Mexica Dancers take over West Lake street

Viva Mexico! Minneapolis celebrates Mexican Independence Day

With the Grito de Dolores (The Cry of Dolores), the Mexican War of Independence was declared on September 16, in 1810. In the small town of Guanajuato, the fight began to rid Mexico of Spanish Colonial rule. This national holiday is celebrated far beyond the borders of Mexico–including in Minneapolis, which has a large Latino population. The Powderhorn/Phillips neighborhood is full of Mexican and Latino-owned businesses, restaurants and shopping centers all eager to showcase their heritage. Minneapolis held not one, but two fiestas to mark the occasion on Lake street. Continue Reading

Spoken word, seed art and being Minnesotan

All photos taken by Brea Lobley
Among the games, rides, various foodstuffs on a stick and the Black Lives Matter action at the Minnesota State Fair were two female artists—interdisciplinary mixed media artist and performer Ifrah Mansour and the late “Seed Queen” Lillian Colton—who offered poignantly moving and still images of what it means to be a Minnesotan. Colton, whose work has been at the State Fair since 1966, is undoubtedly a popular display and epitomizes the State Fair tradition. Colton took a very gendered tradition, women as gatherers, and transformed it into fine art—and, in the process, gave herself and other crop artists a space to express a complexity to an agricultural background that may have otherwise been overlooked. And she certainly deserved her praise: Colton’s lifelong work of using seeds as an art medium offered a transformative perspective and complexity for the way Minnesotans and non-Minnesotans alike view agriculture. A stroll down Cosgrove from Colton’s exhibit, over at the Education building’s courtyard, was Mansour. Continue Reading


Robert Cray Groovin’ at Weesner Family Amphitheater

I’ve heard some hard working musicians who love performing to a live audience remark, “travel is what I get paid to do, I play my shows for free”. A clever sentiment you might expect to hear from Blues Hall of Famer Robert Cray, who’s August 18th Music in the Zoo at Weesner Family Amphitheater performance was part of his current trek celebrating 40 years as a touring musician. Cray has had quite a ride and accomplished a great deal, all of which has been earned through his tireless touring ambition and outstanding talents. Even a rain soaked day did not discourage loyal Blues fans from packing the seats. Once again, the Zoo venue’s mysterious powers held the drops off for most of the show. Continue Reading

Don’t sleep on TruthMaze

If you haven’t caught any new sounds from TruthMaze and are wondering where he’s been, don’t worry. This welcome throwback to original, old-school quality (can you say The Last Poets, Sugar Hill Gang?). Hip-Hop is still around and still in fine effect, as witnessed by a new jam, “In Motion,” thankfully sent to yours truly, courtesy of Syrka Entertainment. To those for whom this actually doesn’t ring a bell, do yourself a favor and go do some recording shopping: The “Expansions + Contractions (Psoems 1:1)” album is a must-listen. He broke ground around these parts in 1983 as beatboxing vocalist-percussionist B-Fresh, helping originate the Twin Cities scene and went national for a while with I.R.M. Crew for which, to this day, he remains renowned. Continue Reading

Franklin Open Streets showcases a slice of life on the Ave

From Cedar  to Chicago Avenue..sweltering humidity or not, folks showed up for another summer edition of Open Streets. This time the spotlight was on Franklin Avenue-home to the largest population of urban Native Americans in the country. Franklin Avenue is also home to one of the oldest libraries in the city and many Somali and East African folks. Open Streets brought them all together for a day of bicycling and walking down one of the most diverse places in the city. See for yourself… Continue Reading

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Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood and That’swhatshesaid takes your brain to places you weren’t expecting to go

This past spring at Billy Mullaney’s Uncreativity Festival, the audience was treated to a lot of shorts, but also a few tantalizing excerpts of much longer works.  Having whetted the audience’s appetite for more, Mullaney brings back two of those pieces in longer form – visiting Seattle performer Erin Pike presenting a new iteration of That’swhatshesaid, and Mullaney’s ongoing exploration of Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood. “There’s only one in this wonderful world.  You are special.”

Both pieces engage in the use of appropriated text.  Pike, in collaboration with playwright Courtney Meaker and director HATLO (yes, that’s her name, all caps), is taking lines out of the mouths of female characters in the most-produced plays of the 2014-2015 theater season (a list compiled annually by the Theater Communications Group [TCG]).  Hence, the title That’swhatshesaid.  Their first stab at this last year used the 2013-2014 most-produced plays list, which turned out to be a bit of an outlier.  That list of 12 plays was split equally down the middle between male and female playwrights, six and six.  The just completed theater season reverts more to form, which is to say less representation and production of women playwrights.  So the lens on female characters is a decidedly male one.  This version is still a work in progress but a very intriguing one.  The first section is the female characters in plays written by men.  The, decidedly shorter, second section is the female characters in the plays written by women.  Taking the lines – and related stage directions – for the women as the raw material for this piece makes for a very illuminating portrait of the state of women onstage in modern theater. “She enters.”

The most produced plays last year were: Vanya and Sonya and Masha and Spike by Christopher Durang; Outside Mullingar by John Patrick Shanley; Bad Jews by Joshua Harmon; Other Desert Cities by Jon Robin Baitz; Around the World In 80 Days, adapted by Mark Brown and Toby Hulse from the novel by Jules Verne; Peter and the Starcatcher, adapted by Rick Elice from Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson; The Whipping Man by Matthew Lopez; Into The Woods, book by James Lapine, music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim; Venus In Fur by David Ives.  The two women who break into the top 11 are: Nina Raine’s play Tribes; and Amy Herzog’s play 4,000 Miles.  From these 11 plays, there were 74 roles total.  31 of these roles were written for women.  Of the 31 female roles, six were written for women by women.  That’s a daunting place to start.  It’s even more daunting when you start to hear some of the dialogue (and descriptions) that men write for women.  I’m sure they don’t mean to be insulting, but when you hear them out of their original context – all lined up together – it’s kind of mind-blowing. “Is she a molecule, or a TV weather person?”

While I found it a fascinating exercise in deconstructing a portrait of today’s theater scene, the actress friend next to me when the lights came up simply said, “Well, now I’m depressed.”  On the flip side, as a writer, I was thinking, “I need to write more (better) roles for women.”  But that wouldn’t really help the larger problem – which is more representation by women playwrights, who know the subject a little more intimately and can bring some much needed nuance and complexity to the table. Right now, the portrait of women on stage that’s up for mass consumption by theater audiences is in need of some balance. Continue Reading

Picture from the Ordway Theater.

Pirates of Penzance is still a “Glorious Thing” in its 135th year

“It is a glorious thing to be a pirate king,” declares the Pirate King, setting the stage for W.S. Gilbert’s and Arthur Sullivan’s The Pirates of Penzance. Pirates was first presented on Broadway one hundred thirty-five years ago and its most recent incarnation at the Ordway Center for the Performing Arts shows that this comic opera has staying power. Continue Reading

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Outdoor Hmong Music at the History Center

Check out these great photos of a partnership with the “We Are Hmong Show” at the Minnesota History Center in Saint Paul, the Center included a night of Hmong Music in its “9 Nights of Music” series, which is held in the outdoor plaza space between the State Capitol and the Cathedral of Saint Paul. Continue Reading


2015 Little Mekong Night Market in photos

If you attended the Little Mekong Night Market this year, you know that the exceptional food and performances made the festival a vibrant place to be last weekend. See below for exclusive snapshots of the event. All photos taken by Mark Peterson. Click here for more photos, video and information on this year’s Little Mekong Market. Continue Reading