UPDATED at noon with comments from Patrick Castillo
The Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra today released details of its 2013-2014 season, which includes six world premiers, a centennial celebration of the work of Benjamin Britten, a survey of Beethoven's "heroic" period and an abundance of Baroque work.
The season also features the return of Artistic Partners Roberto Abbado, Edo de Waart, Christian Zacharias, and Thomas Zehetmair, as well as a concert by Dawn Upshaw whose tenure as an Artistic Partner ends at the end of this season.
Details of the full season can be found on the SPCO site.
The SPCO planning staff has been racing to put together the season ever since the end of the 191 day musicians lockout which ended in late April.
The SPCO's Senior Director of Artistic Planning Patrick Castillo says the combination of the classics and new work is designed to show the SPCO at its best.
"Obviously coming out of what has been a difficult year, there needs to be a reconnecting with our audience," he said this morning. "That doesn't mean that we are going to be playing pops concerts and stray from the artistic mission of the orchestra. I think it's quite the opposite actually. I think we double down on the orchestra's artistic mission."
Castillo says this is going to be an important season for the SPCO to reassert itself.
The season announcement is about three months later than usual, and sales staff are under the gun to sign up subscribers as soon as possible.
A dose of Americana by way of southern Minnesota, a documentary about Wonder Woman and her lineage in the film, TV and comic book worlds, and an artist who embellishes ordinary objects.
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St. Louis Park singer-songwriter Dan Israel has gotten to know the Minneapolis-based alt-country group Six Mile Grove having been on the same bill with them a number of times over the last few years. Dan's become a big fan. He likes the sincerity of the songs, which draw from the band members lives growing up in southern Minnesota, and the quality of the musicianship. Six Mile Grove opens for the Honeydogs on Friday, May 24 at Icehouse in Minneapolis. The band will be in Austin, Minn. on May 31, as part of MN Vision 2020.
Roseville filmmaker Amanda Becker says her eternal fascination with the myth of the Amazon women tribe, and her concern about the self image of girls, have propelled her to plug a new documentary about Wonder Woman. "Wonder Women: the Untold Story of American Super Heroines" looks at the impact of the comic character Wonder Woman on the evolution of strong female characters and archetypes in our culture. The film will be screened on Friday, May 31, as part of the Out Twin Cities Film Festival.
Twin Cities makeup artist Julie Swenson says the inaugural exhibition of the new Northeast Minneapolis art gallery Public Functionary is a winner. It features the Chicago-based artist Dzine, who incorporates his Puerto Rican heritage in taking ordinary objects such as jewelry, bikes, cars, and household furniture, and turning them into sculpture. The exhibit runs through May 31.
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Noah Baumbach says his films often end up sadder than he wants, but his latest "Frances Ha" is different. (MPR photo/Euan Kerr)
"I don't know. I try not to describe it," laughed Noah Baumbach when asked to about his latest film. Nonetheless the director and writer of such cinematic depictions of modern angst as "The Squid and the Whale," "Margot at the Wedding" and "Greenberg" sits in a room in his Minneapolis hotel and considers.
"Frances Ha" is the critically acclaimed movie he co-wrote with Greta Gerwig who also plays the title role. Baumbach was in town for "Visibly Human" a retrospective and dialog at the Walker Art Center recently. Now "Frances Ha" opens this weekend theatrically in the Twin Cities.
"I think the movie for me in many ways was dictated by the character and by Greta," Baumbach said. "And as the character was formed in our writing process it was very clear to me that the movie should celebrate her and I also felt like the movie should reward her too."
"Frances Ha" follows a few months in the life of a 27 year old woman living in New York who is coming to terms that she is on the cusp of adulthood. It's not easy for her. She believes she is a dancer, despite strong evidence to the contrary available just by looking at the other members of her company. She is so close to her best friend Sophie that she breaks up with her boyfriend rather than risk damaging the platonic love she has for her friend. Then Sophie ditches her. Frances is also beset by money problems. Yet throughout it all she remains happy, and optimistic.
Greta Gerwig as the ever optimistic title character in "Frances Ha" (Image courtesy IFC Films)
The film shows Frances soldiering on despite an ongoing series of humiliations both minor and major. Baumbach says the spirit, the buoyancy and the joy of the movie really was inspired by Gerwig initially and then by Frances. Audiences tend to leave the theater in a good mood.
This feeling of contentment may be unsettling to Baumbach fans who appreciate the way the director's past work dwelt on the troubling sides of life. Another surprising thing is the movie seemed to appear as if by magic last year at the Telluride Festival.
Baumbach says he never meant to keep the production hidden. He says the reason no-one knew about it is simple.
"Nobody asked." he said. "We were there. We were making it. It was not as if we were setting out to make a secret movie."
He did however have some goals in how he made the film and says that could have played into the fact that people missed he was shooting a movie on the streets of Manhattan.
"I wanted to do something somewhat intimate." he said. "I wanted it to be a smaller production. I wanted to have a production that was fleet-footed; something we could take on the subway and shoot. Something where we could take our time."
While the film looks almost laid-back, it was shot with such a stripped down crew everything had to be carefully planned.
"There is a lot of work goes into making it seem so informal,' he said. "We did a lot of takes. All those scenes and all those shots I spent a lot of time getting them as close to what I have in my head as possible. It's some level of chaos and control that you are always working with on a movie. When it happens, when you hit it, it creates this great moment."
"It was all scripted, there was no improvisation," insisted Baumbach. "I have always really believed in getting the script as good as I can get it, then going to war with the army you have. Lets make this material work. But I am interested in a kind of informal feeling dialog."
Baumbach says the project was born out of a desire to work with Gerwig, who also starred in "Greenberg." He says as they developed the character, sending ideas and possibilities back abd forth, he quickly got a feeling of Frances, and how Gerwig would appear as her in the film.
"Greta is nothing like Frances," he recalled, "But I had a sense of how she would play it. She just seemed clear to us."
He says characters have always dictated how his films go.
"For instance like the last movie I made 'Greenberg' was about a 40 year old guy who hasn't been able to get out of his own way, and whose ideas of himself and his ideas of how his life would turn out have not come to fruition. And he's having a hard time with that and he's not able to fully acknowledge that. And when he does acknowledge it he becomes angry," he said.
"You know, I love that character but maybe it was a pricklier character to some people than a 27 year old girl who can't get out of her own way, and has ideas of how her life should be, and doesn't know how to maneuver herself in the world. But the character of Frances produced the joy and the hopefulness of the Frances Ha movie. I think that Greenberg got the movie that he should have too. I mean I think Greenberg is ultimately a hopeful movie but it's a different path."
'Frances Ha' represents something different of a different path for Baumbach: the film turned out the way he expected.
"Sometimes I'm not totally aware of the tone. I think this is going to be funnier than it turns out to be. They often feel sadder than I intend them to. But Frances, the final product, is the closest to what I envisioned going into it than anything else I have made."
Frances (Greta Gerwig) and Sophie (Mickey Sumner) playfight in Noah Baumbach's "Frances Ha" (Image courtesy IFC Films)
He says the decision to shoot the film in black and white was intuitive.
"I have always loved black and white movies, contemporary movies as opposed to black and white evoking a period because there is something that is already past tense about it once it is in black and white,' he said. "And I think maybe it was my approach to the material because I am no longer 27 and at that point in my life so that the black and white in some ways for me made it past tense. But at the same time the movie is very of the moment, not that it is topical, but I feel like it is very active movie, it doesn't feel like an artifact, it feels very alive and so I like that kind of contrast."
When asked who "Frances Ha" might be for Noah Baumbach says he made it for everybody.
"I didn't do this movie to take on the current generation and tell their story. I really did it because I felt the characters were interesting and funny and charming, and I wanted to work with Greta."
"These are the things that interested me and the hope is that they interest as many other people as possible."
More than 2,000 museums across the United States are offering free admission to all active duty military personnel and their families this summer.
Starting Memorial Day (May 27) and running through Labor Day (September 2), military families can enjoy free admission to 38 Minnesota museums, including the following museums in the Twin Cities:
The American Swedish Institute
Bell Museum of Natural History
Frederick R. Weisman Art Museum
Hennepin History Museum
Minneapolis Institute of Arts
Walker Art Center
Minnesota Children's Museum
Dakota County Historical Society
You can find a full listing of participating museums here.(0 Comments)
Minnesota artist Phil Hansen has had to overcome some obstacles in his life. Along the way he realized that those limitations actually helped him to be more creative.
Hansen recently gave a TED talk detailing his experience... it includes lots of fun samples of his art. For a more in-depth look at some of his projects, check out this interview with him from last fall.(0 Comments)
One of the oldest stories in literature is Homer's "Iliad" set during the Trojan War.
Playwrights Lisa Peterson and Denis O'Hare have given the epic tale a modern revision, allowing audiences to see the horror of war through the lens of not just one epic battle, but the wars of three millennia.
"An Iliad" runs through May 26; critics have found it raw, powerful, captivating and electric.
Stephen Yoakam as The Poet in Guthrie Theater's production of "An Iliad"
Photo by Aaron Fenster
A bit slow moving at the start, An Iliad is like a 400-page novel: each chapter must be set up by the previous ones before it can speed ahead to the most exciting parts. Like so often is the case, however, patience is rewarded. As the stories and emotions tumble out, layers of Yoakam's costume are stripped away until what's left is Homer in his most raw and honest state. Here standing before us is a man who's seen and experienced a lifetime's worth of pain; a man begging his listeners to heed his warning, abandon hate, and choose to love. Whether or not we have the courage to do so is up to us.
The power of "An Iliad" is its refusal to cluck with self righteousness, as so many preachy agitprop dramas do. (You know, geeks dressed in leotards howling at George Bush.) Yoakam's Poet is a brawny and vexed man who understands the terrible beauty of this vicious sport. And by wading into that mysterious realm with honest integrity, he lets this pool of spilled blood tell its own story.
"An Iliad" runs at the Guthrie Theater through May 26
Photo by Aaron Fenster
Throughout, Yoakam holds us captivated. The conversational script -- only short bits are in verse (and in Greek as well) -- makes the engagement between actor and audience easy, but it is Yoakam's skill that keeps our focus through a well-known story. Some of the most riveting moments come when the Poet goes off script. At times, he abandons the story to recount images from other futile battlefields of history, such as World War I. Or, in one harrowing moment, he recites war after war that has been fought since the fall of Troy. Here, Yoakam is at his best, making us feel the weariness and loss as each war is cited.
It's a rangy, eclectic and sometimes electric performance, filled with bravura moments but utterly devoid of the look-at-me theatrics to which a lesser performer or a lesser story might be prone.
Have you seen "An Iliad" at the Guthrie? What's your review?(1 Comments)
Philip Bither may have done the unforgivable in announcing the Walker's 2013-2014 performing arts season - he's named a favorite.
"Uh-oh, you caught me on that - don't tell any of the other artists" he laughs.
Perhaps luckily the curator's top pick comes up first in the new season announced today. The Nature Theater of Oklahoma -- "They actually took their name from a Kafka novel," said Bither -- will perform "Life and Times," a multi-part show based on a mammoth phone call with an ordinary American woman.
Nature Theater of Oklahoma performing "Life and Times" (All images courtesy Walker Art Center)
Bither says that when they began talking, they thought they would just chat for about 60 minutes.
"They ended up with 11 hours of her life," which they took, "ums" and all, and created a musical theater piece about everything the woman could remember, he says. The final show lasts eight hours. Bither saw it in Europe and was enthralled.
"I found myself remembering my earlier childhood memories while watching this woman's struggle to bring to life her earliest memories:The neighbor who scared her next door; What her dad smelled like when he came home from work. And I sense that the entire audience was going through a similar process," he said.
Bither isn't bringing the full "Life and Times" to the Walker, just the early part, which runs three hours.
"And it takes you from the earliest baby memories to the third grade. And you end at the third grade," he said.
Bither clearly takes great joy from his work, and delights in describing it all. He points out the way performance has changed in recent years, and how the convergence of disciplines is apparent in the season.
"I think the age we live in is an age of intense content and the digital era allows people to draw from many sources, and the notions of a defined type of artform just called dance or just called theater is going away," he said. "Younger artists and I think very contemporary artists are thinking about just creating performances, and it draws from many disciplines that we used to think of as separate, including visual art, and architecture, and literature and movement."
Another element which is great to see in the season is the number of performances which feature national or international figures collaborating with Minnesota artists.
"If there's opportunities for leading forces in our community to collaborate with someone nationally or internationally and the Walker can help play a role of bringing people together, we think it's a fabulous thing for us to be able to do," said Bither.
Thus Minnesota composer and director Aparna Ramaswamy, and her choreographic partner and co-artistic director, Ranee will work with award-winning jazz saxophonist/composer Rudresh Mahanthappa to create a new piece called "Song of the Jasmine."
Also several local musicians including Polica lead singer Channy Leaneagh will collaborate with Seattle-based songwriter Jherek Bischoff for a piece called "Composed"
One of photographer Mitch Epstein's images for "American Power"
Cellist Erik Friedlander will perform a piece "American Power" using photographs and videos by Mitch Epstein to explore American's relationship with energy.
And in January there will be the 26th year of the Walker's exploration of the cutting edge of theater in "Out There."
"What we love about 'Out there ' is it gives people a passport to try the unexpected," Bither said. "Our audiences usually have never heard of these companies, but they know that January is a month of great adventure and great fun at the Walker."
Bither also highlights the visit by the Trisha Brown Dance Company which will disband soon, and will perform its final midwestern concert at the Walker in March. There will also be a 20th anniversary celebration of Twin Cities choreographers Kristin Van Loon and Arwen Wilder, known as HIJACK (seen left.)
And there is the latest visit by French performer Jerome Bel who will come with Theater Hora, a Swiss company featuring actors with disabilities, who don't play characters in the production, but instread, themselves.
"And it makes I think in some ways the audience both feel quiet voyeuristic and uncomfortable and at other times you realize that the company are the voyeurs and they are all lined up looking at us," said Bither.
Bither will explain it all and provide more than a few clips at a season preview on Thursday Sept. 5.
THEATER: Nature Theater of Oklahoma Life and Times, Episode 1.
Thursday-Saturday, Sept. 26-28, 7 p.m.
MUSIC/FILM: Sam Green and Yo La Tengo, "The Love Song of R. Buckminster Fuller."
Friday, Oct.11, 7 and 9:30 p.m.
MUSIC: "Composed," by Jherek Bischoff, with special guests Sondre Lerche, Greg Saunier, Ólöf Arnalds and Channy Leaneagh and others.
Friday, Oct. 18, 8 p.m. Fitzgerald Theater, 10 E. Exchange Street, St. Paul. Co-presented with the SPCO'S Liquid Music series and in association with Minnesota Public Radio.
MUSIC: CocoRosie Saturday, Oct. 19, 8 p.m.
The Cedar, 416 Cedar Avenue, Minneapolis.
MUSIC/FILM: Erik Friedlander and Mitch Epstein, "American Power."
Friday, Nov. 1, 8 p.m.
World Premiere/Walker Commission
MUSIC: Tim Hecker and Oneohtrix Point Never.
Saturday, Nov. 16, 8 p.m.
Copresented with the SPCO's Liquid Music series.
DANCE: Jérôme Bel/Theater Hora Disabled Theater.
Thursday, Nov. 21; Saturday, Nov. 23, 8 p.m.
DANCE: Choreographers' Evening Curated by Chris Yon and Taryn Griggs
Saturday, Nov. 30, 7 and 9:30 p.m.
DANCE: HIJACK at 20 redundant, ready, reading, radish, Red Eye.
Thursday-Saturday, Dec. 5-7, 8 p.m.
World Premiere/Walker Commission.
THEATER: Out There 2014: "New World Visions."
Jan. 9 - Feb. 1, 2014
Wunderbaum and LAPD Hospital
Thursday-Saturday, Jan. 9-11, 8 p.m.
Niwagekidan Penino: "The Room, Nobody Knows."
Thursday, Jan. 16, 8 p.m.
Friday-Saturday, Jan. 17-18, 7 and 9:30 p.m.
Clément Layes/Public in Private: "Allege"
Thursday-Saturday, Jan. 23-25, 8 p.m.
Lola Arias: "The Year I Was Born"
Thursday-Saturday, Jan. 30 -Feb. 1, 8 p.m.
MUSIC: Olga Bell, "Origin/Outcome" with special guests Tom Vek and Angel Deradoorian
Thursday, February 13, 8 p.m.
World premiere, co-presented with the SPCO's Liquid Music series and the American Composers Forum.
DANCE: luciana achugar: "Otro Teatro"
Thursday-Saturday, Feb. 27 - March 1, 8 p.m.
Walker Commission/World Premiere
DANCE: Trisha Brown Dance Company Farewell Theatrical Tour, "Works for the Stage 1983-2011."
Wednesday-Saturday, March 12-15, 8 p.m.
DANCE: Companhia Urbana de Dança Na Pista and ID, "ENTIDADES"
Thursday-Saturday, March 27-29, 8 p.m.
MUSIC: Brad Mehldau and Chris Thile, "Intuitive Expression: A Brad Mehldau Celebration"
Tuesday, April 8, 8 p.m.
MUSIC: Brad Mehldau Trio
Wednesday, April 9, 8 p.m.
MUSIC: Burnt Sugar--The Arkestra Chamber, "Any World That I'm Welcome To: The Steely Dan Conductions."
Saturday, April or May, TBD
DANCE/MUSIC: Ragamala Dance and Rudresh Mahanthappa, "Song of the Jasmine
World Premiere/Walker Commission"
Thursday-Sunday, May 15-18.
This week, a multi-generational perspective on the Chinese immigrant experience, a new venue that's enlivening the Duluth art scene, and a networking party for part time musicians.
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Musician and attorney Gillian Brennan has the desire but not the time to meet similarly situated musicians to collaborate with. Enter local guitar wizard and music educator Mike Michel with Get on the Grid, a networking group that fosters partnerships between serious but not career-minded musicians. Get on the Grid will hold its next networking party this Sunday, May 19 at Icehouse in Minneapolis from 2:30 to 5:30pm.
Minneapolis visual artist and poet Simi Kang is an admirer of the playwright David Hwang, author of "M. Butterfly" and "Yellow Face," as a chronicler of the Asian American experience. Simi says Hwang's first play, "FOB," is being staged at the Southdale Library on Saturday, May 18th at 2pm. It's part of Hennepin County Library's Spice and Slice of Asian America series.
The Underground, says Duluth actor and director Lawrence Lee, has opened just in the nick of time for Duluth's burgeoning art scene. It's in the basement of the Depot, where several local arts groups are headquartered. Lawrence says the space has great architectural beauty and flexibility as a venue.
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6.15pm UPDATES WITH MANAGEMENT REACTION
The locked out musicians of the Minnesota claimed today that management refuses to give them information requested in advance of possible negotiation dates at the end of the month. Meanwhile a letter from management attorney Paul Zech says the lack of a response by 5pm today from the musicians to dates offered for negotiations will be taken as a rejection of the offer.
In a release from the musicians lead negotiator Tim Zavadil says "The lack of transparency from management is troubling to the Musicians, the public, and Minnesota's legislative auditor, Basic artistic and financial information about the Orchestra is being withheld to seemingly to stall negotiations."
The musicians sent a list of questions last week saying that getting them answered would make talks productive.
The musicians say they have received some of the financial information requested, but no response to some of the other questions including what management proposes to do about the threatened resignation of Music Director Osmo Vanska and the possible departures of Concertmaster Erin Keefe and star player Burt Hara.
A representative of the musicians say they are still likely to meet with management.
However a release from the orchestra management states many of the questions were not germaine to the negotiations, and seemed to be part of a pattern to avoid serious negotiations.
Now that the deadline is passed, the release continues, "the Board will proceed with other options for resuming negotiations.".
Meanwhile the Minnesota Chorale, which derives most of its income from performances with the Minnesota Orchestra, says the current lock out is forcing it to cut its staff pay and hours in half. Executive director Bob Peskin says the Chorale's board made the cuts reluctantly.
"With no resolution to the impasse between the Minnesota Orchestra and its musicians, we have to be able to make the plans that will keep the Minnesota Chorale a viable and vital organization," Peskin said today.
He says the lockout threatens the Chorale's future and describes it as "A really painful and almost impossible situation, but the reality is we have no indication as to how things might get resolved at the ochestra and we have to proceed."
Peskin says the cuts will go into effect July 1st, and will apply to six chorale employees. He says despite the financial stress the Chorale is continuing with its 40th anniversary season using grant funds for the performances.
Sybil Kempson has been in Minneapolis a lot recently as she helps the acclaimed troupe Elevator Repair Service prepare her latest play "Fondly, Collette Richland" which will get a preview presentation at the Walker Art Center this weekend.
She's going to be here a lot more though, having today been appointed playwright in residence at Playwrights Center.
She's really taken to the area having visited regularly as she worked on "Fondly" for the last 18 months.
"I thought you were going to ask me what it's about" she laughed on the phone the other day. "And our response that we have decided on is "About two hours."
Having sat in on part of a rehearsal at the Walker, I can see why she puts it that way. She uses the term "strange" to describe the surreal story which spins out over those two hours.
"There are a lot of traditional elements of a contemporary theater piece," she said, "But everything sort of veers off course and you are going to know right away that something strange is going on."
"I use strangeness with a lot of reverence," she adds.
There is a man and a wife, and some sort of a journey, and a lot of laughing. It's funny stuff, as in funny peculiar and funny hilarious.
Kempson is the darling of the New York theater scene, as a performer and as a prolific writer. Over the years she developed a reputation of being the busiest theater artist in the city. She has now set performing aside because she says she was working non-stop. She is looking forward to taking some of the ideas left over from "Fondly" to create a new work.
"I am excited beyond belief," she said about the residency. She wants to develop material she researched about Mary Shelly, creator of "Frankenstein."
The residency is four weeks spread over a year, with the a reading at the end. Something tells me it will be a wild and crazy time with the emphasis on strange.(0 Comments)