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SteppingStone Theatre to put its building up for sale; five Sound Unseen films to see

ALSO: “Songs to the Moon” at Open Eye Figure Theatre; “Wing Young Huie: What Do You See?” at Landmark Center; and more.

SteppingStone Theatre has announced that "after careful consideration and conversations in the community, the SteppingStone board and staff have decided to start the process of moving from our current building."
Wikimedia Commons

The first time we went to SteppingStone Theatre, we thought we had the wrong address. How could this imposing building – a former Methodist Church in the Summit-University neighborhood, built in 1908 in Greek Revival style – be a children’s theater? But it was, with an equally surprising 430-seat performance space inside.

The company moved into the building in 2007 after extensive renovations. Now it wants to move on.

In a release sent late last week, SteppingStone announced that “after careful consideration and conversations in the community, the SteppingStone board and staff have decided to start the process of moving from our current building. While we have hired a listing agent to sell the building, that process and the finalization of new program and performance spaces could take a year or longer.”

Public performances are the tip of the iceberg for SteppingStone. Its summer camp programs serve 1,000 young people. New middle-school and high-school LEAP programs have 120 teens attending. Weekly matinees of their mainstage productions draw 15,000 school children. Drop-in programs, school-year programs and youth classes are popular. Many programs take place elsewhere, so SteppingStone is looking to identify new locations in St. Paul.

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Artistic and Executive Director Mark Ferraro-Hauck told the Pioneer Press, “Almost a third of what we do is outside this building.” In its current space, “the size of the auditorium is the only piece of the puzzle that fits for us.”

The release noted that “during this process, it remains business as usual at SteppingStone Theatre.” Auditions are taking place for “The Real Life Adventures of Jimmy de las Rosas,” a world premiere slated for February. The musical “Annie Jr.” will open for the holidays on Nov. 22. Dane Stauffer will direct. FMI and tickets.

Five films to see at Sound Unseen

The Sound Unseen films-on-music festival opens tonight (Tuesday, Nov. 12) at the Walker. From there, it moves to the Bryant Lake Bowl, the Parkway and the Trylon for screenings, and various locations for events. One of the nation’s premiere niche festivals, Sound Unseen is six days and 35 screenings about music, musicians, the music biz and sound in films. These are films that caught our eye (and ear) and why.

Wednesday at the Trylon: “Making Waves: The Art of Cinematic Sound.” You know how during the Oscars everyone cares about Best Picture, Actor, Actress, Writing and Directing (the so-called Big Five), but when it comes to Sound Editing and Mixing, a lot of people tune out? Seeing this engrossing film will forever change how you experience movies.

A scene from “Making Waves: The Art of Cinematic Sound.”
A scene from “Making Waves: The Art of Cinematic Sound.”
Directed by Midge Costin, filled with film clips and interviews with dozens of technicians and directors (George Lucas, Steven Spielberg, David Lynch, Barbra Streisand, Ang Lee, Ryan Coogler), it spans the history of film from silents to today, with many surprises along the way – like the connection between Chewbacca the wookiee and a bear eating bread. And the link between “The Godfather” and John Cage. 7 p.m. FMI and tickets ($12/14).

Wednesday at the Parkway: “I Want My MTV.” If you’re nostalgic for the olden days when MTV played music videos, or curious why geezers still complain that it stopped, this documentary is a romp through the rise of an unlikely network and its reign as an influencer in the 1980s.

See it for the video clips, the interviews with Pat Benatar, Sting (who will perform at the Ordway next year in his musical “The Last Ship”) and Mark Mothersbaugh (remember his show at Mia?), amazing videos and awful videos, bits of the infamous 1983 conversation between David Bowie and MTV VJ Mark Goodman about why MTV played so few black artists, and insight into the influence of Michael Nesmith of the Monkees. Directed by Tyler Measom and Patrick Waldrop, “I Want My MTV” will screen at 7:30 p.m., with live music by Maybe Nebraska at 7. FMI and tickets ($12/14).

Saturday at the Bryant-Lake Bowl: “Pipe Dreams.” The Canadian International Organ Competition, held every three years in Montréal, has been called the organ Olympics. Open to organists under 35 of all nationalities, it draws young virtuosos eager for the big prize: a cash award, a career development contract, a CD recording and recitals. Directed by Stacey Tenenbaum, this documentary follows five young organists who make it to the finals in the 2017 competition.

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Yuan Shen is the daughter of China’s most famous organist – pressure with a capital P. Thomas Gaynor of New Zealand has signed up for three major organ competitions in a single summer; will he burn out? Alcee Chriss III of Texas is the sole African American in the competition. Pittsburgh’s Nick Cappozoli will take a risk and play some John Cage; will the judges hate it? Sebastian Heindl, just 19, hails from Leipzig, Germany, where J.S. Bach was organist.

CIOC isn’t a free climb of El Capitan, but it is a nail biter in its own way. Fun fact: In 2018, Jean-Willy Kunz was named artistic director of the CIOC. On Oct. 1, he performed at Northrop with Branford Marsalis. The film will screen at 5:15 p.m. FMI and tickets ($12/14). P.S. This just in from Michael Barone, host of public radio’s “Pipe Dreams” radio program: “I highly recommend this!”

We’ve seen all three of these films. Two more are on our wish list.

Saturday at the Trylon: “Dave Grusin: Not Enough Time.” A former Colorado cowboy and wannabe veterinarian, Grusin – a composer, pianist, arranger and co-founder of GRP Records – instead became one of the most prolific American musicians of the last century. Now 85, he gets the attention he has long deserved in this documentary from director Barbara Bentree, who will be at the Trylon (along with editor Kate Amend) for a post-screening Q&A. 5:30 p.m. FMI and tickets ($12/14).

Sunday at the Trylon: “Digging for Weldon Irvine.” You’ve heard (or heard of) the civil rights anthem “To Be Young, Gifted and Black,” sung by Nina Simone, Donny Hathaway and Aretha Franklin (and, more recently, Meshell Ndegeocello). But who wrote it? His name was Weldon Irvine, a musician and playwright, Simone’s bandleader and mentor to rappers (Q-Tip, Mos Def/Yasiin Bey) whose legacy time has obscured. Director Victorious DeCosta will be on hand for a post-screening Q&A. 3 p.m. FMI and tickets ($12/14).

The picks

Tonight (Tuesday, Nov. 12) at the Landmark Center: Opening reception for “What Do You See?” Wing Young Huie, a McKnight Distinguished Artist and Minnesota Book Award winner (for “Chinese-Ness”), was chosen as the inaugural artist for a new artist-in-residence program at the Landmark. He invited 20 photographers to take pictures of total strangers in an effort to see beyond their own boundaries. This reception will open the exhibit in the 2nd Floor Galleria. 5-7 p.m. Free.

Bao Phi
Photo by Anna Min
A night in honor of Loft Program Director Bao Phi, poet, spoken word artist, and children’s book author, on the occasion of his 20th year with the literary center.
Tonight at the Loft: Bao 20th Loft Anniversary Phi-esta! A night in honor of Loft Program Director Bao Phi, poet, spoken word artist, and children’s book author, on the occasion of his 20th year with the literary center. Expect food, drinks, a silent auction, and a reading of new material. 5:30-8:30 p.m. FMI and tickets ($20 or pay-what-you-can).

Tonight and tomorrow at Open Eye Figure Theatre: “Songs to the Moon.” A musical celebration of the 50th anniversary of the lunar landing, with songs to and about the moon, and poetry. With Sonja Thompson, pianist/curator; singers Bradley Greenwald, Maria Jette and Janet Gottschall Fried; cellist Laura Sewell; and flutist Barbara Leibundguth. 7:3 p.m. FMI and tickets ($24/18/pay-as-able, if available).

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Wednesday at the Dakota: JT Bates Quartet: Monsters of Folk Jazz. The quartet is Bates on drums, Mike Lewis on saxophones, Bryan Nichols on piano and Jeff Bailey on bass. All four can play at the farthest edges of jazz, but this will be a night of swinging standards. “I do sort of think that standards are folk music in a way at this point,” Bates wrote in an email, “and I’m beyond happy to play that music with those three dear old friends of mine at the Dakota.” We’re pretty happy about it, too. 7 p.m. FMI and tickets ($15/10).

Wednesday and Saturday at the American Swedish Institute: Richard Tellström. A professor of food history at Stockholm University, Tellström first visited the ASI in 2016 with celebrity chef Magnus Nilsson. (He’d written the intro to Nilsson’s “Nordic Cookbook.”) He’s back again to charm the UGGS off everyone within listening distance. On Wednesday at 10 a.m., he’ll talk about “The Essence of Swedish Food Culture: An Overview from Viking Age to Today.” Included in museum admission. Later that day, he’ll speak at an “Aquavit Week” event with trivia, samples, and appetizers. FMI and tickets ($55/50). On Saturday at 11 a.m., his topic will be “Lutfisk, Herring and Other Fish Traditions in Swedish Food Culture.” This is a warm-up for ASI’s annual Lutfisk Dinner later that day, but you don’t need to attend the dinner to hear the talk. FMI and tickets ($10/$15).

Holiday pick

Fa-la-la-la-la. Santa has moved into the Mall of America for an extended stay – his arrival last weekend drew thousands of people – and holiday shows are being announced. Instead of waiting until the last minute, we’re adding a new feature to Artscape starting today. On Tuesdays through Fridays from now until New Year’s Day, we’ll choose a holiday event or something related to the holidays for this space. Ho ho ho!

Now at all Kowalski’s Markets: “A Minnesota Holiday Vol. 11 – Greatest Hits (2009-2019).” Because what’s better when you’re making holiday plans, baking cookies and ordering things online than hearing Minnesota musicians sing holiday songs? Sales benefit Be the Match, operated by the National Marrow Donor Program. Artists include Peter Mayer, the New Standards, Mick Sterling, T. Mychael Rambo, Keri Noble, Robert Robinson, Nicholas David, Chris Koza, the Blenders and Davina & The Vagabonds. The CD sells for $14.95.