A perfect storm of puppetry; ‘Swede Hollow’ reading at ASI

Photo by Michal Daniel
Michael Sommers’ storied puppet epic “A Prelude to Faust” will return to Open Eye Figure Theatre for a three-week run starting Friday, Oct. 19, with Julian McFaul, above.

The puppets are coming. A lot of puppets. Should we be scared? No, because puppets in the right hands are magical. Bunches of them, large and small, are heading our way. It’s a perfect storm of puppetry.

Starting Friday (Oct. 5) at the O’Shaughnessy with Manual Cinema’s “The End of TV.” Manual Cinema is a performance collective based in Chicago. Their specialty: live cinematic shadow puppet shows. Set in a post-industrial Rust Belt city in the 1990s, told through images, lo-fi video feeds and R&B-inspired art pop songs performed live by a five-piece band, “The End of TV” explores two sides of the American dream: the technicolor promise of television and the reality of industrial decline. Here’s the trailer. It looks amazing. 7:30 pm. FMI and tickets ($28). Scroll down to learn about the free Manual Cinema workshop on Thursday at Heart of the Beast (aka Puppet Central).

Saturday will be puppet pandemonium at Heart of the Beast (HOBT). The 20th season of “TA-DA!,” HOBT’s Saturday puppet shows for kids, will begin with matinees at 10 a.m. and 12 p.m. FMI ($7-2 suggested donation). At 7 p.m. the internationally celebrated, overtly political Vermont-based Bread & Puppet Theater will present “The Grasshopper Rebellion Circus.” Huge puppets (including dancing bears and grasshoppers) will reprise 6,000 years of unhuman history and the uprisings against it. FMI and tickets ($30-sliding scale). A Puppet Cabaret at 9 p.m. will feature new, short, experimental, weird and borderline “artistic” puppet acts by HOBT, Barebones Theater, Bread & Puppet and more. FMI and RSVP. $12. Whew! Bread & Puppet will also perform on Sunday.

Michael Sommers’ storied puppet epic “A Prelude to Faust” will return to Open Eye Figure Theatre for a three-week run starting Friday, Oct. 19. Commissioned by the Walker in 1998, based on Goethe’s poem about a man who sells his soul to the devil, researched by Sommers in Germany and the Czech Republic, it’s “a miniature surreal world of tormented souls, flying spirits and disembodied hands.” Now we’re talking. Sommers will direct this new 20th-anniversary production, which will include “more ecstatic violence and a more intensely heartbreaking love story.” Michael Koerner’s original score will be performed by a live orchestra. FMI and tickets ($24 to pay-as-able). Ends Nov. 11.

“The Great Duel Between Orlando and Rinaldo for the Beautiful Angelica’s Sake”
Courtesy of Opera dei Pupi/Sicilian Puppet Theater
“The Great Duel Between Orlando and Rinaldo for the Beautiful Angelica’s Sake” is an action-packed story inspired by medieval tales and Renaissance poems.
On Saturday, Oct. 27, the world-renowned Sicilian puppet theater company Associazione Figli d’Arte Cuticchio will come to Minneapolis for the first time ever, for one performance only at the Illusion Theater. Led by master puppeteer Mimmo Cuticchio, featuring kid-sized puppets and live music, “The Great Duel Between Orlando and Rinaldo for the Beautiful Angelica’s Sake” is an action-packed story inspired by medieval tales and Renaissance poems. Cuticchio has revived the century-old Sicilian Opera dei Pupi tradition (pupi is Italian for puppets) and infused it with contemporary ideas. It took a lot of people and organizations to bring the company here, so if puppets are your thing, don’t miss this. The performance is surrounded by a constellation of related events. 7:30 p.m. FMI and reservations. Incredibly, it’s free. Donations are welcome.

And for puppet aficionados who like to plan ahead, the National Puppetry Festival will return to the University of Minnesota in July 2019. More about that then.

The picks

Today’s picks are kind of wonky. Blame the puppets.

Thursday at the U’s Coffman Union Theater: Frank Bidart and Maggie Nelson. The Fall 2018 Esther Freier Lecture is a conversation with Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Bidart (“Half-light: Collected Poems,” which also won the 2017 National Book Award for Poetry) and MacArthur fellow Nelson (“The Argonauts,” winner of the 2015 National Book Critics Circle Award for Criticism). 7:30 p.m. Free and open to the public.

Thursday at Mia: Panel Discussion on “Horse Nation.” Among the Dakota, Nakota and Lakota people, horses are relatives and community members. “Horse Nation of the Očhéthi Šakówiŋ (Seven Council Fires),” an exhibition running concurrently at Mia, Two Rivers Gallery and All My Relations Arts, explores how horses shape history, spirituality and culture. On Thursday, artists Arthur Amiotte (Oglala Lakota), Keith BraveHeart (Titonwan Lakota) and Gwen Nell Westerman (Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate) will talk about the art and the importance of horses. 7-8 p.m. Register here ($10/$5, free for members of the Native American Art Affinity Group).

Saturday at the American Swedish Institute: “Swede Hollow – Reading of the Stage Play.” Ola Larsmo’s “Swede Hollow” is making its way to the States. One of the most important novels published in Sweden in 2016, it tells of a Swedish family who left everything behind in 1897 and settled in Swede Hollow, St. Paul, home to many immigrants. The English rights have been acquired by the University of Minnesota Press, and the novel has been adapted into a play in Sweden. Now the Swedish stage text has been translated into English. On Saturday, a group of local actors led by Theater Mu’s Randy Reyes will read a selection at ASI. Doors at 9:30, event at 10 a.m., with opening remarks by Erik Anderson of the press. Free and open to the public.

Saturday at the Walker: Kids’ Book Fair. October’s Free First Saturday is also the Walker’s first-ever book fair for kids. Authors and illustrators will be reading and signing all day. Special guest Daniel Salmieri (“Dragons Love Tacos”) will read from his new book, “Bear and Wolf.” The Walker Shop will feature a big display of children’s picture books, board books and story books. Featured authors and illustrators will include Eliza Wheeler (10:30 a.m.), Phyllis Root (11:30 a.m.), Mélina Mangel (12:30 p.m.) and Salmieri (1:30 p.m.) 10 a.m.-3 p.m. FMI. Free.

Monday at the Bryant-Lake Bowl: The Theater of Public Policy: “The Pioneer Press Presses On.” What’s the future of St. Paul’s daily newspaper? Controlling owner Alden Global Capital, aka Digital First Media, the hedge fund that owns nearly 100 newspapers across the nation, has not been kind to them. As the Star Tribune’s Lee Schafer has written, “Alden is treating one of the biggest media companies in the country like a big ATM.” Bloomberg has called Alden “a destroyer of newspapers.” The Nation published a juicy piece in September 2017 about Alden founder Randall D. Smith titled “How Many Palm Beach Mansions Does a Wall Street Tycoon Need?” But this is our rant. Surely the skilled improvisers of T2P2 and their guest, Pi Press journalist and union leader Dave Orrick, will be more moderate and circumspect when they talk on Monday. Doors at 6 p.m., show at 7. FMI and link to tickets ($12/15). MinnPost is a media sponsor.

Hot tickets: Magnus Nilsson at ASI

And speaking of the American Swedish Institute (see above), superstar Swedish chef Magnus Nilsson, a huge hit when he visited ASI in 2015, will return on Sunday, Nov. 4, with another brick of a book. His new “Nordic Baking Book” is 600 pages of breads, pastries, cakes and cookies. Its lavishly praised predecessor, “The Nordic Cook Book,” was even longer. (Oh and meanwhile Nilsson’s tiny restaurant Fäviken won its second Michelin star.) The VIP experience is already sold out. An “All Over Fika: Baked Goods and Books” is still available ($75/185); register here or here. Or come to the “Nordic Table Chef Talk – An Afternoon and Book Signing with Magnus Nilsson” at 3:30 p.m. for $15. Multiple Magnus titles will be available for purchase and signing. Register here.

Magnus Nilsson
Magnus Nilsson will be featured at a number of events, Sunday, Nov. 4, at the American Swedish Institute.

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