2019-20 Fine Arts Series to deliver bold, unforgettable shows in Central Minnesota

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June 17, 2019

Tanya Gertz may be a bit biased, but the executive director of the Fine Arts Series at the College of Saint Benedict and Saint John’s University still can’t believe the quality of the artists coming to both campuses in 2019-20.

“They’re bold, they’re top-notch, you’ll see big names from big artists, they’re the coolest things to see in our region and they’re right here for everyone,” Gertz said. “This season is impressive and easy to love.” 

The 2019-20 FAS schedule, which was announced Monday, June 17, features world class dance, theater, cabaret, great music, magic, welding musicians and even dinosaurs.

In partnership with the signature artists they bring, the FAS takes the artists off the stage and into the lives of local community members, committing to dozens of mini performances, workshops, and receptions. 

“Before an artist takes the stage, few people know that they have been have making meaningful connections with people in our community throughout their stay, many times with people who would not be able to attend a performance.  This season we have three artists with extended week-long stays,” Gertz said.

This season they are launching a new addition to the series with four matinee performances.

“We did matinees in (2017-18), and the response was really euphoric,” Gertz said. “We had several people tell us (in 2018-19), “How come you don’t have that again?’

“We’ve had audience response to it and requests for it, and we’ve had an interest around being able to do this, and so we’re listening and responding to that feedback,” she said.

And there’s opportunity for audiences to save if they order tickets early.  To get the best seats and discounts they can take advantage of the Early Bird promotion, running now until Monday, Aug. 5.

Here are a few highlights on the 2019-20 season:

Hosted by Neil Berg, “100 Years of Broadway” opens the season on Saturday, Sept. 14, at Escher Auditorium at CSB in a big and bold way with adored classics and modern hit shows. There will also be a chance for community members to submit audition samples to join the artists on stage the night of the performance.

As far as big and bold music, Black Violin and Scrap Arts Music fit the bill.  Black Violin’s musicians Wil B and Kev Marcus play favorites from Bach to Beyoncé.

Photo Credit Colin Brennan

Black Violin photo credit Colin Brennan

“Black Violin are perhaps the artists I’ve had the most requests for, so we’ve brought them back,” Gertz said.

Scrap Arts Music will have two performances at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 16, with the earlier performance being the debut of the matinee series. This percussion ensemble features instruments hand-crafted and welded from reclaimed scrap metal.

Scrap Arts will also spend a considerable amount of time with students studying technical trades like welding at local schools.

“I think it’s a really neat project, and they’re just high energy and a lot of fun,” Gertz said. 

The matinee series continues with a celebration of ancient Chinese culture with “Golden Dragon Acrobats,” sensory friendly magic and illusion from “The Magic of Kevin Spencer” in February and ends the season with “Erth’s Prehistoric Aquarium Adventure” in April 2020.

“The matinee series gives more people more opportunities to join us throughout the season.  This season is targeted more towards families, however, any age is welcome,” Gertz said. 

Of these performances, Spencer is an artist who will spend a week in the community, bringing magic and illusion to those with special needs. His sensory friendly magic welcomes all ages and abilities to enjoy a performance in a relaxed atmosphere.

“There is a real need for this kind of programming for families. We very intentionally create a welcoming atmosphere, train our staff, and adjust our venue for these performances,” Gertz said.

Companies spending an entire week in residence as a part of community outreach include world-class dance companies Ballet Hispánico and Ragamala. Both companies will host multiple dance workshops open to the public along with workshops, mini performances and demonstrations at local schools and nonprofit agencies.

“We intentionally work to bring the world to our stages and to our communities. Ballet Hispánico is the leading Latin dance company and something community members wouldn’t get to experience otherwise.  Not just on the stage, but off the stage as well,” Gertz said.

Some recognizable names take the stage this year with new projects. Take Ana Gasteyer, for example. The “Saturday Night Live” alum puts on a cabaret show delivering songs from an era when lady singers ruled the nightclub.  There’s a chance to meet Ana after the show at a reception in the Great Hall.

“This is a cabaret show created with the wit of a comedian, but it is not a comedy show. If you’re looking for a cool date night with great music, this is it,” Gertz said.

Other notable names include Minnesota natives Kevin Kling and Jeremy Messersmith, and public radio darling Chris Thile. 

Thile replaced Garrison Keillor and hosts the weekly variety show “Live from Here” on NPR. He’s a mandolin and ukulele virtuoso and a multiple Grammy winner.  His show will feature a showcasing of his musical talents.

“We really hoped that we would be able to make this happen. It’s quite something to have him,” Gertz said.

Ending the season with a splash is “Erth’s Prehistoric Aquarium Adventure” on Saturday, April 25, 2020 at the Stephen B. Humphrey Theater at SJU.  This is the first for the theater as dinosaurs will grace the stage in a prehistoric ocean.

“This project is amazing.  These are life sized, enormous puppets of dinosaurs that do not look like puppets, they look very real,” Gertz said. 

Gertz can’t wait to see people back in the lobbies for performances.  “I am beyond excited and proud to share this season with our community.”

A full listing of performances and ticketing is available here, or call the Benedicta Arts Center Box office at 320-363-5777.

For more information about the series, contact Katie Ruprecht-Wittrock or call 320-363-5921.