theater

101 in 1001 #86: See a ballet.

One of the aspects of my Minneapolis life that I have missed the most since moving Bay-side is total immersion in the arts world. I've saved a lot of money by NOT going to an opera, symphony, or play on a legit weekly basis (well, actually, I've spent soooome of those savings on wine, but I digress)...but I so miss the feeling of watching the lights go down and the curtain rise. 

Minneapolis doesn't have a robust ballet scene, and as such I never really got into the medium, choosing instead to focus on the Guthrie and Minnesota Orchestra/Opera. San Francisco, on the other hand, has an absolutely outstanding ballet that is breaking boundaries and innovating on a grand scale. The latest example? Their spring "Unbound" series, which was inspired by a question posed by their director: "What is the future of ballet?"

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Choreographers responded with their interpretations - half-hour mini-ballets, that were later grouped by broad theme and performed in sets of three as part of the Unbound Festival over the last month. Dave's cousin Francesca invited me to join her for one, and as it was really my first non-Nutcracker ballet experience, I jumped to say yes. 

After fighting brutal traffic, I was rewarded with Karl the Fog-free skies over the Civic Center, and the most amazing arancini and sangiovese at Dobb's Ferry pre-show. 

This was also my first experience with the War Memorial Opera House, where Michael and I will take in the entire Ring Cycle in just under a month! The building was jaw-droppingly stunning - exactly the kind of old-world opulence that makes me happy. 

As for the ballets? I was incredibly grateful to have Francesca with me to decode some of the more subtle nuances, but honestly, the entire evening was a viscerally intense joyride. The San Francisco Ballet is known for having ridiculously athletic dancers, much moreso than other ballets in the US; as such, their choreography and style truly pushes the limits of what ballet has traditionally been considered to represent or encompass. The three pieces we saw seemed disparate at first glance, but came together in the end to support a theme of contrast/duality/opposition and harmony.

The first piece was much more abstract - almost a Jets-and-Sharks style antipathy, stylistically very sparse and driven by the use of different-colored costumes that almost completely obscured the gender of each dancer. The second, a riff on Edith Wharton's "Ethan Frome," was easily my favorite - lyrical and emotive, with a lush score and stunning choreography. As the piece required only three principal dancers, the ensemble danced as both falling snow and "the emotions of the leads;" in reading the program I scoffed a bit but it was incredibly effective in person. 

The third, which I wasn't really sure about initially, used really interesting black-and-white costumes to separate males and females. The choreography of the third piece emphasized synchronous movements rather than the more pas-de-deux focused style of "Ethan Frome," and ended with the entire ensemble moving together downstage, finishing on one perfectly-timed group leap airborne as the curtain dropped. I was genuinely on the edge of my seat watching, and left the theater on a total high. 

Needless to say, I'll definitely be revisiting the SF Ballet in the future - because of COURSE I need another expensive and time-consuming new arts passion, ha! 

Check out more 101 in 1001 here...lots coming down the docket soon!

101 in 1001 #5: See a Broadway show...on Broadway!

You guys, hi! I’m fresh off a very lengthy blog break (partly intentional, partly accidental) and a fantastic trip to New York City with my parents and brother to celebrate my dad’s birthday. We had an absolutely outstanding weekend – shopping, drinking, sightseeing, and dining to our hearts’ content – but the unequivocal highlight of the weekend, for me, was seeing my first (and second!) Broadway show and checking off my 101 in 1001 #5!

I’ve grown up absolutely obsessed with Broadway musicals. My first trip to a show, the touring production of “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” with Donny Osmond, took place at the tender age of six…and my family never looked back. As anyone who reads this space knows, we all fell HARD for “Hamilton,” my dad and I share an affinity for “Phantom” that goes back over a decade, and I’ve seen too many touring productions on stage to even count up at this point. As much as we all love musicals, though, I’d never actually seen a show on Broadway before. Needless to say, when my parents floated the idea of a trip for Dad’s birthday, including seeing shows, I was all over it.

One of my deepest recent Broadway obsessions is with “Dear Evan Hansen,” the darling of the 2017 Tonys which has been universally praised for its richly emotive performances and the gorgeous music, penned by Pasek and Paul of “La La Land” acclaim. Ben Platt, starring as the anxiety-crippled, socially awkward title character, is ending his run at the end of November, and I couldn’t not see his Best Actor Tony-winning performance – especially after my parents and sister Em had already seen it and unequivocally raved about it.

Despite the fact that the ticket cost me nearly a third of my monthly rent, Friday night saw me absolutely losing my mind in the third row of the mezzanine as this stunning show truly left me speechless.  I rendezvoused with my family during intermission (we weren’t all sitting together, thank GOD) and was near-incoherent in my awe. While Ben Platt’s performance is truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience, the rest of the cast wowed in their own right, and the innovative staging and show design created a completely immersive experience.

I remembered with paralyzing detail how painful and awkward and stressful it was, at times, to be a teenager feeling like I didn’t totally fit in, to think in agonizing detail about how others perceived me and to worry incessantly about who I was. That teenage angst, coupled with the struggles of parents to understand their children and fulfill their own needs and desires, seemed to overwhelm everyone in the audience; the women sitting next to me had never heard the music and didn’t know the show’s premise, and collectively went through an entire packet of Kleenex in the first act alone.

After the show, we parked ourselves outside the stage door in hopes of seeing the cast up close and personal, but the closest we got was seeing Rachel Bay Jones (Tony Award winner for best featured actress!) drive by waving from her SUV after sneaking out the back door. I had a total fangirl moment, though, when we realized we could see into the reception room backstage, and watched Ben Platt greeting VIPs. To quote the musical, heavy-handedly, we were literally waving through a window...and it made my night!

While “Dear Evan Hansen” plumbed the deepest depths of my (admittedly soft-hearted, emotional, quick-to-cry) spirit, our Saturday night show, “A Bronx Tale,” left me grinning from ear to ear. We had originally purchased phenomenal seats to “Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812,” but the show closed early in September after a fair amount of casting drama. We searched around for other options aimlessly as a few more shows we were interested in closed, and ultimately landed on “A Bronx Tale” as a nice change of pace from the wringer that is “Dear Evan Hansen.” Based on a true story, and the ensuing Robert De Niro movie, the show focuses on the early life of a young Italian boy growing up in – you guessed it – the Bronx, being pulled between the rival good-and-evil forces of his upright, moral father and a local mobster.

While the show won no Tonys and earned much less critical acclaim than my beloved “Hamilton” or “Dear Evan Hansen,” the music (by Alan Menken) and the dance-heavy, big bold cast created an enchanting experience for the largely Italian, New Yorker audience. I’ve had “One of the Great Ones,” a rollicking love song, stuck in my head since Saturday night- and let’s be real, if every show was an emotional rollercoaster, I’d never make it through an evening at the theater without crying my mascara clean off.

So incredibly thankful to my parents for letting us celebrate in the greatest city in the world with them, and for planning not one but TWO Broadway experiences for us! I’m so hooked on the theater world, and have a feeling there will be many more cross-country flights in my future…after all, “Frozen” and “Mean Girls” both open next spring, wheee!

the Twin Cities Arts Roundup - Winter 2017

Wow, I completely skipped a winter arts roundup, and it’s probably about time I hop back on that bandwagon…this has been a crazy winter and spring of hitting up my favorite places and trying out a few new ones for the best of the Twin Cities arts scene!

Guthrie Theater

- My little Open Call crew saw “The Lion In Winter” in early December – a witty and sarcastic Goldman play famously turned into a 1968 film starring Peter O’Toole and Katharine Hepburn. Covering the end of the reign of Henry II, it centers around his desire to pass his kingdom down intact to one of his three sons, and his estranged wife Eleanor of Aquitaine’s machinations to ensure her favorite wins the day. We loved it...I particularly enjoyed Laila Robbins as Eleanor.

- We were supposed to see “King Lear” in mid-February, but due to our group’s crazy schedules we ended up pushing to March 7. I studied Lear in college and have always had a soft spot for this, arguably the darkest of Shakespeare’s tragedies. Our crew was not impressed in general, not being as Shakespeare-obsessed as I am, but I loved it and thought the production was incredible…especially Stephen Yoakam as Lear (I wish I would have seen it again just to see the double-cast Nathaniel Fuller!).

- A scant three days later we were back at the Guthrie for “The Royal Family,” a Kaufman and Ferber play loosely based on the Barrymore acting dynasty. Several of us brought new friends with us for the evening, so our usual group of five swelled to eight or nine! I found “The Royal Family” to be such a fun, refreshing romp after the darkness of “Lear,” and my group really enjoyed it as well.

Minnesota Orchestra

- My family has an annual tradition of seeing a show the Saturday after Thanksgiving, and this year it was “Ratatouille in Concert!” I had never seen this particular Disney-Pixar show, and really enjoyed it…enhanced, of course, with the divine Sarah Hicks conducting and with the Orchestra’s usual flair.

- We also saw “Harry Potter and the Sorceror’s Stone” in concert at the Convention Center! This is apparently going to be an eight-year undertaking for orchestras across the country – a new film will be made available in the accompaniment-ready format each year. I had SUCH an amazing time…I think “Harry Potter” has one of the best scores in modern cinema for sheer catchiness and I have zero shame in admitting that.

- Michael and I spent New Year’s Eve (at least the first part!) at Orchestra Hall for their annual gala. While I loved the discovery of Puts’s “Millennium Canons” and really enjoyed Rachmaninoff’s Symphony no.2, I could have done without Dawn Upshaw’s Great American Songbook. Oops.

- Jodester and I immediately purchased tickets to the vaunted Sir Neville Marriner performance last summer, and I was dismayed by his passing last fall at the age of 93. The Orchestra turned his planned appearance into a beautiful and touching tribute concert, highlighting his experience with the MN Orchestra musicians and performing a few of his favorite pieces. A fitting tribute to a giant of the classical music world!

- Hal and I took up Open Call on a free-tickets offer to Mendelssohn’s Scottish Symphony in February, and I had the worst seats I’ve ever had at Orchestra Hall…eep! That said, Hugh Wolff conducting the symphony with no break and no SCORE blew my mind – such a great roommate date.

- Jodes and I found ourselves at Orchestra Hall last weekend for an Elgar and Schubert program conducted by Osmo Vanska, who is one of my all-time favorite people in the state of Minnesota. The program was unbelievable – the Elgar utterly blew me away – and watching how athletically he conducted it made me inordinately happy.

Minnesota Opera

- Michael and I saw “Diana’s Garden,” a delightful Mozart-era work that’s been essentially unperformed for years, in January. Focused on Greek mythology and featuring the most charming costuming and an absolutely sick soprano aria in the first act, it was the perfect light, fun thing to get through a dreary sub-zero Minnesota winter.

- In March, the Minnesota Opera world-premiered a new work, “Dinner at Eight,” based on another Kaufman and Ferber gem. I saw it with my new friend and fellow Notre Dame grad Nicholas, who is a talented collaborative pianist and opera lover. We both really enjoyed it – though it wasn’t my favorite work I’ve seen at the Opera, there was some truly beautiful and interesting music in there, and the juxtaposition of humor and poignancy was very well done.

- Last Saturday, Michael and I headed to the Metropolitan Ballroom for Cabaret 2017, an event put on by the members of the Opera’s Resident Artist Program annually. The 40s-themed evening featured a variety show-style revue featuring the dozen young artists, and we had a ball watching the performance and then dancing (and drinking!) our faces off afterward with the cast!

Others

- Kels and I saw “The Bodyguard,” the Whitney Houston musical based on the movie of the same name, in January – while it won’t win any awards for plot, the music was KILLER. My particular favorite: joining the whole audience in rocking out to “I Wanna Dance With Somebody” at the end of the curtain call, of course!

- Hannah and I scored amazing tickets to The Lumineers at the Target Center thanks to my amazing sister Em. I’ve loved the Lumineers as long as they’ve been played on the radio, and their live show was right up there with everything I’ve seen and loved of them so far. I especially enjoyed the fact that they opened with “Submarines” straight off taking the stage to Fleetwood Mac’s “The Chain.” Win.

- Dick, Jodes and I took in Theater Latte Da’s “Peter and the Starcatcher” in mid-February, mostly because Tyler Michaels was playing Peter/Boy and I will see anything and everything that he appears in. I really liked it, but I think other things Latte Da has done have been better – notably “Sweeney Todd” and “C.”

WHEE what a marathon it’s been lately! No signs of slowing down either – I’ve still got a half-dozen events in the next month to look forward to. Can’t wait for more amazing performances in the near future!

Paris in St. Paul!

Last Saturday, Hannah and I got all dolled up and headed off to Paris...in St. Paul! 

I was invited as an honoree representative of my company to attend the annual Ordway Gala, and this year's theme was Springtime In Paris. As springtime in Paris is actually one of my favorite things ever, I was ALL about it. 

We met up at my place, popped a bottle of bubbles, and got ready together...

OMG YOU GUYS I WORE A COLOR! Details to follow...

After enjoying our Prosecco and dressing to the nines, we headed off to the Honorees' Reception, held in the gorgeous US Bank Rehearsal Hall. We were treated to an open bar, a giant spread of amazing French appetizers, and a virtuosic performance of Eugène Ysaÿe's Sonata #2, "Obsession," by the St Paul Chamber Orchestra's Francisco Fullana. I, being me, immediately fell deeply in love with him and turned beet-red and giggled every time he came near for the rest of the program. Oops :)

Of course, I had the prettiest date ever!! In keeping with our love of spontaneity and adventures, Hannah was totally willing to rent a gown and come hang with me for the evening...what a gem of a BFW!

After our VIP program ended, we headed out to the second-story Atrium to enjoy live French music and more champagne, and to browse the silent auction items! I couldn't get over the transformation of the space from our usual evenings at the opera. So charming and so quintessentially "springtime in Paris!"

Before we go too far, a quick note on that gown...

It's Badgley Mischka, and I rented it from my go-to obsession, Rent The Runway, after being...let's say "politely advised" to not wear "another black gown to this one," HA! The deep cobalt blue was WAY out of my comfort zone initially, but it paired perfectly with current-season J.Crew earrings, an old J.Crew necklace repurposed as a bracelet, and of course, the Ordway's carpet...every girl's best fashion accessory, naturally! (Please ignore my turquoise rubber bracelet...that was for the VIP bar selection, of course!)

The gown was an absolute dream to wear...I actually tried it on the Thursday before the event and didn't take it off for several hours, oops! Fortunately for me, it comes in a plethora of other colors on RTR's site, so I have a feeling it's about to be a go-to for black-tie events. 

Champagne and chardonnay in hand, we explored the event...from the adorable hand-drawn "cityscapes" featuring the names of sponsors...

...to the INSANE Wall of Wine raffle! $25 got a participant a raffle entry to win the entire rack of wine. Hannah and I were hopeful, but unfortunately didn't come out on top. Next year!

We rested our feet...

...took plenty of selfies... (With my other crush of the evening, the super-hot haberdashery model behind me who complimented me on my blue dress, naturally)...

...and ran into friends!! I was tickled to see Mike's mom, Martha, there representing the Minnesota History Theatre. 

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One of the centerpieces of the evening was the three-story tall Eiffel Tower watercolor, which also prominently featured on the tickets, programs and advertising for the evening. We couldn't resist an official photo!

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But we quickly figured out that the best viewing spot for our very own Tour Eiffel was halfway up the Grand Staircase (yes, it's actually called that, ha). 

The official program for the evening moved us into the Ordway's gorgeous new Concert Hall, an acoustically-perfect space that's home to the Schubert Club and the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra. As my company was the premier sponsor of the night, we got top billing:

After a few speeches, we were treated to performances by the Ordway, Schubert Club, and Minnesota Opera. The Ordway did Gershwin (love), the Schubert Club brought in one of their scholarship recipients who played Erik Satie's "Gymnopedie no1" and a Ravel sonatina, and the Opera rolled out the red carpet and imported Parisian mezzo-soprane Marie Lenormand to perform my all-time favorite, "La Vie En Rose," along with cabaret classic "Je Cherche un Millionaire." TOO FUN. The fund-a-need portion of the night, including live auction, was wildly successful as well. 

After the program wrapped up, we grabbed one more glass of champagne, along with the entire dessert buffet...

Then we tried to get a "nice photo" by the chandeliers and Eiffel Tower. Turns out coworker AJ's idea of "nice photo" differs drastically from Hannah's/mine...candids below for your enjoyment! 

We have a winner! Followed by a photobomb c/o AJ's sister, Kathryn...HA.

So we took a girl pic...

...and a coworker pic...

...followed by the sweetest, most awkward, most incredibly homogeneous dance party in the history of wealthy donors' events ever. Hannah's Snapchat, below, really says it all...the woman in the photo is, I'm pretty sure, an Ordway. As in, the Ordway Center for the Performing Arts. 

We hopped in Snap Yourself!'s photo booth for a few hilarious moments, involving a lot of confusion around the clicker and wrestling with a beret that didn't want to stay on my updo...

And before I knew it, it was time to head home, take off painful heels, and flop straight into bed (yes, in my gown, oops) to relive a night in Paris without ever having to leave my backyard. 

The loveliest evening with the most wonderful people! If every night could involve champagne and ball gowns, I'd be a happy camper. Alors, I guess I have to cherche un millionaire of my own... ;) 

101 in 1001 #85: See "Hamilton" again!

You guys, we had the best weekend in Chicago! So good that it's taken me until now to recover slash be able to write about it without instantly tearing up wanting to be back with my Schwegfam.

Papa Bear, Jodester and I took off mid-morning from MSP and were just a liiiiiittle bit excited for our trip and all the epic surprises we had in store!

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The plan was to rendezvous with Jonny D at the Palmer House...little did we know that he had a surprise of his own up his sleeve! We arrived for check-in and he was waiting at the bar with a bottle of champagne on ice and ready to pop. 

Well done, yiddle brudder! Pleased to say you've officially learned from the best. 

After check-in, it was off to kill some time at Goddess and the Baker, snacking on sweets and starting Jodester's birthday celebration a little early! 

Gotta give them props for the insane cuteness of their baked goods...and their life motto, which dovetails perfectly with my own. (Food, coffee, everything else.)

We met up with Em once her workday wound down and headed off to a very special happy hour...one of my mom's sorority sisters has a place in Chicago, and they started talking after one of our previous trips there. Having not seen each other in decades, the reunion was incredibly fun! Great to meet the Schmidts and see their gorgeous home...which happened to be very high up in Trump Tower, right in the heart of the Loop.

Yeah, the view was incredible. I salivated over it the entire time we were there...watching the sun set over the heart of downtown, with views all the way from Navy Pier and the Shedd Aquarium to the Willis Tower, was an experience to remember!

After we left the Schmidts' home, we headed back to Palmer House for a quick series of very special surprises! My dad gifted my mom her birthday surprise, a stunning pair of diamond earrings that we marveled at all weekend...and they in turn gifted US our Easter baskets! 

Containing...

"Hamilton" tickets! Fun story: I went down to Lakeville for a corned beef dinner on St. Patrick's Day, and we drank A LOT. Like, Manhattans, champagne, and wine a lot. My dad had been listening to "Hamilton" at the club every morning after we downloaded it to his new iPhone, and he was jonesing to see the show in a big way. Naturally, me being the terrible influence that I am, the next thing we knew I had scouted out five orchestra-level seats for us on Easter weekend. Dad, under the influence of Manhattans and wine, was ALL about it...so we pulled the trigger!

It was a nightmare trying to keep it a secret for a month - we were so excited to tell Em and Jon - and they did it in the cutest way. They made Easter baskets and filled them with fancy tea (Boston Tea Partayyy, duh), $10 bills (Hamilton, also duh), a bottle of the Federalist Wines's Visionary Zinfandel featuring Hamilton on the label (THIS IS A THING AND I WILL BE COLLECTING THEM ALL), and a t-shirt for each of us featuring perfectly-suited quotes from the musical. Em's: "When I meet Thomas Jefferson, I'ma compel him to include women in the sequel!" Jonathan's: "SIT DOWN, JOHN..." (you fat mother_____!) Mine: "I am inimitable, I am an original," which is my life mantra forever and always. My mom's: "What time is it?!..." (SHOWTIME!) And my dad's: 

He is in fact the General of our family, and of surprises, and of winning at life...in general. 

After way too much excitement over the surprises, and a fabulous dinner at Cafe Ba-Ba-Reeba, we headed home, slept it all off, and reconvened Saturday morning at Melrose Diner, a BYOB breakfast joint that we did UP: 

Poppin' bottles for Jodester! 

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Functional and always appropriate.

Fortunately, the coconut-crusted French toast soaked up enough of the Chandon for me to (mostly) keep it together when we rolled up to the PrivateBank Theatre!!!!!

You guys, I was so excited I could hardly function. Seeing "Hamilton" last November was a top five day for sure, and seeing it with my whole Schwegfam was sure to be even better. We took full advantage of our extremely early arrival to appropriately document the experience. 

YUP I'm a grownup. Fun fact: several cast members of "Hamilton" Chicago liked ^that^ photo when I Insta'd it, which obviously means they're going to let me come be a general understudy any day now, right? 

What can I say? The experience was, I think, even better this time around, despite having an understudy instead of Karen Olivo for Angelica. So many of the actors/actresses had clearly grown into their roles since November, notably Miguel Cervantes as Hamilton and Ari Afsar as Eliza. I adored being on the orchestra level and seeing everything much closer up...it gave me such a greater appreciation for the insane choreography and impact of the staging. And watching Dad and Jonny react to the show after loving it for months was a heart-burstingly happy experience, too. 

The best Schwegfamilton imaginable! We rocketed off to dinner at Balena in Old Town, and found our next theatrical experience: 

HA! Best dinner, best wine, best company and best time dissecting every minute detail of the show. We've already started discussing a Schwegfamilton reunion as soon as the Eliza tour comes to Minneapolis in the 2018-19 season...my dad even said that it trumps "Phantom of the Opera" for him, and that is a HUGE statement. 

Sunday dawned absolutely beautiful for the resurrection of Jesus and, even more majorly, for JODESTER'S OFFICIAL BIRTHDAY! We scored a brunch reservation at Little Goat Diner...

...where we champagned, cocktailed, and toasted to the best of wives, best of women. Her surprise birthday dessert was also delish. 

From Little Goat, it was off to the Riverwalk to walk off brunch...and re-up with a cold glass of sauvignon blanc at City Winery...

...then across the river to clown around a bit...

...and then on to Wendella for a Chicago Architecture boat cruise! Em took one last fall, loved it, and knew we all would too. 

With perfect weather, the most charming guide, and our nerdy little fam getting way into it, it was the perfect way to spend a sunny Easter Sunday. 

I love these people SO FREAKING MUCH. Thank you to Mom and Dad for a weekend to remember forever - truly a Schwegfam top five of all time!