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TPT serves up ‘Relish’; Minnesota Opera’s ‘Barber of Seville’ to open

ALSO: Concertmaster Erin Keefe is the soloist for Dvorâk’s Romance in F minor with the Minnesota Orchestra; “Journey’s End” at Gremlin Theatre; and more.

Chef Yia Vang and his mom, Pang Vang
In the first episode of “Relish,” Chef Yia Vang makes Hmong-style steam buns with his mom, Pang Vang.
Twin Cities PBS

TPT is serving up a new web series called “Relish.” On the surface, it’s about food, but it’s also about diversity, cultural heritage, immigration, and the abundance of culinary choices available to us in 2019, in a place that’s still relatively homogeneous, inland, and out of the way. As the Star Tribune’s Rick Nelson wrote earlier this year, “Twin Cities diners can circumnavigate the globe several times over and never leave the seven-county metro area.” Isn’t it great?

Each episode of “Relish” is a tasty bite-sized introduction (just 4-6 minutes long) to a local chef and an ingredient or dish that has personal and cultural meaning to them. Each will have its own web page, with a story and (bonus!) a recipe.

The series is hosted by Chef Yia Vang of Union Hmong Kitchen in northeast Minneapolis. In the tradition of traveling chef shows – he doesn’t go far, but each episode is filmed in a different location, usually the featured chef’s home kitchen – Vang is amiable, chatty and open to discovery. He’s there to learn and share. And eat, of course.

In the first episode, available now, Vang makes Hmong-style steam buns with his mom, Pang Vang. The buns look like fat little pillows of goodness. We learn part of the story about how Pang Vang came to make steam buns – she had her first one in a refugee camp in Thailand, after the Vietnam War – and how she’s still changing dough recipe. Steam bun dough contains condensed milk. As a kid, Vang says, his favorite snack was “a little bit of sweetened condensed milk on Wonder Bread.”

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The other five episodes in the first series will be released weekly on Wednesdays at Twin Cities PBS Originals. They include visits with Jose Alarcon of Centro and Popol Vuh, An Ahmed of Lat14 Asian Eatery, Brian Yazzie, aka Yazzie the Chef, Lachell Cunningham of Chelles’ Kitchen catering, and Somali chef Jamal Hashi, whose restaurants have included Safari Express and Jambo Kitchen.

Hashi sums up “Relish” as he and Vang dig into a dish of beef and vegetables, couscous and toasted spices at Midtown Market. “Immigrants don’t just bring burdens,” he says. “They bring great ideas. Food. Things that make us human. Once you learn about food, you learn about similarities you share with other cultures.”

The second series is in development now.

JXTA to receive $200,000 award from Bank of America

Juxtaposition Arts is one of two local nonprofits to be named 2019 Bank of America Neighborhood Builders awardees for the Twin Cities.

The other is Project for Pride in Living. Both were chosen this year “because they are making a real difference in the lives of the people they are serving and are driving social change by addressing some of the most critical issues in our community,” Bank of America’s Katie Simpson said in a statement.

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Each will receive $200,000 in unrestricted funds. In addition, its executive director and an emerging leader within the organization will attend an award-winning leadership program on capacity building.

JXTA plans to use its grant to support its JXTALab apprentice program, where JXTA students work with professional artists in paid apprenticeship positions, and expand its infrastructure. Chief Executive Officer DeAnna Cummings and staff member Adrienne Doyle will take part in the leadership program. “We’ll be in the company of local and national peers who are doing challenging and rich work that makes material and economic impact in their neighborhoods,” Cummings said.

JXTA plans to use its grant to support its JXTALab apprentice program.
Courtesy of Juxtaposition Arts
JXTA plans to use its grant to support its JXTALab apprentice program.
This is the seventh year Bank of America is giving a Neighborhood Builder grant in the Twin Cities, and the first year it is awarding two grants, for a total investment of $400,000.

And it’s a good year for JXTA. In August, U.S. Bank gave it a $50,000 Community Possible grant to help fund the inaugural programming season of its new skateable art plaza. And Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey proclaimed Saturday, Sept. 14 “JXTA Day.”

The picks

Tonight (Thursday, Nov. 7) through Sunday at the Gremlin Theatre: “Journey’s End.” This is the first play Bain Boehlke has directed in the Twin Cities since 2015. That’s the year he turned over the reins of the Jungle Theater, which he founded and led for 25 years, to Sara Rasmussen. Written by English playwright R.C. Sherriff, first performed in 1928, 10 years after the end of World War I, “Journey’s End” is set in the trenches near Saint-Quentin, where a British Army infantry company is trapped as a German offensive approaches. The days tick by and the tension rises, along with the fear of the men. It’s a long one, but reportedly well worth it. The caster includes Peter Christian Hansen and Craig Johnson. 7:30 p.m. today through Saturday, 3 p.m. Sunday. FMI and tickets ($28-8).

Friday and Saturday at Orchestra Hall: Minnesota Orchestra: Keefe, Wagner and Brahms. Concertmaster Erin Keefe is the soloist for Dvorâk’s Romance in F minor in a concert that begins and ends with Brahms (three “Hungarian Dances,” Symphony No. 2) and also includes Richard Wagner’s Prelude and Liebestod from “Tristan and Isolde.” Nathalie Stutzman will conduct. 8 p.m. FMI and tickets ($30-97; $20 under 40).

Saturday at Ted Mann Concert Hall: University Singers, Women’s Chorus and Men’s Chorus: “To Be Certain of the Dawn.” A Holocaust Memorial Oratorio commissioned by the Basilica of St. Mary as a gift to the Twin Cities Jewish Community, written by Stephen Paulus with librettist Michael Dennis Browne. The title is from a quote by theologian Abraham Joshua Heschel: “This is the task: in the darkest night, to be certain of the dawn, certain of the power to turn a curse into a blessing, agony into song.” Kathy Saltzman Romey and Matthew Mehaffey will conduct. 7:30 p.m. FMI and tickets ($20/15/5).

An image from the 2018 Glimmerglass production of “The Barber of Seville.”
Photo by Karli Cadel
An image from the 2018 Glimmerglass production of “The Barber of Seville.”
Opens Saturday at the Ordway: Minnesota Opera: “The Barber of Seville.” It’s the best-known opera by one of the greatest of all opera composers, Rossini. (If you don’t know the opera, perhaps you’ve seen the Looney Tunes masterpiece “Rabbit of Seville” starring Bugs Bunny and Elmer Fudd?) The two romantic leads, soprano Daniela Mack (Rosina) and tenor Alek Shrader (Count Almaviva), are married in real life and have sung their roles several times. Much of the music is recognizable (“Figaro! Figaro! Figarofigarofigarofigaro Figaro!”). Stage director Francesca Zambello knows the opera very well; one of her first solo directing jobs was her own new production of “Barber” in Reykjavik, in Icelandic. It’s a comedy, with characters in and out of disguise and passing notes right and left. Nobody dies. This will be fun. 7:30 p.m. FMI and tickets (start at $25). Also Nov. 10, 12, 14, 16 and 17. (Best seats nd prices on Tuesday, Nov. 12.)