Arts and Culture

Arts Briefs: There are going to be more Snoopys in St. Paul

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 Northern Clay Center in Minneapolis is hosting its annual exhibition featuring work by artists who received McKnight Artist Fellowships.

Among them is Ginny Sims of Minneapolis. Her deceptively rough-hewn plates and cups reference an older tradition of Northern English tableware. 

She explains that these mass-produced, industrial objects were often illustrated with images representing colonialism, which she describes as “propaganda in the home.”

“When I do think about that, I guess that’s where the political side for me comes in where I am thinking about contemporary moments,” Sims explained. “It’s impossible not to, and I kind of plug in, like, visual clues.”

The exhibit runs through Aug. 20.

Zombies, shamans and cannibals, oh my! 

A bloody, action-packed world premiere opens this weekend at the Luminary Arts Center in Minneapolis. Produced by Theater Mu, “Kung Fu Zombies Saga: Shaman Warrior and Cannibals,” is a night of theater featuring two stories. The first act tells the tale of a woman named Arun as she fights to find her sister, while act two is a revised version of Theater Mu’s previous production of “Kung Fu Zombies vs. Cannibals.”

Both stories take place in a world overrun by zombies who know kung fu. Laotian history and culture are also baked into the fabric of the nearly three-hour epic. Playwright Saymoukda Duangphouxay Vongsay takes pride in the fact she has been able to write strong female characters to honor the women in her life.  

“I’m fortunate that I got to grow up around really strong women in my life,” Vongsay said. “I just feel lucky that I get to have that experience because not everybody gets to have that from the Laotian community.

Vongsay says that while the story can be enjoyed by all, it is told through a Laotian cultural lens and that some culture references might be missed. She hopes audiences will engage with each other about the material and do their own research.  

“That’s the wonderful thing about theater and art is that it fosters conversation with the people that you're experiencing the thing with.” 

Vongsay also hopes to honor those who were and are still affected by the Vietnam War and its aftermath, especially as a refugee herself. 

“I hope that this story helps people have a deeper understanding of what we experienced,” Vongsay said.  

a woman punches a man covered in blood
Hannah Nguyen and Kobe Markworth pose from promotional photos for “Kung Fu Zombie Saga: Shaman Warrior and Cannibals.”
Courtesy of Rich Ryan and Theater Mu

Drama, drag and the Merchant

The Six Points Theater, formerly known as the Minnesota Jewish Theater, has announced its 2023-24 season. 

The season will begin in October with “Sisters in Law,” a play about the friendship between U.S. Supreme Court Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sandra Day O’Connor.

In March, the theater will offer a world premiere of “The Gentle Jewess of Venice,” a reimagining of “The Merchant of Venice.” Also planned: “Torch Song,” Harvey Fierstein’s autobiographical play about working as a drag queen in New York in the 1970s-80s.

Hot Peanuts

The Minnesota History Center in St. Paul is hosting an exhibit on the life of one of Minnesota’s favorite sons. “The Life and Art of Charles M. Schulz” is a traveling interactive exhibit curated by the Charles M. Schulz Museum and Research Center in Santa Rosa, Cal. 

For its Minnesota stop, the Historical Society has brought in items from its own collection and partnered with a Peanuts collector from Minnesota to loan out items.  

“We were very fortunate that a Peanuts collector actually works here at the Historical Society,” said Museum Manager Annie Johnson, acknowledging Peggy Olson, who's been collecting Peanuts memorabilia since she was young.  

The exhibit has 152 objects on display and includes a section on the real Charlie Brown, a fellow instructor at Art Instruction Schools in Minneapolis in 1964.  

“We knew that we had artifacts and objects and documents in our collections, about Schulz, about Peanuts and about some of the people who inspired those characters,” Johnson explained. 

“The Life and Art of Charles M. Schulz” opens Saturday, with activities including bingo and crafts, and runs through June 9 of next year.  

a wall that reads Schulz shows a drawing and a poster
"The Life and Art of Charles M. Schulz" opens Saturday at the Minnesota History Center in St. Paul.
Jacob Aloi | MPR News

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.

MUSIC: The Stillroven: There’s a Little Picture Playhouse/Cast Thy Burden Upon the Stone

With the news of Minneapolis mayor Jacob Frey deprioritizing the enforcement of some psychedelic drugs, this seems an opportune moment to look back at Minneapolis’ psychedelic past — specifically, this 1967 single from Robbinsdale garage rockers The Stillroven.

Even by acid rock standards, this release is trippy. The first song was a minor jazz standard from the 30s, previously released by Guy Lombardo. It’s a sweet melody with dreamlike lyrics in which the singer imagines his romance as a movie. Stillroven renders it unrecognizable, with pounding piano and drums frantically tapping out a stuttering rhythm.

“Cast Thy Burden Upon the Stone” really ramps up the psychedelia, beginning with its faux Biblical title and Cat Steven’s-style folk piano. The song soon introduces psychedelic music’s best friend: a sitar, or at least something that sounds like a sitar. It plays under warbling lyrics (presumably by songwriter and vocalist Dave Dean). As far as I can tell, the song tells of some sort of psychedelic mindscape calling to the singer, promising him both a utopian community and paranoic episodes. This is, however, a best guess, as the recording is muddy in the way regional garage rock recordings tend to be. Eventually, the sitar freaks out, and the song ends with crashing noises, like somebody kicked over a garbage can. 

–Max Sparber

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