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Guthrie and Ten Thousand Things win diversity award

Guthrie Artistic Director Joseph Haj
Photo by Andrea Akin
Guthrie Artistic Director Joseph Haj

Artistic Director Joseph Haj and the Guthrie Theater and Ten Thousand Things Theater, whose founder and artistic director is Michelle Hensley, are the co-recipients of a prestigious award from the Actors’ Equity Association.

The Rosetta LeNoire Award – established in 1988, named for an actress and Broadway producer who championed racial equity – is given annually for “outstanding artistic contributions to the universality of the human experience in American theatre.” It goes to individuals, theaters or producing organizations with an exemplary record of diverse and inclusive casting.

TTT Artistic Director Michelle Hensley

Although the Guthrie and TTT are very different theaters – the Guthrie has a building, three stages, a big staff and an annual budget of $28 million; the itinerant TTT takes theater to the people, including people in prisons, on a budget of $750,000 – the award recognizes what they have in common: in the words of Equity’s National EEO chair Christine Toy Johnson, a “shared profound commitment to creating extraordinary, diverse and inclusive theatre that expands the American landscape of storytelling and the ways in which they reach their communities.” Johnson, who nominated Haj and the Guthrie for the award, has worked at the Guthrie several times and is currently appearing in “Sunday in the Park With George.”

The award acknowledges the work TTT has been doing for more than 20 years. And it shines a light on Haj, who has been at the Guthrie just two years but is already widely perceived as making major changes.

In a statement, Haj noted his own 30-year membership in Actors' Equity, adding, “I have personal experience with the challenges that professional actors of color face. For the last dozen years, I have been in the position of leading organizations where we have developed expressed goals of being maximally inclusive.”

Hensley said in a statement, “It is an honor to be recognized for one of the most important things we do at Ten Thousand Things: opening up possibilities for women and people of color through casting, both for our actors, who get the joy of playing unconventional roles, and for our audiences, who can see themselves and others portrayed in new ways.”

Haj and the Guthrie and TTT join a distinguished group of past Rosetta LeNoire Award recipients that includes Mixed Blood Theatre (the 1990 winner and, until now, the sole Twin Cities winner), Joseph Papp and the New York Shakespeare Company, Philadelphia’s InterAct Theater Company, Detroit Repertory Theatre and Walter Turnbull of the Boys Club of Harlem.

MRAC announces 2017 Arts Achievement Awards

The East Side Freedom Library and Minhua Chorus have each won the 2017 Arts Achievement Award, the Metropolitan Regional Arts Council (MRAC) announced Wednesday. The $5,000 cash award recognizes the contributions of small arts organizations in MRAC’s seven-county region.

Located in St. Paul’s Payne-Phalen neighborhood in a former Carnegie Library, the East Side Freedom Library opened in 2014 and has been engaging the community ever since with theater performances, readings, events, lectures, and arts activities. Their non-circulating research collections cover the history of labor, immigration, and diverse Americans. East Side is also the new permanent home for the Hmong Archives.

Tonight (Thursday, July 27) at 7 p.m., East Side will host a free reading and discussion with author Marcie R. Rendon, a former recipient of the Loft’s Inroads Writers of Color Award for Native Americans She’ll present her debut mystery novel, “Murder on the Red River.”

Based in Roseville, the Minhua Chorus is the largest, longest-running Chinese-American choir in Minnesota. Founded in 1991, the 75-member choir performs across the metro area each year, including a large annual production and smaller concerts, often with guest artists from China. 

Franconia Sculpture Park, composers win Jeromes

The Jerome Foundation has chosen its latest General Program Grantees and Composer/Sound Artist Fellows. One of the five grantees and two of the five fellows are in Minnesota.

Franconia Sculpture Park in Shafer received $39,000 in support of its 2018 Emerging Artist Fellowship Program. Six emerging artists from Minnesota and New York will be given residencies and opportunities to create and install large-scale sculptures in the 43-acre park.

Sound artist William Johnson received $20,000 to support two new works, “W/LLS” and “Dancing Plague,” both focusing on how sound and composition reflect ideas of “spirit” and “spirituality.” Composer and drummer Davu Seru received $20,000 for the debut recording of his sextet, No Territory Band, and his work-in-progress, “Dead King Mother.”

The picks

Tonight (Thursday, July 27) through Saturday in North Minneapolis: 12th Annual FLOW Northside Arts Crawl. A northside tradition since 2006, when it was a small, one-day studio crawl, this three-day celebration of the arts starts Thursday (6-10 p.m.) with a Plymouth Ave. Block Party. Friday (3-10 p.m.) includes ticketed events, preview parties, opening receptions, a West Broadway Farmers Market, and the unveiling of the Eastern Gateway Public Art Installation, part of a $250,000 investment in artist-designed projects along the West Broadway corridor. Saturday (11 a.m.-9 p.m.) is an all-day self-guided tour of artists’ studios, galleries, theaters and other spaces from the Mississippi River to Penn Ave. N. Here’s a map of FLOW sites, with each day’s highlights and a list of featured artists. FMI.

12th Annual FLOW Northside Arts Crawl
Courtesy of FLOW Northside Arts Crawl
Thursday through Saturday in North Minneapolis: 12th Annual FLOW Northside Arts Crawl.

Opens Friday at the Film Society’s St. Anthony Main Theatre: “Marie Curie: The Courage of Knowledge.” The title is pedestrian, but director Marie Noelle’s biopic about the first woman to win the Nobel Prize is passionately made and lovely to look at. Plus, since all most of us know about Curie is that she won a Nobel (actually she won two, in two different fields), it’s good to learn something about how she got there and what she endured. Women weren’t scientists in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Nevertheless, she persisted. FMI including trailer, times and tickets.

Opens Saturday at Artistry: Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. Based on the biblical story of Joseph, his jealous brothers and his coat of many colors, Andrew Lloyd Webber’s early collaboration with Tim Rice is family-friendly, with catchy songs (“Any Dream Will Do,” “Go, Go, Go Joseph”) and a positive message. Ivey winner Michael Matthew Ferrell directs for contemporary audiences, with music direction by Denise Prosek of Theater Latté Da in her Artistry debut. FMI and tickets ($41 adults, $36 seniors, $12 ages 30 and under). Closes Aug. 27.

Friday through Sunday at the Red Eye: LALA Festival. There’s a new performing arts festival in town, one that presents challenging work, includes public discussions and invites critical conversations. The first LALA (for “Live Art/Live Artfully”) features 20 local and national award-winning artists who identify as women, people of color or LGBTQ. Over the weekend, Adrienne Trucott will present “THIS,” a one-woman comedy about the female body; Mtume Gant will show his satirical short film “White Face”; and Minneapolis dance trio (and newly minted McKnight Choreography fellows) SuperGroup will perform their new work, “The Painted Factory,” which explores current events and canonical movements. FMI including artists, detailed schedule and tickets ($60 weekend pass; $15 Friday night, $25 Saturday night, $25 Sunday matinee).

Kendra Shank
Photo by John Abbott
Kendra Shank

Wednesday at Crooners: Kendra Shank. We first heard New York-based vocalist Kendra Shank live in 2010, when she sang at the Artists’ Quarter, the St. Paul basement jazz club that closed in 2013. Performing with three area musicians she barely knew, she was quick and smart and daring, improvising over standards, trusting it would all work out. The more obvious it became that she and the musicians were a good fit, the freer she was, and the more joyful. Shank recorded her seventh album, “Half Moon,” with the exceptional pianist Geoffrey Keezer and will draw from that for her Crooners debut in the Dunsmore listening room. When Shank performs, it’s not just about delivering a song; it’s about creating something new and original in the moment. With Phil Aaron on piano, Gordon Johnson on bass. 7 p.m. FMI and tickets ($20 show only, $45 dinner show). 

Closing soon

Merce Cunningham: Common Time,” which opened at the Walker in forever-ago February, will close on Sunday, July 30. Filling seven galleries, this is probably the biggest Cunningham exhibition we’ll ever see … until the next one, because the Walker owns the complete Merce Cunningham Dance Company scenic and costume archive. Even if you don’t know a thing about Cunningham, you’ll get a sense of why he was such a big deal. It’s worth going to see Robert Rauschenberg’s “Combines,” the collage-like, mixed-media stage decorations for Cunningham dances that were originally treated like junk and carted around in John Cage’s Volkswagen bus, and the costumes, and the moving images, and Andy Warhol’s big silver mylar pillows.

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