Minneapolis’ own superstar photographer Alec Soth evidently is huge in Finland. Big enough to merit a three-page spread, including eight of his photos on the cover, in a classy publication called Kulttuuri. Sporting a fashionable salt-and-pepper beard, Soth is pictured in a diner somewhere. He looks a little wary and befuddled, maybe because he’s surrounded by unintelligible Finnish. Only words we could extract from the alphabet soup were “Twin Cities, Prince, Brad Zellar, Jack Kerouac,” and the titles of five of Soth’s books. Plus “hipsteripaikassa,” which probably means about what you’d guess. While Soth got cover-boy treatment, buried inside was a one-page story on the great Finnish conductor Osmo Vänskä, right behind a piece on the Spice Girls.


Comedy carpetbagger

Don’t tell Alex Avery that Minnesotans aren’t kind to strangers. The Portland, Ore., native, who just moved to the area last month, was named the Funniest Person in the Twin Cities Tuesday night, reeling off a series of non sequiturs at Acme Comedy Co. that nodded to Steven Wright while maintaining a voice all his own. An example: “I sleep on a conjoined twin bed. Technically, it’s a bunk bed, but if you separate them, one of them dies.” What makes observations like this all the more impressive is that Avery, a visual artist, is only 20 years old. Of course, Avery had to deliver only three minutes of material. He’ll need 15 minutes before anyone thinks about booking him on a regular basis and nearly an hour if he’s going to headline. But winning, which comes with a $1,000 check, does put him on the radar of comedy insiders.


Bound for Europe

Minnesota classical music-lovers, here are your next international bragging rights. The St. Paul Chamber Orchestra announced its European concert tour on Thursday with November dates in Italy, Germany and Austria. The news comes on the heels of Minnesota Orchestra’s successful August tour to Finland, Scotland, the Netherlands and Denmark. For both orchestras, the 2016 European tours marked important steps in recovering from contentious labor disputes in recent years. “We don’t see this as a comeback tour,” stressed SPCO artistic director and principal violin Kyu-Young Kim. “When we go on tour, it’s a little like going to the playoffs for a professional sports team. It’s an opportunity for the orchestra to raise its game.” The SPCO tour opens in Rome on Nov. 19. From there the SPCO will play an impressive string of world-class cities: Bologna, Siena, Berlin and Vienna.


Out of the spotlight

You might have seen her in the background of a few performances, but primarily Susan Magnuson drove the show from the production booth at Chanhassen Dinner Theatres. Magnuson has retired after 45 years at the suburban playhouse. She knows wigs, props, costumes, cues and even a little stage footwork. Founding artistic director Gary Gisselman would use Magnuson as an understudy or in the ensemble. “He liked to put as many bodies on stage as possible,” is how Magnuson appraised her time in nearly 3,000 performances. During the years she stage-managed the Fireside Room, she went on stage twice as an emergency fill-in — once when an actor was in a car accident, then again when an actor took ill at the last minute. For the past 14 years, she has run more than 16,000 performances of the mainstage shows at Chanhassen.


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