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Not Ready to Die

The creative life of young Iranian-born Swedish pop singer, Laleh Pourkarim is revealed in candid interviews with Laleh, people who’ve worked with her and performance footage in “Not Ready to Die.” Born in underground Iran, she and her parents who opposed the Islamic regime in Tehran, fled to other cities in Russia and Germany before settling in Sweden when she was 12. A consummate musician, she learned to play guitar as a teen, and later taught herself percussion and saxophone while attending music school in Gothenburg. At age 12, she lost her father, watching him drown while trying to save a woman. Death has often been a theme in her music, there is sadness and yet positivity in her music such as her renowned single, “Some Die Young.”
While working on her self-titled debut, Laleh found she couldn’t concentrate with other producers and writers around, so she requested of Warner Sweden she have her own studio. They agreed, sending an entire studio to her home piece by piece. Continue Reading

The Penumbra Theater brings to life segments of history that many of us didn’t read in our textbooks. Detroit ’67 is an inside look at the race riots from the view of a basement in Detroit near the epicenter of the riots. Main characters Chelle and Lank have inherited the house from their parents. They host house parties in the basement to make money; the work is more regular and profitable than factory jobs.The house parties feature Motown music that punctuates the action throughout. An interesting tangent in the play is the change over from records (45’s) to 8 track tapes – a movement that represents a leap into the future. In retrospect, it’s a leap that is symptomatic of the snapshot in time. We make the best decisions we can at the time; in hindsight we might make different choices. We might wait for cassettes. But in 1967, who knew that 8 track was going to be quickly surpassed by something even better? And who is to say that taking a leap into the future, isn’t worth the risk regardless of the outcome? Lank observes that “life ain’t about just keeping what you got; it’s about getting something new.”That theme reverberates in other plot twists. When is it right to take a risk and when do you hold back? Who do you trust and who do you put at risk? And how does your skin color impact your risk?I brought my favorite 10 year old date to the show. It was a powerful perspective for her to see. After the show, we talked a lot about history and what’s changed and what hasn’t. Director Shirley Jo Finney notes that “The events and circumstances inside the play do not read as a period frozen in history but as current events.” And for better or for worse, almost 50 years later, my 10 year old was not unfamiliar with the idea of a race riot. There’s a lot of today in the story and there’s a lot of opportunity to see that today is simply a later chapter in the same book and what happened in those earlier chapters frames today. We talked about the historical references that were woven into the dialogue. (Like the Tuskegee experiments.) We discussed language and the historical context of a term like uppity because recent incidents indicate that many of us could use a lesson in historical context of language. Most powerful I think were the speeches from Lank on how Detroit could become a Mecca if only the African Americans were allowed to grab the reins. Looking back at the history of Detroit, it makes you wonder what a difference that might have made to everyone and opens the door to recognizing again that today is just another chapter it’s not too late to open opportunities to everyone to help strengthen our communities on a micro and macro level. The acting was superb. Jamecia Bennett as Bunny and James T. Alfred as Sly bring strong personalities to life in a way that brings a balance of levity to the show. (I would like to talk to Mary Farrell in wardrobe about where to score some of Bunny’s outfits.) Austene Van as Chelle and Darius Dotch as Lank deftly deepen their characters qualities to add that universality. They aren’t characters on the edge; they are everyday people battling the need to raise kids and pay bills with the urge to make things better for themselves, for strangers, for their community. They wrestle with rules and understanding which rules you follow out of self-preservation and which ones you follow out of internal sense of morality and what happens when those rules clash. And the actors do it without sentimentality or bravado but as a matter of course that is very believable.The play is reflective at a time when I think we need to learn from history to change the course of our next few chapters. The language is not PG. Yet I think it’s a good show for kids; it portrays real events from an everyday viewpoint that is how I think it directly loops us from 1967 to present day. Some things have changed but people still do laundry, listen to music and make the best choices they can for their future. Maybe if we learn from a play like this we can save someone from buying an 8 track tape, or burning down bar or trusting too little or too much.

THEATER REVIEW | “Detroit ’67″ at Penumbra Theatre: A look back at the future with a great soundtrack

The Penumbra Theater brings to life segments of history that many of us didn’t read in our textbooks. Detroit ’67 is an inside look at the race riots from the view of a basement in Detroit near the epicenter of the riots. Main characters Chelle and Lank have inherited the house from their parents. They host house parties in the basement to make money; the work is more regular and profitable than factory jobs. The house parties feature Motown music that punctuates the action throughout. An interesting tangent in the play is the change over from records (45’s) to 8 track tapes – a movement that represents a leap into the future. Continue Reading

Sheena Janson (left) and Max Wojtanowicz (right) in Fruit Fly: The Musical.

THEATER REVIEW | “Fruit Fly The Musical”: Fringe show buzzes back at Illusion Theater

This is the season of Minnesota Fringe Festival show planning. Lottery numbers were drawn in late February, venue assignments and showtimes went out to producers last week, and Minnesota Playlist is sprouting Fringe-related casting notices and other classifieds. For some teams, now is the time when the writers first begin to frantically craft material; for others, the scripts and scores were set in stone well before their applications went in. The clock is ticking: in less than four months’ time, the country’s largest unjuried theatre festival will have come and gone, bringing about 50,000 attendees – 10,000 more than Target Field’s maximum, and about 91% of the capacity of the old Metrodome – to Minneapolis stages.So what happens to a Fringe show once the festival has come and gone? For most shows, a quiet repose and a few playbill credits await. Continue Reading

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The Beatles are back!

Four teenage boys of Oslo, Norway – Kim, Gunnar, Ola and Zeb – are friends “just like the Beatles.” It’s Beatlemania era – the four lads hear the Beatles and form a band. Yet they don’t have instruments or a place to play.This enchanting coming-of-age Norwegian film Beatles is adapted from Norway’s bestselling 1984 coming-of-age novel, Beatles, by Lars Saabye Christiansen, set between 1965 and 1974. Beatles follows the adventures of this band of friends in their mid-teens, poignantly depicting their growing pains, joys and insecurities, as they discover their identities in the mid-60s, a time of social and political turmoil.Kim Karlsen puts Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Heart’s Club Band on the turntable, as the boys view the album art in awe. The needle drops, while narrator Kim observes, “It was like when God said, ‘Let there be light.” The friends listen in enrapt wonder and their lives are changed, they forget all other stuff boys like, for music. Beatles warmly and humorously depicts the wonders of discovering music as a teen.The teens form a band, The Snafus (Situation Normal All Fucked Up)  – each taking on a Beatles persona. Continue Reading

The jazz section at Hymie's Records

Record Store Day: a cultural nod to our ever-present past

“For me, it’s just how I grew up listening to music, how I always maintained listening to music, how I collect it.” -Danny Sigelman, DJ and collector Almost every memory I have of my father and his mother, my grandmother, orbit around playing records and sitting together listening to music. One of my earliest memories is asking my mother to play a particular Peter, Paul, & Mary record, of pressing my ear to my dad’s tall speaker on the floor of our living room, transfixed, listening to the soothing, melancholy harmonies of “Puff the Magic Dragon” and “Lemon Tree”. To this day, there is a childlike wonder I feel when I buy a new record, and bring it home to open it and immerse myself in the album art and a new musical experience.  Record Store Day brought out crowds of people with similar stories of their own first encounters with records, as well as many folks just coming out for the events and live music put on for RSD. One recurrent theme with everyone I talked with who collects records is a strong emotional attachment to these beautiful small pieces of interactive art that we call “vinyl” and their packaging. Continue Reading