THEATER REVIEW: Stepping out of the River at Dawn

Mixed Blood Theatre arguably brandishes the strongest track record in Twin Cities’theatre scene for living up to its espoused mission to honor cultural diversity.  Be it issues of race, gender, sexual orientation, politics, the shop’s founding artistic director Jack Reuler has, since 1976, sustained a hallmark of social comment cum theatrical expression. Last week, this season closed, conventionally anyway, with Pussy Valley, humanizing sex-industry working women.  Convention being never having been Reuler’s long suit, he’s tagged on, for this coming weekend, the conclusion of Mixed Blood’s 55454 Series, limited-run productions to do with Africans and Muslims in America.  It began in January with Yussef El Guindi’s Pilgrims Musa and Sheri in the New World. Continue Reading

THEATER REVIEW | 20% Theatre Company’s “Q-Stage: Set C”: A perfect evening of red-nose clowns and angry dancers

 

 

20% Theatre Company has saved the best for last in this year’s Q-Stage. The red-nose clowns of Femme Cabaret: A Clown Burlesque and the angry dancers of Gifts of Set C couldn’t be more different in style or tone but together they make for a perfect evening of theater. Of course, you should see all the Q-Stage offerings this year, but if you can only fit one into your schedule, it should be Set C. Absolutely delightful from start to finish (and that includes the part where one of the performers attacks the audience – no, I’m not kidding.)

“I’m the ME in Femme.”

Creator/performer Shannon Forney calls Femme Cabaret “a playful romp on queer femme identity from the awkward center of a Red Nose Clown” and I can’t come up with a better summary statement than that. Shannon’s clown alter ego is Naughty Dottie, and with the help of her red-nosed partners in crime Charming (Emma Buechs) and Swish (Jacob Miller), she guides us through a whole quirky catalog of embarrassments and near misses as she attempts to understand the femme identity’s place in a queer culture. As an audience member, I was so charmed and bemused by Dottie’s misadventures that I didn’t realize until it was over that I’d actually been thinking quite a lot about the notion of identity, gender roles, and the sneaky enemy of conformity (a trap we all fall into, even as we try to set ourselves apart). Continue Reading

THEATER REVIEW I 20% Theatre Company’s “Q-Stage: Set B”: Greek tragedy in drag and more

You know you’re a theater geek when you don’t really read the program before watching the show and then suddenly realize, “Oh, wait a minute, this is a drag version of Euripides’ Greek tragedy The Trojan Women” – and this revelation makes you fall in love with the play almost immediately. That was part of the fun of watching And She Would Stand Like This, a play in drag as part of Set B in 20% Theatre Company’s latest iteration of their Q-Stage new works program playing at Intermedia Arts. Even if you read the program more carefully than I did and were clued into the source material ahead of time, it’s also fun to see how they take that source and update it. Oh, the names remain the same, that’s the giveaway, but the context for the different relationships have shifted. Rather than the aftermath of the Trojan War, we’re in a modern day time of plague – though the plague is unnamed, you can fill in the blank for yourself fairly quickly. Continue Reading

THEATER REVIEW | 20% Theatre Company’s “Q-Stage: Set A”: Mixed bag and mixed responses

 

When a theater company puts together a new works festival like 20% Theater Company is doing with their second year of the Q-Stage program, the results can be a mixed bag. In its inaugural year last year, Q-Stage had some really polished powerful work on display. It also had some things that were sweet alongside some things that were riotously funny. And it had some things that felt more like works in progress that sometimes made me smile and other times had me scratching my head in confusion. It’s great to have an incubator for local artists and new work with a queer sensibility like Q-Stage. Continue Reading

THEATER REVIEW | Minnesota Opera’s “Carmen” heats up the Ordway

The opera Carmen needs little introduction, but much can be said about how Minnesota Opera’s current production does things well. This classic femme fatale story is presented in Spain in the 1970s, when the Sexual Revolution first began to erode the edges of a conservative Catholicism previously enforced – sometimes brutally – by the repressive fascist regime of Generalissimo Franco. (The modern stereotype of sleazy Spanish men comes from just after this period.) This decision by director Michael Cavanagh heightens many tensions within the source material, and is a splendid excuse for a retrofabulous costume excursion. The music may be the same as normal, but the updated setting makes the characters much more relatable and heightens the already elevated emotional stakes. Note: This review discusses the Vargas cast of MN Opera’s Carmen, performing May 8 and 9; Check back later for our review of the Sourouzian cast, performing May 7 and 10. Continue Reading

Not Ready to Die

The creative life of young Iranian-born Swedish pop singer, Laleh Pourkarim is revealed in candid interviews with Laleh, people who’ve worked with her and performance footage in “Not Ready to Die.” Born in underground Iran, she and her parents who opposed the Islamic regime in Tehran, fled to other cities in Russia and Germany before settling in Sweden when she was 12. A consummate musician, she learned to play guitar as a teen, and later taught herself percussion and saxophone while attending music school in Gothenburg. At age 12, she lost her father, watching him drown while trying to save a woman. Death has often been a theme in her music, there is sadness and yet positivity in her music such as her renowned single, “Some Die Young.”
While working on her self-titled debut, Laleh found she couldn’t concentrate with other producers and writers around, so she requested of Warner Sweden she have her own studio. They agreed, sending an entire studio to her home piece by piece. Continue Reading

Dinkytown panel compares 1970s, current activism

For one month in 1970, protesters occupied two buildings slated for demolition to build a fast-food restaurant called the Red Barn in Dinkytown near the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis.One predawn morning in early May, police in riot gear cleared the protesters while bulldozers leveled the buildings. Within a day, the demonstrators built a peace garden on the site and, a year later, Red Barn gave up the idea of building another fast-food store in Dinkytown.Subsequent efforts to stop development in Dinkytown haven’t gone so well. Matt Hawbaker, who helped organize Save Dinkytown in an unsuccessful effort to stop a much larger development two years ago, said he felt awe and jealousy as he watched Al Milgrom’s “The Dinkytown Uprising,” a film about the Red Barn protest.Hawbaker and a panel of other neighborhood activists and residents compared notes April 20 with Monte Bute, one of the protestors featured in the film.“We went with a more political solution,” said Hawbaker, who noted that they came close to having the City Council block demolition of buildings to make way for the mixed-use Opus Development, now called Venue. “The projects that are proposed are not the best shot for independent business,” he said. “We got a Starbucks, a Great Clips and an offshoot of Goodwill.”He and Lynn Nyman, a manager for Loring Café and Varsity Theater, said that more than 60 percent of Dinkytown’s businesses are still local, adding that the area has been and continues to be an incubator of small business.Another panelist, Hung Q. Russell, chairman of the Marcy-Holmes Land Use Committee, called the film a well-drafted story narrative. Continue Reading

The Cut: A film about the Armenian Genocide and its Minnesota connection

Editor’s Note: This is second in a series of Minneapolis Saint Paul International Film Festival “citizen reviews”. This one comes on the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide that took place in the waning days of the Ottoman empire in Turkey. The review of The Cut comes from Lou Ann Matossian, who has been working to raise awareness about Armenians who survived and the events leading up to the Armenian Genocide. She also helped director Faith Akin scout locations here in Minnesota, where some of the events in the film take place. In this article, Lou Ann explores the film’s Minnesota connections“Once upon a time / Once upon no time”—the opening words of The Cut evoke a storyteller’s traditional formula in both Armenian and Turkish. Continue Reading

Former and current Dinkytown activists will compare notes

Dinkytown activists from the 1970s and those of today will compare notes on a panel discussion from 4:15 to 5:30 p.m. Monday, April 20, in the back room of Pracna on Main at 117 Main St. S.E., Minneapolis.The discussion will follow a showing of “The Dinkytown Uprising,” a film by Al Milgrom about the month-long demonstration in which protestors occupied buildings to stop construction of a fast-food franchise called the Red Barn. The film traces the lives of prominent leaders of the 1970 protest to see where they are today.Some protesters in the film will participate in the discussion that is free, and admission to the film is not necessary to attend the panel.Panelists will include Monte Bute, who was among the protestors who successfully kept the Red Barn out of Dinkytown, and Matt Hawbaker, who helped organize Save Dinkytown two years ago. This more recent group failed to prevent the demolition of businesses to construct a mixed-use midrise apartment building that opened last fall.The panel will explore contrasts and similarities between the two protests and the changing nature of the small business district near the University of Minnesota.Bute, an associate professor of sociology at Metropolitan State University, was among the 1970 organizers featured in Milgrom’s film. Others featured in the film may participate as well.“I came to realize that by our mid-40s that [the philosopher] Camus was right,” Bute said in the film. Continue Reading

Cambodia’s golden age of music illuminates at MSPIFF

April 17 marks 40 years since the Khmer Rouge devastated Cambodia. It also tried to wipe out the country’s incredibly vibrant rock, soul, and pop music and performing artists.For the first time, mysteries of this lesser known, yet no less vibrant music scene are revealed in American filmmaker and director John Pirozzi’s extraordinary film Don’t Think I’ve Forgotten: Cambodia’s Lost Rock ‘n’ Roll– his love letter to Cambodia’s all but lost music, the artists and audiences in their happy heyday.  This breathtakingly beautiful, stunning film features vintage 1960’s and ‘70s films made by King Sihanouk, captivatingly warm, soft, dreamy coloration of musicians, their audiences and Cambodian culture all found by Pirozzi. Paintings and poppy, bright, playful album covers pop up during interviews with musicians, fans, family members of artists lost. Radio DJ’s candidly share their joyful and ultimately heartbreaking stories.“Music is the soul of the nation,” Prince Sihanouk said of the huge importance of arts in Cambodian culture. Sihanouk, a son of a King who was a musician and mother, the head of a ballet company, was himself a filmmaker and a popular leader of the people, as King.Upon becoming independent from the French in 1953, Cambodia’s arts and cultural scene blossomed” Numerous young musicians in Phnom Penh were deeply inspired to perform fun, buoyant pop, rock ‘n’ roll, surf, Cuban and cha cha cha music by U.S. French, British and Latin they heard. Continue Reading