Jungle’s next season to include ‘Ishmael’ and ‘The Wolves’

Courtesy of the Jungle Theater
Left to right: Isabella Star LaBlanc, Megan Burns and Rosey Lowe in the Jungle production of “The Wolves.”

Familiar faces, stars of the local music scene, a 2017 Pulitzer Prize finalist and a Broadway hit will appear in the Jungle’s 2018 season, which begins in January and ends in … August? No worries. In September, the Jungle will announce a new 2018-19 season, like most theaters, saying farewell to its calendar-year format.

Building on the success of last year’s “Fly by Night,” which featured Minnesota rocker Chris Koza and John Munson of the New Standards, members of the bluegrass band Pert Near Sandstone will be featured in Leo Geter’s play “Ishmael,” a 2015 Fringe favorite adapted from Herman Melville’s “Moby Dick.” Twin Cities-based actor-singer-songwriter Jack Weston will portray all 12 characters; Geter will direct. Jan. 13 to Feb. 4, 2018.

Singer-songwriter Jonatha Brooke moved to Minneapolis in late 2016 and has made herself at home, appearing often at the Dakota for her adoring fans. Her poignant solo play with music, “My Mother Has 4 Noses,” about her mother’s dementia, had earlier incarnations at the Playwrights’ Center and the Guthrie’s Dowling Studio. The Center’s Jeremy Cohen will direct the Midwest premiere of the final version, which earned raves in New York in 2014. Feb. 10 to March 4.

The Jungle’s artistic director, Sarah Rasmussen, will direct the Midwest premiere of Sarah DeLappe’s “The Wolves,” a play about a girls’ high school soccer team that became one of New York’s hottest shows and a finalist for the 2017 Pulitzer Prize. March 31 to April 29.

Three out of five of the Jungle’s new plays are powered by music. Lanie Robertson’s “Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill” tells Billie Holiday’s life story in song. Thomasina Petrus reprises a role she wore as easily as an orchid in her hair in 2008 at the Park Square, where she first channeled Holiday. We’ve been hoping “Lady Day” would cycle back, with Petrus as the star once again. Marion McClinton will direct. May 26 to June 24.

The 2018 season will close with the Twin Cities premiere of “Hand to God,” Robert Askins’ hilarious play about a young churchgoing man named Jason and his foul-mouthed sock puppet, Tyrone. The Broadway production earned five Tony nominations. Say “Huge #$%!! Hit,” Tyrone. July 21 to Aug. 19.

Rasmussen also announced the first commission in the Jungle’s long history. Kate Hamill, whose adaptation of Jane Austen’s “Sense and Sensibility” launched the Guthrie’s 2016-17 season (and was directed by Rasmussen), is adapting Louisa May Alcott’s “Little Women.” We’ll see that sometime in the near future – perhaps in 2018-19?

“Hand to God”
Courtesy of the Jungle Theater
The 2018 season will close with the Midwest premiere of “Hand to God.”

Rasmussen is committed to bringing great stories and roles for women to the stage. In that vein, she has created a new initiative, JungleWrites, a free playwriting program for female high school students in Minneapolis. Sixteen students will take part in the program, which will include 25 weeks of classes taught by current and former Playwrights’ Center fellows, female mentors, access to Jungle performances and rehearsals, and final showings of their work in May 2018. JungleWrites is supported by a $38,215 Arts Learning grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board.

Season subscriptions are on sale now. Single tickets will go on sale in early December.

The picks

Tonight (Tuesday, Oct. 3) at Uptown Church: Nicole Krauss. Named one of the New Yorker’s “20 under 40” writers to watch in 2010, Krauss has written four acclaimed novels so far: “Man Walks Into a Room,” “The History of Love,” “Great House” and “Forest Dark,” just out in September. She’ll read from and speak about her latest, then stay around for a signing. Doors at 6:30, event at 7. FMI and tickets ($5).

Thursday at the U’s Coffman Theater: Performing the Archive: “At Buffalo”: The Creation of a New Musical. Dr. Amma Y. Ghartey-Tagoe Kootin, a professor at the University of Georgia, is developing a new musical based on newspaper articles, photos and letters from and about the 1901 World’s Fair in Buffalo, New York. At the Fair were three visions of blackness: “Darkest Africa,” a re-created village where 98 Africans lived and performed war dances; “The Old Plantation,” where 150 Southern blacks acted out scenes from a happy slave life; and the museum-style “American Negro Exhibit,” co-designed by W.E.B. Du Bois, where books, charts and photographs showed black advancement since the end of slavery. Kootin will talk about how her team will perform this archive verbatim on the stage. If this sounds waaaaaay too academic, we’ve seen videos of her presenting, and this is truly fascinating. If you write books, plays, poems or musicals, consider it a look into how research can inspire and shape your work. 7 p.m. in Coffman Memorial Union. FMI and reservations. Free.

“These Shining Lives”
Photo by Hillary Olson
“These Shining Lives” opens Friday at the Phoenix Theater.

Opens Friday at the Phoenix Theater: “These Shining Lives.” In the early 1900s, if a watch dial glowed in the dark, it’s because it was painted with radium – by hand, most often by women. Melanie Marnich’s play follows four “Radium Girls” who work in a watch factory in the 1920s and ’30s, get sick, are fired by the company and fight back. It’s being staged here by Uprising Theatre, which has a commitment to social justice. When Uprising puts on a play, it partners with community organizations, and they in turn give audiences opportunities to act on the emotions and empathy generated by the experience. The partners this time are Neighborhoods Organizing for Change, Women’s Prison Book Project and Minnesota Freedom Fund. 7:30 p.m. Ends Oct. 14. FMI and tickets ($20 general admission; pay-what-you-can options).

Opens Saturday in the Ordway Music Theatre: “Don Pasquale.” The Minnesota Opera pulls Donizetti’s fizzy opera buffa forward to 1950s Hollywood, where the Don is a has-been silent movie star who wants to marry and produce an heir to keep his nephew from inheriting his money. When he asks the wrong man for advice, the chicanery begins. Director Chuck Hudson is a disciple of famed French mime and actor Marcel Marceau. The opera’s new assistant conductor, Jonathan Brandani, conducts, with bass-baritone Craig Colclough (“Diana’s Garden”) as the Don, soprano Susannah Biller (“Dinner at Eight”) as Norina and tenor David Walton as Ernesto. This is the first time Minnesota Opera will present “Pasquale” on its mainstage. 7:30 p.m. Ends Oct. 15. FMI and tickets ($25-200).

A scene from the Arizona Opera production of "Don Pasquale."
Courtesy of the Ordway
A scene from the Arizona Opera production of “Don Pasquale.”

Saturday and Sunday at Mia: 24th Annual Minneapolis Print and Drawing Fair. Hundreds of original works of art on paper, from artists all over the world, spanning hundreds of years, all for sale. You’ll see familiar names – Rembrandt, Cassatt and Picasso, for example – and new. Prices start at $200. It’s okay to window shop; admission is free, and the weekend also includes pop-up talks, curator-led tours, hands-on activities, a photo booth, and a place to curl up and read. On Saturday at noon, Tom Rassieur, Mia’s curator of prints and drawings, will give a tour and an introduction to art buying. 11 a.m. – 5 p.m. both days. If you want a more exclusive first look, there’s a preview party on Friday from 5:30-9 p.m. with music by the Zacc Harris Trio. Tickets to that are $100.

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