Issue 425

Church Camp: The Naming Project

Summer camp. Youthful memories of a time of life when things were figured out between trips to the ballpark or mall. Life was sort of complicated in the way that only teenagers can complicate things. Camp was when those complications were concentrated and compacted into a time and place away from home; away from the usual rhythm of life. It was a brief stint of heaven or hell, depending upon who ended up in the lower bunk. Was reality suspended or was it a microcosm of the larger world? Homesickness. Puppy love. Learning to kayak. Swimming past the buoy. Generic peanut butter. Outhouses. Woven potholders in wacky colors. Capture the Flag. Campfires. Bugspray. Permanently damp swimsuits. Tie-dyed t-shirts.

 

Shame. Condemnation. Fear. Confusion.

How would camp have been different had it been geared toward GLBT and Allied youth? Some might say that it couldn’t have existed. Summer camp was church camp…and no such topic of sexual orientation would be allowed or addressed. If not church-based, summer camp was just summer camp and nobody talked about such things. Or, they did. But, they did so in secret.

That was then. 15 years ago or 50 years ago, the time of silencing the identity and discovery of young people is over. The long, painful history of denying sexual orientation and identity as part of the discourse in faith communities has passed.

Now, there is The Naming Project. One of a handful of camps in North America for gay, lesbian, bisexual, trans-identified, allied, and questioning youth, The Naming Project organization started its formation in 2002 as an answer to the question, was there a place where a gay youth could go to discuss sexuality as well as spirituality?

It was a simple—but revolutionary—question. No, there was not.

Since then, the founders of The Naming Project—Jay Wiesner, Ross Murray, and Brad Froslee—have built a multi-faceted organization with programming to help GLBTA youth learn, grow, and share their experiences. It includes outings to worship and fellowship experiences; resources for youth and parents; workshops and conversations for youth in schools, communities, and churches; workshops for youth workers, parents, and congregations; and, as seen here, a five-day summer camp for youth at Bay Lake Camp near Garrison, Minnesota.

The camp is on an island. Metaphorical or literal, the shift in reality is palpable.

What is found on the island is unconditional acceptance. There is enlightenment. Something is known there that has yet to be fully articulated elsewhere:

Whether gay, lesbian, bisexual, trans-identifying, an ally, or questioning, you have been created and named as “a beloved child of God.”

Again, revolutionary. To come from a society where GLBT individuals are called names throughout their lives, it was an imperative of The Naming Project that the youth know that in being created, baptized, and called they are given another name, “Child of God.”

Though on an island, the work of The Naming Project is not relegated to its boundaries. The youth leave Bay Lake with a charge to see how they fit into society and figure out what they can do to make it better which, by simply existing, they already do.

The Naming Project has been featured on Our America with Lisa Ling and in the documentary Camp Out.

 

Locally Sourced: Joia Soda

 

There’s a new soda sweeping the Cities’ marketplace and leaving a wafting trail of citrusy herb scents in its wake. Joia All Natural Soda has only just hit the shelves and already it’s causing a stir. From tastings around town to selling out on co-op shelves to setting up behind select bars (where the flavors play nicely with friends like gin and vodka), the Joia soda revolution has begun. The idea took shape as friends Bob Safford and Steven Walker were at Bradstreet Crafthouse with their respective partners, sampling some of the layered craft drinks that are so popular in upscale bars these days. They wondered why can’t we have a soda like this?

 

Soon the idea more fully formed and picked up steam. Along with co-founder Carleton Johnson they brought on Dan Oskey, bartender at the Strip Club and a flavor nut. He’s the sort of guy who spends his spare time formulating tonics, bitters, and ordering exotic flavored bark online.

Dan’s approach to flavors is much like a chef cooks: build flavors and throw in a bit of the unexpected, just to see what happens: “If you don’t make a drink that sucks every now and again, you aren’t trying hard enough,” he explained.

They initially came up with about 120 flavor syrups before whittling the flavors down, to eight. Next came a blind tasting with other craft sodas like Izze’s and Stewart’s. The tasters liked the Joia sodas–they liked them a lot. They looked at each other and realized, Wow, we can really do this. They launched early this summer and haven’t slowed yet. Johnson, Safford. and Walker know a thing or three about marketing and utilizing social media. “It’s been a run-away product, mostly due to the networking we’ve been able to do,” observed Walker. Word of the new venture has circulated on local blogs, in the media, and on Twitter. It’s remarkable the idea hasn’t taken off before, who hasn’t had at least one experience of going out with friends and eschewing alcohol, only to realize that your options are limited to a dignity-suffering Shirley Temple or a stuffy cup of coffee?

The flavors are refreshingly complex. The Grapefruit, Chamomile & Cardamom is pleasantly tart (without the lock-jaw effect some grapefruit-flavored beverages induce) in its honey-tinged wisp of sweetness accented by floral cardamom notes. The Pineapple, Coconut & Nutmeg variety is toes-in-tropical-sand soothing and zingy without a hint of Hawaiian Tropic. The Lime, Hibiscus & Clove is so friendly and balanced that it ought to be ubiquitous on every fridge door.

Entirely local and all natural, Joia has no added caffeine or preservatives, less sugar than most other sodas, and the flavors are an unexpected dose of sophistication to swig out of a glass bottle. If you’d rather your drinks a little boozy, these are easily doctored. The Joia Life website has an entire section devoted to drinks that you can mix up, easily searched by booze of choice. Or follow them on Facebook or Twitter to find their next sample site.

Dan Oskey mixed up a cocktail for Lavender available at the Strip Club in St. Paul–or to be made for your next soiree.

Joia Lavender
In a shaker over ice, mix:
1 oz. Vodka
1/2 oz. Lavender Simple Syrup or Creme de Violette*
1/2 oz Lemonade
Shake and strain over ice in a tall collins glass
top with:
3 oz. Joia Lime/Hibiscus/Clove

*Note from Dan Oskey: You could use Creme de Violette as a close substitute for lavender. It can be purchased at Surdyk’s or ordered online.

 

 

 

Corporate Giving: Employee Groups and Contribution Policy

To create a more rounded view of corporate giving, Lavender asked the top Fortune 500 companies in Minnesota about their giving policies. Information has been complied into a graph as well as the following explanations.

UnitedHealth Group works to help people lead healthy lives, according to Kate Rubin, the President of the UnitedHealth Foundation. “Our community helps us select the places where we want to be engaged and really focused,” Rubin said. A group within the company’s Diversity and Inclusion Council, although not a formal GLBT group, helps UnitedHealth advance equality and decide which events and organizations are consistent with their goals to promote wellness locally, nationwide, and around the world. The company has contributed to Philanthrofund (PFund), the National GLBT Task Force, Twin Cities Human Rights Campaign, and more.

Target has five business councils (African American, Asian, LGBTA, Hispanic and Women’s), which allow employees to give their perspective on business decisions in community engagement, according to Target spokesperson Molly Snyder. The business councils make recommendations to Target’s Community Relations team, which ultimately settles on the donations that Target funds. Although the business councils do not make political donations, Target can give money for a political purpose. Target has contributed to Twin Cities Pride, and has sponsored the 2011 Red Ribbon Ride.

SUPERVALU, a grocery retailer, gives money through the corporation itself, as well as the SUPERVALU Foundation, in order to promote their three focus areas: hunger relief, nutrition, and environmental stewardship, according to SUPERVALU spokesperson Mike Siemienas. Associates are able to get their word in through over 30 Business Resource Groups, which collaborate with SUPERVALU to help foster an inclusive corporate environment. PROUD is the local GLBT group, one of four countrywide, which has worked with the Aliveness Project and has been involved in community activities such as food and clothing drives. Supervalu has been given the top rating of 100 percent on the Human Rights Campaign Foundation’s annual Corporate Equality Index (which measures U.S. employers treatment of GLBT employees, consumers and investors) for the past four years.

3M, which was founded over a hundred years ago in Two Harbors, Minnesota, is a science-based company whose technology and products are distributed worldwide. In 2010, the 3M Foundation gave thousands of dollars in grants to United Way, Habitat for Humanity, theatres and the arts around the Twin Cities (such as the Penumbra Theatre, the Ordway, the Minnesota Orchestral Association and CLIMB Theatre just to name a few) and more. Employee groups can make recommendations to 3M corporate and the 3M Foundation to determine where the money goes, explained 3M spokesperson Jacqueline Berry.

CHS has a vision “to be a globally integrated energy, grains and foods system innovatively linking producers with consumers,” according to their website. CHS, Inc. makes donations through their CHS Corporate Citizenship area and the CHS Foundation. Most of the community giving is made in hope of building “vibrant rural communities” and are, in general, “agricultural or cooperative in nature,” according to Lani Jordan, CHS director of corporate communications. CHS has given funding to 4-H, FFA, and rural leadership development programs, Jordan mentioned.

U.S. Bancorp employees can make requests for political contributions, which are approved by the director of government relations. While corporate funds are not legally able to go towards certain federal or state elections, U.S. Bancorp can make contributions to ballot initiatives, according to U.S. Bancorp’s Political Contribution Policy. U.S. Bancorp has an annual paid volunteer day and matches employee contributions to nonprofit organizations, according to U.S. Bancorp spokesperson Teri Charest. The corporation helps lead the United Way Arise Project, which supports GLBT community giving in the Twin Cities. U.S. Bancorp has sponsored Twin Cities Pride and the 2011 Pride Picnic.

General Mills and the General Mills Foundation give millions to communities nationwide. In 2011, $25 million of the $120 million total went to international grants focused on issues related to hunger and nutritional wellness, according to General Mills spokesperson Maerenn Jepson. Betty’s Family, the company’s employee network for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender employees and their friends and allies, helps General Mills create a “safe, open and productive work environment for [GLBT] employees.” Jepson stated that General Mills did not give money to any independent political expenditure committees in 2010 or 2011 and doesn’t plan to do so.

Land O’Lakes does not have a group to represent GLBT employees exclusively, but has a Diversity Enrichment Council, which addresses all dimensions of diversity and promotes equality in the workplace. This council seems to serve GLBT employees well, as Land O’Lakes received a perfect score in the Corporate Equality Index in 2011, according to Land O’Lakes. Land O’Lakes has one employee group underway, called the Women’s Leadership Network, but all giving is coordinated through the Land O’Lakes Foundation. Some Land O’Lakes employees have been involved in United Way’s Arise Project, which aids homeless GLBT youth. In addition, Land O’Lakes was a corporate sponsor of the 11th Annual “Songs from the Heart” gala, which benefited the Twin Cities Gay Men’s Chorus and Avenues for the Homeless Youth event.

Big Gay News

Teacher Won’t Apologize for Anti-Gay Facebook Post

WKMG reports that Florida high school teacher Jerry Buell has refused to apologize for Facebook comments about New York’s recent decision to legalize same-sex marriage, saying it made him “sick.” He also called gay marriage a “cesspool.” Buell has been removed from the classroom temporarily pending an investigation by district officials.

NJ Bridal Store Refuses to Sell Lesbian a Dress

Reuters reports that Alix Genter was not allowed to buy a wedding dress after the manager of a Somers Point, New Jersey, bridal shop found out she was marrying another woman. The manager called her wedding an “illegal action” and refused to sell her a dress. There’s no word whether Genter will sue the store, but New Jersey does bar discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation in public accommodation.

Deportation Case Dropped Against Same-Sex Couple

The Huffington Post reports that the Obama Administration has ended deportation proceedings against a legally married gay couple following an announcement that the administration has shifted the focus of its immigration policy. US citizen Doug Gentry’s Venezuelan-born husband of six-years, Alex Benshimol will not be deported.

Gay Birds as Faithful as Straight Pairs

The Telegraph reports that a new study of zebra finches shows that same-sex pairs sing to and preen one another as much as heterosexual pairs. Julie Elie from the University of California Berkeley said, “The research showed relationships in animals can be more complicated than just a male and a female who meet and reproduce, even in birds.” The study appears in the journal Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology.

Christine O’Donnell Walks Out on ‘Piers Morgan’ Over Gay Marriage

Reuters reports that former Delaware U.S. Senate candidate Christine O’Donnell walked off the set during an interview with CNN’s Piers Morgan in August after she was asked questions about gay marriage. O’Donnell was promoting her new book, Troublemaker. After Morgan asked questions about gay marriage, she accused him of being rude and, shortly thereafter, walked off the set.

Soldier in Gay Officer Facebook Threat Avoids Jail

The Sydney Morning Herald reports that former Australian soldier Marcus Andrew Georgiou who set up an anti-gay Facebook page that threatened to cut a gay officer “into a hundred pieces” has been discharged into the care of his doctor for 18 months. That’s in lieu of a prison sentence after it was learned that he was suffering from post-traumatic stress and paranoid schizophrenia while on duty.

UFC Champion Says He Won’t Train with a Gay Fighter

USA Today reports that champion UFC fighter and trainer Rodrigo Nogueira said in a recent interview that he would not train with a gay student. “What if the gay person has that malice of having physical contact with me, of staying there grappling? I would have no problems having a gay student in my academy, but I would rather not train with him.”

ACLU Sues School District Over Censorship Of GLBT Websites

The Huffington Post reports that the ACLU is suing a Missouri school district on behalf of PFLAG, the Matthew Shepard Foundation, and other organizations for using software that filters out websites geared to the GLBT community. The ACLU argues that the software illegally denies students access to relevant educational information on discriminatory grounds.

Virginia Board Extends Time for Comment on Gay Adoption

NBC reports that Virginia’s Board of Social Services has decided to allow more time for public comment over whether it should allow state-licensed adoption agencies to discriminate against potential adoptive or foster parents based on their sexual orientation. The board unanimously decided to extend public comment for 30 days.

Adam Carolla Retracts Anti-Transgender Slurs

USA Today reports that TV host Adam Carolla has apologized for comments he made on a podcast in August about transgender people. “When did we start giving a shit about (these) people?” He later responsed, saying, “I’m sorry my comments were hurtful. I’m a comedian, not a politician.”

Jamaican TV Rejects J-FLAG’s PSA

The Jamaica Observer reports that Television Jamaica (JTV) has refused to carry a PSA for the Jamaica Forum for Lesbians All-Sexuals and Gays (J-FLAG). TVJ cited concerns about the PSA’s structure and “other things.” A spokesman for J-FLAG said, “Since we are not directly or indirectly promoting anything that is illegal, love is not illegal, we don’t see why we shouldn’t be able to go forward, so we are going to continue our discussion and hope that we can quickly come to some solution to have it aired.”

Books: 425

Father Tierney Stumbles

John Shekleton
iUniverse $16.95

Father Joe Tierney, a deeply committed (and closeted) pastor of the parish of Mater Dei, learns he’s HIV positive. Shekleton’s tale is set in a big city in an unspecified time, though 2002–post-Boston’s Cardinal Law’s resignation and the Catholic clergy sex abuse scandal–still resonates. Tierney joins an anonymous group of HIV-positive clergy, regaining a modicum of peace, only to be found by a freelance writer intent upon writing a on local HIV-positive priests. Wracked with fear, guilt, and shame, Tierney must now decide how to confront not only to his own feelings, but the demands of his Bishop, his friends, and the growing media pressure. Father Tierney makes a difficult decision–and Shekleton promises his return.

Bad Moon

Todd Ritter
Minotaur Books $25.99

On July 29, 1969, 9-year-old Charlie Olmstead dashed out on his bike hoping to see Neil Armstrong on the moon. They found his bike at a nearby waterfall–but no Charlie. Everyone–except his mother, Maggie–presumed him dead. Forward 40 years. Charlie’s little brother, Eric, now an acclaimed author, returns to bury Maggie and fulfill her last request: find Charlie. Eric’s former sweetheart, Kat Campbell, is now sheriff of Perry Hollow. Their combined search begins to unravel a tangled skein of events, including a number of missing boys, the mayor’s peccadilloes, and bizarre maps and evidence amassed by Maggie over the years and stashed in the Olmstead basement. Ritter, the author of Death Notice, is in charge all the way.

Patchwork

Dan Loughry
Harvard Square Editions $15.95

Spanning a decade, Patchwork is an AIDS era saga tracing the effects of the disease on one Midwestern family from the late 1980’s through the emerging 21st century. As the story opens, Randy Manning, dying of AIDS, his partner Sal, and Randy’s parents are visiting the NAMES Project Quilt in Chicago. There is inevitable friction between Randy’s parents–particularly his mother, Barbara–and Sal, whom she accuses of infecting her son. After his lover’s death, Sal, also HIV-positive, visits Randy’s parents briefly, then flees Los Angeles, to face his past, his future, and the potential of new life-prolonging drug cocktails. This short novel is dense with humor, sadness, and the promise of both new relationships and the salvaging of old.

Breezy Gay Film Comedy Tackles the Challenges of Being Gay in a Superficial World

Don’t tell Rick Perry, Marcus Bachmann, and the Exodus International crew in Uganda, about eCupid: Life on the Download because not only would they likely be discomfited by its many splendid manly bodies but they’d probably be intimidated by writer/director J.C. Calciano’s notable success in actually shaping a viable moral code for countless out gay men who genuinely prefer monogamy. It’s a cinematic navigation of moral and ethical dilemmas of what it is to be a gay man in urban America today. Calciano has clearly pondered and processed the problem of gay men being barraged with images, myths, and realities of masculine beauty on the web, in the media, and within the GLBT community itself. Yet, he reveals how a down-to-earth gay guy might maintain a solid, loving relationship with another man in the face of these onslaughts.

 

Hence, for right-wingers who capitalize on the promiscuity stereotype of gays, Calciano has headed them off at the pass. Temptation is an issue across the sexual orientation spectrum and he has framed that issue in depth from an informed gay perspective as opposed to a disinformed homophobic perspective.

eCupid involves a white gay LA couple enduring the doldrums after seven years of monogamy. Marshall (Houston Rhines) is about to turn 30 and is offered lots of hot contacts after joining an online gay social network. His partner, Gabe (Noah Schuffman), has been preoccupied with running his financially strapped coffee shop. As Schuffman puts it, “Gabe is so consumed with work that he doesn’t see how his distance and oblivious behavior regarding his relationship to Marshall has contributed to Marshall’s curiosity.”

Rhines adds, “In the beginning Marshall was self-involved, overworked, and sexually frustrated. Characters like Keith (Matthew Scott Lewis) come into his life and certainly excite him as to the prospects of new guys and experiences. However, no matter how sexy Keith is, Marshall still never finds him more appealing or more desirable than his partner. This is why he never acts upon the sexual energy between the two of them.”

Gabe, in turn, is tempted by the studly and apparently prosperous Richard (Brad Pennington). Schuffman says Richard is a reminder “that Gabe needs to focus a little more on his personal life than work.”

Dynasty TV legend, Morgan Fairchild shines as a mystically wise waitress in an enchanted roadside diner that starkly contrasts the chi-chi cafes the film’s gay men typically frequent. The role reflects Fairchild’s own general view. She shares “My basic philosophy has always been kindness. I have always felt a connection to God and the Universe, and felt it is the duty of each of us to reach out in love to our fellow man. It’s a simple philosophy and all-encompassing. It enables you to soar above the pettiness of this plane of existence and find true meaning in your time on earth.”

Calciano, who also wrote and directed Is It Just Me? reflects, “My stories are about the foundation of who we are as people. Gay or straight, we all share the same struggles and I try to explore those challenges in a current, interesting way. Times may change, but we are always looking for the same things.”

Hairspray: Super-Size Performances

It’s 1962, it’s Baltimore, it’s Hairspray, the delicious musical based on the quirky (of course) film only John Waters could pull off. The Tony-winning Broadway hit, which ended a six-year run in 2009, is now off and running at Chanhassen Dinner Theatres.

And is it ever! From the opening lilt of “Good Morning Baltimore” to the final note of “You Can’t Stop the Beat,” the main stage takes on new life—and a lot of vibrant, new company members—with its über-energetic, blissfully positive spin on that rockin’ era. While Freedom Riders worked to integrate the South, tubby teen Tracy Turnblad—with rose-colored hairbow standing in for optimistically-tinted lenses—integrates her town’s popular TV teen dance show, just as the storyline itself integrates fairyland by featuring a fat, unpopular kid as diva.

In a smashing Chan debut, plus-size Therese Walth steals the spotlight (no easy task with this top cast) and our hearts with the downright sweetness—call it innocence—that fuels her potent vocal cords and hyper-energetic dance moves.

She’s abetted by her–um—peculiar parents, calling on venerable, and usually type-cast regular David Anthony Brinkley to un-square his shoulders as Edna (looking lovely indeed in a pink housecoat and scuffs). Jay Albright, terminally timid as customary, is a fine fit as Wilbur, her loving spouse. Both prove they can bop right along with the kids.

Speaking of kids—a couple of Jesus Christ Superstar stars have found a new religion in rock ’n’ roll—primarily Ben Bakken, shedding the Jesus persona for his role as just-as-hunky love interest Link Larkin. Michael Gruber likewise clicks as slick TV show host Corny Collins.

Chan’s dance line is as strong, vibrant and winning as we’ve come to count on, joyously engulfing us in nonstop numbers wittily articulated by resident choreographer Tamara Kangas Erickson. She’s backed by the delectable, right on the money Sixties costumes of Nayna Ramey’s creation and the mega-wigs of Susan Magnuson, half as tall as the IDS. Director Michael Brindisi presides with a warm, embracing attitude that knits the show together and underscores its timelessness. P.S. As new co-owner of the organization, he’s upgraded the dinner part of the dinner theater, thank goodness. As he insists, “The show starts at 6, not 8.” The production runs through January.

Arts Spotlight: 425

The Pride — One of Britain’s recent acclaimed gay dramas gets its area premiere. Playwright Alexi Kaye Campbell juxtaposes gay life in 1958 when homosexuality was still illegal in the UK with the vastly more open gay life in the UK in 2008. Three actors play characters who go by the same names and who, one might say, share psychic traits in both periods, though they are clearly different beings and characters.

In 1958, children’s book illustrator, Sylvia (Tracey Maloney) is married to realtor, Philip (Matt Guidry). After she introduces him to Oliver (Clarence Wethern), her employer, the two men quickly deepen their connection. Guidry shares «it’s not just once or twice that they get together. They get together two or three times a week over a period of four months, so it’s a full-fledged relationship. And then Philip stops it cold.”

Maloney senses that the Sylvia «knows somewhere in the back of her head that her husband might be gay. It’s not spoken. It’s not out loud. Somewhere in the back of her mind she knows something might be in the realm of that but she can’t quite come to that consciously.”

In the 1958 segments, the actors say there is as much unsaid as is actually said. Director Noel Raymond observes, Something that’s difficult and fun about this play is that innuendo and subtext are the primary things going on.” (Classic gay films set in the same era–Victim and Brokeback Mountain–come to mind.)

But in 2008, destigmatization ironically creates a new set of problems. Raymond points out, «It’s post-Sexual Revolution, where the self-hatred that is turned inside Oliver in 1958 is externalized. Philip participates in a lot of anonymous sex and he cannot seem to stop it.”

Wethern says Oliver «goes to the internet, parks, and just meets up to have sex. Specifically, the dynamic is dominant/submissive. He likes to be dominated and controlled–an oppressor/oppressee dynamic. He sees things that he does with strangers as just a basic bodily function.” What Raymond calls divorcing sex from love.

Through Oct. 16 • Pillsbury House, 3501 Chicago Av. S., Mpls. • (612) 825-0459 • www.pillsburyhousetheatre.org

August: Osage County — If you were to say Tracy Letts’s 2008 Tony and Pulitzer Prize-winner was the best thing to come out of American theater in a generation, I wouldn’t argue with you. What’s especially thrilling is that the tragicomedy’s first Upper Midwest professional production stars the splendid Barbara Kinsgley who understudied the lead role of Violet in the awesome national tour which starred the awesome Estelle Parsons.

I told Kingsley that I see Violet as harsh. But having dug deeper than I, of course, Kingsley replied, “She has come to cling to her set of truths and one person’s truth can be brutal and brutalizing.” Through Oct. 2 • Park Square Theatre, • 20 W. 7th Pl., Mpls. • (651) 291-7005 • www.parksquaretheatre.org

Cinematic Titanic — The Minnesotans who brought us Mystery Science Theater are back here from LA with their acclaimed new project, Cinematic Titanic, where corny movie gems Rattlers, War of the Insects, and Doomsday Machine get totally riffed! When musing about the public’s enduring appetite for scary B-movies, project creator Joel Hogsdon muses “You wanna be taken away into that world and forget yourself and when movies are done well, we all kind of share in a waking dream. And when they’re not done well, there’s something real tantalizing about it because all the elements are there but they’re not quite assembled right.” Sept. 15-17 • Parkway Theatre, • 4814 Chicago Av., Mpls. • (612) 822-3030 • www.theparkwaytheater.com

Bus Stop — Tennessee Williams (1911-1983) tends to top lists as the 20th century’s greatest gay American playwright. And, indeed, he does deserve his giant outdoor image at the Guthrie. But William Inge (1913-1973), to many, is second best, rivaling Edward Albee (born 1928). Director Robert Goudy shares that in Inge’s 1955 comedy “An empty loneliness resides at the center of the play, as each character seeks in their own way, to reach beyond that void and make a connection.” • Thought Oct. 2 • Theatre in the Round, 245 Cedar Av., Mpls. • (612) 333-3010 • www.theatreintheround.org

The Book of Liz — The Freshwater troupe revives the Sedaris siblings, Amy and David’s, ‘01 spoof on “Americana” as seen through the eyes of Liz (Mame Pelletier), an endearingly naive, non-judgemental Amish woman. When she befriends two gay men, Duncan (Joel Raney) and Donny (Michael Sung-Ho), at a restaurant where she works, her world view expands. Raney says, “It teaches us cultural acceptance through the kindness Liz shares with everyone she encounters in the big outside world.” Through Sept. • 25 Nimbus Theatre, • 1517 Central Av. NE, Mpls. (612) 816-8479 • www.FreshwaterTheatre.com

Despair Be Damned: Music and Dance from the Congo — Walker Performing Arts Curator Philip Bither says, “This two-part series demonstrates how artists often provide a remarkable degree of hope, healing, and political courage, even in the most desperate of national circumstances.” At the Walker, the Studios Kabako dancers choreographed by Faustin Linyekula will physically interpret recent global uprisings. At the Cedar, Staff Benda Bilili, a collective of self-taught, disabled street musicians, some formerly homeless, will make what Bither calls “a distinctive, joyous sound.” Sept. 22-27 • Walker Art Center, 1750 Hennepin Av., Mpls. & Cedar Cultural Center, • 416 Cedar Av. S., Mpls. • (612) 375-7600 • www.walkerart.org

Rumblings — As the Cowles Center begins its mission to provide space for homegrown dance performances, it’s fitting that the Minnesota Dance Theatre reprises its acclaimed Blues Ballet, Rumblings. Choreographer Lise Houlton says that revisiting the piece has been an “exhilarating collaboration of powerful, sensuous company dancers, composer/arranger/pianist Tom Linker and the sumptuous voice of Harley Wood.” You may recall Wood’s fabulous performance in Cardinal Theatricals’ Rent last year. He says “I am very honored.” Sept. 30 – Oct. 9 • Cowles Center for Dance & the Performing Arts, 528 Hennepin Av., Mpls. • (612) 206-3636 • www.thecowlescenter.org

Fall is for Gardening!

With Labor Day behind us, unofficially summer takes the backseat to the cooler temperatures, and shorter days of autumn. Leaves just barely start to turn, signaling the end of the growing season with frost not too far away. The reality of gardening in the upper Midwest is that springs and summers are never quite long enough. As a result, embrace the autumn season by making the very best of these shorter days in the garden. Fall is a perfect time to assess the garden, refresh tired summer plantings, divide perennials, and add new plants.

 

I encourage gardeners to use this time of year to assess the trials and tribulations of their gardens while they are fresh in their minds. Take note of the things that you would like to tweak or include in new plantings (now or in the spring). It is a whole lot easier to remember variety names when they are written down. Take photos of winning plant combinations you would like to repeat again and areas that need to get revamped. Keep a folder of these reminders as they will also serve as inspiration for new garden ideas.

Fall’s cooler temperatures make it an ideal time to divide clump-forming perennials, and to move existing perennials around. Since horticulture is the only science where multiplication can be done through division, dividing your favorite perennials now will allow you to economically add more of your favorites, or to share plants with friends. Don’t be afraid to dig in, divide, and conquer. The process will hurt you more than the plant, and will actually breathe new life into older perennials once they are divided. Use a shovel to split clumps into smaller divisions and then replant in their new locations. Cut back foliage near the ground line to minimize stress and water them into their new homes.

Treat yourself to new trees, shrubs, and perennials now to lighten your load come spring. The fall temperatures will make it easier to keep new plants watered, and they will be ready to take off when spring comes around. Try to have them in the ground before the third week in September to allow them enough time to root in before the ground freezes in late November.

And last but not least, plant bulbs! After all, bulb planters are the optimists of the world, something the world could use a few more of these days. All gardens evolve and with a little optimism and love, will improve over time.

Scott Endres is co-owner of Tangletown Gardens and the Wise Acre Eatery on 54th and Nicollet in South Minneapolis.

Click, Flash

Grace stands in an ethereal Palace of Chic, clad in a stunning emerald dress. Her hands on her hips, she beckons you to come to her side. She is the Woman You Want to Know.

And the camera flashes. Style, Romance, Spice, and Ambition flank Grace. They’re the men at her side, adjusting her pose with each shot. Come-hither smiles. No teeth.

And the camera flashes.

Jean Paul Kelly yells instructions to his moving canvas as he snaps shot after shot. He’s our photographer for the evening. We’re on a promotional shoot for a social club I host in town. There are five co-hosts, each with our own flavor, our own trademark personalities: Grace, Style, Romance, Spice, and Ambition.

“YES!” Jean Paul cheers as he reviews a shot. We’re suddenly off the lavish sofa that serves as our setting and at his side to stare into the camera’s screen. We sigh in collective relief. All five of us look phenomenal. The lighting is flawless. This will make the final cut.

We shoot two more scenes and, another hour and a half later, we’re done. When JP is satisfied he has what he needs, we sprawl on the sofa we used as a prop. Ultra-plush.

We spent the day preparing ourselves for tonight. Our meticulously chosen wardrobe, handled delicately as not to create a single wrinkle, holds no priority now. We’re exhausted.

“I can never wear this suit again,” I say in regard to the silver, shiny ensemble I’m wearing.

“Love, no one would remember that thing anyway,” Brandon, our Style, responds. We all laugh. Our humor is insatiable, silly, uniquely…us.

“Dinner?” someone suggests, though no response is needed. In these clothes? Of course. We’re all dressed up and ready to play.

We walk down Hennepin. The streets are glossy with a recent rain, romantic. Downtown’s sparkle reflects on the asphalt. The five of us savor this moment. We stop our banter as the wind blows through our jackets. Mana’s–our Grace’s–dress twirls in the wind.

Five friends. Five kids still playing dress-up. One thought: There is romance tonight. It twinkles in the flash of a camera, a reflection of a dream in our eye.

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