Fall Arts Guide 2017: The 20 best events of the season

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Amir Fallah

Fall is just around the corner. With the changing of the season comes new events to plan for. The following are some of our top picks for theater, dance, readings, and visual arts coming up in the Twin Cities. Click here to see our 20 top picks for fall concerts. 

THEATER

Hoopla Train

Various Venues

Given how integral polka has been to the cultural history of Minnesota, it’s surprising that more performers don’t try to incorporate it into theatrical productions. Okay, maybe not that surprising… but now, some of the Twin Cities’ top actors have joined forces to celebrate our state’s community dancing tradition in an interactive production called Hoopla Train. After touring to 14 dance halls and ballrooms across greater Minnesota in 2015, the show is taking up residence at three Minneapolis and St. Paul venues. Led by the top-notch comic actor Jim Lichtscheidl, a seven-member troupe join forces with the Chmielewski Funtime Band to present a vaudeville-style variety show that encourages audiences to get up and polka (and foxtrot, and waltz). If you think you’ve got game, there’s even a talent contest with prizes. Or, if your polka’s a little rusty, you can show up an hour before showtime for a free lesson. Will city slickers fall for the Sod House schtick the way small-town audiences did? With seasoned entertainers like Luverne Seifert, Elise Langer, and Kimberly Richardson on board the Hoopla Train, you’ll be in good hands. For tickets, go to www.sodhousetheater.org. 7:30 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays; 2 p.m. Sundays. September 21 through October 15 —Jay Gabler

All the Way

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Hoopla Train Mark Chamberlain

History Theatre

History Theatre’s season opener comes to St. Paul via the Great White Way, where it won the 2014 Tony Award for Best Play and also earned a Tony for Breaking Bad actor Bryan Cranston. In All the Way, Cranston played President Lyndon B. Johnson, one of three key figures working to get the Civil Rights Act of 1964 passed. As in real life, here Johnson collaborates with Martin Luther King Jr. and with Hubert H. Humphrey, the Minnesota senator who would later become Johnson’s VP. Also part of the conversation is NAACP leader Roy Wilkins, who grew up in St. Paul and deserves a better monument than the brick-clad barn of an auditorium that now bears his name. Reviews of the New York production praised Cranston for giving life to Robert Schenkkan’s dense and talky script. In director Ron Peluso’s new production, that job will fall to Pearce Bunting, who’s no stranger to meaty roles on local stages. Shawn Hamilton (seen recently in the Guthrie’s Royal Family) will play MLK, with HHH embodied by Andrew Wheeler, who shone as Pastor Paul in Walking Shadow’s acclaimed production of The Christians. 7:30 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays; 2 p.m. Sundays. $15-$52. 30 E. 10th St., St. Paul; 651-292-4323. October 7-29 —Jay Gabler

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

Mixed Blood Theatre

Mixed Blood Theatre was founded to embrace diverse voices. That includes the voices of the differently abled, as the company demonstrated with last year’s production of Orange, Aditi Brennan Kapil’s play about a teenage girl on the autism spectrum who goes on an overnight odyssey through southern California. Curious Incident is a much higher-profile play: Simon Stephens’ Tony-winning adaptation of Mark Haddon’s widely read 2003 novel about a boy with autism who sets out to solve the mystery of a neighbor’s dog speared to death with a pitchfork. This isn’t a chamber piece. The productions in New York and London (and a touring version that came to the Orpheum last winter) relied on sophisticated visual and sound effects that were intentionally overpowering, giving audience members a feeling for how the sensitive Christopher Boone perceives the metropolis he must navigate alone. That will be tricky for a smaller company, but Mixed Blood thrives on challenges like this. (For example, they brought the twisted puppets of Avenue Q to life in 2011.) While director Jack Reuler will have to get creative with his staging, he’ll also have the opportunity to highlight some of the relationships in Christopher’s life with the kind of tender performances that can be lost in larger houses. Free; $25 guaranteed reservations. 1501 S. Fourth St., Minneapolis; 612-338-6131. November 10 to December 3 —Jay Gabler

Life’s Parade

Red Eye Theater

It’s Red Eye Theater’s 35th season, and nearly the end of an era for co-founders Steve Busa and Miriam Must. A year from now, the small experimental performance space at the edge of Loring Park will begin its transition to new leadership. Before that happens, we get to see these two stalwarts of the Twin Cities theater community in action, doing what they do best. In October, Red Eye will present the last in a trilogy of original scripts by playwright Katherine Sherman created in collaboration with director Busa. Each of the plays in the series is inspired by a 20th-century cinematic masterpiece. The first two took on Fritz Lang’s M and Jean-Luc Godard’s Contempt. The final piece in the trilogy, Life’s Parade, finds inspiration from Douglas Sirk’s 1954 melodrama, Magnificent Obsession, and features Must in the central role. The show will be supported by a ’50s-style score created by Skyler Nowinski, and choreography by Dolo McComb. $10-$25; $8 students. 15 W. 14th St., Minneapolis; 612-870-0309. October 13-29 —Sheila Regan

Watch on the Rhine

Guthrie Theater

If the themes of Watch on the Rhine seemed timely when the Guthrie’s fall season was announced, they’ve only become more so in the succeeding months. Lillian Hellman’s political thriller premiered in 1941, just eight months before Pearl Harbor. Set near Washington, D.C., the plot concerns an American family hosting German relatives as well as another houseguest who’s secretly been conspiring with the Nazis. When it’s revealed that a man in the visiting family has been supporting underground anti-fascist operations, tension mounts as the Axis and Allies face off in a seemingly genteel American setting. Despite its heavy subject matter, there are darkly comedic elements to this play that makes a strong moral argument: When freedom is at risk, there is no neutral ground. Regular theatergoers have been warmed up for this play with two shows last season: Park Square Theatre’s Idiot’s Delight, about Europe on the brink of war, and Prime Productions’ Little Wars, which imagined playwright Hellman and other remarkable women of the era convening for a 1940 meeting at the home of Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas. 7:30 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays; matinees and other performances scheduled as well. $29-$77. 818 S. Second St., Minneapolis; 612-377-2224. September 30 through November 5 —Jay Gabler

Wedding Band

Penumbra Theatre

Founder Lou Bellamy is now Penumbra Theatre’s artistic director emeritus, but he’s far from retired: The veteran director is taking the helm for a new production of Alice Childress’ play about an interracial romance. Writing during the heart of the 1960s Civil Rights Movement, Childress imagined an African-American seamstress who develops a passionate mutual attraction with a white man in South Carolina circa 1918. The characters suffer the censure of their community, and half a century after their imagined romance, the topic was still so controversial that Wedding Band wasn’t produced professionally until 1972. It remained little-known for decades, but in recent years companies have started to revive the script and make the case that it’s an underappreciated classic. There’s perhaps no organization better suited to tackle this complex and challenging script, which isn’t just a plea for tolerance but an examination of intersectionality and an excoriation of white privilege. Local audiences who thrilled to the Guthrie Theater’s superb production of Childress’ best-known play, Trouble in Mind, last year should take note of this rare opportunity to see a Penumbra production of this important follow-up. 7:30 p.m. Wednesdays through Saturdays; 2 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. $15-$40. 270 N. Kent St., St. Paul; 651-224-3180. October 17 to November 12 —Jay Gabler

DANCE

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All the Way

A Love Supreme

Walker Art Center

Decades ago, when Anne Teresa de Keersmaeker burst onto the international dance scene, a dear, departed friend and I referred to the Belgian choreographer and dancer as “de Tearjerker.” Back then, the works featured screaming women in slips and stiletto heels, raging against… well, whatever. Today, de Keersmaeker is one of the world’s foremost choreographers, as A Love Supreme demonstrates. Created in collaboration with Spanish-born choreographer Salva Sanchis, the piece is a quartet set to John Coltrane’s 1965 album A Love Supreme. Four dancers, their ferocious energy embedded within the articulate choreography, embody one of the recording’s four instruments: Coltrane’s saxophone, McCoy Tyner’s piano, Jimmy Garrison’s bass, and Elvin Jones’ drums. The interplay is at once majestic and magical. 8 p.m. Thursday and Friday. $20-$25. 725 Vineland Place, Minneapolis; 612-375-7600. October 12-13 —Camille LeFevre

The Architect

TEK BOX

Minneapolis’ ARENA Dances founder Mathew Janczewski used to have a side hustle: He worked for an architect, helping him manage and organize his business after hours. Certainly that experience influenced Janczewski’s new solo for longtime ARENA dancer Timmy Wagner. Wagner, a lithe yet muscular dancer with a singular presence, imbues every gesture—grand or detailed—with distinct intentionality. The piece investigates the playful, arduous and revelatory aspects of creativity with idiosyncratic movement that’s innovatively integrated with a fabric set by Margarita Jane Arguedas and the writerly and dramaturgical influences of theater provocateur Rachel Jendrzejewski. 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday. $18. 528 Hennepin Ave., Ste. 215, Cowles Center for Performing Arts, Minneapolis; 612-672-0480. November 3-4 —Camille LeFevre

Malpaso Dance Company

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Malpaso Dance Company

Northrop

The Havana-based Malpaso Dance Company gets the Northrop dance season off to a sizzling start, sharing the stage with our own Zenon Dance Company. Malpaso’s dancers have been lauded for their range; they can get down rhythmically, soar balletically, or whip through an athletic tour de force with equal facility. Artistic director Osnel Delgado’s duet “Ocaso” reveals witty and fluid partnering, while Canadian choreographer Aszure Barton’s “Indomitable Waltz” revels in lyrical athleticism, and Ronald K. Brown unites Afro-Cuban moves with exuberant spirituality in “Why You Follow.” The performance leads off with a celebration of international collaboration, Delgado’s 2014 work for Zenon, which the troupe will perform as special guest artists. A dance that mines baseball metaphors and gestures to find common ground between two cultures, “Coming Home” lathers hardball moves with plenty of hot sauce. Kudos to Northrop for including local troupe Zenon in its international series. 7:30 p.m. $21-$46. 84 Church St. SE, Minneapolis; 612-624-2345. October 10 —Linda Shapiro

New York City Ballet

Northrop

Even in part, the New York City Ballet adds up to a whole lot of excellence as 16 dancers from that extraordinary company perform works ranging from classical to experimental. NYCB’s vitality, physicality, and sophisticated musicality go way beyond stimulating into the realm of the sublime. Then there’s the range of the repertory on this program. NYCB founder George Balanchine’s spellbinding 1975 duet “Sonatine,” set to music by Ravel, is followed by Christopher Wheeldon’s exquisite “After the Rain,” created 30 years later. Wunderkind Justin Peck’s “In Creases,” his first ballet for the company, captures the individuality and youthfulness of NYCB dancers. Peck has been compared to Balanchine in terms of the complexity and elegance of his choreography, while French choreographer Angelin Preljocaj goes for all-out emotive power in his “La Stravagaza.” Finally, Jerome Robbins’ “In the Night” shapes Chopin’s nocturnes into a drama for three contrasting sets of lovers. And anyone who has seen his dances for West Side Story or Fiddler on the Roof knows that this guy can tell a moving story. Live music makes this evening an embarrassment of riches. 7:30 p.m. $32-$74. Northrop, 84 Church St. SE, Minneapolis; 612-624-2345. October 28 —Linda Shapiro

TU Dance

O’Shaughnessy Auditorium

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For 14 years, TU Dance (the eponymously acronymic company created by Uri Sands and Toni Pierce-Sands) has been shattering our expectations of contemporary dance with gorgeous, politically challenging, and choreographically adventurous work —mostly by Sands himself. This concert includes a Sands work recently commissioned for Performa/Dance of Austin. Titled “Better Left Unsaid,” the piece has five dancers moving sinuously to the music of Bon Iver (who will be collaborating with TU on another work premiering at the Palace Theater in St. Paul in 2018). TU has also been busy building its repertory with dances by up-and-coming and established choreographers. New York-based Stefanie Batten Bland, who created a piece with a large net for Zenon Dance Company, will have a new work on the program. So will Marcus Jarrell Willis, who dances with Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater (where T and U met). Ron Brown’s lovely, resonant solo for Pierce-Sands, “Clear as Tear Water,” completes this fall program. 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday; 2 p.m. Sunday. $22-$34. 2004 Randolph Ave., St. Paul; 651-690-6700. November 17-19 —Camille LeFevre

Rosie Herrera Dance Theatre

O’Shaughnessy Auditorium

Say you studied piano or ballet or soccer as a kid, but haven’t practiced for a long while. Give it a go and you’ll find that muscle memory kicks in. Dancer and choreographer Rosie Herrera, who grew up in the south Bronx, has muscle memory of a different kind—and we’re not talking contemporary dance. It’s fight choreography, as taught to her by her bad-ass mom, Cookie. In her 2009 solo, “Cookie’s Kid,” Herrera examines the ways in which “in our house, touch was more important than happiness,” she says. In the piece, which includes a short film that references her father, Herrera moves, sings, and speaks about her childhood. Also on the program is “Carne Viva,” a quartet in which the raw violence of relationships is merged with religious fervor and romantic reflection. Based in Miami, Herrera’s company is known for its innovative blend of hip-hop, Little Havana cabaret, modern dance, drag-queen extravagance, surreal dance theater, and Latin pop. 7:30 p.m. $20-$34. 2004 Randolph Ave., St. Paul; 651-690-6700. October 13
—Camille LeFevre

VISUAL ARTS

AMVETS Post #5: Photographs by Xavier Tavera

Minnesota History Center

The AMVETS Post #5 was formed in the wake of the Vietnam War when a group of Mexican and Mexican American vets tried to join other clubs and were told they couldn’t. So they started their own post. In 2013, Twin Cities-based artist Xavier Tavera snapped a series of color portraits of these World War II, Korean War, and Vietnam War vets from St. Paul’s West Side to shine a light on their stories and struggles. Along with the photographs will be text in this exhibition, presented in both English and Spanish. Tavera, who recently graduated with a master’s in fine arts from the University of Minnesota, was born in Mexico City himself, and has a knack for evoking layered storytelling with a single portrait. There will be an opening celebration with free admission and special performances from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, September 23. Free with admission ($6-$12). 345 W. Kellogg Blvd., St. Paul; 651-259-3000. September 23 through April 22, 2018 —Sheila Regan

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Tempered Beasts

Northern Clay Center

Mythology is rife with animal-human hybrids, including centaurs, fauns, sphinxes, and sirens. Our fascination with such creatures is endless, limited only by our own imaginations. As contemporary ceramist Lindsay Pichaske explores, where is the line between human and animal? Between the beautiful and the bizarre? Her ceramic animals in this exhibition invite such questions while raising more about identity, sentience, and soul. Sculptural works blend humor and horror with vivacious color, visceral form, figure, and ferocity to ignite viewers’ aesthetic sensibilities. Works by Alessandro Gallo, Crystal Morey, Adriel Tong, and Russell Wrankle are also included. You’ll never see Bambi, Fido, or Fluffy the same way again. There will be a public reception from 6 to 8 p.m. Friday, October 20. Free. 2424 E. Franklin Ave., Minneapolis; 612-339-8007. September 22 through November 5 —Camille LeFevre

Culture as Weapon

Space 369

In 2012, an ex-employee of Accent Signage Systems in Minneapolis who had been let go for poor work performance returned to his former place of employment and opened fire. He shot five people and injured three others. Local artist and curator John Schuerman knew them all. For the past several years, while running the now-defunct Instinct Gallery in downtown Minneapolis, he has curated exhibitions that take deep and unsettling dives into gun violence and gun culture. For this show in Space 369, he’s including his own piece, Counting Installation, a harrowing work that includes meticulously rendered accounts of such details as receipts for target practice, days late to work, and last words spoken. Also included are Sean Smuda’s riveting, art-historical photograph Moment of the Day, and pieces by Jennifer Davis, Michael Duffy, Ruthann Godollei, Christopher Harrison, and Jonathan Herrera. Taken singly and together, the works will leave your heart broken and intellect incited. 2242 University Ave. W., St. Paul; 612-208-9328. October 20-29 —Camille LeFevre

Weavers Guild of Minnesota’s Fiber Fair

Northrup King Building

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Jennifer Egan

As the holidays approach, be sure to put the Fiber Fair on your to-do list. The event, first held in 1956, showcases the craftsmanship of Weavers Guild members, most of whom are from Minnesota. Scarves, shawls, purses, rugs, placemats, and wall hangings are among the unique gifts you can choose from, with 74 percent of each sale going to the artist and the rest benefiting the nonprofit’s educational programming. From traditional craftsmanship to innovative contemporary designs, the items at this fair showcase a range of talent from the guild’s 560 members. New this year is a sustainable wares section, which focuses on green and eco-friendly goods, fibers, and materials. In addition to the sale, the fair also includes maker talks where shoppers can meet the artists and learn about their techniques. 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Friday; 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday; noon to 4 p.m. Sunday. Free. 1500 Jackson St. NE, Studio #332, Minneapolis. November 10-12 —Sheila Regan

Adiós Utopia:

Dreams and Deceptions in Cuban Art Since 1950

Walker Art Center

Since Cuban-U.S. relations were relaxed by the Obama administration, myriad organizations as well as individual travelers have been visiting the island nation as curiosity seekers and cultural ambassadors. Adventuring to Cuba today is still akin to time travel, with political views, societal conventions, architecture, and infrastructure still stuck largely in the mid-20th century. Many artists and designers who remained in Cuba during this revolutionary epoch found a way toward success while creating in the liminal state between a supposed utopia’s construction and deconstruction. This exhibition, curated in part by the Walker’s executive director Olga Viso, the Florida-born daughter of Cuban émigrés, brings the fruits of their labors to us—the first since a 1944 show at MOMA in New York. More more than 100 works by more than 50 of these Cuban creatives will be showcased here. Video, installation, and performance pieces, along with paintings, photography, and works of graphic design, are underscored with didactics on key moments in contemporary Cuban history. Free with admission. 725 Vineland Place, Minneapolis; 612-375-7600. November 11 through March 18, 2018 —Camille LeFevre

LITERARY

Pen Pals: Jennifer Egan

Hopkins Center for the Arts

Novelist Jennifer Egan seems to get exponentially better with each new work. Her fine debut, The Invisible Circus, was an intimate reexamination of ’60s radicalism through a feminist lens. Her subsequent books edged into territory often claimed by postmodernism, but without the stylistic indulgences and chilly detachment that usually entails. Thus 2010’s A Visit From the Goon Squad shouldn’t have been a shock, but it’s impossible not to be surprised by a novel so formally daring and emotionally resonant. The Pulitzer Prize selection committee certainly approved. So it is with tremendous anticipation that Egan this October releases her follow-up novel, Manhattan Beach, which will be the topic of conversation when she makes back-to-back appearances as part of the Hennepin County Library’s Pen Pals series. 7:30 p.m. Thursday; 11 a.m. Friday. $40-$50. 1111 Mainstreet, Hopkins; 612-543-8112. October 26-27 —Bryan Miller

Lydia Davis

Cowles Auditorium

Lydia Davis first emerged, obscurely, as one of the 1970s’ Language poets, and the very short stories for which she later became known could also be packaged as prose poems, or as epigrams or miniature essays. Her narrators, often apparent authorial surrogates, can be fastidiously perturbed, but her prose is always poised and economical. A true and serious wit, she’s funnier than almost everyone who’s supposed to be funny. In addition to her essayistic micro-fiction, she has written longer and slightly more conventional short stories (“The Walk” is a highlight), as well as a beautiful novel, The End of the Story, in which an intense May-August affair and the circumstances surrounding it are recounted with unusual fidelity to memory’s obstacles and mysteries. Her translations from the French include works by Michel Leiris, something of a kindred spirit, and canonical heavyweights by Flaubert and Proust. 6:30 p.m. Free. 301 19th Ave. S., Minneapolis; 612-625-9505. October 6 —Dylan Hicks

Mary Ruefle

McNamara Alumni Center

Mary Ruefle’s poems are the work of a naturist who while stopping to smell the roses takes careful notes on the stamens and pistils. She’s an abstract fabulist whose caprices can both satirize and enrich an undergirding melancholy. “I feed my sorrow,” begins one poem inauspiciously. A few lines later she’s feeding her sorrow blueberries and buying it batteries, and by the end we’ve passed through an obliquely wise, gently funny meditation. Ruefle also writes essays of various sorts, most famously in Madness, Rack, and Honey, a collection culled from lectures presented to poetry grad students. Learned but not scholarly, these pieces are full of provocative and useful bits of poetics, metaphysics, smartly chosen quotations, and dubious ideas colorfully expressed. She has also produced erasure-derived works such as A Little White Shadow, a little-known 19th century book largely whited out to reveal elliptical miniatures. 7 p.m. Free. 200 Oak St. SE, Minneapolis; 612-624-9831. November 14 —Dylan Hicks


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