I had the most amazing experience in the Fine Arts building at the Minnesota State Fair last Monday—an experience that might be the biggest clue as to why I come to you with this blog each week. There, a piece of art captivated me with its complexity and multi-layered visual expressions. It was so unbelievable, but I also realized that if someone did not linger with it for a while it would be easy to miss.
I started sharing my amazement with other visitors, urging—sometimes begging—them to look. When they paused, they too were as amazed as I was, captivated and wanting to engage everyone else who passed. I did this each time I passed the piece, even though there were other wonderful pieces I wanted to see and share. I must have spent half an hour doing this in the afternoon and even more time when I returned in the evening. I could not help myself. I wanted people to enjoy the piece. I wanted to experience their reactions and interactions with the piece.
This is a lot of what we do with the Saint Paul Almanac. With each year’s issue, with each story, with each event, and with each week, we share things you just have to know about. Please take a look. And please share this blog with your friends and the people who are walking by. They will be amazed!
Use Your Words
After its summer break, Carol Connolly’s Readings by Writers returns to the University Club with its usual great lineup. This month’s reading features Heather Beatty, whose poems have appeared in the Paterson Literary Review, San Diego Poetry Annual, Gertrude, and Lief and who runs a regular open mic (which you can experience Thursday at Art Car Heather Presents: Third Thursday Poetry Open Mic at Sidhe Brewing Company, 652 Jenks Avenue); Kevin Fitzpatrick, whose books include Kevin Fitzpatrick: Greatest Hits 1975-2000, Rush Hour, and Down on the Corner; Lee Henschel Jr., whose latest book is The Sailing Master, whose works includes Short Stories of Vietnam and the novel Deja ’Nam, and who has been anthologized in Denmark, China, and elsewhere; baker of Saint Agnes Baking Company fame and heir to the Saint Paul Poetry throne Danny Klecko; literary heir and self-established legend, poet Freya Manfred, whose works include Swimming with a Hundred Year Old Snapping Turtle; poet Ethna McKiernan, whose Irish connections have aptly seasoned the Saint Paul literary world and whose collections include Caravan and The One Who Swears You Can’t Start Over; Lewis Mundt, a writer, performer, and editor whose work has been published by Paper Darts, Revolver, The Rumpus, and Slag Glass City, among others, and is the founding director of the Hamline University Poetry Slam from 2010 to 2015; and writer and video biographer of her uncle Eugene McCarthy, Mary Beth Yarrow. Readings by Writers will be held on Tuesday, September 15. As usual, the evening will begin at 7 p.m. with prelude music by violinist Mary Scallen and flutist Jim Miller. The reading begins at 7:30. Books will be for sale. The University Club is at 420 Summit Avenue.
Everyone loves a love story, but many of them are run-of-the-mill, mawkish, and not as interesting as real life, even if we don’t have a love of our own. But some love stories are grand and are more than an indulgence of the romantic interests. On Wednesday, September 16, at SubText Books, Marly Cornell launches Seeds For Change, the story of Suri and Edda Sehgal, refugees from different countries who fell in love and went on to change the world. Today, they are sharing the legacy of their own success with those in need around the globe. Author Cornell weaves the tale starting at 6:30 p.m. at the bookstore, 6 West Fifth Street.
With talk of the Catholic Church in the media focusing on scandal and politics, it is hard to imagine that the church might struggle with more germane issues about the identity or even personality of its religion. Are mystics and miracles the stuff of ancient lore and New Age inspiration or the communion of the hearts and minds of today’s religious activities? On Wednesday, bestselling author John Thavis takes us behind the Vatican walls in his latest book, The Vatican Prophecies: Investigating Supernatural Signs, Apparitions and Miracles in the Modern Age, as he gives us a glimpse into the internal politics of how the church wants us to view headlines about apocalyptic prophecies and miraculous apparitions poised against the tenet of “rational faith.” Check out the discussion at Common Good Books, 38 South Snelling Avenue, near Macalester College. The event begins at 7 p.m.
The next evening, Thursday, September 17, you might want to test what you have learned, albeit in a different political realm, during the author talk and book signing with David Christopher Lewis at SubText Books. David Christopher Lewis—clairaudient spiritual teacher, composer, and talk radio contributor—will draw from his book Saint Germain on Advanced Alchemy: HeartStreaming in the Aquarian Age to introduce the power of spiritual alchemy. Lewis is streaming Saint Germain. You do not have to check with your priest nor with John Thavis to attend. The event begins at 6:30 p.m.
Maybe you are in the mood for a couple of more literary events. Also on Thursday, the University of St. Thomas will host a reading by Ander Monson and Mark Neely. Monson is the author of the recently released collection of essays Letter to a Future Lover: Marginalia, Errata, Secrets, Inscriptions, and Other Ephemera Found in Libraries, and Neely is the author of the new poetry collection Dirty Bomb. Monson’s book collects several dozen brief pieces written in response to library ephemera. This sounds like too much fun in which to get lost. Neely’s poetry gets serious, exploring the politics and violence of U.S. militarism and its intersection with human relationships and intimacy. This is the stuff that got many of us hooked on books in the first place. The event is at the university’s O’Shaughnessy-Frey Library. St. Thomas is at 2115 Summit Avenue. The reading begins at 7 p.m.
Finally, were you able to make it to the great book release party we had for Saint Paul Almanac: A Ten-Year Retrospective at the Black Dog last Thursday? I hope so. It was the grandest of our grand parties. The celebration will continue for this anthology. The first offshoot of the big party will happen back at SubText Books with Contributors to Saint Paul Almanac’s Ten-Year Retrospective. Get a sampling of, as we Almanacians say, the “city’s history and diversity; its creative forces; its residents’ memories and current experiences; and the ever-changing urban landscape.” David Unowsky will host at the new Downtown space. This event is Saturday, September 19, at 7 p.m. SubText is at 6 West Fifth Street.
The Weather Is Still Great!
Summer seems to have slipped into memory, but the festival schedule will not let it die. Get out in the air on Wednesday, September 16, from 6 to 9 p.m. at the Victoria Street Bridge over Interstate 94. The Friendly Streets Initiative is throwing what it calls “a neighborhood block party to celebrate community crossings and envision a future for the bridge that reflects the goals of the neighborhoods that rely on Victoria as a vital north-south connection.” Community Crossings: A Victoria Street Bridge Block Party puts into action the interest to make neighborhoods livable for the people who make them thrive. It is also a hope that bridges can be Band-Aids for old wounds, like the much talked about one that destroyed the old Rondo neighborhood. There will be serious talk about infrastructure, public art, placemaking, and more. There will also be free food and popsicles, live music, games, and art activities. Come find out more. This is a mini fest and all are welcome.
Okay, it is not October, but we need to fit in Saint Paul Oktoberfest before the leaves fall. Starting on Friday, October 18, Rice Park will be the spot for two days of beer, bands, and polka. The festival will feature Mollie Busta (popular performer from the Jim Busta Band and Squeezebox), bed races, Hammerschlagen, family fun, an activities area, strongman competitions, vendors, authentic German entertainment, polka lessons, and more. The fest runs from 4 to 10 p.m. on Friday and 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Saturday. Rice Park is at 109 West Fourth Street in Downtown, between the Ordway Center, the George Latimer Central Library, Landmark Center, and the Saint Paul Hotel.
Friday also begins the three-day celebration of Payne/Arcade Harvest Fest. This East Side neighborhood gathers its most fun assets and puts them on display to share with everyone. It starts Friday night, September 18, on both Payne and Arcade Avenues with a Harvest Fest button deals kickoff at Minnesota Music Cafe at 449 Payne Avenue and Governors Fine Food & Drink at 959 Arcade Avenue. Saturday starts with a 5K run right before the noon parade down Payne Avenue. (Lineup starts at 10:30 a.m.) If you don’t want to run on Saturday morning, you can check out the annual Lions pancake breakfast at Arlington Hills Lutheran, 1115 Greenbrier Street. Also on Saturday, check out the Harvest Fest international festival, the markets place, and a lot of other fun things for family, friends, and neighbors. Sunday has sandlot baseball and softball. Harvest Fest starts at 5 p.m. on Friday, September 18, and promises to have you tired by 4 p.m. on Sunday, September 20.
Also on Saturday, In Progress is opening its doors to Saint Paul and its North End neighbors for the North End Arts Initiative Celebration. It is a day-long festival filled with creative artmaking, songs, food, and movies. The day will also feature an amazing photos exhibit of the neighborhood being exhibited. Meet the In Progress folks; make a free T-shirt; get a free family portrait; try photography lessons for kids; sample some of the best food in the neighborhood (including Soul Food Kitchen and Fresh Munchiez, and an ice cream sundae bar from Dar’s Ice Cream); and enjoy live music, spoken word performances, and a special video screening honoring the people who work, live, and create in our North End neighborhood. Activities run from noon to 10 p.m. In Progress is at 213 Front Avenue.
Starting on Wednesday, September 16, through Friday, September 18, Bedlam Theatre brings to the stage a tale that might have been tailored for the Minnesota personality. You Don’t Have To Leave But You Can’t Stay Here is about the lengths we go to ignore discomfort and the problems that creates. This is a two-person clown show. You might be thinking you have seen enough clowns in the political debates over the past few months, but these clowns might actually be saying something. Maybe this is a tale of the clown in all of us, silly but full of real emotion. One clown discovers that even living through television and his imagination, he can’t lock out the discomfort of the real world. The disclaimer offered by the performers might be the best hook for this show:
*Disclaimer: Clown is many things. Among the more annoying are birthday clowns and anything pertaining to the movie IT. We have no affiliation with said kinds of clowns and please ask you to withhold what expectations you might have as to what clown is.
I do wonder what kind of upbringing they had to give them these reference points for clown identity and the mission to escape those images, but it is worth the product. The Wednesday and Thursday shows are at 7 p.m. Friday’s is at 10 p.m. Bedlam is at 213 East Fourth Street in Lowertown.
Still playing on the Proscenium Stage at Park Square Theatre is the multigenerational veterans’ story Elliot, A Soldier’s Fugue. Elliot’s nurse mother, a veteran of the Vietnam War, is the metaphor that patches and attempts to hold together three generations of men whose wounds are still healing, including those of Elliot, who is challenged by his emotional and physical work before he returns to the battlefield. This regional premiere runs through October 4. Check here for dates and showtimes. Park Square is located on the pedestrian mall that runs from St. Peter to Wabasha, between Sixth and Seventh Streets.
One of the most anticipated events of the dance season is Ananya Dance Theatre’s Roktim: Nurture Incarnadine at the O’Shaughnessy. This dance company consistently creates a deep interaction with its audience, engaging them in a dialogue—either directly or subtly but strongly—with art and artists, with contemporary issues, and with histories whose impact lingers in present-day spaces. Roktim brings to life the struggles of women from global societies who defend “the land and eco-systems with their lives and their continued work from the onslaught of aggressive industrialization” and “honors women’s emotional and blood labor to create a just and sustainable food system.” Collaboratively created by choreographer Ananya Chatterjea, visual artist Seitu Jones, and behavioral artist Marcus Young, the concert takes forms of Indian dance, yoga, and martial arts to create a vibrant contemporary dance with a conscience. Ananya helps articulate social realities and makes them vivid in our own understanding as we interpret what is happening before our eyes and ears.
Ananya Dance Theatre is made up of a group of smart, roundly educated people—mostly women, some men—who are committed to creating critical dialogue about the world in which we live and the barriers above which we can rise to taste the world with a bit more truth than how it is fed to us. The two performances are part of the O’Shaughnessy’s Women of Substance series on Friday, September 18, and Saturday, September 19. The shows are at 7 p.m. The O’Shaughnessy is on the campus of St. Catherine University, 2004 Randolph Avenue.
Mixed Precipitation performance company strikes again, just in time to prove that summer is not over with its outdoor staging of Escape from Alcina’s Island: A Picnic Operetta. This production “is a guitar-swinging retelling of the 1735 Handel opera, Alcina,” celebrating the harvest with a unique blend of music, food, and storytelling. Mixed Precipitation brings the tale to Swede Hollow Park, 657 East Beaumont Street on Sunday, September 20 at 4 p.m.
The last stage performance of the week happens at Dreamland Arts. Be entertained. Be inspired. Enter next week with a smile, wisdom, and maybe a song in your heart. A Cabaret of Consciousness is a one-woman show filled with laughter, love, and a hopeful tune for the days ahead. Gina Citoli fills the space with what is not your typical song and dance. See the performance on Sunday, September 20, at 7 p.m. Dreamland Arts is at 677 North Hamline Avenue.
On Tuesday, September 15, Studio Z comes to life with some new ideas and faces. It is Composer Night presented by The New Ruckus with new music from artists Thomas Johanson, Mark Gjevre, Benjamin Franklin Davidson, and Dana Barnett. Composer Night is intriguing and can take your mind into corners of music you did not know existed. It makes me think of a recent BBC piece on Delia Derbyshire, the woman who created the sound for Dr. Who in the early 1960s. Composer Night is a rare opportunity for composers to present their work, chat with the audience, receive feedback, and connect with others who have a passion for musical adventure. Get a look inside a composer’s mind and you will have a new portal into how our commonplace and avant-garde horizons of music are constantly expanding. Studio Z is at 275 East Fourth Street in Lowertown. Composer Night is free and starts at 7 p.m.
This weekend, the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra invites Jeremy Denk to play a Bach and Stravinsky program. That program includes two of J.S. Bach’s piano concertos and Stravinsky’s Dumbarton Oaks, which was written while studying Bach’s Brandenburg Concertos. Denk mixes these two geniuses much like Tuesday’s new composers bring much of the language and concept into modern times. Concerts are at the Ordway Concert Hall, 345 Washington Street in Downtown, two on Friday, September 18, at 10:30 a.m. and 8 p.m. and one on Saturday, September 19, at 8 p.m.
Also on Friday, Landmark Center continues the music celebration with Red House Live, a concert with world-renowned Scottish troubadour Archie Fisher. Fisher’s traditional style paints the Scottish countryside with passionate ballads. This concert is the first in this season’s Live from Landmark events. Meet for cocktail hour at 7 p.m. The concert starts at 8 p.m. Landmark Center is at 75 West Fifth Street across from Rice Park.
The afternoon of Sunday, September 20, brings us more new music. The East Side Freedom Library will host composer, musician, and Afro-futurist Dameun Strange as he leads a group of vocalists, instrumentalists, and maybe improvisationalists through a new score. His collective, Strange New Music Experiment (SNME), will be joined by artists See More Perspective and the Queen Drea Voice-Loops and Effects Project. SNME calls itself an “experiment with sound, building community through performance of art and avant garde music, and poetry” that is “dedicated to the performance and promotion of contemporary art music.” This music experience will start at 2 p.m. The East Side Freedom Library is at 1105 Greenbrier Street.
Of course, this world of art is bigger than my mind can grasp, but we can expand the universe a little bit more by checking the Almanac arts and culture calendar. It is a full week. Enjoy it with art and your neighbors.