On Saturday, July 28, I got to find out first-hand how beautiful Duluth is. Recently John Jodzio, friend and author (published at Paper Darts, where I work as the editorial director), was awarded a Minnesota State Arts Board Grant to create a series of literary readings in four Greater Minnesota cities. In June, for the first of the four events, Jodzio took Twin Cities authors Eric Vrooman, Dennis Cass, and Maggie Ryan Sandford out to St. Cloud for a reading as part of the Granite City Reading Series to perform with local authors Rex Veeder, Jeff Carmack, and Steve Klepetar. Over the last weekend in July, Jodzio invited some Twin Cities writers (including me) to Duluth for the second outstate reading, this time as part of the Zenith City Tales storytelling series at Teatro Zuccone. Performing along with Sandford, Cass, Jodzio, and me were talented Duluth authors Lucie Amundsen, Ryan Vine, Andy Bennett, and Luis Jenkins.
The reading was hilarious, touching, and an absolute blast. Unfortunately, there weren’t a lot of folks there to see it (okay, this was kind of a relief for me, as I don’t regularly read in front of crowds). Teatro Zuccone is a smallish theater, about the size of the Bryant-Lake Bowl with a pretty similar layout, located on the sweet drag of Superior Street in downtown Duluth. Close to a ton of bars, restaurants, hotels, and even a casino (that I won $10 at), Teatro Zuccone is pretty much a perfect venue for just about anything, and seems like it would draw a crowd for any show. Apparently, this isn’t always the case.
Over dinner after the reading, some of our hosts noted that our reading was more sparsely attended than almost any other in the Zenith City Tales series, noting that this was likely due to the fact that this particular event was marketed as Zenith City Takes: Twin Cities Edition.
Now whether or not our hosts were just giving us a little ribbing about being from the Cities is up for debate, but this comment led to a pretty interesting conversation about whether or not some sort of “reverse snobbery” (their words) is happening in Duluth when it comes to certain events. (Our hosts mentioned a similar situation happening with the Homegrown Music Festival in Duluth, but I am unable to find any of proof of this.) Of course, I’m sure that the real reason the reading wasn’t packed to the brim with screaming fans is that Duluth probably suffers from some of the same challenges attracting attendees to literary events as the Twin Cities do, but I’m kind of in love with the idea of not only Minneapolis and St. Paul being in constant “friendly” competition, but that outstate cities want in on that rivalry, too. Hopefully Jodzio’s reading series will help spread, not only literary love, but a little bit of hot sauce to help Minnesota engage a little more as a whole.
Image from Teatro Zuccone on Facebook