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Skylark to present transgender opera; Art is My Weapon: MN at Gamut Gallery

Photo illustration by Vera Mariner

“As One” will be staged at the newly renovated
North Garden Theatre in St. Paul.

Skylark Opera Theatre, whose most recent production was a site-specific “Don Giovanni” at the Woman’s Club of Minneapolis, has announced its next surprise: a staging of Laura Kaminsky’s chamber opera “As One,” whose sole character is a transgender person voiced by two singers. Bass-baritone Luke Williams will be “Hannah before,” and mezzo-soprano Bergen Baker will be “Hannah after.”

The libretto was written by Mark Campbell and filmmaker Kimberly Reed. Campbell’s name will be familiar to Minnesota opera fans; he wrote the libretti for Kevin Puts’ Pulitzer Prize-winning “Silent Night,” Paul Moravec’s “The Shining,” Puts’ “The Manchurian Candidate” and William Bolcom’s “Dinner at Eight,” all commissioned by the Minnesota Opera. Reed drew inspiration from her own transgender life.

The narrative unfolds in 15 songs that trace Hannah’s story from a small-town childhood to college on the West Coast and eventually to rural Norway, as she searches for and finds herself and her place in the world.  

Skylark’s artistic director, Bob Neu, said in a statement, “I’m thrilled to be able to produce and direct this new work that is not only a dramatic and musical masterpiece, but that also is about inclusion, acceptance and understanding.”

“As One” was commissioned by American Opera Projects and had its premiere in 2014 at the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM). It has since been performed all over – in Denver; Pittsburgh; San Francisco; Seattle; St. Louis; Washington, D.C.; Logan, Utah; and Berlin, among other cities. The Denver Post called it “the hottest title in opera right now, at least among the titles written in the last 100 years.”

Three reasons this is exciting news: 1) It’s from Skylark, which went through a rough spot not long ago. In 2016, financial problems forced the cancellation of its upcoming season. Neu was named artistic director later that year, and Skylark bounced back with two operas in 2017: a stripped-down, powerful version of Peter Brook’s “The Tragedy of Carmen” at the Midpointe Event Center in St. Paul in February, and that madly entertaining “Don Giovanni” in June. 2) It’s a new, contemporary opera. 3) It’s timely. The rights of transgender people are being debated and abridged.

“As One” will be staged at the newly renovated North Garden Theatre in St. Paul in March 2018. Tickets will go on sale in January.

The picks

Now at Gamut Gallery: Art is My Weapon: MN. In August 2016, Pillsbury United Communities, in collaboration with the City of Minneapolis and the Minneapolis Police Department, held a no-questions-asked gun buyback to get guns off the street. Some 250 guns were decommissioned and given to artists to use as raw materials. Curated by Nikki McComb of Pillsbury United Communities and John Schuerman of Instinct Gallery, this show features works of art in many media that address the issue of guns and gun violence in America. FMI including exhibit hours. Ends Friday, Oct. 27 with a Finale Night.

Courtesy of the Gamut Gallery
Sculpture by Margie Roton, part of “Art is My Weapon.”

Tonight (Friday, Oct. 20) at Crooners: Late Night Jazz: Phil Hey Quartet. The jazz club in Fridley has started a weekly late-night series in its Steinway-equipped Dunsmore listening room. (At Crooners, late-night means 9 p.m., and shows generally start on time.) This week, Phil Hey, one of the finest drummers around, will perform with his longtime, top-notch quartet: Phil Aaron on piano, Tom Lewis on bass, Dave Hagedorn on vibes. Since this is Thelonious Monk’s centennial, they’ll play Monk. 9 p.m. FMI and tickets ($15).

Opens Saturday at the Minnesota Jewish Theatre Company: “Church & State.” In Jason Odell Williams’ new play, a popular Republican senator impulsively tells a blogger how he really feels about the Second Amendment and the separation of church and state. He’s up for re-election, and the vote is three days away. MJTC veterans Matthew Rein is Sen. Charlie Whitmore, Miriam Schwartz his Bible-thumping wife, Sara. Michael Kissin directs. 8 p.m. FMI and tickets ($23-30); 651-647-4315. Ends Nov. 12.

Courtesy of The Singers
The Singers

Saturday and Sunday: The Singers: “Let Us Live, Let Us Love.” Composer Dominick Argento turns 90 on Oct. 27, and what better way to honor him than by performing and hearing his music? Led by Matthew Culloton, the Singers will open their 14th season with a performance of the rarely-heard “I Hate and I Love,” Argento’s setting of texts he translated from the Roman poet Catullus. Also on the program: works by Britten, Irving Fine and a world premiere by Benjamin Wegner. 7:30 p.m. Saturday at Nativity of Our Lord in St. Paul, 3 p.m. Sunday at First Lutheran in Columbia Heights. FMI and tickets ($22-36).

Sunday at the Bryant-Lake Bowl: Brian Jabas Smith: “A Night of Spent Saints.” A champion cyclist and successful songwriter who fronted two rock bands, Smith overcame addictions to crystal meth and alcohol and is now an award-winning journalist and fiction writer. His debut short story collection, “Spent Saints,” came out this spring and is already showing up in creative writing classes. Smith’s publisher, Ridgeway Press, hired hot young L.A. filmmakers to create 11 micro shorts to promote the book; the films caused such a buzz they’re being expanded into a full web series. Smith will appear with local author Sascha Matuszak; Ciaran Daley from the band The Stress of Her Regard will play music. Here’s an excerpt from Smith’s book. Here are the films. 7 p.m., doors at 6. FMI and tickets ($7/9).

Photo by by Moose Asim
Brian Jabas Smith

Starts Monday at the Playwrights’ Center: 34th Annual PlayLabs New Play Festival. Each year, the Playwrights’ Center invites us in to see new plays in development before anyone else does – for free. More than 65 percent of the plays presented over the past decade have gone on to production. These are staged readings, with full casts (including actors seen on many Twin Cities stages), directors, dramaturgs and designers. This year’s plays are Alice Tuan’s “A Humbling in St. Paul,” Jason Gray Platt’s “Take Care,” and Jen Silverman’s “In the Time of the Volcano.” Each will have two readings, with time in between for rewrites. FMI and schedule. Ends Oct. 29.

Monday at Magers & Quinn: Kate Harding presents “Nasty Women: Feminism, Resistance, and Revolution in Trump’s America.” Harding is co-editor of and contributor to this new collection of essays by 23 leading feminist writers, including Rebecca Solnit, Cheryl Strayed, Sarah Hepola, Nicole Chung and Sarah Jaffe. She’ll read with Minneapolis-based writers Paula Cisewski, Erin Sharkey and Mary Austin Speaker. 7 p.m. Free.

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