Amid the greenery and sculptures of Caponi Art Park, performers and audiences will gather for music, storytelling and dance.
The 20th anniversary season of the Summer Performance Series begins Sunday and continues every other week through August at the park’s Theater in the Woods.
“It’s a real amphitheater in the style of the Greeks,” said Cheryl Caponi, managing director of the Eagan park. The circular stage and bowl-shaped grassy seating area holds up to 1,000 spectators.
After the theater’s stage was built in 2000, Anthony Caponi, the park’s founder, and an assistant spent the next six years building the terraced seating area that surrounds the stage by hand. Now it’s a place where visitors can spread their blankets out on the grass under an awning of oak trees.
This year, the park is adding opening acts for each of the six performances on alternating Sunday evenings.
“It’s sort of something special for the 20th anniversary,” said Cheryl Caponi.
Shows start at 6:30 p.m. Tickets are free, although there is a $5 suggested donation.
Visitors who get to the park early can explore the features of the 60-acre park with its paths through rolling hills, art sculptures by Anthony Caponi tucked in the woods and, newly installed for this season, a labyrinth in the park’s northern section.
Here’s this season’s lineup:
The first concert of the series, on June 14, features 10-piece band Salsabrosa, which plays a Cuban-style salsa that weaves in elements of jazz, cumbia, merengue and bachata.
The group has been playing for 10 years, and Zusel Balbín, a singer from Cuba, joined as lead vocalist a couple of years ago.
“She’s just this powerhouse singer from Havana,” said Tim Owen, the band’s manager. “She’s unbelievable.”
Dancers Chini Yeniel Perez and Hanna Kuluvar Esparza will perform and teach the audience.
“We’ll definitely be getting the audience off their feet,” said Owen, who said they have a group of “crazed salsa dancers who follow us … everywhere we play.”
Lloyd Brant opens the show with “Fool’s Medicine Show,” a one-man show based on medicine shows of the 1800s. He plays Dr. P.T. Clemens, a “cross between P.T. Barnum and Samuel Clemens,” said Brant. The show, which he will also perform at the State Fair this year, includes miming, comic sketches and magic.
On June 28, the Sisters of Swing — Kathy Mueller, Aimee Lee and Sheridan Zuther — perform the music of Minnesota’s own Andrews sisters: “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy,” “Shoo Shoo Baby” and other songs accompanied by a seven-piece band. Bill Arnold, of Triple Espresso, will host and talk about America in the 1930s and 1940s.
Performers from Minneapolis-based youth dance company Young Dance will open with its 2015 spring show, “Stories,” which involves family traditions, folklore and tall tales.
Marking 150 years since the ending of the Civil War, on July 12, the Dakota Valley Summer Pops Orchestra and Chorale will perform “The Last Full Measure,” which looks back to that period in history. The program will include numbers like Aaron Copland’s “Lincoln Portrait” and Morton Gould’s “American Salute.”
Master storyteller Beverly Cottman will open the show by sharing folk tales, stories and fables of African and African-American tradition.
On July 26, storyteller Kevin Kling, regularly featured on National Public Radio, performs with accordionista Simone Perrin. Kling will tell stories such as “State Fair” and “The Lake,” and visitors can hear Perrin play songs as varied as Edith Piaf’s “Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien” and “I Walk the Line” by Johnny Cash.
The opening act is Corpse Reviver, a duo that plays music based on Harry Smith’s 1952 Anthology of American Folk Music.
On Aug. 9, Ragamala Dance Company will perform “Sacred Earth,” a piece they premiered in 2011 and since have performed all over the world.
The piece is inspired by Warli wall paintings and kolam rice flour drawings, which “are ephemeral arts with kindred philosophies, that the earth and all its beings, not just humans, have importance,” said Ashwini Ramaswamy of Ragamala.
The dancers, studied in the Indian classical dance form of bharatanatyam, create kolam designs on the stage with rice flour. The show’s artistic directors used 3rd century Tamil poems inspired by landscapes — mountain, farmland, seaside and forest — to create the narrative sections of the dance.
“Performing outdoors, within nature, relates to the themes of the show, which celebrates the interconnectedness between humans and the environments that shape them,” Ramaswamy said.
Michael Hauser opens with flamenco music and dance.
Visual and performing artists from BareBones Productions will perform on Aug. 23, and Drumheart, the performing ensemble of the Women’s Drum Center, will open.
For details, visit www.caponiartpark.org and find the Summer Performance Series information under the “Programs” tab.
Liz Rolfsmeier is a Twin Cities-based freelance writer. Her e-mail is email@example.com.