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Weekend picks: Lots of magic to discover, including ‘History of Religion’ at the Illusion and Maggie Thompson’s ‘Just Friends’ at Bockley

Plus: “Hot off the Press” at Highpoint, Artepils fest at Utepils Brewing, Opera Under the Stars in Pershing Park and Venus DeMars at the 331 Club.

Playwright and performer Carlyle Brown dressed as a griot.
Playwright and performer Carlyle Brown dressed as a griot.
Photo from The Fula From America: An African Journey

Venturing to see arts and culture events can be a bit like a treasure hunt, a search for joy and delight in places familiar and unexpected. Whether you decide to check out a show featuring an artist you love who may be doing something a bit different, or you take in a new act or arts space you haven’t visited, it can be a wonderful feeling to happen upon a bit of magic.

Here are a few recommendations to aid you on your journey this weekend and through the beginning of next week. At Illusion Theater, it’s your last chance to catch Carlyle Brown’s latest piece, “The History of Religion.” On the art gallery scene, highlights include Maggie Thompson’s first show at Bockley Gallery, and also “Hot off the Press,” Highpoint Center for Printmaking’s group exhibition featuring its member artists. Utepils hosts its art and music festival, Artepils, this weekend, and on Saturday Night, grab your pearls and head to Pershing Park for Opera Under the Stars. On Tuesday, you may decide to wander to 331 Club for the always impressive Venus DeMars and her band, All the Pretty Horses.

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‘The History of Religion’

Playwright and performer Carlyle Brown takes the stage at Illusion Theater’s new space at the Center for Performing Arts, taking on the role of the Griot, or storyteller, weaving together tales from his own life, the Bible and Greek mythology. In the piece, directed by Noël Raymond and accompanied by a live band that traverses jazz, gospel, calypso and more, Brown brings humor and pathos in the one-person-show. In the first section, he shares stories of his upbringing under the tutelage of three different women— his mother, his aunt, and his grandmother, who all were part of three different religions. Subsequently, he was obliged to attend three different services each Sunday. Brown then retells the story of Job, followed by an Orpheus retelling set in the Caribbean. Themes of sin, salvation, and loss are woven into the piece, with Brown’s humor and entrancing use of words bringing the audience along the journey. 7:30 p.m. Thursday, July 21-Saturday, July 23, and 2 p.m. Sunday, July 24 (name your price starting at $5). More information here.

Bockley Gallery

Maggie Thompson: ‘Just Friends’

Maggie Thompson, known for her fine art practice, her curatorial projects and her knitwear business called Makwa Studio, gets her first solo exhibition at Bockley Gallery, called “Just Friends.” Thompson is a whiz with materials. Her textured works are often poignant and make the space around them come alive. The exhibition will feature five pieces that probe the concept of love. The opening reception takes place 5-7 p.m. Thursday at Bockley Gallery in Minneapolis and runs through Aug. 27 (free). More information here.

‘Hot off the Press’

The big news at Highpoint Center for Printmaking is that they’ve just nabbed the talented Jehra Patrick, most recently the Gallery Director at Macalester College, who is also the founder of the Emerging Curators Institute and who previously was program director with MN Artists. Highpoint will announce soon opportunities to meet Patrick. In the meantime, this weekend the gallery unveils its 40th semiannual “Hot off the Press” exhibition, featuring recent work by members of the artist cooperative. Among the works, you’ll see an architecture-inspired large-scale print by Carl Nanoff, a ghostly unicorn by Melissa Sisk and numerous different kinds of prints from woodcuts to lithographs, screen prints, monotypes and more. Come for the opening 6:30 p.m.-9 p.m. Friday at Highpoint in Uptown (free), or bring the family 12-4 p.m. Saturday for Free Ink Day in the parking lot, with free ice cream from Sonny’s Ice Cream, live flamenco music, educational experiences about pollinator, and opportunities to create monotypes. More information here.

Roe Family Singers
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Roe Family Singers

Artepils: Art + Music Celebration

Music and art come together for an indoor, outdoor celebration at Utepils, in an event co-presented by GrayMatter Studios. An eclectic mix of music from the Roe Family Singers to the Bob Dylan cover band “Tangled Up in Dylan” will be kicking things off in the beer garden, while artists will have their work for sale in the taproom. 12 p.m -10 p.m. Friday, July 22, and Saturday, July 23. Music starts at 3 p.m. Friday and 1 p.m. Saturday (free). More information here.

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Opera Under the Stars

Soprano Carole Schultz and pianist Elizabeth Chua, aka The Overdressed Duo, bring the fancy to Pershing Park in southwest Minneapolis this weekend, with a presentation of opera and musical hits in the open air. The two have been bringing their casual yet glamorous act to parks and other outdoor locations throughout the summer. Tenor Benjamin Dufcher and singer/creator Justin Anthony Spenner join the fun as guest artists. Bring a chair or blanket for the show and maybe a picnic, but save room for some free ice cream. 6:30 p.m. Saturday at Pershing Park (free). More information here.

Venus DeMars
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Venus DeMars

Venus DeMars presents ‘Live From Mars’

Rocker, poet and artist Venus DeMars is in residence this month at the 331 Club in northeast Minneapolis, and on Tuesday she’ll be playing with her band, All The Pretty Horses and other guests. Get your glam on and take in Venus’ edgy, excellent guitar playing and theatrical flair. The show starts at 9:30 p.m. at 331 (free). More information here.