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Two great ideas; Rick Shiomi’s ‘Mikado’ to open

ALSO: Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater at Northrop; Meet the Minnesota Book Awards finalists at the U; and more.

The Children’s Theatre
The Children’s Theatre is one of more than 110 buildings and other spaces that will welcome visitors, all for free.
MinnPost photo by Corey Anderson

There will be no snow on May 18 and 19. We can almost guarantee that when Minneapolis throws open its doors that weekend for the first-ever Doors Open: Minneapolis event, blasts of cold air won’t pour inside the more than 110 buildings and other spaces that will welcome visitors, all for free.

Smart name – and great idea. Who doesn’t want behind-the-scenes access to cool and interesting places? Have you ever been curious to see inside the Woman’s Club of Minneapolis in Loring Park? The Van Dusen Mansion on Lasalle? The mysterious Scottish Rite Temple in Uptown? Have you wanted to walk around the top of the lock wall of the Upper St. Anthony Falls Lock and Dam? Have you seen the view from the observation deck at the Foshay Tower? Or visited the Basilica of St. Mary, Gethsemane Episcopal Church, Hennepin Methodist, Westminster Presbyterian and/or the Islamic Society of America/Dar Al-Hijrah Mosque? What about First Avenue, the Ritz Theater, the Jungle Theater or the Children’s Theatre?

Did you know we even had a Firefighter’s Hall and Museum? (We do. It’s in Northeast.) Or a Danish American Center? (Yep, on West River Parkway.) Want to tour the Hennepin Energy Recovery Center, where trash is converted into energy providing electricity to 25,000 homes and heat to Target Field and downtown buildings? Or K&K Metal Recycling? Or the Hennepin County Jail, voluntarily? Why not? They will be open, too. Though you’ll have to sign up to visit the jail.

That’s a kid-in-a-candy-store list. If you want, you can choose a theme – Arts and Cultural, Historic, Innovation, Sacred Spaces, and so on.

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Here’s the website. Here’s the Facebook page. Here’s the list of participating venues. Volunteers are needed for four-hour shifts; you’ll get a free Doors Open Minneapolis T-shirt and front-of-line VIP access to all other venues. Those dates again: May 18 and 19. 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Need an author for an event?

Another great idea, this time from the Friends of the Saint Paul Public Library, the people who bring us the Minnesota Book Awards and the Fireside Reading Series. Up and running for nearly a month, the Minnesota Writers Directory is an online, interactive listing of authors throughout the state.

Let’s say you’re a teacher, or a librarian, or you’re looking for an author to visit your book club. Or maybe you want to have an amazing birthday party for a child who loves books and reading.

Go here, click on your county (and nearby counties) and see who’s there. Click on an author who interests you. Each author has their own page. Find a photo, a brief bio, a list of recent and notable works by the author, genres the author specializes in, the types of events for which the author is available and appropriate age groups. Email the author through the site. Access the author’s website, Facebook, Twitter and/or Instagram through the site.

If someone is not currently booking new speaking engagements (like Marlon James, for example), the site will tell you that as well.

For now, to start, the site features Minnesota Book Award winners and finalists from the past five years. That’s already more than 100 authors. The Friends is accepting applications from other writers who want to be included.

Did you know the Friends of the Saint Paul Public Library is the Minnesota Center for the Book? This is a Library of Congress designation, and there’s one in every state.

The directory is the first of its kind in Minnesota and one of only a few sites nationwide that attempt to catalog their state’s authors. Kudos to the site’s designers, who have made it clean, clear, inviting, and so easy to use.

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The picks

Tonight (Tuesday, March 12) at Northrop: Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. On March 30, 1958, a group of black dancers gave a performance at the 92nd Street Y in New York City. The Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater has since performed for some 25 million people in 48 states and 71 countries on six continents and commissioned 235 new works by 90 choreographers. At Northrop, this vital American cultural institution will perform “Lazarus,” a new work by hip-hop choreographer Rennie Harris, and Ailey’s signature 1960 piece “Revelations.” 7:30 p.m. FMI and tickets ($60-80; other prices available); 612-624-345. Musician Dameun Strange will perform in the lobby before and after the event and during intermission. Free performance preview at 6:15 p.m. in the Best Buy Theater.

Alvin Ailey American Dance
Photo by Paul Kolnik
At Northrop, Alvin Ailey American Dance will perform “Lazarus,” a new work by hip-hop choreographer Rennie Harris, and Ailey’s signature 1960 piece “Revelations.”
Starts tomorrow (Wednesday, March 13) at Pillsbury House Theatre: “She Persists: The Great Divide III.” In 2017, “The Great Divide: Plays for a Broken Nation” responded to post-election partisan animosity. In 2018, “The Great Divide II: Plays on the Politics of Truth” explored the political division in the U.S. through the concept of “truth.” Continuing what has become a tradition of timely and pointed short plays, “She Persists” will feature five plays, each 10 minutes, that look at the role of women in today’s political climate. (Cue Brett Kavanaugh, the threats to Roe v. Wade, #metoo and the recent election, for starters.) All five plays are by women playwrights: Christina Florencia Castro, Casey Llewellyn, Oya Mae Duchess-Davis, Philana Omorotionmwan and Aamera Siddiqui. All four cast members are women: Ashawnti Sakina Ford, Audrey Park, Nora Montañez and Sara Richardson. Noël Raymond is the director. 7:30 p.m. FMI and tickets ($25/pick-your-price); 612-825-0459. Ends March 24.

Starts Thursday at the Howard Conn Fine Arts Center at Plymouth Congregational Church: Gilbert & Sullivan’s “The Mikado”: A New Adaptation by Rick Shiomi. Full of racist stereotypes, often presented in yellowface – white actors playing Asian roles – “The Mikado” was “one of the worst actors in our American theater tradition,” according to Rick Shiomi. Learning that “The Mikado” is now in the public domain, the co-founder and former artistic director of Mu Performing Arts changed some characters’ names, adjusted some dialogue and reset the action in Edwardian England. Shiomi’s version was originally co-presented by the original Skylark Opera and Mu Performing Arts at Concordia University in 2013. This time, he’ll direct the Gilbert & Sullivan Very Light Opera Company at the Howard Conn. 1900 Nicollet Ave. 7:30 p.m. FMI and tickets ($26/16 under 12). Ends April 7.

The Mikado
Photo by Stephen Hage
From left: Anthony Rohr as Franki Poo, Margaret Matejcek as Tum Tum, and Tyus Beeson as Co Co in “The Mikado.”
Friday at the U’s Elmer L. Andersen Library: Minnesota Book Awards: Meet the Finalists. At this free event, authors from each category will engage in panel discussions about their work. Light hors d’oeuvres will be served and finalist books will be available, along with a cash bar. 7-9 p.m. Free and open to the public. P.S. This year’s Minnesota Book Awards ceremony will take place April 6.

Saturday, March 16, at venues near or on Summit Avenue in St. Paul: Before Bach’s Birthday Bash. Five free hourlong concerts of mostly Bach’s music at Summit Center for Art and Innovation (1523 Summit), St. Thomas More Church (Summit at Lexington), St. Clement’s Episcopal Church (901 Portland), Unity Unitarian Church (732 Holly) and House of Hope Presbyterian (797 Summit), all equipped with pipe organs – Bach’s Royal Instrument. Performers include Matthias Maute, director of the Bach Society; Jacques Ogg, artistic director of Lyra Baroque; and members of National Lutheran Choir. The first hour will be broadcast live over Classical MPR. Here’s the schedule. Free and open to the public.