It’s just been announced that The Onion is closing multiple local editions of its A.V. Club arts and entertainment publication, including the Twin Cities edition and its associated website. While the news doesn’t come as a shock—it’s the latest wave in a decade-long tide of print-media closures as journalism is rapidly transformed by the Internet—it means the loss of a distinctive voice in local media. The last editor of the A.V. Club Twin Cities was my friend and blogmate Jason Zabel, who kept the publication’s writing razor-sharp and mounted a heroic effort to invigorate the Web presence of a publication that had long been primarily focused on its print edition.
The A.V. Club was also where I first dipped my toe into the waters of local arts journalism—unless you count my gig as movie critic for the St. Agnes High School Hi-Times. In 2007, I earned my Ph.D. from Harvard, moved back to Minnesota, and told then-editor Chris Bahn that I’d love to volunteer my time checking music listings as his intern. Chris gave me a chance as the Twin Cities’ most weirdly under/overqualified journalism intern, and it was my work there that helped me land this job at the Daily Planet. “This job won’t always be glamorous,” noted Mary Turck, my would-be boss. “Are you sure you’re okay with that?”
“I’ve been checking listings for The Onion for free,” I pointed out. “And you’re offering to pay me…so.”
I never wrote anything bylined for the A.V. Club, but I did write several unsigned blurbs. In those innocent pre-Twitter years, I appreciated the challenge of both informing and entertaining within tight space constraints. Here’s a sampling of the blurbs I wrote. Not all of these were approved by Chris for publication—I’ll let you guess which ones made the cut.
The Seagull, Guthrie Theater
Chekhov’s tragicomic lovers perform on the provocatively named Wurtele Thrust stage, courtesy of the Royal Shakespeare Company on tour in the new world.
Whistle Down the Wind, Ordway Center for the Performing Arts
A collaboration between Meatloaf’s lyricist and Andrew Lloyd Webber? That’s right, the wait is over. A young Louisiana girl protects a remorseful felon from vengeful townsfolk.
War With the Newts, Red Eye Theater
In this adaptation of Karel Capek’s novel, mankind’s hubris leads to our downfall. Accompanied by an original score of ambient music, as we always knew the end would be.
A Gift For Planet BX63, Off-Leash Area
“A beautiful morality play” featuring acrobatic dance and a trans-dimensional salesman, inspired by The Little Prince and The Gods Must Be Crazy. Family fun…for a certain kind of family.
Halloween Reading by Britt Fleming, Opposable Thumbs Bookstore
If you have a haiku phobia or if free verse creeps you out, then brace yourself for an evening of horror with Mankato poet Britt Fleming.
Halloween Haunted House, Powderhorn Park Recreation Center
The Minneapolis Park & Rec Board promises to “scare the pants off of you,” precisely the opposite of their usual goal at Powderhorn Park.
Screamtown Haunted House & Nightmare Corn Maze, Sever’s Corn Maze
The Severs correctly note that “walking through corn in the dark is cause for alarm in itself”—but just for good measure, they add zombies with power tools.
Swimming in Quicksand, Playwrights’ Center
There’s motion on the ocean in this play about dangerous liaisons on a gay Caribbean cruise. Presented as a reading, with feeling.
Takin’ Over, Playwrights’ Center
Actor/playwright/director Danny Hoch stars (and co-stars, and guest stars, and cameos, and makes a special appearance) in a multi-character monologue about the injustices of urban gentrification.
A Christmas Carol, the Guthrie Theater
Get baked with this beloved holiday classic presented in the annual Guthrie style: traditionally toasty, slightly smoked, and lightly glazed.
Miss Richfield 1981 “These Are a Few of My Favorite Things” Happy Holidays 2007, Illusion Theater
Even in December, it’s always Springtime in America when Russ King dons his black bob wig. Raise your mug high and toast the holidays with a nice hot Sanka.
Mr. Marmalade, Red Eye Theater
A suicidal five-year-old with a talking cactus for a nanny meets up with a depressed four-year-old whose imaginary friend has been working suspiciously late nights at the office. Hilarity ensues.
New Year’s Eve at Famous Dave’s BBQ and Blues
Lil’ Kim and Lil’ Mama are otherwise engaged, but Famous Dave managed to score a lil’ New Year’s entertainment for rib-hungry Minneapolitans. Be at the restaurant by 9 to see Paul Metsa and Sonny Earl open for Lil’ Ed And The Blues Imperials.
New Year’s Eve at the Fine Line Music Café
If your 2008 plans include listening to a lot of Cities 97, there’s no better place than the Fine Line to get your year started. For a C-note, you can drink and eat all night while tapping your toe to the smooth sounds of the BoDeans.
New Year’s Eve at Foundation
There’s some Party & Bull$h!t going down at Foundation on New Year’s Eve, with Plain Ole Bill and Jimmy2times opening. For your $70 you’ll get some plain ole appetizers until 10, with free drinks and bull$sh!t until 2.
New Year’s Eve at the King and I Thai
The King & I dash the curry and spin the wax on New Year’s Eve, with music by DJs E-Dawg and D.O. Midnight countdown, etc, etc, etc.
New Year’s Eve at the Hat Trick Lounge
Violently-named bands take the Hat Trick stage on New Year’s Eve, with Empire Garrison and Running Down Renee playing until 1. For $50, drinks and food are free after 11…then there’s a poker tournament until 4:30am! That’s how we roll in the Capital City.