Nov. 2-3 at Walker Art Center

Ten years ago, after the Sept. 11 terror attacks, an introspective Laurie Anderson performed a piece at Walker Art Center called "Happiness," a most unusual theme for this stalwart of the music-and-performance avant-garde. Anderson returns to provocative form this year with "Dirtday!," a show of songs and hallucinatory musings that erupts from this year's bitter presidential contest. She addresses some of the charged themes that arise out of the crucible of U.S. politics by using references to feminism, Darwinism and the Tibetan Book of the Dead.

1750 Hennepin Av. S., Mpls., $39, 612-375-7600 or

"Appomattox" This is the crown jewel of the Guthrie's Christopher Hampton festival. The playwright wrote this new script, based on his own libretto for a 2007 opera with Philip Glass. By adapting the story into a straight play, Hampton has greater range to flesh out the ideas and history of two eras that are critical to U.S. civil rights. The first act centers on the events around Robert E. Lee's surrender to Ulysses S. Grant at the Appomattox Court House. The second act jumps 100 years to February 1965, when a black church deacon is shot by Alabama state troopers during a peaceful protest. David Esbjornson directs this world premiere.

Sept. 29-Nov. 11, Guthrie Theater proscenium, 818 S. 2nd St., Mpls., $29-$64, 612-377-2224 or

"Next to Normal": Mixed Blood founder and director Jack Reuler puts a local spin on this Pulitzer- and Tony-winning musical by Brian Yorkey and Tom Kitt that was a surprise hit on Broadway. The dark story, about the effects of chronic grief and mental illness on a mother, Diana, and her family, is part of a Mixed Blood "Center of the Margins" festival. Actor Aditi Brennan Kapil has been cast as Diana in a production that includes Brittany Bradford, Thomas Jones II and Regina Marie Williams as a psychiatrist.

Oct. 4-Nov. 11, Mixed Blood Theatre, 1501 S. 4th St., Mpls., free rush line. Reservations. $15, 612-338-6131 or

"Bye Bye Birdie": Believe it or not, Chanhassen Dinner Theatre has never produced this classic example of mid-century Broadway Americana. Director Michael Brindisi will harness his usual creative team, while Michael Gruber and Ann Michels star as Albert Peterson and Rose Alvarez, two people who want to be in love but spend most of their time tending to the career of Conrad Birdie, played by Twin Cities newcomer Frank Moran.

Oct. 5-Jan. 26, Chanhassen Dinner Theatre, 508 W. 78th St., Chanhassen, $46-$81, 952-934-1525 or


"Lombardi": Jim Detmar, a native cheesehead, plays the legendary Green Bay Packers coach, and Norah Long plays Marie Lombardi in this exploration of a 1960s phenomenon. Eric Simonson, better known as a director for Minnesota Opera, wrote the play, which ran on Broadway for seven months two years ago. Simonson is a native of Milwaukee and a childhood Packers fan. Ron Peluso directs the History Theatre production. It should be interesting to see how Sunday matinees sell.

Oct. 6-Nov. 4, History Theatre, 30 E. 10th St., St. Paul, $15-$40, 651-292-4323 or


"Billy Elliot": Winner of 10 Tonys, this blockbuster musical by Elton John and Lee Hall had a multi-week run in Minneapolis in 2010. The charming show, set during a coal-mine strike in Great Britain in the 1980s, returns for a quick pirouette across the river. It tells the story of a working-class British boy who has a lot of fight in his heart, even if he would rather learn to dance than box.

Oct. 9-14, Ordway Center, 5th and Washington Sts., St. Paul. $35-$106. Subject to change. 651-224-4222 or

"Voices of Strength: New Dance and Theater by Women From Africa": Walker Art Center offers a quick survey of work by five director-choreographers from a continent of 54 countries and 1 billion people. The first program is "Correspondences." Using dance, theater and storytelling, this suite offers a performance-conversation between daring South African dancer Nelisiwe Xaba and Haitian expatriate Kettly Noël, who founded a dance festival in Bamako, Mali, and is known for her fierce, poignant choreography. The initial bill also includes "Sombra," a solo piece by Mozambican performer Maria Helena Pinto, who delivers with a bucket atop her head. The second evening includes "Madame Plaza" by Moroccan choreographer Bouchra Ouizguen and "Quartiers Libres" by Nadia Beugré of Ivory Coast.

Oct. 10-13, Walker Art Center, 1750 Hennepin Av. S. $22; $30 for both programs. 612-375-7600 or

"King Lear": This should be a treat for Shakespeare lovers. Actor Raye Birk brings his amazing craft to play the tortured king who descends into madness. George Bernard Shaw considered Lear to be Shakespeare's supreme tragedy. Birk, who just finished "The Sunshine Boys" at the Guthrie, has an amazing emotional depth and an innate curiosity that allows him to investigate every nook and cranny of character. Park Square Theatre's production will be directed by Peter Moore, who has set the play in the Prohibition era.

Oct. 19-Nov. 11, Park Square Theatre, 20 W. 7th Pl., St. Paul, $38-$58, $25 for preview performances, 651-291-7005 or

"Company": Dieter Bierbrauer plays Bobby in this timely Theater Latte Da production of Stephen Sondheim's essay on marriage in contemporary society. On the night of his 35th birthday, confirmed bachelor Bobby wonders whether he is missing something by not being married. "Company" includes some of Sondheim's signature numbers, such as "The Ladies Who Lunch," "Being Alive" and "Side by Side." The Broadway production won six Tonys including best musical.

Oct. 25-Nov. 18, Ordway Center, 345 Washington St., St. Paul, $19-$25 preview, $29-$44, 651-224-4222,

"In the Next Room (the vibrator play)": If you caught the 2011 movie "Hysteria," you saw a lukewarm offering on this topic. Sarah Ruhl's Tony-nominated stage play has a tender and provocative take on Victorian manners and the stimulating changes brought about by the introduction of electricity. Sarah Rasmussen directs a Jungle Theater cast that includes Sarah Agnew, Christiana Clark, Christina Baldwin, Anna Enneking, Bradley Greenwald and John Middleton.

Nov. 2-Dec. 16, Jungle Theater, 2951 Lyndale Av. S., Mpls., $20-$38, 612-822-7063 or