their second album, “The Mercury Blues,” but not in the usual club-date way. Instead, they’re throwing a family-friendly “Vaudeville Spectacular” matinee at the historic Heights Theater. They’ll play music from the album (all original songs composed by Harison, who draws on pre-World War II musical styles; he calls it “cartoon music for the 21st century”). Davina (of Davina and the Vagabonds) will make a guest appearance with trumpeter Zack Lozier. We’ll see silent film shorts from “The Mishaps of Musty Suffer,” a slapstick comedy film series that dates all the way back to 1916. And we’ll hear the Heights’ Mighty Wurlitzer. Guests are encouraged to attend in 1920s period attire and leave their phones at home. Doors at 12:30 p.m., show at 1. FMI and tickets ($20; includes a copy of “The Mercury Blues” CD). 

You can go to malls or big-box stores on Black Friday, if that’s your thing. Or you can spend the day exploring a local museum or cultural center. The American Swedish Institute will open at 8 a.m. with free museum admission. (We stopped by ASI last Sunday to see the holiday rooms, which are fabulous, and were reminded once again that it’s a thoroughly happening place.) The Minneapolis Institute of Arts will open at 6 a.m., with free admission to the “Italian Style” show, free coffee, treats from Agra Culture and a 20 percent discount at the museum store from 6-7 a.m.

Planning to catch a movie or two? Don’t forget the Film Society, our year-round destination for curated films we won’t see anywhere else. Through Dec. 4: “The Overnighters,” a modern-day “Grapes of Wrath” set in the North Dakota oil fields. Thursday, Nov. 27 through Saturday, Nov. 29: the 30th anniversary HD restoration of “Gremlins.” (“Don’t ever, ever feed him after midnight.”) Friday, Nov. 28 through Thursday, Dec. 4: “Food Chains.” A look at the human cost of putting fresh food on our tables. Saturday, Nov. 29: National Theatre Live: “Skylight.” Bill Nighy, one of our most favorite actors, and Carey Mulligan star in David Hare’s play. Sunday, Nov. 30: National Theatre Live: “Of Mice and Men” with James Franco and Chris O’Dowd.

The Walker is showing Frederick Wiseman’s “National Gallery” from Friday, Nov. 28 through Sunday, Nov. 30. Filmed over 12 weeks in 2012, this acclaimed documentary is a behind-the-scenes look at the inner workings of a major art museum, London’s two-centuries-old National Gallery. And it’s three hours long. FMI and tickets ($9/$7).

Also at the Walker: Each year, the Choreographers’ Evening gives dance fans and the curious an overview of the Twin Cities dance scene, which is vast and ever-changing. Kenna-Camara Cottman curated this year’s showcase, during which ten choreographers will present works lasting seven minutes or less. Saturday, Nov. 29, 7 p.m. at the McGuire Theater. FMI and tickets ($25/$22).

Released in 1940, “Fantasia” was Disney’s third full-length animated feature film, after “Snow White” and “Pinocchio.” Almost 75 years on, it’s still revolutionary. And if you love the movie, just wait until you see it on Orchestra Hall’s big screen, with all the music performed live by the Minnesota Orchestra. Sarah Hicks steps in for Leopold Stokowski for two performances of Disney Fantasia: Live in Concert: Saturday, Nov. 29, at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. FMI and tickets ($20–$70).

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Bloomington’s South Loop will become more artful in 2015, thanks to a creative placemaking project launched in 2013 with a $100,000 “Our Town” matching grant from the NEA. Bloomington Theatre and Art Center (BTAC) and the city of Bloomington are working together to transform the region – home to the Mall of America, the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge, 13 hotels, four light rail transit stations, an existing residential area, and ample development opportunities – into a densely populated, walkable urban neighborhood with its own identity. Art is part of the plan.

Four “demonstration projects” have been commissioned from area artists, chosen from proposals submitted by 15 finalists. The winners were announced at a reception earlier this week. Molly Reichart and Andrea Johnson will create “Little Box Sauna,” a new kind of “mobile hot spot” that will travel through the city’s neighborhoods in February and March, making one-week stops at parking lots where employees and visitors can socialize. Field artist Tom Henry’s “Ripple of Life,” a large-scale earthwork located just north of the South Loop’s last working farm, will end with a harvest of wheat to be made into bread for Twin Cities food shelves. Erick Pearson’s “Science and Nature Mural” at the border of Cypress Semi-Conductor and the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge will provide an artistic backdrop for everyone who fishes or hikes the trail. And PlaceBase Productions’ “Cross-Pollination” will turn the grounds of the Refuge into a stage for a work of walking theater.

Artist Adam Turman, a St. Louis Park resident and U of M grad, has been chosen to create the official 2015 Minnesota State Fair Commemorative Art, the Fair announced Thursday. You’ve probably already seen Turman’s work: on outdoor murals for the downtown Minneapolis restaurant Butcher & the Boar, on posters for Surly Brewing and Electric Fetus, and lots of other places around the Twin Cities. Starting at 6 p.m. Saturday (Nov. 22) at Brickmania Toyworks in Northeast Minneapolis, you can meet Turman and help to re-create his “Minnesota Months” print as a series of 12 mosaic panels made from LEGOs. This is a group build, open to all ages, free, with refreshments. See the print and learn more here. What could be more fun than playing LEGOs with a bunch of strangers? We’ll probably catch flack for saying this, but it seems the Fair has just tapped its hippest-ever artist. 

The Picks

Opens tonight at the Bedlam Lowertown: “Beaverdance: A Marxist Holiday Fur Trade Musical.” A lodge of singing, dancing beavers find their idyllic, 1804, soon-to-be Minnesota wilderness threatened by Ojibwe, voyageurs and capitalists who want the fur off their backs. Disguised as Santa Claus, Karl Marx comes to help. Described by director Randy Reyes as “a delicious mix of the Sonny & Cher show, Hee-Haw, Vegas, Unionisation-drama and Broadway musical,” this sounds both crazy and irresistible. Dinner theater tickets get Vegas-style cabaret seating and a four-course, Minnesota menu (with or without grape salad?). Show-only tickets get you a seat. Dinner seating and photos with Santa Marx start at 5:30 p.m. Dinner at 6, show at 7. FMI and tickets ($35/$30 dinner theater, $18/$12 show only). Through Dec. 21.

Saturday at Midtown Global Market: 9th Annual Green Gifts Fair. Green, recycled, Fair Trade and organic gifts from more than 80 local artists and retailers, plus tips on ways to reduce your waste over the holidays. Shop for ornaments recycled from sweaters, handmade soaps, certified organic White Earth traditional harvested wild rice, small-batch cosmetics, Christmas stockings made from recycled burlap coffee sacks, glass jewelry made from salvaged bottles and more. Vendors will accept cash or checks only; there are two ATMs in the market. 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. FMI. $1 donation per person at the door.

Monday at Icehouse: Atlantis Quartet Live Recording. Born in 2006, the homegrown Atlantis – Brandon Wozniak on saxophones, Zacc Harris on guitars, Chris Bates on bass, Pete Hennig on drums – is one of those bands you owe it to yourself to see as often as you can. Consistently fresh, imaginative, smart and inspired, they have their own sound and deep roots in all forms of jazz. They’re committed to performing their melodic, memorable original compositions, but they also explore Ornette and Herbie, Coltrane and even Led Zeppelin (for their famed Halloween shows). Plus they play with so much energy and joy – and that magical teamwork that happens in a real group – that they’re a lot of fun to watch and hear. This will be their second live album, after 2011’s “Lines in the Sand.” Good times. 9:30 p.m. $8 at the door. 

Plan Ahead

“Downton Abbey” returns to public television on Jan. 4. Can’t wait that long? On December 13, Twin Cities Public Television will hold a “Downton Abbey” holiday festival at Northrop, similar to one they hosted last year at the Landmark Center. Along with a holiday marketplace and a costume contest (hosted by Don Shelby, presumably not dressed as Mark Twain), you’ll be able to see the entire Season 5 premiere episode on Northrop’s new big screen three weeks before it airs on public television. The only way in is a donation/membership to TPT. At the $60 level, you’ll get one ticket; at the $120 level, two. Last year’s Landmark event was a good time, but the sound was muddy and we only saw the first half of the Season 4 premiere. We can probably assume that moving it to Northrop considerably ups the sound quality, given the recent $88 million renovation.

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