Artista Bottega: A Wealth of Art Coming to West Seventh | 6.14
Gateways to St. Paul Art and Craft | 5.14
Bringing Out the Creative Spirit | 5.14
Review: North Country: Making of Minnesota | 5.14
Review: Survival Schools | 5.14
West End Artists Active in Spring 2014 St. Paul Art Crawl | 4.14
Minnesota Museum of American Art Presents: OJECTS: MMAA | 2.14
Local Girl Competes for Miss Jr. Teen | 11.13
Deliverance at Hand: The Redemption of a Devout Jehovah’s Witness | 11.13
World Premiere: Underland Coming to The O'Shaughnessy | 9.13
Theater Review: Sherlock | 7.13
Jewish Life in Russian Empire Exhibit | 7.13
Views of West Seventh | 7.13
Artist Profile: Gordon Coons | 7.13
Book Review: Black, White, Blue | 6.13
ArtPlace America Grants $350,000 to Blue Ox Mini Golf | 6.13
The Inspiration that Art Could Provide | 9.12
Review: Boo if you're a villain | 8.12
Review: Marked for Love but Not for Calm | 5.12
Review: Brightening Up a World Full of Somber Adults | 4.12
Review: This Buzzer Isn't Broken | 3.12
America's Face as Told by the Innocence of Children | 1.12
Park Square Theatre Brings Gershwin to Town | 12.11
Theater Review: Christmas in a House Divided | 12.11
HealthEast City Passport Program | 11.11
Acme Academy Gallery Opens | 9.11
CSPS Sokol Hall Renovation Projects | 9.11

Artista Bottega: A Wealth of Art Coming to West Seventh [IMAGE]

by Jerry Rothstein

Nance Derby Davidson and John Davidson have been working for years to create a spacious and beautiful gallery at their Acme Scenic Arts headquarters on West Seventh, since buying the building in 1997.

Now, the large front room is being further converted into Artista Bottega, which will offer a curated selection of art, craft and artistic creations of all kinds, fulfilling a long-time dream of Nance’s to help disseminate art into the community.

Her career as a maker of sets, props, signs, murals and shows fits that vision as well. She has done the Macy’s-Bachmann’s Flower Show in Minneapolis (with a second version going to Chicago); the Macy’s Christmas Show and the Macy’s Glamorama (benefit for cancer research) after-party show, for many years.

[IMAGE]Artista Bottega will present handmade or repurposed art and artifacts (Nance’s own painted furniture will be featured), and will also serve as a venue for artists’ receptions, mini-gallery openings, demonstrations, and classes to be offered by some of the artists showing their commissioned works in the shop. The mural room behind the main gallery may also be used for hanging individual artist’s work.

As a melding of fine and decorative art, with a focus on American art and craft, the space provides a place for people to meet, sit and talk, and think about making their own environments beautiful.

A good representation of West End artists and the broader Twin Cities arts community is possible through Nance’s extensive connections in the field.

She traces her devotion to art and design to her father, the Chief of Design for St. Paul Public Works, who “made wondrous things” and shared them with her. Growing up, she was always drawn to art and creativity and, she says, “I got a good art education in the St. Paul Public Schools.” She explored the performing arts and filmmaking, production stagecraft and teaching. After college studies in art education, she taught art in St. Paul for several years, before moving on to working for a set-building company and then to her broad accomplishments with Acme Scenic Arts.

Artista Bottega plans a “soft” opening around June 14 (Garden Tour) and a grand opening in September.
Artista Bottega, 937 West Seventh, 651-493-0861 —

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Gateways to St. Paul Art and Craft

by Nicole DeGuzman

This month, we’re highlighting three businesses committed to local arts through retail storefronts. Long-time creative residents and fresh transplants alike can appreciate Three Sisters Eclectic Arts, Artist Mercantile, and AZ Gallery as committed to diversity of category and medium at reasonable prices. With each storefront close by, and the owners/operators heavily involved in community service, you can’t miss these distinctive shops the next time you’re in search of a unique gift the big-box stores don’t provide. Imagine the glee when you’ve scored a local artisanal craft at the price you felt good about when you see the same artist’s mug on the cover of the next big art magazine offering those goods for tons more! Investing in local businesses and the artists making a living from their handmade crafts is a healthy way to strengthen our own community and the residents working here. Take some time to drop by and mention you read about them in the Community Reporter — they’ll be delighted to see you.

One year ago, Valerie Anderson and Linda Snyder opened Three Sisters Eclectic Arts as a cooperative retail space for local artists. In that time, 85 artists have displayed handmade crafts and wares for eager audiences appreciative of unique gifts. With more than 3,000 square feet of retail space, Three Sisters has room to accept a variety of arts, including clothing, furniture, home goods, jewelry, and paintings. Valerie and Linda often attend local art fairs in search of new talent and are open to growth opportunities. “We have a lot of options with the size of the space,” says Valerie. Three Sisters has had a variety of artist receptions and live performances, which have featured flamenco dancing, poetry, and musical quartets.

Another way to get in on snazzy events is during Lowertown First Fridays, (see from 6-9 p.m. on the first Friday of every month, when Lowertown artists and businesses, including Three Sisters, celebrate local creations. In an effort to further connect with the community, Three Sisters added a workshop space for community classes to be offered by working artists who teach their crafts in an intimate setting with a low teacher to student ratio. Upcoming classes include Aromatherapy, Book Club, Canvas Painting and Zentangle. In addition, they offer a traditional exhibition space available to nonprofit groups for exhibitions and special events. Visit the website for current events and classes, or to contact Valerie and Linda directly. Three Sisters (651-222-6052) is open Wednesday through Sunday, located in Lowertown St. Paul in the Jax Building, 253 East Fourth Street.

The Artist Mercantile is owned and operated by Jennifer Bisch, a lifelong St. Paul resident and entrepreneur. Eight years ago, Jennifer left her corporate position and purchased a storefront in the historic Hamm building. She never imagined she would one day be a business owner, much less a cornerstone of the artistic community. The Artist Mercantile features locally made art and gifts in a variety of mediums: accessories, home goods, jewelry, paintings and pottery. Also available is a concierge service where Jennifer assists shoppers in selecting the perfect gift for each occasion. On any given day, the Artist Mercantile highlights the artisanal crafts of 60 Minnesota artists. As a popular retail environment, there is currently a waiting list for artists wishing to join the ranks. Much of the stores success stems from involvement in local community and events. The Artist Mercantile website lists events and receptions offered in conjunction to their gallery openings and local business events.

For Jennifer, it is important to be a part of her community and to give back locally as an active business owner. In addition to running the Artist Mercantile, she serves as Treasurer for the St. Paul Art Collective, an organization responsible for large-scale art events such as the biannual St. Paul Art Crawl. She also serves as Curator at the Park Square Theatre and has been active in the St. Paul Chamber of Commerce. The Artist Mercantile (651-222-0253) is open Monday through Saturday, located in downtown St. Paul at 24 West Seventh Place, in the promenade between St. Peter and Wabasha.

The AZ Gallery has been in business for 17 years as an artists’ cooperative in St. Paul. As a co-op gallery, members are engaged in all operations of gallery management. Artwork is exhibited in a traditional gallery space on a rotating basis with additional programming featuring community work of guest artists, group shows, invitational and juried exhibitions. In response to the overall weakening of arts participation in 2009, AZ Gallery added an onsite gift shop to reinforce artists who did not have a large body of work available for traditional exhibitions and to introduce new talents to the gallery.

Since that time, there has been a surge of additional participation and audience development. The gift store features glass, home goods, jewelry, pottery, and textiles from more than 20 local guest artists. New artists wishing to add merchandise to the gift shop should submit work samples through the gallery website. AZ Gallery and its members are active in the community through member volunteer events and support of nonprofit and civic organizations such as the Jaycees. According to co-op member Amy Clark, “we work together to keep St. Paul strong.” AZ Gallery also collaborates with local businesses on special events. In June, the gallery will be celebrating the official launch of the Central Corridor Light Rail Green Line with an “End of the Line” theme of festivities planned. Visit for a schedule of gallery receptions and current events. The AZ Gallery (651-224-3757) is located in Lowertown St. Paul in the Northern Warehouse building, at 308 Prince St., #130, and is open Thursday through Sunday.

Nicole DeGuzman, our new Arts Correspondent, is an arts and culture reporter who has worked for more than 15 years in art, history, and science museums.

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Bringing Out the Creative Part of Spirit [IMAGE]

by Jerry Rothstein

Every Wednesday afternoon at the Holy Family Residence of Little Sisters of the Poor, Dick Weber leads a remarkable art class that involves residents, their family members and community volunteers.

Dick studied art and education and taught at the high school level, before making a second career in computer programming. And most of his life he has volunteered wherever he saw a need. When his aunt lived at Little Sisters he got involved in serving meals and calling Bingo. When staff learned of his background six years ago, they encouraged him to start the group.

He supplies all the materials and frames all the work as well. In May there will be a Residents’ Art Exhibit for friends, family and the community.

Dick sees people come and go from the class, with several long-timers. Most experience the time as a positive social activity that helps with focus, attention and coordination, as well as providing the opportunity, as Dick says, “to bring out the creative part of people’s spirit.”
Volunteers Dick Moser, Nancy Glenn and Stuart Loughridge allow each resident to have lots of personal attention.
Little Sisters of the Poor Resident Art Show: 5/9, 2:30-5 p.m. at Holy Family Residence, 330 S. Exchange St.

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North Country, the Making of Minnesota [IMAGE]

Review by Carole Julian

Mary Wingerd’s 449 page book on Minnesota’s complex and little known political and economic beginnings suggests a daunting read. Yet her psychological insights and use of important details in chronicling the interactions between fur traders, settlers, soldiers, politicians and the Dakota people provide compelling reading for anyone interested in little-known facts and hidden assumptions — assumptions that led to the conflict and atrocities in 1862 and which continue in subtle ways throughout time in the clash of cultures, commercial interests and world view.

Wingerd, a history professor at St. Cloud State, hoped that her book would become “a starting point for new conversations and a new search for understanding” about the roots of the Dakota conflict. She deftly exposes the prejudicial attitudes amongst people of different cultures which lead to one race justifying deception and domination of another race in the name of God and progress.

The author’s hopes were fulfilled when public awareness of the U.S.-Dakota War of l862 was raised during the 2012 commemoration events, which included extensive media coverage, lectures, exhibits, remembrances, and an official statement by Governor Mark Dayton calling for “A Day of Remembrance and Reconciliation in Minnesota.” Dayton asked everyone to “Remember the dark past, to recognize its continuing harm in the present, and to resolve that we will not let it poison the future.” Minneapolis and St. Paul City Councils followed up with important resolutions following the Governor’s call (see Community Reporter, January 2013).

The book contrasts two different world views: the Native Americans functioned like a loose “village world” and European Americans were socially and politically more hierarchical. This difference ultimately led to the belief in Indian inferiority, which conveniently legitimized the white settler’s right to take Indian lands and to romanticize their actions with the spirit of expansionism and American destiny.
Wingerd’s own research and writing spanned a decade; she concluded that “history must come to terms with injustice and tragedy as well as achievement.” She is obviously sympathetic with the Dakota side of the conflict, which has been ignored or misinterpreted by historians.

Readers will gain an understanding of Minnesota’s unique historical position in the formation of statehood. There is a vivid description of the early beginnings of St. Paul before the arrival of European immigrants. The color drawings by Seth Eastman and others are supported by detailed captions, which enliven the text. One could learn a great deal from just reading the captions and rich footnotes!
Wingerd believed that Minnesota’s early history needed a thorough examination and she states: “There is much yet to be learned.”
The hardback book is published by the University of Minnesota Press (2010) and is available in bookstores, libraries and for on-line purchase.

Carole Julian grew up on a farm in Lac Qui Parle County. Childhood experiences with the land and Native American culture led to an interest in historical events and their current impact on indigenous cultures. She has participated in Native American religious ceremonies, is a student of world religions, and has a M.A. in Psychology East-West (Transpersonal).

North Country, the Making of Minnesota
by Mary Lethert Wingerd (University of Minnesota Press, 2010)

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Survival Schools [IMAGE]

Review by James Zimmerman

In Survival Schools, author Julie Davis discusses the history of the American Indian Movement in the Twin Cities. Specifically, Davis focuses on the “Survival Schools;” schools set up specifically to provide Native American children with an education in an environment where their history and culture is celebrated instead of marginalized.

As Davis details in the book’s first chapter, the two schools (Red School House in St. Paul and Heart of the Earth in Minneapolis) opened in the 1970s. Before that time, Indian children frequently received no formal education or, when they did, such education distanced them from their families and their heritage both figuratively and literally. Davis notes that around 1900, “it was preferred policy to send Indian children to schools as far away from their reservation as possible, to keep them isolated from their families and tribal traditions” (p. 39).

The result was generations of children who faced humiliating, disorienting experiences on a daily basis as they faced educators and fellow students who were prejudiced against them and their cultures. Davis notes that Christianity was forced on the children, and speaking their native tongues was frequently a punishable offense. In larger cities, such as the Twin Cities, for example, Indian children at least had the benefit of being able to go home to their families every evening, but many of them did not fit the dominant mold for education. As a result, Indian parents often found themselves at odds with school authorities. By the late 1960s, Indian parents and community leaders realized that in order to keep their families together and strong, they would have to have their own schools.

Davis goes on to discuss the start and first decade of the schools (the Minneapolis survival school opened first). She brings in copious testimonials and documents from the era to demonstrate what and how the children were learning. The schools not only taught the basics, but also encouraged the children to become active in their communities. Davis notes: “The teaching of a critical political awareness and the encouragement of student activism in the Twin Cities survival schools set them apart from most other Indian community schools” (p. 148). Davis includes photos of the students’ artwork, reproductions of classroom schedules, and snapshots of teacher-led discussions. Many students flourished where before they had been marginalized or had dropped out of what they felt was a waste of time. Simply by showing up at the Survival Schools, many students were receiving an education where before they had been receiving none at all. By the end of the 1970s, the schools were graduating Indian youth who had a newfound pride in their heritage and had usable skills to use in their communities and the Twin Cities at large.

But beyond just providing an education, Davis shows how “the survival schools themselves would become a center of Native community in the Twin Cities” (p. 129). Instead of losing cultural awareness, as the Indian communities had been doing for decades, the families of survival schools were gaining in cultural knowledge. But beyond their own culture, Davis argues that the schools equipped students to function as American citizens. She writes, “This was the schools’ truly subversive potential. They were not training Indian youth to overthrow the U.S. government; they were educating them to resist American settler colonialism’s logic of elimination. They were refusing to be replaced” (p. 241).

The book’s final chapters dig deeper in to the politics of the schools. Davis reveals the conflicting interests of the parents (themselves from various tribes), the school officials, and the local governments. In time, the schools were compelled to allow children from various other cultures to attend, and then were subsumed into the public school systems at large. The Heart of the Earth school, in particular, was plagued with fraudulent management and closed its doors in 2008 when the money — lost to greed — ran out.

Survival Schools ends on an uplifting note, however, as Davis explores the meaning — she calls it the “so what” question — of the schools’ legacies (p. 244). Needless to say, the positive impact these two schools had on their communities extended beyond the lives of those who attended and taught at them. Davis brings in brief interviews from former students and the parents of former students to provide thoughts on what the schools meant to them and how their experiences have shaped their lives up to today.

Copiously illustrated and annotated, Davis’ book brings to life an important facet of education in our cities’ recent histories. Appealing mostly to historians and Native Americans, Davis manages to keep her book from becoming a dry textbook; it is an intriguing read that will help St. Paulites understand their neighbors better.

James Zimmerman lives in the West Seventh neighborhood with his wife and two children, and attends Hamline University. His writings appear in this year’s St. Paul Almanac.

Survival Schools by Julie L. Davis
University of Minnesota Press [Nominated for a 2014 Minnesota Book Award]

West End Artists Active in Spring 2014 St. Paul Art Crawl

by Nicole DeGuzman

Spring is in the air! It’s time to trade those heavy snow boots for slick rain galoshes and come out of hiding. A sure sign of warmer weather ahead is the 23rd annual Spring 2014 St. Paul Art Crawl taking place April 25-27th in locations throughout the city. With more than 300 artists participating in each biannual art crawl, the whole family is sure to burn off those winter blues. A number of West End artists are opening their studios and exhibiting in galleries along West Seventh, and there are hundreds of free parking spaces available. Walk, pedal, or ride to the West End for an entertaining weekend full of opportunities to build your own collection of moderately priced original art direct from the source. Events are scheduled Friday April 25, 6-10:00 p.m., Saturday April 26, 12-8 p.m., and Sunday April 27, 12-5 p.m. For more information and the complete schedule visit

Deborah and Michael Padgett[IMAGE]
Step in to the gallery of long-time West End residents and community advocates Deborah and Michael Padgett and you’ll see a balance of his whimsical clay media and her lighthearted paintings. This is a time of year special to Michael because “When the St. Paul Art Crawl comes around it gets everyone thinking about art and local artists.” The community is alive. The Padgett’s have been working with local businesses for 36 years and remain committed to fostering collaborations. Deborah often works on exhibitions with other artists in the Women’s Art Resources of Minnesota (WARM) organization, which offers exhibition opportunities and mentorship resources. Open studio tours are a rare treasure for visitors who aren’t used to seeing art in action. Deborah comments “When I open my studio for others to watch me work, I want them to know it is okay to just watch, or to engage. I think people are surprised when a studio visit wasn’t as intimidating as they thought it was going to be.” The Padgetts will have a gallery and studio open at 274 Goodrich Avenue on Saturday, April 26th from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Gallery and studio tours are available by appointment year-round through their website

[IMAGE]John Roy Fine Art
John Roy develops his inspiration while traveling alone on cross-country road trips. Armed with a camera, harmonica, and whatever gear fits on his motorcycle, John seeks out forgotten American landscapes. Once home, he spends hundreds of hours printing, mounting, and cutting individual photographic elements and creating large 3-D murals. John’s murals are built to connect end-to-end, with his current body of work totaling over one hundred feet in length. John Roy’s working studio will be open at Schmidt Artist Lofts, 876 West 7th St. during all hours of the art crawl and by appointment through his website:

David Cunningham [IMAGE]
By the time local painter David Cunningham was 16 years old, he was enrolled in the rigorous Minneapolis-based Atelier Studio Program of Fine Art. After academic training, David developed his own style and hasn’t looked back. His gritty cityscapes play with shadow, focus, and fleeting moments often overlooked. Today, his art can be seen in more than 50 exhibition spaces. David just moved to the West End and is eager for the spring art crawl because he wants to meet other area artists and local art enthusiasts who might be seeing his paintings for the first time. David Cunningham’s paintings will be on view at the gallery of the Schmidt Artist Lofts, 876 West 7th St. during all hours of the art crawl and by appointment through his website

[IMAGE]Kinney Mixed Media: Kjiersten and Robert Kinney
Kjiersten Kinney and her husband Robert moved their home, children, and pets to a traditional townhouse located at the Schmidt Artist Lofts. Both artists have a renewed focus on the creative process and will use the onsite community amenities abundantly. Kjiersten describes her artistic style as “feminine and soft,” while Robert’s style is “Jackson Pollock with a soldering gun.” Robert’s art focuses on heavy textures, and then he lobs molten metal onto the deeply layered canvas, creating a scarred surface. In Kjiersten’s Angel Series mixed media, she recognizes that unplanned angels frequent appear. As a couple, their art celebrates the unpredictably of creation. Kinney Mixed Media Art will be available at the gallery of the Schmidt Artist Lofts, 876 West 7th Street during all hours of the art crawl.
Thune Gallery & Burn Unit Coffee Ward
Both the Thune Gallery and Burn Unit Coffee Ward on West Seventh will showcase local art during the art crawl. Originals from Christina Ziton will be available as well as the art of several locals. Thune Gallery is open year-round with bimonthly exhibitions featuring the work of 12-15 local artists. Thune Gallery and Burn Unit Coffee Ward at 943 West 7th St. will have art on view at all hours of the art crawl. Visit their Facebook page for specials and events happening all year.

[IMAGE]Amy Zellmer Custom Creations Photography and Nicole Porter
Collaborations are blossoming this spring and refreshing creations are being born! New West End resident artists Amy Zellmer and Nicole Porter met as neighbors in the Schmidt Artist Lofts and started collaborating immediately. Amy Zellmer is a photographer known for capturing life’s treasured moments, and Nicole Porter is a home goods designer. When these two artists decided to work together they chose Amy’s dramatic photography to highlight Nicole’s approachable creations. The result? Come see for yourself. Amy Zellmer Custom Creations Photography and Nicole Porter will have open studios at the Schmidt Artist Lofts, 876 West 7th St. during art crawl. Open studios are also available by appointment at and

Nicole DeGuzman, our new Arts Correspondent, is an arts and culture reporter who has worked for more than 15 years in art, history, and science museums.

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Minnesota Museum of American Art Presents: OBJECTS: MMAA [IMAGE]
Exhibition dates: February 6 to April 13, 2014

OBJECTS: MMAA features 50 pieces by 50 artists from the collection of the Minnesota Museum of American Art, as well as the work of five contemporary artists. The exhibition explores the line between art and craft, which has been important in recent years as fine artists borrow from craft traditions and craft artists move away from functional objects.

One of the key texts that informed MMAA Curator of Engagement Christina Chang’s selection of artworks is the catalog OBJECTS: USA, from which the current exhibition’s title is borrowed. This 360-page publication accompanied the exhibition OBJECTS: USA, organized by the S.C. Johnson Company of Racine, Wisconsin, and shown at the Minnesota Museum of Art in 1970.

[IMAGE]In the accompanying text on the history of American craft, the exhibition’s curator attributed the turn to craft traditions by artists in the postwar period to a negative reaction against consumer culture. The handmade art or craft object represented a rejection of “the conformity, the built-in obsolescence, and the anonymity of mass-produced objects,” and “a desire shared by many people for one-of-a-kind objects that truly represent an extension of individual personality.” There is a parallel shift today toward making and handcrafting in response to the digitization of culture, which MMAA has explored in two earlier exhibitions, D.I.Y. Printing: Presses Not Required and Repetition & Ritual: New Sculpture in Fiber.[IMAGE]

“This exhibition is something of a homecoming for the Minnesota Museum of American Art,” said MMAA Executive Director Kristin Makholm. “We’re thrilled to be able to share our permanent collection with the public. The exhibition demonstrates the museum’s continuing commitment to contemporary craft, and the important role we play as an institution promoting a greater understanding of the relationship between art and craft.”

OBJECTS: MMAA: February 6 (Public Reception, 7-8:30 p.m.) through April 13, 2014 at MMAA Project Space, 332 N. Robert St., St. Paul. Call 651-222-6080 or see for more information.

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Roots Music Series Brings Klezmer and Flamenco Music to St. Paul

by Miriam Gerberg

The traditional European music concert and residency series, Roots Music: Four Corners of Europe, presented by Minnesota Global Arts Institute and Hamline University, continues in February and March with Klezmer Music in February and Flamenco and Irish music in March. See

Eisner’s Klezmorim, a traditional, old world klezmer ensemble based in Minneapolis and led by violinist Judith Eisner, are in residence at Hamline University February 20-23. Their concert, “Rediscovered Yiddish Music,” comes to Sundin Music Hall (1531 Hewitt Ave., St. Paul) on Saturday, February 22 at 7:30 p.m., with a 7 p.m. preshow talk with the artists on what to listen for in Klezmer Music.

The instrumental music of Ashkenazi Jews is known today as “klezmer” music. Used primarily at weddings, it is at once joyous, haunting, and deeply introspective. After the Holocaust, the tone of the Jewish wedding changed dramatically, eliminating many of its emotionally demanding aspects. At that time the wedding went from a week long, community developing event, to just one wedding day. “Rediscovered Yiddish Music” will offer audiences a rare opportunity to hear traditional klezmer music as it functioned in the rituals of the wedding. Modern klezmer music, which started after WWII with clarinet-based swing bands, is how most people know klezmer music. What you’ll hear at this event is something quite different! The concert will be supplemented with rare photographs, pictures of art work, and explanations of dance forms.

The residency at Hamline will include educational opportunities. Contact for details. Concert tickets are $12 for adults, $8 for students and $5 for all ACTC students, faculty and staff, and can be purchased by calling the Box Office, 651-523-2459 or on line at Parking at Hamline is free (permit lots are free in the evening and weekend).

On Saturday March 1st local ensemble Flamenco Mateo presents a concert titled Pasión Flamenca: Spain’s Cultural Treasure. Flamenco as an art form encompasses music, poetry, song, and dance from not only the Spanish tradition but also the traditions of Sephardic Jews and Roma (Gypsies). Through this concert vocalist Rachel “La Mala” Milloy, guitarist Scott Mateo Davies, and an exciting team of musicians and dancers, will explore the roots and current trends of this vibrant art form. They will be joined by multi-talented percussionist Terrence Karn of Houston's Gypsy Dance Theater, highlighting the unique rhythms of Spain's artistic gift to the world. Events occur in late February and early March — for full details see

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Local Girl Competes for Miss Jr. Teen

Mary Coehlo, a lifelong West Seventh resident who has lived near Monroe School surprised her family by applying to take part in the Miss Jr. Teen Minneapolis St. Paul pageant competition. She was successful in her interview thus entering the title round held in Minneapolis in October.

Personality is the competition’s most important aspect, and the finals included interviews with the judges’ panel, as well as casual and formal wear modeling routines.

Mary had fun and represented St. Paul (specifically the West Seventh area) very well. Although she didn’t make the national finals, it was a great experience for her. Her friends Azziza Aboud and Isabella Sandoval, and her sister Grace, helped her prepare. Mary is into soccer and hardly ever wears dresses, and that’s where the family did their double-take.

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Deliverance at Hand: The Redemption of a Devout Jehovah’s Witness [IMAGE]

by James Zimmerman

Book Review by Marva Bohen
One might get the impression from looking at the cover of Zimmerman’s book that he will be witnessing to you about the Truth. The Truth is how Jehovah’s witnesses refer to their religion, and the book is covered with slogans from their teachings such as: “Jehovah will destroy the bad ones.” Or “Time is running out.” However, what has become increasingly clear to Zimmerman is that the “Truth” is not to be found within the religion to which he has devoted his life. His redemption is not the coming of the apocalypse predicted to occur at any moment by the Elders of the church, but it is in a way an Armageddon. Jehovah’s Witnesses do not take lightly the exiting of a long-time member, so Zimmerman must do battle with the Elders and with some members of his family. This book recounts how he came to see that “The Truth” was not the truth, and what that meant to him and his wife, Jennifer.

Zimmerman was a sort of child prodigy among the Witnesses, deeply engaged in all the aspects of Assembly (the meetings) and “Pioneering” (going door to door). His mind, however, developed a scientific bent as he grew older. He began to search for the “proofs” that supported the Truth of the religion. In doing this he took the literature and teachings of the religion and when he came across something he couldn’t explain, he would do what a good Witness is supposed to do: go to the elders or write to the Watchtower offices. Unfortunately the answers he received often only added to his confusion without providing the proof he sought. It was the teachings themselves and not any outside influences that led him to have serious doubts about the Truth.

He was in a quandary, however, because if he dismissed his faith it would seem a waste of his past life that was so devoted to the teachings of this church. All he knew and loved was inside the circle of his faith, and he wanted it to be true. Jehovah’s Witnesses practice shunning, which means that if someone is disfellowshipped by the Elders or leaves the church for any reason, the other Witnesses must not have any contact with them. This would include family members and close friends. Zimmerman had staunchly practiced shunning with one of his best friends even though he was having grave doubts himself.

Strangely enough it is his wife Jennifer who forces the issue. Even when she tells him she no longer believes, and cannot remain in the faith, he begs her to not rush into it. Their actual final break with the church occurs after Jennifer places 28 photos of a birthday celebration for their son on a web site. Birthday celebrations are forbidden to Jehovah’s Witnesses. Though they claim to be the happiest people on earth, they find little to celebrate, and fall prey to the usual share of human suffering and depravity.

One of the questions that arose as I read this book is: “Who will want to read this book?” Zimmerman’s early passion for his religion is evident in his descriptions of what is required of a diligent Witness, and you can hear the fervor in his voice even now. As I am one of those rude people who tend to slam the door on Witnesses and other proselytizers, it’s hard to imagine anyone having an interest in finding out more about this literalist Christian group. However, it did occur to me that most people who have anything at all to do with religion have periods of faith crises. I have heard that even the sainted Mother Theresa went through these “dark nights of the soul.” It is interesting, I think, to look at how others deal with moments of crisis, and how they manage to grow through it.

In this case, Zimmerman went from the most convinced of the convinced of the Absolute Truth of the Witnesses to atheism, which is perhaps another form of Absolute Truth. He recognizes this possibility, but discounts it by thinking that as an atheist he is just without God, not an anti-theist who is against God. However, the very fact that he has written this book suggests an effort to reveal his new Truth. The book is available at local booksellers and on line.

Marva Bohen B.A (English Literature) M.S. (Nursing), developed at an early age a healthy skepticism of institutions and individuals who purport to hold Absolute Truth.

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World Premiere of Underland Coming to The O’Shaughnessy

by Jerry Rothstein

The World Premiere of Underland: A Highland Friendship Club Original Film is at The O’Shaughnessy Theater at St. Catherine’s University (2004 Randolph) on Saturday, September 14. Red carpet celebrity arrivals at 6:30 p.m. are followed by the screening at 7:30 p.m. and the Awards Ceremony at 8:30 p.m.

The Highland Friendship Club (HFC) was organized in 2002 to provide support and activities for teens and young adults living with some form of disability the chance to connect with friends — with and without disability, as well as for others interested in social integration, providing a range of opportunities to develop lifelong skills, friendships and connections within the community.

Originally created by two families in order to provide summer activities for their children, the HFC now involves more than 300 members; has dozens of different regular educational and social programs; raises funds from individuals and organizations throughout the Metro area; and has both a nonprofit volunteer board and a team of paid staff. Events occur in many locations: Cretin-Derham, the Mad Hatter Tea Shop; the Jewish Community Center and many others.

Underland is the fourth movie that HFC has made and the most elaborate. The first three were opportunities for teaching basic film making and generating story ideas from the group. Underland is an original script by Dusty Thune, who also directs. Sponsored by individual donors and involving a strong group of more than 15 professionals (Thune: “Everyone who hears about the project wants to be involved”) volunteering their talents, which include directing, director of photography, camera operators, grips, make-up artists and key actors with professional careers. Most of the cast is drawn from HFC’s membership. There are 25 actors playing 35 roles, each of which has a unique costume (created and made by Dusty Thune).

Thune describes Underland as “a journey to a parallel dimension torn apart by fear and exclusion. Blend in with society. Mask your differences. Shun those who dare to dream, or join them yourself in Underland.

“Underland is an epic action fantasy that takes us on the vivid journey of a young girl whose world turns upside down through a rift in time. She finds a dystopian society in a parallel world ruled by the threat of exile for those who are different or dare to break from the mold of ‘status quo.’ Her journey forces her to make a choice that will alter her future forever, but not before befriending the inhabitants of Underland and helping them on their quest for freedom from exile.” Underland is directed and written by Dusty Thune. Ryan Swan is Director of Photography and Editing, with contributions from several talented individuals from the local film community.

The World Premiere is designed to capture the same kind of excitement found at a Hollywood opening. First, the Red Carpet arrivals; next the screening; and finally an Awards Ceremony that allows participants to be recognized for their work and to make their own “Oscar Acceptance Speech.”

Underland will also be submitted to film festivals and promoted to commercial theaters for screening.

House of Thune Studios presents, in association with Java Gin Studios, a Highland Friendship Club Film Production, a Dusty Thune original film, Underland: information at or 651-698-4096.

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Theater Review Sherlock
Sherlock: An Evening of Suicide, Murder and Magic [IMAGE]


There has been a recent surfeit of Sherlock Holmes. He seems to be popping up everywhere — the movies, network television, British television, and, most locally, in St. Paul at Park Square Theatre. At times it’s easy to understand why Sir Arthur Conan Doyle got so bored with his character that he killed Mr. Holmes off. But while Mr. Doyle may have been bored, the followers of Holmes cannot seem to get enough.

According to the playbill for Sherlock Holmes and the Adventure of the Suicide Club this is Park Square’s third production of a Sherlock story. While I did not attend the other two, I can attest that this one holds its own with any number of other Sherlock adaptations. Jeffrey Hatcher, the hometown playwright, stays true to the spirit of Sherlock. His characters are both good and evil. There are unexpected, and expected, twists and turns. The clues are cleverly planted so that you only notice them after they have been revealed. And Sherlock is melancholic enough to remind you of his humanity, and smart enough to make you feel stupid. The story itself appears simple: some men join a club hoping to help each other commit suicide, but like all Sherlock stories it is much more complicated than it seems.
It is not just the actors who help make this play enjoyable; the artistic staff, most notably Michael Hoover, the scenic designer, help create a world that smoothly transitions from one location to the next.

If you haven’t had your fill of Sherlock Holmes yet, this production is waiting to help satiate your cravings. And if you’re done with the too-smart Sherlock, you can go just to figure out how they pull off the magic tricks. Either way, it’s an evening well spent.
Tamar Neumann is a professor of English by day and a theater lover by night. She is involved with the vibrant theater community in the Twin Cities, and an active member of the Playwrights’ Center.

Sherlock, Park Square Theatre, 20 W 7th Place, St Paul. 651-291-7005 or

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Jewish Life in Russian Empire Exhibit

The Museum of Russian Art (TMORA), a nonprofit, educational institution, is the only museum in North America dedicated exclusively to the preservation and exhibition of all forms of Russian art and artifacts from many eras.

The current exhibit, Jewish Life in the Russian Empire: Photographs from the Museum of Ethnography, St. Petersburg, Russia, is a unique photographic record of Jewish communities in Tsarist Russia between 1867 and 1916. The exhibition brings together sixty-three archival reproductions featuring portraits of Russia’s Jewish subjects, as well as scenes from daily life during the late-nineteenth and earlytwentieth centuries. The remarkable images come to Minnesota for the first time from the collections of the Russian Museum of Ethnography in St. Petersburg, Russia, one of the largest ethnographic museums in Europe, with holdings of half a million items
including 200,000 photographs.

The earliest images in this show are drawn from the seminal Ethnographic Exhibition held in Moscow in 1867. Organized by the Imperial Society of Natural History, Anthropology, and Ethnography, the 1867 Exhibition featured the Empire’s diverse cultures through photographs, costumes, musical instruments and household objects. On display at TMORA are seventeen reproductions of photographs that were originally displayed in the Ethnographic Exhibition in 1867. Works of eight distinguished nineteenth-century photographers are included in this exhibition.

Jewish Life in the Russian Empire is on view through October 20, 2013. TMORA is located in a state-of-the-art, historical building at 5500 Stevens Ave. S. (intersection of I-35W and Diamond Lake Road) in Minneapolis. To learn more about the Museum’s exhibitions, events and history, visit or call 612-821-9045.

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Views of West Seventh at St. Paul Gallery [IMAGE]

Well-known local community member and volunteer Lois Tschida has been exploring photography for several years. Her photos have appeared in the Community Reporter, and her photo-cards are on sale at the Mad Hatter Café and Tea Shop (943 West Seventh). On July 13 from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at the adjacent St. Paul Gallery, Lois will open a show of her photographs of the West Seventh neighborhood and street scene. On July 14 the Gallery will be open from 1 to 4 p.m. and the show will then continue during the rest of the summer. Call 651-290-2584 for further information.

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Artist Profile: Gordon Coons[IMAGE]

Artists Who Come from Lac Courte Oreilles


Gordon Coons’ heritage is Ojibwa from Lake Superior Chippewa Band of Wisconsin (from his father) and Ottawa from Michigan (from his mother). He is an enrolled member of the Lac Courte Oreilles Tribe of northern Wisconsin. Originally from Wisconsin, Gordon is now living in Minneapolis, and is the facility manager for our West 7th Community Center. The Lac Courte Oreilles Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians of Wisconsin history occupied the vast territory within 100 mile radius of the present location of the Lac Courte Oreilles Reservation near Hayward, WI. The Lac Courte Oreilles (LCO) people are one band of the large Ojibwe Nation that originally occupied the upper eastern woodland area of the North American content. In 1854 the Treaty of La Point established LCO reservation.
Gordon is a self taught artist, creating works in a variety of mediums including linoleum block prints, paintings, pen and ink, and carvings in stone and wood. Although his artwork is more contemporary, each piece portrays a unique view of traditional native stories, incorporating strong family influences into the image.

[IMAGE]Gordon has been showing artwork at juried shows around the country, including Eiteljorg Museum of Indianapolis; Indian Art Northwest of Portland; University of Kansas Museum of Anthropology; Oscar Howe Art Center of Mitchell, South Dakota; Trail of Tears in Tahlequah, Oklahoma; Red Earth, Oklahoma City; Red Cloud Art Show in Pine Ridge, South Dakota; University of Wisco on the national mall in Washington, D.C. He has won numerous recognition awards in graphics/prints categories since he started showing his work. His works have become part of permanent collections of institutions such as the Minneapolis American Indian Business Development Corporation; Red Cloud Indian School Heritage in Pine Ridge, South Dakota; the Summit Medical Center of Oakland, California; Red Earth, Oklahoma City; Lac Courte Oreilles Community Library, Reserve, Wisconsin.

He was recently commissioned to create and lead a project of five artists from Lac Courte Oreilles to create ten images, sized 40″ x 60″, and he created one image of 5 x 5 feet, depicting the Ojibwa migration story. The images are located at the Lac Courte Oreilles Community Library. The migration story images have also been used by The White Earth Land Recovery Project for the 2007 Annual Report. There are galleries carrying his work in St. Petersburg, Florida; San Francisco[IMAGE], California; Mitchell, South Dakota; and several in the Seattle, Washington and Portland, Oregon areas, and Zuni, New Mexico.

Gordon has also been active in creating exhibits that feature artists from LCO and in July the Driftwood Gallery will host Mezinabii’igejig Wenjibaawaad Odaawaa Zaaga’iganing/Artists Who Come from Lac Courte Oreilles with the works of nine LCO enrolled members. Driftwood Community Arts is a group of art educators and artists committed to relevant arts education and diverse perspectives in an accessible community-oriented space. It houses a classroom for community education, an artists’ studio, and a gallery for exhibition and sale of local art and craft. The LCO exhibit runs July 23 to August 25 with an opening reception on July 26 at 6 p.m. Driftwood Community Arts, 777 Raymond Ave. St. Paul, 651-340-0929.

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Boo if you’re a villain, Cheer if you’re a hero


Summer has arrived in the Twin Cities. It’s hot. It’s humid. But most importantly, it’s the best season to be living in Minnesota. As you’re thinking about all the activities you love to do each summer consider adding the Minnesota Centennial Showboat to your list. The Showboat, in partnership with the University of Minnesota, brings light, fun, and interactive theater to audiences around the Twin Cities. It’s just what your summer needs — some booing and cheering to beat the heat.

Keeping with the recent theme of TV and movies, the play, by J. R. Planche, is called The Vampire. It is a 19th century play performed by the students in the traditional form of a 19th century melodrama. That means you get to boo and hiss at the villain and cheer and clap for the hero. At first this may feel a bit strange to you, but with such earnest actors and some peer pressure from your fellow audience members, you’ll be joining in with as much gusto as everyone else. You might even find yourself singing along with the musical olios.

The Vampire is not a particularly good play; it’s a melodramatic piece of fluff, but that’s okay because it’s not supposed to be Pulitzer Prize winning writing. It’s supposed to be fun. And this production, thanks to Peter Moore’s brilliant direction, remembers that fact by never really taking itself seriously. This is most evidenced by Joseph Phffereon’s portrayal of the villainous vampire. He loves it when you hate him as much as you can. You can tell by the little bit of a smile that creeps into his eyes the louder you boo him. I could explain the plot, but it doesn’t really matter because in the end it only matters that good triumphs over evil, and there were many fun musical sketches to break up the nail-biting drama of vampire attacks, separated lovers and murders.

The play, and experience of this show, becomes unforgettable when paired with music. Between each scene the actors perform some type of outrageous olio; whether it’s a song about hot dogs, a swimsuit competition, or a human organ, the songs are entertaining, and, may even help relieve the tension of the story. Vern Sutton proves his true mastery of music by finding these absolute gems of songs from vaudeville and having them performed as they might have been in vaudevillian days.

You may be thinking there are lots of melodramatic, silly, light-hearted theater shows out there, but I would contend the Showboat is different. It has silly moments, but because it uses a play written specifically for a traveling theater in the 19th century, and the olios are so carefully chosen to suit this type of theater, it’s not just fun, it’s an opportunity to get a glimpse into the theater of the 19th century. And, it’s also a rollicking good time.

Tamar Neumann is a professor of English by day and a theater lover by night. She is involved with the vibrant theater community in the Twin Cities, and an active member of the Playwrights’ Center.

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Marked for Love but Not For Calm [IMAGE]

by Tamar Neumann

Cool accents + poetic romance = success, right? At least that’s what The Gremlin Theatre’s production of Garner McKay’s Sea Marks is hoping will happen. McKay’s play has managed to be successful in many of the regional theaters where it spends it’s time, and now it has landed in St. Paul. It has everything you could want: two unlucky-in-love/almost lucky-in-love characters, poetry, romance, weddings, humor and even death. And the Gremlin has Peter Christian Hansen and Stacia Rice to bring the house down.

photo: Award-winning actors Stacia Rice and Peter Christian Hansen star in Sea Marks at the Gremlin Theatre. Credit: Sarah Bauer.

The play is about Colm Primrose, who sees Timothea Stiles at a wedding, falls in love and thus begins to write her letters. They eventually agree to meet and, well, I’m sure you can guess how it goes from there. As you watch the story of this strapping, yet sensitive Irish fisherman try to catch his prized Welsh lass, you end up reflecting on the bright promises of new love. That is where the magnificence of this play, and this production, lies — in the story of two unlikely lovers and their nascent romance.

In this particular production both Mr. Hansen and Ms. Rice hold the audience’s attention, and convince them of the reality of Colm’s and Timothea’s world. This is no small feat when you consider that they are the only two people on stage. Lesser actors might not do such a formidable job. Mr. Hansen embodies the roughness and tenderness of this Irish fisherman. Colm is both innocent and sharp at the same time. Somehow, Mr. Hansen manages to take a 35-year old man’s first sexual encounter and turn it into a hilarious but incredibly touching scene. Ms. Rice plays her “worldly woman” as both fragile and tough. Timothea certainly has a mind of her own, but she is willing to allow someone else to change it. And Ms. Rice does not allow Mr. Hansen to have sole control of the stage.

But along with all this sweet romance there is an underlying postcolonial narrative that McKay either chooses to ignore or purposely furthers. McKay (not Irish himself), has created a play that tries, weakly, to go beyond mere romance and address some of the stereotypes that have pestered the Irish. At least that’s what I’m going to assume because instead of actually dealing with the hard issues he lets bubble up in his play, he allows them to get knocked aside for the larger story of Colm’s and Timothea’s love. This allows the focus, rightly, to remain on the love story, but it perpetuates the ugly idea that the Irish are primitive and unable to produce great writers (see James Joyce, W.B. Yeats, Brian Friel, Samuel Beckett). He seems to forget that you don’t have to choose. You can have both a great love story and a story that redefines colonial narratives (see Translations). Perhaps McKay should have focused on what he wrote best — romance. Then, as we watched Colm and Timothea, we could happily escape into their love, rather than being uncomfortably reminded of our own colonialism.

Gremlin Theatre, 2400 University Ave. W., 651-228-7008.

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Brightening Up a World Full of Somber Adults [IMAGE]

by Tamar Neumann

When you’re a kid, everything just seems simpler. Even the most complicated issues like race, death, and hatred can be solved by having good friends and doing what’s right. Occasionally, as adults, we need to be reminded of pure, childlike simplicity because we have a tendency to make situations much more complicated. The Children’s Theatre’s production of Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy, directed by Peter C. Brosius, approaches some of the larger questions in life from the perspective of a child, and this perspective turns out to be almost genius. The play, adapted by Cheryl L. West, from a book by Gary D. Schmidt, is nothing innovative when it comes to children’s literature. Turner Buckminster has moved to a new town with his father, the minister, after the death of his mother. He doesn’t fit in and can’t seem to make any friends. Adjacent to the town is an island where the Malaga people live. The Malaga people are a different race and the minister is warned to stay away. This means that Turner will find his only friend in Lizzie Bright, from Malaga. Their friendship defies all odds and takes them on a journey of both self-discovery and adventure. Along the way they teach the grown-ups a few lessons and they even learn a few.

photo: Sam Bardwell plays Turner Buckminster III in the production and Traci Allen plays Lizzie Bright Griffin.
Credit: Dan Norman

But it’s not the story that makes this production worthwhile; it’s the sincerity and passion of the actors, most especially Traci Allen who plays Lizzie Bright. Her performance captures the spunkiness, strength, kindness, and beauty of Lizzie Bright. Sam Bardwell, as Turner, does holds his own on stage next to Allen, and, since he is the main character of this story, it is essential that we believe in him as much as we believe in Lizzie. And no children’s play would be complete without the obligatory “grumpy old woman.” It seems that any character over the age of 60 is doomed to be stereotyped in children’s literature, but Autumn Ness imbues Mrs. Cobb with a sense of hilarity and tenderness that quickly differentiates her from similar characters.

The world of this book really comes alive (at one point there is even a whale on stage!) and that is a testament to Brosius, the scenic designer, G.W. Mercier, and Paul Whitaker’s lighting design. Who needs computer animation when you have a good lighting designer and sets that move themselves on and off stage?

The play moves nimbly from drama to comedy, knowing when to introduce lightness and when to dwell a little longer on the sadness. Even though there are sad parts to this play, it doesn’t leave you feeling sad, but hopeful. It is easy to forget that this piece of theatre was intended for children. The themes are very adult themes, but when they are viewed through the eyes of children everything just seems so simple. All you need in this world is to be different, and be glad that you are different; at least that’s what Lizzie would teach us.

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Review: This Buzzer Isn’t Broken [IMAGE]

by Tamar Neumann

Pillsbury House Theatre’s production of Buzzer, by Tracey Scott Wilson, aims to have a discussion about race in what the playwright calls a “post racial world.” Unlike Rebecca Gilman’s Spinning into Butter, Wilson’s play seems to tackle this problem less from the idea of race and more from the idea of class that springs from race. In a world where we have elected a black president can we safely say we are color blind? Or have we just allowed color to draw a different set of lines?

“Buzzer” actors Namir Smallwood, Hugh Kennedy
and Sara Richardson.

Wilson’s play begins with an interracial couple, Jackson (played with dexterity by Namir Smallwood) and Suzy (played with aplomb by Sara A. Richardson), who invite their friend Don (played with lackadaisical charm by Hugh Kennedy) to live with them. Don is a recovering addict who is not only white, but also extremely wealthy. They have moved into a house that was just renovated in the neighborhood where Jackson grew up. Jackson is excited to be back, but Suzy is not sure the neighborhood is quite as safe as it could be. As the play develops, the underlying currents of race and class start to bubble to the top. Wilson has managed to take the conventional stereotypes and flip them by making Jackson, the black man, the successful lawyer, while Don is a junkie. But the problems between Jackson and Don don’t develop just because Don is white; they come about because Don came from money and Jackson didn’t, and now Jackson has money and Don doesn’t. There are other essential plotlines that move the story along but each point only serves as a way to unmask the lies we tell ourselves about race and class.

As the play unfolds, each story delves deeper into the racial issues that we think we have already conquered. If you want to see how much the issues of race have and have not changed in this country, just re-read Raisin in the Sun. Buzzer seems to be the twenty-first century’s response to Lorraine Hansberry. We’re not dealing with black people moving to white suburbs we’re dealing with white people moving back into black neighborhoods and gentrifying them. Even though the play fails to wrap up some fairly significant story lines, it doesn’t really matter because the only thing you will be thinking about when you leave the theatre is the last scene. If you attend this show for no other reason than to see the last five minutes you will have made a wise decision. Those five minutes will make you question exactly where you fit in this “post racial” world. And isn’t that what great theatre is supposed to do?

Pillsbury House Theatre, 612-825-0459.

Tamar Neumann is a professor of English by day and a theater lover by night. She is involved with the vibrant theater community in the Twin Cities, and an active member of the Playwrights’ Center.

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1968 Comes Alive at History Theatre [IMAGE]

by Tamar Neumann

At a time when we have almost forgotten the sins of our past (at least the sins of mini-skirts and go-go boots) the History Theatre of St. Paul reminds us that, in addition to the drugs and bad fashion choices, the 1960s also taught us some important lessons. Their current show, 1968 The Year that Rocked the World is a series of seven short plays that dramatize the important events of 1968 in a unique way.

The production begins with the story of a Vietnam War veteran and ends with the Apollo 8 mission on Christmas Eve. Between those two striking events it touches on Bobby Kennedy, the sanitation strike in Memphis, TN, the creation of the American Indian Movement, the Mexico City Olympics and, of course, Richard Nixon. All the while it infuses the transitions from each play with pop culture references and the sobering death toll figures from the Vietnam War. It playfully and seriously looks at this tumultuous year that has shaped our nation and created unmistakable images and phrases. The writers, all veterans of the Playwrights’ Center in Minneapolis, have taken the dramatic experiences of 1968 and created plays that resonate with modern day affairs.

And, in the true spirit of the History Theatre, the writers even manage to have a little fun at the expense of Minnesota natives Eugene McCarthy and Hubert Humphrey. While the audience (mostly old enough to remember the events of 1968 from their own lives) lightly laughed at the 60s references and jokes, they roared at the treatment of Minnesota by Dominic Orlando’s piece “John Mitchell’s Private Moment.” To continue the fun, the anchors of WCCO even stopped by for a somewhat gimmicky introduction to Kim Hines’ “Smith & Carlos,” thus bringing familiar faces to the already familiar events.

But even with all of the fun there were a few rough spots during the production. These will most likely smooth out as the cast becomes more comfortable with the piece, and it should not deter you from taking a short jaunt back in history to remember just why the 60s are so infamous.

The production’s choice to conclude with the Apollo 8 mission helps the year (and the play) end on an uplifting note. It was just one small reminder that 1968 (forgive the cliché) had a silver lining and we still managed to have fun. Even amidst turmoil, there is always hope. If we lived through Vietnam then we can live through Iraq. And if we lived through burning bras we might just make it through Facebook.

Tamar Neumann is a professor of English by day and a theater lover by night. She is involved with the vibrant theater community in the Twin Cities, and an active member of the Playwrights’ Center.

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America’s Face as Told by the Innocence of Children [IMAGE]

by Tamar Neumann

Good theater is about exploring the basics of human relationships, and the latest collection of plays published by the University of Minnesota Press, titled “The Face of America: Plays for Young People” edited by Peter Brosius and Elissa Adams does just that. Contrary to most boundary-pushing, ear-covering modern plays, these plays choose to focus on humanity rather than its depravity. Each play in this collection touches on the theme central to America — identity as it relates to both race and class.

The collection starts out with the play “Average Family” by Larissa Fasthorse. The Roubidoux family is falling apart and, in a desperate attempt to keep his family together, the father, Nathan, signs them up for a reality TV show where they have been cast as the Native Americans. This presents different types of challenges including the problem that none of them have any idea what their ancestors did to survive in the wilderness. The questions of ancestry and identity are the subtle backdrop of this family drama and while there are some great questions posed this is probably the weakest of the four plays. The language and themes are clearly written for children, but since this is supposed to be a children’s play that’s not such a bad thing. There are still plenty of plot twists to enjoy as adults, but this play is clearly meant for the palates of tweens and teens.

The strongest play in this collection is “Brooklyn Bridge” written by Melissa James Gibson. At first, the premise seems slightly strange. Sasha cannot find a pen to write her research paper on the Brooklyn Bridge and so she disobeys her mother’s strict orders never to leave their apartment, and asks each of her neighbors if they have a pen. While it seems silly that a pen is so difficult to find, that overall conflict slowly fades away as you begin to see the wonder of this play. The report becomes a light metaphor for the richness and depth of America. Each character’s story re-introduces us to America’s important history. The lines of dialogue are all carefully chosen, and, at times, seem like poetry. The only thing better than reading this play would be to see it staged.

The other two plays, “Esperanza Rising” by Lynne Alvarez and “Snapshot Silhouette” by Kia Corthron, continue on with the theme of diversity and identity in their own ways. “Esperanza Rising” looks at a family that immigrates to America. What is perhaps most insightful about this play is not the questions of immigration, racism or poverty it raises; it is the reasons for immigration that are presented. Some families want to be free, while others have no choice. Esperanza’s family has no choice and leaves their wealth behind for poverty in America. That is a side of immigration many of us are quick to overlook and it is a testament to the playwright’s own unique views that it is presented here.

“Snapshot Silhouette” deals with identity conflict in a family and in a race. Both Tay C and Najma are dealing with the loss of a sister but they view their losses as very different. And even though they are the same color they do not understand the world in the same way. This play carefully rounds out the entire collection because it is written in a way to remind us that America is becoming even more diverse and our carefully lumped categories no longer apply. It is time for us to shake off our long held beliefs and embrace the true beauty of America so carefully represented by this collection.

“The Face of America” is produced by Children’s Theatre Company in Minneapolis, widely recognized as the leading theater for young people and families in North America. Coeditors for Children’s Theatre Company are Peter Brosius (artistic director) and Elissa Adams (director of new play development). For more information about Children’s Theatre Company, visit

Tamar Neumann is a professor of English by day and a theater lover by night. She is involved with the vibrant theater community in the Twin Cities, and an active member of the Playwrights’ Center.

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Park Square Theatre Brings Gershwin to Town [IMAGE]

“The Soul of Gershwin: The Musical Journey of an American Klezmer” previews from December 8 to 14 and plays from December 15 to January 1 at Park Square Theatre, 20 West Seventh Place. For schedules, tickets and other information call 651-291-7005 or see

Park Square Theatre takes you back to New York City in the early 1900s, the world of Tin Pan Alley, bustling with popular tunes, folk songs, blues, jazz, Yiddish theatre, cantor chants, and opera . “Song-pluggers” like George Gershwin sold sheet music, and the sound of their pianos could be heard on the street. In “The Soul of Gershwin,” Michael Paul Levin, portraying George Gershwin, acts as the guide on a journey to discover the musical influences behind this great American songwriter. Joined by Maggie Burton (the chazzan, or cantor), Prudence Johnson (the chanteuse) and T. Mychael Rambo (the griot, or West African storyteller), with the band Klezmerica, “The Soul of Gershwin” features favorites like “The Man I Love,” “I Got Rhythm,” “Embraceable You,” “’S Wonderful,” “It Ain’t Necessarily So,” and “Someone To Watch Over Me.”

“I first heard George Gershwin’s music as a child. I loved it immediately,” says Joseph Vass, the show’s creator and music director. “To me, Gershwin’s music is Jewish. At first, I knew this merely in a purely subjective, spiritual sense. Then I learned that Gershwin himself labeled his own melodies as Jewish according to the deep emotional element that flows in them.” “Klezmer” is the musical tradition of the Eastern European Ashkenazic Jews, rich in the sounds of strings and woodwinds, often highly emotional. The band, Klezmerica, a contemporary Jewish music ensemble, is directed by Joseph Vass, piano, and includes Chris Bates, bass; Jay Epstein, drums; Adam Meckler, trumpet; Dale Mendenhall, woodwinds; and Gary Schulte, violin.

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Theater Review: Christmas in a House Divided [IMAGE]

by Tamar Neumann

When you think of Christmas and the holiday season you probably don’t think of the Civil War, but that’s exactly what The History Theatre’s production of “A Civil War Christmas” expects. Rather than focusing on the usual holiday cheer full of sweet goodies and even more sickeningly sweet Christmas carols, it takes you back to a time when our country was even more divided than it is now. The play, written by Paula Vogel, with music by Daryl Waters, and directed by Austene Van, follows a group of disparate characters who are really only connected because they lived through the Civil War. Each character shows a different story and different place of residence on Christmas Eve of 1864.

The History Theatre’s production of this play is well put together. Fourteen actors play approximately 90 different parts. At times this can lead to a bit of confusion as you wonder why Abraham Lincoln was injured in the Civil War. You then realize the actor is portraying a new character and it all makes sense. All of the actors do a great job, especially when it comes to singing the renditions of Christmas carols and Civil War-themed music. J.D. Steele, who directed the music, shows there is a reason his work is so well known. Fred Wagner, who plays Abraham Lincoln, manages to infuse Lincoln with the perfect balance of whimsy and leadership. And Jan Lee gets a special commendation as the best human horse I’ve seen onstage in a long time.

While the songs and the set remind you of a time long past, the story itself seems to forget that it is a play. Rather than letting the actors perform the story, each time the story starts to get interesting the characters interrupt themselves with narrative exposition. It is difficult to become truly attached to the characters because you rarely spend enough time with them without the authorial voice taking over.

But when the narrator steps aside to let the actors and characters tell their story, there are some truly beautiful moments. The pain of slavery is never far away in this look at Christmas. During one particularly poignant scene, Mary Todd Lincoln, (Jan Lee) sings “Silent Night” in a haunting rendition that brings the truly tragic elements of the Civil War to the forefront of your mind. And the best part of the play? Well, I’ll just say, don’t expect to hurry out after the curtain call.If you do, you might just miss the most fun you will have that evening.

“A Civil War Christmas” runs through December 18 at The History Theatre, 30 East Tenth St. See or call 651-292-4323 for details.

Tamar Neumann is a professor of English by day and a theater lover by night. She is involved with the vibrant theater community in the Twin Cities, and an active member of the Playwrights’ Center.

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HealthEast City Passport Program: A Downtown Oasis

by Jerry Rothstein and Joel Vadnais

City Passport is a free membership program for people age 50 and older. Its purpose is to enhance quality of life by providing a place in the heart of downtown St. Paul for social interaction, educational opportunities, health-related resources and many chances to be involved in the community.

Available at the center are a classroom, private conference room, computer lab and social area with magazines, television, comfortable chairs for reading and tables for cards and games.

As a member of HealthEast Passport (registration is free), you have access to a range of programs and services related to your health and well being. You may benefit from support groups, blood pressure checks, health counseling, exercise programs, health screenings or spiritual care. A regular newsletter highlights interesting topics and alerts you to outings and classes.

The many trips and outings scheduled help you explore museums and factories, theater production, shopping and dining possibilities. Classes may feature computer education, health and wellness topics or defensive driving courses. The program also provides many opportunities to help others in the community through meaningful volunteer work.

City Passport Center staff helps each individual to find the resources they want and need, and the programs offered are varied. They may include, in any given month, a talent contest, packing food supplies for the Feed My Starving Children program, and parties and holiday celebrations. Ongoing resources available include community acupuncture, singing groups, discussion groups, birthday parties and movies. On-going service projects allow participation in collecting coupons to benefit troops overseas; quilt making for sick children; knitting baby hats, and more. Regular health screening includes a foot clinic, blood pressure checks, medical insurance counseling, stretch and strengthen exercises and hearing screening.

Renee Skoglund, Manager of HealthEast Senior Membership Programs, is one of two full time employees, with another three people working part time. Renee earned her masters degree in Gerontology at Northern Colorado University. After graduating, she developed an adult day program for a hospital in Fort Collins, Colorado, which is still growing today. Her work at HealthEast has seen City Passport evolve into a community based program. She would like to see it expand to the suburbs, but money is tight.

City Passport is located in downtown St. Paul in the Alliance Bank Building at 55 East Fifth St., Suite 203 on the mezzanine level. Its hours are Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. For information call 651-232-2400 or e-mail

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Acme Academy Gallery Opens


(left) David Rich’s oils hanging in the main gallery. (right) Paulette Myers-Rich photographs in the back gallery

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CSPS Sokol Hall Renovation Projects [IMAGE]

by Joyce Tesarek

Right near your own yard sits a little-known gem of a building — the Česko-Slovanský Podporujíc í Spolek (CSPS) Hall at the corner of West Seventh and Michigan Streets. You may know it as the home of the Glockenspiel Restaurant, but it is much, much more.

Built in 1887, the CSPS Hall is the longest serving Czech-Slovak hall in continuous use in the U.S., and the longest serving theater and national hall in Minnesota. It is at the heart of the first European settlement in Minnesota, as well as the neighborhood commercial artery connecting downtown St. Paul to Fort Snelling and the airport. The CSPS Hall has served the neighborhoods of the West Seventh area of St. Paul with cultural, fitness, and arts programming since its first building in 1879, and the current one that replaced it due to fire in 1887.

In 1975, the building was again threatened, this time with demolition by developers in the context of “urban renewal,” but was saved by the joint efforts of Sokol Minnesota, the West 7th/Fort Road Federation/District 9 Community Council, and neighborhood activists. A true Minnesota landmark, the Hall was placed on the Register of the National Historic Trust in 1977.

The current CSPS Hall building is home for Czech and Slovak Sokol Minnesota, other cultural and neighborhood organizations, the office of the Honorary Consul of the Czech Republic, and the restaurant. Notable visitors include Antonín Dvořák, composer (1893); Czechoslovak Presidents Tomáš G. Masaryk (1918) and Václav Havel (2001) and recent visits by both Czech and Slovak ambassadors. The Hall continues to be a center for the Czech and Slovak communities, as well as a vibrant neighborhood and cultural resource.
Czech and Slovak Sokol Minnesota bases its programs out of the Hall, including dinners featuring ethnic recipes; dances; cooking, language, travel and craft classes; historical lectures; music and play performances; and gymnastics and fitness programs. Senior folk singers and folk dance groups for children, teens and adults gather weekly.

On September 18, the 22nd annual Czech and Slovak Festival celebrates the food, music and culture with a booya picnic at Highland Park. All are welcomed and encouraged to attend programs, and there are no ethnic/national requirements for membership.
Next year, 2012, the Hall celebrates its 125th anniversary. The CSPS Hall Legacy Building Fund has been established to restore, renovate and refurbish the Hall, guaranteeing its service for another 125 years. Projects completed in the past ten years include an elevator, commercial kitchen, storage, “basement cleansing” and asbestos removal, with established and continuing good stewardship.

Current projects include an architectural master plan for all future projects, replacement of obsolete plumbing and heating systems; and completion of the fire protection sprinkling system. The current five-year capital campaign will raise $1,000,000 in pledges and grants. All donations are welcome! Contact, call 651-290-0542 or visit

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West End Artist in Landscape Art Show [IMAGE]

West End artist Stuart Loughridge joins Richard Abraham and Joshua Cunningham of St. Paul, and Neil Sherman of Grand Marais, in a Grand Hill Gallery exhibit entitled “New Urban and Rural Landscapes.” The show runs through January 7 at the gallery, 333 Grand Avenue, Suite 101 (at the intersection of Ramsey, Grand and 35E).

The exhibit features more than 40 paintings and etchings exploring the light, air, color and form of the world around us as it plays out through the seasons and across urban and rural landscapes. There will be works large and small, from the studio and those created on location, some in oil and others in ink. The paths of these four artists have crossed many times over the past decade. They take time to attend each other’s shows, listen to one another’s stories, share methods, locations and struggles. Inspired by the one another’s breakthroughs, work ethic and talent, these four artists are bringing in work to share with one another as much as with the public.

For further information contact gallery owner Doug Nielsen at 651-227-4783 or see
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