The TPT series “MN Original” has been nominated for ten 2015 Upper Midwest Regional Emmys. Which is not surprising because, as we’ve said before, it’s a terrific series about the arts in Minnesota and a great use of Legacy money. The nominated programs include stories about artist (and former Replacements drummer) Chris Mars, actor Sally Wingert, blues man Cornbread Harris and playwright Jeffrey Hatcher.
On Friday we watched two back-to-back “MN Original” episodes about the Ordway’s Arts Partners and the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra. The Arts Partners are four organizations – the Ordway, the Schubert Club, the SPCO and the Minnesota Opera – that have learned to get along (they didn’t always) and share the Ordway Center for the Performing Arts. The Ordway Center now has two splendid venues, the Ordway Music Theater and the new Concert Hall.
TPT’s cameras loved the sensuous curves of the Concert Hall, which was purpose-built for the SPCO but will also be used by the Schubert Club and other non-Arts Partnership organizations. (A quick peek at the Concert Hall schedule shows upcoming events by VocalEssence, the Oratorio Society and One Voice Mixed Chorus, to name a few.)
On nights when both venues are busy, the Ordway is a brightly lit, people-filled magnet. The two “MN Original” episodes capture the excitement, give you some background and introduce key players. If you missed the broadcasts, you’ll soon be able to stream the episodes online at the “MN Original” website. All six seasons of the program are online.
In their copious spare time, the “MN Original” people have also produced a fascinating web-only series called “Artist Day Jobs.” Averaging about six minutes each, seven well-produced videos look at the various ways artists pay the rent while still making art. Jordan Shively is a cartoonist and sous chef. Georgia Ramin sings rock-and-roll and delivers mail. Singer-songwriter Dan Israel splits his time between making music and working for the Office of the Revisor of Statutes at the Minnesota Legislature. Watch here.
Starts tonight (Thursday, Sept. 10) in Mears Park: First Annual Music in Mears Celebration Weekend. After a summer of music including the Twin Cities Jazz Festival, the Lowertown Blues Festival and a full schedule of 13 “Music in Mears” concerts from June 4-Aug. 27, why not wrap things up with three more days of music? The lineup includes Dan Israel, the New Standards, Pippi Ardennia and Pistol Whippin Party Penguins. Thursday and Friday 6-9 p.m., Saturday 2-9 p.m. View the full schedule here.
Tonight at the Black Dog: Saint Paul Almanac: A Ten-Year Retrospective Book Release. Editor Kimberly Nightingale calls it “not really a ‘greatest hits’ ” but a collection of pieces “that really tell the St. Paul story, the history and the emerging life of the city.” Drawn from the previous nine issues of the yearly book, dedicated to poet Carol Connolly, with a cover by Ta-Coumba Aiken and over 400 pages of writing, photographs and works of art, this seems like the perfect holiday gift, and it’s not too soon to start thinking about that. The party takes place in the Black Dog and the adjacent AZ Gallery, with readings, live music, a silent auction and cake. 7 p.m.
Tonight in MacPhail’s Antonello Hall: Tom Pletscher. Jazz pianist and longtime MacPhail instructor Pletscher is moving to Washington State to live on a farm. He’s saying thanks and farewell with a free concert of originals and standards and a free demo CD. With Jim Bierma and Tom Lewis on bass, Phil Hey and Nathan Norman on drums and Greg Keel on sax. 7 p.m.
Tonight at the Cathedral of St. Paul: Centennial Organ Concert. Concert organist and Duluth native Samuel Backman plays an all-French program of music by Gigout, Guilmant, Alain and Duruflé. He’ll show off the Cathedral’s new moveable console, which can be rolled in front of the main altar so audience members can watch him play with both hands and feet. Those organists! 7:30 p.m. Free.
Friday at the American Swedish Institute: Cocktails at the Castle: All Strings Attached. Its current exhibitions are all about music: Swedish-made Hagstrom guitars, the history of Swedish music (in three minutes or less) and iPad drawings of guitars by Minnesota artist Lisa Rydin. This promises to be a most musical evening, with live performances, spinning by DJ Jake Rudh, a dance shanty, a guitar school, ABBA karaoke, the chance to play a Hagstrom guitar, plus the usual Cocktails at the Castle shenanigans: FIKA food and cocktails, bonfires in the courtyard, aerialists, human marionettes, yo-yos and more. A 21+ event. 7 – 11 p.m. Tickets here ($15).
Opens Friday at the Southern: “The Little Pilot.” From Sandbox Theater, an all-new, ensemble-created play based on the life and work of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, author of “The Little Prince,” who disappeared during an intelligence reconnaissance mission at the end of WWII. Blending real events with literary characters, using aerial artistry and original artistic projections, it starts with his final flight and winds back through his childhood and life. Directed by Theo Langason. 7:30 p.m. FMI and tickets ($24; free to ARTshare members). Through Sunday, Oct. 4.
Opens Friday at the Playwright’s Center: “Things of Dry Hours.” In Frank Theatre’s production of Naomi Wallace’s Depression-era play, Tice is a laid-off African-American steelworker and a Communist; his widowed daughter, Cali, takes in laundry to help make ends meet; and Corbin Teel is a white man on the run who shows up at their door. James Craven, Hope Cervantes and Sam Bardwell star in a play about class, history, race and labor, told through poetic language. Directed by Wendy Knox, this is the area premiere and the start of Frank Theatre’s 27th season. 8 p.m. FMI and tickets ($20-$25). Through Sunday, Oct. 4.
Opens Saturday at Open Eye Figure Theatre: “Why We Laugh.” Fortune’s Fool Theatre presents the North American premiere of a new play by Kira Obolensky. Adapted from “Laugh with Us!,” an original cabaret written and performed in 1944 in the World War II Jewish ghetto at Terezin, it asks “Why did the Terezin prisoners laugh?” and “What does that laughter mean to us today?” Directed by Hayley Finn, with music by Craig Harris, featuring Julie Kurtz, Elise Langer, Ryan Lindberg and Skyler Nowinski. Obolensky is an award-winning playwright and writer based in Minneapolis who spent three years as Mellon Foundation playwright-in-residence at Ten Thousand Things. 8 p.m. FMI and tickets ($15/$20). Through Sept. 27.
Saturday at the Loft: No Star Where: New Poems by Bao Phi. Multiple Minnesota Grand Slam poetry champion, National Poetry Slam finalist, program director at the Loft and author of “Sông I Sing” (Coffee House Press) performs poems dealing with his past as a Vietnam refugee raised in the Phillips neighborhood and his present as a man of color raising a daughter. 7 p.m. Free.
Sunday at Franconia Sculpture Park: 19th Annual Art and Artists Celebration. Take a guided tour of the new sculptures created in 2015, make art, join in a nature activity with National Park Service staff, hear live music by the Eclectic Ensemble, the New Riverside Ramblers, the Droppers and more. An all-day art party outdoors, mostly free, with food trucks and $5 parking per vehicle. 10 a.m. – 8 p.m.