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6 Must-See Theater Productions This Spring

Shakespeare (not in the park), a women’s basketball team, and a world-premiere about The Kim Loo Sisters make our list.

Clockwise: The Kim Loo Sisters, ‘Feast,’ ‘Flex,’ and the History Plays at the Guthrie

Spring has sprung and so have new theater productions. Here are a few performances happening now and coming up that should be on your radar.

'Feast'Walking Shadow Theatre Company

Feast, Walking Shadow Theatre Company 

Walking Shadow Theatre Company specializes in immersive, site-specific productions: Last year’s Red Speedo, for example, was performed at Hamline University’s swimming pool. And once again this year, they're presenting a version of Beowulf unlike any other. Feast, at Black Forest Inn, is a lavish one-person play told from the perspective of Grendel's mother (Isabel Nelson), who grieves for her monster son after he is slain by Beowulf. Last year, this show sold out. This spring, Nelson is back, offering another chance to dine with her (when purchasing tickets, you can opt for a meal curated by Black Forest). If you’re hungry for more, John Heimbech, Walking Shadow’s artistic director, performs a one-man show of Beowulf on select Saturdays. Through March 30; find tickets here.

The Most Spectacularly Lamentable Trial of Miz Martha Washington, Mixed Blood Theatre

This work follows America’s first First Lady Martha Washington as she's cared for on her deathbed by slaves who know they’ll be free when she dies. Inspired by Jordan Peele’s horror films and A Christmas Carol, Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright James Ijames intended Miz Martha to be an over-the-top piece of theater, including a memorable scene that combines a slave auction and a game show. Debuting a few years ago in Philadelphia and following a successful run at Steppenwolf Theatre in Chicago, Washington had its regional premiere at Mixed Blood this month—one of the first shows since Mark Valdez took over from founding Artistic Director Jack Reuler. One tradition that carried over with the change of leadership is the Radical Hospitality program. You can sign up for a guaranteed seat via donation, or head to the space for free first-come, first served seating. Through March 31; find tickets here.

Guthrie promo

The History Plays, Guthrie Theater 

The Guthrie is taking on an ambitious project this spring, putting on three different Shakespeare history plays. Featuring one cast and (mostly) the same scenic foundation between productions, the Guthrie is swapping between Richard II, Henry IV, and Henry V—works that chart the rise and fall of the late 14th Century English monarchies and their key power players. This is a passion project that has been a long time coming: Artistic Director Joseph Haj had initially intended for the series to be part of the 2021 season, but it was canceled during the pandemic. Interestingly, this is the Guthrie’s first time revisiting a repertory-style schedule since the 1990s (the iconic theater was actually founded on this model in 1963); Haj says he has been waiting for the right opportunity to bring it back. You can see the plays in any order, take in one, or go all-in at one of the two “marathon” Saturdays where all three will be performed in one day. March 23 through May 25; find tickets and more info here

Flex, Penumbra Theatre

After a critically acclaimed premiere at Lincoln Center last summer Flex, by Minneapolis based playwright Candrice Jones, is onstage in Minnesota. Adding to the canon of contemporary plays about teen sports, Flex is inspired by true events of an all-women high school basketball team in Arkansas. Jones wrote this show from a place of love for her experience growing up playing basketball in the South. Showing sports on a theater stage can be a challenge, but here the routines they practice are translated into choreography and a hard-won two-pointer basket is as impressive as a multi-part musical number. While Flex follows the traditional sports coming-of-age arc of a team working towards a big championship game, the characters also grapple with sexuality, abortion, and, ultimately, what their futures will look like on and off the court. Tiffany Nichole Greene, resident director of Hamilton on Broadway, comes to town to direct. April 23 through May 19; find info and tickets here.

Spitfire Grill, Ten Thousand Things

This 2001 off-Broadway musical paved the way for bigger folk-based movie musicals like Waitress and Once. Adapted from the film of the same name, The Spitfire Grill follows a woman trying to get her life in order in small-town Wisconsin after a stint in prison. Now Ten Thousand Things gives their take on the piece. TTT is known for their unique production style, leaving the house lights on, having cast members play multiple roles, and often seating small audiences close to (or literally on) the stage. They’re also a theater on the go, with stops at Ramsey County Correctional Facility and St. Peter Regional Treatment Center, plus public shows at the Jungle Theatre and area churches. Added bonus: There are many chances to see this production for free, too. April 25 through June 8; find more info here. 

'Blended 和 (Harmony)' Theatre Mu

Blended 和 (Harmony), Theatre Mu

The Kim Loo Sisters were a trailblazing musical group from Minneapolis. The family of singers began performing American jazz standards at children’s venues in the 1920s and by the 1940s they were on Broadway and in Hollywood working with artists like Frank Sinatra and The Three Stooges. At the time they were known as "The Chinese Andrews Sisters,” but their legacy has mostly been forgotten today. With funding from the Jerome foundation, Jessica Huang has turned their story into a musical with composer Jacinth Greywood. (Loo family member Leslie Li, maker of the Kim Loo Sisters documentary, also worked on the piece.) “One of the things I want to explore [in this piece] is why more people don't know about these women,” Huang recently told BroadwayWorld.com. Lily Tung Crystal, Theatre Mu artistic director, will direct this world premiere production performed on History Theatre’s stage. May 4-26; get tickets here.

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