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Changes in Broadway on Hennepin seasons; MSPIFF39 Redefined is big success

ALSO: National Sawdust Digital Discovery Festival: Vijay Iyer; Jazz Fest Live with Matthew Whitaker; and more.

“Come From Away”
“Come From Away” is still on the calendar for Aug. 11-23, but Hennepin Theatre Trust is “working with show producers to evaluate the timing and feasibility of the Minneapolis engagement.”
Photo by Matthew Murphy

Hennepin Theatre Trust on Tuesday announced sweeping changes to its current and upcoming Broadway on Hennepin seasons.

In April, HTT postponed the highly anticipated three-week run of Disney’s “Frozen,” which would have been happening now. It is working with show producers to confrm dates for fall 2021. (On Broadway, “Frozen” has closed permanently, “iced by COVID-19.”)

“Anastasia” was postponed in March – its original dates were March 24-29 – and is still on the calendar for December 1-6 of this year.

As of Tuesday, “Summer: The Donna Summer Musical,” previously scheduled for July 14-19, has been canceled. “Come From Away” is still on the calendar for Aug. 11-23, but HTT is “working with show producers to evaluate the timing and feasibility of the Minneapolis engagement.”

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The return of “Hamilton,” originally set for Oct. 6-Nov. 22, has been moved to July 28-Aug. 29, 2021. It’s the only show in HTT’s 2020-21 season that has been firmly rescheduled, if “firmly” is a word we can actually use, and who knows?

“To Kill a Mockingbird,” originally Dec. 15-20, will be rescheduled. “Tootsie,” originally July 28-Aug. 1, 2021, will move out of the way for “Hamilton,” with new dates TBD.

We’re just glad we saw “My Fair Lady” (loverly!) before “canceled,” “postponed” and “rescheduled” entered our everyday vocabulary.

These are big touring productions. We’ve all seen the trucks parked near the Orpheum when shows are on. HTT’s release about the rearrangement of the season included this reminder: “Presenting touring Broadway requires months of preparation and much of the production process, such as casting, building sets and costumes and rehearsing, cannot begin until it is safe to work.”

We buy a ticket, we go to a show, we take it in, we leave. But an unimaginable amount of planning, preparation and work takes place before the house lights dim and the curtain rises. Cancelations and postponements are rough in the best of times, and these are the worst of times.

Virtual MSPIFF has record-breaking opening weekend

What’s faster than a pivot? MSP Film did that when COVID forced the postponement of the 39th Minneapolis St. Paul International Film Festival (MSPIFF), its annual main event and a huge part of its income. Instead of skipping 2020, it decided to try to present a virtual festival, reached out to filmmakers and distributors, and pulled it off.

MSPIFF39 Redefined opened Friday, May 15, and closes this Saturday, May 23. Opening weekend ticket sales and audience participation outpaced previous in-person festivals.

To date, more than 5,000 tickets have been sold. It’s safe to say that more than 5,000 people saw the films, since whole families can gather in front of a TV on one person’s ticket.

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More than 500 people took part in live Q&As with filmmakers on Zoom. Twice as many have streamed them on MSP Film’s Facebook page, where they were saved and can be viewed at any time.

Several films “sold out,” meaning they hit their viewer caps (250 tickets per film, like a movie theater). Additional tickets have been made available for “Stories I Didn’t Know,” “Arab Blues” and “Bridge.” MSP Film is working on raising the viewer caps on “The Birds Rained Down,” “Crossing,” “Patrick,” “Public Trust,” “Tuscaloosa” and “Coup 53,” which are closing in on sell-out status. If you want to see any of the films named here, you might want to buy your ticket(s) now.

A Spanish-subtitled version of the documentary “Ways of Being Home: Between Northfield & Maltrata,” about the Mexican community living in Northfield, has been added.

Several live Q&As remain from tonight (Thursday, May 21) through closing night, when Redefined will end with a sneak preview screening of Dierdre Fishel’s “Women in Blue,” which follows three female police officers in Minneapolis who are working to remake the department to become more inclusive. Then Justine Damond is killed and Chief Janeé Harteau resigns. The live Q&A at 7 p.m. will include Fishel, moderator Dr. Tracie Keesee and special guests including Harteau.

A still from “Women in Blue.”
MSP Film
A still from “Women in Blue.”
Two comments on MSP Film’s success:

First, films were made to be viewed on screens, so it’s probably easier in some ways to present a virtual film festival than, for example, a virtual dance performance, live music or theater. But the MSP Film staff was able to rise from the ashes of a calamity, make new arrangements with multiple filmmakers and distributors, salvage more than 50 feature films and 50 shorts from their original program, and include some of the extras people want from a festival – like the Q&As, and even a virtual kickoff party on Thursday, May 14. That’s genuinely remarkable.

Second, they didn’t have to give it away. MSPIFF39 Redefined isn’t free. People are paying for tickets. That’s what we need to do if we want the arts organizations and presenters we value to survive this pandemic.

The picks

Today (Thursday, May 21) on KFAI 90.3 FM: 24-Hour Metal Tribute. Maybe what we all need is a whole day of heavy metal. What started at 12 a.m. this morning on the community-run radio station will continue until midnight tonight. Did you know that KFAI has three heavy metal shows? All three – “Root of All Evil” (named for Earl Root), “Roar of the Underground” and “Shadow Planet” – will join forces for a day of music, interviews, guest hosts, and live on-air performances to raise money for KFAI, which needs it even when there’s not a pandemic going on.

Matthew Whitaker
Photo by Jacob Blickenstaff
Matthew Whitaker will be tonight’s guest artist on Jazz Fest Live, the weekly series hosted by festival founder Steve Heckler.
Tonight (Thursday, May 21) at 7 p.m.: Jazz Fest Live with Matthew Whitaker. When the 22nd Annual Twin Cities Jazz Festival was canceled in April, we learned about the live music that might have been, including performances by the Kenny Barron Trio and Paquito D’Rivera’s star-studded Dizzy Gillespie tribute band. But the biggest buzz would probably have been around the youngest performer, blind teenage jazz piano prodigy Matthew Whitaker, who was profiled earlier this year by 60 Minutes. Whitaker will be tonight’s guest artist on Jazz Fest Live, the weekly series hosted by festival founder Steve Heckler. Go here to “save your spot.”

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Starts tonight (Thursday, May 21) at National Theatre at Home: “A Streetcar Named Desire.” Gillian Anderson is Blanche DuBois in the Young Vic’s production of Tennessee Williams’ masterpiece. If you have time on your hands right now, you might also catch Inua Ellams’ “Barber Shop Chronicles” before it goes away. You can watch for free, but donations are welcome. “Streetcar” ends next Thursday (May 28).

Vijay Iyer
Photo by Barbara Rigon
Vijay Iyer
Friday, May 22, at 2 p.m.: National Sawdust Digital Discovery Festival: Vijay Iyer. A masterclass with the prolific and influential pianist, composer and educator who was celebrated by the Walker in “The Sound of Surprise: A Vijay Iyer Mini-Festival” in 2012, returned in 2018 for a Liquid Music collaboration with Teja Cole, and came back again in 2019 for the Midwest premiere of his new work, “Asunder,” an SPCO co-commission. Learn more about Vijay Iyer here.

Starts Friday, May 22: Katha Dance Theatre: “Chandalika – The Untouchable Maiden.” Based on a century-old dance opera by Rabindranath Tagore, this performance uses dance and text to examine ways in which we find love and salvation against great odds. This filmed version of a 2002 performance is the final presentation in KDT’s virtual benefit concert series. You can watch for free, but contributions of any amount are welcome. FMI and link.

Saturday, May 23, at 8 p.m.: “Coping Through Music,” hosted and curated by SPCO violinist Daria Adams. How can music help us manage our feelings and cope with difficult circumstances? The live stream will include works by Beethoven, Shostakovich and Ralph Vaughan Williams. Here’s the link.

Sunday, May 24, at 2 p.m. CST: Yo-Yo Ma Plays Bach Live. As a memorial for the many we have lost, and a tribute to our resilience, the world’s most famous living cellist will give a live performance of Bach’s complete solo cello suites. Watch on Ma’s YouTube channel or ClassicalWCRB.org. FMI.