pick of the week



Through August 4




On the Edge of Your Seat. What a shame that a still-common English idiom is “dead as vaudeville.” But, then, the grand days of the vaudeville houses are long past, the houses themselves often abandoned nowadays (look at the Shubert theater in downtown Minneapolis as an example, sitting empty, mournfully piping out classical music while waiting for refurbishment money that will never come). Little remains of the great days of vaudeville. We can still see some of the acts, preserved on early television shows (Ed Sullivan, in particular, has a great fondness for the dog acts, aerialists, knockabout comics, and caped magicians that toured the vaudeville circuit.) We can also see many of the great early stars of vaudeville on film ñ a steady stream of great comic talents moved from the boards onto the silver screen, including the Marx Brothers, W.C. Fields and my personal favorite, Buster Keaton. And then there is the art of the vaudeville show: the playbills, the posters, press photographs, and even the work of fine artists such as Edward Hopper, who turned his weary eye to the popular theater more than a few times. Fortunately for us, the Weisman Museum has on hand a small but exquisite collection of all the above, collected for a show titled On the Edge of Your Seat. The collection is truly lovely, including ornate costuming, silver-tinted photographs of hundreds of straw hat-wearing patrons milling in the streets outside various theaters, and a small auditorium, designed to look like a movie house, playing such classics of the early era of silent film, such as The Great Train Robbery and Georges Melies still-astonishing A Trip to the Moon. Twin Citians, it must be noted, have never truly given up on vaudeville ñ we need only to look to the work of choreographer Shawn McConneloug (who will present a vaudeville-themed show at the Suburban World Theatre in May) or Melissa Birch (whose weekly Red Curtain Cabaret at the Bryant-Lake Bowl is as close as modern theater comes to classic vaudeville), which may explain why the phrase dead as vaudeville is rarely heard in this town. So get out your straw boater hats, start strumming your ukuleles and rehearsing your magic tricks, and teach your dog how to hop through hoops, because I feel a revival coming on. (Susan Miura) Free. The Frederick R. Weisman Art Museum, 333 East River Road (University of Minnesota), Mpls. (612) 625-9494.