Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Santa, baby!

Minneapolis, Minnesota

In a season long and rich in performances, the best holiday show happened Dec. 12, when 12 members of the touring cast of Les Misérables, led by Jason Forbach, presented "It Might Be Hope," a benefit concert for Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS, at The Lab Theater in Minneapolis. 
The performers, who have toured together for a year, devoted their weekly night off to a performance of personable and engagingly-intimate, solo and ensemble renditions of tunes secular and religious, sublime and ridiculous.
Forbach, a native of Overland Park, Kansas, hosted the show which included a star turn by the Twin Cities Gay Men's Chorus singing three numbers from its just-completed holiday concert. 
A believer in "the power of faith when following a dream," Forbach gifted each attendee with a copy of his holiday EP, "Remembering to Dream."
Since 1988, Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS has raised and granted more than $123 million. 
Under the leadership of its entertainment empress, Mary Kelley Leer, the 350-seat Lab Theater continues to evolve into one of the most exciting and flexible performance spaces in the Twin Cities. 
The Minneapolis run of Les Miz continues at the Orpheum Theatre, through Dec. 18. 

Sunday, September 25, 2011

The Vikings venue

Minneapolis, Minnesota

Pondering while the Golden Gophers duked it with North Dakota State yesterday: Can anyone who understands the economics of pro football explain what is wrong with the Metrodome in Minneapolis as a venue for the game? What did we get wrong when building it 30 years ago – for football, with a roof in a snowy clime, with transit and other amenities adjacent – that cannot be fixed with $100 million of upgrades vs. $1 billion to construct a new facility?

I just don't get it. 

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Midwest Arts Conference and Cowles Center opening: Sparkling sprinklings of showcase samplings suffuse Minneapolis' scene

Minneapolis, Minnesota

Like a suave dinner guest, regional arts conferences never come to visit empty-handed. They present and offer numerous culinary delights for their host communities in the form of performing arts morsels served in scores of showcase performances at venues all over town. When coupled with more than a dozen samplings at the opening of a new dance center, one has way too much good art on which to nosh.

Oh, the joy of such indulgent gluttony!

Downtown Minneapolis was the scene for this five-day feast, Sept. 7-11, with the arrival of the 24th annual Midwest Arts Conference and the grand opening of the Cowles Center for Dance and the Performing Arts. The concurrent events provided multiple stages where potential buyers could sample the wares of artists and ensembles from throughout the western hemisphere.

The Midwest Arts Conference: Trade Show for Arts and Culture

While the incarnations of artistic impulses may emerge with few financial requirements or impediments, their distribution and sale through systems of production and marketing place them, for better and worse, in the realms of commodities and commerce. Enter the regional trade shows of the arts, whose showcases serve as large-scale auditions for the curators who choose the programming that appears on the stages of colleges and universities, performing arts centers, and civic auditoria throughout the land. 

To be selected for one of the adjudicated, or Spotlight, showcase slots represents a coveted opportunity for artists to perform in a quality-controlled setting, in prime time, to a captive audience. For those not selected, there are the equally competitive independent showcases.

Spotlight Showcases
Pantages Theatre, 710 Hennepin Avenue

The 2011 Spotlight showcases featured 18 acts (I attended 15), selected by a panel composed of presenters, managers, and agents, presented in 15-minute segments on Thursday and Friday evenings at the Pantages Theatre. By virtue of their selection, most of the ensembles have attained a robust level of artistic accomplishment. All merit the chance to find multiple performance havens where there is a match of interests and means.

ScrapArtsMusic, a five-member ensemble from Vancouver, Canada, first recycles industrial scrap material of all kinds (accordion parts to artillery shells) into good-looking-and-sounding wind, string, and percussion instruments. Then it proceeds to blow the roof off with a highly infectious and tightly choreographed performance of sensuous rhythm and energy – lots of both. The group has performed throughout Canada and the United States, and in Mexico, Australia, Ireland, and more. As I did, you may have caught their televised performance at the closing ceremonies of the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics.

The members of Project in Motion, a modern and aerial dance troupe based in New Mexico, perform in the air, on the ground, and on a variety of custom-built set pieces. At the Pantages, two dancers employed a column of two strands of fabric, hung just-right of center stage, and two pieces of sculpture that appeared to be made from thin, metal piping. The performance featured excerpts from two vignettes in "The Palace at Night," an evening-length work from 2010 inspired by the 20th century sculptor Alberto Giacometti. Although the dancers were pleasing to watch, a more intellectual eye than mine might appreciate the finer nuances of the dadaist and surrealist underpinnings of their work. As a pedestrian observer, I found the truncated selections neither interesting nor innovative.

Garner as Edison
More provocative was Patrick Garner's channeling of Thomas Alva Edison, the flagship of his several presentations for schools and corporate training sessions. Can you cut a hole in a 5" x 7" piece of paper that is large enough for a man to step through? Garner-as-Edison does so by looking at the problem from a different angle as he demonstrates Edison's four lessons and the value of hard work. A 20-year veteran of street fairs and Broadway productions, Garner also brings to life Harry Houdini, Benjamin Franklin, and others.

The Stuart Pimsler Dance and Theatre, based in Minnesota since 2000, blended movement, voice, and design with "Tales From the Book of Longing." First presented in 2009 at the Guthrie Theater's Dowling Studio, "Tales" was created by Artistic Co-Directors Stuart Pimsler and Suzanne Costello, inspired by the poetry of Leonard Cohen and music by Antony and the Johnsons. Excerpts, performed by seven dancers including Costello, featured dancer Brian Evans singing "Your Precious Love" a cappella.

Giordano Jazz Dance Chicago • Pedro Brenner
Representing all of its repertoire by multiple choreographers would require more than 15 minutes of performance by Giordano Jazz Dance Chicago. As an alternative, the globally-acclaimed troupe featured some of the jazz-infused styles of which its highly trained movers are capable. Jon Lehrer's "A Ritual Dynamic," from 2008, drives 10 dancers to the pulsing beats of White Derbakeh and DJ Disse with the look and feel of concert modern dance performed in a disco. A lovely, adagio duet offset both the earlier piece and the ensuing "Sabroso," Del Dominguez's jazzy and athletic tour of ballroom dance. The company will celebrate its 50th anniversary season in 2012/13. Its next major engagement will happen Oct. 21-22 at Chicago's Harris Theater

In a one-woman show, Trena Bolden Fields delivers monologues by five African American women, each a historical figure in the Civil Rights Movement who defied the social and economic injustices of her time. Among those included are Ida B. Wells, 1862-1931, an anti-lynching crusader, and Fannie Lou Hamer, 1917-1977, a voting rights activist. Fields studied theater arts and mass communication at Augsburg College and received her MA degree in psychology from the University of Minnesota. Her channeling of the women's lives, which collectively spanned more than a century, serves as compelling theater, social commentary, and history lesson.

Not long after performing the Mendelssohn Violin Concerto with the Columbus Symphony Orchestra at age 16, Christian Howes set out to make his mark in jazz. His nomination this year as Violinist of the Year by the Jazz Journalists Association attests to his progress on that front. So does the showcase performance by the Christian Howes Group, a quartet inclusive of piano, bass, and drums. A set of classical and jazz cross-over music had the air of a late-night jazz club combo (it performed later both evenings at the Artists' Quarter in St. Paul), and closed with Paganini's Caprice No. 24 in A minor. Nice listening!

Equally engaging was the gig by Randy Sabien and the Fiddlehead Band, whose eponymous leader serves as the new Strings Department head at the McNally Smith College of Music in St. Paul. Sabien, a native of Rockford, Illinois, and veteran guest of Austin City Limits and A Prairie Home Companion, has pulled together seven, intergenerational performers – three violinists, pianist, drummer, bassist, and guitarist – who honor the history of American roots string playing. 

Mark Masri • www.markmasri.com
Opening a first Minneapolis appearance by singing "Time to say goodbye" and meaning it?! I don't think so! Presenters and audiences will want to start saving their shekels to contract and attend performances by a most sonorous and soulful tenor, Mark Masri, a Toronto native who has performed since age 5. Accompanied by piano and guitar, his expansive vocal range and romantic, raven-haired beauty are melting hearts, dropping jaws, and burning up the world's stages. See if your travel agent can get you tickets to cruise Europe with him, Oct. 15-22. 

According to The Four Bitchin' Babes, the word "bitchin'" is a California surfing term that means "tragically hip." As in, "Ain't middle age a blast?" These girlfriends are musician-comediennes who set women's lives to music with two, estrogen-fueled shows: "Hormonal Imbalance…A Mood Swinging Musical Revue" and "Diva Nation…Where Music, Laughter, and Girlfriends Reign." 

"Any two idiots can have sex the first time. It takes two very special idiots to have it 1,000 times." So says Larry Miller in his one-man show, Cocktails with Larry Miller: Little League, Adultery, and Other Bad Ideas, in which he shares his comic perspective about marriage, children, and drinking – and how each one leads to the other two. Unless you live under a rock, you have seen him in "Pretty Woman," "The Princess Diaries," or more than 100 other films and television shows. Check him out on The Late Show with David Letterman, Sept. 23.

For a group that calls itself "a cello quartet gone mad," Break of Reality is totally grounded, and a very nice-and-lovely listen. Comprised of three cellists and a percussionist, the ensemble – all 20-something alums of The Eastman School of Music or the Cleveland Institute of Music – plays its own compositions, covers by Metallica and Radiohead, and others, and transcriptions of Bach. Following their Friday evening showcase, the musicians closed out the night's proceedings a few blocks away at the Dakota Jazz Club.

After nearly three hours of continuous performances, one's notes become more spare, spacey, and cryptic. About Sybarite5, I wrote "Fabulous!" and "Are they Argentinian?" While their fabulously performed closer by Astor Piazzolla probably put the question in my mind, bios for the three women and two men (two violins, viola, cello, bass), based in New York City, mention nothing about South America. They do include copious details about the commissioning of 20 new works and the paths that led to performances at the Aspen Music Festival, Lincoln Center, the Museum of Sex, and on American Public Media's Performance Today program. The group wants to be the first string quintet to perform in all 50 states, and has launched an online Kickstarter campaign to help them do it.

Those looking for classical music with a twist can look to Toronto, home of the accomplished accordionist Alexander Sevastian. The native of Minsk, Belarus, performs impeccably the works of Bach, Mozart, Scarlatti, Mendelssohn, Schubert, and more. In addition to his solo work he tours the U.S. and Canada with Quartetto Gelato. Hear a sample of his work here.

The voice of singer and songwriter Justin Hines has been compared to those of Jim Croce and James Taylor. He grew up singing in church, and realized his calling while a teenager 15 years ago when he won a vocal competition to sing the Canadian and American national anthems at a Toronto Raptors basketball game. He since has toured good chunks of the world, and performed at the Beijing and Vancouver Olympic Games. Accompanied by a guitarist and cellist, Hines performs from a wheel chair owing to a joint condition called Larsen's syndrome. He offers a gentle apology for the lack of choreography – "I'm working on it."

Independent Showcases 

More than 100 independent showcase performances were presented at seven venues in downtown Minneapolis on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday nights, the majority of them at the Hilton Hotel and its ballrooms. I have never heard of anyone attending all of them; probably, it is not physically possible to do so. Time slots for independent performances can vary, usually lasting from 10 to 30 minutes. There are venues and audiences to bless all of the individuals and entities presented independently; it is a matter of mixing and matching the elements of interest, need, scale, and cost.

Ananya Dance Theatre • "Tushaanal" • V. Paul Virtucio
Following the conference's opening reception on Wednesday evening, the Ananya Dance Theatre, based in Minneapolis, opened a five-day run of "Tushaanal: Fires of Dry Grass" at the Southern Theater in the Seven Corners District. The 70-minute original work examined the conflicting dynamics that produce the beauty of and desire for gold along with the violence and adverse impacts on people that accompany its mining, production, and distribution. The performance by 11 women of color represents work at the nexus of artistic excellence and social justice. Ananya Chatterjea, artistic director, choreographer, and dancer, also serves as professor and Director of Dance in the Department of Theater Arts and Dance at the University of Minnesota. Her choreographic work, which she envisions as a "call to action," draws on the Indian dance form of Odissi, the martial art of Chhau, and yoga. Earlier this year, Chatterjea received a Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship in choreography.

Hilton Hotel, 10th Street and Marquette Avenue
Later on Friday evening, I ventured among the second floor ballrooms of the Hilton Hotel, discovering there a mesmerizing world of magic and musical mayhem. 

Mallory Lewis and Lamb Chop grew up as sisters, introduced to each other at an early age by their mother, Shari Lewis. When Shari's death in 1998 brought an end to her work with Lamb Chop, Mally stepped up to keep the puppet magic happening far and wide. Lamb Chop, whose wardrobe has expanded beyond the simple sock of her early days on television, has worn the years well and lost none of her innate charm and insecurity. Although the extended family members Charlie Horse and Wing Ding have not been seen for many years, Hush Puppy made a brief return to Minneapolis this evening from his home in Function Junction, Arkansas. 

Five dudes from Presidio Brass, San Diego
Just down the hallway, the five guys from Presidio Brass in San Diego held court with their "Sounds of the Cinema" program, opening with the fanfare from "2001: A Space Odyssey," then moving on to excerpts from "Star Wars," "Wayne's World," "West Side Story," and "Peter Gun." For some reason, my notes reflect that at least one of the guys "should show some skin" during "I Feel Pretty." At any rate, I left feeling pretty sure that these two trumpets, horn, trombone, and tuba are a force to be reckoned with in American brass chamber music.

It was Joshua Kane's publicity that initially drew me to the Hilton with its promise of a psychic show that would allow me to discover my inner superhero and decide if Kane can really read minds. There was no hiding from this guy, who insisted that all the lights be turned up to full, and I somewhat regretted sitting in the front row. I left feeling a respectful admiration for an engaging performer whose shtick is based on old Victorian parlour games. You have to like a performer who says upfront that he doesn't care if you book him so long as you enjoy him in the moment.

The Second City Touring Company from Chicago looks and feels a lot like the Brave New Workshop in Minneapolis. The troupe has kept 'em laughing since 1959 with social and political satire presented via sketch comedy, improvisation, and music. It did my heart good to see young people with a current knowledge of the world and a facile ability to comment about it with wit and a razer sharp edge. 

Last, but not least (because I stayed for a second-and-last, closing-down-the-Hilton-performance), MOJO and The Bayou Gypsies nearly removed my molars with the energetic vibrations of their Zydeco and Cajun music. Theirs is music you should dance to, and dance we did. Four guys and one gal – multiracial and intergenerational – retained cool control over an inexorable rise in frenzy with their vocals, accordion, rubboard, fiddle, drums, and bass guitar. On Saturday morning, I greeted Mr. Mojo at his booth in the exhibit hall with the question, "Where have you people been all my life? Have you had a good conference?" To which he replied, while offering me a praline, "When I hear greetings like that it's always a good conference!"

"David danced before the Lord." –2 Samuel 6:14

The Cowles Center for Dance • 5th and Hennepin, Minneapolis
Before the music of the spheres, humans experience in their bodies the rhythmic pulse of their hearts, laying the foundation for worship through dance. Dancers and choreographers, at work in the temples of their studios and stages, strive to touch on aspects of the sacred and the divine. When they make the connections, nothing else matters. 

In our times, only a few cities or states have been called to erect temples – performing arts centers, if you will – designed and dedicated to celebrate the divine through dance. Such a calling was realized in Minneapolis, Sept. 8-12, with the opening weekend activities at the Cowles Center for Dance and the Performing Arts. The activities included Thursday and Friday evening dance morsels for Midwest Arts visitors, and Sunday open house samplings for the community.

I attended 19 of the 27 dance showcases presented on the mainstage of the 500-seat Goodale Theater and the presentation studio of the James Sewell Ballet. You can read about most of them on the calendar pages of the Cowles Center's website

You can read the observations of my friend, Linda Shapiro, about the Center's grand opening on the mnartists.org website.

Sunday, September 11, 2011


Minneapolis, Minnesota

Ten years ago today, the Minneapolis Star Tribune published an extra edition in the afternoon. The last time that had happened was Nov. 22, 1963. Disruptions in the space-time continuum of our national psyche provided the grist for the journalistic mill on those occasions.

However, for all the details reported 10 years ago and in the days since, it is not the journalism that echoes and haunts my memory. Rather, it is the real words and re-created imagery from a made-for-television-movie:

Honor Elizabeth Wainio

A young woman, Elizabeth Wainio, 27, a passenger on United Flight 93, phoned her stepmother, Esther Heymann, in Baltimore.  

"Mom, we're being hijacked. I just called to say good bye," she said.

"Elizabeth, we don't know how this is going to turn out. I've got my arms around you," Heymann said.

Wainio told her stepmother she could feel them. 

"Let's look out at that beautiful blue sky. Let's be here in the moment," Heymann told her. "Let's do some deep breathing together." 

They passed a few quiet moments.

"It hurts me that it's going to be so much harder for you all than it is for me," Wainio said.
Honor Wainio was still on the line with her stepmother. 

"I need to go," she said. "They're getting ready to break into the cockpit. I love you. Goodbye." 

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Did Minnesota State Fair favor anti-gay folks?

Minneapolis, Minnesota

According to Minnesota Public Radio, both proponents and opponents of the 2012 marriage ballot amendment to the Minnesota Constitution – that would define marriage as between one man and one woman – missed the deadline to have booths at the Minnesota State Fair.

However, proponents for the amendment have a booth presence at the fair. I saw it on Underwood Avenue, when attending on Friday, Sept. 2.

According to MPR, the amendment's opponents were told in July that the Fair was sold out of concession space. A Fair spokesperson, Lara Hughes, told MPR that the proponents had submitted a registration request on Aug. 31 and that the Fair had found a location for them.

The Minnesota State Fair has some real explaining to do.

Is MPR's reporting on this matter complete and accurate?

Was concession space sold-out in July and, if so, was that fact communicated to both the proponents and opponents?

If both sides were told that space was not available, how did it happen that the proponents' late request was accomodated?

Republican legislators fervently invited a 15+month brawl when they voted to place this question before Minnesota's voters in November 2012. It appears that they will not be disappointed. 

Sunday, August 28, 2011

The empty promise of "freedom" and "simplicity"

I here offer my deepest apologies and sincerest regrets to my fellow citizens for failing to properly shoulder the burden of maintaining our faltering economy. I offer no excuses other than my unwillingness to manage the paperwork.

This is about those endless offers from credit card companies that fill our mailboxes and keep the post office from going completely broke. In the 12 weeks since June 5, I received 24  of those suckers from outfits that promised in large print to guarantee freedom and simplicity in my life, plus another six mailings containing "convenience checks" for my existing credit card accounts.

I just spent 90 minutes tearing all of them into tiny pieces that fill a brown paper grocery sack.

However, with Michele and her fellow travelers running their mouths so much lately about all of our disappearing freedoms, I feel guilty, and really should do something with these offers besides shred them. In addition to gaining copious amounts of new credit that adds consumption capacity to the economy, I could transfer outstanding balances on existing cards for a low-percentage fee, pay no interest on transferred balances for generous lengths of time, and thereafter pay APRs ranging from 3.99% to 18.99% (the average for my 12 weeks of offers was 11.99%).

From four of the offers, I could obtain 30,000 free bonus miles each, 120,000 in total, to use on American Airlines, a company that serves Minnesota minimally and with which I have done only minor amounts of business over the years. Still, that's four times around the world.

I am pretty adept with a spreadsheet, and with a bit of concentration I could probably play this shell game for years without paying out any real money on either my principal or interest.

Hell, if I was half as smart as my ego would have it, I would take these offers, cash them out to the max, quit working, and use the remaining years on my passport and my life to remain free and simple outside the country. Makes sense. If Rick Perry and Texas can secede from the Union, why can't individuals separate themselves from the hard work of living and embrace the slick and easy promises of freedom and simplicity?

These proferred possibilities spell "freedom" with a capital "F" and "simplicity" with a capital "S." For sure!

Then, as these importunings are so rich for folks like me, one can only imagine how important they must be for the credit card companies themselves and for the compensation of their shareholders and corporate leaders.

By now, all of us should know – from the mouths of Boehner, Cantor, Mitchell, and our GOP brethren in Minnesota, Wisconsin, and elsewhere – what that kind of financial good fortune means to our economy, for these people, the shareholders and corporate leaders, are our job creators. They are the very lifeblood and hope for our nation's financial salvation. They count on people like me, and you, to choose freedom.

Thus, I take seriously my shirking of responsibility for insuring freedom and simplicity in this particular realm for myself and my fellows. Simply put, however, I choose to believe that life is too short for the paperwork, and even shorter for the rhetoric of the empty promises.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Feeding famine: "This could be their home for a long time"

Minneapolis, Minnesota

Famine has afflicted the world at various times throughout recorded history, including the successive generations of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the Biblical book of Genesis. In modern day Somalia, however, there is no Joseph, ordained by God to save his people. Instead, the global community is called to act as the children of Israel and Ishmael.

Displaced Somalis pour daily into the Dadaab refugee camp – the world's largest – across the border in neighboring Kenya, fleeing two years of drought – East Africa's worst in 60 years – rising food prices, and armed conflict in food producing areas. Most immediately, they flee famine with its attendant malnutrition, starvation, epidemics, and mortality. 

Eighty percent of those arriving at Dadaab are women and children. Their men are fighting, dead, tending herds, or giving their families all of their money to travel, on foot, across the border. In camps built to house 90,000 people, more than 400,000 now live in a space one third the size of Minneapolis. 

Their hope lies primarily in the Somali Diaspora.   

Minneapolis-St. Paul has become the de facto capital of Somalia in North America. This community of immigrants has taken up the frontline fight against famine in Somalia and other countries in the Horn of Africa. The American Refugee Committee, and its Neighbors for Nations–Uniting Communities to Help Somalia, are working with Minnesota's Somali community to raise money, buy food, and send it to the Horn of Africa.

The sons of Ishmael cannot do it by themselves. They need all of the children of Israel. Every financial gift of any size is generous and will save lives and provide relief in Somalia within days. There is no time to debate who, or what, is right or wrong.

From Minneapolis City Councilmember Gary Schiff:
Every single day I meet people in Minneapolis who are preparing for a trip to the Dadaab refugee camp or to Somalia to help with famine relief efforts. Abdi Phenomenal Farah is a student from Augsburg College who is leaving this week. Abdi is a spoken word artist, and he will have much more to say when he returns. Please watch this link of his amazing art and meet one of the upcoming leaders of our city.

Tour de force by MPR's 2011/12 artist-in-residence

Minneapolis, Minnesota

Audience members for the inaugural event by
photo of Chad Hoopes credit Donna Wheatley
Chad Hoopes (photo by Donna Wheatley)
Minnesota Public Radio's artist-in-residence for 2011/12 shared a gemstone experience in the tour de force performance by violinist Chad Hoopes, 17.

From the outset of his two-hour program in Antonello Hall at the MacPhail Center for Music, August 25, Hoopes relinquished control of neither his virtuosity nor his concentrated passion, mesmerizing listeners with accomplished readings of a range of composers, including Brahms, Bach, Prokofiev, Tchaikovsky, Ravel, and Schubert.

Hoopes opened the 45-minute first half, accompanied by pianist Charles Kemper, with Brahm's Violin Sonata No. 2, Op. 100, in the only work not committed fully to memory. He followed with a snappy, solo rendition of J.S. Bach's Violin Sonata No. 1, BWV 1001.

Post-intermission, Hoopes and Kemper breezed beautifully through Prokofiev's Five Melodies for Violin and Piano, Op. 35bis, and Tchaikovsky's Three Pieces for Violin and Piano, Op. 42.

It was in Ravel's Tzigane, however, that Hoopes tore through both music and the stage with a controlled rip, at times waving his bow like a baseball bat and visibly relishing his mastery of the nuanced complexities. He said later that he had played Tzigane publicly for the first time, in Germany, only a few weeks earlier.

The program reached its exquisite end with the encore performance of Franz Schubert's Ave Maria. Hoopes heard the work for the first time only in 2010, but his inspired proficiency with the 1713 Antonio Stradivari Cooper; Hakkert; ex Ceci violin – coupled with Antonello's acoustics – gave the double-stops and overtones the effect of a full string section.

A first teacher, Nancy Lokken, might expect no less from a native Minnesotan who was but three years old when Santa Claus delivered his first violin. In a post-performance q-and-a, Lokken observed that Hoopes' facility of playing from the heart "was there at the beginning."

During his MPR residency, Hoopes will present concerts, educational sessions, public appearances, and interviews. In March 2012, he will visit elementary, middle, and high schools throughout Minnesota to talk about the importance of music and the arts and of doing one's best in any endeavor.

Hoopes is represented by IMG Artists.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Calm before September's storm

Minneapolis, Minnesota

Opening weekend: Sept. 9-11
Following 13 years of preparation, The Cowles Center for Dance and the Performing Arts is primping for its close-up when the doors are thrown open for its opening weekend festivities, Sept. 9-11. A sold-out, black-tie gala on Friday, Sept. 9, will feature a dinner, performances, and reception. Tickets are available for Saturday's grand opening performances and reception for $150; phone 612.206.3621. The Cowles will provide 200 complimentary tickets for Saturday's festivities to local dancers and choreographers.

Performers on Friday and Saturday will include Savion Glover, Clifton Brown (Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater), James Sewell Ballet, Zenon Dance Company, Larry Yazzie (Native Pride Dancers), Minnesota Dance Theatre, Wendy Whelan (New York City Ballet), Jonah Bokaer (formerly with Merce Cunningham Dance Company), and The Singers (Minnesota choral artists).

A free, community open house from 11am to 5pm on Sunday, Sept. 11, will feature workshops and performances.

The Cowles Center is a three-building complex located on Hennepin Avenue, between 5th & 6th streets, in downtown Minneapolis: the refurbished, 505-seat Goodale Theater built in 1910; the eight-story Hennepin Center for the Arts built as a Masonic Temple in 1888; and the new Great Hall and Education Center.

As part of its full, 2011/12 season of dance and music presentations, The Cowles will host The Minnesota SAGE Awards for Dance, Tuesday, Oct. 11. The awards will recognize achievement in six categories during the past year. Tickets for the SAGE Awards are $15.

Prices for events in 2011/12 will range from $10 to $36. All tickets will carry an additional $4 facilities fee – $2 for the theater's maintenance and $2 for the ticketing system. A discount of 20% is available for purchases of four or more tickets. The Cowles box office number is 612.206.3600.

Minneapolis: Sept. 7-10
Leading up to the Cowles opening, Minneapolis will host the 24th Midwest Arts Conference, Sept. 7-10, under the aegis of Arts Midwest and the Mid-America Arts Alliance. The lineup of activities will include curated and independent showcase performances that will give Minnesota artists multiple opportunities to shine. More than 4,000 artists, managers, agents, and presenting venues will be represented during the four days. On-site and single-day registrations are available. 

Southern Theater: Sept. 8-11
Ananya Dance Theatre will present the world premiere of Tushaanal: Fires of Dry Grass, September 8-11 at the Southern Theater in Minneapolis. "Tushaanal" – Bengali for "fires of dry grass" – revolves around stories of gold, an element mined and harnessed as capital, and a symbol of desire, beauty, and artistry. The full-length work is the second in a four-part, anti-violence series exploring how women in global communities of color experience and resist violence. Tickets are $22 ($16 students). Thu, 7:30pm; Fri, 8pm; Sat, 2pm, 8pm; Sun, 7pm. Artistic Director Ananya Chatterjea received a Guggenheim Fellowship for Choreography earlier this year from the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation.

State Theatre, Sept. 19, 7:30pm
The 2011 Ivey Awards, established to celebrate Twin Cities professional theater, will be held at the Historic State Theatre in Minneapolis, Monday, Sept. 19, at 7:30pm. Actors Seth and Charles Numrich will host the evening of entertainment that will feature an opening number honoring theater costumers; singing by Ryan McCartan, a graduate of Minnetonka High School and recipient of the U.S. Presidential Scholar in the Arts award; the 7-Shot Symphony by Live Action Set; and excerpts from The Rocky Horror Show (Cardinal Theatricals), The Buddy Holly Story (History Theatre), Little Shop of Horrors (Mu Performing Arts), and Ragtime (Park Square Theatre). Tickets for the performances and pre/post parties are available at IveyAwards.com

Kathleen Spehar has been appointed Director of The O’Shaughnessy at St. Catherine University in St. Paul. Spehar has served previously as managing director of the History Theatre and of Mu Performing Arts, both in St. Paul. She holds a bachelor’s degree in music from Western Michigan University and a master’s of liberal studies from the University of Minnesota.

Sept. 7-23 in Maple Grove
The Platinum Theatre Company will present its inaugural play, "Flamingo Court," in nine performances, Sept. 7-23. The production features three short plays, two funny and one serious, set in condos in a senior living complex in South Florida. Themes address the uncertainties of dating past age 55, loneliness, coping with aging parents, and new interests. Platinum, founded in 2010, aspires to be "Minnesota's Senior Theater." All performances will take place at Pilgrims United Church of Christ, 8801 Rice Lake Road, Maple Grove MN, on Sept. 7, 8, 13, 14, 15, 20, and 22 at 1pm, and Sept. 9 and 23 at 7pm. Tickets: $18; call 612.819.5246.

Birchbark Books, Minneapolis, Sept. 15
Judith Brin Ingber, a Twin Cities-based choreographer, dancer, and dance scholar, has edited Seeing Israeli and Jewish Dance. The collection of essays and photographs, published by Wayne State University Press, explores the evolution of Jewish dance through two thousand years of  Diaspora. Brin Ingber will discuss the book, show slides, and sign at Birchbark Books, 2115 East 21st Street, Minneapolis, Thursday, Sept. 15, 7-9pm. A pre-supper will happen beginning at 6pm at the Kenwood Cafe, adjacent to the bookstore. "A dance to Jewish Life," Mordecai Specktor's profile of Brin Ingber and the book's creation, written for the American Jewish World, is available here

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Midwest Arts Conference invades Minneapolis, Sept. 7-10

Minneapolis, Minnesota

The 24th Midwest Arts Conference will descend on downtown Minneapolis from Wednesday, Sept. 7, through Saturday, Sept. 10. Attendees will include 1,000 performing artists, their managers, and agents (representing 4,000 artists and ensembles), along with performing arts presenters, venues, and arts administrators from throughout the United States and beyond.

The Conference serves as convenor each September for the 15 states represented by Arts Midwest and the Mid-America Arts Alliance – an area stretching from the Dakotas to Michigan, Nebraska to Ohio, and Minnesota to Texas.

In addition to networking and professional development sessions, the Midwest Arts Conference provides a forum for live performances and a Marketplace exhibit hall. The 2011 gathering, centered at the Hilton Hotel, 1001 Marquette Avenue, is the first hosted by Minneapolis since 1992; St. Paul hosted the 2001 and 2009 conferences.

The Délégation du Québec from Chicago will sponsor Wednesday's opening reception at the Nicollet Island Pavilion, 6-8pm. IMG Artists will sponsor Saturday's closing party at the Dakota Jazz Club, 5-6:30pm.

This year's Marketplace exhibit hall will be staged at the Minneapolis Convention Center. Many Minnesota performing ensembles have paid for a booth presence: Ananya Dance Theatre, 701A; ARENA Dances, 121A; James Sewell Ballet, 901 and 929; Katha Dance Theatre, 128; Minneapolis Guitar Quartet, 839; Minnesota Sinfonia, 800B; Ragamala Dance, 901; Rose Ensemble, 106; Shapiro and Smith Dance, 921; Sossy Mechanics, 109; Stuart Pimsler Dance and Theater, 339A; Theater of Fools, 906; and TU Dance, 739.

The Conference will present 18 artists and ensembles in curated, showcase performances at the Pantages Theatre, 710 Hennepin Avenue, on Thursday and Friday evenings, including Minnesota's Stuart Pimsler Dance and Theater at 7:35pm on Thursday.

Numerous showcase performances will be produced independently throughout downtown on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday evenings, with a majority staged in the Hilton Hotel's ballrooms. All of these performances are free, and nearly all of them will welcome respectful audience members from the local community if space allows. All performances begin promptly at stated start times.

Independent showcases will be presented by Minnesota artists on this schedule:
Wednesday, Sept. 7 – 8:30pm: Ananya Dance Theater, full-length presentation of "Tushaanal: Fires of Dry Grass." ADT shuttle will pick up conferees at Nicollet Island Pavilion at 8pm with return to Hilton Hotel at 10pm. Venue: Southern Theater, 1420 Washington Avenue South.

Thursday-Friday, Sept. 8-9 – 9:30pm: Shapiro and Smith Dance; 9:45pm: Ragamala Dance; 10pm: Stuart Pimsler Dance and Theater; 10:15pm: James Sewell Ballet; 10:30pm: Zenon Dance Company; 10:45pm: TU Dance; 11pm: Sossy Mechanics. Venue: James Sewell Ballet's Studio 2A, Hennepin Center for the Arts, 528 Hennepin Avenue. 

Thursday-Friday, Sept. 8-9 – 9:30pm, 10:15pm, 11pm: ARENA Dances. Venue: Studio 5B, Hennepin Center for the Arts, 528 Hennepin Avenue.

Friday, Sept. 9 – 9:30pm: Rose Ensemble. Venue: Wesley United Methodist Church, 101 East Grant Street.

All events are subject to change.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Bringing it on home in Wisconsin, Tue., Aug. 9

Minneapolis, Minnesota

Six Wisconsin senate districts will hold recall elections on Tuesday, Aug. 9. Residents who care about the future of that state and the nation must turn out to vote.

The recalls have been prompted by the legislative agenda rammed through the GOP-controlled Assembly and Senate by GOP Gov. Scott Walker. The extremist and un-American agenda seeks to alter the state's political dynamic under the guise of financial stewardship. Republicans control the senate by a margin of 19-14; Democrats must pick up a net of three seats in the recalls in order to gain majority (17-16) control of that chamber and restore checks and balance to Wisconsin's political process.

The electoral stakes are high for both sides, as reported by Politico and articulated by Judson Phillips, CEO of Tea Party Nation. Speaking at an Aug. 6 rally in Thiensville, Wisconsin – sponsored by the Tea Party Express and promoted by the Republican Party of Milwaukee County – Phillips said "I detest and despise everything the left stands for. How anybody can endorse an ideology that has killed a billion people in the last century is beyond me." A day earlier, according to Politico, Phillips "likened protestors of Gov. Scott Walker to Nazi storm troopers."

Also according to Politico, another speaker at Saturday's rally, Vince Schmuki, said "Tuesday is going to be the beginning of our takeover. And we're going to follow it up the following week, and then we're going to polish off the enemy in November 2012."

In response to voter petitions in each district, recall elections were scheduled for nine incumbents – six Republicans and three Democrats – including the six Republicans up for vote on Aug. 9:

District 2 - incumbent Robert Cowles, R-Green Bay, challenged by Nancy Nusbaum, D-De Pere;
District 8 - incumbent Alberta Darling, R-River Hills, challenged by Rep. Sandy Pasch, D-Whitefish Bay;
District 10 - incumbent Sheila Harsdorf, R-River Falls, challenged by Shelly Moore, D-River Falls;
District 14 - incumbent Luther Olsen, R-Ripon, challenged by Rep. Fred Clark, D-Baraboo;
District 18 - incumbent Randy Hopper, R-Fond du Lac, challenged by Jessica King, D-Oshkosh;
District 32 - incumbent Dan Kapanke, R-LaCrosse, challenged by Rep. Jennifer Shilling, D-LaCrosse.

Two Democratic senators will face recall votes on Aug. 16: District 12 incumbent Jim Holperin, D-Conover, faces challenger Kim Simac, R-Eagle River, and District 22 incumbent Robert Wirch, D-Pleasant Prairie, faces challenger Jonathan Steitz, R-Pleasant Prairie.

District 30 incumbent Dave Hansen, D-Green Bay, defeated his Republican challenger, Dave VanderLeest, with 66% of the vote on July 19.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel has tagged the recall efforts as "ugly, unnecessary, and expensive," and has declined to endorse any candidates on the principle that recalls should not be used to dispute policy differences.

Most other Wisconsin newspapers are playing it straight-down-the-middle, opting to encourage readers to vote without making endorsements. One exception: The Capital Times in Madison endorsed Democratic challenger Clark over Republican incumbent Olsen in District 14.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Walking Lake Calhoun

Minneapolis, Minnesota

Early evening, 83º, clear skies, perfectly pleasant.… I cannot recall circling this lake during the past 18 months. In many ways, it feels as though those months never happened, but they certainly did. Many relationships changed in those months, some not for the better; but for the first time in my life, I am OK with that.… The lake's water level appears to be higher than it was two and three years ago.… A handful of large trees on the northwest side have toppled, roots and all, probably from Thursday's storm. Two more on the east side, including one that still blocks the bicycle path at the 32d Street Beach.

Gabriel "Gabe" Archangelus, July 4, 2009
Assimilation continues: a number of Somali women retain the long head scarves but show a fair amount of leg.… Not a duck or goose in sight anywhere – nor bald eagle(s).… The weed-cutter that rotates among the city's lakes is stationed in Calhoun right now. With acres of weeds breaking the surface, that machine has a full schedule next week.… A west-side bench provided a restful spot for a woman to surf the web on her phone.… Volleyball games in progress. Frisbees flying. Even a football sailing around.… Halfway round I recalled plans to attend vespers this evening, before realizing it is summer in Minnesota and vespers are on vacation.… I will never understand the logic of wearing saggy pants. If the object is to show off one's butt, just wear your underwear. It's summer in Minnesota and one can get away with that.… Thomas Beach full of swimmers and picnicking, extended families, tables decked in red, white, and blue.… The perfect setting reminded of summer tailgating parties at the old Met Stadium before Minnesota Kicks soccer games.

I do not agree with John Winters, the Minneapolis retiree who wants to change the name of Lake Calhoun. John C. Calhoun was a loud and effective proponent of slavery from South Carolina who served in the United States Senate and as vice president to two U.S. presidents. Calhoun also was Secretary of War when Fort Snelling was established at the confluence of the Mississippi and Minnesota rivers in 1823. First, I never think about Calhoun's politics and career when enjoying our lake. Second, we allowed South Carolina back into the Union following the Civil War (although, one might wonder at times why we did so) and, with malice toward none, as Lincoln suggested, we might choose to set some things aside. Third, if we start down this path of renaming things for reasons of political correctness, where to stop? Fourth, slavery and the war that ended it are painful parts of our history – but they are past. We still have unfinished business with racial relations in the present day. Let's tackle that. For starters, one need look no further than the rainbow of people enjoying together Lake Calhoun's environs on a perfect summer evening.

Unlike in my Stevens Square neighborhood this weekend, not a single firecracker sounds on the entire lakefront.… The sunset is an orange magenta.… Very few canines out tonight. Gabriel ("Gabe") Archangelus used to make these rounds with me. In 2004, we walked the lake together 3-4 mornings a week. However, he was six then and 13 now. His spirit remains willing but his flesh is weak.… Five eastern white pine trees were planted along the eastern shore this year. At six feet tall, each cost $217.50, according to their tags. Give them seven years and they will be soaring.… There seem to be more sailboats at anchor than in the past. In addition to the north side, moorings orient more to the east side this year.… The dispensary at the pavilion has long lines. However, the pricing of food and beverages at Calhoun – and at Lake Harriet two weeks ago – does not appear to my eye as being very family friendly. On the other hand, I would not purchase 10 pieces of shrimp for $12.95 anyway.… The canoe racks near North Beach show four vacancies. One wonders how many canoes are stolen each season with the snip of a chain in the dark of night.

Happy Independence Day.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Taking leave of Seven Corners

Minneapolis, Minnesota

For 18 months, I have been present for at least part of most days in the Seven Corners district of Minneapolis. With the conclusion of my employment by the Southern Theater, a district mainstay since 1910, my future visits will be infrequent.

As an amateur historian with an exaggerated sentimentality, I have allowed the historical Seven Corners to occupy a personal mindshare out of proportion to its present reduced circumstances. The ghosts who inhabit the area insist on being noticed and remembered. 

Seven Corners, 1952.
For sure, the anomalous distinctions that gave rise to its name have been bulldozed and paved-over. To a casual eye, Seven Corners remains nothing more than an innocuous intersection that serves as the illogical meeting point of Washington Avenue, 15th Avenue South, 19th Avenue South, and Cedar Avenue. 

For decades, Seven Corners served as a crossroads for the Swedish and other immigrants who flooded Minneapolis in the late 19th century and the early 20th. It provided single room housing for single men, who worked as laborers in construction and the nearby flour mills, and for single women who worked as domestics. While no original churches remain, many structures that housed saloons in the neighborhood still stand, and many still dispense a variety of spirits to ease the pursuit of social intercourse or of psychological survival.

During Seven Corners' history, it became one of two Minneapolis residential neighborhoods to which Jewish and African-American citizens were restricted through the use of land covenants, and in which the poorest of all citizens could find affordable housing. The other neighborhood was that of the near North Side, along 6th Avenue North, in which my paternal grandparents lived.

When the Southern Theater opened in 1910 at 1420 Washington Avenue South, it had been built primarily by the Swedish immigrant community, and named after its sister venue, the Southern Theater located in Stockholm, Sweden. Next door, at 1430, stood Gluek's saloon. Then, as now, Gluek's incorporated the six-pointed Star of David into its logo. Gluek's remains a mainstay of Minneapolis' Warehouse District on 6th Street, just north of Hennepin Avenue.

Today, the Town Hall Brewery occupies the former Gluek's building. The building is owned by Dudley Riggs, founding impresario of the long-running Brave New Workshop comedy venue in Minneapolis.

If not friends, I have become "business acquaintances" with most of Town Hall's personnel. I will dearly miss Matt, Andy, Mithab, Chris, Steve, Rachel, Marty, and others, along with their customers. The establishment insures that Seven Corners remains a crossroads for those who enjoy original, local brews.

One block away, construction is under way to build a new light rail line between downtown Minneapolis and downtown St. Paul. The train station, a block away, will carry the name "West Bank Station." Matt and I have pursued a campaign – so far fruitless – to convince the powers-that-be to name the station "Seven Corners/West Bank" for the simple reason that "before West Bank, Seven Corners was."

The bureaucrats of the Metropolitan Council, with their soulless, fancy-dancy notions of modern usage and lack of appreciation for historical perspective, have had none of it so far. Nonetheless, we planted the seed, and our hope springs eternal.

I will miss Seven Corners, its buildings, its people, its ghosts, and their stories. They will live in my heart as long as it beats.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Returning to the village

Minneapolis, Minnesota

In the summer of 1954, our family was the second to move into one of the newly-constructed houses on our block on Second Street N.E. in the panhandle of Fridley, Minnesota. The purchase price was $9,900.

I was two years old, my sister, Deb, a few months.

Located in Anoka County, Fridley is a first-tier suburb on the northeast border of Minneapolis. It was incorporated as a village in 1949 and became a city in 1957. In the "Fridley tornados" of May 6, 1965, a quarter of the city's homes were damaged or destroyed.

In short order in 1954 and 1955, other young families took up residence in the remaining abodes, most of them with one or two youngsters in-hand. No one of a certain age required clairvoyance to know what transpired in the bedrooms of young parents throughout the neighborhood. In no time at all, additional younglings arrived to provide playmates for each age cohort.

With no grass at the beginning, nor trees to climb, and no fenced yards, there was no end of open-range play areas. Also, there was "The Field," an expanse of sand and weeds across Main Street that stretched a mile north and south along Main, and a quarter mile west from the street to the massive railroad switching yard.

We learned to ride bicycles on the dirt alleys – which caused fewer injuries than did falls on paved roads, few as those were. (It was a big deal when curbs, gutters, and asphalt eventually replaced tar and crushed rock for street surfaces.)

As grass and a few trees were planted, fences were installed that restricted our range of free movement. Play then came to center on a few front and back yards, including ours. We knew everyone, and everyone knew us.

The Hansens, next door, were Methodists. The Willmans, across the alley, were the token Catholics. Next to them, the Sepples attended First Lutheran Church, which was somehow more conservative than our church, St. Timothy's English Evangelical Lutheran, affiliated with the United Lutheran Church in America. Mainly – owing something to my parents' evangelism – if you were Lutheran in our neighborhood, you joined or attended St. Tim's.

My family were charter members of St. Tim's, organized on Palm Sunday, 1959. My brother, born in April that year, was named after the church. At its peak, 10 years later, the church counted a membership of 1,200, operating on 10 acres of land on the shores of Sullivan Lake.

In those days, most of our mothers did not work outside the home. Also in those days, no 24/7 news cycles convinced our parents that we needed to be kept under lock-and-key or chaperoned. We could roam all day and most of the evening, and got in trouble only if we failed to show up for supper.

Friendships formed, all of them meaningful and some of them lasting.

One of the lasting ties was that between my brother and David William Wicklund. Dave was born in November 1958 and lived across Second street.

Dave died of natural causes on June 2, last week.

Over the years, many of the Second Street parent neighbors have died – Don and Elaine Archer, Harold and Audrey Sepple, Arvid and Fern Hansen, Tom and Tess Thompson, Gene Wicklund – while others have moved away.

Yesterday afternoon, I picked up my mother at her home in Monticello and drove to Dave's visitation and memorial service at St. Tim's. We were way early, so we spent time driving around the old 'hood.

The landscape had an alien feel, what with trees 50+ years old. Our old house has a basketball hoop on the garage. (We never had a garage.) Many of the houses sport bay windows, brickwork, decks, and other affectations.

It was mid-afternoon and no one was extant in yards or on the street.

We arrived at St. Tim's at the stroke of 3pm. Dave had been confirmed in his Christian faith there on May 5, 1974. The photo of his confirmation class is displayed permanently in the lobby, as are those of all of us who passed through from 1959 to the present.

Dave's mother greeted us at the entry and welcomed a long and silent embrace. There are no words that can comfort a grieving mother. Dave was the second son she had lost to natural causes.

It was a blessing to see Harvey and Sylvia at the church, along with their children, Neil, Donna, and Debra. I babysat those children after their parents moved from South Dakota.

Daniel Lloyd held court at the organ and piano keyboards, as he has done since he was a teenager in the 1960s.

Dave's younger sister, Susan, recalled her brother as a man who viewed life as a glass half-full, one who cultivated an encyclopedic and rabid knowledge of the Minnesota Twins baseball team (and, to a lesser extent, of the Minnesota Vikings and the old North Stars).

Friend Randy, who met Dave at Columbia Heights High School in 1975, recalled an intelligent and loyal friend who lived each moment in color.

Randy's sister and Dave's love, Renae, described a man who provided the color to her life and knew how to work an entire room at every high school reunion.

We listened to readings from the Book of Revelation ("the old world has passed away"), Psalm 91 (expressing confidence in God), and the Gospel of John (Jesus taking leave "to prepare a place").

We sang "On Eagle's Wings" and "Amazing Grace."

We adjourned to the church basement for fellowship and a light meal that, in Lutheran fashion, was anything but light.

As she has for more than 50 years, Eva, 88, continued her ministry and constant presence at the food table, assisting in the provision of nourishment to the nuanced ties that bind.

In the fullness of time, all boundaries of time and space pass away and collapse upon themselves. This was expressed best in the handwritten message that accompanied the bouquet placed in the worship chancel by Dave's mother:

"I will love you forever."

Friday, June 3, 2011

Southern Theater moves forward with sustainable plan

Minneapolis, Minnesota

The Southern Theater will move into the 2011/12 performance season with a renewed board of directors and reaffirmation of its mission, a sustainable business plan that reduces costs and increases access to performers, and a full-time staff of one.

The Southern’s 15-member board has taken urgent steps to stabilize the organization amidst its immediate financial crisis and adopted a “Plan for a Sustainable Southern” that projects 40-weeks of performance activity, a first-year budget of $165,600, and a revenue ratio of 2-to-1 earned-to-contributed income.

Since 2008, the theater had presented 28 to 47 annual engagements, with an annual budget of approximately $1.1 million.

“The plan will preserve the historic, 101-year-old theater as a unique venue for artists and the community while laying the groundwork for a viable business model,” said Anne Baker, chair of the board of directors.

“For at least seven years, the theater has shouldered too much of the financial risk of presenting and producing performances of dance, music, theater, and film, and has not effectively made the case to enough individuals, foundations, and corporations that donations, sponsorships, and underwriting will produce sufficient added value to merit full support,” said Baker.

“This plan allows us to stabilize and to focus on the chronic issue of negative cash flows caused by organizational, strategic, managerial, and operational problems,” she added.

Key elements of the plan may be summarized as (a) reducing annual expenses to a minimum in order to make the space accessible to more artists at a cost that is as low as possible, (b) “keeping it simple” by establishing a reliable platform of earned income on which to strategically build future programs, (c) adding fully underwritten programming when feasible, and (d) staffing by a knowledgeable professional who is accountable to an engaged and energized board.

The board of directors has named Damon Runnals to the new position of general manager. Runnals, 32, has served as the theater’s production and operations manager since September 2008. He received a BA degree in Theater Arts from Hartwick College in Oneonta, New York.

Runnals will assume his duties on June 10, when the position of executive director, held by Gary Peterson since January 2010, will be eliminated. Peterson has been elected to the Southern’s board of directors. Over the past six weeks, the theater has eliminated eight other positions due to adverse financial circumstances.

“On behalf of our board,” Baker added, “I want to offer our sincere gratitude to all of the Southern staff members whose commitment to the performing arts attracted critical acclaim to the theater and inspired us all.”

On April 21, the Southern announced that it needed to raise $400,000 by April 30 in order to provide one year’s working capital, pay vendors, and present a full season of curated work in 2011/12. That plan would have preserved the employed expertise of several people and a range of marketing, front of house, and back of house services for artists and audiences.

On May 3, the theater reported that it had raised $50,000 from its annual gala, held April 30, and an additional $45,000 from online gifts by nearly 300 donors.

Members of the board returned to the drawing board and considered various, alternative business scenarios before settling on the new “Plan for a Sustainable Southern” and its provision for a single employee.

The primary goals of the plan are to keep the theater open and available to artists and audiences, and to protect the basic presentation model supported by rental agreements. However, the Southern and the community will have the capacity to supplement the model further through underwriting opportunities for mission-aligned program activity. The Southern also will have office space available for rent to nonprofit organizations.

Since April 9, in response to its crisis of operational and financial distress, the Southern’s board of directors has taken ownership of past mistakes with an eagerness to restore institutional integrity; examined the financial behavior that led to the crisis and established the policies and procedures necessary to match the theater’s cash position and down-sized requirements; set in motion a process of forensic financial review by an outside party; and renewed efforts to enhance the composition of its membership.

With the Southern’s immediate crisis now under control, the board will re-double its efforts to turn its attention to pay creditors, raise operating and underwriting capital, and find additional ways to take advantage of the many offers of assistance that the theater has received from artists and others.

“As the arts ecosystem and climate continue to change, this plan gives us hope and vision for what the Southern can yet become for artists and audiences, and that it is worthy of support,” said Baker. “We hope to schedule one or more benefit concerts. We also will move forward with our online auction during August and, of course, we will continue to accept donations online” [http://givemn.razoo.com/story/The-Southern-Theater].

As a 501(c)(3) organization, all financial gifts to the Southern are tax-deductible to the full extent allowed by law. Southern Theater, 1420 Washington Ave., S., Minneapolis, MN 55454. www.southerntheater.org

Southern Theater mission

The Southern Theater, a 210-seat theater in Minneapolis, cultivates artistic exploration by providing a vibrant home for performance, fostering a multiplicity of voices, and catalyzing connections among artists and audiences.