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The Guthrie Theater is in the planning stages of a possible multi-play festival around the work of Pulitzer Prize winner Lynn Nottage, sources have told the Star Tribune. Nottage would be the third playwright to be so honored and the first playwright who is female or a person of color.
“We can’t confirm anything now; things are still moving around,” said Trish Santini, director of external relations at the Guthrie.
However, in a statement Thursday, Guthrie director Joe Dowling did say the theater has commissioned a play from Nottage with the support of the Chicago-based Joyce Foundation, and "we are in conversations with Ms. Nottage and her representatives regarding the timing of a future production and the scope of our commitment."
The Guthrie will announce its 2014-15 season April 10.
Nottage is a highly respected Yale-educated playwright who won the 2009 Pulitzer for “Ruined.” That drama is set in an African warzone and centers on the lives of women who find sanctuary in a brothel. It was memorably produced in fall 2009 at Mixed Blood Theatre.
Nottage’s latest play is “By the Way, Meet Vera Stark,” a comedy about the challenges of a fictional black actress in the 1930s. Sanaa Lathan was one of the stars of the New York premiere.
Nottage is completing a new drama, “Reading Play,” whose premiere at the Guthrie in fall 2015 was previously announced. That play is drawn from research into the lives of people in Reading, Penn., one of the nation’s poorest cities. The project won a coveted $50,000 Joyce Award.
The Guthrie produced Nottage’s “Intimate Apparel” in fall 2005. None of her other works have been seen in the Twin Cities. She also wrote “Fabulation, or the Re-Education of Undine,” a 2004 work about the social fall of a professional woman whose husband has taken her money.
In 2009, the Guthrie launched its festival idea with a celebration of Tony Kushner’s work, including the premiere of “The Intelligent Homosexual's Guide to Capitalism and Socialism with a Key to the Scriptures.” A festival of work by British playwright Christopher Hampton followed in 2012.
A Nottage festival would celebrate one of the nation’s leading playwrights even as it helps the Guthrie to address issues of gender and ethnic diversity that have been raised in past seasons.
Minneapolis film producer William Pohlad had a fine night at Sunday’s 62nd Annual British Academy Film Awards. His weighty historical drama “12 Years A Slave” took the best picture prize. Its star Chiwetel Ejiofor was named best actor.
"We’re honored '12 Years A Slave' received best picture from the BAFTAs,” Pohlad commented Monday. “This kind of bold storytelling is always what interests [Pohlad’s production company] River Road and for it to be embraced and championed in this way is incredibly gratifying. Producing a film like this alongside [Brad Pitt’s company] Plan B, with the vision of [director] Steve McQueen and the affecting performances by a remarkable cast was a humbling experience and one we’re proud to have had a guiding hand in.”
It was a night of celebration as well for Minneapolis actor Barkhad Abdi, who won best supporting actor for his turn as a Somali pirate in “Captain Phillips.”
It’s not clear whether these wins boosted the Minnesotans’ odds of winning an Academy Award. In the last 30 years, the BAFTA best picture winner matched the Oscar winner 40 percent of the time. The best supporting actor went on to accept the Academy Award 26 percent of the time. Jared Leto, the clear Oscar favorite in that category, was not nominated for the BAFTA.
Cultural preservation expert Cori Wegener
With the George Clooney film "Monuments Men" now in theaters, the topic of cultural preservation in war zones and other disaster areas (manmade or natural) is a hot topic. The Clooney film tracks a group of art historians, restorers and aesthetes charged with saving cultural treasures in Europe, Japan and elsewhere during WWII.
The need for such skills remains, especially in the Middle East which is about equally rich in archeological artifacts and violent conflicts. Former Minneapolis Institute of Arts assistant curator Cori Wegener, a U.S. army vet, was an "Arts, Monuments, and Archives Officer" stationed in Iraq for 11 months during 2003-04 following the looting of the national museum and other cultural repositories there. She now bringsl that experience to bear as a cultural heritage preservation officer in the Office of the Undersecretary for History, Art and Culture at the Smthsonian Institution in Washington, D. C. A major in the U.S. Army Reserves, she retired from the service in 2004 after 21 years.
Wegener will talk about her experiences at 6 p.m. Friday, Feb. 21 in the O'Shaughnessy Educational Center Auditorium, 2115 Summit Av., University of St. Thomas campus, St. Paul. The event is free. For accessibility information call 651-962-6315.
Osmo Vänskä, who resigned as music director of Minnesota Orchestra in October of last year, showed up Friday morning at Orchestra Hall in Minneapolis. This photo (above) from the musicians' Facebook page shows Vanska, right, talking with Stanislaw Skrowaczewski, who is conducting the orchestra this weekend in two homecoming concerts at the renovated hall. Principal cellist Tony Ross is at left.
Since the long labor dispute was settled last month, speculation has been rampant about whether Vanska would be asked to return to the orchestra. He resigned Oct. 1, 2013, when management and musicians failed to reach agreement on a new contract in time to permit the orchestra to keep two concert dates at Carnegie Hall last fall.
While Vanska gave a hint via Facebook a couple of weeks ago that he would consider coming back if invited, orchestra management has said only that it is considering its music-director options.
Vanska reportedly still has his residence in Minneapolis, but he has been guest-conducting all over, with recent stops in Lyon, France and at the San Francisco Symphony. He won rave reviews for his concerts in San Francisco, and Bay Area radio station KDFC-FM will rebroadcast (and stream) one of those shows (with music of Sibelius, Stravinsky and Rachmaninoff) on Tuesday, Feb. 11 at 8 p.m. Pacific time.
Here in the Twin Cities, Friday night's concert, including music of Beethoven (Symphony No. 3), Bach (Toccata and Fugue in D minor, orch. Skrowaczewski) and Richard Strauss (Don Juan) will be simulcast
Some musicians will play twice on Saturday (Feb. 8), once at the memorial service for Joan Mondale, and again at the evening homecoming concert at Orchestra Hall.
Watch for full coverage of Friday's concert online at startribune.com and in print on Saturday. A concert review by Larry Fuchsberg will appear in the print edition on Sunday, and online Saturday afternoon.
Osmo Vänskä conducting the Minnesota Orchestra. Photo by Tom Wallace.
The musicians of the Minnesota Orchestra and countless of its patrons have repeatedly stressed that they want Osmo Vänskä back as their leader. Vänskä himself has said via Facebook he woud like to be asked back. Common sentiment among those in the know is that for Vänskä to return, MOA president Michael Henson must go. Now Vänskä has made at least an indirect statement to the same effect by publicly endorsing -- again on Facebook -- a blogger's "open letter" to new MOA board chair Gordon Sprenger listing reasons why, in his view, Henson must be dismissed, among them lack of outside support and musician hostility.
Scott Chamberlain, who blogs about the orchestra at Mask of the Flower Prince, posted the letter yesterday. Vänskä "liked" a link to the post on Chamberlain's Facebook page, and on another page linking to the blog, he wrote "Well said, again and again! Thanks Scott!"
Sprenger's comments in a recent interview on Minnesota Public Radio seem to indicate where he is throwing his support. He praised Henson, calling him a "very, very good leader for the orchestra," and noted that Vänskä "did resign during this time."
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