If you did not notice last week, festival season is upon us. As you make your way through these festivals, remember, you are not only making memories and stories, but you are also making history.
Who knows what you will see this summer, and the Saint Paul Almanac will be doing its part to join the fun including taking time to roll out our new Storymobile (pictured above) at the opening of the light rail Green Line on Saturday, June 14.
The Storymobile is a roving art space devoted to our stories of our city—a project that allows anyone to tell or perform their story in words, video, or audio with a poem, a letter, a spoken word piece, music, or just memories. If you like, we can, with the help of the Saint Paul Public Libraries, have it archived for future generations.
Thanks to great design innovations and hard work from some of our youth Community Editors and students from Gordon Parks High School, we have a first-of-its-kind tandem bike and solar-powered traveling story-gathering station. We will soon have a full schedule of places and festivals the Storymobile will appear at. Watch us roll on University Avenue and Victoria Street when the Light Rail rolls down the new tracks on June 14.
In the Almanac Family
It’s Lowertown Reading Jam time again. On Wednesday, May 28, the Black Dog Coffee and Wine Bar will host David Mura (pictured right) as curator for”E/Merging Voices of the Twin Cities on Race & Identity”. David will bring to the stage Chantz Erolin, Nikko Sencer-Mura, Dorothy O’Berry, Malanda J. Simba, and Dane Verrett. David Mura has spent decades writing our growing social awareness as well as chronicling his own. Now he is bringing young, emerging artists in our local world of poets and spoken-word artists who are speaking truth to the issues of race and identity in our society that is changing not just with demographics but with new, emerging narratives like the ones coming from the consciousness of these young thinkers.
This season’s Lowertown Reading Jams have been outstanding. If you have joined us, you know you won’t want to miss this. If you haven’t, come see what you’ve been missing. As usual, Robert Karimi will emcee and you can follow the event on social media on Twitter (@AlmanacLive) and Facebook. Black Dog is at 308 Prince Street in Lowertown.
Tish Jones has been helping develop emerging voices in the local spoken-word scene for a while. Bring your own work or just come and listen at Golden Thyme Coffee on Thursday, May 29. This week’s Soul Sounds Open Mic features Fres Thao. Fres is an arts advocate and a hip-hop pioneer of the Hmong community. Among other accomplishments, he is the executive director for the Center for Hmong Arts and Talent (CHAT). He comes to Soul Sounds with a great writers’ prompt: “Are you living life? Or simply just living?” Come freestyle off that, hear what Fres has to say, and enjoy the company. Golden Thyme is at 921 Selby Avenue, at Milton. We get started at 6 p.m.The gathering is open to everyone. Come experience the words. Experience yourself.
(Photo: Patricia Bour-Schilla)
Now that the farmers’ markets are up and running, our attention turns to good food and healthy eating. The Saint Paul Public Libraries have been running a series featuring food and cooking for the region. On Wednesday, May 28, at the Hamline-Midway Library, author and local food writer Tricia Cornell will present The Minnesota Farmers Market Cookbook. Cornell provides shortcuts, as well as tips on choosing food in season and how to make easy and delicious meals. The book includes maps, and the event will include snacks. The Hamline-Midway library is at 1558 West Minnehaha Avenue. The event begins at 7 p.m.
O’Brien’s book of poetry War Reporter came out last year, and he has received acclaim as an award-winning playwright, winning the PEN Center USA Award for Drama and the L. Arnold Weissberger Award, among others. His work has been staged around the world.
Ed Bok Lee’s Whirled won the American Book Award and the Minnesota Book Award for poetry, and Lee is also the author of Real Karaoke People, winner of a PEN/Open Book Award. Ed Bok Lee’s plays have been seen at major regional and national theaters including the Guthrie Theater and the New York Theater Workshop. In addition to bringing their great literary talents, both authors’ experiences with staged production promise a night of well-delivered words. Ed Bok Lee also cut his teeth on poetry slams. Sunday’s event is at 2 p.m. SubText: A Bookstore is at 165 North Western Avenue.
From playwrights to plays: we’re not done with the thespians. This weekend, Dreamland Arts is staging a workshop production of Message from an Unknown Chinese Mother, a play based upon the book by Xinran about the stories of the women in China who have had to give up their baby girls. This promises to be an important work that brings past narratives about international adoption into focus and give power to the emerging narrative that comes from the true voices, true lives, and true facts about the circumstances of this international trade.
The cast includes Theater Mu’s Sara Ochs, one of the people who have been vocal in debunking the myths that have fueled the extraction of Asian girls from their mothers and homes and the sexualized stereotypes that lie beneath. Performances will be Friday, May 30, and Saturday, May 31, at 7:30 p.m. and again on Sunday, June 1, at 2 p.m. Dreamland Arts is at 677 Hamline Avenue North. These performances are free, but you can reserve a seat by registering here.
Bedlam Theatre has been occupying a space across from the Union Depot for quite a while, but they are making their Saint Paul presence official. To that effect, they are holding a grand opening on Saturday, May 31. The folks at Bedlam will have stuff for kids and families in the early hours, including puppet-making and performances, followed by a grand opening ceremony from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. Later, they will have cabaret, live theater, live bands, and more.
After that, dance the night away. Throughout the day, you can tour the new space. There will be food to sample, new people and old friends to meet, and new connections between folks, communities, and art. As their mission states, they “produce radical works of theatre with a focus on collaboration and a unique blend of professional and community art.” They are an excellent addition to Lowertown, and this is an excellent opportunity to see how you fit in to this exciting picture—as a neighbor, performer, patron, or donor. Bedlam Lowertown is at 213 East Fourth Street. The fun begins early and lasts late into the night.
Friday, May 30, is an interesting music day in Lowertown. Start with lunch at The Baroque Room with Dameun Strange and his assembled musicians. “New Constellations: An Evening of Original Music by Dameun Strange” is part of The Baroque Room’s Lunchtime Concert Series and is a free opportunity to hear the work of featured new composers.
His work will be performed by the Strange New Music Experiment: Andrea Meyer, flute; Jaette Carpenter, voice; Ellie Fregni, viola; Tamir Nolley, saxophone; Joseph Jones, bassoon; Derek Trost, vibraphone; and Jennifer Arnold, piano. This music is truly an experiment that combines the most modern sounds with well-worn classical and jazz techniques and even beat boxing. The performance is at noon. If you liked the small taste, you will have another chance in the evening to hear a full concert. The Strange New Music Experiment will perform at 7 p.m. The Baroque Room is in the Northwestern Building at 275 East Fourth Street, Suite 280.
Nearby on that evening is another great music event. Friday night, May 30, the Black Dog Coffee and Wine Bar will have a lineup not to blink at. That evening, they will host Davu and Sound Click. Davu Seru is a self-taught jazz drummer, besides being a rising literary scholar, husband, and dad. He has been matched with some other great musicians at various places around town, and this night is no exception.
Leading the list is Donald Washington on saxophone, a local statesman among jazz musicians. He’ll be matched up with one of the most versatile and creative percussionist in town, Lowertown’s own Marc Anderson. Rounding out the lineup are Nathan Hanson on saxaphone and Brian Courage on bass. This collaboration will definitely improvise some new sounds that will captivate even the most delicate ear. The show starts at 8 p.m. The Black Dog is at 308 Prince Street in Lowertown. Honor them with your presence, a full tip jar, and full glass or cup of something with which to toast.
The Ginkgo Coffeehouse Music Series this weekend brings us David Smith, a singer/songwriter who has been compared to Kris Kristofferson and Townes Van Zandt. Beneath strong melodies, Smith’s strong storytelling makes for great listening. His new album is One House, and he will be performing songs from the collection on Saturday, May 31 at an 8 p.m. show. Call early for a seat. Ginkgo is at 721 North Snelling Avenue.
Also on Saturday, May 31, Studio Z presents Struck Percussion: Local/Thread. The first half of the program features percussion music from local composers James Holdman and Troy Strand. The second half of the program will consist of the percussion quartet Threads, with Paul Lansky. This is dynamic fun. Struck Percussion is committed to creating community awareness of the percussive arts. Follow the beat of the drums starting at 8 p.m. Studio Z is at 275 East Fourth Street, Suite 200 in the Northwestern Building in Lowertown.
It’s a busy weekend to see people all over Saint Paul. Along with mixing in with the fun of the Bedlam Theatre grand opening on Saturday and a lot of outdoor music with Music in the Parks throughout the week, there are a handful of festivals to connect you with the fine corners of Saint Paul.
Right: Step Afrika, one of four performing and theater groups offering family events this weekend. (Photo courtesy Ordway)
On Saturday, May 31, and Sunday, June 1, The Ordway will be the site of Flint Hills International Children’s Festival. Inside the Ordway, the festival will feature performing artists from around the world while the parks around the Ordway will host free arts activities, exhibits, and performances. Tents will be set up around the grounds with free art-making activities for kids between performances. Festivities start at 10:30 a.m. and go until 4 p.m. each day. The Ordway is at 345 Washington Street across from Rice Park.
If you are not downtown, another great place to be on Saturday, May 31, is Lake Phalen for WaterFest. It’s a great time of year for fun near the water in the city. The celebration starts with a themed WaterFest parade, where students will carry messages promoting the health of our water resource. You can have fun on the water, too, with sailboats, canoes, a solar pontoon boat, and more. Hmong dancers will perform, and other artists will share their work. Kids can join in a game or a fishing contest and even learn to geocache on a shoreline Discovery Hunt. There will even be an open mic! You can sign up for the open mic here. The Lake Phalen Pavilion will be the central site for the activities. If you need directions, click here. The festival runs from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. This is a great way to discover one of our city’s great spots on the water.
This year’s Grand Old Day is Sunday, June 1, along Grand Avenue, from Dale Street at the east end to Wheeler Avenue at the west end. It’s a big festival with a lot of different ways to have fun: music, parades, kids activities, and, if you have time, shopping. The fun starts at 8 a.m.
Remember, traffic will be difficult around Grand Avenue’s Macalester-Groveland area on Sunday, so plan accordingly. Regardless, it is a good weekend to get out and enjoy fellow Saint Paulites and folks from all over.
As you make your way through these festivals, remember, you are making memories and sometimes witnessing history. Back in 1990, Grand Old Day was the setting for a major coup for then-Governor Rudy Perpich who, with his wife Lola, popped out of a limousine at Lexington Parkway and Grand Avenue with Soviet Union President Mikhail Gorbachev and his wife, Raisa.
I don’t know who will show up this year, but if you want fame and fortune, or if you just want to witness it, get out and enjoy the crowds and the gatherings. It’s a busy time, and be sure to check out all of the daily listings in our Almanac arts calendar. There is a lot of music, a lot of literature, and a lot of fun. See you at some of it soon!