MUSIC & PERFORMING ARTS
A Multitude of Stages
Twin Citians’ love for performing arts is truly engrained in our culture. From spectacular operas and awe-inspiring orchestral performances to cutting-edge plays and contemporary dance, we have top talent when it comes to the performing arts. The Twin Cities are, after all, home to more than 78 theater companies, 20 dance companies and two professional orchestras.
Shining stars of Minneapolis, the Guthrie Theater and The Children’s Theatre Co. have cemented the Twin Cities’ reputation as a theater town. These two regional Tony Award-winning stages host world-class productions ranging from new works to classics. The Guthrie has remained a nationally recognized home for quality performances ever since 1963, when Sir Tyrone Guthrie chose to create his dream theater in this city. In 2006, the Guthrie moved to its second and current home, a Jean Nouvel-designed, three-stage architectural wonder located on the banks of the Mississippi River.
Meanwhile, the Children’s Theatre Co. has been raking in critical acclaim and enriching the lives of children since 1965. The company takes on adaptations from great children’s literature, as well as theater-commissioned plays ranging from interpretations of folk tales from around the world to plays aimed at issues concerning today’s kids and teens.
In St. Paul, Ordway Center for the Performing Arts serves as the place for Broadway. Like its Minneapolis counterpart, the Ordway brings in old favorites and new Tony Award-winners each season, in addition to worldly music and dance performances. The Ordway is also home to The Schubert Club, Minnesota Opera and The Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, the nation’s only full-time professional chamber orchestra. Recognized as one of the country’s leading nonprofit performing arts centers, the Ordway recently unveiled a 1,100-seat concert hall and a 1,900-seat music theater that will surely enhance the performances even more.
Recent additions to the Twin Cities have proved that the theater scene can only get better with time. In 2011, Hennepin Theatre Trust opened New Century Theatre, a black box theater that hosts one-man shows, quirky comedies and educational programs. The modern New Century joined the trust’s other three historic stages: the Orpheum, Pantages and State theaters, all of which are also located on Hennepin Avenue. Built between 1916 and 1921, these spaces boast Art Deco and Beaux Arts architectural features, separating them from the more modern stages around town. Today, the theaters draw in 500,000 patrons annually for traveling Broadway shows, big-name concerts and well-known comedians.
Orchestra Hall is a cultural and architectural staple in Minneapolis. The Grammy Award-winning Minnesota Orchestra calls this acoustic phenomenon home and performs under the direction of renowned conductor Osmo Vänskä. The orchestra plays from its classic repertoire, as well as presents the occasional film soundtrack or other innovative piece. Recent renovations to the concert hall, including better seating, an expanded lobby and improved access for those with disabilities, have enhanced the concert-going experience even more.
The nation’s largest African American theater, Penumbra Theatre, puts forth thought-provoking performances through the prism of the Black experience. Celebrating 40 years of superb performances, Penumbra has launched the careers of famous playwrights, including two-time Pulitzer Prize-winner August Wilson.
Minneapolis’ Hennepin Avenue is a hotspot for a mix of local talent. The Cowles Center for Dance and the Performing Arts found its home here and has become a flagship center for dance in Minnesota, providing a stage for groups such as James Sewell Ballet, Minnesota Dance Theater, TU Dance and Zenon Dance Company. Another entertainer on Hennepin is Brave New Workshop, the Twin Cities’ beloved improvisational comedy troupe. The longest-running sketch comedy theater in the nation, Brave New Workshop has a reputation for nurturing the talents of great comedians, including Louis Anderson and U.S. Senator Al Franken.
Depending on where you settle, you may find a talented troupe of performers in your own backyard. Small theaters such as Theatre in the Round, Park Square Theatre and Jungle Theater put on great shows in neighborhoods around the Twin Cities. At History Theatre, performers use the stage to illuminate stories of the past, while Mixed Blood Theatre promotes diversity with its productions, even offering some seats for free on a first-come, first-serve basis. The Fitzgerald Theater, the oldest active theater in St. Paul provides engaging shows for all ages. Chanhassen Dinner Theatres, the largest dinner theater in the nation, combines dinner and a show for a family-friendly night out, while Plymouth Playhouse mixes theater and comedy with their hilarious stage performances.