THEATER REVIEW | Open Eye Figure Theatre’s “The Juniper Tree”: A message of hope in a Brothers Grimm tale

In The Juniper Tree, Open Eye Figure Theatre delves into the dark and twisted minds of the Brothers Grimm, recreating a charming children’s story full of murder and cannibalism. Even with the gruesome bits, you’re probably okay to take the kids—hopefully they won’t be scarred for life after watching the black pudding scene.As fans of Open Eye might expect, the show boasts a spectacular visual appeal, with a cast of incredibly expressive marionettes puppeteered by Liz Schachterle, Justin Spooner and Tara Loeper. Michael Sommers, who adapted, directed and acted as Production Designer for the show has created a dark and shadowy world where hopes and dreams loom over the characters through the branches of a magical Juniper Tree, whose ghostlike movements provide some of the most enchanting moments in the show. In fact the brightest colors and most of the show’s comedy, come from the evil stepmother, Madame Traum, played with bursting energy by Robert Rosen.The design contains wonderful twists and turns in perspective, with the aid of the puppets to change the size of the characters, but also sometimes shifting planes so that we can watch The Father, played by Julian McFaul and The Mother, played by Liz Schachterle in bed as the actors are standing up, for example.There’s also a wonderful score composed by Michael Koerner and a live band that will have you singing some of the songs after the show.I enjoyed the production, but I did have a gnawing unease about the misogyny of the original story. The evil stepmother trope, so prevalent in the Grimm’s fairy tales and indeed much of Western folklore, gets really tiresome for a feminist to sit through. Continue Reading

BEHIND THE STORY | #Pointergate: A learning opportunity about disenfranchisement

Everybody’s talking about #Pointergate, the absurd KSTP story of Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges, where she is supposedly flashing a gang sign with a 22-year-old man from north Minneapolis who is working to get out the vote.Yes, on one level, this is a story that reeks of disgruntled police officers/ex police officers airing a vendetta against the current chief of police and mayor for their efforts to “clean house” by chipping away at the old guard and instituting new policies such as body cameras that will make the force more accountable. As others have pointed out, there seems to be no coincidence that the KSTP story came out just prior to the roll out of the new body cams.Read more TC Daily Planet coverage of this issue.But there’s another level to this story as well. Here we have Navell Gordon, a young man who has served time for a felony and is currently unable to vote because his probation period hasn’t ended. Working with the Neighborhoods Organizing for Change, Gordon was helping others in his community to vote where he could not. That’s something that should be applauded and his situation is one that offers an opportunity for reflection about the ways that people of color still are systemically disenfranchised.Earlier this fall, the ACLU released a report that took a look at the racial disparities of arrests in Minneapolis, and the numbers are quite shocking. Continue Reading

PHOTOS: Thousands protest Washington football game at U of M

Thousands of protesters gathered at TCF Stadium at the University of Minnesota on Nov. 2 to protest the Washington football team name, which they call offensive.Native leaders, artists and community members were joined by a host of politicians- including former Governor Jesse Ventura, Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges, Congressman Keith Ellison, Winona LaDuke and many more in what some are calling the largest protest over a sports team name ever.While numerous sports teams have been targeted over the years for showing images of American Indians as mascots, The Washington football team has born a particular amount of criticism in the last year due to the racial slur of the team’s name.Rhonda Reese, who walked with protesters from the American Indian Opportunities Industrialization Center (AIOIC), said she was there because “Redskins” is a racial slur. “It’s a bounty they put on the Native people for their scalps,” she said. “It’s negative and it’s derogatory.”The gathering that started at AIOIC was organized by 14 different local groups including AIM of the Twin Cities, Save the Kids, OccupyMN, Protect Our Manoomin and the Minnesota Two Spirit Society. Besides speakers, hip hop artists Mic Jordan and Tall Paul performed.“I’m a modern day warrior,” Mic Jordan rapped. Continue Reading

Minnesota House candidate Yolandita Colón hopes to bridge party divide

Yolandita Colón is a bit of an anomaly. On the one hand, she seems to stand for progressive causes like educational equality, meaningful immigration reform, improved housing for all, and human rights and social justice. On the other, she favors lowering taxes for businesses and business owners, and has very conservative stances on social issues such as abortion and same sex marriage.An evangelical minister, Colón isn’t following the typical trajectory for Latina candidates by seeking DFL endorsement. Instead, the 62A State Representative hopeful is running against incumbent Karen Clark as a candidate of the Independence Party. She said her platform will unify her constituents and find common ground between both major parties.“I want to bring unity,” Colón said. Continue Reading

BEHIND THE STORY | What’s so problematic about equal rights?

It’s disappointing that our Governor thinks supporting transgender student athletes is “problematic.” As reported by the Huffington Post, Governor Mark Dayton, when asked at a recent debate whether he supported “allowing transgender high school students to participate in sports based on their gender identity,” Dayton, like the other gubernatorial candidates deferred the decision to the Minnesota State High School League, saying it was a complicated issue. “Giving transgender students the choice of which team they want to play on is, I think, problematic,” he is quoted as saying.It’s the wrong answer. The right answer is to follow the bill that Dayton supported and signed into law, the Safe and Supportive Schools Act, which requires districts and schools to “establish strategies for creating a positive school climate and use evidence-based emotional learning to prevent and reduce discrimination and other improper conduct.”How, may I ask, is denying young people the opportunity to participate in sports because they happen to be transgender reducing discrimination? It seems to me that it actually encourages discrimination, not by other kids but by the school itself (which has the ripple effect of encouraging discrimination from students). Naysayers might argue- oh, well they can still play sports as long as they play on the team whose gender aligns with that on their birth certificate, but that doesn’t work, because in that case you would be requiring a student to deny their very identity just to participate in an athletic activity. Continue Reading

Minnesota League tables trans-inclusive policy under mounting opposition

Zeam Porter just wants to play basketball. A trans youth who is a junior in high school, Porter played for the women’s team last year, and was constantly misgendered and called the wrong name. Porter won Most Improved Player, but today feels the trophy was a lie.“My love for basketball last year made me believe I could handle being on the wrong team,” Porter said. “I love basketball. Do not take basketball away from me. Continue Reading

BEHIND THE STORY | Towards a Minnesota aesthetic

In the over 50 years of the Guthrie’s Theater’s existence, it’s never had an Artistic Director that was from Minnesota. All of the Artistic Directors have come from either overseas or New York, with the exception being Garland Wright, who originally was from Dallas but was based in New York City when he was hired. Now there are many good reasons for this, mainly having to do with keeping the Guthrie as an institution with a national reputation, but I don’t see why, after all this time, we couldn’t have an Artistic Director whose career was nurtured right here in Minnesota.

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Hiawatha Academies acquiesce to parent pressure; new school to open next fall

When Cynthia Smith was told Hiawatha Academies wouldn’t be opening their high school until 2019, she felt deceived. With her daughter entering eighth grade, Smith needed to know her child had somewhere to go next year — something she said Hiawatha had promised to provide when her daughter first enrolled there.But ramped up parental pressure has led Hiawatha Academies, a network of public charter schools, to work quickly toward opening a new high school in time for the inaugural class that just started eighth grade to attend. Hiawatha Academies announced last month that their new high school, Hiawatha Collegiate High School (HCHS), will open next fall. It will be the fourth charter school in the network. Officials have yet to pick a location for the school.“When I found they wouldn’t have high school, I was upset,” Smith said. Continue Reading