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New Bob Dylan musical takes place in Duluth during Great Depression, will premiere in London

LOS ANGELES -- Bob Dylan must be hoping that things have changed.

The first attempt to bring his catalogue to the theatre, "The Times They Are a-Changin'," closed on Broadway after three weeks.

Now the recent Nobel Prize winner is trying again. "Girl From the North Country," which is expected to sample generously from Dylan's vast catalogue, is set to premiere at London's Old Vic Theatre in July, The play is being written by acclaimed Irish writer Conor McPherson who is personally selecting the songs and directing.

Not much is known about the highly-anticipated production aside from statements made by the Old Vic artistic director Matthew Warchus's upon revealing the 2017 lineup.

"“It works rather like a ritual or a church service in that there is dramatic dialogue, story and then you become airborne for a moment in the Bob Dylan music," said Warchus who succeeded Kevin Spacey in 2015. "It is very clever and unique. There’s nothing really to compare it to.”

Despite the amount of secrecy surrounding the project, I was able to squeeze some thoughts out of lead actor Sam Reid, who is also starring in "Tennison," a PBS prequel to its popular "Prime Suspect" series.

Reid confirmed earlier this week that the story will take place in Duluth during the Great Depression and that he'll portray a young man eager to burst out of his seemingly dead-end life.

"It's very depressing," he said with a laugh, adding that he took the role as a departure from the string of wealthy aristocrats and authority figures that he's usually associated with. "I had to let go of some stuff to do this, but this is a very special project."

Reid said it was too early to speculate on details and will know more once the cast starts workshopping the project in February. He doesn't even know if he'll adapt a Minnesota accent, although the Aussie actor assumes that the cast will speak "American."

He wouldn't even confirm what songs might be included, but he's getting familiar with all of the Minnesota bard's work, listening to classics while driving in his car.

He's partial to the "Slow Train Coming" album and has also been impressed by Dylan's often under-appreciated vocal range.

"He's a chameleon," he said. "To hear him sing 'Lay, Lady, Lay' is so different than the vocal sond he's usually identified with."

Reid confesses that he wasn't a Dylan aficionado before landing that the role,but that his parents grew up on his music.

"They're so thrilled," he said.

Does Reid think there's any chance the normally reclusive musician will offer him some personal insight?

"Potentially, Reid said. "I know he and his team have been very supportive."

Two Twin Cities theater artists win national fellowships

Twin Cities actor, director, teacher and theater founder Luverne Seifert has won a $25,000 distinguished fellowship from the Bethesda, Maryland-based William and Eva Fox Foundation. Meanwhile theater artist Taous Claire Khazem has won a $15,000 fellowship for exceptional merit.

These two are part of a national cohort of six artists supported by the foundation, which underwrites training and career development for talented performers.

The support will enable Seifert and Khazem to deepen their knowledge of their art form and to work on projects.

Seifert (left) recently finished a run playing a nice gangster in Dark and Stormy’s production of “The Norwegians.” In the past 25 years, he’s acted at a myriad of theaters nationally and in the Twin Cities, including at the Children’s Theatre, where last fall he appeared in the premiere of Naomi Iizuka’s “The Last Firefly,” and at Ten Thousand Things, where he’s had a decades-long association.

He will travel to France and Switzerland to study technique with two master clowns for use in a piece for Ten Thousand Things about workers stuck in a small town.

Khazem (right) acted last summer in "Bars and Measures" at the Jungle Theater. In addition to her extensive work in the Twin Cities, she has performed and taught in Algeria. She is currently assistant director to Rachel Chavkin at the Guthrie Theater for “Royal Family.”

Under the aegis of Mixed Blood Theatre, which is located on the West Bank in Minneapolis, she intends to work with the Somali community on an inter-generational folktale project.

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