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'American Sniper' widow to share her perspective at Beth El Synagogue

Posted by: Colin Covert Updated: January 20, 2015 - 2:55 PM
Bradley Cooper received an Academy Award nomination for his role as Navy SEAL Chris Kyle in "American Sniper." Keith Bernstein/AP

Bradley Cooper received an Academy Award nomination for his role as Navy SEAL Chris Kyle in "American Sniper." Keith Bernstein/AP

Both "American Sniper," coming off a near-record breaking $90.2 million opening for the three-day weekend, and "Selma," which earned $26.4 million since opening wide three weeks earlier, are history-based films that deal in myths.

"Selma" triggered criticism for portraying President Lyndon Johnson as a slow supporter of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s campaign for black voter rights. Similarly, "American Sniper" has made substantial alterations from its source material, the best-selling memoir by the late Navy SEAL sniper Chris Kyle. The film shows Kyle fighting a former Olympic marksman in a sharpshooters' battle to the death, though the two never encountered each other in real life. It also created a fictional Iraqi terrorist who murders children with electric drills. Film star, screenwriter and director Seth Rogen on Twitter said it reminded him of a fictional Nazi propaganda film.

Kyle's wife, Taya Kyle, who was interviewed extensively by screenwriter Jason Hall, will share her insights about her husband’s experiences in battle and on the home front, and about the film version of his life story, in an event Feb. 8 at Beth El Synagogue in St. Louis Park.

Jim DeFelice, co-author of "American Sniper," will appear as well at the 7 p.m. event, a part of the synagogue's Heroes Among Us series. Admission is $18 for members of the military, $36 for the general public, $100 for reserved seating and $360 for a VIP meeting with the special guests.

A portion of the proceeds will help underwrite the synagogue’s Minnesota National Guard unit support initiative, benefiting the 34th Combat Aviation Brigade, the 2nd Battalion, 147th Assault Helicopter, and the 204th Area Support Medical Company.

Beth El Synagogue is located at 5225 Barry St. W., St. Louis Park.

Dianne Hill-Hines dies from cancer at age 67

Posted by: Graydon Royce Updated: January 14, 2015 - 2:21 PM

Dianne Hill-Hines as "Mother Goose" at Children's Theatre Company in 1995 (with Robbie Droddy and Cassie Fox). Photo by Rob Levine.

Dianne Hill-Hines “never thought of herself as God’s gift to the stage,” said Gary Gisselman, who directed Hill in many theatrical productions. “But she was. She could sing and act, she had great warmth and you could put her in any role and she’d be terrific.”

Hill-Hines, 67, was a longtime presence in the Twin Cities theater scene under the name Dianne Benjamin-Hill. She died Monday of cancer at N.C. Little Hospice in Edina.

“She was everything I wanted to be,” said Molly Sue McDonald, a veteran actor and singer who counted Hill as a close friend. “There was something about Dianne. She had that gift you can’t describe that made you want to watch her.”

Hill-Hines was born in Aberdeen, S.D., with an early love for theater. After receiving an MFA in Theatre at Wayne State University in Detroit, she moved with her then-husband to Los Angeles. After a divorce, she relocated to the Twin Cities.

She and actor Jim Cada dated for years while they were both working with Actor’s Theatre of St. Paul.

“She had a lot of trust from actors and directors,” Cada said. “She took it very seriously — a real pleasure to work with backstage and on stage.”

Actor Sally Wingert, who notably worked with Hill-Hines in “Blue Window” at Actor’s Theatre, considered her a mentor.

“I idolized her,” Wingert said. “She was really gorgeous and such a good actor — just a beautiful, wicked sense of comic timing but also very heartfelt.”

 She was one of the top performers at Chanhassen from 1977-85. Gisselman remembered her appearances in “Hello Dolly” (There has never been a better Irene Molloy,” he said), “Beyond Therapy” and “Blithe Spirit.” She also filled in for Susan Goeppinger in “I Do, I Do” for eight months and “Quilters,” which ran for 12 months in 1984-85.

Hill-Hines also acted at Old Log, Mixed Blood and other theaters locally.

For several years in the late 80s and 1990s, Hill-Hines stepped away from the stage to raise her son, Matt.

“She was definitely a hands-on mother,” said her husband, Paul Hines of Minnetonka. “We used to tell her that eventually she couldn’t accompany Matt wherever he went, especially to school. But she got a bus pass and got on the bus with him for the first day. True story.”

She returned to the stage at Children’s Theatre Company, where she developed a strong kinship with director/choreographer Matthew Howe. Hill-Hines played the Wicked Witch in two productions of “The Wizard of Oz” and also performed in “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” and “Pippi Longstocking” in 2001 under Howe’s direction.

“Dianne brought so much to the rehearsal room and the stage,” Howe wrote in an email from Vancouver, B.C., where he now teaches. “She had talent, a generous heart, and a deep love and appreciation for those she worked with.”

Paul Hines said that in recent years, Dianne worked in the Hopkins school district with special-needs children.  She also spent recent summers working for friends who owned Southern Colorado Repertory Theatre Company. She and Twin Cities actor Clyde Lund performed “On Golden Pond” there in 2013.

In addition to Paul and Matt Hines, Hill-Hines is survived by her mother, Doris Evenson, stepchildren Brad Hines and Lesli Launer Hines and four siblings. Her life will be celebrated at 11 a.m. Friday, at All Saints Lutheran Church, 15915 Excelsior Blvd., Mtka., with visitation one hour before the service.

British calligrapher Donald Jackson to talk in St. Paul on February 12

Posted by: Mary Abbe Updated: January 12, 2015 - 6:04 PM

Donald Jackson photo provided by Concordia University

Officially known as scribe and calligrapher to the Crown Office of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, Donald Jackson is more familiar in Minnesota as the founder and creative force behind The Saint John's Bible, the first handwritten Bible produced in the past 500 years which was commissioned by and produced for St. John's University in Collegeville, MN.

Jackson will be in the Twin Cities for a presentation at Concordia University in Saint Paul from 7 p.m. - 8:45 p.m. February 12 at the Buetow Music Center Auditorium (Hamline and Marshall Av.). The event is free and seating in the 480 seat auditorium will be on a first-come first seated basis. Expect it to be packed early.

The University is hosting an exhibition of the seven-volume "Heritage Edition" of The Saint John's Bible through the month of February with two of the volumes on view  through July 2015. The Heritage Edition is a facsimile of the handwritten version that Jackson and an international team of calligraphers worked on for more than a decade. The free exhibition is on display in Concordia's Library Technology Center at 1282 Concordia Av., Saint Paul. Exhibit hours: 10 a.m.- 7 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays; 10 a.m. -3 p.m. Fridays; 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturdays; 1 p.m. -7 p.m. Sundays.
 

Jerome Foundation announces "Emerging Artists" Fellowships

Posted by: Mary Abbe Updated: December 9, 2014 - 12:14 PM

Miranda Brandon's "Impact (Warbler)" photo was made in 2013 and has been shown at Soo Visual Arts Center.

The Minneapolis College of Art and Design has picked five Midwestern artists as winners of the 2014/15 Jerome Foundation Fellowships for Emerging Artists. Each will receive $12,000 and have various professional opportunities during the fellowship year.

Chosen from 252 applicants, the winners are Miranda Brandon, a bird-enthusiast who photographs and rehabilitates injured birds; Regan Golden-McNerney, who uses altered photos and drawings to document ecological change in the landscape; Jess Hirsch, a sculptor and installation artist concerned about health and healing; Sieng Lee, an installation designer drawing on his  refugee experiences as a first-generation Hmong American; and Jason Ramey, a sculptor intrigued by roadside signage and backyard furniture.

Judges were Candida Alvarez, an artist and professor at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago; Shannon Fitzgerald, curator and executive director of the Rochester Art Center, and David Norr, a New York City-based writer/curator.

During the fellowship term, the emergees will meet with visiting critics, participate in a group show opening in fall of 2015 at the MCAD Gallery, have an essay written about their work, and participate in a panel discussion.

Peter Vaughan, theater critic, dies at 76

Posted by: Graydon Royce Updated: December 8, 2014 - 2:37 PM

Peter Vaughan, a longtime theater critic and reporter for the Minneapolis Star and the merged Star Tribune, has died at his French home in the Loire Valley. His 77th birthday would have been Friday.

Vaughan moved to France with his wife, Dana Wood, after retiring from the Star Tribune in 1997.  They lived in a country manse in Saint-Senoch, in central France, where Vaughan was able to indulge his tastes for good wine and food.

Born in London, Vaughan and his mother moved to St. Paul when he was a child. His father, Tom Vaughan, was an amateur theater enthusiast who became a critic himself after he retired from an academic career.

Peter Vaughan graduated from St. Paul Academy and received degrees from Yale and the London School of Economics. He started his career at the Minneapolis Star as a reporter, winning an award in 1974 for working on a team that investigated the value and reliability of auto repairs. It was as a theater critic, though, that he was remembered best.

“Guys like me and Lou [Bellamy] over at Penumbra, owe our careers to him,” said Jack Reuler, who founded Mixed Blood Theatre about the time Vaughan started to cover Twin Cities theater. “His own personal world view fit in with what our mission was.”

Bob Lundegaard worked with Vaughan at the newspapers and shared an enthusiasm for the arts and sports. The two played a regular tennis match each week for more than 10 years, Lundegaard recalled.

“He was very enthusiastic about theater – he’d review three or four shows a week,” Lundegaard said.

Vaughan could also be irascible when he felt the occasion necessitated it. Lundegaard remembered that the critic would often look at his reviews after they had been edited and restore his original word choices.

He also had dry sense of humor. At a breakfast with Rohan Preston, his successor at the Star Tribune, Vaughan was asked how he kept up with the plethora of theaters producing shows.

“Your job is to kill half of them off,” Vaughan said without missing a beat.

In a valedictory when he left the Star Tribune, Vaughan called theater “a unique forum to probe the political, social and personal forces that shape our lives.”

“Probably the most disappointing aspect of Twin Cities theater is how often good, even exceptional work, is ignored by audiences,” he wrote. “One might argue that we have too much theater and that the
exceptional often gets lost, but I fear that too often, people shun theater for the very reasons I am attracted to it.”

Vaughan is survived by his wife, her daughter and his two sons. There was no news about a service.
 

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