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Children's Theatre and Penumbra announce all-star cast for 'The Wiz'

Paris Bennett
Courtesy of Children’s Theatre Company and Penumbra Theatre
American Idol finalist Paris Bennett portrays Dorothy in the Children’s Theatre Company and Penumbra Theatre presentation of "The Wiz."
Jamecia Bennett
Courtesy of the artist
Jamecia Bennett

Children’s Theatre Company and Penumbra Theatre have joined forces to present “The Wiz,” which will open Jan. 23 at CTC. This already big news became even bigger on Friday, when the cast was announced.

American Idol finalist Paris Bennett is Dorothy, Ivey winner Dennis Spears is Tinman/Uncle Henry, Rudolph Searles III is Lion, CTC’s performing apprentice Dwight Leslie is Scarecrow, Greta Oglesby is Aunt Em/Evillene, Aimee Bryant is Addaperle, Jamecia Bennett  (Paris’s mom) is Glinda/Crow and T. Mychael Rambo is the Wiz.

Lou Bellamy will direct the musical, which was adapted from L. Frank Baum’s “The Wondeful Wizard of Oz.” Tickets are on sale now.

Minnesota author wins Kirkus Prize for Fiction

Add another star to Lesley Nneka Arimah’s crown. She just won the 2017 Kirkus Prize for Fiction for “What It Means When a Man Falls from the Sky,” her debut collection of short stories. The Kirkus is a prestigious and rich literary award, with a $50,000 prize. Earlier this year, Arimah was named one of “5 Under 35” by the National Book Foundation, and before then, she won an O. Henry prize for her short story “Glory,” which appears in “What It Means.”

Arimah was chosen for the Kirkus among a field of finalists that included Mohsin Hamid, Hari Kunzru, Alice McDermott, Carmen Maria Machado and Jesmyn Ward. Here’s the complete list of Kirkus winners in all categories.

Arimah will read this Friday, Nov. 10, at the Banfill-Locke Center for the Arts as part of its Reading Series. She’ll share the night with author Patricia Hampl. 7:30 p.m. free and open to the public. On Nov. 16, she’ll be at North Hennepin Community College in Brooklyn Park as part of its Meet the Authors series. 1-2:15 p.m. in the Fireside Lounge at the Campus Center. Free and open to the public.

Mia hires international architecture firm

With more visitors, expanding collections and pressing needs for improved parking, storage and public gathering spaces, the Minneapolis Institute of Art has hired David Chipperfield Architects, a firm with offices in London, Berlin, Milan and Shanghai, to create a master plan for the museum.

This is the first step in Mia’s long-term strategy to enhance the visitor experience and expand the community’s access to the museum as a community resource. Mia Director and President Kaywin Feldman said in a statement, “Mia has seen tremendous growth in recent years, with repeated record-setting visitor numbers. … We want to ensure we have the facilities needed to provide inspiring visitor experiences as we embrace an ever-broadening, diverse audience.

David Chipperfield Architects’ recent museum projects include the St. Louis Art Museum; the Menil Collection in Houston; the Neues Museum in Berlin; the Royal Academy of Arts in London; Museo Jumex in Mexico City and Anchorage Museum.

A Little Free Library goes to Egypt

We’re used to seeing Little Free Libraries all over the Twin Cities – sometimes in multiples, if you’ve walked down or driven past the Settergren’s on West 43rd St. in Minneapolis. And now there’s one in Alexandria, Egypt, in one of the world’s oldest libraries, the Bibliotecha Alexandrina. Handmade in the U.S., painted with a birch tree motif, it’s filled with award-winning books by Minnesota authors who were recognized at the Minnesota Book Awards in April.

The Little Free Library that was presented to the Alexandria library
Alexandria Library
The Little Free Library that was presented to the Alexandria library was handcrafted in the U.S. and painted with a birch tree motif that evokes the region’s woodlands.

How did it get there? Through a joint effort by Books for Africa, based in St. Paul; Little Free Library, based in Hudson, Wisconsin; Minnesota Friends of the Bibliotecha Alexandrina; and the Minnesota Book Awards.

The Alexandria library dates to the third century. Once the world’s foremost center for scholarship, it has been re-created in recent years; a new complex near where the ancient library once stood opened in 2002. The Little Free Library was presented to Bibliotecha Alexandrina officials in October by Patrick Plonski, executive director of Books for Africa.

The picks

Tonight (Tuesday, Nov. 7) at Wentworth Library: Club Book: Heather Ann Thompson. The Detroit native, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor professor and prison reform advocate won the 2017 Pulitzer Prize for “Blood on the Water: The Attica Prison Rebellion of 1971 and Its Legacy.” 7 p.m. Free.

Dar Williams
Dar Williams

Wednesday at Common Good Books: Dar Williams presents “What I Found in a Thousand Towns: A Traveling Musician’s Guide to Rebuilding America’s Communities – One Coffee Shop, Dog Run, and Open-Mike Night at a Time.” The book-length title and subtitle say it all. Williams, a renowned folk musician and composer, environmentalist and social justice advocate, has made her career touring small towns, and she has ideas – based on her travels and the work of urban theorists – on how to rebuild declining communities. 7 p.m. Free.

Wednesday at the Dakota: Ann Hampton Callaway: The Ella Century. In honor of Ella Fitzgerald’s 100th birthday (which would have been April 25th), one of the finest singers on the planet and an interpretive genius is out with a program of songs associated with the First Lady of Jazz. A reviewer for a show at Birdland in New York City wrote, “Few could ‘take on’ Fitzgerald with the haute control, vocal flexibility, scat prowess, and acute sensibilities of Callaway.” Amen. 7 p.m. FMI and tickets ($35-45); 612-332-5299.

Sunday at Our Lady of Grace: Minnesota Orchestra Syrian Benefit Concert. Powerfully moved by the images of drowned 3-year-old Syrian refugee Alan Kurdi, Minnesota Orchestra principal cellist Tony Ross organized a benefit concert in 2015. The Syrian refugee crisis has now lasted longer than World War II, with 5 million Syrians having left their country and millions more displaced internally. Ross and his friends are returning for a second round, this time with Osmo Vänskä on clarinet. FMI and tickets ($75); 612-343-3390. All proceeds go to Questscope.

Sunday at Crooners: Emmet Cohen. The exceptional young pianist (and B-3 organist, dedicated educator and composer) who made a splash at summer’s Twin Cities Jazz Fest, then turned on a dime and played a night at the Dakota with Lea Delaria, is returning to the Twin Cities as part of his Midwest trio tour. A prodigy whose respect for his elders has become a Masters Legacy Series of recordings (Vol. 1 was with Miles Davis drummer Jimmy Cobb, Vol. 2, due out in January, is with bassist Ron Carter), he’ll be here with bassist Russell Hall and drummer Evan Sherman. In the Dunsmore listening room. 7:30 p.m. FMI and tickets ($25); 763-760-0062. On Monday, Nov. 13, Cohen will be at Jazz Central in a B-3 organ duo with Sherman. 8:30 p.m. $20 at the door, $10 with student ID.

On the radar

Friday, Dec. 8 at the Weisman: “Prince from Minneapolis” Preview Party. A sneak peek at a show of rarely-seen images from Minneapolis photographers, plus small bites, Prince-themed props for selfies, a chance to meet muralist Rock Martinez (who’s creating a Prince mural in the galleries) and music by DJ Shannon Blowtorch. Cash bar. 7-10 p.m. FMI and tickets ($25/$10 U of M students with ID). Or wait until Saturday, Dec. 9, when the show officially opens and you can see it for free. Ends June 17, 2018.

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