Arts Spotlight: 426

By John Townsend September 22, 2011

Categories: Arts & Culture, Our Scene

Mean — Youth Performance Company’s winter staging of the musical that stares the issue of bullying right in the eye was such a runaway hit that it’s already being remounted. From homophobic machismo to girls tormenting girls on Facebook to brazen Islamophobia, Mean is ripped right out of our time.

Playwright Rita Cannon, only in her early 20s, shaped the script out of several interviews. It’s not only a powerful social statement but it entertains enormously and can cause those who think bullying has gotten too much press lately to think again. She shares, “I figured as long as the play was informed by people’s real experiences and spoke to them in specific ways, that would keep the material from feeling too didactic or perfunctory.”

Cannon’s script is enhanced by Kahlil Queen’s vibrantly passionate music. He says, “Being gay myself, I remember how little support or direction there was for those who were being bullied, particularly around the issue of sexual orientation. I gave more aggressive syncopations to characters who would be identified as bullies or bystanders, and longer, more even rhythms to those characters who appear more passive, like they were trying to maintain a certain distance from their aggressors.”

Director Jacie Knight reflects that bullying encounters “hurt our souls and spirits deeply. And most of us, to cope, bury those feelings. But this project has made all of us bring back those deep hurts. So it has been very emotionally draining. There is also a strong desire and commitment by all of the actors that we tell this story ‘right’ – make sure we are truthful and honest. The actors truly want to honor the victims.”

Oct. 5-23 • Howard Conn Fine Arts Center, 1900 Nicollet Av., Mpls. • (612) 623-1020 • www.youthperformanceco.com

Cavalia — Normand Latourelle co-founded Cirque du Soleil. He is also creator/director of what he calls “a tribute to horses and a celebration of the relationship between humans and horses through history. Cavalia is a poetic multimedia, multidisciplinary show that integrates horses with acrobatics, fabulous projections, a little story–not a big one–in an amazing setting with live music.”

All performers are responsible for their horses. The stables are staffed 24 hours with 20 employees including grooms, two veterinary technicians, and a farrier. Latourelle says, “We pay as much importance and attention to the horses’ mental well-being as we do to their physical well-being. In a nutshell, we pay attention to what the horses tell us.” Through Oct. 9 • Under the Big White Top, 1621 West End Blvd., • St. Louis Park • (877) 870-3643 • www.cavalia.net

Reasons to be Pretty — Neil LaBute’s Broadway hit about blue collar America and the nation’s adulation of physical beauty and cool receives its area premier by Walking Shadow at the Guthrie. Director Amy Rummenie: “It’s so easy to project ourselves into the play’s roles, to suddenly doubt that we’re as smart, pretty, or kind as we think we might be. I mean, who is 100% confident in their looks? It’s so easy for someone else to bring you down if you have even that smidgen of doubt, even in the most placid of relationships. In this case, these guys are a powder-keg just waiting for the smallest spark.” through Oct. 2 • Guthrie Theater, 818 So. 2nd St., Mpls. • (612) 377-2224 • www.guthrietheater.org

Extraordinary Terms of Ordinary Life — An insurance training manual from 1929, the year of the Stock Market Crash, is the springboard for a new play by Ryan Lear and Matt Spring written for the Four Humors troupe. Lear relates, “The manual contained a series of scripts for new salesmen that were written in a language that was bright and cheerful, portraying an attitude that things could only get better, completely oblivious to the catastrophe that loomed only months ahead.” Through Oct. 1 • Loring Theater, 1407 Nicollet Av. S., Mpls. • (612) 353-6781 • www.loringtheater.com

Hamlet — Electronic surveillance and cell phones in this corporate re-setting of Shakespeare’s tragedy of the Middle Ages aptly complements its scenes of espionage and privacy invasion. Director Bain Boehlke surgically mines the ruthlessness of King Claudius and Queen Gertrude’s shocking power grab which sets off Prince Hamlet. Bradley Greenwald and Michelle Barber reveal them as utterly soulless. The “sweet prince” is masterfully rendered by Hugh Kennedy. We’re made to wonder to what degree today’s corporatism resembles medieval feudalism. through Oct. 9 • Jungle Theater, 2951 Lyndale Av. So., Mpls. • (612) 822-7063 • www.jungletheater.com

Cat’s Paw — Playwright William Mastrosimone muses on eco-terrorism and media. Theatre Pro Rata director Carin Bratlie says he “asks us how far would you go for what you believe in? As soon as the audience sides with a character, the plot twists…and suddenly the choices aren’t so clear. There is also an uncomfortably symbiotic relationship between terrorism and the media and we as the public are also culpable because we feed the sensationalism with our desire to view it.” through Sept. 25 • Gremlin Theatre, 2400 University Av. S., St. Paul • (612) 874-9321 • www.theatreprorata.org

Neighbors — You’ll cringe when you hear the names of some of the characters in Branden Jacob-Jenkins’s irreverent comedy. “Mammy” is played in drag by seasoned Guthrie and Penumbra veteran Warren Bowles. Not to be outdone, Christian Gibbs plays “Sambo.” But before you get too offended, bear in mind that the playwright uses satire to expose the denial between and interracial couple and a family of “out there’” black entertainers. through Oct. 9 • Mixed Blood Theatre, 1501 S. 4th St., Mpls. • (612) 338-6131 • www.mixedblood.com

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