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A tumble in the night, and a family's life is changed

It’s the kind of incident that playwright Carlyle Brown could have written to start one of his plays, except that it was all too real.

As he slept in his Minneapolis home one night about a month ago, his wife, Barbara Rose-Brown, rose to get some water. Somewhere in the hallway, she took a tumble. Brown leapt out of bed and rushed to her aid. She could not speak to tell him what happened. And she did not have movement in one side.

He knew fairly quickly that his wife of 20-plus years, who also was his dramaturg, partner and sometime muse, had suffered a stroke. He rushed her quickly to the emergency room, where they cleared the blood clot and put her in intensive rehab.

Now the playwright, whose works include "Pure Confidence" and "The Little Tommy Parker Celebrated Colored Minstrel Show," is praying for a miraculous ending.

“Barb has this wacky sense of humor and she can be stubborn, which is very useful right now in terms of fighting,” Brown said of his wife, a minister’s daughter who was born in South Dakota and who works as a product validator at Target. “I’m pretty proud of her. I used to think that she’s this fragile woman but apparently she’s not. She doesn’t have speech yet, but when we communicate, she’s telling me she’s in there fighting.”

The health crisis came just Brown was preparing to open his play, “Down in Mississippi,” at the East Side Freedom Library in Saint Paul. Directed by Noel Raymond and starring Mikell Sapp, Adelin Phelps and Tony Sarnicki, and featuring the song stylings of Mari Harris, the music-infused play is about a trio of young civil rights activists in 1964.

“To have this show at this moment has actually been comforting,” said Brown. “It’s not just a distraction from our troubles. It’s meaningful to have something like this while you’re going through your own [stuff]. And the community has been really great rallying around us.”

Seattle-based dramatist and thought leader Todd London has set up a Go Fund Me page to help the couple during this time of distress, and the drive has raised more than half of its $20,000 goal in less than a week. Contributions have come from across the country, including from playwright Marcus Gardley, who thanked Brown and, by extension, his wife, for their “life-changing, fearless and exquisite art.”

The playwright has been drawing inspiration from his wife.

“I’ve had loss in my family — when I was a young man, they hopped off on cancer one after the other,” said Brown. “But nothing really prepares you for something like this. She has the will to fight and I try to encourage her every day. That’s everything I have to do right now.”

Dessa on New Orleans: Minnesota musician turns tourist for the New York Times

Dessa is having a good week -- in the midst of a good month, a good year. On Sunday, the New York Times Magazine published a piece the musician and writer penned about New Orleans, as part of its Voyages Issue.

Through the years, Dessa had visited New Orleans while on tour, she says in the travel essay. But she hadn't lingered:

While a national tour can hit 40 cities, you might not actually see much of them. Most touring indie musicians spend the bulk of the business day in transit — we lunch at roadside fast-food joints, stand in line behind one another at gas-station bathrooms, then roll into town just in time to set up. By the time the stage is set, the museums are long closed, as are the shops, the bookstores.

This time, Dessa stayed, appreciating the music -- and the footwear -- at the Maple Leaf Bar, chatting with a Mardi Gras Indian in the tree-lined City Park, getting a tarot card reading in the French Quarter. The piece includes these poetic lines:

In New Orleans, the Mississippi winds like a cursive word that has just been pulled too straight to decipher.

Your throat will hurt, constricted by the intensity of a feeling you hadn't known to brace for.

No place wears gravity as beautifully as New Orleans.

And that good week? On Monday, the Twins announced that Dessa will sing the national anthem at the Twins opener at Target Field.

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