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From Park Square, a virtual play festival; Crooners to offer drive-in concerts after all

Courtesy of the Park Square Theatre
Carolyn Poole and Shanan Custer in “Bad Things, Good Whiskey,” the final installment in their hit comedy trilogy.

A lot has happened since Park Square Theatre announced its 2020-21 season in late February. COVID came and theaters closed. The season was originally set to open in early October with Lauren Gunderson’s “The Revolutionists,” rescheduled from 2019-20. Back then, October seemed far enough out to hope for.

It’s much closer now, and with the Guthrie announcing it won’t reopen until March 2021, and Theater Latté Da shifting its focus to new works development, theaters are in a world of uncertainty. But they’re not staying silent. Many are producing online events to let us know they’re still alive, active, and in need of support.

Park Square has extended its online presentation of “The Diary of Anne Frank,” created by artists in isolation, through May 24. The Zoom production has been widely acclaimed, including by the Wall Street Journal, whose critic called it “the most stirring staging of ‘Anne Frank’ I have ever seen.” Catch it if you can.

On Friday and Saturday, the theater will host its first-ever play festival. Online, of course, but something new from Park Square: glimpses into two upcoming productions we wouldn’t otherwise see. Looking on the bright side, Park Square’s Executive Director Michael-jon Pease said, “This forced hibernation that theaters around the world are in actually gives us the opportunity to focus on developing new work and to give artists the time they rarely have to sink their teeth into a project.” Both nights are free, with donations suggested.

On Friday at 7:30 p.m., Shanan Custer and Carolyn Pool, creators and performers of the popular “Two Sugars, Room for Cream” and “Sometimes There’s Wine,” will give us a taste of “Bad Things, Good Whiskey,” the final installment in their beverage-inspired trilogy. They describe their series as “scenes from life, stuff we think is funny.”

On Saturday at 7:30, Eric Sharp, Gabriele Angieri, Jeannie Lander, Audrey Park and Seth Patterson will perform excerpts from “Fire in the New World,” the latest installment in Rick Shiomi’s noir-style, post-WWII series about hard-boiled Japanese Canadian detective Sam Shikaze. This time, Shikaze searches for the Japanese American wife of an ambitious real estate developer who goes missing.

In sum: extended previews of two new shows, both smart, entertaining and fun. Go here to reserve your Zoom seat for one or both.

Crooners on, then off drive-in concerts are on again

On Wednesday, April 29, Crooners announced a series of outdoor concerts to be held in its parking lot and enjoyed from your car. The Lakeside Drive-In Concert Series was set to begin on Friday, May 8. On April 30, Gov. Walz extended the stay-at-home order and the series was postponed.

Crooners is nothing if not persistent in wanting to bring live music to eager listeners. Now that Stay at Home Minnesota has morphed into Stay Safe Minnesota, Crooners is raring to go.

Debbie Duncan is one of the performers participating in the Lakeside Drive-In Concert Series.
MinnPost photo by John Whiting
Debbie Duncan is one of the performers participating in the Lakeside Drive-In Concert Series.
From Monday, June 1, through Wednesday, June 10, these artists will appear: Joyann Parker Band, Michael Monroe, Dan Newton Café Accordion Orchestra, Ginger Commodore and Jesse Larson, Jennifer Grimm and Reed Grimm, Andrew Walesch and his Big Band, Arne Fogel and Rick Carlson, Debbie Duncan, Prudence Johnson and Dan Chouinard, Dane Stauffer and Dan Chouinard, Pat Donohue, and Mick Sterling with full band. The Daisy Dillman Band will perform its Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young show on Saturday, Aug. 15.

A summer grill menu will be available, with items brought to your car. If you like, you’ll be able to tune into an FM station to have the show play through your car speakers in real time. KBEM Jazz88 will simulcast select shows on the radio.

Tickets are $15, $20 or $30 per person, depending on the show. FMI and tickets.

Catching up with Sheila Smith

The Minnesota Legislature left a lot of business unfinished before adjourning the 2020 session, but they managed to pass a Legacy Bill. Minnesota Citizens for the Arts’ Sheila Smith told us Monday that the bill “extends the use of Legacy dollars for things that were going to expire on June 30, 2020.

“Grantees who were worried about how to get services to the public by then now have more time, between one and two years. Things that would have expired by June 30, 2021, are also extended. There’s new language that gives the State Arts Board and Regional Arts Councils flexibility to help grantees maintain their financial sustainability and long-term viability.”

That’s good news for artists and arts organizations with state grants in process. But the outlook for the arts in Minnesota is still bleak. The “Minnesota Nonprofit Economy Report: COVID-19 Impact Update” that came out last week from the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits was “the confirmation of all of our fears,” Smith said. “The report showed that the arts are at the highest levels of disruption of all kinds of nonprofits. That the social distancing and large-group gatherings canceled to slow the viral spread led to massive financial challenges and operational disruptions.

Sheila Smith
Photo by Adam Kissick
Sheila Smith
“A full 68 percent of all organizations will be in financial crisis within six months,” she said. “With the Guthrie not restarting until spring 2021, it will be a long time before people can gather in person again and safe. There are going to be a lot of organizational failures between now and then.

“Or, ultimately, is the smart thing to go into hibernation, and do it in such a way that you can pick up the strands and start again when the audiences are available? Can you rely on philanthropy and individual donations to get you over that bridge?”

On Monday afternoon, MCA issued an Arts Alert with information about the Legacy Bill (including the new language) and three national resources that are helping nonprofit arts organizations and their boards during this crisis.

Minnesota-based Propel Nonprofits is offering a series of free webinars. Nonprofit board members, at noon today (Tuesday, May 19), you can tune into “10 Actions for Boards Governing in a Crisis.” Register here. If you have another call or Zoom already scheduled for that time, register anyway to receive a recording and PDF of the slides after the session.

Nina Ozlu Tunceli, chief counsel of government and public affairs at Americans for the Arts, is offering daily “Office Hours with Nina” via Zoom. Drop in with your questions about the CARES Act and the PPP loan program. 10 a.m.-11 a.m. Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays until June 12. FMI.

From now until June 30, Minnesota-based Artspace is offering pro bono consultations and technical support to any arts and culture organization or municipality working on a space-related initiative. FMI.

The picks

Now through May 25 on YouTube: Simon Stephens’ “Sea Wall” starring Andrew Scott. Everybody is talking about this one-man performance by Scott (Moriarty in “Sherlock,” Hot Priest in “Fleabag”). It will only cost you half an hour to find out why. We hesitate to say more because it’s so profoundly moving and such a tour-de-force. Interesting to know going in: This was filmed in 2011, long before solo performances to cameras instead of live audiences became the norm. And wasn’t made from necessity but a desire to try something new and different. If you watch, stick around for the five-minute conversation after with Stephens and Scott. Free to stream until next Monday.

Now through May 31 at the 113 Composers Collective Facebook page: Twin Cities Virtual New Music Festival. Stop by anytime for video footage from 113’s archive featuring composers, performers, call-for-scores winners and collaborators. This is in lieu of the in-person festival originally planned for later this month and postponed until June 2021 because of you-know-what. Meanwhile, all of the artists who would have appeared live have been paid, thanks to 113’s donors and funders. If you have the means, they’re asking for a $25 contribution – the cost of a festival pass.

Wednesday (May 20) at 1 p.m.: One Book | One Minnesota: Discussion with Kate DiCamillo. Have you been reading – or have you read – DiCamillo’s Newbery Medal-winning “Because of Winn-Dixie”? It’s the first featured title in the Friends of the Saint Paul Public Library’s/Minnesota Center for the Book’s new statewide book club. If so, you’ll want to see and hear this conversation between DiCamillo and Saint Paul Public Librarian Eric Byrd, answering questions from readers across Minnesota. (If you haven’t yet read the book and can carve out some time, you can read it here for free.) Attendance is free but registration is required. When you register, you’ll receive a Zoom link.

Wednesday (May 20) at 7 p.m.: “Closing Time” author talk with Bill Lindeke and/or Andy Sturdevant on the Minnesota Historical Society’s Facebook page. A fascinating, fact-filled, multigenerational bar crawl through the saloons, taverns, dives, speakeasies and other watering holes of the Twin Cities – some long forgotten, some recently departed, some still in existence (but closed along with everything else). We can’t imagine better tour guides than these two. Note the “and/or” above – you may get Lindeke, you may get Sturdevant, or you may get lucky and both will show up. “Closing Time” was a finalist for a 2020 Minnesota Book Award in Minnesota nonfiction. Free.

Brian Mulligan, center, played Jack Torrance in the original production of "The Shining."
Shining Production Photography/Ken Howard for Minnesota Opera, 2016
Brian Mulligan, center, played Jack Torrance in the original production of "The Shining."
Thursday, May 21, through Sunday, July 5: Minnesota Opera’s “The Shining.” The second online streaming event in Minnesota Opera’s 2020 Digital Opera Series is the opera inspired by Stephen King’s novel (not by Kubrick’s film), with music by Paul Moravec and libretto by Mark Campbell. Brian Mulligan sings Jack Torrance, Kelly Kaduce sings Wendy Torrance, and the orchestra is led by Michael Christie. P.S. You can also hear (and see) Minnesota Opera’s “Doubt” on PBS.org through June 22. Here’s the link.

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