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Afro-Atlantic Playwright Festival at Playwrights’ Center; Nicholas Payton at Crooners

ALSO: International Day of Music at Orchestra Hall; art festival at St. Kate’s; and more.

Playwrights France-Luce Benson, Zainabu Jallo and Femi Osofisan.
Playwrights France-Luce Benson, Zainabu Jallo and Femi Osofisan.

This weekend, the Playwrights’ Center will present staged readings of three new plays by playwrights from Nigeria, Switzerland/Nigeria, and New York City. They’re here because of Carlyle Brown, who was recently named a Playwrights’ Center Lifetime Core Writer, one of just seven in the Center’s 48-year history.

Inspired by griots, West Africa’s storytellers and oral historians, Brown came up with a plan: a residency for mid-career and established African and African-American theater artists “from opposite ends of the Africanist Diaspora.” They would engage in debate about identity and authenticity, two hot topics in contemporary culture and politics, and explore ways international boundaries shape the African experience.

From 72 applicants, eight were chosen to spend four weeks at the Camargo Foundation in Cassis, France, in 2018. Three will be in Minneapolis this weekend for the first-ever Afro-Atlantic Playwright Festival.

7 p.m. tonight (Friday, July 12): “Deux Femmes on the Edge de la Revolution” by France-Luce Benson (New York). With China Brickey, Jucoby Johnson, Cynthia Jones-Taylor and James A. Williams, among others. Aaron Todd Douglas will direct.

1 p.m. Saturday: “Not All Canoes Sail Back Home: Maya, Maryse, and Efua in Nkrumah’s Ghana” by Femi Osofisan (Ibadan, Nigeria). With Shá Cage, C. Michael Menge and Thomasina Petrus, directed by Chuck Mike.

7 p.m. Saturday: “We Take Care of Our Own” by Zainabu Jallo (Bern, Switzerland/Nigeria). With Richard Ooms, Sab Shimono, and Adolphus Ward, directed by Carlyle Brown.

1 p.m. Sunday: Roundtable discussion with Brown, Mike and all three playwrights.

All events are free, but you do need to register. Learn more and register here.

In 2021, Camargo will reprise the Cultural Diaspora program, expanding the residency to six weeks and broadening the call to include playwrights of African descent from all over the world.

The picks

Today (Friday, July 12) and Saturday at Lakewood Cemetery: Midsummer Memory Mandalas. California-based earth artist Day Schildkret (Instagram: @morningaltars) transforms grief into beauty with public art installations that honor the impermanence of life. Like the sand mandalas created by Buddhist monks, Schildkret’s art is short-lived, but it’s lovely while it lasts – and during its creation. As part of its new Lakewood Experience series of special events, the cemetery on the eastern shore of Bde Maka Ska (formerly Lake Calhoun) has invited Schildkret to create a large-scale mandala on site, using natural materials gathered from the grounds. On Friday from 4-8 p.m., Schildkret will install the mandala and give an artist’s talk at 6 p.m. There will be food trucks and live music. On Saturday he’ll lead a hands-on workshop. Friday’s event, which will take place on the lawn outside the mosaic chapel, is free and open to the public; the workshop is sold out. FMI.

Day Schildkret
Courtesy of Lakewood Cemetery
California-based earth artist Day Schildkret transforms grief into beauty with public art installations that honor the impermanence of life.
Tonight and Saturday at MacPhail’s Antonello Hall: Hero Now Theatre: “Holding On: Unexpected Stories of World War II.” Crafted from interviews, performed by a multigenerational cast (ages 9-92) in song, dance, and storytelling, this original production looks back at the lives of local World War II veterans, including beloved jazz saxophonist Irv Williams, a longtime fixture on our music scene who will turn 100 this year. Created in partnership with Episcopal Homes, MacPhail and St. Paul Conservatory for Performing Artists, conceived and directed by Joey Clark. 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday, also 2 p.m. Saturday. FMI and tickets ($20/15, free to veterans).

Tonight and Saturday at the Open Eye Figure Theatre: Puppetry and music by women artists focusing on women’s experiences. Last summer, Open Eye tried something new with ”Sweet Songs and Flying Objects,” a three-weekends-long festival of puppetry and music. It’s back for a second go, this time for five weekends. Each night’s performances are followed by an Afterglow party in Open Eye’s garden. This weekend features FUSEBOX artist Gaia Mencagli’s “It’s Red,” Johanna Winters’ “ENDLNG,” and music by Fort Wilson Riot (Friday) and Coy & Daring (Saturday). 7:30 p.m. FMI and tickets ($15/10).

Tonight and Saturday at the Hook & Ladder: Roots, Rock & Deep Blues Weekend. Two nights, 23 bands, food and art. Performers include Erik Koskinen, Gully Boys, “Cornbread” Harris, Mae Simpson Music, Kent Burnside & the New Generations, and Mary Cutrufello. 21+. Friday (showcase night): doors at 7:30 p.m., music at 8, $15/18. Saturday (festival day): gates at 2, $20/25. FMI and tickets.

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Saturday on the triangle lawn at St. Catherine University: Art at St. Kate’s. More than 100 fine artists and craftspeople will show, sell, and talk about their work at this smartly curated, reliably high-quality annual event. Strolling accordionist Dan Turpening (the Accordion Guy in the skyway at Minnesota Orchestra concerts) will provide musical accompaniment. 10 a.m.-5 p.m. FMI. Artists’ lists here; click the square tabs at the top of the page. Free.

Saturday at Orchestra Hall, inside and out: International Day of Music. An all-day, noon-to-midnight celebration on Peavey Plaza, an 11th Street stage (hosted by the Cedar Cultural Center), in the main auditorium at Orchestra Hall and the Target Atrium. More than 20 events will include dance battles, music by Salsa del Soul and Malamanya, Maria Isa, Charanga Tropical, Michael Hauser, Axis Mundi and others, film screenings, and the final concert of the e-Piano Junior Competition, where five young pianists from around the world will perform concerto movements with the Minnesota Orchestra. Plus extras all day in the lobby. It would be silly to miss this. 12 p.m. to midnight. Free. Here’s the complete schedule.

Saturday at Crooners: Nicholas Payton. The New Orleans native, Grammy-winning trumpeter, composer, and outspoken creator of the #BAM hashtag will make his Crooners debut in a pair of back-to-back concerts with Twin Cities artists. At 6 p.m., he’ll play the Dunsmore Room with Prince’s former keyboardist, Tommy Barbarella. FMI and tickets ($25). At 8 p.m., he’ll move outdoors to the Lakeside Tent with vocalist Sophia Shorai. FMI and tickets ($25).

A scene from “Sink or Swim.”
Courtesy of the MSP Film Society
A scene from “Sink or Swim.”
Sunday at the Film Society’s St. Anthony Main Theatre: Lumières Françaises: “Sink or Swim” (Le Grand Bain). Mathieu Amalric (“The Grand Budapest Hotel”) is a man in midlife crisis, eating a breakfast of mostly pills, when he learns about an all-male synchronized swimming team and impulsively joins. Turns out everyone else on the team is also in midlife crisis, or on the brink, but they keep showing up for practice. Male bonding happens and they head for Norway and the world championships. Will they win? What do you think? Predictability aside, this feel-good film was a huge hit in France and it’s a fun way to spend an evening. Directed by Gilles Lellouche. 6 p.m. Also 7:15 p.m. Thursday, July 18, closing this year’s French film fest. FMI including trailer and tickets ($11-6).

Tuesday at the Amsterdam: The Theater of Public Policy: Don’t Stop the (Pioneer) Presses! One of Minnesota’s oldest newspapers, the Pi Press was purchased in 2006 by Digital First Media, whose biggest shareholder is the hedge fund Alden Global Capital LLC. The owners have picked away at the paper ever since, including making major cuts to the newsroom staff. T2P2’s guest will be Pi Press reporter Dave Orrick, who covers state government and politics. T2P2’s winning formula will combine interviews with Orrick and improv comedy, so you’ll learn some and laugh some. Doors at 5:30 p.m., show at 6. Tickets here ($12 advance, $15 door).