THEATER PREVIEW | “The road weeps, the well runs dry”: Marcus Gardley’s powerful play of spirituality and relationships comes to Pillsbury House Theatre

The road weeps, the well runs dry, a tale of spirituality, slavery, and relationships, filled with powerful scenes examining identity and other issues relevant to our lives today, is coming this fall to Pillsbury House Theatre. Minneapolis is one of four U.S. venues for this historical fiction drama by poet and playwright Marcus Gardley.This play—opening September 27—is the second part of a trilogy by Gardley, who was awarded the PEN/Laura Pels award in 2011 as a Mid-Career Playwright; Gardley is a visiting lecturer in playwriting at Brown University. At a Pillsbury House preview event on August 23, Gardley said, “I feel like this play found me. It is a mixture of Seminole stories, Biblical values, and family interactions.”The people of the story, represented by 11 cast members, are the survivors of slavery and revolts who came and settled in Wewoka, the first all-black town in Oklahoma. The community comprised freemen—the term used in the historical setting for black Native Americans, who in this second segment of the story find their beliefs and relationships with each other put to the test when new and old religions collide head-to-head. Continue Reading

NEIGHBORHOOD NOTES | Venture North: A favorite Harrison destination for bikers and coffee lovers

Looking for a great destination within a short bike ride of downtown Minneapolis? Head down Glenwood Avenue and in about 10 minutes you will find a bright red building with a mural on the side. As you walk into the cozy shop you will hear the beats coming from vintage records; then your eye drifts over to the left and you find the coffee bar, where among your options are a cold smoothie, hot tea, or the pour over, which is a cup of coffee made one cup at a time just for you. Then you see the bikes for sale, and now you know you are in one cool place.Venture North has a unique position in North Minneapolis; it is one of the few coffee shops on this side of the city, where bike repair and sale businesses are even more rare and they tie it all together with a youth empowerment service. The youth programs are the heart of Venture North: the staff take in youth and train them as bicycle mechanics and toss in some sales and customer relation skills as well.The empowerment programs and classes include the following: All About Bikes is the bike mechanic apprenticeship program for youth ages 15-23; Pedal Power is a special program for girls ages 10-12; Earn a Bike is a safety and basic repair school for ages 6-12, and upon completion of the program the youth get to keep the bike they fixed. Continue Reading

MUSIC REVIEW | Fendika dance collectively at The Cedar Cultural Center’s African Summer series

Fendika put on a great show at the Cedar Cultural Club on Wednesday, July 10, getting the large crowd dancing and jumping and spinning all over the place. Before I went to the show I had never seen Fendika except for a video off the net. But I will plan to go anytime they come to the Twin Cities because I know it will be a great show that will make me feel like I have seen a band.Last night’s show began with a set from the three instruments which were unique;  four drums which looked like they might be handmade (played by Misale Legesse), a masengo, which is a violin-style instrument (played by Endris Hassen who played the single horsehair string with his fingers), and Seleshe Damessae made music with the krar,  best described as a type of six-stringed lyre.  The music they made was quite wondrous, and that would have been enough for a fine concert. But that is not their style. Soon out came Nardos Tesfaw, the singer who upped the level a notch with her fine clear voice and occasional trilling cry.But the energy level at the Cedar went nuclear when Zenash Tsegaye and Melaku Belay came out and engaged the people with their kinetic-energy dancing that set everyone in motion, whether age three or in their 80s. Continue Reading

St. Paul’s Pilgrim Baptist Church celebrates 150 years

Sesquicentennial is a difficult word to say, but likely even more difficult for the founders of the Pilgrim Baptist Church to imagine back in 1863.  That’s when a group of slaves escaped from Boone County, Missouri, and headed North, traveling in the middle of the Civil War, from the heart of an area often called Little Dixie. What faced the fleeing slaves was complete uncertainty. They could not be sure of where they would end up, or what sort of welcome they might receive. In the face of this uncertainty, they called themselves pilgrims, searching for a new land.On June 22-23, the spiritual descendants of those pilgrims celebrated 150 years as a congregation in Pilgrim Baptist Church in St. Continue Reading

MUSIC REVIEW | Socially conscious rapper M.anifest rocks The Cedar as part of the African Summer series

At first I was wondering if M.anifest’s June 15 performance was going to be cancelled as only about a dozen people were there at the beginning of the show, the second in The Cedar’s African Summer series. Then the opening act, Minneapolis local, Ashley Dubose, came on stage and was so personable and sweet that it didn’t matter how many people stood around as she did a fantastic job to create a feel good atmosphere for the main act.Ashley especially connected with the group with her song “Life Goes On.” Her style is neo-soul and reminded me a bit of Nelly Furtado when she sang “Like a Bird.” It was touching to see her mom out in support of her. As she continued to sing her repertoire for the night, the crowd began to build and by the end of her set, everyone was glad to be there.About ten minutes after Ashley left the stage, M.anifest came out, and there were applause and shouts of joy from the crowd of fans. Not knowing what to expect as the last time I listened to rap music was way back to the Sugarhill Gang, I was more than pleasantly surprised with the songs and sounds of M.anifest. Continue Reading

NEIGHBORHOOD NOTES | Savoren’s Auto Service in Webber-Camden thrives on word of mouth from satisfied neighbors

“I’d say 70 percent of our customers are repeats,” says James Savoren, the owner and operator of Savoren’s Auto Service in Minneapolis’s Webber-Camden neighborhood. These are clients he has carefully built up since he bought the garage in 1978. That loyal base is not silent, recommending Savoren’s to those seeking reliable auto service on the North Side. North Minneapolis is an area that many people associate with crime and poverty, but the impression that one gets from the neighborhood around Savoren’s is that it is quiet, clean, and orderly. When asked if the area has a lot of crime, Savoren’s answer was that he hasn’t had problems since the 1980s.James Savoren is personable, and will discuss your problems in a friendly manner. Continue Reading