Coming up at the Guthrie: four solo shows, three women directors

Courtesy of the Guthrie
Jessica Dickey in “The Amish Project”

Four solo shows and three women directors will come to the Guthrie in 2015-16 as new artistic director Joseph Haj continues to put his stamp on the theater Joe Dowling ran for 20 years.

“I wanted to design a series of shows – curating a band of programming with great artists and thinkers – that can engage our community in dialogue around themes and ideas,” Haj said in a statement. Three will be in the Dowling Studio and one on the Wurtele Thrust Stage.

Courtesy of the Guthrie
Aaron Davidman in “Wrestling Jerusalem”

First up: “Wrestling Jerusalem,” written and performed by Aaron Davidman. Playing 17 different characters, Davidman tries to make sense of the ongoing, seemingly intractable Israeli-Palestinian conflict and grapples with the complexities of identity, history and social justice. Oct. 16-Nov. 1 in the Dowling.

Written and performed by Jessica Dickey, “The Amish Project” was inspired by the 2006 school shootings in the Amish community of Nickel Mines, Pennsylvania.  A fictional exploration of a real-life tragedy, it considers the limits of forgiveness and compassion. Dickey plays seven characters including the gunman and two young victims. Feb. 2-14, 2016 in the Dowling.

Lightening the mood a bit, theater artist Taylor Mac brings his “24-Decade History of Popular Music: The 20th Century Abridged” to the Wurtele Thrust Stage for two nights only, March 18-19. A subjective survey of American history told through music, “A 24-Decade History” will eventually be a 24-hour concert, performed only once with a 24-piece orchestra. “20th Century Abridged” is one-24th of it and will feature songs from the 20th century. HuffPost called it “a must see for anyone who wants to see a fairer and kinder society.”

Courtesy of the Guthrie
Colman Domingo in “A Boy and His Soul”

The fourth and final production in the series is Colman Domingo’s “A Boy and His Soul,” the story of an African American man’s coming of age in 1970s and ’80s Philadelphia, set to the classic soul, smooth R&B and disco music of the time. Domingo is a Tony-nominated, OBIE-winning actor, playwright and director; you might have seen him as Rev. Ralph Abernathy in “Selma” or in “Lee Daniels’ The Butler.” He originated the role of Mr. Bones in “The Scottsboro Boys” and appeared in the Guthrie’s 2010 production.

Beginning Aug. 23, Domingo stars in AMC’s new series “Fear the Walking Dead.” When he arrives here this time next year, a lot more people will know who he is. “A Boy and His Soul” runs Aug. 9-28, 2016 in the Dowling.

The three women directors are all veterans. Libby Appel, who served 21 seasons as artistic director of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, was last at the Guthrie in the 1998-99 season for “The Magic Fire.” She’ll return to helm Mary Chase’s Pulitzer Prize-winning comedy “Harvey” on the Wurtele Thrust (April 9-May 15). Valerie Curtis-Newton, currently head of performance at the University of Washington School of Drama, will direct Alice Childress’ “Trouble in Mind” on the McGuire Proscenium (May 7-June 5).

Marcela Lorca, whose previous work at the Guthrie includes “Caroline, or Change,” “Crimes of the Heart” “and “Blood Wedding,” will direct Ayad Akhtar’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play “Disgraced” on the proscenium stage (July 16-Aug. 28). Lorca is the Guthrie’s interim director of company development and the head of movement at the University of Minnesota/Guthrie Theater B.F.A. Actor Training Program. 


Banfill-Locke Center for the Arts in Fridley and Young Dance in Minneapolis have won this year’s Arts Achievement Awards from the Metropolitan Regional Arts Council (MRAC). Each receives a cash award of $5,000 for outstanding achievements and commitment to the arts in MRAC’s seven-county region.

A nonprofit community art center, Banfill-Locke opened in 1979 in a shopping mall as North Suburban Center for the Arts. In 1988, it moved to its current location, the historic Banfill-Locke house (a former tavern and farmhouse) on the Mississippi.  The center has a gallery (current exhibition: pet paintings by Melissa Black), an artist-in-residence program, active programs in the literary and visual arts, a summer Kids Art Academy and an annual holiday marketplace featuring work by local artisans. In 2014, BLCA’s programming served more than 8,000 people.

Founded in 1987 by Maria Genné  and Colleen Callahan as “Maria, Colleen and Kids,” Young Dance changed its name in 1992 and today is both a company and a school. With Gretchen Pick as artistic director, it encourages community youth to build body and spirit through the creative art of dance. The company is made of boys and girls ages 7-18; the school offers classes in modern dance technique, improvisation and choreographic skills for any body. In 2014, Young Dance received the 2014 Special Citation SAGE Award. Guest artists for the 2014-15 season included Joe Chvala, artistic director of Flying Foot Forum, and Stuart Pimsler, director of Stuart Pimsler Dance & Theater.

The MRAC Arts Achievement Award recognizes arts organizations with budgets under $400,000 that exemplify MRAC’s mission of increasing access to the arts. Organizations can be nominated or may nominate themselves; nominations for 2016 are due Monday, April 11, 2016.  Previous winners include the Saint Paul Art Collective, Rosemount Area Arts Council, Northeast Minneapolis Arts Association (NEMAA), Minnesota Jewish Theatre Company and Kulture Klub Collaborative.

The picks

Now at the Guthrie: “The Music Man.” We haven’t seen it (yet), but the Guthrie’s summer musical has been getting great reviews and word-of-mouth. Directed by John Miller-Stephany, with book, music and lyrics by Meredith Willson, it ends Aug. 30. FMI and tickets ($34-$86).

Friday (Aug. 7) at the Orpheum: Diana Krall. Winner of five Grammys and eight Junos (she’s Canadian), jazz pianist and singer Krall was a star long before she married Elvis Costello. She can be cool, she can be silky; she can swing, sass, and whisper in your ear. Her latest album, “Wallflower,” has been getting mixed reviews. Some people hate that it’s basically a collection of pop tunes (“California Dreamin’,” Leon Russell’s “Superstar,” the Eagles’ “Desperado,” Crowded House’s “Don’t Dream It’s Over”). Some people love that she’s not singing jazz for a change. Either way, she’s still Diana Krall, and nobody treats a song the way she does, or sounds like her, or has her timing or unique way of shaping a word, no matter what she chooses to sing. FMI and tickets ($61.50-$76.50).

Saturday at Mears Park: 3rd Annual Lowertown Guitar Festival. After three years, it’s a tradition, so we can expect it to continue, right? This will be a good one. Eight hours of music on two stages by great players including Greg Koch, Tim Sparks, Dean Granros, Park Evans, Jerry Kosak and Muriel Anderson, the first woman to win the National Fingerstyle Guitar Championship. Over 4,000 people showed up last year. Presented by McNally Smith College of Music. Molly Maher emcees. 2 p.m. – 10 p.m. Free. FMI including performance schedule.

Courtesy of McNally Smith
Greg Koch

On sale

Tickets are available now to the Hopkins Center for the Arts’ 2015-16 concert season, and if you can’t find something you like somewhere in there, we don’t know what to say. They’ve got Joan Armatrading on her last major tour and first-ever solo tour. A night of fingerstyle guitar by Tim Sparks, Phil Heywood and Dean Magraw. Bluegrass masters Monroe Crossing and Grammy winners Sounds of Blackness. Pete Whitman’s marvelous jazz X-tet featuring pianist Laura Caviani. Dessa, Davina and Spyro Gyra. Take a look. All concerts start with a social hour with free hors d’oeuvres and cash bar.

If you haven’t been to Hopkins lately, see John Reinan’s recent “Streetscapes” piece for the Star Tribune.

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Comments (2)

  1. Submitted by Logan Foreman on 08/05/2015 - 04:35 pm.


    Like the look of the new head of the Guthrie!

  2. Submitted by Ed Hooper on 08/07/2015 - 01:32 pm.

    Guthrie Women Directors

    I am very excited and optimistic about Joe Haj’s new leadership However, all these three women directors were selected by Joe Dowling as most of the plays, directors, and designers for the upcoming season. A change in leadership takes time to develop and evolve and the writers of this article ought to know better. The decisions for this season were made before Joe Haj even knew he was selected to be the new Artistic Director of the Guthrie. I’m sure Haj will do great and further embrace diversity while bringing great changes to the stages. But, really, stop bashing Dowling, its immature and ill-informed.

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