The Distinguished Carlson Lecture at the University of Minnesota is on again. Michael Bloomberg was originally set to appear in the series on Dec. 5. On Nov. 15, the Humphrey School of Public Affairs canceled that event because it seemed that Bloomberg would soon enter the 2020 presidential race. Which he did, officially, on Nov. 21.
Per a statement issued on Nov. 15, “University policy and federal law prohibit any arm of a public university from engaging in activity that may support a current presidential candidate. This includes funding an event with a candidate on a public university campus.”
On Tuesday, the Humphrey School announced that Gloria Steinem will be at Northrop on Wednesday, Feb. 19, for the 2020 Distinguished Carlson Lecture, an evening of conversation with Kerri Miller.
Steinem is a writer, lecturer, political activist, feminist organizer and role model whose accomplishments are staggering: a founder of New York and Ms. Magazines, author of several books, co-founder of the National Women’s Political Caucus and the Ms. Foundation for Women (among many other organizations), and recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Freedom Award (National Civil Rights Museum). Miller is the award-winning host of “MPR News with Kerri Miller” and “Talking Volumes.”
The next ‘Glensheen’?
The History Theatre will start 2020 with an intriguing Raw Stages New Works Festival. Over four consecutive days beginning Jan. 16, it will present four staged readings of four new plays – each a reminder that there’s still a lot of Minnesota history to cover on stage, and the History Theatre deserves our thanks for doing it so well.
What jumps out first is “Jesse James: The Musical.” Its creators: Jeffrey Hatcher, Minnesota’s most prolific playwright, and Chan Poling, musician, composer, performer (Suburbs, New Standards) and author (“Jack and the Ghost”). What else have they done? A little something called “Glensheen,” the History Theatre’s biggest hit. And “Lord Gordon Gordon.” The Minnesota connection to their latest collaboration is a botched robbery that took place in 1876, when the James-Younger Gang hit the Northfield Bank and the town fought back. The raid is re-enacted each year during a four-day “Defeat of Jesse James Days” celebration. The musical will likely be hot as a gun barrel.
We’re happy to see Harrison David Rivers’ name. Rivers is the pen behind “To Let Go and Fall” and “Five Points” (Theater Latté Da), “This Bitter Earth” (Penumbra), “the bandaged place” (Playwrights’ Center) and “A Crack in the Sky” (History Theatre). With Robin Hickman, Rivers has written “Parks,” a play inspired by the life of esteemed photographer Gordon Parks, who launched his career in St. Paul. Hickman is Parks’ great-niece.
Ola Larsmo’s novel “Swede Hollow,” a fictionalized account of the former St. Paul shanty town, is a best-seller in Sweden and has won prestigious awards there. The American Swedish Institute featured an exhibition about the novel in 2017 and hosted the book launch in October 2019 for the English translation published by the University of Minnesota Press. Meanwhile, Swedish playwright Alexander Mörk Eidem wrote a play based on the Swedish version. Eidem’s play has been translated by Rachel Willson-Broyles, and that’s the version we’ll see here. If you want to know more about “Swede Hollow” the novel, and how Larsmo came to write it, read this.
Albert Lea’s bitter meatpacking strike of 1959 made national news and turned lives upside-down. “Wilson’s Girl” revisits the turmoil through a unique perspective: the eyes of a teenager. Based on Cheri Register’s memoir, “Packinghouse Daughter,” adapted for the stage by Eva Barr, an organic farmer and theater maker in Wykoff, Minnesota, this play is cleverly subtitled “Unpacking the Beef in a Minnesota Town.”
Each staged reading will be presented only once. Thursday, Jan. 16, 7:30 p.m.: “Wilson’s Girl.” Friday, Jan. 17, 7:30 p.m.: “Swede Hollow.” Saturday, Jan. 18, 2 p.m.: “Jesse James: The Musical.” Sunday, Jan, 19, 2 p.m.: “Parks.” (A free “Parks” reception will follow the reading.) FMI and tickets ($15 general admission, $30 all-access pass).
P.S. You can see another new play by Jeffrey Hatcher on Jan. 13 and 14 at the Playwrights’ Center. “Author Author,” which Hatcher wrote with actress Sandra Struthers, explores the friendship between novelist Henry James and actress/suffragette Elizabeth Robins, tracking gender dynamics across history. This staged reading is part of the center’s annual Ruth Easton New Play Series. FMI. Free, but registration is strongly recommended.
Guthrie receives $50K Joyce Award
The Guthrie has received a $50,000 Joyce Award to commission Native artists Ty Defoe and Larissa FastHorse to create a new theater production. Defoe is from the Oneida and Ojibwe nations; FastHorse is an award-winning playwright and choreographer from the Sicangu Lakota Nation. They are cofounders of Indigenous Direction, a consulting firm for companies and artists who want to create accurate work about, for and with indigenous peoples.
The new work, which is expected to premiere within the 2020-21 season, will center on the stories and experiences of the Twin Cities Native community, in particular the Dakota and Anishinaabe-Ojibwe people. It will be an extension of 2019’s “Stories From the Drum,” which featured an all-Native cast from the Twin Cities and had three performances in June on the McGuire proscenium stage. “Stories” in turn built on summer 2017’s “Water Is Sacred,” a community gathering in the Dowling Studio. Both were created by Defoe and FastHorse.
The Guthrie’s grant is one of four Joyce gave on Tuesday to collaborations between artists of color and arts/cultural organizations in the Great Lakes region. The other winners are visual artist Faheem Majeed (who grew up in Minneapolis) with the Hyde Park Art Center in Chicago, artists M. Carmen Land and Shaun Leonardo with the Museum of Contemporary Art Cleveland, and musician Terrel Wallace (Tall Black Guy) with Twelve Literary Arts in Cleveland.