Our neighbors are fabulous and brought that to Thursday’s book release party, as they do to everything Saint Paul. Even though the festiveness of the summer weather is escaping, our warmth and energy were enough to make it a great gathering. I hope you had a chance to get your copy of the 2015 Saint Paul Almanac. If not, there are still many chances, at our local coffee shops, bookstores, and even at the airport (a great idea as you are headed out of town to meet people who need to know Saint Paul). The community of arts events continues. Just check out the Almanac arts calendar and keep reading!
In the Almanac Family
We are thrilled to let you know that Saint Paul poet laureate Carol Connolly’s “Readings by Writers Series” is starting its new season. This month’s reading is Tuesday, September 16. The evening’s authors include: MFA student, poet, Pushcart nominee, and former Marine Kyle Adamson; Kathryn Kysar, a poet and author of two books of poetry who teaches at Anoka-Ramsey Community College, Hamline University, and the Loft Literary Center and whose book Pretend the World has been released on CD employing the voices of a roster of stellar artists and writers; poet, author, and activist David Mura, winner of the Carl Sandburg Award, the Josephine Miles PEN Award, and a New York Times Notable Book; Donna Carnes, a widely published poet who speaks and teaches about resilience; poet and cancer surviver Michael Sauntry, an attorney who served in the Army; Carrie Wasley, a poet who wrote 1,000 fine poems in 1,000 days and who also works for the Juvenile Justice Advisory Committee (JJAC) as our state’s Juvenile Justice Specialist; John Minczeski, a poet with five full-length collections, two chapbooks, and several anthologies he’s edited and who has been honored with a Bush Artist Fellowship and National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship; and Naomi Cohn, a poet and creator of Known by Heart, a collaborative project on poetry, memory, and performance.
This is a stellar collection, as always, bringing our region’s deans of letters together. Readings by Writers takes place at the University Club, 420 Summit Avenue. Prelude music by violinist Mary Scallen and flutist Jim Miller starts at 7 p.m. The reading starts at 7:30. The event is free and open to the public. The authors’ works will be for sale.
On Thursday, September 18,
Soul Sounds Open Mic will host Melvin Giles, community activist and the man navigating this summer’s Storymobile tour. Melvin makes no compromises in describing himself as a Peacemaker: he is known as “Peace Bubble Man.” After guiding Storymobile to last Sunday’s event, Create: The Community Meal, he continues on his path to create a landscape of food justice where people in all communities have rightful opportunities to access and make food choices that are healthy and sustainable for their bodies, their environment, and their economies. “Community Gardens” at Soul Sounds will help Melvin bring a message that demonstrates how food is a justice issue in our communities and how with the power of food, we can make powerful people. Join Melvin, teaching artist Tish Jones, and a collection of the Twin Cities emerging spoken-word artists to listen, share work, and learn more about peace and justice in our neighborhoods. Soul Sounds is at Golden Thyme Coffee Shop, 921 Selby Avenue. We get underway at 6 p.m.
Words and Letters
Kathleen Vellenga used to describe her experience as a kindergarten teacher as the perfect preparation for dealing with politicians before she became one of the state’s stellar legislators in the Minnesota House of Representatives. The shifting political climate that has come to a head in the past decade prompted her to “do something else.” Her retirement from the House left a void in the policy-making arena, but it afforded her something most of us would love: more time to write. On Monday, September 15, she will be at Common Good Books with Pauline Knaeble Williams, both reading from their new novels. Vellenga’s novel is a work of historical fiction, a story of the convergence of cultures. Strangers in Our Midst features two young women — Elisabeth, a passenger on the Mayflower, and Attitash, a young Wampanoag. Learning to survive in their own worlds, the two women are forced to confront even greater challenges when those worlds collide.
Knaeble Williams writes of a relatively contemporary historic cultural clash closer to home. Set in 1944 North Minneapolis, in her debut novel Finding Hollis, the racial and ethnic barriers of a young white woman’s environment are not enough to shield her from the realities of the day and the forced self-discovery that comes from the fallout of witnessing a tragic car accident. The event is at Common Good Books, 38 South Snelling Avenue, and begins at 7 p.m.
Even before Mudonna donned her Saints jersey, the personalities of Bill Murray and Mike Veech (like “Veech as in Wreck”) flavored the show as the team brought professional baseball back outside for the first time since the razing of Metropolitan Stadium in the early 1980s. Even if the novelty has worn off, the fun has not. Neal Karlen’s book Slouching Toward Fargo: A Two-Year Saga of Sinners and St. Paul Saints at the Bottom of the Bush Leagues with Bill Murray, Darryl Strawberry, Dakota Sadie and Me recalls those early days that reminded us that baseball is supposed to be fun. It also reminded us that baseball is one sport that can have stories that are interesting, meaningful, and are the fodder for excellent literature. Thanks to David Unowsky, who, decades ago, was a driving force in putting the Twin Cities on the author tour circuit and who knows literature’s place in baseball and baseball’s place in literature, Karlen will be at SubText: a Bookstore on Tuesday, September 16. This is a fun and humorous story of a team and organization of characters from the 1996 and 1997 seasons. Author Phillip Lopate calls Karlen “simply one of the best, most sophisticated, and literate practitioners of journalism.” The reading begins at 7 p.m. SubText is at 165 Western Avenue North.
The Minnesota Prison Writing Workshop accesses our state’s rich literary resources to offer courses in creative writing inside the state’s correctional facilities. Having been to one of the events showcasing the creations of the students in this program, I can tell you it is not just a diversion to keep prisoners happy and out of trouble. The work that participants create is astoundingly good literature and a measure of restorative justice: a strong partial contribution to debts that need to be paid. On Saturday, September 20, the project will present Beyond Bars: A Public Reading on the campus of Hamline University. MPWW instructors will read work on behalf of incarcerated writers, followed by a short question-and-answer period and discussion. The work these artists are creating is truly amazing and worth their effort and yours. The event is at the Klas Center, upstairs in the Kay Fredericks Room, 1537 Taylor Avenue. The reading begins at 7 p.m.
The folks at Studio Z tell us that their New Ruckus Composer Nights are “an opportunity for composers to present their work, chat with the audience, receive feedback, and connect with others with a passion for musical adventure.” This week, they feature Zeitgeist and the Caprice Saxophone Quartet. On Tuesday, September 16, Zeitgeist will perform Three Portraits for Clarinet and Piano by Linda Tutas Haugen and Karel Suchy’s Inner Voices; Caprice Saxophone Quartet will perform Marc Phillip Aune’s Wedding Recessional No. 2 and Sitting on Freud’s Lap by David Evan Thomas. These events are just a few of several great opportunities in Lowertown and Downtown for you to get up close and personal enough with the music to learn, feel, and understand the compositions and artists. The event is free and begins at 7 p.m. Studio Z is at 275 East 4th Street, Suite 200.
Switch it up on Friday with a little vinyl (hey, it’s cool again) and lowrider culture. Bedlam Theatre is calling in the DJ for Chicano Power: Lowrider Oldies from East L.A. to Tejas. This is an “all-vinyl set digging deep into the chicano movement of the 60s to now.” DJs Rambo Salinas and Miguel Vargas will bring a La Raza attitude and be backlit with classic lowrider films. Friday, September 19, is the date. 9:50 p.m. is the time. Bedlam at 213 East 4th Street in Lowerton is the place.
Switch it up again on Saturday, September 20, as the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra returns to Saint Paul’s United Church of Christ for their concert, Bach, Handel and Vivaldi, featuring internationally renowned maestro Jonathan Cohen and countertenor John Holiday. The SPCO’s concert season is a week old, and they are ushering it in with some staples of the Baroque era. Check here for details of Saturday’s program. The concert begins at 8 p.m. St. Paul’s UCC is at 900 Summit Avenue.
Robert Karimi and May Lee-Yang are among the most vibrant personalities to grace the venues of stages in the Twin Cities and elsewhere. Both are funny and smart, create strong and relevant material, and are veterans of Almanac’s Lowertown Reading Jams. Robert is an energetic and colorfully witted emcee, and May’s performances tell rich, deep stories that will make you laugh from unexpected and unconventional irreverence. Robert is best known for his show The People’s Cook, while May is known for her one-woman show, Confessions of a Lazy Hmong Woman.
Both artists understand the importance, value, and relevance of story and our personal history and have produced an outstanding performance. The premiere of their new show, Keeb Kwm/Stories of Our Life, will be on Thursday, September 18, at the Arlington Hills Library, 1200 Payne Avenue. This production is part of the “Letters to Our Grandchildren” project, which engages Hmong elders in sharing their experiences through food, theater, and storytelling to give voice to the gifts they want to leave to the next generation. This is a showcase where Hmong elders share their stories, in their words, through an original, live performance piece—complete with skits, music, riddles, and comedy. You will also be able to see the event Tuesday, September 23, at The Hmong Elder, 1337 Rice Street. Doors open for both shows at 6:30 p.m., with the performance beginning at 7. You can hear a production on KFAI Radio, 106.7 FM on Friday, September 26 at 6:30 p.m.
zAmya Theater Project of St. Stephen’s Human Services is a theater troupe primarily made up of actors who’ve experienced homelessness. On Friday, September 19 (before Bedlam’s Lowrider DJ event), the players will stage ”There’s No Place Like Home.” After a flood takes their rural Minnesota home, Dorothy and Toto head to the Twin Cities. The Witch of Good Intentions sends them to the Government Center and the layers of misdirection provide a humorous tragedy—or is that a tragic comedy of perpetual, persistent, and historic error? The performance is followed by a social hour with performers and the audience. The play starts at 7 p.m.
Park Square Theatre’s season is underway with expanded facilities and a great lineup. They are currently staging the quasi-romantic comedy Sexy Laundry. Can a staycation in a hotel help Alice and Henry solve the challenge of their midlife and mid-marriage crisis? I think only if it’s a hotel in Saint Paul. I don’t have the answer, so you will have to see for yourself. The play runs through September 28. Check here for performance dates and times. Park Square is at 20 West 7th Place in Downtown.
A lot of history has passed through Union Depot. One of the chapters of that story is that of the Orphan Train. From the middle of the nineteenth century until the onset of The Great Depression, hundreds of thousands of “unwanted” children were put on trains and given to new families across the country. Novelist and humanities scholar Alison Moore and singer/songwriter Phil Lancaster have come together to dramatize this story that has its real-life chapter in history at Union Depot. Riders on the Orphan Train is made up of original music, an audio-visual presentation of archival photographs, and interviews with two surviving orphan train riders. Following the performance will be a discussion led by Moore and Lancaster about the creation and demise of what they call “the largest child migration in U.S. history.” Experience this event on Wednesday, September 17. It begins at 7 p.m. Union Depot is at 214 East 4th Street on the Light Rail Green Line.
On Friday, you can head to the Minnesota Museum of American Art for Creative Collaboration: MMAA + McNally Smith College of Music present a night of art + music. The museum is partnering again with McNally Smith to create progressive sounds inspired by the current exhibit. The From There to Here exhibit “explores the ways that public transportation intersects with community and connects people to places and the opportunities they offer. Featuring the commissioned work of local artists Xavier Tavera, Wing Young Huie with Ashley Hanson, and Katherine Turczan, the projects consider the neighborhoods that light rail users move through but never visit, the temporary community formed by people waiting at the same stop and riding the same train, and the glimpses of them seen through the window of a passing train.” Musical interpretation will be by McNally Smith student Patrick Vogl. The event begins at 6:30 p.m. The museum is at 141 East 4th Street. (Entrance is on the corner of 4th and Robert Streets.)
More history is unveiled at Union Depot on Saturday, September 20, for the Movie Premiere – “Back on Track: The Rebirth of St. Paul’s Union Depot.” With our newly restored and working Union Depot, we might take for granted that its current glisten is the result of a lot of attention and a grand re-makeover. Thanks to dedicated teams of architects, engineers, construction workers, historians, preservationists, and a few hopeful visionaries, it is what it is today. The film will be shown twice on Saturday in the Red Cap Room at 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. There will be a question-and-answer period after the screening with filmmaker Greg Ellis. Check here for your free tickets.
We have had a couple of weeks of great weather. Now, we are about to slide into that deceptively comfortable sweater weather before the climate turns us to survival techniques. It also means that a lot of theaters and music venues are starting their fall performance season. We are shifting from festivals to new seasons of music, performance, and exhibits in places where we can take the edge off the autumn chill. There is still good air out there. Take advantage of all that the weather and our town have to offer. Make sure you check out the Almanac arts calendar. Be well.