Arts and Culture

Arts Briefs: Classic musicals, opera and paper

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 Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis begins previews for a classic musical Saturday. 

"Into the Woods" tells tales from fairy tales by the Brothers Grimm and what happens after the original stories end. 

The late Stephen Sondheim composed the lyrics and music. Sondheim was the winner of an Oscar and eight Tony Awards, and also wrote the lyrics for “West Side Story,” and lyrics and music for “Sweeney Todd“ and many others.

Fashion in harmony

Musician Max Mileski has organized a fashion show that mixes art, music and design. Almost 30 looks will walk the runway, created by local artists, photographers and even an interior designer. Mileski's art rock band Sadkin will be playing their brand of futurist synth music.

“I think this is an event that definitely pushes the boundaries of Duluth entertainment expectations,” Mileski told MPR News. “The idea of taking these eclectic artists, putting them together, and doing a show is something that Duluth hasn't seen.”

The event will close out with a set by the Crunchy Bunch DJ collective. Doors open at 9 p.m. Friday at The Rex Bar in Duluth.

Rothstein's swan song

Theater Latte Da in Minneapolis opened its latest production last week. 

“Next to Normal” is a Tony and Pulitzer Prize-winning rock musical that tells the story of a mother dealing with mental health issues and the loss of a family member. 

The show is the final production with the company for Peter Rothstein, founding artistic director. After 25 years with Latte Da, Rothstein is moving to Florida for a position with Asolo Repertory Theatre. 

The musical runs until July 16.

Artistic Director Peter Rothstein leads rehearsal.
Artistic Director Peter Rothstein leads the Theater Latte Da “Ragtime” cast through a technical rehearsal at the Ritz Theater.
Euan Kerr | MPR News 2016

Local lyricism

A Minnesota-based opera company returns to performing in the state after an international tour. They will be offering a concert featuring original compositions. 

Really Spicy Opera will be hosting a concert featuring the work of opera writers who have Minnesota connections. The original works were composed through a training program hosted by The Aria Institute for Composers and Librettists, which aims to give opportunities to composers of original opera work. Basil Considine is the artistic director of Really Spicy Opera and co-founder of the Aria Institute. 

“When we started this, it was astonishing how many local writers reached out to us and said, This is something we'd like to get involved with,” Considine told MPR News. “And that's been really encouraging as this has grown.”

The concert takes place June 18 at 5:30 p.m. at the Lake Harriet Bandshell in Minneapolis.

Decolonizing paper 

A new exhibition at the Minnesota Center for Book Arts in Minneapolis is rethinking paper. 

A handmade sheet of paper the size of a trailer. Rubbery-looking fauna. Intricate basketlike weavings. These are some of the pieces on view at "Paper is People: Decolonizing Global Paper Cultures," which runs through Aug. 12. 

Curators ask viewers to consider paper beyond bright white uniform sheaves, a practice rooted in imperialism. Instead, there are paper traditions and contemporary innovations from across the globe. One artist from New Orleans, for example, uses ink made from coal pollution runoff on paper made from sugar cane and plastic waste. 

The exhibition reception is June 22.

Art piece with flowers
"Small Reef," 2023, made with Hawaiian wauke fiber and kapa (paper mulberry) by Hawaiian artist Page Chang, is on view for the "Paper is People: Decolonizing Global Paper Cultures" at the Minnesota Center for Book Arts.
Alex V. Cipolle | MPR News

Sound waves from the past

Friday, Crooners in Fridley will host the long-running Mysterious Old Radio Listening Society, which offers live performances of radio scripts from the Golden Age of radio. The cast includes Eric Webster, Shanan Custer, Tim Uren and Joshua English Scrimshaw, all of them long-established Twin Cities comic performers. 

The cast performs the dialogue from the script (typically dressed in period-appropriate clothing) and does their own foley work, creating the sound effects for the show live on stage.

“It really grew out of a podcast we began several years ago,” Tim Uren said. “We would take in a classic old radio episode, introduce it with some history and background, listen to the actual recording, and then discuss it afterward … And based on that podcast, in which we enjoyed it, and the popularity it seemed to garner, we took to the stage, began performing these scripts, both actual classical scripts and some original ones.”

Friday’s performances are based on two noir scripts: "Red Wind" from “The Adventures of Philip Marlowe” (1947) and "The Cable Car Case" from “Candy Matson, Yukon 2-8209” (1949).

a group of people on a stage
The Mysterious Old Radio Listening Society.
Courtesy of The Mysterious Old Radio Listening Society

Other Briefs

  • The St. Cloud Art Crawl begins today in downtown St. Cloud, Minn., where various local artists will be showcased by shops and restaurants.

  • The Stone Arch Bridge Festival returns Saturday and Sunday on the west side of the Mississippi River and will feature over 200 artists and culinary artists.

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: “Lynch/Oz”

Victor Fleming’s 1939 film “The Wizard of Oz” has at least two important Minnesota connections. The most obvious is that its 16-year-old star, Judy Garland, was a native of Grand Rapids, Minn., where a pair of her ruby slippers from the film had a turbulent history. But also filmmaker Joel Coen, in conversation with critic Elvis Mitchell at the Walker Art Center in 2013, famously said that “all movies are an attempt to re-make ‘The Wizard of Oz.’”

Coen was likely being fatuous, but that doesn’t mean he was wrong. “Lynch/Oz,” a new documentary by Alexandre O. Philippe, which begins screening at the Main Theater today, makes the case that Oz is so baked into the DNA of American filmmaking that traces of it can be found everywhere. Two of the interview subjects in the film, filmmakers John Waters and David Lowery, discuss how Fleming’s movie influenced their own.

But the documentary mainly explains Oz’s influence on David Lynch, who once explained that not a day goes by without him thinking about the movie. It’s in Lynch’s recurring theme of small-town innocents who find themselves in a bizarre fantasyland. It’s there in his obsessive use of the names Judy and Garland. And it’s there in his almost nonstop use of wind sound effects (described in “Twin Peak: The Return” as “ethereal whooshing”), as though Oz’s tornado was ever rushing through his films. 

Although the documentary is about America’s premiere midnight movie filmmaker, David Lynch, and interviews another, John Waters, it never digs into why “The Wizard of Oz” seems unusually appealing to the avant-garde in particular. But it was: Jim Sharman and Richard O'Brien deliberately drew from “Oz” for “The Rocky Horror Picture Show.” The recently deceased art filmmaker Kenneth Anger said that his earliest artistic influences were “Oz” and various occult writers; author Salman Rushdie has written extensively about the influence of Fleming’s film on his own writing; John Boorman’s (and Sean Connery’s) oddest film, “Zardoz,” liberally borrowed from “Oz,” even squashing the title down as its own.

But a comprehensive book on the subterranean influence of “The Wizard of Oz” would be book-length, at least, and might run into numerous volumes. This documentary limits itself to one artist, and even then, feels as though it is just nicking the skin of the subject. Thankfully, the Main Theater is also offering three films by Lynch where the references to “Oz” are impossible to ignore: “Mulholland Drive,” “Lost Highway,” and most bluntly, “Wild at Heart,” in which one character turns into the Wicked Witch and Laura Palmer herself, Sheryl Lee, makes a cameo as Glinda, the good witch.

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