Nonprofit, nonpartisan journalism. Supported by readers.


Theater Mu season to spotlight women playwrights; Cat Art Festival at A-Mill Artist Lofts

ALSO: Judy Olausen: “Mother” at Norway House; “Napoleon Dynamite”: A Conversation with Jon Heder, Efren Ramirez and Jon Gries at the Ordway; and more.

Theater Mu
Gregory Yang, Yeej Moua, Brian Kim, and Clay Man Soo in Theater Mu's 2018 production of “The Korean Drama Addict’s Guide to Losing Your Virginity.”
Photo by Rich Ryan

Theater Mu has been going through some cataclysmic changes. In December, the theater fired its artistic director, Randy Reyes, after complaints about his conduct. Earlier this month, it announced that Lily Tung Crystal, co-founder and artistic director of Ferocious Lotus Theater Company in San Francisco, would be its new artistic director starting in September.

Between December and now, Mu had a play to put on with Penumbra, “The Brothers Paranormal.” It had another planned for August at the Mixed Blood, “Hot Asian Doctor Husband.” And what about the 2019-20 season? Without an artistic director, how would that even happen?

With an artistic advisory committee, whose members included Katie Bradley, Sheena Janson Kelley, Sara Ochs, Audrey Park, Eric Sharp, Eric “Pogi” Sumangil and Katie Ka Vang. All are experienced Theater Mu artists. Together they chose three plays by women artists, all regional premieres, and agreed on a theme for the season: “The World is Ours to Build.”

Here’s what we’ll see, where and when.

Article continues after advertisement

Carla Ching’s “Fast Company” in the Guthrie’s Dowling Studio. This will be Mu’s second play by Ching. The first was “The Two Kids That Blow Shit Up” in 2016-17. Brian Balcom will direct. Nov. 8-24.

Jiehae Park’s “Peerless” at the Gremlin Theatre. A comedic take on Shakespeare’s “Macbeth,” set in the world of high school during college admissions. Lily Tung Crystal will direct. Jan. 31-Feb. 16, 2020.

Lauren Yee’s “Cambodian Rock Band” at the Jungle Theater. Mu previously worked with Yee to produce the world premieres of “Ching Chong Chinaman” and “The Tiger Among Us.” In “Cambodian Rock Band,” a young Cambodian American has found evidence that could finally put away the Khmer Rouge’s chief henchman. It’s “part comedy, part mystery, part rock concert.” Joshua Kahan Brody, Yee’s longtime collaborator, will direct the co-production with the Jungle. June 24-Aug. 2.

Mu will also continue its annual New Eyes Festival of new works in staged readings. The latest New Eyes ended last week.

Tickets for “Peerless” will go on sale in September. “Fast Company” will go on sale July 8 through the Guthrie’s box office. “Cambodian Rock Band” will be available later through the Jungle.

Jazz at Studio Z season finale spotlights young artists

The annual Lowertown jazz series curated by guitarist Zacc Harris is seven years strong. Fueled by a grant from MRAC, it presents the finest jazz artists in the region in one of the Twin Cities’ best listening rooms.

The seventh season will end with a trio of young musicians – including two women saxophonists – leading their own ensembles.

Apple Valley teenager Sophia Kickhofel recently won a spot in this summer’s National Youth Orchestra – Jazz (NYO Jazz), a program created by Carnegie Hall’s Weill Music Institute to nurture and showcase exceptional young American jazz instrumentalists. Kickhofel will spend two weeks at SUNY Purchase studying with artistic advisor Sean Jones and other jazz greats, then play Carnegie Hall with Grammy winner Kurt Elling, then tour the Far East, all before starting her junior year at Apple Valley High. Led by her sax, her quartet will include Lasse Corson on piano, Jon Butler on bass and Carter Pearson on drums.

Apple Valley teenager Sophia Kickhofel
Courtesy of Connie Shaver
Apple Valley teenager Sophia Kickhofel recently won a spot in this summer’s National Youth Orchestra – Jazz.
Award-winning trumpeter Jake Baldwin graduated from New England Conservatory in 2013. He’s been a vital part of the Twin Cities jazz scene ever since – and tours with Har Mar Superstar. His quintet will feature Nelson Devereaux on saxophones, Joseph Strachan on piano, Ted Olsen on bass and Miguel Hurtado on drums. Great group.

Another New England Conservatory grad, saxophonist Stephanie Wieseler once played with the Penguins. She has toured with Bon Iver. At studio Z, she’ll be joined by Harris on guitar, Charlie Lincoln on bass and Greg Schutte on drums.

Both Baldwin and Wieseler are alums of the Dakota Combo.

The music will start at 7 p.m. Studio Z is on the second floor of the Northwestern Building, 275 E. 4th St. Tickets $12 advance, $15 door.

Article continues after advertisement

The picks

Now at Norway House: Judy Olausen: “Mother.” Subtitled “a vision of the Eisenhower Era Mother: eager to please, ready to serve, and blissfully sweeping the unmentionable under the rug,” this new exhibit features Nordic American photographer Olausen’s mom as model. She patiently assumes various positions in colorful, theatrical scenes: as, for example, a mink-clad, hat-wearing, cart-pushing, cross-bearing supermarket shopper. The photographs in this show (which took four years to shoot) are from Olausen’s book “Mother,” a 1996 New York Times best-seller and tribute to Olausen’s lifelong inspiration, Marcel Duchamp. In the Gallery. Admission $5, under 12 and members free. 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday. Closes Sept. 1.

The photographs in this show are from Judy Olausen’s book “Mother,” a 1996 New York Times best-seller.
Photo by Judy Olausen/Courtesy of Norway House
The photographs in this show are from Judy Olausen’s book “Mother,” a 1996 New York Times best-seller.
Tonight (Wednesday, June 26) and Thursday at Finnegans Brewery: Democratic Presidential Primary Debate Watch Party with the Theater of Public Policy. There’s no one we’d rather watch the Dem debates with than the smart, well-informed, funny as heck comedy improv geniuses of T2P2. Tane Danger will host, with Jennifer Brooks and Patricia Lopez of the Star Tribune providing pre-show commentary and real-time political analysis. There will also be debate-themed bingo. 817 5th Ave. S., Minneapolis. 7:30 p.m. both nights. Free, but you will have to buy your own beer.

Starts Friday at SteppingStone Theatre for Youth: “Junie B. Jones, the Musical Jr.” Steppingstone is wrapping its 2018-19 season in a sassy bow. Based on the New York Times best-selling “Junie B. Jones” series by Barbara Park, this musical follows our rambunctious heroine as she starts first grade with a journal and a yen for adventure. With Erin Schwab as director, this looks to be a family-friendly hit. Schwab is a musical theater star in her own right, last seen as Rosie in the Ordway’s “Mamma Mia” (and earlier as King Herod in “Jesus Christ Superstar”). She knows how to hold a stage. 7 p.m. FMI and tickets ($12-16). The performance on Sunday, June 30, at 3 p.m. is pay-as-able. Closes July 14.

Article continues after advertisement

Saturday at the Ordway: “Napoleon Dynamite”: A Conversation with Jon Heder, Efren Ramirez and Jon Gries. For fans of the quirky cult comedy about the awkward teen who runs for class president with help from his friend Pedro. This is the film that birthed the immortal line “Give me some of your tots!” Following a full screening, Miss Shannan Paul will lead a discussion with cast members Jon Heder (Napoleon Dynamite), Efren Ramirez (Pedro) and Jon Gries (Uncle Rico). FMI and tickets ($48-$141 for VIP with meet & greet). A Twin Cities Film Fest event.

Sunday at the A-Mill Artist Lofts: “Mystery of Cats: A Cat Art Festival.” Of course. Why not? There will be cat-themed art for show and sale by more than 50 local artists, cat nonprofits and rescues, cat music, cat videos, cat Tarot, live painting and face painting, an arts & crafts station and a silent auction, with proceeds benefiting Diabetic Cat Help. Noon-8 p.m. Free. Here’s a list of confirmed artists and vendors.