Saturday, September 26, 2020

"The Cafe" by Collide Theatrical Dance Company Outdoors at Gremlin Theatre

Since 2013, Collide Theatrical Dance Company has been creating original dance musicals that really blur the line between dance, theater, and music (their name refers to a collision of art forms). Most of their shows tell a story strictly through dance and music (typically pop songs performed live), with little or no dialogue. In February they remounted their adaptation of Romeo and Juliet, which I didn't see because I had seen the original in 2014 and I was so busy with #TCTheater that I couldn't fit it in (can you even imagine?!). But in the last 6+ months my life has become the complete opposite of that, so my schedule was happily free and clear to see their new production, being performed outdoors for a limited time only. In fact only one performance remains, tonight, and can be viewed in person or virtually. I saw it in person last night and was smiling under my mask for 60 minutes! Click here for all of the details of how you can take in this delightful dance show.

Sunday, September 20, 2020

"Live at the Loading Dock: Ordway Cabaret" outdoors behind the Ordway Center

St. Paul's Ordway Center for the Performing Arts had planned a 2020-2021 Broadway season that included touring shows and original productions, classics and new musicals. But as this extended intermission is lasting longer than any of us had hoped, due to a pandemic that isn't slowing down, at least in this country, their plans have changed. The only show on the schedule as of now is a summer 2021 Ordway Original production of RENT, which of course is still dependent on what happens with the virus between now and then. To celebrate this season-that-wasn't, and to show their commitment to producing these shows at some future date, the Ordway is presenting an outdoor cabaret concert consisting of songs from the planned upcoming season, as well as one cancelled show from last season. Live at the Loading Dock is performed outside behind the theater in the loading dock area, which is really a perfect outdoor venue. Seeing this show nourished my theater-starved soul and gave me hope for that day in the future when we can all gather together safely to share music and stories again.

Monday, September 7, 2020

The History Theatre's Virtual New Works Festival "Raw Stages," Fall 2020

Every January, the History Theatre hosts a new works festival called "Raw Stages." Most of their programming is original works, so they rely on these annual workshops and readings as part of the development process. Faced with a long closure of the theater space due to the current and seemingly never-ending pandemic, they decided to hold another "Raw Stages" festival this year - virtually. Workshops and readings are done over Zoom, with the each of five recorded readings available for streaming for a week, spread out about a month apart. I missed the first one, Not In Our Neighborhood (which was supposed to premiere in the spring of 2020), but I just watched the second one, Diesel Heart, which is available for streaming this week. Read on for details of all five new works and how you can watch them.

Tuesday, September 1, 2020

"An Evening with Kate Beahen" at Crooners Lakeside Cafe

What good is sitting alone In your room?
Come hear the music play.
Life is a Cabaret, old chum,
Come to the Cabaret.

I don't know about you, but I've been doing more "sitting alone in my room" the last six months than any six-month period in my entire life. For someone who's used to going to the cabaret, i.e., theater, 3-5 times a week, that's quite a change. As I told someone last night, life just feels a little empty right now. But fortunately, there are still cabarets that are safely happening; one of the few places is at Crooners Supper Club, which has a couple of different options for outdoor concerts. I've been to enough of their drive-in concerts that the workers recognize me and/or my bug, but this was my first time attending a concert at their lovely Lakeside Cafe, to see the one and only Kate Beahen.

Thursday, August 27, 2020

"Minnesota State of UnFair" by Classic Alley Performers on YouTube

In another example of the performing arts adapting to this strange time, the sketch comedy group Classic Alley Performers has partnered with Strike Theater to bring us virtual performing arts, which they're calling "Minnesota State of UnFair." The 40 minutes of sketch comedy airs live on Strike's Facebook page this Friday through Sunday nights, but I got a sneak peek of this funny and topical show.

Saturday, August 22, 2020

"Roseville in Bloom" Art Display in Roseville

Since there's not a whole lot of #TCTheater going on during this seemingly never-ending pandemic, I'm trying to find art in other places. Fortunately the city of Roseville has made that easy to do with their "Roseville in Bloom" campaign - 20 statues of 6-foot tall roses beautifully painted by local artists scattered around the Northeast suburb. While I've never lived in Roseville, I've lived adjacent to Roseville for 24 years, so I'm pretty familiar with the neighborhoods. This past weekend, on my way home from attending a play for the first time in six months (MJTC's wonderful 25 Questions for a Jewish Mother) I found 9 of the roses. I went out on my bike another day to visit 6 more, and saw the final 5 today (via car). I don't know if this was planned pre- or post- pandemic, but either way it's a fantastic safe activity to do right now; a fun way to experience art outdoors and appropriately distanced. Take the map, your GPS or Google Maps, sunscreen, and go find some art! (You can find more details, as well as deals at Roseville businesses, on their website.)

Monday, August 17, 2020

"25 Questions for a Jewish Mother" by Minnesota Jewish Theatre Company at Harriet Island Target Stage

The last time I saw a play was on February 22. In fact I saw two plays that day (as I sometimes had to do to fit everything in in the good old days) - the Children's Theatre's new original play Spamtown, USA, and Theatre Pro Rata's production of Silent Sky at the Bell Museum. If someone had told me that I wouldn't see a play live and in-person for almost six months, I would not have believed them. I would have said that's impossible. But a few days after seeing those plays, I left the country to spend two weeks in paradise (aka New Zealand), and returned home to find that the world had turned upside down. We found ourselves in a global pandemic that we're still very much in, with theater being one of the first things to go, and unfortunately one of the last to return. The good news is some #TCTheater companies have gotten creative in this time (see also Park Square Theatre's delightful original Zoom play series RIDDLE PUZZLE PLOT). Minnesota Jewish Theatre Company is opening their 26th season with an outdoor, masked, socially distanced play. I cannot tell you how wonderful it was to gather together again and listen to a story, simply and beautifully told. To anyone else who's craving that, go see this play! And not just because it's the only thing out there right now in terms of live theater, but also because it's a really moving, funny, relatable, heart-warming play.

Saturday, August 15, 2020

"RIDDLE PUZZLE PLOT" by Park Square Theatre on Zoom

Original post from July 25, 2020:
Friends, I am beyond thrilled to post my first #TCTheater review in almost five months. Yes it's a virtual performance streamed over Zoom, so it's not quite the same, but it's a chance to see some of my favorite artists being creative and having fun, while putting out new content during a pandemic that doesn't seem to be getting any better. That's cause to celebrate. And it's not too late to get in on the action. Park Square Theatre's RIDDLE PUZZLE PLOT is a new play written for this format by one of my favorite #TCTheater playwrights, Jeffrey Hatcher, about a group of actors connecting over Zoom during a pandemic (how meta!). It will play out over four installments, beginning this weekend, with a $30 ticket getting you access to all episodes, either with live and interactive pre- and post-show content on Friday or Saturday night, or to watch on demand later in the week. I watched it last night and it was truly delightful, and such a comfort to experience something akin to theater again.

Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Leslie Vincent's Album Release Concert at Crooners MainStage Tent

I paid my third visit to Crooners MainStage Tent last night; for someone starved for live entertainment, it's been such a gift. Dinner and a show, great live in-person entertainment, listening and laughing amidst other human beings. It almost feels like normal life. But not quite, because I stay in my car (you would too if you drove a convertible), the staff are all wearing masks, and so are the people sitting at tables under the tent spaced well apart. We're not even close to being out of the pandemic woods yet, but moments like this give me what I need to keep trudging along. And when you have performers as talented as Leslie Vincent and her fabulous six-piece band, and a perfect Minnesota summer night, it's about as good as it can get right now, which is pretty great.

Monday, August 10, 2020

Minnesota Fringe Festival 2020: Wrap-Up and Favorites

The great experiment known as the Minnesota Fringe Virtual Festival 2020 has come to an end. Of course it wasn't the same as our usual beloved live, in-person, together Fringe, but it was better than no Fringe. The festival was, as always, well organized, with two components (Nightly Fringe, which included 1-3 live shows every night, and the Digital Hub, which included 50-some shows to stream). While I do wish they had kept the 60 minute time limit for all shows (truthfully, if I saw a show was longer than an hour I often skipped it, because I didn't want to devote that much time to one show out of so many), and it was a bit wearying with all of the different platforms, links, apps, emails, and passwords to navigate, on the whole it was a successful experiment. The best part was seeing how adventurous these artists could get within the limitations of a pandemic world. The result is: artists will find a way to do art, and audiences will find a way to experience it. Thanks to the Fringe for connecting us all in this weird weird world.

Minnesota Fringe Festival 2020: DIGITAL HUB

The virtual 2020 Minnesota Fringe Festival has two components: Nightly Fringe, which includes 1-3 live shows every night from July 30 through August 9, and the Digital Hub, which includes 50-some shows to stream anytime (or at specific times). Here's a list of all of the DIGITAL HUB shows I've seen so far; click the show title to be read my mini-review. I'll be updating this regularly so keep checking back!

The purchase of a $5 Minnesota Fringe Festival button is required to gain access to the Digital Hub. Many shows are free to watch, some charge a ticket fee or donation of $5-20. Even for free shows, please consider a donation to the festival and/or artists.
Click here for a list of all of the NIGHTLY FRINGE shows I've seen so far.

Minnesota Fringe Festival 2020: NIGHTLY FRINGE

The virtual 2020 Minnesota Fringe Festival has two components: Nightly Fringe, which includes 1-3 live shows every night from July 30 through August 9, and the Digital Hub, which includes 50-some shows to stream anytime (or at specific times). Here's a list of all of the NIGHTLY FRINGE shows I've seen so far; click the show title to be read my mini-review. I'll be updating this regularly so keep checking back!

All Nightly Fringe shows are free to attend, but please consider a donation to the festival and/or the artist. Some shows are available to watch later.
Pro tip: if you missed the live broadcast, scroll to the bottom of the Nightly Fringe page to get to the past shows, and click on the links to find many of them still available. Or check the company's Facebook page or YouTube channel.

Click here for a list of all of the DIGITAL HUB shows I've seen so far.