Nonprofit, independent journalism. Supported by readers.


Marcela Lorca to lead Ten Thousand Things; SPCO celebrates Grammy

ALSO: Minnesota Book Award finalists are announced; ‘Testify’ at Minneapolis Central Library; 10th Annual Chili Cook-Off at Northern Clay Center; and more.

Marcela Lorca
Marcela Lorca

Marcela Lorca will be Ten Thousand Things’ next Artistic Director, TTT announced Monday afternoon. A director, choreographer and master teacher, Lorca will succeed TTT’s Founder and Artistic Director Michelle Hensley, who started the company 30 years ago.

Born and raised in Chile, Lorca has been on staff at the Guthrie for more than 20 years, most recently as director of company development and head of movement. She has directed more than 20 plays for the Guthrie, including “Disgraced,” “Crimes of the Heart” and “Caroline, or Change,” and has helmed and/or choreographed numerous plays at theaters across the country. She’s a founding member of the University of Minnesota/Guthrie Theater B.F.A. Actor Training Program.

“I’ve known and admired Ten Thousand Things’ work for many years,” Lorca said in a statement. “The company’s imaginative staging of epic stories, its respect for actors, and its commitment to women and artists of color have been a source of joy in our community.” TTT is nationally known for bringing real theater to people with little access to the arts. Working with minimal sets and costumes, performing in prisons, shelters, churches and community centers inches away from the audience, it tells big stories with diverse, gender-inclusive casts of fine actors.

Article continues after advertisement

Lorca will take over in June 2018, the end of the 2017-18 season. Between now and then, Hensley and Luverne Siefert will co-direct “Park and Lake” (Feb. 16-March 11), a new play devised by the cast and playwright Kira Obolensky. Hensley’s final play will be Bertold Brecht’s “The Good Person of Szechwan” (May 3-June 3), the first play TTT ever produced.

With TTT’s announcement, the seismic changeover in Twin Cities theater leadership continues. Joseph Haj became the Guthrie’s AD in 2015, succeeding Joe Dowling, who ran that ship for 20 years. Also in 2015, Sarah Rasmussen was named AD of the Jungle, following founder Bain Boehlke’s 23 years. In 2017, Sarah Bellamy took over Penumbra from her father, Lou Bellamy, its founder and leader for 40 years. Richard Cook last week announced his retirement from Park Square Theatre after 43 years, 38 as AD. And Red Eye Theater founders Steve Busa and Miriam Must have announced plans to turn over the reins in 2018, after 35 years.

The SPCO wins another Grammy

We knew we were seeing something special in March 2015, when Moldovan violinist Patricia Kopatchinskaja, then in her first season as an SPCO artistic partner, led the orchestra in a bold new arrangement of Schubert’s “Death and the Maiden,” interweaving its movements with a Byzantine chant, a Renaissance pavan, and 20th-century music by György Kurtág. “Just put your programs on the floor and enjoy,” Bruce Coppock, then SPCO’s President, advised the audience before the concert began. You needed both hands to hold onto your seat.

“Death and the Maiden”
“Death and the Maiden”

Recorded live over three performances, released in October 2016, “Death and the Maiden” was the SPCO’s 51st release and the first recorded in the new Ordway Concert Hall. On Sunday, it won the Grammy for Best Chamber Music/Small Ensemble Performance.

What the recording doesn’t include – and what people who were there will remember – is the vision of Kopatchinskaja in a skeleton costume, dancing around the stage in her bare feet to tambourines and drums. Her gestures and expressions inspired a bit more body language in the musicians. It was thrilling. So is the Grammy win – the SPCO’s second, or fifth, depending on how you count. The first was in 1980 for Copland’s “Appalachian Spring” and Ives’ “Three Places in New England,” led by Dennis Russell Davies. The second through fourth were in 2014 for Maria Schneider’s “Winter Morning Walks,” with soprano Dawn Upshaw, which won in three categories.

The Minnesota Orchestra was nominated for Best Orchestral Performance for its recording of Mahler’s Symphony No. 5. It didn’t win that one, but there are more Minnesota Orchestra recordings to come.

Minnesota Book Award finalists are announced

It’s possible that Bao Phi will take home two 2018 Minnesota Book Awards. That Louise Erdrich will win her sixth, or William Kent Krueger his. That Lesley Nneka Arimah will add yet another prize to her growing pile. We won’t know until the awards ceremony on April 21, a big night for Minnesota-based authors, publishers and book lovers. The 30th year of the Minnesota Book Awards could be full of surprises.

The 36 nominees in nine categories were announced Saturday by the Friends of the Saint Paul Public Library. Twelve of the titles were published by Minnesota-based presses.

Children’s Literature, sponsored by Books For Africa: “A Different Pond” by Bao Phi, illustrated by Thi Bui; “Mighty Moby” by Ed Young, text by Barbara DaCoast; “Round” by Joyce Sidman, illustrated by Taeeun Yoo; “The Shape of the World: A Portrait of Frank Lloyd Wright” by K.L. Going, illustrated by Lauren Stringer.

General Nonfiction, sponsored by College of Saint Benedict/Saint John’s University: “Alice in France: The World War I Letters of Alice M. O’Brien” by Nancy O’Brien Wagner; “The First and Only Book of Sack: 36 Years of Cartoons for the Star Tribune” by Steve Sack; “Fortress America: How We Embraced Fear and Abandoned Democracy” by Elaine Tyler May; “Mountain Ranch” by Michael Crouser.

Genre Fiction, sponsored by Macalester College: “The Dark Net” by Benjamin Percy; “The End of Temperance Dare” by Wendy Webb; “Nothing Stays Buried” by P.J. Tracy; “Sulfur Springs” by William Kent Krueger.

Memoir and Creative Nonfiction, sponsored by Faegre Baker Daniels: “Give a Girl a Knife” by Amy Thielen; “It Won’t Be Easy: An Exceedingly Honest (and Slightly Unprofessional) Love Letter to Teaching” by Tom Rademacher; “Marcel’s Letters: A Font and the Search for One Man’s Fate” by Carolyn Porter; “Onigamiising: Seasons of an Ojibwe Year” by Linda LeGarde Grover.

Middle Grade Literature, sponsored by Education Minnesota: “A Crack in the Sea” by H.M. Bouwman; “The End of the Wild” by Nicole Helget; “Isaac the Alchemist: Secrets of Isaac Newton, Reveal’d” by Mary Losure; “Rooting for Rafael Rosales” by Kurtis Scaletta.

Minnesota Nonfiction, sponsored by Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota: “A Bag Worth a Pony: The Art of the Ojibwe Bandolier Bag” by Marcia G. Anderson; “Got to Be Something Here: The Rise of the Minneapolis Sound” by Andrea Swensson; “Miles Lord: The Maverick Judge Who Brought Corporate America to Justice” by Roberta Walburn; “Sights, Sounds, Soul: The Twin Cities Through the Lens of Charles Chamblis” by Davu Seru, photography by Charles Chamblis.

Novel and Short Story, sponsored by Fitzgerald in Saint Paul: “Future Home of the Living God” by Louise Erdrich; “Stories for a Lost Child” by Carter Meland; “The Through” by A. Rafael Johnson; “What It Means When a Man Falls from the Sky” by Lesley Nneka Arimah.

Poetry, sponsored by Wellington Management, Inc.: “Autopsy” by Donte Collins; “Curator of Ephemera at the New Museum for Archaic Media” by Heid E. Erdrich; “Solve for Desire” by Caitlin Bailey; “Thousand Star Hotel” by Bao Phi.

Young Adult Literature, sponsored by Brainfuse: “The Exo Project” by Andrew DeYoung; “The Last Thing You Said” by Sara Biren; “Thief’s Cunning” by Sarah Ahiers; “Things I’m Seeing Without You” by Peter Bognanni.

The awards ceremony will take place at the InterContinental Hotel in St. Paul. Tickets ($40-60) go on sale Tuesday, Feb. 6; 651-222-3242.

The picks

Now at the Minneapolis Central Library: “Testify: Americana from Slavery to Today: The Diane & Alan Page Collection.” Amid the flash, bling and megabuck parties of the Super Bowl, this: an exhibit drawn from the private collection of NFL Hall of Famer and former Minnesota Supreme Court Justice Alan Page and his wife, Diane, executive director of the Page Education Foundation. Art and artifacts from pivotal eras in American history include a slave collar used in Virginia in the 1820s, an Abraham Lincoln funeral banner, a print showing nine African American babies titled “Alligator Bait” and a branding iron. And uplifting works, too, that reclaim the African American narrative. Free and open to the public during library hours through Tuesday, Feb. 6. Tomorrow (Wednesday, Jan. 31) from 2-4 p.m., Page will give a talk called “TESTIFY: it’s Not About the Flag or the Anthem, It’s About Justice.” Thursday-Saturday (Feb. 1-3) from 3-5 p.m., two films will tell Page’s life story. Also free.

“Testify: Americana from Slavery to Today: The Diane & Alan Page Collection.”
Photo by Bianca Wilcos
Artifacts from “Testify: Americana from Slavery to Today: The Diane & Alan Page Collection.”

Wednesday at Hamline Midway Library: Fireside Reading Series: Bao Phi. The program director of the Loft, a two-time Minnesota Grand Slam poetry champion and (as of Saturday) a finalist for two Minnesota Book Awards, Phi will read from his second collection from Coffee House Press, which confronts the silence around racism, police brutality and the invisibility of the Asian American urban poor. With cookies, coffee and a crackling fire. 7 p.m. Free.

Wednesday at Common Good Books: Gordon Whitman presents “Stand Up! How to Get Involved, Speak Out, and Win in a World on Fire.” Frustrated by what’s happening in the world, not sure what (if anything) you can do about it? Whitman – deputy director of Faith in Action, community organizer, legal services lawyer and strategist – spells out how to find your voice, make it heard and create lasting change. 7 p.m. Free.

Starts Thursday at the Heights: “Into the Shadows: RKO Noir.” Seven weekly screenings of great films noir from Hollywood’s golden age, deliciously dark in B&W. All but one are 35mm presentations. First up: “Murder, My Sweet” (1944), the most faithful adaptation of Raymond Chandler’s novel, starring Dick Powell and Claire Trevor. Presented by the Trylon. 7:30 p.m. FMI including complete lineup and tickets ($10).

Saturday at Northern Clay Center: 10th Annual Chili Cook-Off. Stop by for chili, cornbread and brownies – and a whiskey tasting. Play with clay in a free Chili Bowl Workshop. The competition (a real thing) will be judged by Netti Colon of Red Hen Gastrolab and James Norton of Heavy Table. And because it’s Super Bowl weekend, artist and former NFL star Chris Cooley will be hanging out in the sales gallery. 1-5 p.m. $5 to eat. FMI. (Sorry, registration to compete closed on Jan. 25.)