Playwright Harrison David Rivers wins national award; MN Orchestra and Dessa to do live recording

Glad tidings from the arts front.

Harrison David Rivers
Playwright Harrison David Rivers has won the 2018 Relentless Award for “The Bandaged Place,” a play he developed at the Playwrights Center in Minneapolis, where Rivers is a core member. It was first presented there in April in two staged readings as part of the Ruth Easton New Play Series. Rivers has described it as “the play I said I would never write.” It’s a disturbing and powerful work about an abusive relationship between two gay men, drawn from Rivers’ own life.

Given by the American Playwriting Foundation, the Relentless Award was established “in honor of Philip Seymour Hoffman and his pursuit of truth in the theater.” The $45,000 award is the largest annual cash prize in American theater given to a playwright in recognition of a new play. The prize also includes a weeklong residency at an artists’ colony in New York, the option to have the play published by the Dramatists Play Service, and a national roll-out through a series of staged readings at top theaters across the United States.

Dessa and the Minnesota Orchestra will make a live recording together in March, the orchestra announced Monday. Released later in 2019, it will be Dessa’s fourth collaboration with the orchestra (following sold-out concerts in 2017 and 2018 and the 2017 Symphony Ball) and the orchestra’s first appearance on the Doomtree label. In two concerts at Orchestra Hall on March 26 and 28, the rapper/singer/essayist/author will be joined by vocal arranger/singer Aby Wolf, vocalists Ashley DuBose, Cameron Kinghorn and Matthew Santos, percussionist Joey Van Phillips and arranger Andy Thompson. Thompson and Doomtree’s Lazerbeak will produce the album. Sarah Hicks will conduct the orchestra. The music will include fan favorites and new material. Tickets went on sale Monday at noon ($31-125); 612-371-5600.

Dessa and the Minnesota Orchestra will make a live recording together in March.
Photo by Tony Nelson
Dessa and the Minnesota Orchestra will make a live recording together in March.
In other the-Minnesota-Orchestra-is-a-recording-fiend news, the third album of the orchestra’s Mahler series led by Osmo Vänskä for the Swedish label BIS has an official release date of Feb. 1, 2019. But you don’t have to wait for your copy of the “Resurrection” symphony. You can get it now at Orchestra Hall and through the orchestra’s website. It’s the season’s most Minnesota-specific symphonic stocking stuffer.

Four of the 10 books on the New York Times’ Best Poetry of 2018 list are from Minneapolis-based independent literary publishers. Michael Bazzett’s translation in verse of “The Popul Vuh,” an ancient Mayan creation epic, was published by Milkweed. Catherine Barnett’s “Human Hours,” Tracy K. Smith’s “Wade in the Water” and Jeffrey Yang’s “Hey, Marfa” all came out on Graywolf. Smith is the current United States Poet Laureate.

After selling out his May 4 concert at U.S. Bank Stadium in, like, .025 seconds, leaving 50,000 more fans waiting in line, Garth Brooks has added a second show on May 3. This was after Gov. Mark Dayton asked him to in a statement that said, in part, “… there is great demand for another concert. … We would love for Garth to spend the weekend in Minneapolis.” Brooks said yes and was supposed to give a press conference with Dayton announcing the show at 9 a.m. Monday at the State Capitol. When airplane problems kept Brooks in Nashville, the two teleconferenced instead. The Pi Press reported that Brooks said it was “very flattering and humbling” that Dayton reached out to him about a second show. Any chance of a third? A fourth? In 2014, Brooks played 11 shows at the Target Center.

If you’re driving along 26th Avenue North and see something out of the ordinary, you’re not imagining things. Two new public artworks have been installed, thanks to the City of Minneapolis’ Art in Public Places program. Christopher Harrison’s “Aqurbane,” a 15-foot-high Corten archway with 65+ patinated bronze and steel attachments, is a northern gateway to Theodore Wirth Regional Park. Harrison was inspired by natural and urban forms he observed on trips along 26th Avenue to the Mississippi River. Esther Osayande’s “Purple Raindrop,” a metal sculpture and seating area also 15 feet high, is in Farview Park. It honors Prince, his signature song and his contributions to the music industry. The all-over purpleness and inviting shape – you’ll want to sit inside, look out and look up – may make it Farview’s “Cherry and Spoon.”

The picks

Now at the Film Society’s St. Anthony Main Theatre: Alfonso Cuarón’s “Roma.” Cuarón’s previous films include “Gravity” (two Oscar wins) and the Oscar-nominated “Children of Men” and “Y Tu Mamá También.” This is his most personal story, set in the early 1970s, based on his own life growing up in Mexico City and being raised by the family’s young indigenous maid. Every rave, award and star it has won is well deserved. There’s no narrative arc, just lives being lived in all their glory, chaos, mediocrity, crushing news and heroism. “Roma” is filmed in black-and-white, which you quickly forget as you’re watching, except you’re seeing differently, which pulls you in even closer. The film is available for streaming on Netflix at the same time it’s being shown in a limited number of theaters. If that’s the only way you can see it, then go for it. But if you can get to the St. Anthony Main Theatre or Edina Cinema, do that instead. Cuarón – who serves as screenwriter, director and cinematographer – captures an infinite number of grays, using an ultra-HD camera that polishes the details yet makes the film feel sensuous and velvety. The only problem with the big-screen version is you can’t pause to examine every bit of a scene, or rewind to catch something you missed. So maybe see it both ways. Just don’t miss it. FMI including times, tickets and trailer.

The opening night film on November 8 is “Roma,” from Oscar-winning Mexican director Alfonso Cuarón.
Film Society
“Roma” is filmed in black-and-white, which you quickly forget as you’re watching, except you’re seeing differently, which pulls you in even closer.

Opens tonight (Tuesday, Dec. 18) at the Orpheum: “Les Miserábles.” The last time a touring company of “Les Miz” came to Minneapolis was July 2013. This is the new production of the Tony-winning musical that’s been on Broadway for the past two and a half years, with new staging and reimagined scenery inspired by the paintings of Victor Hugo. 7:30 p.m. FMI including times and tickets ($39–199). Ends Dec. 30.

Wednesday at Crooners: Laura Caviani Trio: “Winter Solstice.” A sensitive, swinging pianist and composer with mad skills and a special affinity for Thelonious Monk, Caviani will be joined by bassist Chris Bates and drummer Dave Schmalenberger for an evening of originals, wintery fare and jazzy arrangements of holiday classics. An excellent way to spend solstice evening. 7:30 p.m. in the intimate Dunsmore Room. FMI and tickets ($15).

Thursday through Saturday at the Cowles: “Nutcracker (not so) Suite.” This is the fourth year James Sewell Ballet is performing the legendary “Nutcracker” originally created by Myron Johnson in 1993 for Ballet of the Dolls. It moves the story to 1960s New York City, sets it in a holiday party hosted by a socialite and her daughter, and introduces Barbie and Ken dolls, brides, beatniks, and a Rat Queen. Bradley Greenwald reprises his role as Mama Flo, with Steven Epp as Uncle/Drosselmeyer. It’s the first time the two have appeared on stage together since the Jungle’s “The Mystery of Irma Vep” in 2014. For ages 14+. 7:30 p.m. FMI and tickets ($36-41).

Plan ahead

Dave Eggers fans, he’s coming to the Parkway Theater on Wednesday, Jan. 30. Eggers will be in conversation with Mokhtar Alkhanshall, the subject of his latest New York Times best-seller, “The Monk of Mokha,” about coffee, civil war and a young Yemeni American man (Alkhanshall). We haven’t yet read the book, which is being described as a heart-pounding page-turner. But we have been to the tastefully renovated Parkway a few times now and welcome an excuse to return. Presented by Magers & Quinn. 7 p.m. FMI and tickets ($26).

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