Hennepin Avenue heats up

The corner of 6th and Hennepin in downtown Minneapolis isn't looking so drab anymore. The swanky 12,000-square-foot Rosa Mexicano opened this week with a big splash in City Center. It joins the recently opened Cowles Center and Thom Pham's Wondrous Azian Kitchen at the once-dreary intersection. (Now if only Block E could get its act together.) The New York-based chain of upscale Mexican restaurants is famous for its tableside guacamole, frozen pomegranate margaritas and dramatic look. CEO Howard Greenstone told I.W. the City Center restaurant is the company's largest yet. The multi-room layout is flush with Rosa Mexicano's usual color scheme of pinks, reds and deep purples. It's very nightclub-ish, but the food takes center stage. Entree prices range from $15 to $27. As for the guac, Greenstone said the chain goes through 1.2 million avocados a year at its dozen restaurants. The weather might be cooling, but the 100-seat patio should keep customers warm. They've added large "super heaters" to keep diners cozy outside -- a sure way to win any Minnesotan's heart.


Ali's big day out

You could tell just how serious Brother Ali was about his upcoming block party, the Twin Cities Day of Dignity, by the fact that he personally was passing out fliers for the Oct. 1 event outside Prof's sold-out First Ave show two weeks ago. "This is right up there with my own First Ave shows and Soundset as one of the most important events I've ever been involved with," the Minneapolis rap star said of the one-of-kind charity concert. How unique is it? The free performances by Ali, fellow Rhymesayers rapper Freeway "and maybe friends" are happening outside a mosque in north Minneapolis -- Masjid An-Nur --that counts both Ali and U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison among its members. The concept of a big music bash outside a holy place certainly isn't foreign in this town (see: Basilica Block Party), but even Ali admitted, "There aren't too many mosques out there that would host a hip-hop concert." The show is also unique in that the charitable aspects will be happening on-site, with free health-care services, winter clothes, hot meals and other help for needy residents. Details at www.TwinCitiesDignity.org.


Heart-healthy news

Last weekend was rough for the Twin Cities theater community, but the news is much better Friday. Actor Warren Bowles suffered cardiac arrest while performing a monologue during the opening night of "Neighbors" at Mixed Blood. Bowles was still in intensive care as of Wednesday afternoon, though his condition has been upgraded to satisfactory and he is up, walking around. Meanwhile, actor Gene Larche, who has worked with Brave New Workshop and Mystery Cafe, suffered a heart attack playing ultimate Frisbee on Sunday. Larche was taken to Fairview Southdale and kept in a coma until Tuesday, when he awoke on his own. Larche was talking and alert by Wednesday and promised Mystery Cafe producer Lee Adams that he was going to be in the December show.


Farewell to a force

Members of the Twin Cities theater community are mourning the death of Tia Mann-Evans, a founding company member at Penumbra Theatre. She had lived in the Atlanta area for the past two decades but was instrumental in theater before that. "She epitomized black artistry in St. Paul. Tia was a force," said Abdul Salaam El Razzac, who appeared with her in "The Great White Hope" in 1975, a show whose poignant success helped inspire the founding of Penumbra and Mixed Blood theaters. The daughter of a famed St. Paul police officer, Mann-Evans also acted at Mixed Blood and the Guthrie.


See a lot of light

Dave Grohl mentioned how much Hüsker Dü meant to him during last week's Foo Fighters concert at Xcel Energy Center, and on Nov. 21 he and many other well-known fans of the Minneapolis band will pay the ultimate respect to its co-leader Bob Mould at a special tribute concert in Los Angeles. Billed as "See a Little Light: A Celebration of the Music and Legacy of Bob Mould," the one-night-only show will feature performances by Grohl, Ben Gibbard (Death Cab for Cutie), Ryan Adams, the Hold Steady's Craig Finn and Tad Kubler, Best Coast, No Age, Grant Lee Phillips and comedian Margaret Cho. It's happening at the fancy Walt Disney Concert Hall in downtown L.A., about as far away from Ron's Randolph Inn as you can get without leaving the country. Mould and Grohl already reunited once in L.A. for last week's "Conan" TV performance of "Dear Rosemary," which Mould also recorded there with the Foos for their new "Wasting Light" album.


I thought they lowered drink prices

I.W. had the usual quibbles about the Ivey Awards on Monday night. But we were quite pleased that some really good theater guys got their props. Craig Johnson is one of the best directors in town. Dennis Spears has been a force of nature for decades. Peter Christian Hansen ("Peter Handsome," as some admirers call him) richly deserved a shout-out as an actor. Hallelujah that Gary Rue was recognized for musical direction and ditto for Ben Bakken, who is loved by everyone with whom he works. 'Twas lovely to see Bain Boehlke honored for lifetime achievement and Anna Sundberg as emerging artist. Our only complaint was paying $2 for about 3 cents' worth of cola at the after-party.