6th Annual Italian Film Festival: Politics, history, and intimacy

The Twin Cities is blessed with a cornucopia of cultural and ethnic film festivals: Nordic, Black, International, Cuban, Polish, African, Latin, Asian. This past weekend, March 6 – March 9, the 6th Annual Italian Film Festival, organized by the Italian Cultural Center with the support of the MN Film Society, took place at the St. Anthony Main Cinema. Curated by Anna Bonavita, a local chocolatier and co-founder of the Cultural Center, this year’s selections went beyond the stylized Oscar-winning film The Great Beauty (incidentally not a particularly popular film among the Italians I spoke to opening night). Watching these films you go on a real journey—documentaries and independent films that go deeper into Italy.  Unlike travel films or American films, by attending international film festivals, moviegoers settle into a culture and see it as it is represented for that culture. You may not understand the nuances of some references in the films, but you will feel more inside the place than if you are standing somewhere on a piazza.   Continue Reading

Youth Performance Company’s Artistic Director Jacie Knight: “Freedom Riders” a reminder there’s more work to do for equality

Freedom Riders is an original musical production created for the Youth Performance Company by Jacie Knight, Matt Koskenmaki and Kahlil Queen (music and lyrics).  In the summer of 1961, a group of students boarded buses to challenge segregation. Next to Rosa Parks, Ruby Bridges, Emmett Till (don’t miss Penumbra’s production The Ballad of Emmett Till), the March on Washington and all the events in Birmingham, Alabama, the Freedom Riders created a force that spanned the divisions of race. These young people fought for one common goal: equality.    Continue Reading

Off-Leash Area’s “Maggie’s Brain” at The Cowles Center

Off-Leash Area’s revival of their 2009 Maggie’s Brain uses dance, words and scenery to viscerally capture the cacophony of noise and chaos that is going on in Maggie’s (Taja Will) head. Off the bat, she is depicted as confused, with forays into communicating somewhat normally with her family at the dinner table. The odd behavior is reframed and redefined for the viewers by a skillful rewind and reboot of the dinner table scene. “Maggie, dinner’s ready” and it starts over, the second time with the physical embodiments of the voices in her brain following her around, depicted in colorful fluorescent costumes. The whole scene replays with her tormenters communicating into her ear/head. What looked like disturbed communication now has reason: a form of mental illness, ostensibly schizophrenia. Continue Reading

Bedlam Theatre’s 10Fest: Adventures in ten-minute theater

In the beginning  of the 10Fest process, Bedlam Theatre offered a weekend of workshops in a theater class-like setting, everyone invited. Then conversations about ten-minute play ideas and proposals were turned in. The co-curators, Molly Van Avery and Miré Regulus, chose the pieces.  A week later there were open auditions; everyone who auditioned got a part. Long live community-grown and -nurtured theater!After the auditions, groups of directors, writers, and actors were sent on their way to create up until the week when Mixed Blood Theatre was leased and the in situ rehearsals could begin. In the name of full disclosure: I participated on the sidelines as part of the Shenanigistas—the goofy ushers who guide the groups of theater-goers from one site to the next, giving them little humorous inklings of what might be in the next piece and involving them in installation pieces as they move from set to set. Continue Reading

THEATER REVIEW | The Moving Company’s “Out of the Pan Into the Fire” is a fairy tale treat

“As every child knows, a fairytale is like giving candy to your imagination.”  – program notesOut of the Pan Into the Fire, a new fairy tale directed by Dominique Serrand, which opened at the Southern Theater on Friday May 4 and plays until May 26, is a candy shop full of every individual’s favorite treats.The show is born with a bang: a crashing noise like the slamming of a book, followed by the slow lighting of an antiquated filament light bulb, which then rises from a pile of sand like the sun (but it’s actually just on a wire). Steve Epp’s character Angelo is born out of (and occasionally disappears into) his big woolly-looking overcoat. He finds a book and reads to us: “It was in the days when wishing was still of some use… “ Angelo describes his main characters, including himself and his so-called children, Thirteen and Elsie, who both, on different occasions, fell from the sky into the garbage. The rest of the story blends elements, tropes, objects from fairy tales with wishes, fear, a touch of magic (but not too much), and knowledge that follows from experience.Angelo is an old and very, very poor man, who is sort of an angel for saving two babies from the garbage—well, actually 13 kids all together, if you believe him. The last boy, dubbed Thirteen after Angelo ran out of Jack names, is endearingly vapid, humoriously portrayed by Nathan Keepers. Continue Reading