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Autism and the theater frontier: Sensory-friendly performances coming to Minnesota theaters

(Source: Center for Disease Control, 2014) The rise of Autism-Spectrum Disorder diagnoses in the United States.

This is Part One of a series on autism-spectrum disorders and the theatre.

The meteoric increase in autism-spectrum disorder diagnoses in the United States presents one of the major social issues of our time. Although experts continue to debate the exact causes of this phenomenon, its impacts are profound and far-reaching, affecting public education, employment, and social interactions–not to mention the countless lives of friends, families, and individuals directly involved. Although exact figures vary, one of the most recent studies, using data from 11 research sites across the US, found an overall prevalence of autism of 1 in 68 amongst 8-year-olds. These diagnoses cut across all socio-economic classes, racial and ethnic divisions, and locations.

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Minnesota Opera's Tap Into Tempo caters to young operaphiles

Photo courtesy Minnesota Opera

Some fifty young professionals filled the tables at Fulton Brewery on Tuesday, October 21 for Tap Into Tempo, an event previewing the rest of Minnesota Opera’s 2014-2015 season and specially designed for opera lovers of a certain lack of age. The evening was hosted by MN Opera’s Bergen Baker and featured musical previews by the company’s Resident Artists. It also contained a general introduction to opera for newcomers–the “opera virgins,” as one person put it. The mood was offbeat and ribald, much to patrons’ enjoyment.

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THEATER REVIEW | Theatre Pro Rata's "1984": A vision of the future fit for Halloween

(Photo by Charles Gorrill) Winston Smith (Grant Henderson, foreground) under the watchful eye of The Interrogator (John Middleton) in Theatre Pro Rata's 1984

George Orwell’s 1984 is perfect entertainment for the Halloween season. There are few things scarier than this futuristic dystopia. Since 1984 was first published back in 1949 (back when 1984 was still over 30 years into the future), Orwell and 1984 and its surveillance state overlord Big Brother have become so ingrained in popular culture that they’re in danger of becoming their own well-worn cliches (after all, we’ve got a long-running reality TV show called Big Brother). It’s good to be reminded how frighteningly prescient the material still is today—three decades beyond that fateful year of 1984. Michael Gene Sullivan’s adaptation of Orwell’s novel boils it down to its essence, and Theatre Pro Rata gives the story a sharp and unsettling production.

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Creeps, crawls, candy and more: Halloween highlights in the Twin Cities

(Photo by Henry Hendricks)

Halloween is lurking around the corner, promising another year of spooky good times and monstrous spending. The National Retail Federation’s (NRF) annual consumer spending survey projects Halloween spending could reach total sales of $7.4 billion this year, up from $6.9 billion last year.

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THEATER REVIEW | "33 Variations" crescendos at Park Square Theatre

Photo courtesy Park Square Theatre

There are few times when a play production achieves true theatricalism. But Park Square Theatre’s production of 33 Variations accomplishes this elusive target in its crescendo scene during the half-way point of the show. This scene, alone, renders this production worthy of both your attention and attendance.

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THEATER REVIEW | Gadfly Theatre's "Girl Gumshoe and Detective Dad": The case of the empty nester

Lauren Diesch and G. Zachariah White as the title characters in Girl Gumshoe and Detective Dad; photo courtesy of Gadfly Theatre Productions

I didn’t think this would happen again so soon (on the heels of Freshwater Theatre’s recent production of the new play The Man In Her Dreams), but with Gadfly Theatre’s production of Eli Effinger-Weintraub’s new comedy Girl Gumshoe and Detective Dad, I may have run across another piece of theater for which I’m too well acquainted with the subject matter and the artists to be entirely objective. But I’ll give it a go.

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THEATER REVIEW | "33 Variations" explores Ludwig van Beethoven at Park Square Theatre

Dr. Katherine Brandt (Karen Landry) tries to determine Beethoven (Edwin Strout)'s intentions despite the composer's notoriously bad handwriting. Photo courtesy of Park Square Theatre.

One of the most memorable moments in the film Amadeus depicts Antonio Salieri seeing a score of Mozart’s music for the first time. As his eye passes over the page, the music sounds in his head and Salieri describes each musical entrance and change in the composition’s texture with wondrous amazement. It is an experience, to the film’s viewer, of hearing something familiar again as if for the first time, so great is the difference when the details and elegance are made apparent. This is a scene that has made many lovers of classical music out of proud plebians, and one for which viewers of the stage play on which the movie was based wait in vain, as it was added especially for the film. Such a scene is found, however, in Moisés Kaufman’s play 33 Variations, now playing at Park Square Theatre.

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THEATER REVIEW | "Nice Work If You Can Get It" at the Ordway Center for the Performing Arts: Old dog, new tricks

Jimmy Winter (Alex Enterline) has lots of problems, and being loved by the female ensemble of Nice Work If You Can Get It is most of them. Photo by Jeremy Daniel.

They say that you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, but by golly the team behind Nice Work If You Can Get It has given it the old gangster try. This Gershwin jukebox musical passes the time pleasantly, forgoing musical innovations for tried and true melodies and a farce of a plot that steadily amps up the ridiculous complications.

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"Dirty Dancing" at the Orpheum Theatre: Just a bit off the beat

Some movies cannot translate well to the stage. Dirty Dancing, at the Orpheum Theater until October 19, is one of them. The scenes were overly cheesy, and the transitions were choppy. While the dancing definitely was the focal point of the show, the singing and acting was subpar. When a movie is loved and touted by millions, the bar is set even higher. Unfortunately, this show did disappoint.

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THEATER REVIEW | "The Marriage of Bette and Boo" a catch at Theatre in the Round

Photo credit Calabay Productions.

Christopher Durang is fast becoming one of my favorite living playwrights and the appeal of his morbid comedy is amply demonstrated by Theatre in the Round’s current production of Durang’s play The Marriage of Bette and Boo. Director Randy Reyes and a very effective ensemble tackle this complex comedy/tragedy emphasizing the family angst told through a lifetime of family gatherings. 

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