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'Jackson' musical softened, protestors unappeased

Posted by: Kristin Tillotson Updated: June 10, 2014 - 4:29 PM

Philip C. Matthews stars as Andrew Jackson in the Minneapolis Musical Theatre production of "Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson." Photo by Laurie Etchen.

On Friday night, "Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson," now playing at the New Century Theatre in downtown Minneapolis, was picketed by about two dozen protesters objecting to the portrayal of native Americans in the show. Some of the most galvanizing lines from the Broadway hit about the populist president who also initiated the Indian Removal Act have been excised or softened in this version produced by Minneapolis Musical Theatre and presented by Hennepin Theatre Trust. But protest leader Rhiana Yazzie, a Navajo playwright who wrote a public letter criticizing the show, still finds it problematic.

"The story leaves it up to the individaul to decide whether Jackson was a hero or not," she said. "When the bricks of a play are built on misunderstanding, you can take some out but the structure stays flawed. The changes felt very last-minute, like a response to the letter I sent."

But MMT artistic director Steven Meerdink said script modifications – which are generally frowned upon in theater circles --  were made starting on the first day of rehearsal.

“I felt the show was slanted too much in favor of Andrew Jackson as a hero and I wanted the playing field to be more even,” he said. “The way characters were supposed to be costumed was quite stereotypical in my mind and I didn’t want to go down that path.”

In addition to scratching a flying arrow and traditional feathered headdresses, this version has Jackson’s parents die of cholera, not from an Indian attack (which also did not happen in real life), and cuts out a few culturally disparaging references.

Also, when a group of four women recite the old chant “Ten Little Indians” to underscore the decimation of Indian populations going on at the time, Meerdink said he chose not to dress them like rock chicks wearing sunglasses, as called for in the script. “I didn’t want to go there,” he said. “I felt we needed to take a step back to show this negative thing that happened.”

Yazzie attended Sunday night’s performance and came away feeling that the altered work was still inappropriate to stage at all.

“The play’s success hinges on all of that racism toward native Americans, which audiences in New York were hooting and howling at,” she said. “ When you experiment by taking out as much as you can, it still doesn’t work. It just becomes a big downer.”

Meerdink said he “respectfully disagreed” with Yazzie’s assessment. “This is a controversial piece of theater that’s not going to make everyone happy no matter what you do with it,” he said.

A post-show panel discussion is being planned following the June 19 performance of "Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson."  If you've seen it, what did you think?  Click "comment" above the photo to tell us.

Composers win McKnight fellowships

Posted by: Claude Peck Updated: May 23, 2014 - 11:32 AM
A California composer was awarded a McKnight grant to work on a song cycle inspired by the annual John Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon in northern Minnesota.

Four Minnesota composers will get $25,000 each as winners of this year's McKnight Composition Fellowships. The fellowships are administered by St. Paul-based American Composers Forum. They were selected from 63 applicants. The judges for this year's selections were composers Amir ElSaffar (New York, N.Y.), Stacy Garrop (Chicago, Ill.) and Daniel Trueman (Princeton, N.J.) The 2014 winners are:

Alex Freeman, who teaches at Carleton College in Northfield, Minn. and has written and recorded chamber, choral and piano works.

Jocelyn Hagen, of Minneapolis, who was a longtime composer-in-residence for The Singers, and is now composer-in-residence at North Dakota State University in Fargo.

Michelle Kinney, of Golden Valley, a cellist and composer who is Musician in Residence at the University of Minnesota's Dance Program and a member of the quartet Jelloslave.

George Maurer, of Minneapolis, a composer and jazz pianist whose work has been performed by orchestras, ballet troupes, jazz ensembles and musical-theater producers.

Another McKnight program awards $15,000 each to two artists from outside Minnesota to spend two months or more in the state working on projects. Robin Eschner of Forestville, Calif., will produce a song cycle related to the the John Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon in northern Minnesota, and Pamela Z of San Francisco will compose a work focusing on Minnesota "farm-to-table" movement as it goes from farms to farmer's markets and restaurants.

The McKnight Foundation, founded in 1953, contributes about $1.7 million each year to individual artists via fellowships and other programs. American Composers Forum, founded in 1973 as Minnesota Composers Forum, has a worldwide membership of 1,700 artists, organizations and community members.

Matisse show hours extended at Minneapolis Institute of Arts

Posted by: Mary Abbe Updated: May 5, 2014 - 6:41 PM
Henri Matisse, "Striped Robe" collection Baltimore Museum of Art

Everybody loves Henri Matisse, the French artist whose life-sized cardboard likeness points the way to his namesake exhibition, "Matisse: Masterworks from the Baltimore Museum of Art" in hallways and lobbies throughout the Minneapolis Institute of Arts. The show has proved to be so popular that the museum has extended the exhibition's hours until 9 p.m. on Friday, May 9; Saturday, May 10, and Friday, May 16.

The show ends Sunday, May 18 which means there are only 12 more days to see it. So, for the record, it will be open as follows: 10 a.m. - 5 p.m. Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Saturday, May 17; 11 a.m. - 5 p.m. Sundays; 10 a.m.-9 p.m. Thursdays, Fridays and on Saturday, May 10.

Tickets are $18 weekdays, $20 weekends and can be reserved at www.artsmia.org or by calling 612-870-3000 or toll-free at 888-642-2787. Tickets may be sold out at peak times and on weekends.

Textile Center in Minneapolis hires interim director

Posted by: Mary Abbe Updated: April 30, 2014 - 2:01 PM

Textile Center image by Star Tribune staff photographer Bruce Bisping

The Textile Center of Minnesota has hired management consultant Nancy Lee as interim director, a post she is expected to retain for about six months while the organization seeks a permanent leader.

"She's a perfect fit for what we need right now," said Donna C. Peterson, president of the Textile Center's 12 member board. Peterson is a former associate vice president of government and community relations at  the University of Minnesota.

As a consultant, Lee specializes in non-profit management and the development of strategic business plans. She is a former CFO of Minnesota Goodwill and Easter Seals, and a former vice president of the Minnesota Children's Museum.

Lee began work at the Textile Center April 28th. Over the next few months she is expected to oversee the Center's ongoing operations and to assist the board in defining the organizational qualities and expertise needed to run the organization. The difficulty is striking a balance between management skills and knowledge of an artform that encompasses everything from historic rugs to contemporary art clothes.

"We're taking our time to really understand what are strengths and capacitiy are, and to define the profile of our members and potential funders" Peterson said.

The Textile Center is an umbrella organization whose members are professsional and amateur arists engaged in textile crafts ranging from weaving to lace making, batik, knitting, crochetting, custom tailoring, hand dying and doll making.

The non profit organization at 3000 University Av S. E., near the University of Minnesota's Minneapolis campus, has a staff of 14 full and part-time employees and an annual budget of about $800,000. It runs an exhibition gallery and a small shop selling handmade clothing, accessories and textile-related crafts. Its professional services include a library and facilities for dying and weaving textiles, classrooms and meeting spaces for school kids and adults.

Walker Art Center exhibit closes indefinitely to finish building repair

Posted by: Mary Abbe Updated: April 29, 2014 - 3:40 PM

Rebricked Barnes wing of Walker Art Center; Star Tribune photo by Joel Koyama

Walker Art Center's "Midnight Party" exhibit features paintings, sculptures, films and installations drawn primarily  from the museum's permanent collection. The title derives from a 1938 film by American surrealist Joseph Cornell in which "mystery trumps logic." In a similar vein, the often enchanting exhibit is a marvelous array of strange objects (a stairway to nowhere; mid-century modern abstractions, a bare white room reminiscent of an interrogation chamber).

The show opened in 2011, was reconfigured with new art in 2013, and is officially scheduled to close August 3. However, it has been closed since late March and the Walker has not set a reopening date.

The show is installed in Galleries 4, 5, 6 of the museum's 1971 brick-clad building designed by Edward Larrabee Barnes. The deteriorating brick skin of that building was removed and replaced last year but some finishing touches are still underway.

"Although the scaffolding was removed in December, the final states of the [rebricking] project are still underway including some interior work. . . . As with any project of this scope, the Walker occasionally will close galleries or public areas in order to make a safe work environment for the builders and pleasant experience for our patrons," emailed  Walker spokesperson Meredith Kessler.


 

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