Abe at the Oscars
How did Abe Diaz, a recent graduate of Duluth East High School, end up on the Oscars stage Sunday at least three times — including standing next to Ben Affleck, George Clooney and Jack Nicholson in front of more than 1 billion viewers? The 18-year-old was one of six winners of the "Oscar Experience College Search," a new program that allows young, aspiring filmmakers to replace those leggy models who traditionally helped usher out winners after their acceptance speeches. In addition to being part of film's biggest night, Diaz spent a full week in Hollywood, visiting the Disney animation studios and attending the Governor's Ball, where Affleck took time from all the backslapping to talk to Diaz. "He gave us an inspirational pep talk about not giving up and not taking crap from anybody," said Diaz, now at DePaul University in Chicago. "He told us we could tear Hollywood down." At various functions, Diaz also met John Travolta, Anne Hathaway, Meryl Streep and Joseph Gordon-Levitt, who offered up his own brand of advice. "I told him I was a chemistry major instead of a film major," Diaz said to I.W. "He suggested I watch this film, 'Primer,' because it was directed by a science major."
In Quest of Prince
It is unofficially Prince Week in New York City, according to superfan Questlove, drummer for the Roots and "Late Night With Jimmy Fallon." Friday night, Prince will perform two songs on Fallon, including "Screwdriver," which he'll deliver with his female backup band, 3rdeyegirl. Next Thursday at New York's Carnegie Hall, Prince music will be interpreted by the likes of Elvis Costello, D'Angelo, the Blind Boys of Alabama and DeVotchka. Questlove, who is curating the show, said the set list will be heavy on obscure tunes such as "Moonbeam Levels" and "It's Gonna Be a Beautiful Night." One exception is Bettye LaVette doing the original blues rendition heard on the demo of "Kiss." Meanwhile, Questlove is serving as guest lecturer at New York University for a class titled "Topics in Recorded Music: Classic Albums." "Week 6, my class is on the impact of [Prince's] 'Dirty Mind,' " he told I.W. this week. "I'm actually analyzing the lyrics of [the song] 'Sister' as we speak. In 90 seconds, he changed his entire life." Questlove will extend Prince Week to First Avenue in Minneapolis next weekend, doing a DJ set next Friday and performing the following night with Princess (Maya Rudolph's Prince cover band) at Bobby Z's heart-research fundraiser. (Read an interview with Rudolph in Sunday's Variety section.)
What season is this?
The first thing that caught I.W.'s attention at Walking Shadow Theatre's "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" was the leaves. The stage looks like an autumn lawn beneath a New England maple tree. Where did they get all those leaves at this time of year? David Pisa, part of the Walking Shadow brain trust, said the company put out the word last fall to start collecting leaves for the production. After picking out dog poop and sticks, Walking Shadow operatives gently stored the leaves away in bins. Before scattering them on stage, Pisa said, the leaves are gently shaken on a large screen to sift out dust. And that's how theater gets made.
What the Beck?!
The folks at 89.3 the Current had a great idea in recruiting a bunch of Twin Cities bands to record tunes from Beck's new "Song Reader" sheet-music book, but they wound up airing the results at an incredibly bad time: Sunday night opposite the Oscars. "I am left with the hope that each band, having put the time into learning these songs, will continue to perform them," said program host Jacquie Fuller. Fortunately, the broadcast is archived at TheCurrent.org. One highlight among the 14 tracks — all songs Beck hasn't recorded — was a sweet lament called "Sorry" by the Twin Cities Funk & Soul All-Stars. Other contributors include Prissy Clerks, Roe Family Singers, Eleganza and Chris Koza.
Wanted: Hayes tickets
Country star Hunter Hayes — the Doogie Howser look-alike who has crossed over to pop success with "Wanted" — will perform March 19 at the Fine Line Music Cafe in Minneapolis. The concert will be streamed online at www.facebook/trips-andpicks. To win tickets to the intimate gig, "like" the aforementioned Facebook page — a promotion by Country Financial insurance.
With so much dance these days performed to recorded music, and two orchestras locked out in labor disputes, it was huge to have the University of Minnesota Symphony Orchestra in the pit at the Orpheum Theatre Tuesday, playing live for the visiting Joffrey Ballet. Overflowing the pit, is more like it. Mark Russell Smith, UMSO conductor, insisted on a full force for Stravinsky's bracing "Rite of Spring," which meant 80 musicians. So many, in fact, that the basses, gongs, timpani and other percussionists were arrayed along the wall on either side of the sunken orchestra area. There, in full view of the nearly sold-out audience members, the young musicians must have felt the pressure: It's tough to hide a hammered drum or a banged gong. They did a great job, adding to a stellar evening.
Eggers on our face
Here at I.W. we hate to take anything back, but this time we have to. Last week in this space, we told you that Dave Eggers, author of "A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius" and the National Book Award finalist "A Hologram for the King" was coming to town. Well, last week that was the plan. But now he's canceled. A scheduling conflict, we hear. You still might want to make plans to go to Magers & Quinn or Micawber's Bookstore on March 9, because bookstores are a fine place to hang out, but just don't expect to run into Eggers there. Even staggering geniuses can't be in two places at once.