Item World: Hubert Humphrey on Broadway, Barkhad Abdi's film with Colin Firth, more

  • Updated: May 22, 2014 - 2:07 PM

Robert Petkoff as Sen. Hubert Humphrey, right, being bullied by Bryan Cranston’s LBJ in “All the Way.”


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Pleased as punch to be on Broadway

Hubert Humphrey, the late vice president and senator from Minnesota, debuted this season on Broadway as a character in “All the Way.” The drama revolves around President Lyndon B. Johnson (played by Bryan Cranston) in the year leading up to the signing of the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964. For history buffs, it’s like a parlor game of Name That Important Person as a cast of key figures cross the stage: Martin Luther King Jr., George Wallace, J. Edgar Hoover, Everett Dirksen, Stokely Carmichael — even Muriel Humphrey — among them. Old newsreel footage only heightens the immersion into history. Though the play abounds with familiar accents (Southern voices and King’s, in particular), one important one is missing, that of the Midwestern orator, Humphrey himself (played by Robert Petkoff), who unfortunately speaks onstage with the clipped voice of an East Coast actor in this otherwise flawless production. Then again, the lack of attention to HHH’s voice may be one more indignation for the Happy Warrior who shepherded the civil rights legislation through Congress and went on to lose the 1968 presidential election to Richard Nixon, in part because of those ties to LBJ and the Vietnam War. In the words of Johnson, “It’s not personal. It’s just politics.”



More terrorism for Abdi

Barkhad Abdi’s film career is building momentum. The “Captain Phillips” Oscar nominee has added the military drones thriller “Eye in the Sky,” joining a cast led by Colin Firth. The fast-rising Minneapolis actor is already booked to portray famous South African marathon runner Willie Mtolo in an upcoming bio, and to test his comedic chops in Judd Apatow’s “Trainwreck.” “Eye in the Sky,” helmed by Oscar-winning South African director Gavin Hood (“Tsotsi”), returns Abdi to a drama about African terrorism. Firth, who is producing the film, seems likely to play the man with his finger on the launch button, caught in a crisis of conscience. No word on Abdi’s role as yet.

Colin Covert

NOLA at the Cowles

During Artspace’s “Breaking Ground” celebration Monday night at the Cowles Center, New Orleans trumpeter James Andrews got the joint jumping, backed by local musicians. Andrews called back Andy and Rick Ausland of Buckets and Tap Shoes, who opened the show, to join the band for “When the Saints Go Marching In.” The 400-plus crowd then got up to dance, and Andrews led them in a second-line parade around the house and out to the after-party in the lobby. Said photographer/ social activist Tabatha Mudra, one of the evening’s award winners and a resident of Artspace’s Sailboat Bend Artist Lofts in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., “Artspace, you have created walls without boundaries — to house the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the round pegs and the square holes; the ones who see things differently.”

Kristin Tillotson

Moonshine on film

Documentary-filmmakers Norah Shapiro and Kelly Nathe have won a Legacy-funded grant from the Minnesota Film & TV Board for a film on the colorful moonshine-making history of Nathe’s home turf, Stearns County. The doc will trace the Prohibition-era activities of Depression-devastated farmers who turned to hustling illegal booze as well as look at the current revival of spirits made from the “Minnesota 13” heirloom corn being used by the Eleven Wells distillery located in the old Hamm’s Brewery in St. Paul. “We just got to taste some fresh-off-the-still hooch there, and it was yummy,” said Nathe. The grant, which will amount to about $40,000 in reimbursements intended to help cover pre-production costs, is very rare and very welcome because “it’s nearly impossible to raise money for a feature documentary before you’ve begun filming,” she told I.W. “It’s also a tremendous stamp of approval that hopefully helps attract other funders.” Filmmaker Michael McIntee also won a grant from Minnesota Film & TV for his work-in-progress on the fight for marriage equality in Minnesota.

Kristin Tillotson

What’s in the water?

Even though it was pouring rain on Monday, jazz great Cassandra Wilson did not sing “I Can’t Stand the Rain” during her first set at the Dakota Jazz Club. But she not only talked about the weather, she yakked about all the water in Minnesota. “You have a river,” she said, presumably referring to the Mississippi. “And 99,000 lakes.” When an audience member corrected her, to 10,000, Wilson responded: “I better go purify myself” — the slyest Prince reference that I.W. has heard from an out-of-town visitor in a long, long time.

Jon Bream

Editor exits City Pages

Kevin Hoffman, City Pages’ editor-in-chief since 2007, has left the alt-weekly. Hoffman, who previously served as managing editor at the Cleveland Scene, said departing was his idea and that he gave his bosses at Voice Media Group his notice four weeks ago. Last Friday was his last day. Hoffman oversaw a news organization that lost a significant amount of its staff over the years. At the same time, he led Pages’ transition into the digital world and oversaw coverage that won national awards. But Hoffman said it’s now time for a change. “It starts to feel like Groundhog Day after a while,” he told I.W. Hoffman said he plans to stay in the Twin Cities, where his wife is a lawyer. He said he’s primarily interviewing with companies that are at least somewhat journalism-related.

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