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‘Penelopiad’ to open Theatre Unbound season; Little Mekong Night Market in St. Paul

A scene from Theatre Unbound’s 2019 production of “Iphigenia and Other Daughters."
Courtesy of Theatre Unbound
A scene from Theatre Unbound’s 2019 production of “Iphigenia and Other Daughters."

A play by Margaret Atwood will launch Theatre Unbound’s 20th anniversary season, a journey through women’s stories. In November, two months after the release of “Testaments,” Atwood’s highly anticipated sequel to “The Handmaid’s Tale,” Unbound will present “Penelopiad,” which returns to the world of the Odyssey to reclaim Penelope’s story and those of the women around her. Company member Julie Phillips will direct.

January will bring the annual “Smackdown: 24 Hour Play Festival,” where six new plays by female theater artists will be written, rehearsed and performed in just 24 hours. In March, “Girl Shorts” will include three one-hour sets of multiple shorts, written by women about women.

A scene from Theatre Unbound’s Spring 2018 production of “Measure for Measure.”
Photo by Rich Fleischman
A scene from Theatre Unbound’s Spring 2018 production of “Measure for Measure.”
“Penelopiad” and “Girl Shorts” will be at the Gremlin, “Smackdown” at Stepping Stone Theater.

Since its founding in 1999, Theatre Unbound has featured 137 female directors, 435 female actors, 109 male actors and 126 female playwrights from the 10th century to the 21st. It’s no longer the only women-centered theater in the Twin Cities – PRIME Productions made its debut in 2017, with a focus on women over 50 – but it has been around the longest. The 2019-20 season will be Jenny Moeller’s first as executive director. Tickets are available now.

The Rose Ensemble might not fade away after all

After announcing in May 2018 that the Rose Ensemble’s 23rd season would be its last because of financial challenges, then giving a sold-out final concert at the Basilica last month, the Rose’s board of directors sent an email that hints at a future. In part:

It has been an emotional season in many respects. But thanks to our musicians’ world-class performances and a great outpouring of support from our community, The Rose Ensemble also has experienced a season that far exceeded our financial expectations … The Rose Ensemble is completely debt-free. This means we now have the capacity – if nothing else – to delay formal, legal dissolution … [There] are currently no plans whatsoever to self-produce more concert seasons. But in light of our musicians’ incredible work, for example, in 17 senior communities and nursing homes across Minnesota earlier this month, it is clear that we must take some time to explore potential opportunities.

Founding artistic director Jordan Sramek added this in a follow-up press release:

The volume of phone calls, emails, and letters I’ve personally received over the last year has demonstrated just how meaningful The Rose Ensemble is to people – and what a key role it has played in their cultural lives. It’s clear to me that our supporters have been in mourning. And they’ve been asking if this is really the end.

The Rose is rare and unusual in its sound, its approach and its repertoire: music from centuries past, deeply researched by Sramek and presented as modern-day premieres. We’d like to see it stick around.

The picks

Now in Winona: The Great River Shakespeare Festival. What started with three plays in 2004 (“The Winter’s Tale,” “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” and an apprentice/intern production of “As You Like It”) has grown into a monthlong celebration of theater, still centered on the Bard but also presenting non-Shakespeare plays, free events and special events including Saturday-morning panels and talks. Showing in repertory, the plays for Season 16 are “Macbeth,”  “Cymbeline” (paired with a panel on nationalism and reconciliation), Carlo Goldoni’s “The Servant of Two Masters,” Nilaja Sun’s “No Child …,” Nassim Soleimanpour’s “White Rabbit Red Rabbit” and an apprentice/intern production of “Love’s Labours Lost.” FMI and tickets ($10-49). Ends Aug. 4. Between this and the Minnesota Beethoven Festival, which runs almost concurrently (it ends sooner), a summer place in Winona is looking pretty good.

Corey DiNardo as Katurian in “Pillowman.”
Courtesy of Theatre Coup d’Etat
Corey DiNardo as Katurian in “Pillowman.”
Friday, Saturday and Monday at the SpringHouse Ministry Center: Theatre Coup d’Etat: “The Pillowman.” Penned by Irish playwright Martin McDonagh (whose screenplays include “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri,” “Seven Psychopaths” and “In Bruges”), set in a totalitarian dictatorship, this darkly comic play finds a writer being interrogated by the police about the similarities between his short stories and a series of child murders. Meanwhile, his mentally disabled brother is being questioned next door. The description on the theater’s website includes a strongly worded warning. Rich Remedios is the director. “The Pillowman” earned a best play Tony nomination in 2005. 7:30 p.m. FMI and tickets ($18-40 sliding scale). Continues Thursdays-Saturdays and Mondays through July 20.

Saturday in Mears Park: For the Love Project. The annual community celebration of hip-hop is evolving into an organization with a focus on arts and education. The fifth anniversary event will feature musical performances, dancing, visual arts, community vendors and food trucks. Heiruspecs will headline, preceded by Haphduzn, Lady Midnight and Dwynell Roland, 16 more emcees and three deejays. Dancers New Black City and traditional Native artists the Sampson Bros. will also perform. It’s going to be a party, and it’s free.

Korma Afrocontigbo Danse will perform Sunday at the Little Mekong Night Market.
Courtesy of the Little Mekong Night Market
Korma Afrocontigbo Danse will perform Sunday at the Little Mekong Night Market.
Saturday and Sunday in St. Paul: Little Mekong Night Market. Food, live music, food, dance, food, artisan vendors and food as the day shifts from late afternoon into evening toward midnight. Any outdoor event that brings us onto city streets at night (hail Northern Spark!) is a chance to experience a city in a new way. Between Mackubin and Galtier streets along University Ave. 5 p.m. until midnight Saturday, 3 p.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday.

Tuesday at Temple Israel: Plymouth Summer Music Series: Adam Kuenzel. Plymouth’s entire 2019 Summer Music Series will take place at Temple Israel. Why? Because Plymouth Congregational Church is refinishing its floors. Temple Israel is a lovely venue – it’s one of the SPCO’s neighborhood spots – so there’s no need to worry, just remember when you set out for one of the free concerts not to go to Plymouth Church. Presented by Plymouth’s longtime music director, Philip Brunelle (who just won the 2019 American Prize in Conducting), the series will begin with Kuenzel, principal flute for the Minnesota Orchestra, and music by Mendelssohn and Martinu, with cellist Katja Linfield and pianist Mary Jo Gothmann. 7 p.m. Free. It will continue July 16 with bluegrass band Monroe Crossing, July 23 with the Plymouth Quartet and music of Rodgers & Hammerstein, and July 30 with Bradley Greenwald and Sonja Thompson performing English parlor songs.

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