On the Townsend

By John Townsend July 3, 2008

Categories: Arts & Culture, Our Scene

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Momentum
July 17-26
Southern Theater
1420 Washington Ave. S., Mpls.
(612) 340-1725
www.southerntheater.org

Southern Theater and Walker Art Center join again for the Momentum Series of new work by up-and-coming choreographers. It’s a great op to catch the next wave of consciousness coming through the dance scene, with Eddie Oroyan, Chris Schlichting, and Anna Marie Shogren.

One piece, The Foundation, etcetera, staged by Maia Maiden and Ellena Schoop, looks into divisions between the Civil Rights generation and the Hip-Hop generation in the African-American community—a crucial nuance seldom probed by corporate media. That said, it addresses a universal reality common to all people.

As Maiden says, “I believe all people, regardless of their background, can relate to this work, because it is an exploration of self and identity from a generational standpoint. After all, no one would be here if someone did not come before, and create a foundation.”

Fresh Ink
Through July 27
Illusion Theater
528 Hennepin Ave., Mpls.
(612) 339-4944
www.illusiontheater.org

Every summer, Illusion Theater’s Fresh Ink Series brings forth new plays-in-progress that always provoke thought and emotion.

Samuel G. Roberson Jr., who has written and they said I wouldn’t make it (July 10-13), which tells his own boyhood story of overcoming cancer, shares, “As a young African-American family, we knew nothing much of cancer, especially leukemia. My mother was 26 and my father was 28 at the time, so there was nothing that could prepare them for what was to come. Everything you research says that I shouldn’t have made it. All the odds were against us, but somehow, by growing in faith, and making the choice to beat cancer, along with my family and a wonderful community, I overcame all odds—which is why I am able to tell this story. I am hoping to spread this story worldwide to give people hope that they can make it through anything.”

Also offered is Cirque de Guerre (July17-20), by Beth Gilleland, Blayn Lemke, and Bill Berneking. Gilleland was named this column’s Best Actress last year for Illusion’s Iron Kisses. Lemke wrote the brilliant play on gay spirituality, Mrs. Man of God.

Quartet of Mothers (July 24-27), with stellar contributors Maria Asp, Aimee K. Bryant, Darcey Engen, and Nanci Oleson, concludes the series.

Annie Get Your Gun
July 18-Aug.2
Arts Center on 7
18285 Hwy 7, Minnetonka
(952) 401-5898
www.MinnetonkaTheatre.com

Irving Berlin’s Annie Get Your Gun has been one of the most beloved and empowering of musicals ever since it first hit Broadway in 1946. How fitting that Broadway Baby Jen Bruleigh-Bentz of Mamma Mia! fame will play the title role of sharpshooter Annie Oakley in Minnetonka Theater’s summer revival. Her romantic lead in the role of mega marksman Frank Butler is longtime Lavender favorite John Trones.

According to Trones, “Annie Oakley was really at the forefront of the women’s movement, and from what I’ve read—and I’m not sure she even realized it—she was a champion for the rights of Native Americans, which wasn’t heard of back then. She, in effect, became the adopted daughter of Chief Sitting Bull, which is really quite an amazing thing, given the times they were living in.”

The Count of Monte Cristo
Through Aug. 23
Harriet Island, St. Paul
(651) 227-1100
www.showboat.umn.edu

The Count of Monte Cristo is not only one of the most infectiously engaging melodramas to hit the boards of the Minnesota Centennial Showboat in a while, but also one of the most evocative. C. Lance Brockman’s dreamy scenic design and Peter Moore’s sharp-edged direction transport us to Southern Europe in the first half of the 19th Century. The actors go beyond being stock figures, and become actual archetypes. Robert Moulton’s adaptation of Alexander Dumas’s 1846 novel also has a sharp ear toward political corruption, unfettered ambition, and greed that resonates in our current era vividly—à la Enron, Halliburton, and Blackwater. Alli Schaffer’s crossgender turn as Albert, a young nobleman, is charming. Elizabeth Griffin’s terrific “Tetrazinni” vocal solo recalls Fanny Brice’s Baby Snooks character.

Theatre De La Jeune Lune
Goes Dark

The closing of Minneapolis’s Tony Award-winning Theatre De La Jeune Lune is a great loss not only for the local arts scene, but also for the GLBT community. In recent years, the troupe waxed camp with Lettice and Lovage; bedazzled with ambiguous sexuality and gender notions in The Deception; and sported a great crossgender performance by Karen Landry in Antigone. Steven Epp’s sexually enigmatic title performance as Tartuffe was a consummately hilarious take on religious hypocrisy. Lavender favorite Bradley Greenwald was raved about in various innovative operas Jeune Lune had come to be known for. Our best to the artists!

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