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A Line or Two: The Walker Onstage

As the son of a theater director, I was onstage from babyhood (first role at six months, as a pioneer baby; I was amazing), and I've retained a love for the theater that, of course, gets plenty of reciprocity here in the Twin Cities, with its rich stage scene.

A first-rate theater town needs homegrown talent and expertise, but it also needs regular inspiration from around the country and the world, and one of our major sources for that isn't a theater at all: it's the Walker Art Center, whose pioneering combination of art gallery, performance space, patronage of new work, film showings, and a lot more is being copied around the country, including New York.

The Walker's performing arts season, which launched in September, is particularly useful for giving those of us who live here a sense of what performance is like at its creative edges today: genres are blurring, so that dance may be very theatrical; a play may be infused with stylized, dancelike movement; and musical performance may weave in an out of dance and drama in unpredictable ways.

The recent, super-sold-out performance of Laurie Anderson was the Walker season's biggest ticket, of course. Probably the best-known experimental musician in America, Anderson is also one of the godmothers of genre blur: is she mainly an actress? A storyteller? A solo violinist? An electronic-music innovator? A successful recording artist? (Her "O Superman" actually made it to number two on the British singles charts in 1981.)

Hofesh, Ganesh, Elevator Repair

If you missed Anderson, don't fret: the Walker has plenty of stage time left, and you really ought to try seeing and hearing someone unfamous in America, risky, and innovative. How about Hofesh Shechter, coming up soon (November 13)? The Israeli-born British choreographer is making big waves internationally with work that explodes on the stage. Political Mother, which his company will perform here, fuses folkdance, military movement, and prison imagery with Shechter's trademark wild energy to create intense physical meditations on political power in our time.

Another show I am simply not going to miss is the delightfully titled Ganesh Versus the Third Reich (January 31—February 2, 2013), from Back to Back Theatre of Geelong, Australia. I find it hard to resist a play that tells the story of how the elephant-headed Indian god Ganesh travels to Germany to reclaim the swastika, that ancient Hindu symbol of good fortune, from its Nazi desecrators.

Interwoven with this historico-political fairytale is a story of the creation of the play itself, along with the actors' struggle to come to terms with the themes of historical memory and cultural appropriation that the play evokes. Add to the mix the fact that some of the Back to Back actors have developmental disabilities, and it looks like we are in for an offbeat exploration of power and responsibility.

And Elevator Repair Service, the brilliant New York theater group that had the chutzpah to stage a six-hour reading of the entire text of F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby by a guy in a nondescript late-twentieth-century office setting, while his "officemates" act out scenes from the book—mesmerizing the audience the whole time—will be back with an original play, as yet untitled, that the Walker's publicity describes as "a lush, engaging, strange, and beautiful trip into unknown mental and physical spaces." (May 16, 2013)

Sounds to me like what art ought to be, all the time.

There's plenty more theater, dance, and music coming, as you can see here. See you there.

Photos, top to bottom:

Ganesh Versus the Third Reich, photo by Jeff Busby

Hofesh Shechter Company, Political Mother, photo by Simona Boccedi

Elevator Repair Service, photo by Ariana Smart Truman

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