Sunday, July 30, 2023

"Pickup Truck Opera Volume 2: Romeo and Juliet" by Mixed Precipitation at Loppet Trailhead

One of #TCTheater's favorite summer traditions is here! After years of presenting a "picnic operetta," Mixed Precipitation has switched to the "pickup truck opera" format, which is basically the same except for no passed snacks, and there's a pickup truck. A 2011 blue Ford pickup truck to be exact. Previously they've performed in and around the pickup, in addition to using it to haul the show around the Twin Cities and Greater Minnesota, but this year it sits on the sidelines (although it does enter the show at one point). What's consistent through the years of outdoor performances is a fun and accessible production of a classic opera mashed up with pop songs, retold in a playful and modern way. So pack a picnic, grab a lawn chair, and find a performance of Romeo and Juliet (a mashup of Bellini and Fleetwood Mac) close to you! Even if you live in northern MN, the Pickup Truck Opera is coming for you! (Click here for schedule and to make reservations.)

Saturday, July 29, 2023

"The Kung Fu Zombies Saga: Shaman Warrior and Cannibals" by Theater Mu at the Luminary Arts Center

The Walking Dead
would be so different if the zombies could do kung fu. If you're curious what that looks like, go see Theater Mu's world premiere play The Kung Fu Zombies Saga: Shaman Warrior and Cannibals, a compilation/update of two previous plays by Saymoukda Duangphouxay Vongsay. It's not only a thrilling zombie apocalypse story with great fight scenes, not only a coming-of-age tale of a couple of young women on opposite sides of the planet, but it also draws on the culture and history of Laos and the Laotian diaspora. It's a wild ride, with fantastical elements and sci-fi mixed with real family drama and an exploration of grief, loss, and identity. At nearly three hours in length, it is a saga (you can't say they didn't warn us), so have a cup of coffee, take a nap, or see a matinee because you'll want to be awake and alert to experience this epic journey. And if you're curious to know more about the creation of the show, either before or after you see it, listen to Episode 8 of the Twin Cities Theater Chat podcast, in which we interview the playwright along with actor Michelle de Joya.

Friday, July 28, 2023

"Shane" at the Guthrie Theater

"The farmer and the cowman should be friends," says the 1943 Rodgers and Hammerstein musical Oklahoma! But in the classic American novel Shane, now with a brilliant new adaptation on the Guthrie stage, the farmer and the cowman most certainly are not friends. This Shane tells the story of a Mexican-American family trying to eke out a living on their farm in Wyoming, being threatened by a big time rancher, who wants to drive all of the farmers off the land and raise cattle. A lot of cattle. Enter Shane, a Black cowboy with a dark and mysterious past and a dangerous streak, who helps the family keep their land. But of course, the land used to be occupied by the Indigenous peoples of this land, who were previously driven off by the US government (using settlers like these). In the same way that the recent revival of Oklahoma! brought out all of the complexities of the origins of America, particularly the American West, that were always in the script, Karen Zacarías' adaptation of the 1949 novel by Jack Schaefer pulls in more voices and more stories to show a truer picture of the history of America, the people of color who were always there but often not seen in classic representations. But yet, it remains true to the spirit of the original story, and it's still a wildly entertaining and gorgeously told tale of the mythical American West, just a little more diverse and authentic. This new play (which the Guthrie co-commissioned and co-produced with Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park) is a dynamic conclusion to a truly excellent 60th season at the Guthrie Theater.

Monday, July 24, 2023

"Ruthless!" by Theatre Elision at Elision Playhouse

In their first year as a company, Theatre Elision produced the Off-Broadway musical Ruthless!, a dark comedy that's a loving, albeit twisted, spoof of musical theater. They also did it again the next year to open their space Elision Playhouse, and are currently bringing it back for a short two-week run. I saw it opening night with a nearly full house, and it was a riot! Hilarious, fantastically performed by the six-woman cast (half of whom were in their original production), tons of musical theater references, well staged with great costumes, and just all-around fun. I highly recommend you get your tickets now to see one of the five remaining performances, including pay-as-you-can tonight (click here for info and details).

Saturday, July 15, 2023

"Hurricane Diane" by Rough Magic Performance Company at the Center for Performing Arts

This morning when I went for a run, the sun was an unnatural bright pink, a color I'd never seen from the sun before, due to smoke from Canadian wildfires. While it was a stunning display, it was also disturbing. This poor air quality from far away fires happens occasionally in the border state of Minnesota, but it seems to be happening much more often this year, and in places much farther away. Arizona is currently experiencing record heat, and devastating natural disasters like tornadoes and hurricanes seem to be increasing every year. In playwright Madeleine George's play Hurrican Diane (which premiered in 2017 and played Off-Broadway in 2019), the god of wine, vegetation, and fertility, known as Dionysus or Bacchus, witnesses this growing crisis and steps in to attempt to remedy it. How does he do so? By posing as a lesbian landscaper and seducing four suburban New Jersey women to become acolytes. It's a very funny play, well executed by the all-star cast and creative team at Rough Magic Performance Company, but that doesn't make its lesson any less dire. In fact, the audience being seduced by the laughter and ridiculous situations makes the stark reality that human choices and actions are making the planet more and more unlivable for humans even more shocking. Don't miss this beautifully done regional premiere of the timely, hilarious, and terrifying play Hurricane Diane (continuing at Center for Performing Arts through July 30).

Friday, July 14, 2023

2023 Minnesota Fringe Festival Must-See List

It's the dog days of summer, the 4th of July has passed, and we're moving towards the end of summer. That can only mean one thing - it's time for the Minnesota Fringe Festival! This year marks the 30th Anniversary of the Fringe, and only the second fully in-person Fringe since the pandemic. Performances being on Thursday August 3 and continue daily through Sunday August 13 (evenings on weekdays, all day Saturdays and Sundays). This year, all of the Fringe-produced shows are in Minneapolis' Cedar-Riverside neighborhood (the Southern, Theatre in the Round, Mixed Blood, U of M's Rarig, and Augsburg), which means that it's easier than ever to get to all of the shows. The one caveat is that independently produced shows are located at other venues around Minneapolis (these shows work the same as other shows in terms of ticketing, but they may not conform to the same schedule). For more info on that and all things Fringe, listen to Episode 7 of the Twin Cities Theater Bloggers' podcast "Twin Cities Theater Chat" in which we interview Executive Director Dawn Bentley (available on all platforms and at this link: We will plan to release more episodes about Fringe tips, tricks, and recommendations, so make sure to subscribe to be notified of new episodes. The Fringe website has the full schedule and details about every show, as well as box office information, so make sure to visit that as you're making your plans. Keep reading for my Must-See List, as well as some Fringe tips.

Tuesday, July 11, 2023

2023 Great River Shakespeare Festival in Winona

I just returned from a whirlwind 28 hours in Winona attending the Great River Shakespeare Festival (GRSF) for the 5th time. It's become a summer tradition for me and some of my fellow Twin Cities Theater Bloggers (TCTB), and one that I hope will never end. Seeing multiple plays in rep performed by a company of talented actors from around the country in one weekend, in a location away from your home and daily life, allows for a unique and immersive theater experience, and one that's unique in the state of Minnesota. Winona is such a lovely town with plenty of other activities that we vowed to stay longer next year so we could enjoy the many restaurants and shops (which are often closed on Sunday), outdoor activities, museums, and more. GRSF is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year, and for more on the history, present, and future of the festival listen to the 4th episode of TCTB's new podcast "Twin Cities Theater Chat," in which we interview Artistic Director Doug Scholz-Carlson and Co-Associate Artistic Director Melissa Maxwell (available here or wherever you listen to podcasts). GRSF runs through the end of July, so you still have time to plan a mini-vacay and enjoy all that the festival, and the city of Winona, has to offer.

Wednesday, July 5, 2023

"The Crucible" by Hang Fire Productions at the Historic Mounds Theatre

A #TCTheater company so new they don't even have a website or an Instagram page, Hang Fire Productions is making their debut with the classic play The Crucible. I'm not sure which came first, the company name or this production, but "Hang Fire" is certainly an appropriate name for a troupe tackling this dramatization of the Salem witch trials in late 17th Century Massachusetts, in which a firestorm of fear and accusations resulted in the hanging of 19 innocent people. More than 300 years after the events depicted and 70 years since Arthur Miller wrote the play in response to McCarthyism, the themes of religious fanaticism, mob mentality, the miscarriage of justice, and scapegoating are still relevant. If anything, with the anonymity and viral nature of the internet, it's almost easier for this kind of thing to happen. Hang Fire Productions, formed from some of the artists involved in the now defunct Mission Theatre, makes a promising debut with this strong production. Their short two-weekend run concludes this weekend at the Historic Mounds Theatre* (click here for info and tickets).

Saturday, July 1, 2023

"The Buddha Prince" by TigerLion Arts at Wasburn Fair Oaks Park

If you've been reading Cherry and Spoon for a while, you might know that Nature, the outdoor walking play about the life, work, and friendship of Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau, is one of my favorite theater experiences of all time. But what you may not know, and what I didn't know either, is that Nature was not TigerLion Arts' first foray into ambulatory theater. Back in the early aughts, Nature co-creators Markell Kiefer and Tyson Forbes (along with Samuel Elmore) developed The Buddha Prince with Tibetan-American artist Tenzin Ngawang. After performing multiple times around the country, the piece was shelved while Nature was developed and toured for the next decade. Now they're bringing it back for the first time in 14 years. I said on the Twin Cities Theater Bloggers' podcast Twin Cities Theater Chat that if The Buddha Prince was half as good as Nature, it would be a wonderful experience. I'm happy to report that it is as lovely and unique an experience as Nature, with many of the same themes and even structure, just with a different focus. A co-production with the Tibetan American Foundation of MinnesotaThe Buddha Prince is a celebration of the life and work of His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama, as well as Tibetan culture, music, history, and dance.