Illusion Theater directors to be honored with Outstanding Theatre Award

Photo by Lauren B. Photography
Illusion Theater’s Bonnie Morris and Michael Robins

Hearty applause for Illusion Theater co-producing directors Michael Robins and Bonnie Morris, who are in New York this weekend to pick up their Outstanding Theatre Award from the National Theatre Conference.

Most of this year’s NTC’s awardees have strong Minnesota ties. The Outstanding Theatre winners are invited to select an Outstanding Emerging Professional, and Robins and Morris chose Diogo Lopes and Isabel Nelson, artistic directors of the Minneapolis-based physical theater ensemble Transatlantic Love Affair.

Person of the Year winner Polly Carl, creative director of ArtsEmerson at Emerson College in Boston and director and co-founder of HowlRound, a knowledge commons by and for the theater community, earned her Ph.D. here at the U and spent 11 years at the Playwrights’ Center, seven as producing artistic director.

So we can all walk around feeling pretty darned proud of ourselves, and then, while we’re at it, buy some theater tickets. Opening tonight (Friday, Dec. 4) at the Illusion: “Miss Richfield’s 1981’s Christmas Cone of Silence.” See Holiday fare below. Transatlantic Love Affair will be a resident company for the Southern Theater’s ARTShare program for 2016, remounting its Ivey-winning “Ballad of the Pale Fisherman” starting May 31.


Wendy Fernstrum has won the 2016 Minnesota Book Artist Award for “One Is the Holiest Number (#2),” a meditation on the paradox of “one”: how each of us as an individual is distinctly one, yet simultaneously part of a unified whole. In her artist’s book completed in 2015, Fernstrum uses shapes, patterns, and textures; relief, intaglio and letterpress printing; page designs that hide and reveal imagery; and minimal text to invite the viewer/reader to slow down and reflect.

Courtesy of the Minnesota Book Awards
From “One Is the Holiest Number (#2),”

The Book Awards called it “quiet and assuming … a wonderful combination of material form and narrative content.”

Fernstrum has been making artist’s books for more than 20 years. She writes, designs, prints and binds her work under the press name of Fernwerks. Starting in February 2016, Open Book will host an exhibit celebrating her long career in book arts. Fernstrum will be honored at the Minnesota Book Awards in April.

Past Minnesota Book Artist Award winners include Harriet Bart, Fred Hagstrom, and Jody Williams. Lerner Publishing Group sponsors this annual award.

The picks

Tonight (Friday, Dec. 4) at Light Grey Art Lab: Opening reception for “The Bowerbird Exhibition.” From rocks to shells, ticket stubs to teapots (and on and on ad infinitum), we all collect something. Named for the bird that attracts his mate by creating a specific arrangement of colorful found objects, this exhibition gives 90 participating artists a chance to share their personal collections. Each has created a limited-edition run of (snail)-mailable artwork (prints, photographs, paintings) using their collections as inspirations. What do they tell us about the artists, and about ourselves? We’re kind of dying to see this. 7 – 10 p.m. Free. Ends Jan. 16.

Courtesy of Light Grey Art Lab
Julie Campbell’s “Wiccallection,” part of Light Grey Art Lab’s “The Bowerbird Exhibition.”

Tonight at Highpoint Center for Printmaking: Opening reception for “Prints on Ice: The 28th Cooperative Exhibition.” More than 80 prints by 36 members of Highpoint’s artists’ studio cooperative, selected by the co-op’s curatorial committee. Printmaking methods represented include lithography, relief, intaglio, screenprinting and monotype. Tonight’s reception is also a one-night-only 20 percent off sale and a chance to meet the artists, tour the printshop and nosh on beverages and hors d’oeuvre. 6:30 – 9 p.m. Free.

Paul Fonfara

Saturday at the Cedar: Paul Fonfara and the Ipsifendus Orchestra with Brass Messengers and Jim White “Seven Secrets of Snow” Album Release. Whew, a long name for something that could be summed up “Just go.” We’re kind of obsessed with the pairing of film with original music performed live, and this event has it all. Fonfara is the writer, guitarist and clarinetist behind the revered band Painted Saints and a member of Spaghetti Western String Co. With help from a Legacy grant, Fonfara commissioned local filmmakers to create original films to accompany eight of his own compositions. He describes his music as “sort of along the lines of Philip Glass, Danny Elfman, Spike Jones, Balkans Brass Bands and Ennio Morricone.” Southern gothic alt-country singer-songwriter Jim White will open the show; Brass Messengers will close it with a dance set. We’ve heard Fonfara’s album and like it a lot. This has all the signs of being a super night. 7 p.m. doors, 8 p.m. show. FMI and tickets ($12 advance, $15 day-of).

Holiday fare

Tonight and Saturday at the U’s Civil Engineering Building Courtyard: CSE Winter Light Show. The fifth year of the student-designed 3D extravaganza featuring more than 200,000 LED lights set to music, including some recorded by students. 15-minute shows at 5:30 p.m., 6, and 6:30 each night. 500 Pillsbury Drive SE. Free. Also Thursday – Sunday, Dec. 10 – 12.

Opens tonight at the Illusion Theater: “Miss Richfield 1981’s Christmas Cone of Silence.” The inimitable, the essential, the hilarious and raucous Miss Richfield (Russ King) tackles all sorts of forbidden topics – family problems, medical issues, politics, religion – in her latest no-holds-barred production. If you’ve never seen one of Miss Richfield’s holiday shows, get on it, darling. If you have, go again. Michael Robins directs. 8 p.m. FMI and tickets ($32-$42). Ends Dec. 20.

Saturday at Mill City Museum: Star Tribune Holiday Cookie Contest Winners. This year’s winning recipes, with photos, will appear in the Star Tribune’s Taste section on Thursday. On Saturday, you can meet the finalists, get baking tips, and sample the winning cookies. 1 – 3 p.m. $12 adults, $10 seniors/college students, $6 ages 5-17, free for 4 and under (and MNHS members).

Saturday at the U’s Continuing Education and Conference Center: The Origins of Handel’s “Messiah.” Hallelujah! A LearningLife seminar on the great oratorio, taught by musicologist Daniel Freeman. 1 p.m. – 4 p.m. FMI and registration ($70).

SO MUCH MUSIC. Four sure things:

•  Friday and Sunday at Westwood Lutheran Church: The Apollo Club: “Nine Lessons and Carols.” The male chorus is joined by members of the Minnesota Boychoir and the Minnesota Mormon Chorale. Sean Vogt directs. Friday at 7 p.m., Sunday at 3 p.m. FMI and tickets ($20).

•  Saturday at the Ted Mann Concert Hall: “Sounds of the Season.” The combined Campus Singers ensembles, the University Women’s Chorus and Men’s Chorus perform a mix of seasonal choral favorites. 2128 Fourth Street South, Minneapolis. 7:30 p.m. Free and open to the public.

•  Saturday and Sunday at MacPhail’s Antonello Hall: Minnesota Bach Ensemble: Christmas Cantatas and Concerti. Minnesota Orchestra’s principal flautist Adam Kuenzel is the guest artist for C.P.E. Bach’s Concerto for Flute in A Major. Plus J.S. Bach’s Christmas cantatas 133 and 151, and Vivaldi’s rarely heard Concerto for Cello and Bassoon. Andrew Altenbach conducts. 7:30 p.m. Saturday, 3 p.m. Sunday. FMI and tickets ($25 adults, $10 under 18).

•  Saturday at Shepherd of the Valley Lutheran Church: VocalEssence: Welcome Christmas. Nils Lindberg’s swinging “A Christmas Cantata,” two new carols (“Go Tell It on the Mountain” by Laura Caviani, “Sleep Softly, Lullaby” by Josh Bauder), the 100-voice VocalEssence Chorus, the 32-voice Ensemble Singers and a big band. Phillip Brunelle and G. Phillip Shoultz III conduct. 8 p.m. FMI and tickets. Also Sunday at Plymouth Congregational Church (4 p.m.), Friday at St. Bartholomew Catholic Faith Community (8 p.m.), Saturday, Dec. 12 at Roseville Lutheran Church (8 p.m.) and Sunday, Dec. 13 back at Plymouth Congregational (4 p.m.) FMI and tickets ($10-$40).

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