Downtown Art

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April 19, 2004 // UPDATED 1:17 pm - April 25, 2007
By: Anna Pratt
Anna Pratt

'Reel to Real: 25 Years of Celebrity Interviews'

David Fantle and Tom Johnson put on pressed suits to meet the aging glitterati of Hollywood's Golden Age.

Young Fantle and Johnson were just out of high school when Gene Kelley, Henry Fonda and other big stars began replying to their requests for interviews with handwritten "yeses." Fantl saved the now-heirloom-notes and recalls them fondly, including Fonda's gentle rejection: he wasn't available as he was too deeply steeped in some golden pond.)

But in 1978, Gene Kelley, Fred Astaire and George Burns welcomed the hopeful St. Paul-ite film buffs to Los Angeles. These legends were "in the twilight of their careers," Fantle said, on the phone from Milwaukee. "They were flattered that young people were interested. They weren't trying to sell themselves. The interviews were a retrospective thing."

The result of Fantle-Johnson's encounters is a book that shrink-wraps the 20th- century history of filmmaking: "Reel to Real: 25 Years of Celebrity Interviews." It features Who's Who who've won 40 Academy Awards collectively and numerous Oscars. This, the Turner Classic Movies "pick" of the month, doesn't gossip about the stars; rather, it reflects a respectful collection of 2000-word snapshots from the unique perspective of enterprising journalist-teens/adults paying homage to an ex-Hollywood.

One of the volume's essays, "The Great Minneapolis Kidnap Caper" is about an impromptu tour led by Fantle-Johnson -- when they showed an 83-year-old named Frank Capra around the Twin Cities. The gray-haired director/producer had never seen the Mississippi River. The unlikely trio had a blast -- this after the boys staked out Capra's hotel and "nabbed" him.

Fantle-Johnson's conversation with icons began with "Films on Wheels," wherein they transported 16 mm films to and from elderlycare facilities. While seniors enjoyed screenings of old favorites, Fantle and Johnson became well versed with Hollywood history and earned a reputation. Local newspapers covered their showings, which aided the boys' "Variety"/"Vanity"-esque cause. In queries to their idols, "We included these clips and leveraged our youth in this philanthropic endeavor," said Fantle.

During their college years, Fantle-Johnson enjoyed exclusive interviews that they published in the University of Minnesota student newspaper, The Minnesota Daily. They prided themselves on giving fading names a fresh audience. A decade after graduating, the two revived their celebrity shtick in niche magazine columns.

Now, 60 of their best yarns are bound together. Fantle and Johnson give us droplets of their Hollywood insights with a wink and a smile at the Block E Borders -- just their second reading together.

Saturday, April 24, 1 p.m. Block E Borders, 600 Hennepin Ave. S. Free. 339-4859.

'Oil on Canvas'

Paris, early 1900s: toxic and fascinating Bohemian vices -- alcohol, hash and poverty -- mingle with love, passion and poetry. Feverish art emerges from this French jungle, dangerously experimental and striking worldly epiphanies that still drive creative works today, such as 15Head theatre lab's "Oil on Canvas."

This main-stage remount of a 2003 Fringe Festival workshop piece is all about painter Amedeo Modigliani's fateful handling of the brush and his health.

Modigliani enjoyed countless affairs with his nude models; police banned his scandalous renderings of these bare ladies. Alcohol and drugs catalyzed ill-fated problems with tuberculosis. And after he was found dead, Modigliani's wife jumped out a window. Not exactly a fairy tale ending for a once-hopeful art student and an endlessly romanticized lifestyle.

Modigliani, who only did one solo show in his lifetime, managed to fulfill art history's missing link: his work provides an aesthetic bridge between the absinthe accents of Toulouse-Lautrec and the 1920s Art Deco-rators. Though Modigliani used color like his fellow impressionists, surrealists and cubists (many of whom holed up in the same neighborhood) his elongated necks and off-kilter eyes showed then (and still do) a compelling vision that departed from the status quo.

Wednesday-Saturday, April 22-May 15, 8 p.m. The Red Eye, 15 W. 14th St. $14-$19. 377-1200 or

Call for light-rail shorts

Just how nice is "Minnesota nice"? Do you have anything to say about the customary niceties that make us "good neighbors"? And, by the way, how's the weather?

Once the train is up and running, 14 of the new Hiawatha Light Rail stops will feature kiosks continuously playing videos related to, you betcha', the weather and/or Minnesota Nice.

Up to 100 Minnesota artists will be commissioned for the project. According to contest guidelines, entries should be "witty, gutsy, edgy, informative, surprising, whimsical or amusing." Up to $500 honorarium per person or group is available.

Entries were originally due March 1, but the deadline has been extended to May 31. For more information, e-mail

Anna Pratt can be reached at

Anna's Picks

'Living Out'

Two Los Angeles families serve as a microcosm of ethnic splinters, class inequities, sexism and other stereotypes in the serious-yet-humorous play, "Living Out."

Attorney Nancy Robin hires an El Salvadoran immigrant, Ana Hernandez to nanny her newborn. Despite cultural disparities, the women find themselves in similar circumstances: they give their employers the same excuses, they carry on verbatim conversations with their respective husbands (neither of whom wants her to work) and each is raising an infant (although Robin doesn't know Hernandez has a baby of her own). Additionally, although both families are earnest, both have preconceived notions of the other's cultural values.

Despite the seriousness of these very real issues, this is a comedy of errors. Don't miss Sally Wingert as this funny, misunderstood and torn wife/mother/employee.

April 16-May 15, Thursday-Friday 8 p.m., Saturday 7 p.m. Mixed Blood Theatre, 1501 S. 4th St. $10-$22. 338-6131.

'Get Happy (The Judy Garland Project)'

Back by popular demand, Danny Buraczeski's Jazzdance company performs the public memory of Judy Garland, "Get Happy (The Judy Garland Project)."

Jazzdance pays tribute to Garland's still-household name in two acts. In Act I, Buraczeski's reminiscent moves speak to Garland's extraordinary artistry, both in concert and on the silver screen. He looks at her relationship to her audience, her personal life and her drive.

Act II cha'cha's how well-being and peril, fantasy and truth, loneliness and acceptance are complicated and sometimes blurred. Although Garland's iconic smile and cheerful tunes were also the expression of someone deeply troubled; the Entertainer always put her audience first. And Snappy Buraczeski urges you to "get happy" in this biographical boogie.

Thru April 25, Thursday-Saturday 8 p.m., Sunday 2 p.m.Southern Theater, 1420 Washington Ave. S.$18-$22. 340-1725.