Northern Spark this weekend; ‘Dry Powder’ is wicked fun

Keith Braveheart, A Buffalo Nation: Creating Community, The Commons, Northern Spark 2018.
Photo by Sean Smuda
Keith Braveheart, A Buffalo Nation: Creating Community, The Commons, Northern Spark 2018.

Take naps if you need to. Then stay up late Friday and Saturday, because Northern Spark happens just once a year. Formerly a one-night, dusk-to-dawn marathon, the free nighttime arts festival is now spread over two nights, June 14-15, from 9 p.m. until 2 a.m. You don’t have to sleep in the whole next day, and if it rains the first night, there’s always the second night.

This year’s theme is “We Are Here: Resilience, Renewal and Regeneration.” The festival will take place in three locations: the American Indian Cultural Corridor (AICC) in Minneapolis, at All My Relations Arts and the Franklin Library; the Commons in downtown Minneapolis, an urban park where the winner of this year’s Creative City Challenge, “Radical Playground,” will debut on Friday; and St. Paul’s Rondo neighborhood, at the Hallie Q. Brown Community Center and the Rondo Community Outreach Library.

Northern Spark at the Commons will also be the site for a reception for the national conference of Americans for the Arts (AFTA), which is here through Sunday.

It’s a challenge to figure out how to “do” something as large, diverse and spread-out as Northern Spark. Start by spending some time on the website. Get your bearings on the interactive map. (The Art tab will also tell you where the info tents and bathrooms are.) Head for the Art & Events page and look around. There are 33 projects distributed over the three locations. Pick a project that interests you and go there. Or browse by neighborhood. The site lets you create a “My Night” list of projects you want to see. Make a wish list. Download a free Metro Transit Ride pass. Bring a water bottle. Wear comfortable shoes.

Out of the 33 projects, we’ve made a wish list of eight, as a starter. If you go, stay open to suggestion, distraction, and going with the flow. Just being in an engaged and lively late-night crowd at any of the three locations will be a kick all by itself.

At the Commons

Kalpulli Yaocenotxli: “Radical Playground Opening Performance.” This will only happen Friday night from 9:10-9:30 p.m. It will begin with a blessing and procession that transitions from the Northern Spark Americans for the Arts reception tents to the Radical Playground installation with an opening dance ceremony. The performance will include at least three commissioned alebrije puppet outfits by artists in Oaxaca.

Foci Artists, “Neon Garden.” A wall of interactive neon will be a chance to take a selfie for social media – and think about how we communicate. A portable neon bending station will clue us in to how neon works.

Along the AICC

Rosy Simas (Seneca) and Heid E. Erdrich (Ojibwe) with Jonathan Thunder (Ojibwe): “WEave: HERE.” At 11 p.m. both nights, Simas will lead an hourlong procession along Franklin Avenue to an installation curated by Erdrich and Thunder. The performers will be in sculptural costumes highlighted by projections.

Marlena Myles, Tamara Aupaumut, Elsa Hoover, Dawi, James D. Autio and Jess Grams: “Hanyétu Wówapi Thipi (The Night Library).” The library will become a cultural embassy filled with indigenous language and stories.

“Let All the Nations Know: Hymns from Indian Melodies and the Sacred Harp.” Because sacred harp/shape note singing.

In Rondo

Tish Jones, Co-curator and MC: “Rondo Stage and Open Mic.” With live music, poetry, and song – and the charisma of Tish Jones – this will be a destination on both nights.

Baba Jesse and Resounding Rhythms: “Resounding Strength – Resilient Song.” An interactive audience drum circle, with the refreshing, renewing rhythms of the djembe drum.

Chris Scott, Clarence White, and Hawona Sullivan Janzen: “Rondo Family Reunion: Pictures and Poems for Our People.” Photographs and poetry will tell the stories of the Rondo diaspora. Follow the lawn signs to find them.

Dark & Stormy’s ‘Dry Powder’ 

If you want to see a light-hearted comedy, a jolly farce or perhaps a perky musical, never, ever go to a Dark & Stormy production. But if you long to see something twisted, occasionally murderous, always thought-provoking and often wickedly funny, D&S is for you.

Their latest, Sarah Burgess’ “Dry Powder,” is a tale about a private equity firm in a PR crisis, looking for a way out. Morals, ethics, integrity and compassion are not in their vocabulary. They’re all jackals. Directed by Michaela Johnson, the play is smartly cast, with Robert Dorfman as Rick, the rapacious, mendacious head of the firm; Sara Marsh and Alex Galick as Jenny and Seth, his competitive, manipulative minions (D&S is Marsh’s theater; she’s the founder and artistic director); and Darrick Mosley as Jeff, the man who owns the California-based luggage company they mean to acquire. Jeff seems to really, really care about his employees.

Oleaginous and smiling, Rick is the baddest of the bad. (Watching Dorfman crook a finger or raise an eyebrow is priceless.) Jenny and Seth trade zingers as they vie for Rick’s approval. You almost feel sorry for Jeff, just a guy trying to save his ripe-for-picking company and his poor, failing winery. As always, D&S, which uses what little money it has to pay the actors, strips the production down to bare essentials: a desk, a high table, a couple of chairs. Swapping one tie for another (with a flourish) constitutes a costume change. The theater – a room in the Grain Belt Warehouse – isn’t even a black box. It’s a gray box. The play is in your face and almost in your lap.

Darrick Mosley as Jeff and Sara Marsh as Jenny in “Dry Powder.”
Photo by Tom Wallace
Darrick Mosley as Jeff and Sara Marsh as Jenny in “Dry Powder.”
“Dry Powder” is loaded with rapid-fire financial jargon, but you don’t need to understand it to grasp what’s going on. This is the world we live in. The satisfaction of seeing such a play lies in its execution. (We saw it on opening night, when a lighting snafu in the opening moments led to a reboot. By now, the team will have it down.) And it lies in knowing we could never be as awful as the people on stage. Or could we?

An area premiere, “Dry Powder” continues through June 29. It runs about 90 minutes with no intermission. FMI and tickets ($34-39; $15 under 30).

Oratory Bach is now the Bach Roots Festival

Under founding artistic director Matthew J. Olson, Oratory Bach Ensemble is transitioning into an annual 10-day summer event featuring music by Bach and composers he influenced.

The inaugural Bach Roots Festival starts this Sunday, June 16, and continues through June 24 with concerts in breweries, a Vespers service, and two performances of the B Minor Mass. (Bach didn’t only write church music; he also wrote music for casual summer concerts at a Leipzig café.) Each event will be in a different place or city: Minnetonka, Minneapolis, St. Paul, New Ulm, Northfield.

Most concerts are $20 or less, and the Bach & Brews night in New Ulm is free because New Ulm is Olson’s hometown. Featured artists include soprano Linh Kauffman, mezzo-soprano Clara Osowski and organist Stephen Hamilton. FMI and tickets.

The Bach Roots Festival joins a robust summer line-up of classical music that also includes the Twin Cities Early Music Festival, the CELLOici recital series, the Source Song Festival, the Lakes Area Music Festival (LAMF) in Brainerd and the Minnesota Beethoven Festival in Winona. We’ll preview those in future Artscapes.

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