Weekend picks: A soul-ified Minnesota Opera production; Wynton Marsalis; music of Iran

Weekend picks: A soul-ified Minnesota Opera production; Wynton Marsalis; music of Iran

The fall arts season is underway. Take a peek at the first show at the newly renovated Luminary Arts Center, operated by the Minnesota Opera, as Ten Thousand Things performs its ringing production of “Iphigenia at Aulis” by Euripides. Also this week, a bit of New York comes to Minneapolis as Wynton Marsalis and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra performs with the Minnesota Orchestra. The Iranian Culture Collective, meanwhile, is gearing up for a busy month with a concert at the Ordway and an exhibition at Hopkins Center for the Arts this weekend and a festival coming up at the end of the month. More highlights this week: an exhibition of Black photography at the Katherine E. Nash Gallery, eclectic contemporary sounds at the Walker Art Center, and a way to support the beloved Drag Story Hour. 

“Iphigenia at Aulis”

Ten Thousand Things Theater Company inaugurates Minnesota Opera’s Luminary Arts Center with a soul-ified version of “Iphigenia at Aulis,” Euripides’ last play about paternal filicide. The troupe’s cast includes some of the Twin Cities’ top performers, including Regina Marie Williams, Sally Wingert, and Steven Epp, but the real star of the show is the chorus. Infused with a mix of rhythm and blues and gospel composed by JD Steele, with Billy Steele performing keyboards live, the chorus mixes tradition with flourishing vocals. Most of the main characters besides Epp, who plays Agamemnon, rotate into the chorus when their speaking roles don’t have a scene. As a collective, the chorus sometimes speaks in unison, at times using an echoing technique, and then also weaves in singing, with support from an off-stage choir. Marcela Lorca’s direction, with movement and choreographic support by Brian Bose and Darrius Strong, brings in the high stakes, creating a real nail biter of a story that’s accessible and riveting. Through Oct. 2 at the Luminary Arts Center (pay what you can). More information here.

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Picture Gallery of the Soul 

“Miss Piggy” by Albert Chong

MinnPost photo by Sheila Regan

“Miss Piggy” by Albert Chong

An expansive new exhibition at the Katherine E. Nash Gallery illuminates African American culture through the work of over 100 Black American artists creating work from the late 19th century through the present. The exhibition, curated by Herman J. Milligan, Jr., Ph.D. and Nash Gallery director Howard Oransky, focuses on joy, socializing, togetherness, quiet family and reflective moments, colorful characters and personalities, and various subculture scenes. While there are some photographs that portray protest and responses to white supremacy, the majority of work steers away from violence and trauma in favor of a nuanced, layered look at the diversity and depth of the African American experience. Highlights include a dazzling portrait of “Miss Piggy” by Albert Chong, an artist of African and Chinese descent, as well as mesmerizing works from Carrie Mae Weems’ Kitchen Tables series, “Untitled” (1990). In the latter, Weems pairs black and white photographs of a Black couple with stream of consciousness writing that offers a window into the woman’s thoughts. Caroline Kent, formerly based in Minnesota, also has a highlight in the exhibition, called “Two Wilmas” (2010), depicting Olympic gold medalist sprinter Wilma Rudolph. Kent offers mirroring images of Wilma, accentuated with an oversized glitter gold medal and a floating tesseract above her. Local artists Jovan Speller, Mara Duvra, and the late Bill Cottman also add to the excellent collection of artists. The public reception takes place Thursday, Sept. 22 from 7 to 9 p.m., with the exhibition running through Dec. 10 at the Katherine E. Nash Gallery, reservation required (free). More information here

Minnesota Orchestra and Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis 

The Minnesota Orchestra opens its fall season with the legendary trumpeter and composer Wynton Marsalis, who will appear as a soloist with the orchestra as well as the ensemble he founded in 1987, Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra. Conducted by William Eddins, the evening features Marsalis’ history of jazz through music, “Swing Symphony” as well as the Symphonic Dances from “West Side Story” by Leonard Bernstein. The concerts take place Friday, Sept. 23 and Saturday, Sept. 24 at Orchestra Hall at 8 p.m.  ($42 to $135).  More information here

Aras, named after the river in Iran, who will perform songs of love, nostalgia and hope.

Twin Cities Iranian Culture Collective

Aras, named after the river in Iran, who will perform songs of love, nostalgia and hope.

Music of Iran and the fourth annual Iranian Artists Exhibition

Iranian frame drums are the star of several works performed by a 10-member group of musicians making up the Minnesota Daf Ensemble. It will be part of “Music from Iran,” a concert put together by the Twin Cities Iranian Culture Collective. Also performing are the quartet Aras, named after the river in Iran, who will perform songs of love, nostalgia and hope. Niloofar Sohi, who plays viola in Aras, will also perform several compositions by contemporary Iranian composers along with pianist Jordan Buchholtz. The evening ends with Aida Shahghasemi, accompanied by piano prodigy Nima Hafezieh. Sunday, Sept. 25 at 2 p.m. at the Ordway ($14-105). More information here

Also this week the Iranian Culture Collective presents the fourth annual Iranian Artists Exhibition, with works by 15 local Iranian-American Artists. The exhibition runs through Oct. 22, with an opening reception on Thursday, Sept. 22 from 6 to 8 p.m. at Hopkins Center for the Arts (free). More information here. Then at the end of the month, the collective will host its Fall Iranian Culture Festival with musicians, a day ensemble, food, Persian dance, literary speakers, carpet weaving demonstrations and more. That will be held Friday, Sept. 30 through Sunday, Oct. 2 at Squirrel Haus Arts (free). More information here

Lambchop: Showtunes, The Bible

Get your groove on with the idiosyncratic sounds of turntables, voices in harmony, and a stage full of instruments as Nashville indy avant-garde musician Kurt Wagner hits the Walker Art Center as Lambchop. He’ll be performing alongside a swath of integral staples of the Twin Cities music scene like Ryan Olson of Poliça, Andrew Broder, of Fog, pianist/composer Bryan Nichols, as well as national musicians as well. It’s a Walker and Liquid Music commission and world premiere, presented by the Walker and produced by Liquid Music. Friday, Sept. 23 and Saturday, Sept. 24 at 8 p.m. at the Walker Art Center ($31.50). More information here.

Doña Pepa, Old Man Zimmer, and Sid Sity

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Doña Pepa, Old Man Zimmer, and Sid Sity

Drag Story Hour 

Who’s afraid of drag? A joyful trio of drag performers who do child-focused programming say they are being harassed by fundamentalists who think the group’s beloved characters— including Doña Pepa, Old Man Zimmer and Sid City, are harmful to young people. The group is performing at the Arlington Heights Library through the St. Paul Public Library. Reportedly, the haters have threatened to show up. So you can go and throw your support and get a wonderful kid-friendly show to boot. Saturday, Sept. 24 from 10:30 to 11:30 a.m. at Arlington Hills (free). More information here