Arts and Culture

Arts Briefs: From puppets to pop culture 

A graphic with the state of minnesota and pieces of art
The MPR News arts and culture team's arts briefs offer a weekly guide to the ever-evolving art scene in Minnesota.
Sam Stroozas | MPR News

The MPR News arts and culture team's arts briefs offer a weekly guide to the ever-evolving art scene in Minnesota.

Playlabs Festival at the Playwrights' Center in Minneapolis continues April 28 with a reading of “That Must Be the Entrance to Heaven” by Franky D. Gonzalez. The play is about four Latino boxers. 

The festival will continue through April 30 with two additional readings of new plays and a showcase of various new works. 

Filmed versions of the readings will be available online beginning May 15.

Two people perform
A rehearsal of "That Must Be the Entrance to Heaven" by Franky D. Gonzalez as part of the PlayLabs Festival.
Courtesy of Playwrights' Center

Governors, mascots and melodies: History Theatre's 2023-24 season unveiled

The History Theatre has announced its 2023-24 season.

The St. Paul organization explores Minnesota's history through theater. The season will begin in October with “The Boy Wonder,” a musical about Harold Stassen, the youngest governor in Minnesota history.

Other shows include “I Am Betty” about General Mills' mascot Betty Crocker, and a musical about the Kim Loo Sisters — a Chinese Polish American quartet during the swing era.

The remainder of the season can be found on the History Theatre's website.

Gov. Harold Stassen
Gov. Harold Stassen being sworn in for his second term, 1941. He will be the subject of a play at the History Theatre as part of their 2023-24 season.
Courtesy Minnesota Historical Society Press

Cultivating culture: A fellowship for Upper Midwest art advocates

Springboard for the Arts is offering a fellowship for people who want to promote art and culture in the rural Upper Midwest.

It will be granted to artists and others “committed to advancing the role of art, culture and creativity in rural development and community building.” The fellowship includes a $10,000 stipend and 12 people will be chosen.

Applications close June 20. More information can be found on the Springboard for the Arts website.

Of mice and musicals: Children's Theatre premieres “An American Tail”

Children's Theatre Company in Minneapolis is premiering a stage adaptation of a beloved children’s movie.  

“An American Tail” is a musical based on the 1986 film of the same name. It follows the story of a Jewish mouse named Fievel Mousekewitz who immigrates to America to escape persecution and attacks in Russia. 

The show's script and lyrics were written by Tony Award-winner Itamar Moses.

“The bar is if anything slightly higher, in terms of attention span, and, and things you can hook into, in a way that that is accessible ... here's something it makes you want to lean into the magic, and the metaphor a little bit more,” Moses told MPR News.

The musical runs until June 18.

Two people dance
Lillian Hochman as Tanya and Matthew Woody as Fievel in the World Premiere of An American Tail the Musical at Children's Theatre Company.
Courtesy of Kaitlin Randolph

Teenage page-turners: Twin Cities Teen Lit Con returns

Twin Cities Teen Lit Con returns for the first time since the pandemic. One junior high school student has some recommendations. 

Thirteen-year-old Dante Hernandez is a student at North Junior High in Minnetonka. Hernandez recommends the book “Girl in Pieces.” The author will be speaking at the event.

“For Teen Lit, I wanted to meet the author of ‘Girl in Pieces,’ which was by Kathleen Glasgow, because I really liked the book. And I was like, well, I can't miss this opportunity, you know?”

Herndandez says the book's main character Charlotte is very relatable. She's on a journey to recover from self-harm.

“It's heartwarming, but it's heartbreaking at the same time,” she said.

Teen Lit Con is Saturday at Two Rivers High School in Mendota Heights. The con also features classes, games and author signings.

A woman poses for a photo
Shannon Gibney, one of the featured authors at the Teen Lit Con.
Courtesy of Shannon Gibney

A festival of fanciful fingers: Puppet Labs' radical revue

Open Eye Theatre in Minneapolis is presenting its Puppet Labs festival of new works. This 11-year-old program showcases “radical, genre-expanding, boundary-pushing puppet work.”

The festival features two shows this weekend. The first is “Eurydice in Hell,” created by Alex Young as a feminist retelling of the Greek tragedy.

The other show is “Mr. Shim's Kitchen” by Jennings Mergenthal. This performance looks at Korean history, food and the experience of adoptees.

Puppet Labs ends on Sunday.

A puppet on a table
"Mr. Shim's Kitchen" by Jennings Mergenthal at the Open Eye Theatre's Puppet Labs.
Courtesy of Bruce Silcox

A stitch in time: “Welcome to the Aughts” relives pop culture's textured past

Feminist fiber arts collective The Snips is presenting a show called “Welcome to the Aughts.” It will feature art inspired by the era that brought us Paris Hilton's tiny dogs, velour tracksuits and the delirious excesses of reality television.

Ten artists will revisit the decade with textile art. Co-curator Shannon Twohy explains:

“Things were highly pixelated. There was a really unrefined look. And so it's really fun to play with the textures that came from that era.”

“Welcome to the Aughts” runs through May 6 at Squirrel Haus in Minneapolis.

A piece of art laid out
Art by Emma MacLean featured in "Welcome to the Aughts."
Courtesy of The Snips Fiber Arts Collective

Absolute Bleeding Edge

The MPR News arts team offers suggestions for the best in avant-garde, experimental and off-the-beaten-path arts and culture.

Film: “The Outwaters” and “Skinamarink”

“The Outwaters” and “Skinamarink” were released within a few months of each other (both are now available on streaming), and immediately were grouped into a brand new microgenre of horror filmmaking. Nobody’s come up with a name for it yet, but both films reject plot, storyline, character and many of the other niceties of storytelling in favor of pure vibes – and the vibes are bad.

“The Outwaters” ostensibly is the more conventional of the two, a found footage film in which a group of young people go into the desert and disappear. The first half of the film is meticulous in recreating the vernacular filmmaking of selfies and vlogs. It’s mostly just four young people pointing cameras at each other, and the film is extremely bold in how non-eventful most of these moments are.

It establishes the world as ordinary and credible, which it then sabotages in the second half. The extraordinary and incredible second half feels like an hour of nude, blood-drenched bodies wandering in the desert, menaced by screaming worms and barely-seen monsters, occasionally teleporting through space and time. It refuses to explain itself, or even make sense, and it’s terrifying as a result.

“Skinamarink,” in the meanwhile, refuses even “The Outwaters” gestures at normality. The film is almost entirely static shots at strange angles of a house bathed in darkness. Occasionally we hear children whisper or see their tiny feet pad across the screen. It may be the most withholding film ever made.

The house is filled with the comforting elements of childhood: toys, cartoons and parental voices. But here they are drenched in menace. We don’t know anything, except the children are frightened and possibly injured, and there is something malevolent in the house. And that’s all we ever learn. But the film takes those strange moments from David Lynch’s films, in which the camera gazes at a perfectly ordinary scene until it becomes menacing, and turns it into an entire movie.

This activity is made possible in part by the Minnesota Legacy Amendment's Arts & Cultural Heritage Fund.
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