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Posts about Theaters

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.

Mom, dad and Pat Conroy

Posted by: Claude Peck Updated: November 13, 2013 - 12:45 PM
Pat Conroy at Talking Volumes, Fitzgerald Theater, St. Paul, on 11/12/13. Photo by Tom Campbell.
As millions of readers know, Pat Conroy has major parent issues.
The bestselling author of such hit books as "The Great Santini" and "The Prince of Tides" was in St. Paul on Tuesday night as part of Talking Volumes, a series that brings writers to town for live interviews at the Fitzgerald Theater.
Much of his hour-long talk with Kerri Miller of Minnesota Public Radio centered on his beautiful, "beloved mom" and his violent, abusive and egomaniacal dad. (Conroy always used "mom" and "dad" in referring to his parents, not "mother" and "father.") 
Conroy described the rage and frustration he experienced as a boy when he couldn't protect his mother from his father's violent abuse. He described how he and his siblings learned to duck and hide from Donald Conroy's wrath.
His new book, "The Death of Santini," is a memoir that revisits some of the horrors of growing up as well as the changes he said his father underwent in the latter years of his life. "My dad had a great second act," Conroy said, referring to his father's occasional realizations that he had been a bad parent and that all his children "hated his guts."
Conroy's hair-curling stories of his violent, peripatetic childhood were softened by his folksy-dark humor. When his fighter-pilot dad said, "I should have beaten you more, you'd a been a better writer," Conroy says he replied, "If you beat me any more, I'd be Shakespeare."
His father belittled Conroy's decision to become a writer as "gay," so Conroy later got a Hollywood studio write to his father telling him that  they had decided to cast Truman Capote to play him in the movie, "The Great Santini." (In fact that part was played by Robert Duvall.")
Conroy said that while he wasn't wild about cold weather, he thought he would make a good Minnesotan because everyone here is so unhappy. Later he asked, "Does everyone in Minnesota keep a journal?"
Asked for his views on religion, Conroy said that for him, writing had a spiritual aspect, and that he would like to see the Catholic Church make writer Flannery O'Connor a saint.
Conroy praised his mother for encouraging her children to read, and praised the novelist Thomas Wolfe for turning him on to the glories of fiction. "When I read 'Look Homeward, Angel,' I was changed forever," he said.
As one audience member commented via Twitter: "#PatConroy has the audience shifting swiftly between shared tears & brilliant laughter."
Star Tribune books editor Laurie Hertzel recently profiled Conroy,here.
The conversation with Conroy will be broadcast Nov. 25 in the 11 a.m. hour on MPR. More quotes and comments from the evening can be read on Twitter, under the hashtag #TalkingVolumes.


'Ghost Brothers' is haunting but unfinished Stephen King/John Mellencamp musical

Posted by: Jon Bream Updated: November 1, 2013 - 3:04 AM

Eric Moore (center) leads "Tear This Cabin Down" to close Act 1 of "Ghost Brothers of Darkland County"

Associated Press photos by Michael Conroy

A few thoughts about “Ghost Brothers of Darkland County,” the John Mellencamp/Stephen King musical that was performed Thursday at the State Theatre in Minneapolis.

  • If Mellencamp and King hosted a Southern Gothic “A Prairie Home Companion” that was set in rural Mississippi, not Lake Wobegone, this is what they might have come up with – if they ignored the time constraints and hired others to present it while they stayed home.
  • This 2 1/2-hour presentation (with one intermission) was more like a radio show than a musical. Props were minimal, action was limited. The characters sat in a semi-circle while the featured speaker(s) moved to the front; the four-man band, featuring two regular Mellencamp sidemen, was stationed behind them, off to the side.
  • The music was consistently compelling in a rustic, rootsy, bluesy Mellencamp kind of way. The songs illuminated the characters rather than furthering the storyline.  The numbers to end each act (“Tear This Cabin Down” and “Truth”) were pumped up in a typical Broadway kind of way, though those selections sound considerably more low-key on the all-star “Ghost Brothers” recording featuring Elvis Costello, Sheryl Crow, Kris Kristofferson, Ryan Bingham, Rosanne Cash, Neko Case, Taj Mahal and others, including Mellencamp on one tune.
  •  The story is a little difficult to follow, especially in the first act. The second act is captivating and often riveting. This being a King creation, many people die. In short, it’s a Cain-and-Abel story about two long-feuding brothers who are fighting over a girl and a flashback to their father witnessing his two older brothers fighting over a girl that leads to the deaths of all three. In the art-imitates-life department:  one (contemporary) brother is an aspiring novelist, the other a wanna-be rocker.
  • Joe Tippett, who plays the brother who wants to be a rocker, looks like a shorter Aaron Rodgers. (Trivia: Justin Guarini, runner-up on first season of “American Idol,” played this role in the original mounting of this show in Atlanta last year.)  Jesse Lenat, the narrator character known as the Zydeco Cowboy, sounds like Mellencamp when he sings. The Shape, sort of a redneck devil, gets all the great (and funny) lines, such as hell having “dry heat” and “I want a real life” (which is a lyric from a Mellencamp hit). Eric Moore, as bartender Dan Coker, had a wonderfully robust voice. Bruce Greenwood, who played the Dad, was equally effective as an actor and a singer. Emily Skinner, as the Mother of two of the boys, had more of a Broadway-like voice whereas almost everyone else had more of an Americana singing style.
  • Since there is little any action, props and choreography, this vehicle probably could be more effective if the opening act were condensed and merged into the much stronger second act to create a 90-minute one-act. But there are 19 songs in this “work in progress,” as Mellencamp calls it.
  • “Ghost Brothers” is touring the Midwest in a series of one-night performances. The creators, who began collaborating on this project 13 years ago, have turned down a chance to do a limited Broadway run.
  • The Minneapolis show drew only about 800 people (including many in costume), a pretty modest crowd. But then it was Halloween, and there were no name performers in the cast or a track record for the show.
  • The printing on the two-sided “Ghost Brothers” program (which is the size of an oversized recipe card) is tiny – smaller than the print on a test for bifocals. Just saying.
  • John Mellencamp and Stephen King

Opera: A man and his nose

Posted by: Claude Peck Updated: October 27, 2013 - 6:30 PM

In “The Nose,” Kovalyov’s search for his missing nose, as orchestrated by a young but clearly fearless Dmitri Shostakovich, is a big noisy affair. Effusions of brass and long interludes of pure percussion mark the score, and the singing is mainly declamatory and boisterous. No attenuated love arias or heartbreak-by-moonlight songs here. What opera ever composed has so much work for the trombones?


The ICON movie theater in St. Louis Park was full on Saturday for the Metropolitan Opera’s live telecast of Shostakovich’s seldom-produced “The Nose,” which premiered there in 2010 and is being revived this season. (The high-definition video will be seen again this Wednesday evening in several Twin Cities theaters. Details here.)


South African artist William Kentridge, who made his Met Opera with this brilliant production, has imagined a frenetic world of creatures made out of typography, of inky figures drawing monstrous cartloads as if all Russia were their burden. Then these figures drag in a new scenic element -- a cramped barber shop, a tilted sleeping room on which Kovalyov tosses and turns in misery on his too-small bed.


Kentridge brings great inventiveness and hurly-burly to bear on the Gogol story. Presented in the black, gray, white and brilliant red color scheme of the Russian Constructivists, it’s a world where a newspaper office becomes a towering front page, out of which explode the pressman, the editors and reporters, each singing from their own grimy, newsprint-strewn window.


At one point, type moves like iron filings on a  magnet until cohering into a giant image of Joseph Stalin, evoking the era when Shostakovich was emerging as a composer.


The production design shies away from the usual illusions of depth, opting instead for ladders, trap doors and trompe l’oeil effects in a dizzying, floor-to-ceiling 2D effect, like Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-in as imagined by El Lissitzky. When an animated nose takes a dive, it splashes into a movie-reel swimming pool. The profusion of these dynamic visual effects throughout the opera is perhaps its biggest attraction. They added to, rather than distracting from, the music and the singers.



In Paulo Szot, the Met finds the ideal man for the lead role. The Brazilian-born singer-actor, who won a Tony on Broadway for his turn as Emile De Becque in “South Pacific,” has an expressive face, self-pitying, teary-eyed  and despairing one minute, but always up for further adventures the next. He’s a Schnoz Quixote, tilting at windmills as he seeks to find and reclaim the nose that is missing when he wakes up one morning. Was it the fault of the barber Yakovlevich? The officious government inspector? Madame Podtochina, who wants him to marry her daughter? Szot knits the absurd adventures with his supple, molasses-rich baritone.

The crack Met orchestra was here conducted by Pavel Smelkov, and the terrific costumes are by Greta Goiris.  


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