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Walking Shadow’s ‘Beowulf’ is powerful theater; Patrick Stewart is reading a Shakespeare sonnet every day

ALSO: Playwrights’ Center announces spring season, all online; The Vatican Museum is offering eye-popping virtual tours and videos; and more.

John Heimbuch
Wearing a blue shirt and jeans, standing before a leaded glass window in his living room, Walking Shadow’s co-artistic director John Heimbuch acted out the oldest story in English literature.

We’re hungry for live theater. Like everyone, we were robbed of everything we had planned after March 12. That night, we saw Ten Thousand Things’ joyous production of “Thunder Knocking on the Door.” (T. Mychael Rambo! Greta Oglesby!) So it’s been more than two weeks, with who knows how many to go.

We’re thinking about the Ritz, where the stage is set for Theater Latté Da’s “La Bohème.” And the Ordway, which was about to open Minnesota Opera’s “Edward Tulane.” And the Jungle, which had to pull the plug on “Redwood.” And other theaters, large and small, still and dark. And the people whose lives are on hold and whose futures are uncertain.

On Sunday afternoon, we went to Walking Shadow Theatre Company’s Facebook page and watched John Heimbuch perform Charlie Bethel’s hourlong retelling of “Beowulf.” It’s a show we wanted to catch at the 2019 Fringe but never made it to. Wearing a blue shirt and jeans, standing before a leaded glass window in his living room, Walking Shadow’s co-artistic director acted out the oldest story in English literature.

Heimbuch was the poet narrator, pulling us into a strange, ancient world of beasts and blood and bravery. He was the heroic Beowulf and the helpless King Hrothgar; the wise, philosophical “gold-ringed” Queen Wealththeow; the ravening monster Grendel and his swamp-monster mother; young Wiglaf, Beowulf’s successor; and more. He postured, he roared, he fought epic battles. He made us shiver and laugh. It was an hour of powerful theater. Some parts sounded as if they could have been written today, which is true of all great stories.

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Over the past two weeks, the arts – from theater to concerts, poetry readings, museum collections, gallery tours, books and movies, operas and dance – have gone online. Suddenly there’s a huge number of performances to choose from. None is the same as sitting in a crowd, surrounded by friends and strangers, sharing the human emotion of live events. But it’s what we have now. We can enjoy it. And we can press the donate button. Don’t forget to do that.

Heimbuch will perform “Beowulf” three more times: on Thursday and Saturday, April 2 and 4, at 8 p.m. and Sunday, April 5, at 2 p.m.

Playwrights’ Center announces Spring 2020 season, all online

At the Playwrights’ Center, all public events including Ray Yamanouchi’s “Tha Chink-Mart,” part of the Ruth Easton New Play Series, have been postponed. The doors are shut and everyone is working remotely, at least through May 4. But there will be a robust Spring 2020 season. In fact, it’s already under way.

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The goal is to connect people with their communities and create income streams for nearly 100 theater artists who are out of work. The season will feature regular weekly programming of seminars, classes and workshops, member events, sessions for educators and students interested in playwriting, and open office hours with Playwrights’ Center staff.

Starting this Friday, April 3, a new play will be read each week, with the potential to reach national and international audiences. Some of the plays will be recently canceled productions of world premieres.

Articles written by playwrights will be published on Mondays and Fridays. If you saw Dark & Stormy’s production of C. Denby Swanson’s twisted comedy “The Norwegians,” you might be interested in reading an article by Swanson to be published on April 10.

Go here for the schedule and links to events. This page will be updated as more events are confirmed.

Crooners’ schedule is now online

Last week, Crooners announced a sweeping monthlong schedule of concerts to be livestreamed from its intimate Dunsmore Room stage – the one with the Steinway grand piano.

Robert Robinson
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Robert Robinson
“Keep Music Live,” a partnership between Crooners, the Twin Cities Jazz Festival, Jazz 88 (KBEM FM) and Jazz Central Studios, aims to “protect our musicians, sustain our audiences and preserve our musical heritage.” Concerts will be streamed five nights a week, and musicians will be paid.

The schedules for all four weeks have been posted, so you can plan ahead to see and hear your favorite artist(s). The series will begin this Friday, April 3, with Jennifer Grimm and Reed Grimm’s “Sibling Revelry” and end Friday, April 25, with “Songs of Spring” featuring Andrew Walesch and Dave Karr.

In between: Maud Hixson and Rick Carlson, Prudence Johnson and Dan Chouinard, gospel great Robert Robinson (on Easter Sunday), Laura Caviani’s quartet jazzing up music by Ravel and Debussy, an evening of show tunes with Tyler Michaels King, Sasha Andreev, Aimee K. Bryant and more, Joyann Parker’s Patsy Cline show, and the Steve Kenny Quartet, to name a few. All concerts are at 7 p.m. or 8:30 p.m. If (when) you tune in, show some love to the donate button.

The picks

Tonight (Tuesday, March 31) at 7 p.m.: Insights 2020 Design Lecture Series: Ruben Pater, Untold Stories. The Walker canceled three out of five of this year’s Insights Design lectures. The fifth and final will be presented as a webcast. Which would have been the speaker’s preference anyway, only not for the reason we currently face. Amsterdam-based designer Ruben Pater is unwilling to regularly tour overseas because of global air travel’s carbon footprint. He originally proposed a pre-recorded talk, and that’s what we’ll see – filmed in his studio, illustrated with images of his work, and augmented by Pater taking questions live via social media. Watch at walkerart.org or YouTube Live. FMI.

New online screenings from the MSP Film Society: Balloon,” about a daring escape from communist East Germany, was a 2018 MSPIFF selection. Dona Flor and her Two Husbands is a new digital restoration of Bruno Barreto’s 1976 comedy film, based on the novel by Jorge Amado. Once Were Brothers: Robbie Robertson and the Band is the Band’s story told from Robertson’s point of view. The Whistlers is a Romanian heist caper from noted director Corneliu Porumboiu. Order at the links ($12). Your purchase(s) will directly support MSP Film. Also, “Saint Frances” and “Bacurau” have been extended. If you want even more of that Film Fest feeling, the directors of “Bacurau” and star Udo Kier will be doing a virtual live Q&A tomorrow night (Wednesday, April 1) at 7 p.m. CST on YouTube Live.

Mini-concerts from the homes of Minnesota Orchestra musicians. Orchestra Hall is temporarily closed, but the musicians are still practicing and playing. Several have recorded short concerts you can enjoy whenever you like. Currently available: Associate Concertmaster Felicity James, violin, and Sifei Cheng, viola, playing the third movement of a Mozart duo. Cellist Erik Wheeler playing Bach. Principal bassoon Fei Xie playing the second movement of Mozart’s Bassoon Concerto. The At Home performances are part of a new digital collection that also includes video clips from concerts and the March 13 broadcast-only performance during which the orchestra played to an empty hall.

Patrick Stewart is reading Shakespeare’s sonnets. All of them (with a single exception so far), one per day, on Instagram (also available on Facebook and Twitter). This began a little over a week ago, when Sir Patrick read Sonnet 116 (“Let me not to the marriage of true minds/Admit impediments …”). It was such a hit (nearly 450,000 views to date) that he decided why not read them all. He skipped Sonnet 5 because “It’s too hard. I’ve been working on it and working on it, and I just don’t think I could do it justice, because I don’t really understand it,” which made us love him even more. If this sparks your curiosity about “Star Trek: Picard,” the new series available in its entirety on CBS All Access, which is now offering a free monthlong trial, then make it so. This is also where you’ll find “The Good Fight,” the acclaimed sequel to “The Good Wife,” and every “Star Trek” series ever made, just saying.

The Vatican Museum is offering eye-popping virtual tours and/or videos of the Sistine Chapel, Raphael’s Rooms, and more. Of course you’ll want to start with the Sistine Chapel, but don’t stop there. See them all.