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James Sewell working on ballet with filmmaker Frederick Wiseman

Posted by: Claude Peck under Behind the scenes, Culture, Dance, Minnesota artists, Movies, People Updated: September 3, 2014 - 3:14 PM
James Sewell of Sewell Ballet / Star Tribune photo by Tom Wallace

In what may seem like an odd pairing, James Sewell of the Minneapolis-based Sewell Ballet is working with veteran documentary filmmaker Frederick Wiseman on a new ballet based on an old Wiseman movie.

Wiseman's 1967 "Titicut Follies" documented the residents and inmates at Bridgewater State Hospital for the Criminally Insane in Bridgewater, Mass.

This early Wiseman documentary ignited controversy when state authorities sought to prevent its release, saying it violated inmates' privacy. The legal case rolled through various jurisdictions, but the film was withheld from distribution for years. Wiseman went on to wide fame for his fly-on-the-wall documentaries on a variety of subjects, including high-school life, meat, public housing, boxing and, in two movies, the world of dance.

Fast forward to 2014, when a new Center for Ballet and the Arts is set to open at New York University. Wiseman is among the center's first group of fellows. He announced this week that as part of that fellowship he is planning a ballet based on the film, to be created by choreographer Sewell.

Sewell said Wednesday that he and Wiseman have been talking by phone about the project this summer, and that Wiseman is due in Minneapolis later in September for meetings and in-studio improvisation. Wiseman is a "visionary," Sewell said, "and it extends beyond his medium. We've synthesized how our worlds can connect."

Sewell said the ballet, which may retain the movie's title, is likely to require 10 male dancers, as well as other characters to potray the state hospital's doctors and nurses. Likely to premiere in Minneapolis about two years from now, the ballet will include music and possibly video from the original film, Sewell said.

"When I first saw the film -- so intense, so strange -- I thought, 'how could you make a ballet of this?' But the elements are all there -- humorous, poetic, horrifying, sad," Sewell said.

The movie's title comes from an annual variety show that Bridgewater officials and inmates staged at the hospital. "These violent criminals and mentally ill inmates would put on a show, singing Gershwin with pom-poms in their hands," Sewell said.

While funding and other details remain to be worked out, Sewell said he "could not be happier" about this collaboration, which "dropped in my lap." He hopes to find a way, in dance, to portray "the inner landscape" of the often abused, catatonic or disruptive Bridgewater population.

Wiseman, 84, just won the Golden Lion Career Award at the Venice Film Festival.

Minnesota's Lea Thompson waltzes onto 'Dancing With the Stars'

Posted by: Neal Justin under Dance, Television Updated: September 3, 2014 - 11:44 AM


Lea Thompson/photo by Los Angeles Times

Part-time Minnesota resident Kristi Yamaguchi represented our state well in 2008 when she crushed the competition on "Dancing With the Stars."

Now it's Lea Thompson's turn.

The Rochester native will be among the cast members when the show returns Sept. 15. Others in the mix include soap star Antonio Sabato Jr., Janel Parrish ("Pretty Little Liars"), "Duck Dynasty" diva Sadie Robertson and NASCAR driver Michael Waltrip. ABC on Thursday announced the 13 contestants for its fall round of the dancing competition. They also include talk-show host Tavis Smiley, Olympic athlete Lolo Jones and fashion designer Betsey Johnson. Other amateur hoofers include comedy veteran Tommy Chong, YouTube star Bethany Mota, Ultimate Fighting champ Randy Couture, "Mean Girls" star Jonathan Bennett and actor-dancer Alfonso Ribeiro.

The new lineup was unveiled on "Good Morning America."

At 53, Thompson may be among the oldest participants, but don't count her out. She started dancing professionally at the age of 14 and clocked in 45 performances with the American Ballet Theatre. She later focused on acting, landing high-profile roles in "Back to the Future" and "All the Right Moves."

As much as we'll be rooting for Thompson, our early money is on Ribeiro, who danced in Michael Jackson videos as a kid and starred as Carlton Banks on "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air." Remember his "Carlton Dance" everytime Tom Jones' "It's Not Unusual" was played? If he can incorporate those moves into his routines, he's got our vote.

As reported earlier, Thompson may soon be revisiting her Minnesota roots. Her husband, Howard Deutch, is developing a possible series for HBO set in Stillwater.

Includes material from the Associated Press.

"Theater People" is about theater people

Posted by: Graydon Royce under Theater, Behind the scenes, Minnesota artists, Theaters Updated: September 3, 2014 - 12:33 PM

If you have 30 minutes to spare, check out “Theater People,” a web series created by Matthew Anderson. He wrote, directed and edited ten episodes about the drama behind drama. It’s all locally made – which is important these days, right? At least when it comes to garden produce.

Anderson had toiled for many years in the Twin Cities theater market and then took a stab at Los Angeles. He came back but has put his energy behind a camera. The concept here is just to lampoon the quirks and tics of theater life. But it all feels friendly  and cheeky as it lands its punches – kind of like Kate Wetherhead’s “Submissions Only.”

Theaters, private homes and public streets provide cost-free locations and the actors in “Theater People” are doing it mostly for fun.

And it is fun. Stacia Rice and Steve Sweere play former spouses who still run Theatre Unhinged. Sweere is an aging lothario auditioning potential Juliets to his Romeo – but really just trying to make out with young women. Rice’s character watches with simmering but controlled rage. In another scenario, Mark Mattison does a florid and pompous director crafting an original production that he is says is based on the work of Aleister Crowley. Jane Froiland, Jen Rand, Matt Sciple, Katie Willer and Sara Marsh all contribute.

There are ten episodes on the web site, each about eight minutes long. Anderson would like to put together another season and is hoping for some real funding this time. It’s definitely worth having a look and supporting.

Maroon 5, Usher set Xcel Center tour dates

Posted by: Chris Riemenschneider under Music, Concert news Updated: September 2, 2014 - 11:39 AM
Usher returned to the MTV Video Music Awards two weekends ago. / Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP

Usher returned to the MTV Video Music Awards two weekends ago. / Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP

As ratings for NBC’s “The Voice” have gone down, two of the TV music competitions celebrity coaches are going back out on the road in the coming months -- and both are headed to Xcel Energy Center.

The St. Paul hockey arena announced a Nov. 18 concert with Usher this morning alongside a March 23 return by Adam Levine’s Maroon 5. Tickets for the latter show go on sale first, starting Sept. 13 at 10 a.m. through Ticketmaster and the arena box office at prices yet to be announced. Seats for Usher will open up Sept. 15 at 10 a.m. for $37.50-$152.50.

Following his short-lived tenure as a “Voice” team leader last year, Usher marked his return to the stage at the MTV Video Music Awards two weekends ago, where he performed the new single “She Came to Give It To You.” The 35-year-old, Atlanta-reared super-stud – one of R&B’s most successful artists of the past two decades -- also posted a new video (posted below) to promote his late-autumn outing, dubbed the UR Experience Tour and set to begin Nov. 1 in Montreal.

Maroon 5 just dropped its fifth album, “V,” which has already landed another top 10 hit with the lead single “Maps.” Their tour will feature Shakira-affiliated Canadian band Magic! along with one of Levine’s non-"Voice" protégés, Rizzo Crane.

Between now and the tour, the M5 singer Levine will run through another season of “The Voice,” this time with new coaches Pharrell Williams and Gwen Stefani alongside Levine’s returning odd-couple partner Blake Shelton. The new season is scheduled to begin Sept. 22.

Love is all around in Bob Mould's surprise 7th Street Entry gig

Posted by: Chris Riemenschneider under Music, Minnesota musicians Updated: September 1, 2014 - 10:23 PM
Bob Mould rehearsed with his band Sunday afternoon in 7th Street Entry before a surprise gig that night, much of which harked back to the fast-and-furious shows of his old band Hüsker Dü. / Jeff Wheeler, Star Tribune

Bob Mould rehearsed with his band Sunday afternoon in 7th Street Entry before a surprise gig that night, much of which harked back to the fast-and-furious shows of his old band Husker Du. / Jeff Wheeler, Star Tribune


The facetiousness in bassist Jason Narducy's voice near the start of Sunday afternoon’s rehearsal at 7th Street Entry was as loud as the throwback performance to come later that night.
"I'm gonna need a lot of guitar in my monitor," Narducy instructed their sound man, to laughs.

The joke lay in the fact that Narducy was only standing about eight feet from bandleader Bob Mould's amplifier, as is always the case on the puny stage that has been an enormous incubator for Twin Cities bands since Mould himself formed a group 35 years ago. What’s more, Mould’s amp was predictably cranked loud enough to be heard eight blocks away, as is always the case when he’s playing with his current band -- just like it was with his first one.

Thirty-three years after Minneapolis punk heroes Hüsker Dü recorded their fastest (yet dullest) album in the Entry, “Land Speed Record,” the band’s co-leader returned there Sunday to play a gig that had been announced less than 24 hours earlier and sold out in less than 10 minutes. It was Mould’s first time performing in the 250-capacity former broom closet since a pair of solo-acoustic shows in 1991, but those gigs were nothing like the old days. Sunday’s concert very much was.

“How many of you have seen a band at the Entry play two sets?” Mould asked the crowd as he walked out on the stage for the second time Sunday.

Harking back to the days when headlining Entry bands were required to stretch out their act to beef up bar sales, the show was split into two sets. The 45-minute first block was made up largely of tunes from Mould’s last two albums, both recorded with Narducy (frontman of Verbow) and drummer Jon Wurster (Superchunk). The second set started off with two songs that dated back to the “Land Speed” era, and it didn’t often get much more current than that. One of the Hüsker Dü songs, “Up in the Air,” had not been played by a Mould-led band since the year it came out (1987), and several more have only recently been dusted off.

Coming on the heels of their more standard but still memorable showing Saturday for the MN-Music-on-a-Stick concert – you wouldn’t have known their only rehearsal of late would be after that State Fair appearance – Mould and his bandmates tacked on Sunday’s gig as a warm-up for a month-long U.S. tour that begins Friday in Philadelphia, their first trek behind the emotionally blustery album from June, “Beauty & Ruin.” The show was also organized as a fundraiser for nonprofit music org DEMO, run by former First Ave manager Steve McClellan.

Mould hashed out Sunday's two-part set list with bassist Jason Narducy (on couch) and drummer Jon Wurster (seated, right), both of whom have their say in the selections. / Jeff Wheeler, Star Tribune

Mould hashed out Sunday's two-part set list with bassist Jason Narducy (on couch) and drummer Jon Wurster (seated, right), both of whom have their say in the selections. / Jeff Wheeler, Star Tribune

Talking in the First Ave green room next door after their rehearsal -- their afternoon workout included a couple other rare oldies not played later that night – Mould credited Narducy and Wurster for pushing him to revisit more Hüskers tunes, and to dust off other nuggets from throughout his discography. Narducy, for instance, encouraged them to add their rocked-up version of 1989’s “Sinners & Their Repentances” to Sunday’s set list, while Wurster pushed for “Come Around,” an uncharacteristically mellow one from Mould’s early-’90s trio Sugar. The drummer had also previously talked Mould into reviving 1985's “Flip Your Wig,” one of his all-time favorites.

“These guys love those records, and if they get excited to play that stuff, I do, too,” Mould said. “And yeah, I’m proud of a lot of it, too.”

Sunday’s show was a test run for the rest of the tour. “We’ll play with [the set list] at first,” Bob added, “and then there’ll be one night where it really seems to click, and it might be hard for us to break away from that one after that.”  

Looking fit enough at age 53 to bench-press longtime admirer and new buddy Ryan Adams – he dropped about 30 pounds over the past year – Mould didn’t allow his bandmates time to catch their breath during most of the first set before tearing into the next song. There was even less room in the second run. The only time he seemed less than fully able-bodied was when he struggled to read the set list at his feet toward show’s end, but that was because he had to take off his glasses. No exaggeration: The lenses kept fogging up from the steam coming off the stage.

While the old songs predictably earned the most enthusiasm -- and even sparked a sizable pit of middle-aged moshers (none of whom where doing as well as Bob in the fitness/weight-loss department) -- a lot of Mould’s newest tunes would have fit in side-by-side with the Hüskers classics in terms of fiery delivery. Highlights included the full-on rager “The War” and the more melodic, upbeat pre-encore closer “Fix It.”

Mould himself was upbeat talking about his old days in the Entry, despite the distance he maintains from his Hüsker Dü bandmates these days. “We had a lot of fun nights in that particular room,” he said before the show. “Of course, a lot of it is a blur now, but I do know it was fun then. That's when the band was really clicking and probably at our best.”

The star for Mould's old band is not-so-coincidentally right next to the 7th Street Entry door.

The star for Mould's old band is not-so-coincidentally right next to the 7th Street Entry door.

Even when he’s not playing a show as special as Sunday’s, though, it’s pretty easy to see that Mould is having more fun with Narducy and Wurster than he’s ever had playing in a band, an assumption he confirmed before the gig.

“I said it [on Saturday], too: I hope I can play with these guys as long as I’m still playing.”

No argument there. Here’s Sunday’s set list(s):


Star Machine / The Descent / I Don't Know You Anymore / Sinners and Their Repentances / Little Glass Pill / Kid With Crooked Face / Nemeses Are Laughing / The War / Come Around* / Changes* / Helpless* / Keep Believing


In A Free Land+ / Real World+ / Something I Learned Today+ / Chartered Trips+ / Could You Be The One?+ / Flip Your Wig+ / See a Little Light / Celebrated Summer+ / Hardly Getting Over It+ / Tomorrow Morning / Up in the Air+ / If I Can't Change Your Mind* / Hey Mr. Grey / Fix It   


Makes No Sense at All+ / Love Is All Around (theme from “Mary Tyler Moore Show”) / New Day Rising+

(+Hüsker Dü songs   *Sugar songs)


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