Illustration from the book “Boycott Blues: How Rosa Parks Inspired a Nation” by Andrea Davis Pinkney. Courtesy of the University of Minnesota
  1. Listen Jose James, The Shadow War, and celebrating a great author

    Apr 17, 2014

The hounds speak glowingly about a Minneapolis born and bred R&B songwriter, a play about the CIA’s “Secret War” in Laos, and an exhibition exulting writer Andrea Davis Pinkney.

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St. Paul playwright Sharon DeMark doesn’t want the exhibition “Rejoice the Legacy,” showcasing the work of celebrated children’s author Andrea Davis Pinkney, to slip by unnoticed. Sharon says it’s too good. At the University of Minnesota’s Elmer L. Andersen Library through May 14. Pinkney will deliver the U’s 2014 “May Hill Arbuthnot Honor Lecture” on May 3.

Mohamed Yabdri HeadshotTwin Cities actor and theater instructor Taous Khazem has her eye on We Theater’s production of “The Shadow War.” It’s a play about the CIA’s recruitment of Hmong soldiers during the Vietnam War and it features several local Hmong actors. Through April 27 at the Wellstone Center in St. Paul.

tom steffesOn what does Tom Steffes, guitarist with Minneapolis indie rockers William Within, rely when he needs to relax? The smooth, jazzy R&B of Minneapolis native Jose James. James is playing at The Cedar in Minneapolis on Monday, April 21.

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Tony Ross warming up before a Symphonic Adventure concert at South High School in Minneapolis Euan Kerr/MPR News

While the larger question of whether conductor Osmo Vanska will return as Minnesota Orchestra music director is still open, another question troubling Minnesota Orchestra fans has been resolved: Principal Cellist Tony Ross will remain with Minnesota.

Ross was in contention for a job in Chicago, but today said he’s sticking around.

“I turned down the Lyric Opera of Chicago,” he said this morning before a special Symphonic Adventures concert at South High School in Minneapolis. Ross has been at the Minnesota Orchestra for a quarter century and is an audience favorite.

He said he and his wife have decided to stay. ”We decided to, I won’t say take a risk, but have faith that this orchestra will remain, as it was, world class,” he said. “And we are thrilled to be re-dedicating ourselves to this community.

Ross was prominent as a musicians negotiating committee member during the 16 month lockout. His forceful attacks on management policies led to him being known to some as “the angry cellist,” a moniker he laughs about now.

Meanwhile, Vanska confirmed he is continuing to negotiate with the Minnesota Orchestral Association about a possible return. After the morning concert he talked at length about the importance of playing concerts for young musicians. However when asked about the talks, he said he could say little.

“The talks are on. And they are still going,” he said. When told that was a good sign, he laughed, apparently in agreement.

Courtesy Graywolf Press

When the 2014 Pulitzers were announced on Monday, we took note that University of Minnesota alum Kevin Siers, of The Charlotte Observer, won the editorial cartooning award. But there’s another connection to Minnesota among the recipients. The prize-winning poetry collection “3 Sections” by Vijay Seshadri was published by Minneapolis-based Graywolf Press.

As we noted previously, Graywolf also published Tracy K. Smith’s Pulitzer Prize-winning collection of poetry, “Life on Mars,” in 2012. That was the same year that Minnesota Opera’s production of “Silent Night,” written composer Kevin Puts, won the Pulitzer Prize for music.

The Pulitzer committee this year called Seshadro’s work, “a compelling collection of poems that examine human consciousness, from birth to dementia, in a voice that is by turns witty and grave, compassionate and remorseless.”

Tonight marked the 26th Minnesota Book Awards at St. Paul’s Union Depot. The annual ceremony celebrates some of the greatest new books by Minnesotans. The awards are divided into eight categories: children’s literature, general nonfiction, genre fiction, memoir and creative nonfiction, Minnesota, novel and short story, poetry, and young people’s literature. And here they are, Read more