Arts Spotlight: 421

By John Townsend July 12, 2011

Categories: Arts & Culture, Our Scene

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Street Scene — A generation before Elmer Rice wrote his 1929 Pulitzer Prize-winning drama, laborers rose up against Gilded Age plutocrats. Standing on the shoulders of that progressive energy burst, he created a palpable sense of the social unrest percolating beneath the Roaring ’20s. That discontent would, in turn, give way to the turbulent ’30s. Indeed, Rice was one of those consequential artists who “read and wrote the writing on the walls.”

Craig Johnson, a superb interpreter of 19th- and Early-20th- Century plays, reflects, “I directed Thornton Wilder’s Our Town for Girl Friday Productions in 2007, and was drawn to Street Scene because it seemed like Our Town had grown up, moved to the city, and fallen on hard times. With those two plays and Wilder’s The Skin of Our Teeth in 2009, Girl Friday is developing a pretty fascinating exploration of what it meant to be an American in the 20th Century—which, of course, means examining how we came to be who we are today.”

Johnson adds, “The socioeconomic issues really spring to life for me in Act One, where Kaplan (John Middleton), the Jewish socialist, challenges the fear-based, anti-immigrant views of Maurrant (Bob Malos) and the other neighbors. It’s a great moment of civic engagement that sounds like it’s lifted from a Sarah Palin Tea Party rally. Other moments look at social limitations on a personal level: Rose (Anna Sundberg) confesses to Sam (Logan Verdoorn) that ‘it’s not always so easy, being a girl—I often wish I were a man,’ and goes on to articulate some very progressive ideas about women’s life in 1929.” Runs July 7-30 • Minneapolis Theater Garage, 711 W. Franklin Ave., Mpls. • (612) 729-1071 • www.girlfridayproductions.com

Same-Sex Ballroom Dancing — You can still enroll in this vibrant program taught by Tropical Ballroom’s James and Tricia Wood at Loring Theater. Loring Artistic Director Steve Barberio, who has been vigorously nurturing relationships with the neighborhood’s large GLBT community, relates, “We created our Same-Sex Ballroom Dancing program as a way to bring people together on our stage with professional instructors to learn the basics of ballroom dance. But this is not just a ballroom dance class—participants will learn ballroom dancing, but also have a chance to demonstrate their skills for an invited audience of friends and families at the end of the program.” Through Aug. 2 • Loring Theater, 1407 Nicollet Ave., Mpls. • (612) 353-6781 • www.loringtheater.com

Topp Twins Untouchable Girls — To see just how two yodeling lesbian twin sisters essentially won over the population of their native New Zealand, run to see this astonishing documentary! Fresh-faced, wholesome, farm girls Jools and Lynda Topp are possibly the most popular comedy act below the equator. They sing their very own country songs, and improvise madcap New Zealander characters across gender lines. Whether playing middle-aged farmers or matronly camp counselors, they beguile and enchant. Issues of gay rights, Maori land rights, and nuclear perils are beautifully mixed with interviews with their parents, life partners, and former Prime Minister Helen Clark. Opens July 15 • Lagoon Cinema, 1320 Lagoon Ave., Mpls. (612) 825-6006. www.landmarktheatres.com

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