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First authors for second Wordplay announced; Art Shanty Projects to open this weekend

ALSO: Atlantis Quartet at Studio Z; Naked Stages at Pillsbury House Theatre; and more.

Wordplay authors, from left to right: Kate DiCamillo, Natalie Diaz, Samantha Irby and Jeff VanderMeer.
Wordplay authors, from left to right: Kate DiCamillo, Natalie Diaz, Samantha Irby and Jeff VanderMeer.

Brrr! It’s a good day to look ahead to Saturday, May 9, when the second annual Wordplay festival will bring authors and book lovers to downtown Minneapolis for a day of readings, conversations, workshops, kids’ activities, special events and camaraderie.

Just as the Minnesota State Fair teases us with announcements of grandstand acts months in advance, the Loft, Wordplay’s producer, has dropped the names of four authors who are scheduled to appear this year. Stephen King, last year’s top marquee name, won’t return, but we can pack the streets around Open Book without him.

Here are the four, in alpha order:

Kate DiCamillo. Two-time Newbery Medalist, National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature, almost 30 million books in print, proud Minnesota resident since her twenties. (Did you know that one of her many books, “The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane,” has been turned into an opera and will have its world premiere here in March?)

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Natalie Diaz. Prize-winning poet, Mojave, enrolled member of the Gila River Indian Tribe. Her first collection, “When My Brother Was an Aztec,” was published by Copper Canyon. Her latest, “Postcolonial Love Poem,” is due out from Graywolf in March.

Samantha Irby. “Breathtakingly honest, imminently relatable” author of “We Are Never Meeting in Real Life,” “Meaty,” “New Year, Same Trash,” and the forthcoming “Wow, No Thank You,” due out from Penguin Random House in March. Irby also writes the popular “bitches gotta eat” blog.

Jeff VanderMeer. Prolific and versatile writer of fiction and nonfiction, dubbed by the New Yorker “the weird Thoreau.” VanderMeer won the Nebula Award and the Shirley Jackson Award for his “Southern Reach” trilogy.” His novel “Borne” was a finalist for the Arthur C. Clarke Award. His latest is “Dead Astronauts.”

The full list of 100+ authors, along with ticketing and pricing information, will be announced Tuesday, Feb. 11, at 6 p.m. at a member party at the Loft.

New this year: a Wordplay Book Club. A partnership between the Loft and Mpls.St.Paul Magazine, it will launch March 18 at the Loft and will feature DiCamillo’s latest novel, “Beverly, Right Here,” an unexpected trilogy that began with “Raymie Nightingale.”

Last year’s inaugural Wordplay took place May 11-12 as Minnesota’s largest celebration of readers, writers and books. More than 10,000 people came.

Graywolf Press Nonfiction Prize is accepting submissions

After giving digital ink to the 2020 Ballard Spahr Prize for Poetry earlier this week, it’s meet and right to note that the 2020 Graywolf Press Nonfiction Prize is open for submissions through Jan. 31. (Sorry, we just learned about this one.)

Graywolf will award a $12,000 advance and publication by Graywolf to the most promising and innovative literary nonfiction project by a writer not yet established in the genre. The prize will be awarded to a manuscript in progress. Previous winners include Eula Bliss for “Notes from No Man’s Land,” Kevin Young for “The Grey Album,” Leslie Jamison for “The Empathy Exams” and Esmé Weijun Wang for “The Collected Schizophrenias.” “Zat Lun,” by 2018 winner Thirii Myo Kyaw Myint will be published in 2021.

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Graywolf authors have won the Nobel Prize for Literature, the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry, the Man Booker Prize, the National Book Critics Circle Award and the National Book Award.

FMI and guidelines here.

The picks

Naked Stages fellows, from left to right: Queen Drea, Amoke Kubat and Hawona Sullivan Janzen.
Courtesy of the Pillsbury House Theatre
Naked Stages fellows, from left to right: Queen Drea, Amoke Kubat and Hawona Sullivan Janzen.
Now at Pillsbury House Theatre: Naked Stages. Now in its 28th year, Naked Stages provides seven months of mentoring and financial support to three emerging artists as they each create a piece of performance art. This year’s fellows are ready to go and will be on stage this weekend and next. Hawona Sullivan Janzen “Hydro’s Phobia” is for anyone who has ever been afraid. In “Good Old Pussy and Old Good Pussy,” Amoke Kubat will take on the objectification of black female bodies. In music, wisecracks and movement, “Queen Drea’s Soul Chamber: The Chaos Inside” will explore the chaos in Queen Drea’s mind. Directed by Signe Harriday, Maren Ward and Mankwe Ndosi. 7:30 p.m Friday and Saturday; also 7:30 p.m. next Thursday-Saturday. FMI and tickets (pick-your-price; regular price $16).

Opens Saturday at Bde Unma/Lake Harriet: Art Shanty Projects. Dress in layers and wear your Yaktrax. Art Shanty Projects 2020 starts with Youth & Families Weekend, (Jan. 18-19). continues for three more weekends and ends Feb. 9. This is a big event, with more than 20 unique shanties on the ice, more than 150 artists and performers, many live performances (by Brownbody, Prairie Fire Lady Choir, Twin Cities Native Lacrosse, the Minnesota Art Car Community and many more), food and hot beverages on shore and ATMs nearby. Plan your day (or days) around the schedule of performances and art actions, or just show up and wander around. Tours of the shanty village are held on the hour from 11 a.m.-3 p.m. at Shantastic Tours. MinneSauna will have hour-long sauna sessions; sign up in advance (spots fill up fast; check February first). Several new accessibility features are available this year, including an ADA-compliant ramp. FMI. Suggested donation $10-20. No one will be turned away; just remember that in 2019, Art Shanty Projects had to take the year off due to a funding shortage.

Saturday at Studio Z: Jazz at Studio Z: Atlantis Quartet. We’ve been listening to Atlantis live and on record since 2008, when they played a nightclub so near Déjà Vu that strippers dropped in for drinks. Back then, the group was Brandon Wozniak on saxophone, Zacc Harris on guitar, Travis Schilling on bass and Pete Hennig on drums. Later that year, Schilling would be replaced by Chris Bates, and that’s been the lineup ever since. Their music is original, their energy high, and their group spirit is strong. They have released five albums to date, most on Shifting Paradigm Records, run by Harris. It matters that these four have played together for 11 years. 6 p.m. master class, 7 p.m. show. FMI and tickets ($12; kids 12 and under free)

Marielle Allschwang
Courtesy of the Cedar
Marielle Allschwang
Saturday at the Cedar: Marielle Allschwang and the Visitations’ “Precession of a Day: The World of Mary Nohl” with Chris Rosenau (of Volcano Choir). Mary Nohl (1914-2001) was a Milwaukee artist whose home on Lake Michigan was filled floor to ceiling with her own art. Living a solitary life as an artist, she was called a witch by her neighbors and marginalized as an “outsider” artist. Marielle Allschwang is a Milwaukee-based songwriter and performer who first encountered Nohl’s home as a child. Rosenau is a guitar player and a founding member of indie rock band Volcano Choir with Justin Vernon. “Precession of a Day” is a song cycle performed live, set to a film about Nohl’s home, which is being restored by the John Michael Kohler Arts Center. This Cedar co-commission sounds totally fascinating. All-ages seated show. Doors at 7, show at 8. FMI and tickets ($20 advance, $22 day of show).

Monday at the East Side Freedom Library: Screening and discussion of “A Huey P. Newton Story.” Roger Guenveur Smith won a 1997 Obie Award for his stream-of-consciousness solo performance as Newton, cofounder of the Black Panther party. He later adapted it for a film directed by Spike Lee for PBS. Lee complemented Newton’s monologue with documentary footage, an award-winning score by Marc Anthony Thompson and guest solos by Branford Marsalis. The film won a 2002 Peabody Award and two NAACP awards. If you caught Smith at the Penumbra as Rodney King in 2015 or Frederick Douglass in 2018, you know what a mesmerizing performer he is. ESFL will celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day by showing the film and hosting a discussion after. 7 p.m. Free and open to all.