Did we know what we had?
Could we recognize what was growing
in our Midwest midst?
Greatness may have caught us
off guard. Was this
to be ours? a community of musicians—our guys—waking up
to this instant, this note, playing it as if
for the first time—
hearts exploding with magic and effort, never mind
Steady, relentless keenness for the work, responding
to a call to beauty, life
form taking shape in each heart
con brio? Knocking the socks
off the Proms, making them weep
What do we know of birthright? deep-rooted tradition? of old-world
of the finest? This is not, after all, the court, the country, the century
of the Pear Garden,
of Sundiata Keita,
We were not, after all, born
entitled. How were we to know we would experience transcendence
in the flesh?
We do, though, have evening wear
however much our Facebook photos tend toward baseball caps.
We can clean up, play the big leagues.
You know, maybe it isn’t important whether
we knew—we can listen. Recognize. Respond
ourselves. We can decide
what matters. Greatness isn’t its own defense. It takes defending.
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Jeremy Iggers recommends three Minneapolis venues for small plates that pack a punch—including the Twin Cities’ best-kept happy hour secret.
Meet our longtime contributor Courtney Algeo.
Meet Courtney Algeo, spunky and spirited literary hardcore who’s thriving in and driving the Minneapolis lit scene. She’s the Editorial Director of Paper Darts, a literary magazine, publisher, and creative agency. (We featured Executive Director Jamie Millard here.) On top of that,…
Aparna Ramaswamy, the Minneapolis-based co-director of Ragamala Dance, has earned a very favorable preview blurb in the October 7 issue of The New Yorker; she’ll be performing at Pace University on October 5. The praise comes on the heels of the Minnesota Legislature’s decision to block future state funding for artists to travel out of state (or for out-of-state artists to come here), with Ramaswamy’s educational trips abroad being widely cited as an example of misspent funds.
It’s clear that there are those who cannot see the value to Minnesota of our artists traveling out-of-state, and people who take that view must be feeling very satisfied right about now. Ramaswamy will be making no more trips on public funding, and the Minnesota Orchestra won’t be playing those planned Carnegie Hall gigs either. Clearly the decision to block travel funds and the locked-out state of the Minnesota Orchestra are making clear to the world just what a dazzling, forward-thinking arts mecca we have here in Minnesota.
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In November 2007, I joined the Twin Cities Daily Planet as assistant editor. I asked Daily Planet editor Mary Turck if I could also be arts editor—since, after all, there were only two of us—and she said something along the lines of, “Sure, why not?”
Six years—and 1,435 articles and blog posts—later, my time with the Daily Planet is coming to a close. On October 14, I’ll be making the move from the Daily Planet’s Seward headquarters to American Public Media, in what Garrison Keillor refers to as “hustling, bustling downtown St. Paul.” There, I’ll be joining the digital music team, working as an editor and writer on the websites of The Current and Classical Minnesota Public Radio.
I’m excited for this new opportunity and very much looking forward to working with my talented new colleagues, but of course it’s hard to say goodbye to the Daily Planet, where I’ve had what feels less like a job than an odyssey. 2007 wasn’t that long ago, but when I started at the Daily Planet, MinnPost didn’t exist, METRO was a promising new monthly, and The Onion’s local A.V. Club didn’t even have a website. Twitter was celebrating a new million-tweet milestone every several months. (Now, there are a million tweets sent every four minutes.) Over 95% of the people who are now on Facebook were not yet on Facebook.
It was a different world, but Jeremy Iggers and his fellow founders of the Daily Planet had seen where journalism was heading: online, nonprofit, and open-source. As “community” sections have sprouted up at mainstream publications around the world, as newspapers’ revenue streams have bottomed out and newsroom staff have been slashed, the Daily Planet’s been chugging up the hill like the little engine that could, flying the flag of citizen journalism and asking individuals and foundations to support our mission.
It’s been a challenge, yet we’ve prevailed: our staff has grown to include multiple new positions focused on outreach and community engagement—as well as an assistant arts editor, Morgan Halaska, who’s helped our coverage grow in quality and quantity. Our traffic has increased from 35,000 unique visitors each month to 148,000. Most importantly, we’re empowering more and more local community members to share their stories and connect with one another about issues that matter.
Numbers, though, can only tell part of the story of my six crazy, amazing years at the Daily Planet. There have been so many unforgettable moments, if I tried to list them all I wouldn’t even know where to start. Sitting in an empty office late at night in the IDS Tower, watching a pot of tea magically brew itself. Huddling at 1 a.m. in the basement of a secret West Bank venue, watching a woman lick a man’s bald head while John Bueche made pancakes. Sitting in the Acadia Cafe with Mary Turck, passing a beer with former mayor Don Fraser and his wife Arvonne while we all waited for someone—anyone—to come ask us a question about how they could become a Daily Planet reporter. Taking phone calls from Barb Teed, backstage at the Oscars, so that I could tweet the Minnesota-related gossip in real time. (“Pete Docter just gave a shout-out to Bloomington!”) Getting blacklisted from the Chanhassen Dinner Theatres (a prohibition that still stands) for a Jesus Christ Superstar review that “crossed the line of good taste.”
I’ve been lucky to work alongside many, many amazing people—whether as a coworker, an editor, or a friend. When I bought a camera to try my hand at music photography, there was Stacy Schwartz, shooting for a competing publication but happy to lend a lens. When I asked Katie Sisneros to write something about a set of Shakespeare-themed promo photos the Guthrie had released, she came up with a hilariously obscene rant that the Guthrie—possibly without actually reading it—retweeted. When I sent Sheila Regan to interview the guitarist of the Trans-Siberian Orchestra, she followed him to a hotel bar and had the good sense to just let him talk. (“My life is what it is.”) Through it all, Jeremy and Mary trusted that I knew what I was doing—or, at least, that I’d figure it out.
Perhaps the single best example, though, of what it’s meant to work at this publication, is the fact that I had the privilege of being the editor of my own mother. When she learned about how the Daily Planet worked, Mom decided to start a baseball blog. She’s a great writer, but she likely would never have been offered a column at a mainstream publication: she didn’t go to journalism school, or even start publicly writing until she was in her 50s. At the Daily Planet, though, she was able tovisit a pre-game warmup on Target Field, was cited as a source on Wikipedia, and was even approached by an editor who was compiling an anthology of women writers on baseball. Mom also became a theater reviewer; just this week, she reviewed the latest Church Basement Ladies musical and was thrilled to receive a personal note from one of the cast members, thanking her for her thoughtful writing about the series.
This new job marks a change for me, and it’s a happy change, but making this change means saying goodbye to a publication that’s showed me, and hundreds of others, what amazing things can happen when you open the newsroom doors and say to the world, “Your story is important. We want to hear it—and we want to share it.”
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I don’t know a lot about theater. I worked for a small local theater company in 2010 and I volunteered backstage in my high school’s theater program on occasion. That may sound like something, but I’m not very familiar with theater etiquette or terminology and the history of most well-known plays is largely lost on me. What I do know is that theater is art and art shouldn’t perpetuate racism, and that’s why I don’t understand why Miss Saigon is being given a platform and why there are people out there that think that’s okay. But fear not, there is hope.
Art doesn’t just exist to promote communication and visual intrigue, but to debunk antiquated stereotypes and messages founded in ignorance—and I’m happy to announce that Saymoukda Vongsay’s Kung Fu Zombies vs. Cannibals is the perfect remedy to whatever racial mayhem stories like Miss Saigon may leave in their wake. It features a well-crafted Asian-American female lead surrounded by a diverse cast of characters aiding her on a journey of self-discovery and compassion in the midst of a violent zombie apocalypse. I know, I see you about to buy tickets.
If you want to see a show like Miss Saigon I can’t stop you, but I can tell you that just because a story is a work of fiction doesn’t mean that it doesn’t have real reverberations for real people in real communities. I can’t stop you from seeingMiss Saigon, but if you are interested in stories that present the perspective of an Asian character that isn’t degrading or degraded, I can most definitely offer you a better alternative.
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Murder, star-crossed lovers, a witch, unrequited love, near-incest, war, secret gay lovers, ghosts: the road weeps, the well runs dry, now playing at Pillsbury House Theatre, is packed with the makings of a Shakespearean tragedy, and indeed the heightened language, mystical elements, spirituality, and over-the-top plot twists give the production an epic feeling. It’s great stuff, and though it’s nearly three hours long, it never feels boring with all that’s happening. Plus, it’s a look at a period of history that most likely you never learned about in history class.
The play, written by Marcus Gardley and directed by Marion McClinton, mostly takes place during the first half of the 19th century, when a group of both American Indian and freed black slaves journeyed together from Florida, where they’d been kicked out, to “Indian Country,” which is basically now Oklahoma. The history of the Seminoles is pretty complex. The word “Seminole” apparently was coined by the Spanish, and originally included Myskoke (or Creek, as they are referred to in the play) and other tribes. In some instances, the Seminoles had slaves, but somehow, by the time the events of this play occur, the African American main character, Number Two (played by Ansa Akyea) and the Trowbridge (Jake Waid) no longer have a master- slave relationship although do continue their rivalry that sometimes looks like hatred and sometimes looks like lust (and sometimes both at the same time).
Black versus Native, women versus men, Christianity versus Native spirituality, heterosexuality versus homosexuality…the play has all sorts of conflicts, and never really resolves them, but rather lets the various tensions fuel and drive the play.
Of course, when all this drama gets to be too much, luckily there’s some comic relief provided by M. Gene (played magnificently by Regina Marie Williams) and her husband Fat Rev. (Harry Waters. Jr.). M. Gene is this slightly crazy Christian lady who bosses everyone around until she is spurned near the end of the play (a plot twist that didn’t totally make sense to me—but then, there were many things about the plot that didn’t make sense to me).
I did wonder about certain “Native” things in the production—the rain dance, the Native prayers, the war paint, the Native costumes—and I’m curious to learn how people from our local Native communities react to this play. I did notice the production also brought on local Native artist Jonathan Thunder to create a lobby video installation (unfortunately it wasn’t on when I looked at the video screen during intermission).
I really enjoyed James Craven’s performance as Horse Power (the town elder and medicine man), just because he’s got such an amazing voice and presence. Akyea, Williams, and Waters were also all wonderful, as they always are. Traci Allen, as Sweet Tea, the ingénue character, had an innocence as well as strength, and I was intrigued by Keli Garrett’s understated and down-to-earth performance as Half George (the witch character). I was less excited about Jake Waid’s performance as Trowbridge, which I found a bit pedestrian, although he does have surprising moments of genuine sweetness.
Dean Holzman’s set is simple and captivating, with a beautiful blue-lit lattice element across the back wall and sparse trees around the stage that gave the place a Waiting for Godot quality.
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As I lay face-down on the dirty concrete floor of the Soap Factory’s basement, listening to brusque shouts and muffled screams, I found my mantra for the 2013 Haunted Basement: “They’re only hipsters. They’re only hipsters. They’re only hipsters.”
Reviewing the Haunted Basement is always one of my trickiest tasks, precisely because what’s most captivating and terrifying about the Soap Factory’s annual subterranean scare is that it’s different every year. Now that even the Macy’s holiday auditorium show is the same every year, it’s refreshing to have a seasonal tradition that’s full of surprises.
This year’s Haunted Basement—directed, for the second year, by Noah Bremer (above) of Live Action Set—doesn’t feature quite as much chatting with the ghouls as last year’s, but that’s not to say there aren’t some up-close-and-personal encounters with the denizens of the deep.
This year you’re warned that you’ll be forced to don additional clothing—but you may well leave wearing less than you went in with. (Don’t worry, you get it all back—if you survive.) My sister recognized the masks we were handed as paintball masks, at which point we noticed that there was something wet and fluorescent being wiped off the used masks.
The Haunted Basement is a must-see attraction each year for many Twin Cities residents—especially those who are relatively young and dumb, er, I mean brave. (Many nights sell out, so make your reservations now.) It’s not for the weak of heart, but in my experience, no one’s sorry to have descended into the depths and lived to tell the tale. A major new attraction this year is the Spooky Speakeasy, where you can retire after you emerge from the basement and enjoy craft cocktails.
It’s a haunted house, yes, but the Haunted Basement is also a work of theater—and this one has a deeper resonance, particularly in the wake of Abu Ghraib and the torture debate. In a jumpsuit and a mask, everyone’s on the same footing as they walk down into the darkness. That acute sense of powerlessness is what makes the Haunted Basement scary, and the more you think about it, the scarier it gets.
Leather biker jackets far outnumbered suits and ties while motorcycles—ranging from scooters to rare classics—crowded cars out of the chapel parking lot as about 150 people gathered Saturday, September 28, to remember the life of Thomas E. Dale.
Known as Tom the Tailor around Dinkytown, Mr. Dale died of an apparent heart attack in his sleep Tuesday night, September 24, 2013. He was 63.
“It’s way too early for someone so vital to go,” said Michael Trittipo, a neighbor and friend. “It’s just such a big loss for the community. Tom knew everybody, and he was always helping out, like helping out with the Girl Scouts when they needed a leader.”
Local residents remember Dale as a businessman, a leather artist, and motorcycle rider and would not necessarily think of him as a Girl Scout leader, Trittipo said.
At his memorial, though, several tearful young women in their late 20s mourned the passing of Dale, whom they described as a “second father.”
One of them, Lindsay Moody, whose mother was a scout leader with Tom, recalled selling Girl Scout cookies. “I remember that Tom always sold ten times as many cookies as anybody else because he knew so many people,” Moody said.
Tom Dale’s daughter, Kaycie Dale, spoke at the visitation and recalled activities and road trips they did together.
Tom Dale worked as Tom the Tailor for 34 years and six months, from April 1979 until his death. He was often quoted by the Minnesota Daily and other publications on the changes and business climate of Dinkytown. Last winter, I spoke with him for a Twin Cities Daily Planet series on development in Dinkytown.
For about 25 years, Tom the Tailor worked in a small shop on the second floor of the building that housed Gray’s Drug at the corner of Fourth Street and 14th Avenue in the heart of Dinkytown. Before that, his shop was on the fourth floor of Dinkydale.
In an e-mail to supporters, Bedlam Theatre's John Bueche explains what's going on with the company's new Lowertown space.
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