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The Guthrie to celebrate Arab artistry with multiple events; new exhibit at the M

Hanane Hajj Ali
Photo by Marwan Tahtah
From Jan. 29-Feb. 2, the Guthrie Theater will present Hanane Hajj Ali’s one-woman show “Jogging,” conceived and performed in Arabic with English subtitles.

The Guthrie has added three more events that explore the Arab experience to its 2019-20 season, bringing the total (so far) to five.

Previously announced, New Arab American Theater Works’ production of “Zafira and the Resistance,” written by Minnesota playwright Kathryn Haddad and directed by Malek Najjar and Zeina Salame, will play in the Dowling Studio (Oct. 11-27). Haddad’s play, now in rehearsals, looks at the lives of students and faculty of color in an era of increasing anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim bigotry.

The regional premiere of “Noura” by award-winning playwright Heather Raffo, whose parents are American and Iraqi, will play on the proscenium stage (Jan. 11-Feb. 16). Inspired by Henrik Ibsen’s “A Doll’s House,” it explores motherhood, marriage and identity in modern America through the character of Noura, a newly minted U.S. citizen preparing to host an Iraqi meal on Christmas Eve.

Announced earlier this week, Remote Theater Project’s production of “Grey Rock,” written and directed by Palestinian artist Amir Nizar Zuabi, will be staged in the Dowling Studio (Jan. 23-26). Set in the present day, it tells of an ordinary man in a small West Bank village who is determined to go to the moon and builds a rocket in his shed. The play will be performed in English by a five-member cast from Palestine.


Next in the Dowling Studio (Jan. 29-Feb. 2), the Guthrie will present Hanane Hajj Ali’s one-woman show “Jogging,” conceived and performed in Arabic with English subtitles. The story is told through Ali’s eyes as she takes her daily jog through Beirut, remarking on her surroundings, the city’s history, and her own roles as woman, wife, and mother.

On Jan. 26, the Guthrie will host an “In Conversation” event moderated by Artistic Director Joseph Haj with artists from all four plays, “Zafira and the Resistance,” “Noura,” “Grey Rock” and “Jogging.”

In a statement, Haj said, “So often, our exposure to Arab culture in America is reduced to stories connected to war and politics, but the lives of Arabs and Arab Americans go far beyond the limits of that framework. … We didn’t want a singular story to bear the weight of trying to represent an entire cultural worldview, so we took the opportunity to present multiple tales from the Arab experience.” Haj is the son of parents who emigrated from Palestine in the late 1950s.

Tickets for all but “In Conversation” are on sale now. New this season, ticket prices for plays in the Dowling will be $9 for select performances and regularly priced at $25 or $32 for all other performances.

Weekend events for the M’s new exhibition

Since moving into its permanent home in the Pioneer Endicott Building in December 2018, the Minnesota Museum of American Art has presented three exhibitions. Today (Thursday, Sept. 12) begins the fourth. “History Is Not Here: Art and the Arab Imaginary” may be the M’s boldest statement yet about the boundless (and borderless) diversity of American art. For sure, it’s not what most people would expect to see in a museum of American art in the heart of a Midwestern city.

Co-presented with Mizna, the St. Paul-based Arab arts organization, “History Is Not Here” features work by 17 artists from the so-called “Arab world” who are working in the United States and abroad. It’s eye-opening and stereotypes-busting. We saw a press preview Tuesday and are still processing.

Meanwhile, several events are happening tonight and over the weekend that are good entry points into the show, why it matters, and what it has to say about history, representation/misrepresentation and America’s habit of lumping together (and often vilifying) everyone from Southwest Asia, North Africa and the diaspora. All are free and open to the public, but space is limited and RSVPs are requested.


An opening party tonight will feature a first look, cash bar, and DJ Yasmeenah spinning tunes. Guest curators Heba Y. Amin and Maymanah Farhat will give remarks at 7 p.m. The party starts at 6 p.m. and ends at 9.

Amin and Farhat will return for a curator conversation tomorrow (Friday) moderated by Laura Wertheim Joseph, the M’s new curator of exhibitions. 6 p.m.

Athir Shayota, 'The Painter’s Daughter (After Daoud Zalatimo)' (2010, 2016)
Courtesy of the artist
Athir Shayota, 'The Painter’s Daughter (After Daoud Zalatimo)' (2010, 2016)
On Saturday, Athir Shayota, who has two paintings in the exhibition, will give an artist talk about his experiences as an artist in the Midwest. 1 p.m.

On Sunday, Amin and Farhat will give a curators’ tour of the exhibition, with special insights on the artists, artworks and themes. 1 p.m.

And on Monday, Sept. 16, Sudanese-Norwegian artist Fadlabi – one of 12 artists who are creating murals in St. Paul’s Creative Energy Zone during this year’s inaugural Chroma Zone Mural & Art Festival, taking place right now – will give an artist talk about his process and the content of his mural.

Until Tuesday, Fadlabi’s presence at Chroma Zone was uncertain. Despite his Norwegian citizenship, his Sudanese upbringing delayed his artist visa. But he made it, he’s here, he’s painting and he’ll talk. NOTE: This event will take place at Forecast Public Art, not the M. 7-8:30 p.m.

The picks

Tonight (Thursday, Sept. 12) at Bockley Gallery: Opening reception for “George Morrison.” Ojibwe modernist Morrison was born on Lake Superior’s North Shore in 1919. Celebrating the centennial of his birth, Bockley Gallery has mounted a show of paintings, drawings, prints and sculpture spanning five decades of the artist’s life. The gallery first showed Morrison’s work in the late 1980s and now represents his estate. 5-8 p.m. Closes Oct. 19. FMI.

Starts Friday at the Film Society’s St. Anthony Main Theatre: “Miles Davis: Birth of the Cool.” If you missed Stanley Nelson’s acclaimed documentary when it screened at MSPIFF earlier this year – or if you want to see it again – here’s your chance. The San Francisco Chronicle called it “truthful, gritty, elegantly musical, unpredictable and even surprising.” The narration is in Davis’ own words; Nelson used selections from his colorful autobiography, written with Quincy Troupe, and actor Carl Lumbly performed them. FMI including trailer, times and tickets. The run has already been extended beyond Sept.19. More show times will be added.

Nature Theater of Oklahoma and EN-KNAP Group present “Pursuit of Happiness” Friday and Saturday at the Walker Art Center.
Photo by Andrej Lamut
Nature Theater of Oklahoma and EN-KNAP Group present “Pursuit of Happiness” Friday and Saturday at the Walker Art Center.
Friday and Saturday at the Walker: Nature Theater of Oklahoma and EN-KNAP Group: “Pursuit of Happiness.” The Walker’s 2019-20 performing arts season begins with “one of the wildest things you’ll see at the theater this year” (New York Times). A New York-based theater company and a Slovenian dance company meet up in a Western bar to explore the Declaration of Independence’s “pursuit of happiness” as an “unalienable right” and what that means. Here’s a trailer. With English subtitles. Contains sounds of gunshots and depictions of physical and sexual violence. 8 p.m. FMI and tickets ($28/$22.40 for members).


Friday at SooVAC: Opening reception for “Collect Call.” What do other collectors collect? What draws them, entices them, inspires them? What do they spend their money on? Every other year, SooVAC invites Minnesota collectors to share a portion of their collection with the public. This year’s collectors are Mark Addicks and Tom Hoch, Tom Arneson, Todd Bockley, Chris Barfield and Benjamin Brown, Carlo Cuesta and Dana Gillespie, Kathryn Hanna and Daniel Romero, Michael and Lindsay Herbert, Masami Kawazato and Aaron Merrill, Herman J. Milligan, Jr. and Constance Osterbaan-Milligan, Tom Owens, Phil and Tammie Rosenbloom, Jim Rustad and Kay Thomas, and John and Michael Sammler-Jones. 6-9 p.m. Free. Closes Sept. 29.

Saturday at the Hook and Ladder: Daniel Borzutsky and Steve Healey. A child of Chilean immigrants, Borzutsky is a National Book Award-winning poet and award-winning translator. Healey learned as a child (during the Cold War) that his father was a spy for the CIA. Borzutzky’s poetry deals with the political and economic violence shared by Chile and Chicago, where he now lives and teaches, Healey’s with national and family secrets and a paranoid childhood. Books will be available. Presented by Rain Taxi. 7 p.m. Free. FMI.

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