On her way to Sunday's matinee of her new musical, "Lempicka," Twin Cities playwright Carson Kreitzer sounded like she was having an out-of-body experience. "I'm a word person and all of this has left me wordless — it's indescribable," she said by phone from the Williamstown (Mass.) Theater Festival, where the show premiered. Directed by Rachel Chavkin with book and lyrics by Kreitzer and music by Matt Gould, it centers on free-spirited painter Tamara de Lempicka (1898-1980), a media magnet who in some ways prefigured Madonna. Whether the pop star — who collects Lempicka's portraits — will see the show is an open question. But the artist's great-granddaughter did attend, and that "was like having a rock star there," said Kreitzer. New York Times theater critic Ben Brantley called the show "exciting" and "a woke throwback," likening the lead character to Eva Perón (another Madonna connection) and calling actor Eden Espinosa a legitimate successor to Patti LuPone in "Evita" on Broadway. For Kreitzer, her seven years of work on the project have been an intense education. "When you're a playwright, you can bribe actors with some food and wine and you can get to hear your work," she said. "But a musical is something on a different order."ROHAN PRESTON
Coens go to Venice, then Netflix
It's a TV miniseries. It's a very long comedy film. It's complicated. It's Coenesque. You might consider Joel and Ethan Coen's characteristic mix of satire and jubilation a fine cocktail to be sipped, not a two-pint beer stein to be drained in a deep, lengthy gulp. But apparently the duo's newest production, "The Ballad of Buster Scruggs," will also be their biggest ever. Tim Blake Nelson plays the title character, with supporting roles for Zoe Kazan, Liam Neeson, Brendan Gleeson, James Franco and Tom Waits. Conceived as a six-part Netflix series with a half dozen freestanding stories about the American frontier, it has been retooled as a single, 132-minute feature film that will premiere at the Venice Film Festival in August, according to the trade journal Variety. A theatrical release, expected in early fall, would offer the Oscar-winning brothers another shot at competing in the Academy Awards. But Netflix subscribers can watch it before year's end in its original form.
New venue is an overachiever
When Westminster Presbyterian Church opened an expansion to its downtown Minneapolis campus in January, few could have guessed how quickly the 400-seat Westminster Hall would become a go-to venue for classical music. Vocal group Cantus performed there in March, with plans to return regularly next season. "The acoustics are nicely suited for a chamber group like ours," executive director Joseph Heitz said. "We also appreciate the size, which creates a sense of closeness between audience and singers." Chamber ensemble Accordo is switching to Westminster for the 2018-19 season. The venue has "a wonderful focused sound that is rich and resonant but not boomy," said Accordo violinist (and SPCO concertmaster) Steven Copes. Westminster senior pastor Tim Hart-Andersen is pleased by the hall's success. "We asked the architect, James Dayton, to design a space that would be acoustically superior and highly flexible," Hart-Andersen recalled. "It has more than exceeded our expectations." Next up is the Source Song Festival (Aug. 5-11), devoted to the classical art song.
MCAD looking for a new boss
After nearly a decade as president of the Minneapolis College of Art and Design, Jay Coogan will leave the Twin Cities next month to become president at the IYRS School of Technology and Trades in Newport, R.I. "One of the things I'm most proud of is improving MCAD's visibility," said Coogan, who grew the school's endowment, doubled scholarship and financial aid for students, added a new media facility, began an entrepreneurial program and added product design to the college's offerings. by phone. The new job came up "out of the blue" in May, he said. Coogan came to the Twin Cities after 25 years at Rhode Island School of Art and Design. Vice President of Academic Affairs Karen Wirth will serve as MCAD's interim president, with a new hire expected by June or July 2019.
Lizzo's 'need to know' basis
We've been hyping her here in Minnesota for five years, but we won't begrudge Rolling Stone for calling Lizzo a newcomer to watch. This week's issue touts the ex-Minneapolis rapper/singer/provocateur as one of "10 Artists You Need to Know," alongside the likes of U.K. punks Dream Wife, New Orleans ensemble Tank & the Bangas and newly amped-up Americana tunesmith Amanda Shires. Lizzo gets props for "fusing a love of pop, rap, rock and funk into a sound of her own." A Q&A on the magazine's website also finds her addressing her stint as a TV judge on "RuPaul's Drag Race" ("You learn so much just by watching the way RuPaul operates," she said), her body-image-reshaping photos and videos ("I feel like I'm on a mission") and her move to Los Angeles almost two years ago ("obligatory").
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