Sunday, May 21, 2017

Refugia

I'm starting to seem like one of the awesome Minnesota Theater Bloggers with my frequency of theater blogs (yeah, I only wish!), but I can't stop thinking about Refugia at the Guthrie last night. Thanks to my years at Jeune Lune I've known Dominique Serrand for over half my life, and it was clear to me last night that this was the play that he has wanted to create for at least that long a time. I'm stopping just short of calling it his magnum opus (because I hope there's a lot of great work left of his to see), and I don't want to take away from the other great work he's directed and co-created over the years, but this is the most significant and complete piece he's directed.

I need to start by saying that the Guthrie was the most lively and intense I had ever seen it last night. With three stages active (Refugia on the proscenium, The Bluest Eye in the thrust, and Mu's Charlie Chan in the Dowling studio, plus some prom photos being taken), the lobby was filled with excited, curious people of all ages and genders and colors and interests. I know that's been a goal of the Guthrie for a long time, but it was the first time I had really felt it, and it set the perfect tone for the evening — well, that and the beautiful grey mist over the river, that "endless bridge" still has one of the best views in town.

Refugia itself a multi-layered piece whose images flash by me every time I close my eyes, that sucked me in immediately and did not let me go until I was in full-blown tears by the end. Tales by Steve Epp, that take you on a journey that only he can do, where you follow along breathlessly and don't even realize how far you have come. Intense, poignant imagery made all the stronger by flashes of knee-slapping humor. Multi-dimensional stories that don't seem to relate at all, but you know they will, and you are not disappointed even while you are surprised. Incredible performances by people you expect — hat tip to Nathan and Christina — and by a cast of performers mainly new to the Guthrie whose performances are outstanding, including an outstanding young lady (I only wish I had seen Maia Hernandez's take on it). I would say more, I'm aching to discuss every detail, but I want YOU to see it and discuss it with me, and I don't want to pre-dispose you to a single minute of it.

We walked out through the fog to our car and I was at a loss for words at this beautiful, poignant exploration of being "the other" — while at the same time being a kind of love letter to humanity.

They have it all wrong, you know, those who fear immigrants coming to their countries. For some reason — maybe their own selfishness — they assume that people come here to take. But people come to America, and to other countries all over the world, mainly to give of themselves. Refugia is just one of those gifts, and all I could manage to say to Dominique as I left was "thank you."

Friday, May 12, 2017

The Vulnerability of an Open Rehearsal


Last night, I was lucky enough to get invited to an open rehearsal for 365 Days/365 Plays: A 2017 Remix, by Full Circle Theater Company. I've admired the brand new company, begun by Rick Shiomi, Martha Johnson, and several other of the top theatre creators in Minnesota, but I have only recently begun to work with them.

I'm also very affected by Suzan-Lori Parks' work, and remember being hit hard by 365 Days/365 Plays in 2006 when she conceived of it. That year seems like yesterday and today. It was the year I lost my mom, and the year I got married, and here was this odd piece of short, direct plays that were really hard hitting. It's a spiky piece, extremely issues-based, and that year I saw several performances of the pieces from many diverse theaters, as companies nationwide collaborated in producing it as one big cycle.

So I have to admit when I found out Full Circle was doing it, my first thought was "why?" As we talked more, I saw intellectually how it fit in with their mission of "artfully addressing human nature and social justice."

But last night, even just in rehearsal, I truly saw how fantastic performances could push this issues-based piece into a whole new realm. It pushed me into a new space — and not necessarily a comfortable one, but one that I felt compelled to navigate and explore. It's been a long time since a play has challenged me in that way both intellectually and emotionally. It might be a change in me, but I am more likely to think it was the power of this production.

This was enhanced by the feeling of access from an open rehearsal. there in the basement rehearsal room at Pillsbury House, with bright fluorescent lights and rehearsal props and uncomfortable chairs and a dingy carpet, was a raw sense of adventure. Of confidence in what the actors know and an eagerness to try out new things. Of confident directors (Rick and Martha and several directors doing a few plays each) who were also pushing their boundaries. Of curiosity and exploration and even a slight crackling of danger.

The show opens in two weeks. You won't be able to get that raw rehearsal sense, but I'm pretty sure that sense of intimacy and challenge will be inherent in the finished piece. Don't miss it. Come with me opening night.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

It's May Day!

If I were to look over past posts, I would likely see several about the Heart of the Beast Theater's annual May Day parade. We don't have Mardi Gras, but we have May Day, and especially in times like these, there's something magical about being with a group of people experiencing May Day together. This year, more than ever, its diversity and range of ages represented really struck me. Long live May Day!

It was also a weekend of other community-building. Beatrix's art is included in this year's ArtWalk in downtown Saint Paul, so there was a small reception at the Ordway for that (and I DO mean *small,* but it was fun.) Her art is up at the Starbucks across from Subtext on 5th Street through June 4, if you want to check it out.

After that, her Norwegian dance troop danced at the Festival of Nations. They did a great job, and as we walked through the displays and food hall afterwards, lots of people had questions about the dance and her bunad.

Last night I was able to attend the fantastic Wilson Webb show opening at IFP Minnesota. I know I'm biased, but our recent shows have been hitting it out of the park. You should definitely go see it. After that, we headed over to some friends for "slipper club," a night of loungewear and relaxation.

We fit in some other events, like a family photoshoot and a baby shower, and even a walk with the dogs. It's finally spring!


Friday, May 5, 2017

Your Values, Your Kid

Lately Beatrix and I have been having a lot of discussions around the term "Smash the Patriarchy!" It started with what "patriarchy" is, and then why you would want to smash it, and then into greater depth. Quite honestly, it's an easier thing to discuss in abstract than the specifics of why Congress would want to eliminate healthcare as we know it for all Americans.

She's not 100% on board, but she kind of likes the idea and we discuss why it's important to me. She's a thoughtful kid, and doesn't want to hurt anyone's feelings, and so she doesn't want the patriarchy to feel bad. I can accept that — for now. But I want her to keep thinking about it.

I don't remember having these kinds of discussions with my parents. I certainly saw them live their values, and so I grew to them. To this day, I share my mother's view that hypocrisy is the worst possible sin. And I got a great supportive email from my dad today after he saw me featured in an editorial. But my fierceness about issues came early on (I know those reading this who knew me in high school would agree), and as far as I can recall, sprung fully formed like Athena from Zeus. I don't think of this as unusual — philosophy, as far as I knew it from my friends, was for Philosophy Club, not necessarily the dinner table. I'm not even sure my mother read my senior thesis, but I know that she and I did not debate the complexities of Helene Cixous vs. Luce Irigaray.

Which was all to say the I don't know how this will turn out. But I like debating these things with her, and I feel, now more than ever, it's an important thing to do.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Why the Circus Has My Heart

You're all so patient. This time of the year, when Beatrix is performing in 3 acts in 2 shows, when Patrick is rigging *every* show, and when I'm at the circus every spare minute lending a hand where I can, I'm scattered as heck and you patiently put up with me. Since last Monday, we've been here 34 hours, and we're just starting a 2-show day today.

But dammit, it's so so worth it. I'm typing this from my desk, while a song from Moana is playing and the toddlers are doing their adorable routine. And just like every day when they go onstage, I'm in tears. I'm so damn lucky to be able to be here.

I could wax rhapsodic about what I love about my job here, and the friends I have made. I could go on and on about how absolutely hot Patrick looks when he is rigging — I love to watch his concentration and focus on what he's doing. But most of all, I love this for my daughter.

She's literally grown up here; she came in to me to work for the first time when she was only 2 weeks old. She used to hang in her carrier while I worked. She started toddlers when she was 2; last night, when I was watching her multiple trapeze act, one of the coaches who has known her for that long pulled me aside and said "I can't believe she's up there already! Look at how great she looks!"

Circus has taught her how to work for what she wants, and how to always strive to be better. It's taught her about teamwork. It's given her a beautiful confidence and love of performing — all while thinking of where she wants to be next (like her mom, she's "never satisfied.") And the friendships she has made here, both with her BFFs Meara and Brogan, and with her older role models Elsie and Amelia, and with kids of all ages through all acts, have been amazing.

I could say more, but I'm going to rush downstairs to see her act, as I do every show. I hope that's part of my life for years to come.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Vibrant India

When I used to travel to Hong Kong often, we would always stay in Chung King Mansions, an incredible rabbit warren of guesthouses, shops, restaurants and apartments on Nathan Road on the Kowloon side. Definitely the cheapest backpacker accommodations in the city, these rooms looked out over some of the nicest real estate in the city (when you could get an outside view), and by trial and error, you could establish a relationship with remarkably nice places to stay (it's the error part that got you in trouble).

In the B-block were some of the best Indian restaurants I've been to in my life. After queuing up for the lifts (an adventure in its own right) you would eventually come to a floor where several of the restaurants felt like you actually were in India. For less than $2-3, you could stuff yourself on amazingly authentic, delicious Indian food. Just be sure to drink a lot of water.

I have not come close to replicating that here. There are a few Indian places nearby, but nothing with the same ambiance (and certainly not the prices).

So I was super-excited to try out Vibrant India, chock full of vegetarian Indian recipes. The pictures are exotically beautiful, and it is chock-ful of healthy, delicious-sounding recipes. Beatrix is especially excited about the rice dishes, while Patrick and I have liked some of the spicier ones, especially the lentil dishes.

Face it, I may not ever again experience those delicious samosas on Nathan Road. But at least this book gets me one step closer.

(as usual, book provided free from Blogging for Books in exchange for an unbiased review)



Thursday, April 13, 2017

Selby

Tonight, after picking up Beatrix from EDL, we decided to hit "Spring Fling" events on Selby.

When I first bought my house in the early 90s, Selby had a seriously bad rap. It was full of boarded up storefronts and dilapidated houses. Not dangerous (though many assumed it was), but not nice either.

It quickly picked up. I remember when both corners of Selby and Dale were empty lots, and Allan Mathewson (the new GM of Mississippi Market) and I spent days on end counting cars to try to convince the shareholders to brings a co-op to that site. I feel like I have an intense, personal relationship with every business that's gone in from Dale to the Cathedral.

It's been a little slower going in the section between Dale and Lexington, but tonight we hit the BRAND newly-open J. Selby's, and it was wonderful. Beatrix pronounced it the "best PBJ ever" (thanks to Brogan's family for showing her she likes PBJs!), Patrick loved his meat-less burger, and my beet burger was delicious (though it could use a slight ramping up in spice and the fries would use a little longer in the vat). Cold beer, a lovely atmosphere, and the friendliest servers ever. We'll be back — ALL the time.

After that we hot a few stores in the Selby/Snelling area for their "spring fling." I got to introduce Patrick to Vibrant, a store I really love near Pizza Luce (and picked up an adorable dress). It's one of those stores where you walk in and love everything there. We hit a few other stores  little further down: Patina, Martha's Garden (so lovely smelling!), Lula (great Hawaiian shirts!), Flirt, and of course Up6, where we got to chat to Megan for awhile. She's got quite the rack of t-shirts right now, definitely worth checking out!

Selby has really come into its own, and it was a lot of fun to revel in that tonight.