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Luminary playwright Tarell Alvin McCraney (right) flew into Minneapolis over the weekend to see “Marcus; or the Secret of Sweet,” the coming-of-age and coming-out play that is the final installment in his Brother/Sister trilogy.
It was his first trip to the Twin Cities, where the two other works in the trilogy — “In the Red and Brown Water” and “The Brothers Size” — were memorably staged by director Marion McClinton, who also helmed “Marcus.”
Produced by Pillsbury House Theatre and the Mount Curve Company at the Guthrie, “Marcus” drew a full house to the theater on Saturday.
Before the performance, McCraney, who often is compared to August Wilson, dined with director McClinton, assistant director E.G. Bailey and producers Faye Price and Noel Raymond of Pillsbury House, and Frances Wilkinson of Mount Curve.
McCraney said that he often is fully engaged, sometimes in call-and-response style, when he watches his shows.
"It's supposed to be fun," he said.
To wit, he laughed out loud during Saturday's evening performance of "Marcus," sometimes talking back (encouragingly) to the actors.
“That’s it,” he said during a musical number called “Sun Shower,” performed by Nathan Barlow as Marcus and Lauren Davis and Joy Dolo as his friends Osha and Shaunta.
After the performance, McCraney, a Miami native and McArthur “genius” fellowship winner, posed for pictures with the cast. It started with one, and then quickly mushroomed.
McCraney also bought cast-members drinks at Sea Change. He regaled the actors with stories from his life and career, and made clever comments that riffed on their stories.
And McCraney created an in-joke that actors have now begun re-creating. Sometimes, he said, whenever you're pondering something or not in the mood, you just have to sleep on it.
But don't sleep on "Marcus."
Bad news first: The much-anticipated Babes in Toyland reunion will not be launched at the Lady Parts Justice party here on Sept. 27, as the band members had previously discussed.
Now the good news: The lineup for LPJ's so-called V to Shining V rally at the Amsterdam Bar and Hall in St. Paul – part of a network of shows happening that night around the country -- is mighty fine even without the Babes. The Jayhawks' Gary Louris, Marc Perlman and Karen Grotberg, the Prairie Fire Lady Choir, Desdamona, Maria Isa, Lucy Michelle, Mayda and the Clash tribute band Rude Girl are all lined up to perform in support of reproductive rights and other issues facing women in upcoming elections. The event is free, but organizers are asking that you sign up and show your support.
Co-founded by Minnesota comic Lizz Winstead -- who will be home for next weekend’s event and serve as host -- the Lady Part Justice organization is throwing its so-called V to Shining V rallies (I don't think the V is for "Victory") in Los Angeles and many other cities that night, including another at the Contented Cow in Northfield.
Oh, and more good news: The Babes in Toyland reunion really is happening, just not at the Amsterdam on the 27th. Kat Bjelland, Lori Barbero and Maureen Herman have been rehearsing in Los Angeles of late, and Herman even posted a sample set list in one of several reunion-teasing Facebook postings of late.
Fans of one of Prince’s most classic jams, “Housequake,” might hear echoes of that 1987 party song in the latest track unveiled today ahead of his dueling Sept. 30 album releases.
The rather madcap tune is called “Funknroll” and was first played live by Minneapolis’ petite big-kahuna on "Arsenio” back in March. It will be one of the songs featured on “Art Official Age,” the record he’s issuing under his own name through Warner Bros. at the end of the month. The other disc, “Plectrumelectrum,” is a collaboration with his all-woman band 3rdEyeGirl.
“Funknroll” offers a sharp contrast to the slower, sultry, romantic tracks previously issued off "Art Official Age," including “Breakfast Can Wait” from last year and the more recent “Clouds” and “U Know."
Pre-orders of both albums are already available via iTunes and Amazon, where each record’s full track lists can be seen, and the songs issued so far can be downloaded. Most fans will probably be happy to note that “Fallinlove2nite,” his duet track with “New Girl” star and She & Him singer Zooey Deschanel, does not appear on either album.
The Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, off to a good start last weekend with something old (Beethoven) and something new (Nicola Campogrande), brings something rare in four concerts at the neighborhood locations this week.
It’s an unusual voice, belonging to John Holiday, last heard locally in “Messiah” with the SPCO in December. Holiday is a countertenor, a voice that you don’t hear every day. He will sing arias by Handel and Vivaldi, who both wrote in an era that was friendlier to the countertenor. Holiday, a young singer, is considered a fine interpreter of Baroque music.
The countertenor roams the vocal range usually reserved for altos and mezzo-sopranos. Composers found it a popular voice to write for in early music (back in the days when the even-rarer castrati was a phenomenon). The countertenor faded in popularity but Alfred Deller, a British singer, brought it back to prominence in the latter half of the 20th century with his dedication to Baroque and Renaissance music.
Holiday got his masters from the University of Cincinnati Conservatory for Music in 2012 and has rapidly become popular because he sings in such a rare register. Well, not just that he sings in that register. We sings beautifully in that register. He made his Carnegie Hall debut last year with Bernstein’s “Chichester Psalms,” joined the Met Opera roster and sang with the Atlanta Symphony.
Conductor Jonathan Cohen is on the podium this weekend for the SPCO in concerts at Stillwater, Eden Prairie, Summit Avenue and Arden Hills. The program will also include Bach’s Concerto in C Minor for Oboe and Violin with Kathryn Greenbank (oboe) and Sunmi Chang. In addition, Kyu-Young Kim and Elsa Nilsson are featured in Vivaldi’s Concerto in B-flat for Two Violins.
Saturday’s Festival Palomino at Canterbury Park is the first of what organizers hope to be many years for the Trampled by Turtles-led, day-long strummer fest. It also happens to be the first big concert held inside the Shakopee horse track in many years. The last big music events we remember there were the Clear Channel Radio festivals of the early-‘00s (KDWB, Cities 97, K102), which were usually good-time, cozy affairs despite Sheryl Crow always seeming to be at them.
As is recounted in a Q&A with the Trampled fellas in this week’s Vita.mn, the festival was more the idea of First Avenue, which has had good luck working with the band on their multi-genre Bayfront Park concerts in Duluth. First Ave also brought in frequent partner Rose Presents (We Fest, Warped Tour, Soundset) to help handle logistics of the big show. This was all good news to Trampled, which had long been interested in starting a fest but lost money in the mid-’00s partnering on the Log Jam Fest in Ely.
“It seemed perfect: We’d help curate the music, and [First Ave] could do all the hard work,” TBT singer Dave Simonett said. “Them and Rose Presents, they know this stuff. Now, I don’t have to Google how to rent port-o-potties in Shakopee myself.”
The lineup predictably wound up being heavy on rootsy, stringy, old-timey and/or twangy kind of bands such as Spirit Mountain Family Reunion and Hurray for the Riff Raff (one of this writer’s personal faves from this year’s SXSW). But it also includes Florida soul man Charles Bradley, Seattle folk-rockers the Head and the Heart and TBT’s longtime Low, playing to their first 10,000-plus-sized Twin Cities crowd since last year’s legendary/notorious Rock the Garden set.
“These are all bands we’ve played with before,” Simonett explained of the Palomino lineup. “It ranges from Charles Bradley, who we only played with once but loved, on up to Erik Koskinen and Low, who we’ve played with and been good friends with for a long time. It’s all familiar faces, which seemed like a fun way of doing it.”
This will be Trampled’s first big Twin Cities show in support of their seventh album, “Wild Animals, not counting their live Current broadcast from the Cedar Cultural Center the week of release. They left town right after that, playing everywhere from David Letterman's set to the Newport Folk Festival (where they were joined by Mavis Staples and Norah Jones) to a sold-out headlining gig at Red Rocks Amphitheater outside Denver last month. Read our chronicle of the band’s chaotic mid-July run here.
The Canterbury gates will open at 1 p.m., and the music will run from 2-10 p.m. – mostly nonstop, thanks to the use of two stages. Tickets ($34, or $87 for VIP) are reportedly selling well but probably won’t sell out (it’s a big place). All the FAQ info can be found on the fest's site. Here are the newly announced set times:
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