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TDF Passport: Minneapolis Your guide to theatre in the Mini-Apple

By JULIA ROSENFELD

Sure, winter is rough in Minneapolis, but that’s no excuse to hide out in the Mall of America. The city offers an extensive selection of theatre that gives you plenty of reasons to get out of the snow.

Here's what you need to know about the Minneapolis theatre scene, along with some productions to look forward to in the next few months:

A Mini-Apple

Minneapolis' theatre community has many similarities with New York’s. The city is home to three winners of the Regional Theatre Tony Award---The Guthrie Theatre , Children’s Theatre Company  and the (now closed) Theatre de la Jeune Lune---in addition to local favorites such as The Jungle Theater and The Mixed Blood Theatre.

The city also offers a healthy mix of premieres of classics. Since moving to a new space in 2006, for instance, The Guthrie has produced work on three stages, significantly expanding the range and number of its productions. Staples like A Christmas Carol and Shakespeare rule the mainstage, and the two new spaces host a wide variety of productions, including new work. In January and February alone, the company will mount three Shakespeare plays, the new dark comedy Little Eyes, and Songs of Extinction, a drama about a troubled high school student.

Meanwhile, The Playwrights’ Center supports many new writers. With members living (and commuting) from coast to coast, it has become a hub of premieres and workshops from some of the country's most buzzed-about playwrights

To Broadway and Back

Minneapolis is a great place to catch a show that just played New York---or is perhaps on its way. The Broadway farce The 39 Steps recently played at The Guthrie, while Kander and Ebb’s recent Broadway musical The Scottsboro Boys tried out at the theatre last year. The company also mounted the world premiere of Tony Kushner’s The Intelligent Homosexual's Guide to Capitalism and Socialism With a Key to the Scriptures, which will bow Off Broadway in the spring.

Beginning in March, Avenue Q will run at The Mixed Blood, where last year, the Pulitzer Prize-winning play Ruined received its first production outside of New York. And in April, The Jungle will mount the Tony-nominated play Next Fall.

Bring the Kids

Minneapolis is home to many vibrant theatres focused on younger audiences. The Children’s Theatre Company, American's largest professional theatre company for young people, is presenting Babe, The Sheep Pig (based on the book that inspired the hit film) until the end of February. This March, the company will mount Barrio Grrl!, a new musical by In the Heights book writer Quiara Alegria Hudes.

Home is Where the Heart Is

Thanks to all these productions, Minneapolis provides fertile ground for actors. Though some local performers dream of making it in places like New York and L.A., there are many who are perfectly content with what the city offers them.

"Minneapolis provides an open landscape," says locally born-and-bred actor Nathan Keepers. "Even with all its history and institutions, it’s open to something new."

Granted, after working with Theatre de la Jeune Lune for eleven seasons and appearing in various other local productions, Keepers himself left Minneapolis for New York two years ago. But last November, he returned to his hometown to play dozens of characters in The Jungle's revival of the one-man comedy Fully Committed. Keepers also starred in the Jungle's production back in 2002, and this time around, he has a new appreciation for his hometown.

"New York is a wonderful city, but I’m not interested in what it offers," Keepers says. "In Minneapolis, you have an ownership of your career. In New York, I don’t feel like you can have total ownership. The city doesn’t allow it."

Keepers' journey is a testament to the Minneapolis theatre scene. Though the snow will fall and the winds will bow, the city will offer a warm home for actors and audiences alike.

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Brooklyn based and Minneapolis born, Julia Rosenfeld is a playwright, teaching artist and the editor of PxP TDF’s teen theatre magazine and website.