Michael Sweere creates official State Fair art; ‘Battlefield’ coming to the Guthrie

Courtesy of the Minnesota State Fair

Part of the fun of the Minnesota State Fair is the annual buildup to opening day. We learn about the Grandstand shows one or two at a time, as they’re booked (we’re still waiting to hear about the last open night), the competitions (crop art! Bees and honey! Rabbits!), the impossibly crazy new foods on sticks (that announcement usually comes in late June), the free live entertainment all over the grounds. And, of course, the Official Commemorative Art, an image deemed worthy of representing our state’s great get-together.

This year’s artist is Minneapolis-based Michael Sweere (SWEER-ee), a mosaic artist who primarily works with recycled and salvaged materials. His bright, vibrant art, unveiled late last week, was made entirely from cardboard packaging, much of which Sweere collected himself at the 2015 fair: promotional items, food pods, beverage containers and packaging for other types of household consumables. Each piece was hand-cut and glued in place on a Masonite panel to create flowers, crowds, the Agriculture Building, the ferris wheel, the Sky Ride and the star, Lucky the llama. Even without the words at the bottom, Sweere’s work has Minnesota State Fair written all over it.

The original art will be on display in the Fine Arts Center during the fair, where hundreds of thousands of visitors will see it. Posters of the art, a limited number of signed prints and other merch are available for purchase at msffoundation.org. Proceeds support the Minnesota State Fair Foundation’s mission to preserve and improve the historic State Fairgrounds and support State Fair educational programs.

Peter Brook’s ‘Battlefield’

French playwright Jean-Claude Carrière spent 11 years in India learning about “The Mahabharata,” the longest poem ever written, then wrote a play about it. Nine hours long, directed by British theater maker Peter Brook and his collaborator Marie-Hélène Estienne, “The Mahabharata” was performed in 1988 in a stone quarry outside of Avignon, France, from dusk to dawn and is considered one of the 20th century’s greatest theatrical achievements.

Thirty years later, Brook and Estienne returned to Carrière’s play to create “The Battlefield.” Based on one section of the Sanskrit poem, the 65-minute production uses four actors and a musician to evoke the apocalyptic aftermath of a war between rival members of the same family, exploring and facing questions of responsibility, justice and fate.

“The Battlefield” premiered in Paris in 2015, played in London in 2016 and is now touring internationally, with stops in Singapore, Tokyo, Mumbai, Hong Kong, Rome, Florence, Madrid – and Minneapolis, for 12 performances at the Guthrie from April 13-23, 2017, making its regional premiere as part of the theater’s WorldStage series. Single tickets (starting at $34) go on sale Nov. 1.

Brook is one of the most influential theater artists of the 20th century, winner of multiple Critics’ Circle, Emmy and Tony awards and creator of more than 70 plays, operas and films. Guthrie Artistic Director Joseph Haj said in a statement, “It’s hard to think of a living theater maker who’s had a more protean and impactful career, or a greater influence on the field than Peter Brook.” This will be the first time the Guthrie has produced the work of Brook, Estienne and Carrière. Sounds like something we won’t want to miss. To clarify: Brook will not be in Minneapolis; Estienne will.

Split Rock Lighthouse keeper wins award

Courtesy of the Minnesota Historical Society
Lee Radzak

Completed in 1910, built after the monstrous “Mataafa Blow” storm of Nov. 1905 destroyed and wounded 11 ships from Split Rock northeast of Two Harbors to Park Point in Duluth, Split Rock Lighthouse has been Lee Radzak’s life’s work. For more than a third of its history, the iconic lighthouse has been under his care.

At the 2016 Great Lakes Lighthouse Conference in May, the American Lighthouse Council gave Radzak the Francis Ross Holland, Jr. Distinguished Service Award, “with respect and admiration for contributions to the history and preservation of America’s lighthouses.”

Radzak has lived on site at Split Rock since 1982, raising his family there, serving as ambassador to the hundreds of thousands of visitors who stop by each year. He led the 1986 construction of the visitor center and the three-year restoration project that ended in 2010, in time for Split Rock’s centennial. The lighthouse was restored to its original appearance. In 2011, Split Rock was named a National Historic Landmark. Make it part of your summer travels and say hey to the keeper.

The picks

Tonight (Wednesday, June 15) at Como Dockside Pavilion: St. Paul Ballet. An encore performance of Peter Davison’s Commedia dell’arte-inspired ballet, “Bella Luna,” and an excerpt from “OPEN/RELEASE,” a new work by dancer and choreographer Jim Lieberthal.  The artist-led company recently completed the most successful season in its history. Outdoors, but covered. 7 p.m. Free.

Tonight on the Mississippi River: River City Review: Monsters & Myth of the Mississippi. Spend the evening on the Jonathan Padelford with storytellers from WordSprout (of Story Slam MN!) and DJ Barb Abney from Go Radio. Hear stories about the legendary river’s myths and monsters, enjoy spooky tunes, learn about the real “monsters” of the Mississippi from National Park Service rangers, or just lean on a rail and take in the view. 7-9 p.m. FMI and tickets ($15/$10 member of Mississippi Park Connection). The Padelford launches from Harriet Island in downtown St. Paul.

Photo by Kah Poon
Steven Mackey

Thursday through Saturday at the Guthrie: Steven Mackey: “Orpheus Unsung.” The SPCO’s Liquid Music ends its 2015-16 season with a wordless opera based on the ancient, tragic tale of Orpheus and Eurydice. It’s the sort of thing Liquid Music curator Kate Nordstrum does so well: ask interesting artists what they would like to do, then help them do it. Copresented with the Guthrie, this world premiere was composed by Grammy-winning composer and guitarist Mackey and Jason Treuting of Sō Percussion, with director, filmmaker, designer and choreographer Mark DeChiazza creating the production, which includes sets, lighting, costumes and projections. Mackey and Treuting perform live with three dancers; Mackey’s electric guitar is the voice of Orpheus. The program also includes Mackey’s string quartet “Ars Moriendi,” featuring musicians of the SPCO. 7:30 p.m. all nights. Thursday is sold out. FMI and tickets ($25/$22).

Thursday at Mia: Third Thursday: Art + Lit. Check out the Jane Austen Reading Room (G326 and G327, a.k.a. the Queen Anne Room and the Georgian Drawing Room), if you can tear yourself away from the Milkweed Editions photo booth, the collaboration with comic artists Niky Motekallem and Alex Mitchell, the-make-a-book-cover, come-up-with-a-title contest with the Loft, the live music from Desdamona and the evening’s myriad other activities and attractions. 6-9 p.m. In Target Park (across the street) and in the galleries. Free.

Friday through Sunday at the Ted Mann: Twin Cities Gay Men’s Chorus: “Two Boys Kissing.” world premiere of a new TCGMC commission, based on the Lambda Literary Award-winning novel by David Levithan. As Harry and Craig, two gay teenagers, decide to break the world record for the longest kiss, other stories emerge and the boys are watched over by a chorus of men from generations before who died of AIDS. Composed by Joshua Shank with lyrics by Levithan. Ages 12 and up (mature situations and language). Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m., Sunday at 2 p.m. FMI and tickets ($25-$48).

Saturday at Du Nord Craft Spirits: All Fathers’ Eve: A Night of Poetry, Music and Film. Looking for something artsy and new to do with Dad? Coffee House Press has put together a night of poetry, music and film for the night before Father’s Day. As Wim Wenders’ “Paris, Texas” screens behind them in that ambient way, a stellar line-up of Twin Cities writers and musicians will perform, including National Book Award finalist poet Matt Rasmussen, musician Ben Weaver and American Book Award winning author Ed Bok Lee. There will be craft cocktails. 8 p.m. FMI. Free and open to the public.

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