Sunday, October 31, 2021

"The People's Violin" by Six Points Theater (formerly known as Minnesota Jewish Theatre Company)

The only play I saw live and in person in the last ten months of 2020 was Minnesota Jewish Theatre Company's 25 Questions for a Jewish Mother, performed outdoors at various locations. They produced another outdoor play this summer, A Pickle, as well as multiple virtual offerings over the last year and a half. I can't tell you how much creative theater offerings like this kept be going through the very long intermission from live performance, and I'm thrilled that we're finally returning (with the help of vaccines and masks). Minnesota Jewish Theatre Company marks their return to their Highland Park space with a new production, The People's Violin, and a new name - Six Points Theater (watch a video about the name change here). But what hasn't changed is the thought-provoking, meaningful, entertaining, high quality work that they do, exploring Jewish culture and identity, with relevance to the world at large. The People's Violin is another such play.

Saturday, October 30, 2021

"Theatre of the Macabre" at Park Square Theatre

Last year, during the very long intermission from live theater, Park Square Theatre presented a virtual cabaret of Halloween-themed songs and stories called Theatre of the Macabre. This year, they're able to present the show in person in their historic downtown St. Paul space (with the help of vaccines and masks), but only for two nights! It was so great to be back at Park Square for this taste of good things to come (they're hosting a few other companies this fall and officially opening their season with a remount of Marie and Rosetta in January). Theatre of the Macabre is a truly delightful, and at times disturbing, evening of songs and stories, like an elevated version of gathering around a campfire to tell spooky tales. Tickets remain for tonight's show; click here for all the details.

Friday, October 29, 2021

Twin Cities Horror Festival 2021 at the Crane Theater

I don't love horror, and I'm not really into Halloween (except for the candy). But I do love the ingenious #TCTheater community that creates spooky, creepy, scary works of theater for the annual Twin Cities Horror Festival. After last year's virtual festival, they're returning to in-person shows this year (on a limited capacity, with a virtual portion as well) for their tenth season. I spend last night at the Crane Theater being scared, wowed, entertained, and moved by this year's creations. I saw three of the five live shows, and I previously saw one of them at this year's Minnesota Fringe Festival (I like to think of TCHF as a genre-specific mini-Fringe). The festival runs this weekend only, with weekend passes as well as individual show tickets available (click here for details).

Wednesday, October 27, 2021

"Circle Mirror Transformation" at Theatre in the Round

The oldest theater in Minneapolis returns from the very long intermission; Theatre in the Round opened their 70th season with the sweet and awkward little play Circle Mirror Transformation. Unfortunately it has already closed, but their season continues with four more productions through next summer, including the Agatha Christie mystery A Murder is Announced, opening in November. But in the meantime, read on for more about Circle Mirror Transformation, which I caught on closing weekend.

Friday, October 22, 2021

"The Comedy of Errors" by Ten Thousand Things at Plymouth Congregational Church

Last night I saw Ten Thousand Things perform Shakespeare (live and in-person, which 20 months ago would have seemed like an absurd qualifier), and for about 90 minutes, it felt like everything was right with the world. No one does Shakespeare like Ten Thousand Things; no one makes it as understandable, relatable, relevant, and fun. And when you're talking about Shakespeare's silliest and most slapsticky comedy, The Comedy of Errors, it's all about the fun. With just six actors playing all 15 (or 47, who's counting) roles, it's a rollicking good time. Of course not all is right with the world, we're still very much in the thick of this pandemic, which means TTT can't do their most important work - bringing theater out into the community to people who aren't usually able to experience theater. But they can still do what they do for the people who show up at Plymouth Congregational Church, with a pay-what-you-can option to make it more accessible. And what they do is tell stories, in the most delightful and in-the-moment way imaginable, with all the lights on.

Tuesday, October 19, 2021

"King of the Kosher Grocers" by Stage North at the Capri Theater

New #TCTheater company Stage North (not to be confused with Stage North Theatre Company in Brainerd) makes its debut in the newly remodeled Capri Theater in North Minneapolis with King of the Kosher Grocers. This charming play that is an homage to the neighborhood, first produced by Mixed Blood Theatre in 1992, is a great first production for a company whose mission is "creating vibrant, live experiences that bring people together to tell and celebrate stories of urban life... Our hope is that Stage North will help bring new audiences and new excitement and vitality to the North Side business district and contribute to the neighborhood's continuing growth and expansion" (read the full statement here). Unfortunately, North Minneapolis is a neighborhood known more for its crime and violence than for the community and culture of the people who live there. Of course, theater can't solve all of the problems, but it can shine a light on overlooked people and communities. This play does just that - celebrates the diverse community of people and the vibrant history of this neighborhood.*

Sunday, October 17, 2021

"The Red Shoes" at Open Eye Theatre

In 2017, Open Eye Theatre premiered The Red Shoes, inspired by the Hans Christian Andersen story of the vain little girl with pretty red shoes cursed so that her shoes will never stop dancing. The show also "draws inspiration and influences from the vintage detective novels of Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett, case studies of amnesia and multiple personality, and black and white film noir movies of the 1940s" (per director and co-writer Joel Sass, along with Kimberly Richardson). They were all set to remount it in March of 2020, when the pandemic shut down all live performance. Happily, a year and a half later, it is opening their live in-person 2021-2022 season in their charming and intimate space in South Minneapolis. Also happily but not surprisingly, The Red Shoes is still "something so curious and unique, odd and chilling, inventive and charming, it's thoroughly captivating from start to finish." And perhaps even more relevant and relatable after we've all spent so much time trapped inside our homes with only our own thoughts and imagination to fill the time and space.

"Every Brilliant Thing" at the Jungle Theater

Jungle Theater couldn't have chosen a better play with which to return to live programming than Every Brilliant Thing. After living apart for so long during this ongoing pandemic, Every Brilliant Thing is all about the connections between people and celebrating the little (and big) things that bring us joy in the midst of the traumas of life. As the Jungle's new Artistic Director Christina Balwin notes in the virtual program, "this beautiful play is performed with the audience, not at them." A live audience is what makes theater theater, and it's what we've all been missing. I can't think of a play in which the audience is more vital than this one. It feels so good to be in a room with other humans again, experiencing and even participating in one of the oldest human artforms - storytelling.

Friday, October 15, 2021

"Not in Our Neighborhood" at History Theatre

The History Theatre original play Not in Our Neighborhood was scheduled to run in rep with Not for Sale in March 2020. We know how that story goes - both productions were shut down shortly before opening. But now, over a year and a half later, History Theatre is opening their new season with Not in Our Neighborhood and will present Not for Sale in February. Both plays deal with with redlining and segregation in St. Paul in the early and mid 20th Century, a local history that feels even more important and relevant now than it did a year and a half ago. Not in Our Neighborhood tells the true story of a prominent and successful St. Paul Black couple who in the 1920s chose to leave the Rondo neighborhood to move into the all-white Groveland Park neighborhood, and the discrimination they faced.

Tuesday, October 12, 2021

"Island of Discarded Women" Live Podcast at the Woman's Club of Minneapolis

In May of 2020, I posted a piece called "I Listen to Podcasts Now!" Prior to the pandemic I listened to a few podcasts, but as it probably did for most people, the number of podcasts I listen to has increased exponentially in the last year and a half. One of my few pre-pandemic podcasts was Island of Discarded Women, created and hosted by #TCTheater artist and long-time voice actor on A Prairie Home Companion, Sue Scott. The monthly podcast was recorded live onstage in 2019 (I was hoping to attend my first one in spring 2020), and moved to at-home/zoom recordings during the pandemic. Now the live recordings have begun again in their new home, the Woman's Club of Minneapolis, the second Sunday of every month (proof of vaccination required, plus masks when not enjoying the dinner and drink service). I was thrilled to experience my favorite local podcast live last weekend!

Saturday, October 9, 2021

"Mary Shelley's Frankenstein" by Collide Theatrical Dance Company at the Southern Theater

For eight years, Collide Theatrical Dance Company has been creating new dance musicals, either with original stories or based on classic works. Even the pandemic didn't stop them - they presented an outdoor dance cabaret last fall when all of us were starved for live entertainment; produced a Valentine's Day video dance piece; and returned to the outdoor stage this spring for a dance musical based on Alice in Wonderland. Now they're back inside the best dance venue in town, the Southern Theater, for the premiere of their dance musical based not just on the well known 19th Century novel Frankenstein, but also on the life of its lesser known author, Mary Shelley. Over 75 minutes of continuous dance, the seven-person ensemble tells these remarkable interconnected stories with great emotion and vitality.

Friday, October 8, 2021

Broadway Tour of "What the Constitution Means to Me" at the Guthrie Theater

In the middle of my 17th season as a Guthrie Theater subscriber, a global pandemic shut down live performing arts. Since it opened in 2006, I had been going to the big blue beautiful building on the river once every month or two, and then suddenly, it all stopped. I was beyond thrilled to return to the Guthrie, my happy place, this week to experience the national tour of the Tony-nominated Broadway play What the Constitution Means to Me. With a mask on my face and a vaccine card in my hand (which, after a solid month of indoor theater-going, feels normal), walking through the familiar spaces felt like coming home. And what a play to begin this new season of theater! I had seen the filmed version of the Broadway play on Amazon, but seeing it live in person is how it was meant to be seen. Written by Heidi Schreck, who also played the role of herself on Broadway, this play is part civics lesson and part very personal story, as it very seriously (and humorously) explores the issues of domestic violence, abortion rights, and generational trauma. It is simultaneously depressing and hopeful about the state of our nation. Which is pretty on track for the world right now. Two years after its Broadway premiere and we're still very much in the thick of it, and this play perhaps helps us see things in a new way. 

Wednesday, October 6, 2021

The Ruth Easton New Play Series at the Playwrights' Center

Theater is my religion, and I couldn't be happier to return to the mother church; the Playwrights' Center is back! Of course, they never really went away. They swiftly transitioned to virtual readings of new work in March 2020 and have been continuing to support playwrights locally and across the country in the development of new work, while providing jobs to actors and artists in a time when there were not many arts jobs to be had. But now they're back in their South Minneapolis space in an old church with live in-person readings of new works. The Ruth Easton New Play Series is an annual festival of workshops and readings presented monthly, now through February. There will be two limited-seating in-person readings of each, that will be recorded and made available to watch virtually. You do need to make reservations for both in-person and virtual, but it's free! Below is the schedule of readings as well as my thoughts. Click here for all the details and to make your free reservation.

Sunday, October 3, 2021

Broadway Tour of "Frozen" at the Orpheum Theatre

Last Sunday, the re-opening of Broadway after an unprecedented shutdown of a year and a half was celebrated with the Tonys and a fabulous primetime concert called Broadway is Back. Just a few days later, Broadway is back in Minneapolis, in a big way. The Broadway tour of the musical adaptation of the hit 2013 Disney movie Frozen, which was originally scheduled for May 2020, has finally arrived on Hennepin Avenue. Maybe it's partly because I hadn't seen a Broadway tour in so long (not since The Band's Visit in December 2019), but I, and probably everyone in the nearly packed house, found this show to be absolutely thrilling. Jam-packed with great musical numbers, theater magic creating wow moments, and a heart-warming story about the love between sisters, Frozen is a fantastic celebration of the return of theater (continuing through October 20, click here for details and to purchase tickets).

Saturday, October 2, 2021

"The Bungalow Loft" by Fearless Comedy Productions at the Historic Mounds Theatre

Fearless Comedy Productions returns with a brand new comedy play by #TCTheater favorite Shanan Custer! Although maybe it's more of a dramedy, as it features two sisters discovering some secrets about their recently deceased mother and deals with themes of grief, loss, regret, memories, mental illness, and challenging family relationships. Presented in an intimate in-the-round (or square) space on the floor of the Historic Mounds Theatre, The Bungalow Loft is funny and real and brought to us by an all-female cast and creative team. 

Friday, October 1, 2021

"Stations of the Heart" at Nautilus Music-Theater

Nautilus Music-Theater's main focus is developing new works of music-theater (a hyphenate that encompasses opera, musicals, plays with music, and everything in between) through their monthly "Rough Cuts" series and their annual Composer-Librettist Studio. Their rare but wonderful full productions seem to pop up out of nowhere, but in reality they've been in the works for years. Such is the cast with the lovely new song cycle Stations of the Heart, which was first presented at a Rough Cuts 18 years ago. Now, as theaters are starting to open after a very long extended intermission, it's finally being presented as a full production, although a small one - three vocalists and two musicians. It's exactly what I've come to expect from Nautilus - innovative, modern yet connected to a long tradition, and musically gorgeous. Performances continue through October 17 with limited seating, so make your plans soon (proof of vaccination and mask required).