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Posts about Theaters

Bedlam debuts Lowertown space with Morgan Thorson work

Posted by: Claude Peck Updated: March 24, 2014 - 12:38 PM
From left: Genevieve Muench,  Morgan Thorson, Max Wirsing and Jessica Cressey. Photo by Farrington Starnes.

Bedlam Theatre held its first performance Saturday night at its new Lowertown space in St. Paul and what good fortune to kick things off with the premiere of Morgan Thorson’s “YOU.” Thorson and her crew showed off some of the many possibilities for the big, airy refurbished room with a view of the Union Depot and waiting-to-be-used light rail tracks right outside the window. After the curtain call Bedlam co-founder Maren Ward thanked everyone for attending the “soft opening” (bigger festivities are planned for later this spring, when the space will open its accompanying bar and restaurant).

“YOU” explores the dynamics of a dance ensemble as well as the different personalities that emerge over the course of the creative process. This particular work delves into the positive aspects of interplay and how individuality sparks a collective goal. Joined by the terrific cast of Jessica Cressey, Genevieve Muench, Max Wirsing and special guest Emma Barber, Thorson (a two-time Sage Award-winner) has once again illustrated how a simple concept like collaboration can lead to a much deeper exploration of relationships and movement.

The audience is seated at each end of the space, so some of the experience depends on your location. Thorson plays with this dynamic, running the dancers around the space (and even some of the back rooms) but also experimenting with perspective, constantly shifting the front of the work so that it no longer seems necessary. The movement is pedestrian but when set to everything from Michael Jackson, Bee Gees and experimental harpist Zeena Parkins it acquires an extra level of confidence and showmanship.

Thorson injects several eclectic references to the work. There is a tiny twerk here and there, coupled with a skittering shuffle. All of the dancers don red velvet costumes with gold brocade, as if they ripped down the curtains from a Summit Avenue mansion (Cressey still wears the rod across her shoulders). They dance with determination and a high level of physical propulsion while looking like outcasts from a very peculiar marching band. It’s an excellent visual.

Midway through “YOU” the dancers chant “We trust that things are coming together,” reminding us that they are good dancers, we are “good lookers” and they look good in their costumes, too (created by Merrill Stringer and Thorson). As in many moments throughout the evening, Thorson uses self-reference to shift the perspective again. She and the other dancers work with such focus and commitment, that even the most lighthearted moments unfold with the same sort of care. This is a fine example of how five people can truly become one – or even one another.

Who:  Morgan Thorson

What: “YOU”

When: 8 p.m. Mon. & Thu.-Sat. Ends Mar. 29

Where: Bedlam Lowertown, 213 E. 4th St., St. Paul.

Tickets: $12-$18 (Mar. 24 pay-as-able). 612-341-1038 or www.bedlamtheatre.org

Dance: Ashwini Ramaswamy's solo turn

Posted by: Claude Peck Updated: January 28, 2014 - 9:42 AM
Ashwini Ramaswamy / Photo by Ed Bock

POSTED BY CAROLINE PALMER, SPECIAL TO THE STAR TRIBUNE

When Myron Johnson, artistic director of Ballet of the Dolls, took the Ritz Theater stage on Saturday night to introduce Ashwini Ramaswamy, he reminded the audience that a dancer’s first solo show is a “rite of passage.” It’s an opportunity, he said, “To do your own thing.” And Ashwini, a member of Ragamala Dance, did just that in “Swarupa (Revelation).”

A live Indian orchestra accompanied Ashwini, who was dressed in a costume of brilliant red and gold, as she performed the south Indian dance form known as bharatanatyam. Vocalist Lalit Subramanian, Rajna Swaminathan (percussion), Anjna Swaminathan (violin) and Ashwini’s mother, Ranee Ramaswamy (co-artistic director of Ragamala with Ashwini’s sister Aparna Ramaswamy), chanted the spoken syllables that add another layer to the complex rhythms. Dance and music have a strong bond in bharatanatyam, and this symbiotic relationship was on display throughout the evening.

Ashwini performs with all the grace and beauty commonly associated with bharatanatyam, but she also brings a level of athleticism, ferocity and even a touch of mischief into her dancing. In “Pushpanjali, Manikya Veena, and Alarippu,” choreographed by bharatanatyam luminary Alarmél Valli (guru to all the Ramaswamys), Ashwini showed her maturity with the difficult choreography but as her eyes darted side to side playfully she also demonstrated the extraordinary physical control required of her craft.

Ashwini also shared her lyrical side in “Bho Shambho” and “Alaipayuthe” (both choreographed by Valli). During the former she covered the stage with her joyful steps in celebration of the Hindu deity Shiva while the latter was marked with moments of stillness.

The evening concluded with Ashwini’s own creation, “Thillana,” which showed her light-hearted side in full effect. Dancing with confidence, joy and, always, control, Ashwini delivered a complex and exciting work that perfectly reflects her outgoing personality. It is always special to see an artist coming into her own. The standing ovation Ashwini received was a fitting salute to all of her hard work.

Dancing into the dark

Posted by: Claude Peck Updated: January 20, 2014 - 3:21 PM

Sally Bowles (Kira Lace Hawkins) and dancers in "Cabaret." The Theater Latte Da production features choreography by Michael Matthew Ferrell. Photo by Michal Daniel.

POST BY CAROLINE PALMER, SPECIAL TO THE STAR TRIBUNE

Choreographing for “Cabaret” must feel exhilarating and daunting. After all, whoever tackles this job is following in the footsteps of first Ronald Field and then Ron Marshall on Broadway, not to mention the legendary Bob Fosse on film. But Ivey award winner Michael Matthew Ferrell proves he is up to the task in the new production of the famed John Kander and Fred Ebb musical now playing at the Pantages Theatre. 

“Cabaret” captures a specific moment of time – the blinkered days leading into Hitler’s cruel domination of Germany and Europe. Berlin has an atmosphere of thrilling sleaziness but something far more ominous is brewing, and there’s nothing fun about it. The story evolves from carelessness into darkness, as if the entire city itself transitions from a playful dream into a years-long nightmare. Ferrell picks up on this pivotal transition in his choreography for the Peter Rothstein-directed staging, produced by Theatre Latte Da and Hennepin Theatre Trust.

Because “Cabaret” takes place in a underground nightclub, the dancing is sexy-as-all-get-out, propelled by pelvic thrusts, swaying hips and nearly bare bottoms. It would be easy to rely on a stock bump-and-grind approach for the early musical numbers but Ferrell’s movement choices consciously hint at the danger to come.

Tyler Michaels as the Emcee is a sneering, audience-teasing, glittery dynamo and often joins in with the bawdy chorus who stomp through their paces with a frankly impatient sensuality. They aren’t in jackboots (yet) but there’s clearly a force afoot to transform these hedonists into either enemies or allies of the state (“Mein Herr” with its militaristic forcefulness, led by the gutsy Kira Lace Hawkins as Sally Bowles is a prime example).

Ferrell completes these connections with his movement choices in the second act. A high-kicking chorus line devolves into goose-stepping and Nazi salutes. Partygoers waltz prettily before joining in with Fraulein Kost’s (Aeysha Kinnunen) rendition of the chilling hymn “Tomorrow Belongs to Me.” Michaels and a monkey-suited dancer happily hoof toward a horrific climax: “If you could see her through my eyes … she wouldn’t look Jewish at all.” The Emcee can only make such a joke in a society primed to accept it so the combination of the upbeat tap dancing and the deadly statement is all the more rattling.

Ferrell, along with Rothstein, exposes the beating heart of “Cabaret.” It’s a story about transitory liberation, about abandoning troubles at the door, about being true to one’s self, others be damned. But of course we all ignore our surroundings at our own peril. We can only dance so long before the music stops playing.

“Cabaret” ends February 9. For further information visit www.hennepintheatretrust.org 

Hilary Hahn and Hauschka, live at Aria

Posted by: Claude Peck Updated: January 7, 2014 - 4:06 PM

Though it doesn't look like the chilly North Atlantic of Iceland, where American violinist Hilary Hahn and German pianist Hauschka recorded their 2012 CD "Silfra," this music video (by Hayley Morris) from one of the album's tracks has a captivating, stop-action charm that matches the music's forward-spinning energy.

The two musicians discussed the CD for two years, but when it came time to record it with producer Valgeir Sigurðsson in Reykjavik, they did it without scores, and mostly in single takes. In all but one of the CD's tracks, Hauschka plays a "prepared" piano, with various objects and dampers placed on the strings.

Hahn and Hauschka (born Volker Bertelmann) will perform "Silfra" at a show Sunday evening at Aria in Minneapolis, the opening date of a new concert series presented by the Schubert Club. Called Mix, the series (being done with Liquid Music) presents two more shows this winter/spring, including pianist Anthony de Mare (April 13) and alt-chamber group Ethel (June 3). De Mare will reinterpret songs by Stephen Sondheim for solo piano. Ethel will present works by contemporary composers, including Mary Ellen Childs, as well as video projections.

The Hahn/Hauschka show has just a few standing-room tickets remaining, which will be sold at the door on Sunday. Tickets for the two later shows are still available.

These plays coming to Jungle Theater next year

Posted by: Claude Peck Updated: November 14, 2013 - 1:13 PM

The Jungle Theater brings back "The Mystery of Irma Vep," with Steven Epp (at left) and Bradley Greenwald, as part of its 2014 season. Star Tribune photo by Tom Sweeney.

Wendy Lehr, currently wonderful in "Driving Miss Daisy" at the Jungle, will be back a year from now when the Minneaplis theater presents her in "On Golden Pond." Bain Boehlke directs and costars in that show about a couple celebrating 48 years of marriage at a lake cabin. (Nov. 7-Dec. 21, 2014).

Also in the 2014 Jungle season:

"Shakespeare's Will," by Vern Thiessen. Boehlke directs Cathy Fuller in the one-woman play about Shakespeare's wife, Anne Hathaway. (Feb. 7)

"Detroit," the play by Lisa D'Amour, won an Obie and was a Pulitzer finalist. Joel Sass directs. (April 11-May 25)

"The Heiress," a Tony-winning play by Ruth Goetz & Augustus Goetz based on Henry James' novel "Washington Square," will be directed by Boehlke. (June 20-Aug. 10)

"The Mystery of Irma Vep," by Charles Ludlam. The high-speed Victorian comedic melodrama won good reviews in 2010, and returns, again directed by Sass, with Steven Epp and Bradley Greenwald. (Nov. 7-Dec. 21)

Season tickets are now on sale. 612-822-7063, www.jungletheater.com.

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