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American Pottery Festival this weekend; let the theater season begin

PLUS: Journey North Opera’s “The Rape of Lucretia”; a 35W walking tour; Margaret Atwood Live; and more.

2018 APF artist Birdie Boone in front of a display of her work.
2018 APF artist Birdie Boone in front of a display of her work.
Courtesy of Northern Clay Center

The weekend-long American Pottery Festival starts tonight at Northern Clay Center. It’s NCC’s largest annual fundraiser. That’s good to know, but it’s not why most people will go. They will go because it’s one of the year’s biggest pottery parties, a chance to see, touch, and buy pots made by 25 ceramic artists from across the country. More than 1,000 pots will be on display, and most of the makers will be there, happy to chat and answer questions.

This year’s potters are from as far away as California, New Mexico, Georgia, and New York and as near as Minneapolis, St. Paul and St. Louis Park. Some teach, some own galleries, some earn their living as full-time potters. All make functional pots – mugs, plates, pitchers, platters, bowls and vessels of many kinds.

2018 APF Artist Austin Riddle will return for 2019.
Courtesy of Northern Clay Center
2018 APF Artist Austin Riddle will return for 2019.
Along with the opening night party and sale, the festival offers artist talks and workshops on Saturday and Sunday. Opening night is noisy and fun. A $25 ticket includes passed appetizers, face time with artists, a cash bar, and first look at pots. (Actually, first-and-a-half look. NCC members are allowed in an hour earlier than everyone else.) The party starts at 6 p.m. and ends at 9. The festival continues Saturday (9:30 a.m.-5 p.m.) and Sunday (9:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m.). Admission both days is $5. Artist talks are included with admission. Workshops are additional. FMI and tickets.

This will be Sarah Millfelt’s final American Pottery Festival as Northern Clay’s executive director. NCC on Tuesday announced that Leah Hughes will be the new ED effective Nov. 1. Millfelt served for eight years. Board Chair Craig Bishop praised her “advocacy for ceramic arts, her desire to see Northern Clay Center scale new heights, her love and empathy for her colleagues, a desire for equity, and sound fiscal management.”

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Hughes comes to Northern Clay from Artistry in Bloomington, where she currently serves as senior director of operations. Before then, she was at Minnetonka Center for the Arts and Highpoint Center for Printmaking. She brings years of experience in arts education programs, relationship-building, and increasing arts access for diverse and underserved populations.

St. Paul’s western edge is about to get way more colorful

Bill Lindeke has the story elsewhere in today’s MinnPost of how St. Paul’s Creative Enterprise Zone will soon boast a dozen new murals, all at once. Murals as in really big works of public art. We saw how the Midway Murals Project jazzed up Snelling Avenue in 2015. And how the Bob Dylan mural lit up downtown Minneapolis that same summer. Murals have magical powers to transform a neighborhood. Or, in this case, a zone.

We’re here to give you a few more details about the Chroma Zone Mural & Art Festival, which starts Saturday, Sept. 7, and continues through Saturday, Sept. 14. Each day during the festival, you can watch the artists work and see the murals take shape. You can visit the Little Mekong Night Market on Saturday or Sunday (or both), drink local craft beer, attend a Night of Womxn (Sept. 10), hear an artist talk about the history of Twin Cities graffiti, play soccer, attend an opening reception for a Chroma Zone Artist Exhibit, take a guided mural tour by bus, with expert guides from Forecast Public Art, and go to a Blocktoberfest street party, which will wrap things up on the final day.

Here’s a schedule of events. All events (and the bus tours) are free and open to the public. Want to volunteer? Go here.

Theater all over

If there’s such a thing as an official start to the 2019-20 theater season in the Twin Cities, tonight is it. Some theaters started earlier, some will start later, but tonight has the sort of critical mass that says HI THERE WE ARE THEATER TOWNS.

A few examples, in no particular order. All open tonight. Sheer madness!

Frank Theatre opens a doubleheader at the Gremlin: two short plays by Caryl Churchill, “Escaped Alone” and “Here We Go.” Wendy Knox directs. At Artistry in Bloomington, Benjamin McGovern directs Thornton Wilder’s “Our Town” with a cast that includes Linda Kelsey and Ansa Akyea.

Lyric Arts in Anoka opens “Bright Star,” a musical with a bluegrass score by Steve Martin and Edie Brickell. Theatre in the Round Players opens its 68th season with Conor McPherson’s version of “The Birds,” a nod to the Daphne du Maurier story that inspired the Alfred Hitchcock film.

Laura Wiebers and Nick Menzhuber
Photo by Bob Suh
Laura Wiebers and Nick Menzhuber in Theater in the Round Players' "The Birds."
The BAND Group has partnered with OutFront Minnesota to present “Bent,” an intimate play centered around the Nazi persecution of homosexuals, at the Phoenix. At the Lab, Classical Actors Ensemble launches a film noir version of “Arden of Faversham,” an anonymous true crime drama. And because one play is not enough for them, their 1940s screwball-comedy take on Shakespeare’s “Much Ado about Nothing” opens tomorrow, Sept. 7, and the two run in repertory.

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The picks

Opens tonight (Friday, Sept. 6) at the Lagoon Cinema: “Vita & Virginia.” Gemma Arteron is Vita Sackville-West, Elizabeth Debicki is Virginia Woolf in this lavishly costumed, gorgeously set story of the love affair that inspired “Orlando.” With Isabella Rossellini. FMI including trailer, times and tickets.

Tonight through Sunday at the Minnsky Theatre: Journey North Opera: Benjamin Britten’s “The Rape of Lucretia.” The former Twin Cities Fringe Opera has been rebranded and relaunched as Journey North, and its first production signals a seriousness to its purpose. Britten’s controversial post-WWII opera is directed and produced by women with a 21st-century perspective in our #MeToo time. Directed by Amanda Carlson, with a full chamber orchestra conducted by Brian Dowdy, it’s recommended for ages 16+. Tonight and Saturday at 7:30 p.m., Sunday at 2 p.m. FMI and tickets ($25).

Saturday at Hennepin History Museum: A Historical Walking Tour of 35W. Denise Pike, a public historian at the U of M, and Aaron Tag, an engineer with MnDOT, will lead a 1.5-mile walking tour of our current teeth-grinding frustration, talking about the freeway’s beginnings, the assumptions the planners made along its route, its long-term social and economic costs and more. Meet at the History Museum. 1-3 p.m. Free, but please register by email to

Saturday at Groveland Gallery: Opening reception for James Conaway’s “Nicollet Island: A Visual History.” A former professor of studio art and art history at Hamline, Conaway is now a full-time artist whose studio is one block east of Nicollet Island. Frequent walks piqued his interest in the island and its history, and this solo exhibition is the result. Conaway will be present. 2-5 p.m. The exhibition closes Oct. 19. Also that day: the opening reception for Anne DeCoster’s “Shorelines.”

Saturday and Sunday at Centennial Lakes Park in Edina: 16th Annual Edina Fall into the Arts Festival. Arts fair season starts winding down with this pleasantly sited festival with plentiful free parking nearby. Expect about 250 artists, exhibitors and food vendors. 7499 France Ave. Saturday 10 a.m.-6 p.m., Sunday 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Free.

Tuesday (Sept. 10) at a theater near you: Margaret Atwood: Live in Cinemas. The excitement is building about the imminent release of “The Testaments,” Atwood’s sequel to “The Handmaid’s Tale.” This live cinema broadcast will include readings, a Q&A between Atwood and author Samira Ahmed, never-before-seen footage from a documentary about Atwood, and guest Lily James (Lady Rose on “Downton Abbey”). Go here to find your theater and buy tickets. Encore broadcast Wednesday, Sept. 18, at the Film Society’s St. Anthony Main Theatre.