Knight names 61 finalists in arts challenge; Lowertown Blues Fest coming up

Courtesy of Elias Flamenco
A flash mob of flamenco dancers is a Knight Arts
Challenge finalist.

Picture “Romeo and Juliet” in a new place, with new faces. Try St. Paul instead of Verona, the Garcias vs. the Vangs replacing the Montagues vs. the Capulets. That was Alberto Justiniano’s idea for the St. Paul Knight Arts Challenge, and it put Teatro del Pueblo’s artistic director in line for a potential share of $1.5 million.

The Knight Foundation on Monday named 61 finalists for the challenge’s second year, part of an $8 million commitment to the city announced in 2014. Among the other finalists are Arcata Press/Saint Paul Almanac, which wants to combine the work of local writers and visual artists on posters in trains and buses; Black Dog Café, for a World Roots music series; Coffee House Press, to print essays by authors of color on coffee sleeves for coffee shops; and Erik Barsness, to create a set of percussion instruments from ice and play new music during the 2017 Winter Carnival.

Heather Cole wants to wrap a Green Line train with art by local artists; Northern would like to hold the 2017 edition of Northern Spark along the Green Line. Deborah Elias and Danza Espanola proposed a flash mob of flamenco singers and dancers, traveling through the streets of St. Paul during Christmas and spring processions. In Progress is planning a two-day Hmong film festival; Kyle Waites hopes to light up the Sibley underpass; Minnesota Fringe Festival seeks funding for a two-weekend, single-venue festival in St. Paul.

More than 450 ideas were submitted from neighborhoods across the city. The winners will be announced on Oct. 6, once a panel of local artists and arts advocates review the finalists’ detailed proposals.


How does a very small girl named Karola Siegel survive the Holocaust (her parents didn’t), become a trained sniper, make it through the 1948 Arab-Israeli war, navigate life as a single mother and end up a famous sex therapist with her own radio show? Minnesota Jewish Theatre Company launches its 2015-16 season on August 20th with the regional premiere of “Becoming Dr. Ruth,” Mark St. Germain’s one-woman play about a remarkable woman and her incredible life. Miriam Schwartz stars. (Years back, we had a chance to dance beside Dr. Ruth, and did.)

Sally Wingert
Sally Wingert

The season continues in October with Nathan Englander’s “The Twenty-Seventh Man,” about Stalin’s violent attempt to eradicate Yiddish culture. December brings Jenna Zark’s seasonal favorite “The Chanukah Guest,” an MJTC commission.  In February 2016, Sally Wingert stars in Charles Busch’s “The Tale of the Allergist’s Wife,” a Broadway comedy about midlife malaise. The regional premiere of Joshua Harmon’s edgy comedy “Bad Jews” in April and May ends the company’s 21st season.

All performances are in the theater of Highland Park Community Center. Season subscriptions are available now.


At least Snowbate wasn’t terminated. Minnesota’s rebate program for film and TV productions, part of the Jobs and Energy Bill, was passed in the last few seconds of the messy legislative session, then vetoed, then re-crafted during the special session. The total Snowbate appropriation for 2016-17 is $5 million, half of what the Minnesota Film and TV Board received for 2014-15.  The board plans to seek an additional appropriation next March when the new session begins. Meanwhile, filming in Minnesota continues on “Wilson” starring Woody Harrelson and Laura Dern. According to MPR, nearly three-fourths of the crew are locals, and many acting roles went to Minnesotans.

The picks

Tonight on the Jonathan Padelford: River City Revue: “No Blues for Adelabu.” Take a riverboat ride and explore the historical relationships between black Americans and the Mississippi River. Local artist, writer and community elder Amoke Kubat will share African river stories. The evening also includes blues and praise music and spiritual ceremonies. Cash bar. Board at 7 p.m. at Harriet Island. FMI and tickets ($15, $10 Mississippi River Fund members).

Friday and Saturday at SPACE: “Penelope” Workshop Presentation. See a play in the making and add your two cents about it after. Savage Umbrella has a new project, “Penelope,” about one of history’s most famous Good Wives. As her husband, Odysseus, takes his sweet time returning home after the Trojan War, what is she really up to? “We’re especially interested in some of the alternate versions of the story … in which Penelope maybe isn’t quite so faithful,” writes artistic director Laura Leffler-McCabe. 7:30 p.m. at SPACE (Studio 306, Vandalia Tower, 550 Vanadalia St., St. Paul). FMI and tickets (choose-your price from $5-$15).

Saturday in Mears Park: 2nd Annual Lowertown Blues Festival. Elvin Bishop, a founding member of the Paul Butterfield Blues Band, headlines a full day of free music that also features Jimi “Primetime” Smith, Walter Trout, Lisa Wenger and Her Mean Mean Men, Jimmi and the Band of Souls, the McNally Smith FunkHeads, Famous Dave’s Dee Miller Band and Big George Jackson. Noon until 10 p.m., rain or shine, all ages. FMI.

Courtesy of Elvin Bishop
Elvin Bishop and his guitar, Red Dog.
Tickets please

Elizabeth Gilbert, bestselling author of “Eat, Pray, Love” and “The Signature of All Things,” will read from her latest, “Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear” at Hennepin Avenue United Methodist Church on Tuesday, Sept. 29 at 7 p.m. The cost ($30) includes a signed book. FMI and registration..

For those who dare, tickets go on sale at midnight Friday (July 24) for the Soap Factory’s annual terrorfest, Haunted Basement. This year, after being “forced to wait in line through a maze of visual horror above the basement,” you’ll be “separated into small groups and fed into the depths a handful at a time.” Then you’ll have a choice: take the so-called “easier” path or the one “filled with more horror and more torment than ever before.” Let’s just say they’re not kidding. Director Noah Bremer and his twisted gang deliver the goods. Even without the cast, the props, the lighting and the creepy sounds, that big, raw, industrial basement with its uneven floor is a scary place. Back this year: custom smells. Probably not Glade Apple Cinnamon. The Haunted Basement opens Sept. 30 and ends Nov. 1. Tickets are $25 weekdays, $27 weekends, $20 preview weekend.

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