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Lincoln Center gig a first for Ragamala

Posted by: Claude Peck Updated: August 5, 2014 - 11:44 AM

Aparna Ramaswamy rehearsed "Song of the Jasmine" in Minneapolis in May, 2014. Star Tribune photo by Elizabeth Flores.

Ragamala Dance gives the New York premiere of its "Song of the Jasmine" at a Lincoln Center Out of Doors performance Thursday night.

The work, incorporaing Ragamala's south Indian dance vocabulary with music by jazz saxophonist and composer Rudresh Mahanthappa, was premiered in Minneapolis in May. It was a commission of Walker Art Center.

Showtime Thursday is 7:30 p.m., at the Damrosch Park bandshell. Admission is free. Ragmala Dance co-founders Ranee and Aparna Ramaswamy give a free talk at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Asia Society.

Ranee Ramaswamy, Rudresh Mahanthappa and Aparna Ramaswamy. Star Tribune photo by Elizabeth Flores.

These shows had sold-out performances at Fringe Festival

Posted by: Claude Peck Updated: August 4, 2014 - 2:19 PM

"Native Man the Musical" was among sold-out shows at weekend one of the Fringe Festival. Image provided by Fringe Festival.

Ticket sales for the opening weekend of Minnesota Fringe Festival were almost exactly the same as last year, said Fringe officials Monday.

In the first four days of the Festial, the Fringe issued 17,700 tickets to 347 performances, compared to 17,780 tickets to 384 performances in 2013.

“Last year, we had more performances during the opening weekend, but we have almost identical ticket sales this year," said Executive Director Jeff Larson, "which means our average house size is larger this year.”

There were several sold-out shows over the weekend, including:

“The History of Minnesota – Unscripted” presented by The Theater of Public Policy

“The Finkles' Theater Show!!!” presented by Ryan Lear and Rachel Petrie

“Top Gun: The Musical” presented by Rooftop Theatre Company

"Pretty People Suck"

“Pretty People Suck (And Other Indisputable Fact about the Universe)” presented by Arc Stages Satellite

"Crime and Punishment"

“Crime and Punishment” presented by Live Action Set (3 performances)

“Into the Unreal City” presented by Catalog Models (4 performances)

“Native Man the Musical” presented by New Native Theatre

“The Sex (Ed) Show” presented by V as in Victor (3 performances)

“It Only Takes One: A New Musical” presented by World Tree Theatre

“Slut Club” presented by Showers in the Dark Productions

“Macaroni On A Hotdog” presented by Snapdragon Theatre

The 2014 Minnesota Fringe continues through Aug. 10. A full schedule of the festival’s 169-show lineup and links to buy tickets can be found at fringefestival.org.

See reviews of Fringe shows by Star Tribune writers at startribune.com/fringe

Minnesota talent represents at the Toronto International Film Festival

Posted by: Colin Covert Updated: July 25, 2014 - 2:08 PM

There’s a fair amount of Minnesota heat at this year’s Toronto International Film Festival.

The prestigious Opening Night slot goes to “The Judge,” written by Minneapolis native Nick (“Gran Torino”) Schenk. The film boasts the world’s biggest movie star, Robert Downey Jr., as a cosmopolitan superlawyer who finds himself in his corn belt home town, defending his estranged father (Robert Duvall) on a murder charge. First Clint Eastwood as a testy retired auto worker, then Duvall as a peppery retired jurist. Schenk sure has something about grumpy old men.

After decades away from the director’s chair, longtime producer William Pohlad  takes the helm with “Love & Mercy,” a biographical drama about the Beach Boys’ troubled genius Brian Wilson. Since directing his first film, 1990’s “Old Explorers,” he’s collaborated with the likes of Ang Lee, Steve McQueen, Robert Altman, Terrence Malick, Doug Liman and Sean Penn. It should be interesting to see how the Twins scion has upped his game. His new film stars Paul Dano, John Cusack and Paul Giamatti.

The there’s “Wild,” a new drama from Jean-Marc Vallée (“Dallas Buyers Club”) based on the memoir by Minnesota native Cheryl Strayed. Reese Witherspoon plays Strayed as she copes with personal issues on a long-distance hiking adventure that challenges and heals her.

The Toronto International Film Festival runs Sept. 4-14.

Oh, Starkey night: celebrities coming to St. Paul

Posted by: Aimee Blanchette Updated: July 17, 2014 - 11:54 AM

Celebrities from near and far are expected to attend the Starkey Hearing Foundation's 14th Annual "So the World May Hear Gala" this Sunday at the St. Paul River Centre. A handful of A-listers usually come to town for the event, which raises money to provide hearing aids to people in need around the world.

Some of the confirmed stars who will be in St. Paul include: former first lady/Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Forest Whitaker, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Adrian Peterson, Paul Molitor, Dave Winfield, Greg Jennings, Shannon Elizabeth, Verne Troyer and Marlee Matlin among others.

John Legend,  Rob Thomas and Sammy Hagar are a few of the VIPs scheduled to perform throughout the evening. Comedian Norm Crosby is hosting the event.

Gala organizers usually keep the names of a few famous faces under wraps, so there's no telling if other stars plan to grace the red carpet. Want to catch of glimpse of the star-studded hoopla? The celebrities will be walking the red carpet outside the Kellogg Boulevard entrance from 3:30 to 5 p.m.

The Starkey Foundation is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year. The annual fundraiser raised more than $8 million last year.

(Photo above by Jeff Wheeler: Actor Forest Whitaker arrived on the red carptet before the gala in 2013.)

Patrick Scully's Walt Whitman show premieres

Posted by: Claude Peck Updated: July 11, 2014 - 1:06 PM

Patrick Scully poses as poet Walt Whitman. Star Tribune photo by Jeff Wheeler.

POST BY CAROLINE PALMER, SPECIAL TO THE STAR TRIBUNE

Sometimes the best way to learn about an artist is through the perspective of another artist. With  “Leaves of Grass – Uncut” Patrick Scully summons  the radical spirit of 19th-century poet Walt Whitman. Over the course of the show, which had its first performance Thursday night as part of the Fresh Ink Series at the Illusion Theater, we learn that the two men have much in common when it comes to defying rules and embracing life.

Scully assumes the role of Whitman, talking through his life story, railing against the puritan morals of his day, lauding the love of other men, extolling his contemporaries (Ralph Waldo Emerson, Oscar Wilde) and reading excerpts from his works. Whitman, as portrayed by Scully, is a confident man who explains how he would code his language to escape the wrath of a rabidly homophobic society. Despite these efforts, Whitman’s works were banned and critics were quick to denounce him with their harshest words, which is hard to imagine today given the significant influence and great beauty of his writing.

But Whitman was undeterred by these obstacles, which explains why he is such a hero to Scully, a proud rabble-rouser himself. With “Leaves of Grass – Uncut” Scully creates an onstage world that Whitman would have appreciated. Seventeen men dance together in tender, sensual and playful moments. In the opening scene they strip down entirely to bathe, setting the tone for an evening about relationships between men and how society has sought to deny them.

The movement itself is based in contact improvisation, which emphasizes the intuitive give and take of dancing with another person. Scully’s company members take great care to support and inspire one another. Kevin Kortan makes an appearance as Whitman’s lover Peter Doyle and in one of the work’s more poignant moments they discuss the poet’s refusal to use the pronoun “he” (instead using “she”) in his writing to describe their passionate relationship. Scully shows us that Whitman wasn’t always so bold.

The Fresh Ink series provides opportunities for artists to try out new ideas. Scully still has some work to do with tightening up the production – there are a couple of false endings – but it is a heartfelt salute to Whitman. Without this daring poet’s soaring words and his willingness to take risks in a hostile era, we may never know what it means to “sing the body electric.” Scully is the perfect caretaker for Whitman’s legacy.

“Leaves of Grass – Uncut” continues through Sunday, July 13 (8 p.m. Fri.-Sat., 7 p.m. Sun). Illusion Theatre, Cowles Center, eighth floor, 528 Hennepin Av. S., Mpls. $14-$19, 612-339-4944 or illusiontheater.org.

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