Back in December 2017, when the Loft announced plans to hold “a book party in the heart of Minneapolis,” Executive Director Britt Udesen and Festival Director Steph Opitz were both thinking big. Udesen dropped Michelle Obama’s name; Opitz mentioned Ina Garten, aka the Barefoot Contessa.
They won’t be here for the inaugural Wordplay festival, set for May 11-12 in downtown Minneapolis. But Stephen King will. And Amy Tan. And Jamaica Kincaid, Dave Barry, Edwidge Danticat, Natasha Trethewey, Mitch Alborn, Scott Turow, Tommy Orange, Laila Lalami, Jared Diamond, Norah McInerny, Bill McKibben, Gabrielle Bell, Roy Blount Jr., Mary Karr, Luis Alberto Urrea, Linda LeGarde Grover and Marlon James. And many more – more than 100 in all. See the whole line-up here.
Only one event is on the schedule so far: an eve-of-the-fest concert on Friday, May 10, by the legendary (among book sellers and publishers) Rock Bottom Remainders. A band that includes King, Barry, Blount, Karr, Tan, Turow, and others, the Remainders first played in 1992 at the American Booksellers Association convention (now BookExpo America), after which a Washington Post reviewer called their performance “the most heavily promoted musical debut since The Monkees.” Blount coined a term for their music: “hard listening.”
The festival will take place Saturday and Sunday in Downtown East, at the Loft and the Guthrie. There will be signings, gatherings, lectures, workshops, activities, exhibitors and special events. Saturday night will see a Lit Crawl in Uptown. And that’s all we know for now – except the Loft has committed to three years and three festivals.
Someone just gave a big grant to Art Shanty Projects
Here’s a bright spot in a recent cloud of arts-organization-related woes (including Target Foundation’s ominous-sounding statement that it’s “evolving its grants program”): Art Shanty Projects has received “a significant anonymous grant for the purpose of operating the on-ice festival in 2020 and 2021.”
The news is welcome and well-timed. Art Shanty Projects will join the Minneapolis Kite Festival to hold a fundraiser and community celebration during Kite Fest’s on-ice event this Saturday (Jan. 26). The day will include Art Shanty performances, activities and art from noon-4 p.m. at the Lake Harriet Bandshell, followed by a twilight after-party in a heated tent. FMI here and here.
The anonymous donation will cover more than 50 percent of the cost of on-ice events in the coming two years and will help Art Shanty Projects move toward becoming self-sustaining. In a statement, Art Shanty Project’s board co-chair Saulaman Schlegel said the grant “caught us completely by surprise! With this key funding, we can begin focusing more energy towards fulfilling our mission to fairly compensate our artists … and to [include] more diverse participation, including artists of color.”
Minnesota Orchestra bringing Common Chords to north Minneapolis
The Minnesota Orchestra’s annual Common Chords program – a weeklong immersion in a single Minnesota community – began in 2011. So far, it has toured to Wilmar, Bemidji, Mankato, Detroit Lakes, Hibbing, Grand Rapids and Mankato.
This year, it’s staying close to home. Orchestra musicians will take part in dozens of events in north Minneapolis, including school visits and chamber performances. The full orchestra will perform two concerts: at a community meal and sing-along with local worship leaders tonight (Tuesday, Jan. 22) at Sanctuary Covenant Church (sold out) and a public evening concert Saturday at North High School. Tonight’s concert will be led by Osmo Vänskä, Saturday’s by Vänskä and Associate Conductor Akiko Fujimoto.
Saturday’s concert will include “Dance for Martin’s Dream,” an homage to Martin Luther King Jr. by African-American composer Martin Abels (who also wrote the score for the hit horror film “Get Out”), and music by Alejandro Garcia Caturia, Leonard Bernstein, Jean Sibelius and Samuel Barber. Musical collaborators will include the Steeles, MacPhail Northside Youth Orchestra and Minnesota Orchestra trumpeter Charles Lazarus. Patricio DeLara from Juxtaposition Arts will create new artwork live during the performance. A free post-concert reception will feature food by Sammy’s Avenue Eatery and Cookie Cart. FMI and tickets ($30, free to North Minneapolis residents).
Wednesday at the Amsterdam: Twin Cities Moth StorySLAM: “Intentions.” Have you already blown your New Year’s resolutions? Jason Schommer will host an evening of stories about best-laid plans. Come to participate or just to listen. Doors at 6:30 p.m., stories at 7:30. 21+. FMI and tickets ($15).
Thursday at Magers & Quinn: Tessa Hadley and Curtis Sittenfeld. Surely English author Hadley didn’t know it would be this cold when she booked her trip to Minnesota. But it’s always warm inside the Uptown bookstore, especially when a crowd gathers to hear someone like Hadley, whose new novel, “Late in the Day,” has been winning raves. “With each new book by Tessa Hadley,” wrote Ron Charles of the Washington Post, “I grow more convinced that she’s one of the greatest stylists alive.” She’ll be in conversation with writer Curtis Sittenfeld. Presented with Rain Taxi. 7 p.m. Free and open to the public, with a reception to follow.
Thursday at Icehouse: Tim Sparks and James Buckley “Jukebox Dreamin’ ” CD release. Our introduction to Sparks, a National Fingerpicking Champion, was his dazzling 1993 recording of Tchaikovsky’s “Nutcracker Suite” on solo guitar. We’ve happily followed along through his recordings for John Zorn’s Tzadik label, his folk and pop albums, and the return of Rio Nido, his jazz trio with Prudence Johnson and Tom Lieberman. Bassist Buckley has recorded and toured with the Pines, performed live with Lizzo on “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert,” and jammed on Bon Iver’s “22, a Million.” Their first recording together includes songs by Paul Simon, John Lennon, the Grateful Dead, Al Green and others, plus originals. Mixing familiar melodies with improvisation, it’s the best of both worlds, a beauty from end to end. And while it’s virtuosic, it never shouts or struts. Instead, Sparks and Buckley infuse the music with tenderness. 7 p.m. FMI and tickets ($10 advance, $12 door).
Friday on your teevee: Great Performances: “Doubt” from Minnesota Opera. In January 2013, Minnesota Opera premiered a new opera based on John Patrick Shanley’s hit play about a charismatic priest accused of molesting an altar boy. On Friday, PBS will broadcast it as part of its “Great Performances” series. With music by Douglas J. Cuomo and libretto by Shanley, it features Christine Brewer as Sister Aloysius, Adriana Zabala as Sister James, Matthew Worth as Father Flynn and Denyce Graves as Mrs. Miller. A Minnesota Opera New Works Initiative production, directed by Kevin Newbury. 8 p.m. on TPT 2.