Bare Bones Halloween Extravaganza

Big news – Aine and I got front row at the Bare Bones show *and* we got to sit on the hay bales. Not the ground. It was our major award for being early.

The Bare Bones has been doing big puppet shows for Halloween since 1994. We haven’t been seeing them that long – but maybe 10 years. It’s done outside at Hidden Falls the two weekends before Halloween. We have been there freezing. We’re been there in T-shirts. This year was huddle together in hoodies weather.

The show was awesome. We’ve been seeing it for years. This year the show was lighter on story, higher on concept, which was really nice. It seem brings out the music and lets the puppetry seem more like art than story. That being said, each scene does have a simple theme or plot.

My favorite part was the giant skeleton. It comes crawling onto the stage and it’s so well done. It’s large movement and the bones are so bright. The skeleton later walks and dances and rides a turtle. It’s so visual. I just loved it.

Aine’s favorite part was the four live people performing as puppets. They had a repeating dance step where puppeteer becomes puppet.

Here are some snippets from the show:

Sheep shagging and more at family day at The Walker

Shhh. Don’t tell anyone but I accidentally took Aine to see sheep porn at the Walker. It was awesome!

It’s First Saturday. (Free in and lots of kid-centric activities.) Some months it’s a melancholy reminder that Aine isn’t a kid – she’s a teen. (The big girls quit going years ago; they have been teens for longer.) This month it was a celebration that Aine is a teen. It is a gorgeous day so most activities were happening in the still-pretty-new sculpture garden – including Les Moutons (the sheep) from CORPUS, a Toronto-based troupe. The premise is four actors dressed as sheep, a shepherd and (spoiler alert!) a brief cameo from a wolf!

It’s a day in the life of sheep. They are corralled into a fenced area. There’s a ram that gets kicked out for being … um … too amorous. The sheep are shorn and fed. They are milked and one pees. (Yup – super interesting costuming going on here!) The ram breaks away from his “naughty corner” and has his way with a ewe. The wolf comes. The sheep escape. The shepherd leads them out. That is the story. It was probably 40 minutes long. It’s pretty interactive. Kids get to feed the sheep lettuce and one brave kid drank the newly extracted sheep’s milk.

My favorite and often overheard comment from the kids in the crowd – Look mom it’s a cow. Not sure if we need to work on French or science in the schools. The faces of the sheep-actors were amazing. They were blank and distant. They all did body-breathing like sheep do. (I’m pretty knowledgeable about sheep after a trip to the State Fair last week!) And then there’s the whole part about sheep doing what comes naturally. Every sophomoric adult (and semi-adult) in the crowd was shocked and laughing. It was done in good taste – but it was done! It was like an old school Rocky and Bullwinkle moment where (city) kids wouldn’t have a clue about the Easter egg hidden for the teens and older. We loved it!

Black Beauty Theatrical: Little bit music, little bit theater, spectacular show

Last night I found out where good theater sets go when the curtain closes. They provide the backdrop to arts happenings in East St Paul; at least they do on May 6 and May 7 (2016). So if you really hurry you might still be able to go!

Black Beauty features the Twilight Hours. Black Beauty is the name of the event and their upcoming album. It’s performed amidst the set from Wise Blood, easily the best set I saw on a stage last year.

It’s like an annotated concert. There is a staged dialog between a man and a woman, talking about how things used to be especially in terms of music. I may be projecting, but it’s just like the kind of conversation you might have if you grew up in the Twin Cities in the 1980s and didn’t listen to Journey but listened to local music instead.

The conversation gives way to the music of Twilight Hours, led my Matt Wilson and John Munson. But they aren’t on a traditional stage, instead they are dispersed throughout the art studio of Chris Larson (Wise Blood set designer), and balanced on the set from Wise Blood.

The music has an updated familiarity. They songs are catchy. It’s a little bit Beach Boys, a little bit Minneapolis sound (no mistake with the Trip Shakespeare heritage), it’s hip-twisting rock in a subtle way. It’s the kind of music you hum the day after you hear it. In the Black Box space there’s a kind of surround sound and hint of good echo. And with the musicians spaced around the room, there isn’t a bad place to stand and listen.

The album is coming out soon. They have been quietly previewing it around town; I was lucky enough to see them a few months ago at the Driftwood Char Bar. For folks who have been hoping for new work – this is well worth the wait.

And back to the set – it brought the tone and included Alice-in-Wonderland-perspective bedrooms and small town outcropping with seedy touches. Like the back porch of the gas station you’re not supposed to visit at night.

Maybe the best part was the opportunity to step into the bedrooms – something I wanted to be able to do so badly last year during the show.

It would be great to see more events like this in the future – a mashup of Minnesota’s best arts and od second marriages of sets and songs from different past lives.

Would you Harbor Me? Connecting home and homelessness

I’m very excited to share news of an upcoming event that involves my friend and running buddy Monica Nilsson, who happens to work at St Stephen’s Human Services. The show opened last night and will be presented around the Cities over the next week. It’s a nice way to help people connect home with homelessness – because sometimes it’s not just about the walls it’s about the security and the sense of self.

You can get a sneak preview of the concert (and Monica) from the WCCO clip below…

And more info from the press release…

Cantus Addresses the Crisis of Homelessness in

Would You Harbor Me?

Spring concert performed April 7-17 at five Twin Cities venues


(MINNEAPOLIS; March 8, 2016) – In Would You Harbor Me?, Cantus examines how life can sometimes take unexpected turns. Giving voice to the personal stories of crisis, homelessness and isolation, as well as resilience, belonging and community, the spring concert – performed April 7-17 – reflects on lives marginalized by circumstance and delivers a universal message of hope and inspiration through music.


Four compositions new to the acclaimed men’s ensemble will be performed. “Echoes” by Daniel Elder (Athens, Georgia) makes a profound statement on the virtue of hope using a rich yet simple harmonic palette; “Ffe Mwe, Mwe Ffe” by Joan Szymko (Chicago) recalls the energy of community coming together for the common good; “Gagòt” by Sydney Guillaume (Los Angeles), a piece sung in Haitian Creole and French, channels life’s frustrations into heartfelt music; and “Keep Us Whole,” a gospel-like song of inclusion for all humanity by local composer Linda Kachelmeier (St. Paul). The songs were added after Cantus posted a notice on Facebook and its website seeking scores to round out the program.


Songs will be interspersed with stories, portraits and a collection of first-person accounts of the experience of homelessness provided by St Stephen’s Human Services and The Oral History of Homelessness.


For the April 7 concert, Cantus welcomes the Minneapolis Community and Technical College Vocal Ensemble in a special appearance at Antonello Hall at MacPhail. StreetSong-MN, a choir made up of people who are currently or formerly homeless and those who advocate for them, will make a special appearance at the April 10 Ordway concert.


“The Cantus vision is to give voice to shared human experience,” says tenor Zachary Colby. “This concert is especially meaningful because it allows audiences to engage in issues and challenges that we think we’ll never encounter but really, they can happen to anyone — even you or me. Music can be a great equalizer that helps us feel compassion and empathy for those we may feel we know nothing about.”


Would You Harbor Me? concerts will be presented:


Thursday, April 7, 2016, 7:30pm

Antonello Hall, MacPhail Center for Music, Minneapolis


Saturday, April 9, 2016, 7:30pm     

Trinity Lutheran Church, Stillwater


Sunday, April 10, 2016, 3:00pm      

Ordway Concert Hall, St. Paul


Thursday, April 14, 2016, 11:00am 

Colonial Church of Edina


Sunday, April 17, 2016, 3:00pm 

Wayzata Community Church, Wayzata


Single ticket prices vary by concert venue. Tickets can be purchased online at or by calling 612-435-0055. Student and group discounts are available.




About Cantus

Recognized for their artistic excellence and musical  persatility, the nine members of Cantus rehearse and perform as chamber musicians, working without a conductor or music director, allowing audiences to experience a direct connection to the singers. Committed to a cappella presentation of significant music, Cantus is renowned for adventurous programming spanning many periods and genres, including newly commissioned work. The ensemble enjoys a vigorous schedule of international touring, concerts in its home of Minneapolis/St. Paul, educational outreach programs and recording.


One night only – Weill and Brecht – A Twenty First Century Celebration

brechtI love a show that teaches you something surprising. Last week I learned that the line “show me the way to the next whiskey bar” from The Door’s Alabama Song is actually taken from the lyrics of a song written by Bertolt Brecht and composed by Kurt Weill.

That’s what I learned at the Weill-Brecht Smorgasbord performed March 21 at the Southern Theater. Sadly, it was a one-night only event. Happily it was well attended and deservedly so. Presented by University of Minnesota Theatre, Music and German Studies departments, it was a vaudeville approach to showcasing some of the lesser works of Kurt Weill and Bertolt Brecht. Weill is a composer – perhaps best known for Mack the Knife. Brecht is a playwright known for absurdist show such as the Good Woman of Szechwan and Chalk Circle.

The next whiskey bar line comes from the Mahagonny Songspiel, which was performed by the University of Minnesota Opera Theatre. It was song and played in turn. It’s a dark and silly opera – as only Brecht can be. It was a rare treat to hear such an intimate performance. And the operetta was only one fifth of the show.

The show began with the audience on stage – a move that will always scare me to pieces. But really we were just led to our seats through poetry. Very immersive but painless and interesting to hear the different renditions of the same lines from Brecht’s City Dwellers as given by Live Action Set. Funny to hear how friendly, sarcastic and menacing one line of welcome can be. Maybe picture your mom, dad and grandma all inviting your weird uncle to stay as long as he wants; the intention is all in the inflection.

Theatre Novi Most did a bleak rendition of The Downfall of an Egoist. Bleak referring to the social commentary, not the acting. They did a great job with sparse props which clearly center the action on a battlefield but leave enough to the imagination to make an easy metaphorical transfer to more every day locations. There’s a gruesome solidarity building as they play a Russian Roulette of sorts – and realize there will be no winners.

At the opposite end of absurdism, the Four Humors Theatre performed a very immersive version of The Elephant Calf. I am relieved to report that I was a seat away from one of the two unsuspecting audience members brought up on stage. (And I owe my less lucky friend a beer for taking one for the shier side of the team.) The story and the performance is reminiscent of the Rude Mechanicals show in Midsummer Night’s Dream – funny, bawdy, a little uncomfortable and meaningful. Props to the performers dressed in sheer white, jumpsuits with plenty of give. I will find a way to see the Four Humors again.

Finally the Nautilus Music-Theater sang water songs – show tunes about the Mississippi. An absurd ending to an absurd show – but just the right size and taste for the grand finale.