Art Hounds: New play creates space for empathy, virtually

Two pillows, one with a donkey and another with an elephant.
Two politically-themed throw pillows are on display. “The Empathy Project” from Full Circle Theater is a virtual staged reading of the new play by Stephanie Lein Walseth. It's based on interviews with 20 Minnesotans across the state.
Courtesy image from Full Circle Theater

Updated: 10:24 a.m., Nov. 20 | Posted: 4 a.m., Nov. 19

With the election over, but still reverberating, Minneapolis theater maker Nora Montañez recommends rediscovering common ground by watching “The Empathy Project” from Full Circle Theater this weekend. The virtual staged reading of the new play by Stephanie Lein Walseth is based on interviews with 20 Minnesotans across the state.

“I feel that the title is so timely right now, particularly because I believe empathy grows out of stories,” said Montañez, who is the founder and coordinator of the Alliance of Latinex Minnesota Artists, or ALMA.

Appropriate for a show about bringing people together, “The Empathy Project” was in partnership with several organizations statewide: The Yes! House in Granite Falls, the Department of Public Transformation, and Dreamland Arts in St. Paul. It’s directed by Rick Shiomi.

The free event — watchable from home — requires registration. The show is in two acts: Act I streams Friday at 7 p.m. and Saturday at 3 p.m.; Act II streams Saturday at 7 p.m. and Sunday at 3 p.m.

Anniessa Antar, activation specialist at the Minneapolis Institute of Art, gave a shoutout to All My Relations Arts, a creator of Native American fine art exhibits in Minneapolis. Antar calls the gallery a “cornerstone in Native art, both regionally and nationally.” The current exhibit, “Bring Her Home: Sacred Womxn of Resistance” is a collection of paintings, video and other art by Indigenous women, two spirit and trans women and gender nonconforming artists sharing narratives around missing and murdered Indigenous people. Antar says the exhibit is “rooted in empowering the community to be able to address this [issue], to grieve, to mourn, but also to celebrate the resistance” of Indigenous people.

All My Relations Arts has temporarily closed in order to comply with Minnesota's updated COVID-19 guidelines. The exhibition will be available online through Jan. 2.

Note: Music for the audio segment linked above came from “RUINS: Movement 3” by Leah K Lemm, a Grand Rapids-based singer/songwriter and a member of the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe.

St. Paul comedian Adam Mellerup recently attended a Facebook Live event that he says made excellent use of the medium: Strike Theater’s first One Minute Film Festival. The festival featured 23 one-minute films that included animation, dancing and storytelling. Comedy was the most common style, says Mellerup, and that’s understandable given the judging categories from a panel of live judges: best use of the color red, best use of peanut butter and best use of the word “collide.”

“It was a nice place for people to release some creative energy and to show a little piece of what they’ve been doing, or what they like to do,” said Mellerup.

The current film festival is available for viewing on Strike Theater’s Facebook page.

Front of House manager Brian Scot says Strike Theater plans on hosting another festival next fall.

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