Shorter days. Warmer socks. Quieter Thursdays. It may feel like Rochester’s arts and entertainment calendar should be winding down for the year.
The truth is, though, we are just getting started.
Tonight My Town My Music returns from a summer break with a sold-out show featuring Har Mar Superstar at the Castle. It is also opening night over at the Rochester Civic Theatre. And then on Saturday, a first-time event promises to bring an infusion of arts into downtown Rochester.
If you ask us, it is still too early to nestle in with Netflix. Consider this your guide to some of the key arts events coming up in Rochester.
Now under new leadership, the Civic Theatre hopes to continue building off the success it had last year with productions of Annie and Ring of Fire.
The 2019-20 season begins tonight with the musical, Mamma Mia!
Other shows in the the six-part lineup include Romeo and Juliet. (One of the shows that had been scheduled, Hair Spray, is being scrapped all over the country because a traveling production of the show is now on tour. A replacement for the show will be announced at Friday night’s opener.)
New this year, the Civic Theatre will put on two shows in December. In addition to Elf, The Musical, the theater will also put on an edgier one-man show featuring David Sedaris at the Black Box. Executive director Kevin Miller said Sedaris’s show, SantaLand Diaries, will be funny and have “a totally different vibe and different appeal” than the Elf musical.
SantaLand Diaries is among a total of three shows being held this season in the smaller, more experimental Black Box space.
“We want to challenge people in the Black Box,” said Miller.
Of note, the theater has recently turned to professional actors for leading roles in some performances. Miller said the use of outside talent can often allow the theater to put on shows it would not be able to do otherwise.
One example he pointed to was last year, when the Civic Theatre brought in a New York-based performer for Ring of Fire: The Music of Johnny Cash.
“We were able to do the show and that was the performance where, up at this point, box office had been trending about 40 percent,” said Miller. “Ring of Fire; we got to 97, so we saw that return on investment when they saw the talent and what it meant to have it right here on our stage.”
Outside of the Civic, a pair of other theater companies are anticipating big years. The Rochester Rep, which just secured ownership of its longtime home, continues its 36th season in October with Miss Homes.
Over on the third floor of the Castle, Absolute Theater Company will open on September 19 with Honky Tonk Angels, “a hilarious story about three good ole gals who follow their dreams to Nashville.”
Art In the street
Two local arts organizations have been working behind the curtains for months on what they are calling the Med City Arts Festival.
The first-ever event takes place Saturday in downtown Rochester.
Co-organizer Julie Johns tells us there will be over 30 artist vendors, along with a full stage featuring improv comedy, live music, and a poetry slam.
In one of the more outside-the-box demonstrations of live art, poets will perform in response to a painting they see — in real-time.
“We’re going to present the surprise paintings, and there are going to be several poets and they have to create, right on stage, their poem of the painting,” explained festival co-chair Ivete Martinez.
Organizers say there will also be opportunities throughout the day for the public to participate in art. Families are encouraged to attend.
The action begins at 10 a.m. and goes all the way to 10 p.m. The festival grounds are Historic Third and two blocks of First Avenue Southwest.
Tapping your feet
The promoters of Rochester’s summer concert series, Riverside Concerts, have an indoor lineup with at least one show for every audience.
The 2019-20 Riverside Presents series begins next Thursday, September 19 with Gaelic Storm, a genre-bending Irish rock band that has topped the Billboard World Chart an impressive six times. The group is also known for their appearance in the James Cameron classic, Titanic.
Other notable performers in the six-show lineup include the Latin alternative group LADAMA, Duluth-based indie group Low, and multi-platinum Minneapolis rockers Soul Asylum.
As we move indoors for concerts, also expect My Town My Music to come out with some show announcements. And as always, we can count on the local bars and pubs — Kathy’s, Forager, Half Barrel, North Star, just to name a few — to keep us Buffalo Springfield-ing our way through the winter.
Art meets technology
The Rochester Art Center, coming off its recent mental health exhibition with Mayo Clinic, has some new things in the works.
A group of new artists will begin showcasing their work in October as part of “Art(ists) On The Verge 10,” now in its second year at the Art Center.
Among the artists being featured is Rochester’s Chris Rackley.
According to the Art Center, the exhibition will explore “themes of surveillance and conformity, algorithms as AI and time travel.”
The Art(ists) on the Verge series is part of a mentor-based fellowship program for Minnesota-based artists.
Also this fall, the Art Center will feature the works of Eric Anderson. (I know this because his office is right next to mine.) His paintings — about ten of them in total — will begin to pop up in mid-October.
Public art installation
A new sculpture will emerge in Slatterly Park on September 21.
The public art piece — the result of a Neighborhood Project Grant from RNeighbors — is being installed to commemorate 10 years of Art on the Ave, the popular spring arts festival.
Over the past 10 years, Art on the Ave has installed 14 public sculptures around the neighborhood as part of an effort to establish the southeast Rochester neighborhood “as the artist quarter of downtown.”
The latest sculpture comes from local artist Paul Cassidy. He used his welding skills to build a steel sculpture for along the bike path.
As part of the dedication on the 21st, the Slatterly Park Neighborhood Association will host a food truck carnival from noon to 4 p.m.
As a bonus, if you want to learn more about public art in Rochester, Destination Medical Center will continue its Art + Design in Public Space Series on September 26 from 5-6:30 p.m. at the Rochester Art Center.
Sean Baker is a Rochester journalist and the founder of Med City Beat.
Cover photo: Har Mar at Kathy’s in 2018 / William Forsman