Gentrification: Am I the problem?

This week I started a Reporter’s Notebook about a group of families who have to leave their home because their landlord, who took over ownership of their building at the end of last year, has decided to fix up the place. The landlord has given a number of tenants in the building notice to vacate to make way for renovations.The families I talked to are all immigrant families. Their families are back in their home country, so they have come to trust their neighbors, who have become a kind of family to them. Moving means leaving that network, not to mention the stress of finding a new place they can afford to live. The other apartments that the landlord has offered them as alternatives to move into are too expensive for them to afford.One reason I’m especially interested in this story: it’s happening in Whittier, my own neighborhood. Continue Reading

Minneapolis Institute of Arts’ Art in Bloom doesn’t bloom as brightly as the Como Conservatory or Minnesota Landscape Arboretum

I had been looking forward to the Minneapolis Institute of Arts’s annual Art in Bloom show since March. I’d never gone before, and considering the lack of spring we’ve had this year I figured it would be a great way to usher in the new season. As with most events that I anticipate with no prior experience I set my expectations ridiculously high.In this case I envisioned flowers everywhere—draped across every hallway and adorning every entrance. I imagined flowers sprouting from the second floor fountain and flowers spiraling down staircase railings. I basically recreated the MIA in my mind as a fantastic garden paradise; the only thing missing was the fairy dust.I expected Art in Bloom to mystify me, and it didn’t even come close. Continue Reading

THEATER REVIEW | Jungle Theater’s “Venus in Fur” never warms up

I was standing in the lobby of the Jungle Theater on February 1, wondering how I was going to summarize my reaction to Venus in Fur, when Bain Boehlke—the theater’s artistic director—approached me with a microphone, a cameraman shooting over his shoulder. I struggled to finish the massive shrimp in my mouth in time to answer Boehlke’s questions, all of which I answered honestly but…diplomatically. Finally, Boehlke asked what I thought of the ending, whether I was surprised. I said something noncommittal, which Boehlke managed to summarize succinctly. “It didn’t turn you around,” he said, “because you weren’t sure where you had been led.” I nodded. Continue Reading

THEATER REVIEW | “There’s No Place Like Home” by zAmya Theater Project: Theater about homelessness finds a home at St. Stephen’s Human Services

Dorothy definitely isn’t in Kansas anymore. In There’s No Place Like Home, the zAmya Theater Project‘s riff on the classic tale The Wizard of Oz (“or, brothers and sisters,” as one of the actors said, “The Wiz“), Dorothy (Caroline Manheimer) and her little dog Toto (Chloe Lamberson) find themselves suddenly homeless when family and house are swept away in a flood. Dorothy is now in the same situation as all the people on the street she’d earlier been avoiding.

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THEATER REVIEW | “Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas” at the Children’s Theatre Company has candy for the eyes but coal for the ears

As the lights dim and the Children’s Theatre Company’s production of Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas is about to begin, a voice recites a poem, complete with Seuss-ian fantastical words and playful rhymes, asking audience members to turn off their electronic devices. Unfortunately, this is the most creative piece of writing in the show.

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THEATER REVIEW | “In the Next Room” (or, “The Vibrator Play”) at the Jungle Theater: So much fun to watch, you’ll resent the intermission

What a delightful play! I enjoy Sarah Ruhl’s writing, so I was prepared to enjoy In The Next Room at the Jungle Theater. Since it was a finalist for the 2010 Pulitzer Prize for Drama as well as a Tony nominee for Best Play, I was prepared for it to be impressive. I was unprepared for the way the play constantly thwarted and exceeded my expectations of it at the same time. It’s both hilarious and heartbreaking. Poetic and clinical. Romantic and inappropriate. Frequently all these things are colliding with each other in the same scene. It’s mesmerizing to watch and a joy to listen to. I’ve seen a lot of theater in 2012 but In The Next Room easily ranks right up there with the very best things I’ve seen all year.

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At the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, “Young People’s Ofrendas” showcase the lives and talent of Minnesota children

A unique partnership among the Minneapolis Institute of Arts (MIA) and several schools in the Twin Cities and greater Minnesota that have high Spanish speaking populations offers a glimpse not only of the artistic capacity of some of these students, but of their ability to express emotion and honor those that are passed in a respectful, thoughtful way. Now in its fifth year, The Young People’s Ofrenda Project showcases student work within the Mexican tradition of Dia de los Muertos, where students create ofrendas (or shrines) honoring people who have died.While some kids honor famous rock musicians or sports stars or other celebrities (one ofrenda is dedicated to the drummer from KISS, for example), others will honor a grandparent or a parent, or even a friend who has died. “The diversity of impact on young people is really evident in this project,” said curator Joe Horse Capture.Horse Capture conceived of the project in 2008, and it started out as a partnership with El Colegio, a charter school in Minneapolis that serves students in English and Spanish. In 2011, the project expanded to include Austin High School (in Austin, Minnesota), Thomas Edison High School, and Humboldt Secondary School.Horse Capture says the project works on a number of levels. It celebrates diversity, shows another culture’s tradition that often isn’t shown in an art museum, and offers a voice for youth. Continue Reading

THEATER REVIEW | “The Hobbit” by Green T Productions: A multicultural Middle-Earth

When a kabuki dwarf hit the floor of Bilbo Baggins’s hobbit-hole to do the worm during a Shire dance party, it occurred to me that Green T Productions’ version of The Hobbit was not for Tolkien purists. By the time the flamenco elves were dancing into battle against the goblin hordes, I was beginning to wonder whether this Hobbit was for anyone at all.

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