Your most Minnesotan update

This week is mostly about Shakespeare, which is weird, because, at this point in my life, I would be perfectly fine with never seeing another Shakespeare production; but you theater people keep circling back around to him, so what can I do but follow along in a slavish attempt to keep your interest?

But before we get on with the news about a guy who's been dead for four centuries, here's what's going on in Minnesota, in no particular order (except I numbered them in reverse numerical order, because I've figured out that the internet likes that sort of thing, because it gives the illusion that there's some purposeful hierarchy of importance in what is otherwise a random conglomeration of things, because, ultimately, we're all desperately scraping for some semblance of meaning in an otherwise random and uncaring universe):

(5) The Minnesota Fringe has a new Artistic Director
If you've plumbed the depths of the Fringe website lately, you may have noticed that they are suddenly listing a new employee on their staff page, under the heading of Artistic Director. Actually, this individual has been working for the Fringe for quite some time, carrying out the duties of curating the the festival. We're quite fortunate to have such a visionary artistic mind in Minnesota, and this is a much-deserved promotion.

(4) Holy crap, look at all this cash!
NEA grants are being announced for the next fiscal year, and they're just raining down on Minnesota. Almost $1 million in federal funds will be coming home to roost here. On the long list of winners are Minnesota-based performing arts companies Katha Dance Theatre, Ananya Dance Theatre, Illusion Theater, In the Heart of the Beast, Minnesota Opera, Mixed Blood, Playwrights' Center, Ragamala Dance, History Theatre, Penumbra Theatre and Children's Theatre Company (who took home the big bucks with a $90,000 grant). Enjoy the money, everyone!

(3) Another civil suit
And now we must mention Children's Theatre again in a much less savory way. By now, we all know about the the civil suit being filed against CTC over sexual misconduct in the 70s and 80s. Now, one of the defendants in that suit, restaurant owner Jason McLean has been named the defendant in a second, separate sexual abuse lawsuit.

(2) Do we really sound like that?
As a transplant from another part of America where we butcher the English language in our own unique way, I hate you tell you this, but, yeah, you do kind of sound like that. You know what I'm talking about. It's that Fargo dialect that you think is over-the-top and ridiculous and totally not true at all, and, I'm sorry, but, seriously, you do kind of sound like that. Just ask a dialect coach.

(1) We make our own money
Creative Minnesota is back with a whopping 17 reports showing the financial impact of the arts sector in Minnesota. Well, for now, you'll just have to take their word on it. Press releases were sent out saying that all of the data will be available at the Creative Minnesota website "soon". When, exactly? I don't know. Soon.

We celebrate his death!

Remember last year when everyone was all aflutter over William Shakespeare's 450th birthday? Everyone who was anyone was scrambling to contribute to a huge glut of Shakespeare productions around the world. Pledges were made in various cities to produce all of Shakespeare's plays (yes, even Cymbeline). It was just Shakespeare all the time. (I mean, even more than normal.)

Well, get ready to do it all over again, because 2016 is the 400th anniversary of the Bard's death. Hooray! In a stunning display of originality, next year will be yet another "unprecedented" extravaganza of Shakespeare, as we pull the old guy's bones up once again and have a big damn parade around them. So, let's write another conjecturing book about his life; let's stare at his will; let's dig up his kitchen. And all to celebrate a guy that we actually know very little about.

Let's be honest: what little we do know about old Billy doesn't exactly paint a virtuous figure. He came from a family that was probably stinking rich from some shady dealings. He was accused of being part of a thieving riot that literally stole a theater. He was more than willing to cheat on his wife (who he had already knocked up and hastily married at the age of 18), even if it was just to play a joke on Richard Burbage. At the time of his death, he was very nearly the equivalent of a millionaire today but notoriously left his wife only his "second-best bed". He never really figured out how to spell his own name. His plays are chock full of increasingly gory deaths.

Is this really the guy you want to give you dating advice?

But still we solemnly trudge on, our deathless reverence grimly demolishing his words. The BBC has greenlighted two more TV series about Shakespeare. The Royal Shakespeare Company will be trotting around the world. Wherever you go next year, someone will want to tell you how gosh darn important William Shakespeare is.

Except in North Korea. Shakespeare's Globe is celebrating the 450th birthday and the 400th deathday by connecting the two with a two-year-long tour of Hamlet to every country in the world. The mythical hermit kingdom of Kim Jong Un was on board to host them, but only as long as the play contained "music, dancing and acrobatics", which is either a sign that dear leader Kim really, really enjoys his uncle-killing or that Pyongyang was doing some epic trolling.

So, I guess we know where they stand on the issue of whether we're producing too much Shakespeare.  

It's that time of year

The seasons have changed. We're plunging headlong into the depths of winter. The longest night of the year will soon be upon us. And thus will the old year die and new year rise from its ashes.

And, so, as surely as hardware stores fill out their stocks of snow shovels, so, too, does the local press fill out its stocks of "best of" lists. This year, the first one out of the gate is Lavender magazine, with a Year in Review that somehow includes 12 productions in its Top 10.

As the unceasing procession of time thrusts us further into the death throes of the year that was and always will be 2015, expect more Best Of lists to come out. May you find your name on a top 10 list somewhere, possibly in the 10th/11th/12th spot.

See you soon

In the meantime, it will be a little while longer than normal before we chat again. Our generous overlords here at Minnesota Playlist have given me next week off from writing so that I may do battle in the arena for their entertainment… er, I mean, so that I may travel to visit my family for Christmas. So, if I survive, I will be back in two weeks' time. If I don't survive, it may be a bit longer than that. We'll see.