From on stage, back stage and the theater seats, the Performing Arts blog illuminates the intersecting worlds of dance, theater, and music.
Did you see a show at the Walker this past season? Are you wondering which you’d like to see this season? As interns in the department, we had the unique opportunity to see most of the 12-13 season. Taking advantage of this, while hoping to avoid oversimplifying the works too much, we’ve put our heads […]
Did you see a show at the Walker this past season? Are you wondering which you’d like to see this season? As interns in the department, we had the unique opportunity to see most of the 12-13 season. Taking advantage of this, while hoping to avoid oversimplifying the works too much, we’ve put our heads together to find connections between last year’s performances and this year’s. Here’s what we’ve come up with:
The Bodycartography Project || luciana achugar
The Bodycartography Project’s Super Nature presented movement inspired by animal impulses and human communication– imagine a nature documentary about people. luciana achugar takes a similar approach in OTRO TEATRO, presenting ritualistic gestures and questioning “civilized” movement.
Laurie Anderson || CocoRosie
With Dirtday!, performance artist Laurie Anderson shared personal stories, charismatic narratives, and she was not afraid to raise important questions related to feminism and contemporary politics. If you enjoyed her mix of music with politically-charged commentary, you’re bound to enjoy the fearlessly imaginative CocoRosie.
Zammuto + Eluvium || Olga Bell
Last fall, Zammuto brought us an energetic and vibrant music show filled with virtuosic riffs, auto-tuned melodies, and zebra butts. Not only does Olga Bell present an analogous sound, she approaches her performances with a similar creative intensity and playfulness.
Rude Mechs || Nature Theater of Oklahoma
Both Rude Mechs and Nature Theater of Oklahoma are rethinking what theater and performance are. Rude Mechs did this in The Method Gun by performing theater games, re-doing a classic, and delving into the method of a fictional acting guru. Nature Theater, instead of focusing its lens onto theater itself, looks at the life of one person from birth to the third grade. Performed through song and dance, every “um” or “like” of this woman’s story is left in. Nature Theater takes a look at speech patterns and how one person’s life, no matter how ordinary, can still be mythical and heroic. If you liked the exciting energy of the Method Gun, check out Nature Theater’s Life and Times: Episode 1.
She She Pop || Wunderbaum/LAPD
Where She She Pop tackled the real familial issue of inheritance, the performance collaboration between Wunderbaum and LAPD (Los Angeles Poverty Department) tackles the real social issue of healthcare. She She Pop’s Testament used Shakespeare’s King Lear as a starting point to talk about their own very real experiences with their fathers (who also acted on stage). Wunderbaum and LAPD’s Hospital moves between live action and film, fantasy and documentary, and actors and residents of Skid Row (some of whom appear as performers). Both combine personal stories with greater, more universal issues.
Bengolea/Chaignaud/Freitas/Harrell || Niwa Gekidan Penino
Raw eggs, drag operettas, and dildo dancers. (M)imosa/Twenty Looks or Paris is Burning at the Judson Church (M), from Bengolea/Chaignaud/Freitas/Harrell, was possibly the most provocative and enjoyably confusing performances of the 12-13 season. It embraced a sophisticated cultural sarcasm and challenged notions of sexuality, dance, and pop culture. Like (M)imosa, Niwa Gekidan Penino’s upcoming show, The Room Nobody Knows will likely present a comparable dosage of energetic discomfort, psychological confusion, and unpredictable excitement.
Ben Frost || Tim Hecker/Oneohtrix Point Never
In February, Ben Frost confronted us with a deeply invasive and exhilarating performance filled with incessant rhythms and foreboding sub-bass rumblings. This season presents an equally immersive equivalency: Tim Hecker and Oneohtrix Point Never. Instead of guitar drones, think abstract sound sampling and textural vintage synthesizers. Equally ground-shaking, expect this experience to be hallucinatory, sensory, and body-opening.
My Brightest Diamond || Jherek Bischoff
Last winter, Shara Worden of My Brightest Diamond mesmerized the audience with her tender serenades and powerful rock ballads. Willfully charismatic and masterfully polished, she performed emotional and colorful songs full of personal and metaphorical anecdotes. Both Worden and next season’s Jherek Bischoff exercise a compelling tension between classical and popular music traditions.
Cynthia Hopkins || Sam Green/Yo La Tengo
Both Hopkins and Green are storytellers. Where This Clement World presented stories about Hopkins’ own experiences in the arctic, The Love Song of R. Buckminster Fuller brings a documentary to the live stage. Thematically linked, the environmental tones of Hopkins’ World parallel Green and Yo La Tengo’s exploration of the work of inventor, architect, futurist, and proponent of sustainability, Buckminster Fuller. If you like stories melded with music, pick up tickets for The Love Song.
Kyle Abraham || Jerome Bel/Theater Hora
Although Kyle Abraham and Jerome Bel/Theater Hora come from different backgrounds, Live! The Realest MC and Disabled Theater both explore ideas of identity, perception, and acceptance. Both give raw emotional connections between the stage and audience, have a balance between tension and humor, and give a nod to popular culture.
Learn more about the 13/14 Performing Arts season at Philip Bither’s multimedia Season Preview tonight (September 5) at 7pm.
Excited for the upcoming Performing Arts season? Here’s a little teaser about the nuts and bolts… If you would like to learn more about the 13/14 season, join Senior Curator Philip Bither on September 5 at 7pm for the Season Preview event. After the free one-hour talk, stick around to join Bither onstage for a champagne toast, followed […]
Excited for the upcoming Performing Arts season? Here’s a little teaser about the nuts and bolts…
If you would like to learn more about the 13/14 season, join Senior Curator Philip Bither on September 5 at 7pm for the Season Preview event. After the free one-hour talk, stick around to join Bither onstage for a champagne toast, followed by a backstage tour.
For a band accustomed to old-time standards like “King Kong Kitchie” and its own original bluegrass numbers, the task might’ve been a head-scratcher: compose music to accompany lyrics written by a Mexico City–based conceptual artist and play it live. But Minneapolis’ Roe Family Singers — as well as two other acts playing 2013’s Summer Music & Movies in Loring Park — was up for the task.
“Abraham Cruzvillegas‘ lyrics are different in that they are more abstract, and the meaning behind them seems more up to the listener to fill in or deduce,” says the band’s Quillan Roe. “This is closer to how we write our own music, with lyrics used to evoke an emotional response that the listener can fill in themselves with their own experiences, or with their responses to how the music makes them feel.”
The exercise shakes up a format that the Walker has presented for more than 30 summers: a band paired with a film. The past two editions featured commissioned live musicians accompanying classic films — Brute Heart’s score for The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari in 2012 and Dark Dark Dark’s score for Fritz Lang’s Spies in 2011 — but this year the Walker will try something new by adding collaboration with a visual artist to the film/performance tradition. Cruzvillegas, whose Autoconstrucción Suites is currently on view at the Walker, chose the four films featured in Summer Music & Movies 2013: Roadways. He also provided lyrics for three of the bands to transform into a new song to debut within their Music & Movies sets.
The musicians are excited to work with Cruzvillegas’ words. A few members in the Roe Family Singers (August 5) studied visual art, so they’re particularly interested in working on this project, while Grant Cutler (August 19) chose to use Cruzvillegas’ working method as inspiration. About his creative process, Cutler says he’ll “attempt to put the song together a little like how Cruzvillegas puts together sculpture. With found objects (or in my case found sounds). Maybe using a lot of sampled sounds that are just ‘around,’ and then working in the lyrics over that.”
Cruzvillegas’ interest in the transformation of found objects is rooted in his childhood in Ajusco, in the south of Mexico City. As Cruzvillegas explains:
The autoconstrucción concept comes from a building technique that is led by specific needs of a family and by the lack of funds to pay for constructing an entire house at once. People build their own homes slowly and sporadically, as they can, with limited money, with the collaboration of all family members and the solidarity of neighbors, relatives, and friends. Houses show the autoconstrucción process in their layers, through which it is possible to experience their transformations, modifications, cancellations, and destructions; they evolve according to changes in the lives of their residents.
In the summer of 2008, Cruzvillegas applied this concept of autoconstrucción to music during his residency at the Centre for Contemporary Arts in Glasgow. There, ten different musical groups worked with his lyrics to create and record original songs, with music ranging in genre from traditional choir and post-punk to ukulele and pop. It wasn’t finding wood to make a sculpture, but instead used human capital as a medium. The project also brought a local connection to his work. Unlike the usual process of making a sculpture in a studio and then transporting it to a museum, this project added local musicians who brought their own experiences and ideas to the lyrics and stories Cruzvillegas wrote.
In Minneapolis, in addition to providing lyrics for the bands, Cruzvillegas also selected the films, all road films in one sense or another. Although the bands were chosen independently from the movies, it doesn’t mean that they don’t like to think about the films they are paired with. Grant Cutler will perform alongside Pee Wee’s Big Adventure, which he says might be one of his favorite movies growing up (despite the scariness of Large Marge). “I hope it comes across as a big crazy experiment,” Cutler says about the set. “Aby [Wolf] and Holly [Newsom, of Zoo Animal] and I were toying with the idea of covering Tequila, but we’ll see.”
Monday nights, 7pm, Loring Park. Free. Hosts from 89.3 The Current will be spinning between the bands and films each Monday.
The Prissy Clerks, Roe Family Singers, and Zoo Animal + Aby Wolf + Grant Cutler will each perform an original song based upon lyrics provided by Cruzvillegas.
With the opening of Baz Luhrman’s The Great Gatsby this past weekend comes the familiar questions of book to film interpretations. People wonder if anyone hosting Gatsby theme parties actually reads the book, what the music of Gatsby would actually feel like in the 20s, and if the movie can be accepted on its own terms. […]
With the opening of Baz Luhrman’s The Great Gatsby this past weekend comes the familiar questions of book to film interpretations. People wonder if anyone hosting Gatsby theme parties actually reads the book, what the music of Gatsby would actually feel like in the 20s, and if the movie can be accepted on its own terms. What would happen though, if the extravagant costumes and sets were stripped and if the entire text was read during one evening?
In 2006, Elevator Repair Service brought Gatz to the Walker, and they succeeded in doing just that. The performance was set in a contemporary, slightly run-down office, and the entire book was read during the close-to 6-hour performance. The audience got The Great Gatsby in its entirety.
While at the Walker, John Collins, the director of Gatz, and Scott Shepard, the lead actor, took the time to talk with performing arts curator Philip Bither about their ideas surrounding the piece. They talked about adaptations of The Great Gatsby and discussed how Gatz isn’t technically an adaptation because it uses the text in its entirety, not adding anything or taking anything away. They talked about the duration of the piece, the commitment of the audience, and why they chose the setting they did.
Here’s an except for the 2006 interview:
I wanted to ask you about your setting for the novel. People tend to connect the Jazz Age to glittery extravagance and the upper classes of that time, so your placement of the characters in this run-down, dumpy old office where everyone seems to be essentially lower middle class or striving to make a buck is a direct contradiction to what people expect.
Setting aside that it was a very intuitive choice on our part, I think it’s important that it has a kind of neutrality, that it isn’t asserting itself ahead of what’s being described, but is a great projection screen for it. We’ve talked about the “bookness” of the book, and I think one of the aspects of the book’s “bookness” is that you’re just having your imagination fed by it. So a dirty, messy office, something mundane and pedestrian like that, is a better way to watch people’s imaginations taking control of them. Because otherwise you’re just watching the director’s and the set designer’s imaginations. It’s just their vision of it; it’s no longer yours.
It also peels away a layer, because if you haven’t read the book since high school, then what overwhelms your memory of it is the Roaring Twenties setting. To be able watch without that veneer gives you a better view of the human story underneath.
And also the writing. F. Scott Fitzgerald didn’t invent the Jazz Age or its whole aesthetic. It was just a backdrop. He wasn’t looking back like someone might today with a nostalgia for that period; it’s just what was going on. But that’s how the book gets regarded too often these days: “Oh, it’s the definitive story of the Jazz Age.” That’s not the power of the book. The power of the book is its literary power. You get better access to that without decorating it too much—or without decorating it at all, for that matter—with all the trappings of that period.
The ideas the three of them discussed are just as interesting today as they were seven years ago, and are particularly relevant with the new movie adaptation. Of course movies and theater are different species, but it is worth thinking about how people decide to appropriate or adapt works in any medium. I haven’t seen the movie yet, but I’m curious how Baz Luhrmann handles the adaptation, especially after seeing Gatz in 2006.
Elevator Repair Service is back at the Walker from May 16-18 performing Fondly, Collette Richland, a new work written by Sibyl Kempson.
Read more about Fondly, Collette Richland in Rachel Jendrzejewski’s recent blog post, Truthful Ambiguities: Sibyl Kempson and ERS at the Walker, or in Julie Caniglia’s Walker Magazine article, The Plot Thickens.
Learn a bit about Malian singer and musician Fatoumata Diawara before she performs at the Cedar Cultural Center in conjunction with the Walker this Friday. 1. She is an advocate for peace in Mali. She has organized 40 of Mali’s most famous musicians to record a song and video supporting peace. 2. As a child […]
Learn a bit about Malian singer and musician Fatoumata Diawara before she performs at the Cedar Cultural Center in conjunction with the Walker this Friday.
1. She is an advocate for peace in Mali. She has organized 40 of Mali’s most famous musicians to record a song and video supporting peace.
2. As a child she danced with her father’s dance troupe and would invent dances for the entire troupe to learn.
3. Before finding music, she was a film actor and appeared in La Genèse (Cheick Omar Sissoko, 1999) and Sia, The Dream of the Python (Dani Kouyaté’s, 2001).
4. Diawara ran away to France. In 2002, she was invited to perform with the French theater company Royale de Luxe. In Malian Society unmarried women are considered minors, so she needed her parent’s permission. After they didn’t give permission, she boarded a plane and performed with Royale de Luxe in various shows around the world.
5. While acting, she liked to sing backstage for her own amusement. Once heard by the director, she started singing solos during company performances.
6. While singing in a cafe during her breaks from touring she met Cheikh Tidiane Seck, the Malian musician and producer. Seck invited her to travel with him back to Mali to work on two projects as chorus vocalist; Seya, the Grammy–nominated album by Malian singer Oumou Sangaré, and Red Earth, the Grammy–winning Malian project by American jazz singer Dee Dee Bridgewater.
7. Diawara’s EP Kanou was released by World Circuit in Europe in the spring of 2011, followed by her debut album Fatou in the fall. Nonesuch released the Kanou EP in the US fall 2011 and Fatou was released last August.
Dear Cynthia, How are you doing? I’m really looking forward to seeing your performance this weekend. Did you know that the first show I saw in conjunction with the Walker was Accidental Nostalgia? It was part of Out There in 2005 and I was 14. I participated in theater at school, but Accidental Nostalgia broadened […]
How are you doing? I’m really looking forward to seeing your performance this weekend. Did you know that the first show I saw in conjunction with the Walker was Accidental Nostalgia? It was part of Out There in 2005 and I was 14. I participated in theater at school, but Accidental Nostalgia broadened my sense of what theater could be. It was a bit different from Ann of Green Gables or The Hobbit: a Musical, and I loved it for that reason. Over the past seven years I saw your other two shows at the Walker and grew alongside the performances. I started noticing different themes, and I related to the themes in different ways.
During this past year, I have been fascinated with memory. In an age when computers can remember so much information, I wonder how we as humans relate to memory and forgetting. I have been asking the question, “If computers can remember so well, is it really forgetting that makes us human?” I see the idea of forgetting as being very loose and more in line with “abstraction”–that we are able to meld our different past experiences in order to figure out what to do in the future. I see this as a different way of looking at forgetting and it makes me wonder if forgetting is a bad thing at all.
Your past work has dealt a lot with memory and forgetting, and I imagine This Clement World is also looking at these ideas. Even though I think that forgetting may be what makes us human, it does come with some consequences. Last December marked the 150th anniversary of the mass hangings of Dakota people in Mankato. Living in Minnesota, we heard a lot about this tragic event, but it has not always been so. It was written out of the majority of histories. This writing out or erasing of certain events could be considered a kind of forgetting.
Cynthia, I wonder what you think about this idea of forgetting and climate change? Are we currently writing it out of our memory?
This also makes me think about dealing with traumatic events on a large scale. How do we cope? How do our future generations cope? What I’m wondering specifically is when is the line crossed between the importance of remembering history and forgiving past generations? This is an interesting line, the line between remembering and forgetting. They each have their benefits and disadvantages.
I look forward to seeing your work through the lens of my experiences. I hope to relate it to my interest in memory and look forward to seeing other ideas you bring to the table on this and other subjects.
Thanks for your work and making me think.
Cynthia Hopkins has invited a slew of talented Twin Cities musicians to perform beside her in next week’s Midwest debut of This Clement World. This part-music, part-theater performance investigates expansive issues of climate change and more personal struggles with addiction. Pulled from various music scenes of the Twin Cities, Cynthia brings these twelve musicians to […]
Cynthia Hopkins has invited a slew of talented Twin Cities musicians to perform beside her in next week’s Midwest debut of This Clement World. This part-music, part-theater performance investigates expansive issues of climate change and more personal struggles with addiction. Pulled from various music scenes of the Twin Cities, Cynthia brings these twelve musicians to support her in the performances here at the Walker. We wanted to know more about this eclectic group of performers, so we asked them to tell us their most rewarding or memorable musical experiences and answer a more casual question related to their everyday lives. Check out their answers below (and learn such things as what they listen to, where they can be found on a Saturday night, and what they ate for breakfast)!
Crystal Myslajek, Piano
My most memorable performance is actually a toss-up between two performances with my band, Brute Heart. It would be either performing Brute Heart’s original score to the silent film, The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, in August 2012 in the Walker’s Open Field for the Music & Movies series, or playing in First Avenue’s Mainroom for Minneapolis-based, Polica’s record-release show. For me, both experiences reflect the vibrant fabric of music and art in Minneapolis. The Walker’s movies in the park have been a longstanding summer staple for many a Minneapolitan and I had always wanted to play First Avenue having grown up in the Twin Cities going to many shows there since I was a teenager.
What have you been listening to lately?
I’ve been listening to a lot of ambient music. Some of the artists on my playlist are Grouper, Stars of the Lid, and Tim Hecker. I’ve also been thoroughly enjoying the newest release of local music duo Father You See Queen and the lovely guitar and vocals of Chicago-based singer-songwriter Julie Byrne.
Larry Zimmerman, Trombone
I’ll never forget the first time I performed with my quintet, Chestnut Brass Company, at the Jeju Seaside Arts Center in South Korea–an amphitheater full of (mostly) Koreans clapping in unison to our arrangements of George Gershwin & Irving Berlin songs. What a rush, and now we’re looking forward to our sixth trip to Jeju this August!
What is your favorite thing about the Twin Cities?
There’s something really special about a bright sunny day in February, with fresh snow on the ground and in the trees. A lot of places you won’t ever see that, and it’s a beautiful thing.
Erica Burton, Viola
One of my most memorable experiences as a musician came when I played in-studio at the Hideaway for Lazerbeak of Doomtree. It was the very first time I had played music outside of the classical genre, and it was thrilling.
What have you been listening to lately?
Lately I’ve been listening to Aretha Franklin’s “I Never Loved a Man the Way I Love You,” The Pharcyde’s “Bizarre Ride II the Pharcyde,” and John Mark Nelson’s “Waiting and Waiting.”
Zack Lozier, Trumpet
Last summer, as a member of Doc Severinsen’s latest orchestra, I arrived at a rehearsal to find a chart labelled, “Duet/Split-Lead.” I later performed “Well Get It,” a Dorsey classic, trading note for note, right next to Doc at the front of the stage! I sure hope it’s in the show when we go back out in April.
What did you eat for breakfast?
This morning I had corn grits with cotija cheese, a hard fried egg, dark roast coffee, and an orange juice.
Jonathan Sunde, Tenor Vocals
My band, The Daredevil Christopher Wright, got an opportunity to perform for 50 or so people on a rooftop balcony in Paris overlooking La Basilique du Sacre Coeur. The opening act was a two-person, one-act performance of a Bertolt Brecht play. It was absolutely as bizarre and romantic as it sounds.
What have you been listening to lately?
I’ve been really excited about Nina Simone. I picked up her Pastel Blues record and am really enjoying. She’s amazing.
Karen Townsend, Alto Vocals
Last summer I played accordion for Open Eye Figure Theatre’ s Driveway Tour. It was incredibly rewarding to be part of these hilarious puppet shows that bring communities together for highly entertaining, free, outdoor, family friendly (yes, adults LOVE it too) entertainment in various backyards and neighborhoods. After performing 40 shows last summer in the Twin Cities and Tulsa, I still laughed at every joke and thrived off of the responses of the children and adults in the audience.
Which animal do you identify most with?
The snake. I was born in the year of the snake. I am about to give birth to my first child who will also be born in the year of the snake. I love encouraging people to shed what is no longer serving them. I like to visualize snakes and their movements when thinking about how to introduce concepts and ideas that people may not be open to if I just come right out and say it. I’m always looking to slither my way in, past the armor, to the most kind and compassionate part of the human heart.
Leslie Ball, Alto Vocals
My most memorable experience as a performer — over so many decades! — would have to be a three-way tie:
1) in the ’70s: the adventure of weeks spent entertaining our troops on a U.S.O. tour in Panama, Puerto Rico, Cuba, and several other Caribbean islands
2) in the ’80s: the privilege of singing for Stephen Sondheim and others in a private presentation of a new work
3) in the ’90s: the honor of being a backup singer for Gene Pitney at his Carnegie Hall concert
Where can you be found on a Saturday night?
At the stunning Southern Theater hosting BALLS Cabaret, the longest-running weekly midnight cabaret in human history (now in our 22nd year). BALLS is a greenhouse for artists of any discipline or experience, nurturing creative community in a sober environment every Saturday night at midnight. BALLS was cited in the New York Times as a “must-see” while in the Twin Cities.
Parker Genne (Soprano Vocals)
My most memorable performing experience was busking on the streets in Edinburgh for fringe before my evening shows. There was this magnificent afternoon where I was singing away with my ukulele and this older Scottish gentleman who I noticed singing along to every tune I sang, accepted my offer to join me, and we busked together and made a killing for two hours. We had crowds as we belted our tunes, the best being “Down by the Riverside.”
What is your favorite thing about the Twin Cities?
The people, my family and friends that I love so much, and the lakes we swim in, sail on, and run across in the winter.
Also performing with Cynthia Hopkins are local musicians: Jesse Edgington (bass vocals), Jake Endres (bass vocals), Jason Sunde (tenor vocals), and Lauren Asheim (soprano vocals).
Cynthia Hopkins performs the Walker Commision of This Clement World March 7-9, 2013.