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MPR Art Hounds recommend art that heals

May 27, 2021 03:52PM ● By Editor
The Collide Theatrical Dance Co.'s show 'WonderLand" considers mental health through the characters of Lewis Carroll's classic novel.   Photo by Wells Films and Video

By Emily Bright from Minnesota Public Radio News - May 27, 2021

Minneapolis theater maker Shanan Custer is excited about the soap opera “Duluth”, which premiered Sunday on the World Improv Network YouTube channel.  The show runs for 24 consecutive episodes, airing live at 2 p.m. Sundays. It’s all improvised, with only a plot arc for the cast to follow. 

The improv actors are working across time zones and borders, coming together from Minnesota, Mexico and the U.K. as they dive into mystery and scandal.

“It’s inspired by soap operas that you may recall from the past, like ‘Dallas’ and ’Dynasty,’ ” Custer said. “And it features characters as broad and hilarious and amazing, as you saw in those kinds of shows.”

The key difference:  It’s set against a backdrop of iconic Duluth images — opening credits feature the Aerial Lift Bridge.

The last performance that actor Shad Olsen saw on stage before the pandemic was by Collide Dance Theater Co. in the Twin Cities. Now he can’t wait to see their new live production of “WonderLand.”

“They tell stories in such an emotional, visceral, real way that you end up going on the journey. It’s really exhilarating,” said Olsen. With a mix of dance styles set to a modern blend of music, “the energy is through the roof.”

The characters of Lewis Carroll’s classic novel encounter each other in a psychiatric hospital. As the doctor treats the White Rabbit’s anxiety or Alice’s body image, the show examines the concept of being “normal.” Artistic director Regina Peluso wrote the script to help de-stigmatize mental health conditions.  She had mental health professionals review the script to make sure the audience would not miss the message of acceptance.

The 70-minute show takes place outside of the James J. Hill House in St. Paul this weekend, and outside the Mill City Museum in Minneapolis June 5-20.

Healing is also the subject of an exhibit by physician and painter Semerit Strachan. Behavioral pediatrician Andrew Barnes of Golden Valley traveled to Granite Falls to see the show in person. He says he thought about the exhibit for days afterward. Strachan is a leader with the Cultural Wellness Center in Minneapolis.

An abstract colorful painting
"Togetherness" by Semerit Strachan.  Courtesy of Granite Area Arts Council

A painting of trees
"In the Dancing Grove" by Semerit Strachan. Courtesy of Granite Area Arts Council

The 25 paintings in Strachan’s exhibit “Consciousness Beyond Form” employ symbols of healing and transformation drawn from Egyptian culture and the African diaspora. Often, Barnes says, faces and forms appear to emerge from the paintings, the way one might see a face in the trunk of a tree while walking in the woods. Placed together in a gallery, the paintings appear to be in conversation with one another.

The exhibit at the K. K. Berge Gallery runs through June 19, with an artist reception and walking tour June 5. 

To listen to the audio version of this week's Art Hounds report, follow this link to the MPR News website.

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