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A roundup of arts news; Minnesota Orchestra presents ‘Remembrance and Reflection’

ALSO: VocalEssence’s “Witness 2021” concert; An Opera Theatre’s “In the Midst of Things/In Medias Res”; and more.

On Tuesday, Peter Cook, a design principal in HGA’s Washington, D.C., office, was appointed by President Biden to serve on the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts
On Tuesday, Peter Cook, a design principal in HGA’s Washington, D.C., office, was appointed by President Biden to serve on the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts
Courtesy of HGA

Headquartered in Minneapolis, HGA Architects has designed many of our arts and cultural centers, including the Minnesota History Center, Northrop, the Ordway Concert Hall, the Nelson Center at the American Swedish Institute and the Walker Art Center expansion, for which it recently won the American Institute of Architects 2021 Architecture Award.

On Tuesday, Peter Cook, a design principal in HGA’s Washington, D.C., office, was appointed by President Biden to serve on the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts, advising the president, Congress and federal and D.C. governments on design and aesthetics. Cook’s high-profile projects to date include the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of African American History and Culture and the Embassy of South Africa.

The 2021 McKnight Dancer and Choreographer Fellows have been announced. All are mid-career, Minnesota-based movement makers we hope to see often now that venues (including the Cowles and soon the Southern) are reopening.

Darrius Strong, founder of STRONGmovement.
Photo by Bill Cameron
Darrius Strong, founder of STRONGmovement.
The Choreographer Fellows are Ananya Chatterjea, whose Ananya Dance Theatre was recently named a Regional Cultural Treasure); former TU Dance performer Alanna Morris-Van Tassel, whose “Black Light_mysteries and manifestations of the creative life force,” featuring 10 Black artists, will be part of the Jan. 2022 Great Northern Festival;  and Darrius Strong, founder of STRONGmovement.

Alexandra Eady, a company member with Ananya Dance Theatre.
Photo by Isabel Fajardo
Alexandra Eady, a company member with Ananya Dance Theatre.
The Dancer Fellows are Alexandra Eady, a company member with Ananya Dance Theatre who teaches and performs internationally; Hassan Ingraham, a former TU dance performer who has choreographed for dance schools and programs across the U.S.; and David Stalter Jr., a self-taught dancer in many styles.

Each fellow will receive $25,000 so they can take some time to pursue a new project, idea, or study. Choreographer Fellows may also apply for additional support for research and development of their work. Dancer Fellows receive additional funds to commission a choreographer of their choice to create a new solo dance work specifically for them, to be premiered at the Cowles in September 2022.

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For a theater whose founding artistic director, Jack Reuler, recently announced he’ll step aside next July, Mixed Blood is making a lot of big changes. Dawn Bentley, who announced around the same time that she would leave her position as executive director of the Minnesota Fringe on Aug. 15, is already serving as Mixed Blood’s new managing director. The theater also has a new director of development and marketing and communications director. Khamara Pettus (development) most recently worked with the Bush Foundation, Whitney Reed (marketing and communications) with the Oregon Shakespeare Festival.

Meanwhile, Mixed Blood is hard at work on its upcoming fall 2021 production, “Animate,” a site-specific work that will take place at Como Park Zoo and Conservatory. “Animate” was written by Los Angeles-based playwright and screenwriter Ken LaZebnik, with whom Reuler has had a long association. LaZebnik also wrote “Autonomy” (2019), set in 70,000 square feet at the Saint Paul RiverCentre, where audience members rode from scene to scene in golf carts.

The Loft reports that its third annual Wordplay festival (and second virtual festival, something no one could have imagined at the start) drew more than 10,500 viewers from across the country and the world. Held from May 2-8, it featured live sessions with Chelsea Clinton, Dean Koontz, Cheryl Strayed, Kazuo Ishiguro, Marjorie Liu and many others. If there were any you missed or would like to revisit, you can view the recordings until Tuesday, June 1.

What has broadcast journalist Marianne Combs been up to since resigning from MPR last September? Among other things, she’s working on a project called “Racial Reckoning: The Arc of Justice,” a collaboration among Ampers, Diverse Radio for Minnesota’s Communities, KMOJ Radio and the Minnesota Humanities Center. They recently produced a summary of events since George Floyd’s death that aired on KMOJ and radio stations around the state. Featuring independent journalist Georgia Fort, this succinct and powerful 20-minute broadcast is available here and in places where podcasts are found.

The picks

V is for virtual, L is for live and in person.

Mikalia Bradberry as Nicole and director Sequoia Hauck filming “In the Midst of Things/In Medias Res.”
An Opera Theatre (AOT)
Mikalia Bradberry as Nicole and director Sequoia Hauck filming “In the Midst of Things/In Medias Res.”
V Available today (Friday, May 28) through June 6: An Opera Theatre (AOT): “In the Midst of Things/In Medias Res.” If you’ve thought of sending a teacher a thank-you note, what about a thank-you opera? Commissioned by An Opera Theatre (formerly Arbeit Opera Theatre), composed by Robert Elhai with a libretto by Christina Baldwin, directed by Sequoia Hauck, this is a brief look into a Zoom classroom where Ms. T (KrisAnne Weiss) tries to teach Homer’s “Odyssey” to high school students who would rather sleep, paint their nails or goof off.

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There’s sweetness at the heart of this 13-minute tale, and gratitude, and singing (of course), and a dance break choreographed by Darrius Strong, who plays one of the students (and who just won a McKnight Choreographer Fellowship; see the round-up above). “In the Midst of Things” recently premiered virtually to 15 high schools. It’s now available to audiences everywhere. View here or on AOT’s Facebook page. Free; suggested donation of $10 if able.

Violinist Karen Gomyo
Courtesy of the artist
Violinist Karen Gomyo
V Tonight (Friday, May 28), 8 p.m.: Minnesota Orchestra: “Remembrance and Reflection.” Music of mourning, compassion and hope in memory of George Floyd and all victims of racial violence and hate. Led by Osmo Vänskä, featuring violinist Karen Gomyo, the program will include Shostakovich’s Chamber Symphony, which the composer dedicated to the victims of fascism and war; Chevalier de Saint-Georges’ Concerto in D major for Violin and Orchestra; Carlos Simon’s “An Elegy: A Cry from the Grave”; and Mahler’s Adagietto from Symphony No. 5. Sarah Hicks will host. Note: This will be the last virtual-only concert before in-person concerts begin on June 11.

Watch on the orchestra’s website, listen on Classical MPR or view on TPT MN. Note: On Tuesday, May 25, the anniversary of George Floyd’s death, the orchestra posted an exquisite and heartfelt recording of Benjamin Britten’s Funeral March from “Variations on a Theme of Frank Bridge.”

V Saturday and Sunday, May 29 and 30 on TPT: VocalEssence: “Witness 2021.” A highlight of every VocalEssence season, the annual “Witness” concert made its virtual premiere on Sunday, May 16, on the VocalEssence website, part of its 2020-21 On Demand subscription season. This weekend, anyone with access to public television can watch it for free.

The music is drawn from movements of social change, including the voting act, sit-ins, police shootings, civil rights, abolition and Black Lives Matter. Songs include Ysaÿe Barnwell’s “Sing La La,” Laura Caviani’s “Rise Up, and Lay Down Your Arms” (commissioned by VocalEssence), Bill Withers’ “Lean on Me,” Alysia Lee’s “Say Her Name” and the world premiere of a new setting for “We Shall Overcome” by VocalEssence’s associate conductor G. Phillip Shoultz. On TPT 2 on Sunday at 2 p.m. and 6 p.m., and on TPT Life on Saturday at 7 p.m. and Sunday at 1 a.m. and noon.