Ferguson, USA, a serious issue teamed with excellent talent

 

Maxwell Collyard, author of “Ferguson, USA” at the MN Fringe Festival, quotes James Baldwin, “Ask any Mexican, any Puerto Rican, any black man, any poor person — ask the wretched how they fare in the halls of justice, and then you will know, not whether or not the country is just, but whether or not it has any love for justice, or any concept of it. It is certain, in any case, that ignorance, allied with power, is the most ferocious enemy justice can have.”

Richard Pryor said the same thing more succinctly, “You come down to the jail looking for justice and that’s what you’ll find. Just us.” Whether you adhere to eloquent articulation or go in for a shoot from the hip quip, there’s no arguing against the significance of Collyard’s voice, a contemporary theater artist of color dramatizing the tragedy that resonated across the nation. It’s billed as what he calls, “a collage of voices and spoken word inspired by witness interviews, media coverage, and the Department of Justice report [on] Ferguson, Missouri. In this story, a tragedy in the neighborhood incites residents to expose and fight a broken justice system funded by poverty.” Hardly a new story in American society. Continue Reading

"Hey Bangladesh"Presented by e2d

FRINGE REVIEW: Rajib Bahar’s “Hey Bangladesh” promises “wild and crazy” evening

You don’t get a great deal of music or theater from South Asia in the Twin Cities. There have, however, been noteworthy productions, among them Zaraawar Mistry performing his original solo piece “Indian Cowboy.” Rajib Bahar makes a promising bid to join said select company, staging “Hey Bangladesh,” a wryly intriguing premise, at the MN Fringe Festival for his fledgling Serendipity Productions. Hey Bangladesh centers on the fairly addlebrained yet happily fortuitous exploits of a fellow named Boltu, who, after accidentally head-butting a cow, comes up with the bright idea of launching his very own music show to go against the hit program “Bangladesh Idol.” It kind of sounds like a dyed-in-the-wool send-up on the order of, oh, Jack and the Beanstalk come “American Idol”. The quality of free-wheeling wild ideas area stages saw with Lonnie Carter’s “The Lost Boyz” and Marcie Rendon’s “Free Fry Bread.” Theater of the absurd isn’t for everyone. Continue Reading

"Confessions of a Delinquent Cheerleader"
Presented by FurTrader

2015 Minnesota Fringe Festival – Top Ten

 

Every year I clear out the past year’s top 10 to make room for ten more promising acts I’m excited to see.  For the 2015 Minnesota Fringe Festival, they are:

1 – FurTrader Productions – Confessions of a Delinquent Cheerleader

Who were you in High School? Hear true stories of a reformed cheerleader/bad girl at a private school back in the late 1980s. At times hilarious, at times tragic, she shares her “glory days” for all to judge. I was already fairly sure this was going to be one great comedic solo show, just by virtue of the fact that Mame Pelletier is involved.  That fact that it’s her script and her story only reinforced that instinct.  Her Fringe preview made it clear I would not be allowed to even entertain doubts about this one.  It’s going to be a heck of a lot of fun.  Can’t wait. 2 – Little Lifeboats – Confessions of a Butter Princess or Why The Cow Jumped Over The Moon

On the planet Ceres, Alex, a Cow, and a Queen are trying to escape the wrath of the Princess Kay Chorus. Continue Reading

Singer Cecilia Lopez

THEATER REVIEW: La Rondine

Color-blind casting continues to be an issue in American theater.  In opera, one might argue, without it how are artists of color to work?  After all, there isn’t exactly an over-abundance of roles written with characters of color.  And how many opportunities are there to be cast in a revival of, say, Porgy and Bess or Madame Butterfly?  Members of Skylark Opera’s production of Puccini La Rondine – two performers, who are of color, and the director, who is not, commented on the matter by email. Cecelia Violetta Lopez sings the role of Magda, who leaves her setup in the lap of luxury as a banker’s mistress, to go looking for love. Lopez’s solo concert credits include Mahler’s Symphony 4 and selections from Canteloube’s Chants d’Auvergne with the Henderson Symphony Orchestra, Rutter’s Mass of the Children with the Southern Nevada Musical Arts Society, Bach’s Magnificat with the University of Nevada – Las Vegas Symphony Orchestra and Rachmaninov’s Vocalise with the UNLV Chamber Orchestra. “I’ve never experienced a color and/or race issue in my growing career”, she reflects.  “I have been discriminated against in my lifetime, but those instances have been for being Mexican-American and/or female.  Sad, but true.”

Lopez then states, “I think race and opera are completely unrelated to each other. Continue Reading

The Cast of Violet

Violet at North Hennepin Community College

Over the years, I have found theater productions by local colleges to be hit and miss. As an adjunct instruction at North Hennepin Community College (NHCC) in Brooklyn Park, I have been attending the college’ productions over the past 18 years and similarly found the quality to be uneven. But NHCC’s Theatre Arts Ensemble has undergone a tremendous growth in the quality of its student productions over the last couple of years meriting some attention by the theater community as a whole. The growth of the program was evident in last year’s production of Dames at Sea which was such a splendid production that it compared to musicals I have seen performed on Broadway. The Ensemble’s most recent production of Violet, takes on a more edgy musical. Continue Reading

Kathryn Fumie as the title character in Theatre Unbound's all-female production of Hamlet. Image by Richard Fleischman Photography.

THEATER REVIEW | Theatre Unbound serves up an all-female “Hamlet”

Let’s get this out of the way right up front. You should go see Theatre Unbound’s production of Hamlet because you should see Kathryn Fumie in the title role. Not because it’s a woman playing Hamlet. Because it’s a great actor playing Hamlet. Just like every Hamlet I’ve seen over the years, in good productions and bad, the problem with Hamlet is never the actor playing Hamlet. Continue Reading

Photo credit Richard Fleischman Photography

THEATER REVIEW | Sandbox Theatre’s “War With The Newts”: A darkly funny cautionary lizard tale

I had the pleasure of seeing the original War With The Newts back in 2007 when Sandbox Theatre first tackled the Karel Capek science fiction novel, so I knew this reimagined revival was also bound to be a lot of fun. In a way, Capek’s tale is not your standard sci fi cautionary tale. Normally, you’d use the race of newts as a stand-in for human behavior and the audience would have just enough distance from themselves to be able to see the pitfalls of the newts’ way of dealing with one another. Here though, the newts are addressing us in the audience as fellow newts, using human beings themselves as the cautionary tale, putting on masks in order to imitate human beings and just making the whole thing a lot harder to ignore as a straightforward indictment of human folly. “No sensible man has any business going to Devil Bay.”

Sandbox Theatre as a company has also been evolving over the eight years since this story last hit the stage, and it shows in this new improved version of War With The Newts. Continue Reading

(foreground) Rimbaud (Austen Fisher) in the arms of Verlaine (Alex Brightwell) with Verlaine's wife Mathilde (Felicity Stiverson) just over their shoulder in Black Label Movement's The Illumination.

THEATER REVIEW | “The Illumination” at the Southern Theater: A visual and aural feast

One of the reasons I was looking forward to the first year of ARTshare programming at the Southern Theater was the inclusion of dance companies in the mix of resident artists. After all, the Southern is a great venue in which to see dance, and I don’t see enough dance outside of the Minnesota Fringe Festival each year. I figured having access to regular programming by dance companies already slotted into my schedule would get me out of my habit of only managing to see dance for one week in August. I knew of Black Label Movement, but I hadn’t actually seen one of their shows. Their latest presentation, The Illumination, made me take a closer look at their name. Continue Reading

FemmeCabaret

THEATER REVIEW | 20% Theatre Company’s “Q-Stage: Set C”: A perfect evening of red-nose clowns and angry dancers

 

 

20% Theatre Company has saved the best for last in this year’s Q-Stage. The red-nose clowns of Femme Cabaret: A Clown Burlesque and the angry dancers of Gifts of Set C couldn’t be more different in style or tone but together they make for a perfect evening of theater. Of course, you should see all the Q-Stage offerings this year, but if you can only fit one into your schedule, it should be Set C. Absolutely delightful from start to finish (and that includes the part where one of the performers attacks the audience – no, I’m not kidding.)

“I’m the ME in Femme.”

Creator/performer Shannon Forney calls Femme Cabaret “a playful romp on queer femme identity from the awkward center of a Red Nose Clown” and I can’t come up with a better summary statement than that. Shannon’s clown alter ego is Naughty Dottie, and with the help of her red-nosed partners in crime Charming (Emma Buechs) and Swish (Jacob Miller), she guides us through a whole quirky catalog of embarrassments and near misses as she attempts to understand the femme identity’s place in a queer culture. As an audience member, I was so charmed and bemused by Dottie’s misadventures that I didn’t realize until it was over that I’d actually been thinking quite a lot about the notion of identity, gender roles, and the sneaky enemy of conformity (a trap we all fall into, even as we try to set ourselves apart). Continue Reading

AndSheWould

THEATER REVIEW I 20% Theatre Company’s “Q-Stage: Set B”: Greek tragedy in drag and more

You know you’re a theater geek when you don’t really read the program before watching the show and then suddenly realize, “Oh, wait a minute, this is a drag version of Euripides’ Greek tragedy The Trojan Women” – and this revelation makes you fall in love with the play almost immediately. That was part of the fun of watching And She Would Stand Like This, a play in drag as part of Set B in 20% Theatre Company’s latest iteration of their Q-Stage new works program playing at Intermedia Arts. Even if you read the program more carefully than I did and were clued into the source material ahead of time, it’s also fun to see how they take that source and update it. Oh, the names remain the same, that’s the giveaway, but the context for the different relationships have shifted. Rather than the aftermath of the Trojan War, we’re in a modern day time of plague – though the plague is unnamed, you can fill in the blank for yourself fairly quickly. Continue Reading