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Pillsbury House’s 2019 season to include 5 commissioned short plays

ALSO: JazzMN’s founding artistic director to step down after 20 years; ‘Hope & Fury’ to screen at the Minnesota History Center; and more.

Talvin Wilks
September will bring a recent play, “Jimmy & Loraine: A Musing,” by Talvin Wilks.
Courtesy of the artist

Pillsbury House + Theatre has announced its 2019 mainstage season: three plays (actually eight) that will look closely and creatively at the state of women in the current political climate; revisit a masterpiece from 1961 about race, apartheid and family; and illuminate the friendship between James Baldwin and Lorraine Hansberry.

In March, following last season’s “The Great Divide II: Plays on the Politics of Truth” and 2017’s “Great Divide: Plays for a Broken Nation,” “She Persists: The Great Divide III” will include five newly commissioned short plays around the theme of women today. With Roe v. Wade in constitutional danger, the prominence of #MeToo and record numbers of women running for (and winning) public office, where do women stand today? Cristina Florencia Castro, Casey Llewellyn, Oya Mae Duchess-Davis, Philana Omorotionmwan and Aamera Siddiqui are the playwrights; the casts and production staff are all women. Noël Raymond will direct. March 13-24.

In May, Marion McClinton will direct Athol Fugard’s “Blood Knot,” the first South African play to be produced with an interracial cast. Brothers Morris (Stephen Yoakam) and Zachariah (James A. Williams) are divided by skin color but bound by blood as they navigate poverty, love and their complicated relationship. May 17-June 16.

September will bring a recent play by Talvin Wilks. “Jimmy & Loraine: A Musing” is a meditation on the American political climate of the late 1950s and early 1960s through the eyes of James Baldwin and Lorraine Hansberry, two radical artists, friends and revolutionaries. Using text from journals, letters, interviews and other sources, Wilks brings them to life in their own words. Brian Jennings will direct. Sept. 18-Oct. 14.

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Season passes and pick-your-price tickets are available now; 612-825-0459.

Naked Stages, Pillsbury House’s annual festival of new performance art, starts next week with premieres of original work by A.P. Looze and Anat Shinar (Jan. 17-25) and Chitra Vairavan (Jan. 26). All three emerging artists have had seven months of mentoring, workshops and financial support to develop their unique voices as performance artists and creators. FMI and pick-your-price tickets.

JazzMN’s founding artistic director to step down

A jazz orchestra is serious business. Getting 17 busy and independent-minded musicians on the same page and the same stage (one big enough to fit them) at the same time is no small thing. Yet that’s what Doug Snapp has done since founding the JazzMN Orchestra, formerly the JazzMN Big Band, in 1998. And it’s not even his full-time job. Snapp is the director of jazz studies at Minnesota State University in Mankato. From 1992–2012, he played principal trumpet in the Mankato Symphony.

JazzMN will celebrate its 20th anniversary on Monday, April 8, at the Chanhassen Dinner Theater, where it has been playing its 2018-19 season. (Its former longtime home was at the Hopkins High auditorium.) Meanwhile, Snapp has announced that this will be his final year as JazzMN’s artistic director. So April’s concert with guest saxophonist Bob Sheppard will also be a farewell.

Doug Snapp has announced that this will be his final year as JazzMN’s artistic director.
Photo by Andrea Canter
Doug Snapp has announced that this will be his final year as JazzMN’s artistic director.
While Snapp will step down, JazzMN will continue. The musicians include many of the area’s finest jazz players and its repertoire spans the classics to contemporary works and arrangements. It has regularly featured big-name guest artists, starting with Buddy DeFranco in its premiere concert in April 1999 and continuing with Arturo Sandoval, Joey DeFrancesco, Bob Mintzer, Wayne Bergeron, Nicholas Payton, John Clayton, Randy Brecker, Terence Blanchard, Maria Schneider and more. The board has organized a search committee and posted a position description online.

The picks

Tonight (Friday, Jan. 11) through Sunday at the Ames Center: Twin Cities Ballet Presents Pink Floyd’s “The Wall”: A Rock Ballet. After selling out the Cowles Center last March, TC Ballet is taking its original show down the road to Burnsville. Adapted from the iconic album by TCB co-artistic directors Rick Vogt and Denise Vogt, performed to live music by the St. Paul-based Pink Floyd tribute band Run Like Hell, with original hand-painted costumes by Sally Award winner Jimmy Longoria. 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday. FMI and tickets ($26/38).

Saturday at the Black Dog: Peter Kogan “The Green Album” CD release. One of those musicians – you know, the ones who start violin at six, add piano at eight and drums at 10, go to Julliard and the Cleveland Institute, and hold principal percussion and timpani positions with the Pittsburgh Symphony and Minnesota Orchestra – Peter Kogan’s heart beats hard for jazz. By the time he retired from the orchestra in 2015, he had already released two jazz albums, “Cornucopia” and “Some Monsterful Wonderthing” (one of our Top 10 jazz albums of 2015). We’ve had his latest, “The Green Album,” on regular rotation for the past several days and it’s pure joy, a mix of swinging Kogan originals and can’t-go-wrong standards by Duke Ellington (“The Mooche”), Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie. The players on the album are a Who’s Who of more than a dozen Twin Cities jazz stars, from Phil Aaron to Cory Wong. He’ll be joined at the Black Dog by his Monsterful Wonderband sextet. Sets at 8:30 and 10 p.m.; opening set at 7 with the Pete Snell Trio. Part of Steve Kenny’s very long running Saturday Night Jazz at the Black Dog series. No cover; tip jar.

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Monday at the Dakota: John Pizzarelli. The affable, urbane guitarist and singer – a master interpreter of the Great American Songbook, expert in the music of Paul McCartney, Johnny Mercer, Frank Sinatra and Antonio Carlos Jobim, co-host with his wife Jessica Molaskey of public radio’s “Radio Deluxe” (broadcast from their make-believe penthouse “high above Lexington Avenue”) – Pizzarelli always delights and never disappoints. He’s a great favorite at the Dakota and once you see him there, you’ll know why. 7 p.m. and 9 p.m. FMI and tickets ($25-45).

KiKi Layne and Stephan James in a scene from "If Beale Street Could Talk."
Anapurna Pictures
KiKi Layne and Stephan James in a scene from "If Beale Street Could Talk."
Starts Tuesday at the Walker: 2019 Film Independent Spirit Awards. This annual festival of the year’s finest indie films is one of the benefits of membership. It’s open only to members of the Walker, Film Independent and FilmNorth, and it’s free. The 18 films for 2019 include “Eighth Grade,” “If Beale Street Could Talk,” “First Reformed” and “En el Séptimo Dia.” Here’s the complete schedule. Walker members, reserve tickets online or call 612-375-7655; Film Independent and FilmNorth members, RSVP here. FMI.

Tuesday at the Minnesota History Center: “Hope & Fury: MLK, the Movement, and the Media” film screening. This acclaimed 2018 documentary from NBC examines how Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and leaders of the civil rights movement used the power of print and TV to awaken America to the shame and injustice of racial inequality. Narrated by Lester Holt, the film features an all-star line-up of civil rights leaders, pioneering African American reporters, journalists from across generations and present-day activists. 6-8 p.m. FMI. This screening is part of “The 1968 Exhibit,” which closes Jan. 21.