Saturday, June 23, 2018
My favorite show from the 2016 Minnesota Fringe Festival is back! In fact, it never really went away. #TCTheater artist Max Wojtanowicz has been touring his original auto-biographical solo musical "Ball: A Musical Tribute To My Lost Testicle" around the state for the last two years. Shortly after being diagnosed with testicular cancer in January of 2016, his friend/collaborator/director Nikki Swoboda suggested he might want to write a musical about it. Unthinkable, yes, but that's what artists do, they process what's going on in the world and in their lives through their art, creating something that's both personal and universal. So that's what Max did. He journaled through the process of surgeries, chemotherapy, and recovery, and even invited Nikki and several composers into the chemo suite to start working on songs. He finished treatment in April (and is now in remission), and performed his show at Fringe that August. At the time it was so new and raw, a really emotional moving experience. Now with a few years of distance, it may not be quite as fresh, but it's just as moving. If you're in the Twin Cities, you can see it at the Southern Theater this weekend only before it continues its tour to places like the Mayo Clinic and the United Solo Theatre Festival in NYC.
Friday, June 22, 2018
Classical Actors Ensemble continues their tradition of bringing Shakespeare to metro area parks (for free!) with Romeo and Juliet, playing at Lake of the Isles and many other parks every Thursday through Sunday through mid July. Previously I've seen CAE do Shakespeare's comedies, and found them to be so fun, playful, and almost interactive, the way Shakespeare was meant to be. This is the first time I've seen them do a tragedy for their fun summer outdoor play. But Romeo and Juliet is pretty much a rom-com, until somebody dies, so it's still fun and playful in the beginning. And while maybe the tragedy doesn't have quite the same effect when the sun is softly setting, the birds are chirping, and the wind is blowing through the leaves on the trees, it's still the best way to see Shakespeare. Click here to see all of the locations along with handy maps, and then just show up - no tickets or reservations needed (but donations happily accepted to keep this wonderfully free and accessible experience going).
Monday, June 18, 2018
Skylark Opera). Minnesota Opera's final production in their 2017-2018 checks all of those boxes, plus it's directed by my favorite director of music-theater, Peter Rothstein. So I made a spontaneous trip to the opera yesterday (performed in the Cowles Center Goodale Theater) to see Fellow Travelers, commissioned by the Cincinnati Opera in 2016. Based on the novel of the same name by Thomas Mallon, Fellow Travelers tells the story of two men who fall in love in 1950s Washington, D.C., during the Lavender Scare, something I was not previously aware of (bonus: educational!). It's an exceedingly beautiful piece - a heart-breakingly tragic love story, an examination of a dark period in our history, and commentary on the world today, all told with gorgeous music that heightens the emotions of the story. I'm rethinking my position on opera.
Sunday, June 17, 2018
six times in the last seven years (not counting the recent movie adaptation). And while I would love #TCTheater to diversify its choice of shows (there are quite a few duplicates and triplicates this season), I'm not going to complain about this one. Every time I see Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine's exceedingly clever fairy tale mash-up that explores what happens after the "happily ever after," I love it even more. It's instantly familiar due to the fairy tale characters we grew up with, but then it lures you into a darker story. And it's a versatile piece that works just as well set in the forests of Asia as in a German beer garden. For their production, newish theater company Shoot the Glass Theater has gone with a stripped down, bare bones, unmiked approach that works beautifully. With minimal (but charming) set pieces and simple costumes, they're able to focus on the storytelling and the music, which is what it's all about.
Friday, June 15, 2018
"The Minotaur Or: Amelia Earhart is Alive and Traveling Through the Underworld" by Sheep Theater at In the Heart of the Beast Theatre
Sheep Theater, a company that promises "original plays with an emphasis on classically epic stories that highlight the deranged confidence of humanity with sincerity and honesty." Like much of their work, The Minotaur Or: Amelia Earhart is Alive and Traveling Through the Underworld is a fun mish-mash of history, legend, and myth with an awkwardly long title. With a lot of ingenuity, heart, and silliness, the troupe proposes one possible fate for the long missing pioneering aviator, and makes the Underworld look like a pretty fun place to hang out.
Wednesday, June 13, 2018
It's Hard to Be the Bard. It's hard to be the bard at a time when one of England's longest reigning monarchs to date, who has kept the country relatively stable and supported your artistic career, is gone, and you're dealing with a tumultuous and changing political and religious landscape, with a choice to either support the new ruler and his lies or tell the truth. Can you imagine such a situation?! This is the fictionalized version of true events proposed in the play, in which playwright William Shakespeare (or Shagspeare) is commissioned by the newly crowned King James I to write a play of the recent failed plot to kill the king and members of Parliament, known as the Gunpowder Plot. The play mixes history, religion, theater, and politics in an immensely clever, if a bit too long and involved, way. Walking Shadow Theatre Company's staging of Equivocation, playing at Gremlin Theatre through June 24, is engaging and entertaining (or at least as engaged and entertained as this morning person can be at 10:30 pm).
Monday, June 11, 2018
head up to Anoka through June 24, grab some popcorn, and have a good laugh and a good cathartic cry (it was a two-tissue play for me).
Sunday, June 10, 2018
click here for both).
"Caucasian-Aggressive Pandas and Other Mulatto Tales" by Chameleon Theatre Circle and Fearless Comedy Productions at Bloomington Center for the Arts
Caucasian-Aggressive Pandas and Other Mulatto Tales began as a Fearless Comedy show at Bryant Lake Bowl, and then had a successful run a the 2016 Minnesota Fringe Festival. Chameleon Theatre Circle originally planned to include the show as part of their 2016-2017 season, but the Ames Center in Burnsville, their then home, refused to allow the show to be produced there for fear that some might find the word mulatto offensive. To make a long story short (you can read more about it here), Chameleon left the Ames Center because they objected to artistic censorship, and Caucasian-Aggressive Pandas is currently being presented at the Bloomington Center for the Arts (the home of Artistry) as the final show in their nomadic 2017-2018 season. That's a whole lot of preamble for what is a very funny, insightful, and necessary show about race relations in America, which can only be improved by acknowledging it and talking about it, and maybe laughing about it too in a safe space like this. Oh, the irony!
Wednesday, June 6, 2018
Chicago on the 2017-2018 Hennepin Theatre Trust tour schedule, I was not excited. It's made the rounds many times in the last 20 years, and I'd rather see something new (like The Band's Visit, please!). But as the date rolled around, I realized I hadn't seen Chicago in six years. And since the 1996 revival is currently the second longest running musical on Broadway, it's not likely to be released for regional productions anytime soon, so the tour is my only chance to see it. I went to opening night, and I loved every minute of it. It's been a long time since I've even listed to the score, so I forgot what an all-around brilliant show this is. The clever and jazzy score by the genius team of John Kander and Fred Ebb, Bob Fosse's iconic and positively thrilling choreography (reinterpreted by Ann Reinking for the 1996 revival, in which she also played Roxie), the ever more timely book (by Ebb and Fosse) that shines a harsh light on our culture's obsession with violence and celebrity, the incorporation of the 14-person onstage band into the story, and the seemingly endless supply of gorgeous and talented actor/dancer/singers who can not just inhabit these now familiar characters, but make them their own. If it's been a while since you, too, have seen Chicago, or you have (gasp!) never seen it, now (meaning this week only) is the time. Chicago never gets old.
Tuesday, June 5, 2018
The BAND Group debuts with a delightfully modern adaptation of Moliere's most famous comedy Tartuffe, set in a drag club. Similar to The Misanthrope a few years ago, founder-director-adapter Adrian Lopez-Balbontin has taken this 350 year old French comedy, made it look like the world today, peppered it with pop culture references, used it as commentary on current issues, and set it all to rhyme. With a talented cast of artists from across the gender spectrum whom we don't get to see onstage often enough, and a partnership with local non-profit RECLAIM! that provides mental health support for queer and trans youth, TART is as relevant as it is entertaining. Check it out at BLB (with full food and drink service before and during the show) through June 16.
Monday, June 4, 2018
"This is why we're here." The final refrain of Pillsbury House Theatre stirring production of Dat Black Mermaid Man Lady / The Show, which one could call a play-musical-poetry-storytelling-dance-concert, is still ringing in my ears. It's a piece that defies explanation, that maybe shouldn't be explained, but rather experienced. In just about an hour we're taken on a journey into the past, into the Southern African American culture, into stories with various archetypal characters that come alive through the voices of the ensemble. Pillsbury House consistently produces new, relevant, innovative, thoughtful work, and this show is another example of that.