We spend a lot of time in crowds. If you read this column, you probably do, too, at concerts, plays, movies, musicals, operas and/or dance performances. These often begin with a welcome of some kind, thanking the audience for being there, thanking the voters of Minnesota for supporting the Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund, asking people to turn off their phones and (increasingly) acknowledging the Native land we gather on.
With the global spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus, it’s time to add one more element to the welcome: a reminder to cover coughs and sneezes. According to the CDC, if you feel a cough or sneeze coming on, you should cover your mouth and nose with a tissue. If you don’t have time (or tissue), cough or sneeze into your upper sleeve or elbow, not your hands. (After seeing this episode of the science series “MythBusters,” we’re all for the sleeve method.)
We were in a big crowd on Saturday night. During quieter moments, we heard a lot of uncovered coughs and sneezes. These used to be mostly annoying, but not anymore. A reminder at the start of a performance might help more people remember and do better. Signs posted where people can see them on the way in wouldn’t hurt.
Jennifer Egan leads U of M’s spring literary series
Winner of the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award, Jennifer Egan is the star attraction of a string of literary events to be presented this spring by the Department of English at the University of Minnesota. Egan, currently president of PEN America, will give the Esther Freier Lecture in Literature at Coffman Union Theater on Monday, April 13, at 7:30 p.m.
The series begins on Thursday, March 10, with a First Books Reading by debut authors from the U’s Creative Writing Program. Novelist Matthew Duffus and poets D. Allen, Roy Guzmán and Su Hwang will read from their books and discuss the path to publication. On Wednesday, April 29, the 2020 issue of the undergraduate literary arts magazine The Tower will be launched at the Weisman.
And on April 30, the department will celebrate the career of award-winning author Charles Baxter, who is retiring after 18 years as a beloved professor of the MFA Program in Creative Writing, at the annual Hunger Relief Benefit reading, which Baxter started 12 years ago.
All events are free, but donations of $5 and up are requested for the Hunger Relief Benefit.
The St. Paul Chamber Orchestra offers the most affordable ticket prices of any professional orchestra in the United States. In 2012, it introduced the SPCO Concert Membership. For $9 per month, you can see as many regular SPCO concerts as you want. In 2016, the orchestra launched the New Generation Initiative. Children ages 6-17 and students get in free.
Now, as of mid-February, there’s the club2030 Concert Membership. For $5 per month, members of the SPCO’s club2030 program for young audience members ages 18-39 can attend as many regular concerts as they want. The program has been around for 2007 and offers special benefits to members including best available seats and exclusive afterparties.
Managing Director and President Jon Limbacher said in a statement, “This new step in affordable pricing aligns with our mission to make our world-class orchestra available to all people in our community.”
Even if you don’t sign up for one of the programs, more than 50 percent of all regularly priced SPCO tickets are $15 or less.
Want to see Sting at the Ordway for a lot less than full price? Union members can do that. The 17-time Grammy winner will bring his musical “The Last Ship” to St. Paul in April. Sting wrote the music and lyrics and plays a starring role.
Inspired by Sting’s own childhood in a northeastern England shipyard town, “The Last Ship” chronicles the decline of England’s shipbuilding industry. It was not a hit when it opened on Broadway in 2014. It has since been retooled with a new book, a new focus on women and Sting on stage. The L.A. Times called it “a vastly different production,” “a visual feast” and “a joyful and soaring production.”
The show will run from April 8-19 at the Ordway. Tickets are regularly $90-145. Members of all creative and labor unions can buy $49 tickets for performances on April 8, 14 or 15. FMI and tickets (651-224-4222). Use promo code UNION and be ready to show your union ID or equivalent at the box office.
Tonight (Tuesday, March 3) at St. Olaf Catholic Church in Minneapolis: Giacomo Benedetti. Florentine pianist Giacomo Benedetti will give a one-time-only concert on St. Olaf’s pipe organ, with music from three countries (Germany, France, Italy) spanning three centuries (1600s-1800s) and featuring works by 10 composers, including Pellegrini, Bach, Buxtehude, Couperin and Scarlatti. Benedetti will be here thanks to the Italian Cultural Center of Minneapolis/St. Paul and Michael Barone, host of American Public Media’s long-running “Pipedreams” radio program. Reception 6:30-7 p.m., concert 7-8 p.m., Q&A after. Free, with suggested donations of $10 for ICC members and $15 for non-members.
Tonight (Tuesday, March 3) at the Dakota: When Duke Met Coltrane. Released in Feb. 1963, “Duke Ellington & John Coltrane” is one of those albums every jazz fan – dare we say every music lover?– should know. It’s beautiful through and through, and it never gets too crazy. Last September, hundreds of people showed up at the Dakota to hear Jeremy Walker’s quartet featuring saxophonist Brandon Wozniak play tunes from the album and original compositions by Walker. And before then, this concert sold out Orchestra Hall’s Target Atrium. With Anthony Cox on bass, Kevin Washington on drums. 7 p.m. FMI and tickets ($15-20).
Tonight and Saturday at the Film Society’s St. Anthony Main Theatre 3: “#Anne Frank Parallel Stories.” Anne Frank would have turned 90 in 2019. But she died in Bergen-Belsen before she turned 16. Hosted by Helen Mirren, this powerful film interweaves Anne’s story with those of five other women who, like her, were deported to concentration camps, but they survived. As Mirren reads extracts from Anne’s diary in a reconstruction of the Frank family’s Amsterdam hideout, actress Martina Gattie visits locations from Anne’s short life, using the language of social media to connect the past with the present and today’s antisemitism. (Which explains the hashtag # in the title.) 7 p.m. Tuesday, 1 p.m. Saturday. FMI and tickets.
Opens Friday at Mixed Blood: “Interstate.” Mixed Blood continues its 44th season with the world premiere of Kit Yan and Melissa Li’s Queer Asian-American pop rock musical. Dash (Kai Alexander Judd) is a trans spoken word performer, Adrian (Rose Van Dyne) a lesbian singer-songwriter, and together they embark on a cross-country tour as the activist band Queer Malady. The band’s music touches Henry (Sushma Saha), a trans teenager living in middle America and struggling with his own identity and family. Jesca Prudencio will direct. FMI and tickets ($35 guaranteed admission, free via Radical Hospitality). Closes March 26. With “Interstate,” Mixed Blood joins The Jubilee, a yearlong nationwide festival of plays by individuals who have historically been excluded from America’s stages: LGTBQ+, disabled community, women and people of color. Several theaters in Minnesota are part of The Jubilee.