A Line or Two: The Walker Performs
Last Thursday, the Walker Art Center hosted a lunch for arts-and-culture scribes from various local publications, blogs, and other media outlets, to introduce its upcoming performance season. I'm a fan of the Walker and free food, so I marked it down on my calendar with a promptness not typical of me.
I showed up at the center's huge-windowed Skyline Room, grabbed a couple of designer sandwiches (ciabatta, of course) and reconnected with Katy Eggers, the German-born journalist and adoptive Twin Citian whose ambitious and handsome new print magazine, Thirty-Two
, hits the newsstands in June. (The Line covered the project here
.) She was massively sleep-deprived, having just sent the first issue to the printer that morning.
A maintenance worker flipped a switch, and automated shades descended on those enormous windows. Philip Bither, Senior Curator of Performing Arts, narrated a mélange of slides and videos about the stage artists we'll be seeing at the Walker's McGuire Theater and in other venues from September to next May.
Anderson, Africa, Ganesh
The big news, and the big name, is Laurie Anderson
. The storyteller-musician, one of the pioneers of contemporary performance art, made waves beyond the avant-garde when her single, "O Superman," rose to number two on the British pop charts in 1981. She'll be here on the weekend before Election Day with Dirtday!
, a mélange of stories about America 2012 that will also manage to touch on Darwinism and the Tibetan Book of the Dead.
An Australian troupe, Back to Back Theater
, will perform the deliciously titled Ganesh Versus the Third Reich
, in which the noble and determined elephant-headed Hindu god Ganesh travels to Nazi Germany to reclaim the swastika, originally an Indian symbol of luck and joy. Most of Back to Back's actors have mental disabilities, and the play seesaws back and forth between the epic Ganesh-Nazi plot and the real-life dramas and dilemmas of the company.
The Walker continues its engagement with music and theater in Africa—focusing on challenging contemporary work, not folkloric color—with a two-night showcase of five female director-choregraphers from Mali, South Africa, Mozambique, Morocco, and Cote d'Ivoire. New York dance icon Deborah Hay will come to town, as will current British choreographic sensation Hofesh Shechter.
And that's just a hint of the colorful genre-bending that will be going on in music, theater, and dance as the season rolls. For the full story, go here
From The Line's resolutely Twin Cities-centric point of view, it's good to hear, as Bither confirmed, that the Walker, whose performance division is 42 years old, continues to be a role model for major modern-art museums on the coasts, many of whom are just now adding theater, dance, and/or music to their offerings in an effort to widen their audiences and morph from traditional museums to actual centers of all the arts—even as contemporary artists in all genres are becoming more multidisciplinary too.
Another heartening trend has to do with collaboration. More and more, says Bither, visiting artists in the Walker program are developing collaborative projects with locals—not out of an "include-a-Minnesotan" sense of obligation, but out of respect for our creative energies and achievements. For example, Wilco drummer and avant-percussionist Glenn Kotche will team up with Minneapolis composer/percussionist Martin Dosh in an evening of intense experimental music, and iconic New York composer and instrumentalist John Zorn, celebrating his 60th birthday with a day of concerts, is enthusiastically including local improvisers.
After Bither's presentation, we were invited backstage at the McGuire, to see the theater's lush scenic and technical setup, tour its posh green room—and to check out the backstage walls (see photo), which are covered with the signatures and scribblings of artists who've appeared in the hip-retro, opera-house-meets-rock-club venue. See you there.