Today’s A&E roundup


A new film series by the Duluth Superior Film Festival gives familiar-faced locals a chance to present  a secret movie (preferably critically panned and personally beloved) to an unsuspecting audience. The Defenders series plays monthly at Zinema 2. The first defender is Mayor Don Ness.

I wrote a column about “Fifty Shades of Grey,” like everyone else on Earth. My take: This thing is a big old inside-joke for everyone who read the novels.

Best Bets include: an operetta, the DSSO, a couple of CD releases at Beaner’s Central and more.

Tony Bennett reviewed “Pandemonium” by Moors and McCumber.

Today’s A&E, etc., reads

A bunch of locals with movie smarts weighed in on this year’s Oscar picks. Local filmmaker Lance Karasti likes “Whiplash,” film aficionado Lawrence Lee likes “Birdman,” Valerie Coit, a co-founder of the Free Range Film Festival likes “Boyhood.”

The founder of the annual Tattoo You event was having a good day on Wednesday, which included securing tickets to see Rush in May. A few hours later he learned that his house was on fire. Dave Nelson talked to the News Tribune about the fire that has him living in a local motel with just a car, a few mementos and the clothes he’s wearing.

Goodbye, Lionel. A local FM Hot Adult Contemporary station is switching to sports radio.

And just for fun:

Sam Cook investigates today’s haps.

Encyclopedia Brown and the case of the missing crib-part.

Today’s A&E roundup


Front and center of this week’s A&E section is KUMD music director Christine Dean’s contribution to the “Homegrown Rawk and/or Roll” collection. Her approach to the compilation, created annually by high-profile music heads: A chronological trip through Duluth’s music scene.

Also in the A&E section:

Music reviewer Tony Bennett calls Hans Peterson’s “Every Breath I Sing”
“… as gentle and pleasant as an afternoon shopping for cardigans with Fred Rogers.”

Best Bets include: Trampled By Turtles, Black Violin, a coupla art openings, folk-n-roll at The Red Herring Lounge, Daniel Durant at CSS and a short shorts film fest.

I wrote a column about how maybe I’m not exactly who I remember myself being in high school. Case in point: The discovery of a stash of old mix tapes.

Today’s A&E roundup

Beth Olson helps Reinhard von Rabenau with a flip during their performance of a jitterbug during the ninth annual Celebrity Dance Challenge on Thursday evening at Marshall School. They won both the Judge’s Choice and the People’s Choice awards. (Steve Kuchera /

Beth Olson and Reinhard von Rabenau won both Judge’s Choice and People’s Choice at the Minnesota Ballet’s Celebrity Dance Challenge on Thursday. Here’s all the color from the annual event.

John Lundy has a story about Ryan Lane, a musician who is releasing his debut CD today — then taking off for Madagascar, where he will spend 27 months with the Peace Corps.

Duluth East grad Karl Doty is up for a Grammy Award. Here’s his story.

Theater reviewer Lawrance Bernabo won’t tell you why you should see Renegade Theater Company’s production of “Murder Ballad” — but he promises audience chatter after the show.

Reviewer Paul Brissett called UMD’s production of the family-friendly “Go, Dog. Go!” “… a riot of color, movement, sight gags and silliness that had the audience giggling from the get-go …”

Features editor Melinda Lavine reviewed “Horns” in her weekly IndieWatch column.

And here’s a story about the Packingham family, which found the perfect recipe for hot cocoa and then started a small business around it.

Today’s A&E section

Elyse Snider, a choreographer who lives in Ashland (right), talks with her 4-year-old son Shepard while watching Reinhard von Rabenau and Beth Olson rehearse the jitterbug last week, which they will perform at the Minnesota Ballet’s Celebrity Dance Challenge tonight in Fregeau Auditorium at Duluth’s Marshall School. Also watching are Maeggie Licht-Benning with Snider’s sons Seamus and Sullivan. (Clint Austin /

This week’s A&E section includes a feature on Ashland-based choreographer Elyse Snider, who has visions of dancers dancing in her head. Her work can be seen during the Minnesota Ballet’s Celebrity Dance Challenge today at Marshall School.

Tony Bennett reviewed the new buzzed-about Sleater-Kinney album.

Best Bets include: Peter Mayer, “Murder Ballad” at Renegade, Eric Paslay and more.

I wrote a column about this invisible hole in our house.

Flashback: The ‘Odd’ edition, 2014

Jody Kujawa (left), who played Oscar and Felix in “The Odd Couple” and Jason Skorich, who also played Oscar and Felix, rehearsed scenes from the play at the Duluth Playhouse in this 2014 photo. On this particular night Kujawa played Oscar and Skorich played Felix. 2014 file/ News Tribune

It’s been about a year since Jody Kujawa and Jason Skorich performed the ultimate “Odd Couple” challenge: The local actors switched between playing Felix and Oscar on alternating nights.

Here’s an A&E Flashback — The story that ran Jan. 28, 2014:

Oscar Madison is a mess. He’s a recently divorced sportswriter. His hair stands on end, his shirts are stained, his stuff is scattered everywhere.
If you think he annoyed his ex-wife, you should see what his neatnik roommate, Felix Ungar, thinks about him.
Oscar might be Felix’s nightmare, but he’s been a dream role for local comedic actor Jody Kujawa.
“I’ve always wanted to play Oscar,” he said. “It’s the perfect role. It’s a slob role. It’s the guy that
doesn’t care, the kind of guy that’s rebelling against his life.”
Finally, Kujawa landed the role – with a twist.
In the Duluth Playhouse’s upcoming production of “The Odd Couple,” the two lead actors will switch roles on alternating nights. Kujawa will open the show as Oscar and the next night he will be Felix. Same goes for Jason Scorich, who plays opposite.
“The Odd Couple” is Neil Simon’s story of freshly divorced poker pals who come to be roommates. One exists in a laidback haze of cigar smoke and snack packages; the other is a compulsively organized foil.
The tribulations of Oscar and Felix have played out on Broadway, with Walter Matthau as Oscar and Art Carney as Felix, in film with Matthau and Jack Lemmon, and on TV with Jack Klugman and Tony Randall.
The switcheroo was director Julie Ahasay’s idea, and the actors knew the plan going into auditions.
“Most everybody I know has some Oscar and some Felix,” she said. “I thought it would be an interesting challenge to play with that a bit.
“In some ways, Jody is a more obvious choice for Oscar and Jason is a more obvious choice for Felix; it’s fascinating to see that turned on its head.”
It’s the challenge that further piqued the actors’ interests.
“It’s a seemingly impossible thing to do,” Kujawa said. “It’s flattering that you would think I have the ability to pull that sort of thing off.”
It’s a unique situation, Scorich said, and he welcomed the chance to stretch himself as an actor.
“I couldn’t think of something that would be much more of a challenge than playing both parts,” he said.
Both actors opted to learn both roles simultaneously.
Kujawa took it page by page, investing hours of work only to find he had committed only five pages to memory.
Scorich’s method included reading and re-reading, first as one character, then as the other. He recorded Oscar’s lines and left blank air so he could respond as Felix. Then he recorded Felix, leaving room for Oscar’s lines.
“I really tried to memorize it in as many ways as I could,” he said.
Until recently, the actors have had the option of nixing the plan. If it got to be too much, they could go back to just playing a single role.
“I wanted them to start working on stuff and see how they felt about it,” Ahasay said. “It’s one thing when it’s an idea. But you have to actually start doing the work it takes to make it happen.”
Kujawa said he and Scorich believed they could pull it off. And once word spread through the local theater scene, there was no turning back.
“I was like, if you’re going to commit to something that arrogant, you have to do it,” Kujawa said. “(Although) I don’t know that it was arrogant because there was sheer terror. When people question me about it, I say Sometimes your vanity gets the best of you. You deserve what you get and you reap what you sow.’ ”
It’s not uncommon for theater sorts to take a show and give it an extreme twist. The leads in Sam Shepard’s “True West” have switched roles. Last year, the University of Minnesota Duluth’s theater department produced an all-female production of Shakespeare’s “Coriolano” – and renamed it “Coriolana.”
In 2004, Entertainment Weekly magazine reported a rumor that a Broadway revival of “The Odd Couple” would sometimes feature Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick in their opposite roles. And later this year, Skyway Playhouse in Camarillo, Calif., will attempt the same feat. The community theater is taking it seriously.
“This is not up for debate or discussion,” it says on the Skyway Playhouse’s website. “It’s a vital component of this particular vision. If you don’t feel you can accomplish this, do not audition for those roles.”
The night-to-night performances will not be mirrors of each other. Kujawa and Scorich have taken ownership of the separate roles and Ahasay has left room for a little spontaneity.
Kujawa and Scorich have been meeting up at least an hour before rehearsals to get into character and run lines.
Scorich said when he’s Oscar, he’s Oscar.
“If I’m playing Felix, the Oscar lines will fall out of my head,” he said.
Kujawa said he has been surprised to find that he prefers playing Felix.
“Which is weird because I went in with Oscar as my dream role,” he said. “I think it’s because it was so out of the box I had to work harder and think about it harder.”

Today’s A&E (and eat) reads

Duluth native Matthew Johnson (left) and Cullen Folks check out which PepsiCo ingredients they get to work with in the semi-final round of Game Day Grub Match, a Super Bowl-themed cooking competition. The duo advanced to the finals with a Pepsi-marinated chicken and Sierra Mist-flavored slaw. They will serve the dishes to chefs and NFL players on Saturday in Arizona. (Photo courtesy of Getty Images / PepsiCo)

A Denfeld graduate has cooked his way to the Super Bowl. Matthew Johnson and his co-chef Cullen Folks will prepare dishes using PepsiCo. ingredients for professional chefs and NFL players on Saturday in Arizona.

Mike Creger surveyed locals in the ad business to talk about favorite Super Bowl commercials. Animals and high-emotions rate high.

Features editor Melinda Lavine gives “Frank” an A- and says its worth “a buncha watches” in her IndieWatch column.

Lawrance Bernabo reviewed Thursday’s opening of “The Turn of the Screw” at The Underground and predicted that audiences will be moved.


Today’s A&E roundup

Submitted photo

This week’s A&E section features a story about Doomtree, a wicked storm, a new album and a show today at Grandma’s Sports Garden.

Meanwhile, Tony B. reviewed Doomtree’s new album “All Hands.”

Best Bets include “The Turn of the Screw,” a Winter Dance Party revisited, a DSSO concert, a pre-Homegrown Homegrown-ish night of music and more.

I wrote a column about the finale of “Parenthood.”

Weekend A&E roundup

t01.14.2015 — Steve Kuchera — kucheraSHOEMAKER0125c1 — Candace LaCosse sows a quarter for a pair of shoes she is making. The Duluth woman fell in love with shoemaking while interning at the North House Folk School in GrandMarais. She sells her handmade shoes via her website and at craft shows. Steve Kuchera /

Sunday’s Pursuits section featured Candace LaCosse, who was led to shoe-making through a series of moves that included fashion journalism, teaching English in Korea and an internship at North House Folk School.

Cheech & Chong and War performed Friday at Symphony Hall. Here’s Tony Bennett’s review.

Flashback: The Gallagher edition, 2010

The comedian Gallagher performs at Grandma’s Sports Garden in Duluth Thursday evening. (Clint Austin /

It’s been just more than five years since Gallagher performed at Grandma’s Sports Garden. It was a strange night that ended abruptly — right after so many melons were smashed.

Here’s and A&E Flashback — the review that ran Jan. 15, 2010:

Gallagher ripped off his striped sweater, chunks hanging in his wild, frizzy skullet.
He grabbed a makeshift version of his infamous “Sledge-O-Matic” and walloped a quartered section of watermelon, sending a pinkish spray much farther than the dozen or so audience volunteers managed to do.
This was the height of the longtime comedian’s show: The Escape Club’s “Wild, Wild, West” playing on the sound system at Grandma’s Sports Garden, the garbage bag-clad die-hards in the front rows – one even with a mini SpongeBob Square Pants umbrella  – in a shower they had waited all night, if not since the mid-1980s, to see.
Gallagher let a few more civilians test the giant wooden hammer. His last volunteer grabbed his face and kissed him, and the comedian raised his hands in the air, jumped off the stage and was out the door.
Gallagher performed for more than 300 fans – not to mention a few bearing an uncanny likeness to him – on Thursday night in Canal Park. The show ran about an hour and 45 minutes and was a mix of Duluth-specific humor, some tired bits of pedestrian sitcom fare where men like tools and hate toilet seat decorations, and women are shrew-like fun suckers, and some audience-participation that ended with six women wearing boxer briefs as a sort of sports bra.
Gallaghe was at his most-famous in the mid-1980s as a fruit-smashing, striped shirt wearing prop comic who was all the rage on cable. He was an innovator who integrated titanic trampoline couches into his routine, and cruised around on an oversized Big Wheel.
The Los Angeles-based comedian said earlier this week that he is funnier now, at age 63, than he was back when he was famous.
On Thursday night, Gallagher was at his best when he spoke directly to the crowd. Targets included the restaurant’s staff, a woman with tattoos, the first heckler who yelled something indiscernible about six minutes into the show. Gallagher studied the Sports Garden’s decor, the boats hanging from the ceiling, and the hockey game playing on a screen in the back of the room.
“This show will start in a little while,” he said. “I have to see what I’m dealing with. This isn’t Minneapolis,” he said.
He kept things current with a Tiger Woods joke; then he took a way-back machine to Dinah Shore.
He did a steady stream of lesbian jokes, finishing each by calling out “Is that over the line?” To which the audience would respond “Nooooo!”
Either the attention span of the locals is 56 minutes, or the comedian lost control soon after a joke about Haiti. (Gallagher has never claimed to be politically correct.) There was an underlying buzz of chatter throughout the Sports Garden that seemed to throw him off. He took it out on SpongeBob in the front row.
“You want my audience?” Gallagher asked. “I’ve worked my whole life for them. Shut up.”
Gallagher segued into a bit on how people don’t know how to act in public, then added:
“It’s been an hour, and this place hasn’t settled down yet. I’m not a rock band. I’m a living legend.”
He went on to tell the crowd that he paved the way for the splash rides at amusement parks, Blue Man Group, Insane Clown Posse and Shamu.
“Shamu never splashed anyone until I did,” he said.
All was forgiven when the smashing started. Gallagher let volunteers stream onto the stage, taught them the art of sledging, then kept a steady supply of fruit teed up – twice grabbing hold of the hammer-like object and doing what he does best. The important thing is that this writer left with watermelon in her hair.