At the moment, Tyler Michaels King is reportedly killing it in the title role of “Hedwig and the Angry Inch” at the Ritz. He’s also announcing the third season of Trademark Theater, the company he founded in 2016 and serves as artistic director. Does he sleep?
To date, Trademark has staged two world premieres, both written by its resident playwright, Tyler Mills. “The Boy and Robin Hood” (2017) was a rambunctious retelling of the Robin Hood tale. “Understood” (2018) was a complex and moving relationship drama that mirrored our national societal fractures. (We still have the postcard for that show. It says “People by and large are idiots.”) That the two plays came from the same baby company and the same local playwright is enough to make your head spin.
What’s next? Not your typical season, for sure. A reading of a work in progress, a concept album/contemporary performance hybrid and a workshop performance. All with potential to be really interesting. Here’s the unconventional lineup:
May 6 and 7 at the A Mill Artist Lofts: “College Life.” A reading of a new play by Tyler Mills, developed through interviews with college undergrads, staged with college-age performers. It will explore “the power of young people getting to speak for themselves.”
Dec. 9 at the Cabaret at Camp Bar: A workshop performance of “Immortal,” created and performed by Tyler Michaels King. This will be his first solo performance, which is reason enough to line up out the door. He plans to introduce a new character – a fading entertainer standing before his final curtain, exploring aging, the end of life and mortality. King is barely out of his 20s. No problem.
Trademark is offering ticket bundles until May 5. FMI.
Hail the jazz hero
April is Jazz Appreciation Month, aka JAM. (Which was created by John Hasse, former curator of American music at the Smithsonian, a Carleton grad and brother to local poet Margaret Hasse. Because everything is connected.) One way the Jazz Journalists Association observes this month is with the annual Jazz Hero awards. Nominated by community members, the Jazz Heroes – advocates, altruists, activists, elders and abettors of the music – are given an engraved plaque and honored locally.
Minnesota’s Jazz Hero for 2019 is Steve Kenny, trumpeter, flumpeter (the flumpet being a hybrid trumpet/flugelhorn), bandleader, composer, curator, producer, and tireless promoter of jazz. He’s also a full-time computer tech specialist who just earned his master’s degree.
Kenny has founded and leads several bands including the Illicit Sextet, Group 47, What Would Monk Do? and his own quartets. Every week since mid-2014, he has presented at least one and often more live jazz performances. On March 24, 2018, he celebrated 200 consecutive “Saturday Night Jazz at the Black Dog” shows. He runs a Friday night series at Jazz Central Studios in Minneapolis and a summer jazz series at Studio Z in St. Paul. He curates three nights of back-to-back sets at the Black Dog each summer during Jazz Fest. He produces albums and runs the Jazz Police website and Facebook page. And he can really play his horn(s).
As Andrea Canter wrote in her nomination, “There would be a lot less live, high quality jazz in Minneapolis-St. Paul without him, so Steve Kenny is our Jazz Hero!” Make that superhero. Jazz Avenger. Give the man a cape. Even better, go to see his shows. Kenny will receive his award at the Black Dog on Saturday, May 4.
Tonight (Thursday, April 4) at the Dakota: The Cookers. This all-star septet leaves every other so-called jazz supergroup in the dust. Together, trumpeters David Weiss and Eddie Henderson, saxophonists Billy Harper and Donald Harrison, pianist George Cables. Bassist Cecil McBee and drummer Billy Hart represent more than 250 years of experience and have made more than 1,000 recordings. The Cookers stand alone. 7 and 9 p.m. FMI and tickets ($30-40).
Friday through Sunday: Oratory Bach Ensemble: St. John Passion by J.S. Bach with Minnesota Dance Theatre. We’re in an era of music-and-dance collaboration, and a time when music is increasingly paired with visuals. Wanting to try something different, Matthew Olson, artistic director of the Oratory Bach Ensemble, came up with the idea of pairing Bach’s great St. John Passion with dance. He thinks this might be the first time anyone has tried that. Olson will lead an ensemble of 36 musicians (Oratory’s baroque period instrumentalists and vocalists, plus a chorus), and eight dancers from Loyce Houlton’s Minnesota Dance Theatre will interpret the work. The performances will include full lighting design and projected translations of the original German text. 7:30 p.m. Friday at the Lab, 7 p.m. Saturday at Carleton College’s new Kracum Performance Hall, and 2 p.m. Sunday back at the Lab. FMI and tickets ($25-35 at the Lab, free at Carleton).
Saturday at the Parkway: Adam Meckler Orchestra Album Release Party. Jazz meets blues meets spoken word, neo-soul, R&B, hip-hop and more in trumpeter, composer and arranger Meckler’s second full-length album with his own orchestra. Playing only Meckler’s original compositions, the 18-piece ensemble is a playground for his musical ideas, which are far-ranging and inclusive. Due out May 3 on Ropeadope, “Magnificent Madness” features Toki Wright (Rhymesayers), Harjinder (Fatbook), and Cameron Kinghorn (Nooky Jones), who will all be at the show, along with Jana Nyberg (Meckler’s vocalist wife and leader of her own Jana Nyberg Group), Layce Glasper and Bree Turner (Sounds of Blackness) and other special guests. It’s going to be a party. 6 p.m. doors, 7 p.m. show. FMI and tickets ($25 advance, $30 door).
Monday at the Landmark Center: “12 Angry Men” Performed by 12 Impassioned Women. An all-women cast will perform a staged reading of Sherman L. Sergel’s play, adapted from Reginald Rose’s Emmy-winning made-for-TV drama. And they won’t be alone. Readings will take place from Friday through Monday in community centers, theaters, high schools, universities, law schools and community colleges across the country. The goal: 12,000 readers. The purpose: to remind us all of the power one person can have in our judicial system, when they speak with conviction. And in the voting booth; voter registration will be a focus of this event. Kari Steinbach will direct. 7:30 p.m. in the Weyerhaeuser Auditorium. FMI and tickets ($10; free and reduced tickets available). P.S. When “12 Angry Men” first aired in 1954, women weren’t allowed to serve on juries.
Saturday, April 27, at the Mixed Blood: An Evening with Oskar Eustis. Eustis grew up in Minneapolis. Today he’s the head of the Public Theater in New York, the largest nonprofit theater in the nation and the one where “Hamilton” opened. He’ll be here in conversation with Jack Reuler, Pioneer Press theater critic Dominic Papatola and Jearlyn Steele of the Steeles, with musical guest Eric Mayson. 7 p.m. FMI and tickets ($25).