Ritual and revelation: Black Ensemble Players reimagine Shakespeare

 

“It was kind of a whimsical artistic impulse,” recalled Antonio Duke, as he reminisced on this past spring when Ashawnti Sakina Ford drove him home each night after their rehearsals for a production of “Imaginary Invalid,” a play by 17th-century French actor and playwright, Molière. Duke mentioned that he would love to play Puck, a mischievous spirit in English playwright William Shakespeare’s comedy “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” written in 1595/96. Sakina Ford, excitedly responded, “Antonio, I just really want to see an all Black Shakespeare show. I don’t care what it is; I just want an all-Black production of it.”

“That’s funny,” Duke responded, “Because ‘Midsummer’ is a Black-ass play.”

The pair started reaching out to their communities, pitching their idea and were met with overwhelming support. “We didn’t have the funds to produce it yet, but people were so willing to [jump in],” said Sakina Ford. Continue Reading

Pirates of Penzance is still a “Glorious Thing” in its 135th year

“It is a glorious thing to be a pirate king,” declares the Pirate King, setting the stage for W.S. Gilbert’s and Arthur Sullivan’s The Pirates of Penzance. Pirates was first presented on Broadway one hundred thirty-five years ago and its most recent incarnation at the Ordway Center for the Performing Arts shows that this comic opera has staying power. Continue Reading

Searching for shared truths on teaching and race

After 25 years of teaching in Minneapolis with predominately all-white teachers and administrations, one day, I realized it got down to this …

If I never saw a white person again, especially a white woman, it would be too soon! Continue Reading

Putting pizzazz in public policy

Brandon Boat and Tane Danger are taking the script out of politics.The duo leads the Theater of Public Policy, an improv group that combines skits and interviews with local leaders and politicians, combining serious issues with comedy.“What we try to focus on is using humor to pick apart an issue or a conversation that you wouldn’t have been able to do if you were just having a regular conversation,” said Danger, a University of Minnesota public affairs student. “It’s definitely not parodying or lampooning a particular issue or guest.”Before the group’s spring season kicks off later this month at Bryant Lake Bowl Theater, they gave a free show on campus Wednesday night at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs.Wednesday’s show, which included two state House representatives, discussed Minnesota politics including the urban-rural divide, police body cameras and the University tuition freeze.The company’s shows consist of four parts. A host interviews the guest for about 15 minutes. Next, troupe members act out skits based on the information given in the interview. The event continues with questions from the audience about the topic, followed by another round of improv.Often, the skits illustrate implications of the discussed policy or its surrounding conflict. Continue Reading

Oil pipe lines, oil satire and Mike Gelfand

The first of nine public and evidentiary hearings this month on the proposed Minnesota reach of the Sandpiper Pipeline convened on January 5th at St. Paul’s River Center. Ballrooms A and B, combined, are as large as Iowa and more than 200 citizens showed up to listen and/or speak.  I was there for about an hour with my video camera; the session went on into the night.  The hearings are being conducted by the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission and provide ample time for pro and con opinion and, under oath, experts, scientists, State DNR and MPCA regulators and Enbridge Oil, Inc. officials to present factual and clarifying information. The approximately 600-mile long pipeline would carry Bakken crude oil from North Dakota to Superior, Wisconsin.  About 300 miles or more of it would pass through Minnesota.   75% of Enbridge’s proposed Sandpiper alignment in Minnesota would be constructed within existing pipeline corridors.  There are alternate pipeline alignments in the discussion, at least one of which would run entirely within existing pipeline corridors.   Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy (MCEA) attorney Kathryn Hoffman and others say that 25% of the alignment favored by Enbridge goes through sensitive peat and bog lands, forests and lake and stream watersheds.  MCEA and citizen groups including Honor the Earth and Friends of the Headwaters oppose the Enbridge plan. It gets complicated being that the review and approval/denial process involves studies, reports and claims being generated by the Minnesota Department of Commerce, the MN DNR, MPCA, Enbridge, organized labor and others.  MCEA and Friends of the Headwaters have jointly filed a suit in Ramsey County requesting a full Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) on the thing.  Add in just a few of the operating acronyms – EIS, PUC, EPA, FOH – and it gets very complicated for the un-baptized.   But on the current edition of Democratic Visions, Kathryn Hoffman, Tim O’Brien and the Dem Vis graphics/editor guy admirably service we non-wonks. The O’Brien and Hoffman discussion is followed by a satirical, animated short film crafted by Vancouver-based editorial cartoonist Dan Murphy.  Murphy’s targets are Canada’s oil executives, pipeline politicians and its image, now dripping with tar-sand oil. As grandson and grandmother characters, Brandon Boat and Maggie Sotos from The Theater of Public Policy (T2P2) weigh in on the generation gap among Minnesota Democrats in an improvised sketch and humorist/provocateur Mike Gelfand speaks of the distracted drivers in his St. Louis Park neighborhood. Democratic Visions is an independently produced public access television monthly that can be viewed on flat screen sets in the following cities – SW ‘burbs — Channel 15 in Eden Prairie, Richfield, Minnetonka, Edina and Hopkins – Sundays 9 p.m., Mondays 10 p.m., Wednesdays 5:30 p.m., Saturdays 2 p.m. Bloomington – BCAT Channel 16 – Tuesdays at 2:00 p.m. & 10:00 p.m.; Fridays at 9:30 p.m.; Saturdays at 7:30 a.m. & 2:30 p.m.Minneapolis – MTN Channel 16 – Sundays at 8:30 p.m., Mondays 3:30 a.m., 9:30 a.m., 2:30 p.m.  Program is streamed at the MTN website during cablecasts. Continue Reading

Democratic Visions: The Theater of Public Policy exposed

The Theater of Public Policy (T2P2) will command just two more Monday evenings at the Bryant Lake Bowl Theater as it wraps its October/November run. The improv comedy company has fashioned shows that blend elements of the Charlie Rose, Match Game and Whose Line Is It? television shows into an informative, literally live, laugh fest.

Continue Reading

White Snake at the Guthrie – A sociological review

This is a beautiful play which transports the audience to China by means of a rain of ribbons and clouds of cloth. White Snake is about a female snake who despite obtaining great wisdom and mystic powers remains unfulfilled. Love of course being the answer. White Snake transforms into a human woman. She marries and keeps her true form from her husband, thereby living in constant fear of discovery.This is a Community Voices submission and is moderated but not edited. Continue Reading

Jeff Strate: Meeting the Macbeths in St. Louis Park

Sunday evening I threaded through the buzzy, sidewalk tables of McCoy’s Restaurant in St. Louis Park’s nifty “new town in town,” Excelsior & Grand. I was on my way to re-discover Shakespeare’s Macbeth in nearby Wolfe Park’s open-air amphitheater. Set on a slope that levels into a great lawn with a lagoon and a stand of towering cottonwoods, the venue has been home to the Public Theater of Minnesota for four years.I was there because a few days earlier I desperately needed an afternoon break from my Eden Prairie environs where I live, work and fight writer’s block. Without a solid escape plan, I ended up in Wolfe Park ambling through its amphitheater. Continue Reading