Downtown art

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October 11, 2004 // UPDATED 4:17 pm - April 25, 2007
By: Anna Pratt
Anna Pratt

'Song of the North Star'

Singer/songwriter Warren Nelson says he's found "magic" in the diaries and photos left behind by Minnesota's pioneers. He says the word "magic" with special affectation, after a long pause in which you imagine him reverently removing his hat. You can almost see the yellowed writings he'd pored over like an offbeat history scholar as he speaks of his variety show, "Old Minnesota: Song of the North Star."

In fact, Nelson did spend a lot of time sifting through historical records. He was especially interested in the St. Anthony wilderness and the testimonies of 1800s travelers, he said, from his comfortable spot on Lake Superior where he was fishing before officially starting his day.

With gusto, Nelson broke out into song over the phone, and explained how the lyrics emerged from some of the settlers' words he'd discovered. He hummed a poetic verse from his song "Come to the River" and a silly ditty that went something like, "We know not the price of wheat, only thou knows what goes on in that elevator." Then he cracked jokes about how the Pillsbury shores of Minneapolis are "rolling in the dough."

Nelson rolls all of this research, these sentiments and stories from friends into what is now his 12th production that pays homage to a civic back-story. His homemade recipe is equal parts drama, musical and comedy. Expect a backdrop of historical images and a live orchestra -- and plenty of one-liners. When Nelson asked if he were babbling too much, out came a wheezy laugh followed by, "When ya' get into my car and turn the key, it says 'airbag.' That's what I do for a living."

Friday, Oct. 15, 8 p.m., State Theatre, 805 Hennepin Ave. S., $14.50-$24.50. 673-0404.

Be afraid, be very afraid

How does the presence of fear influence our lifestyles and spark our imaginations? This is the question Loft Literary Center's literary magazine "Speakeasy" sought to answer when they asked writers about what freaks them out, probing them about the correlation between anxiety and creative flow.

In honor of Oscar Wilde's 150th birthday, local writers and "Speakeasy" contributers Brad Zellar, Claude Peck and Barrie Jean Borich will discuss these questions and more in "Speak Out," the first "salon night" of The Wilde Roast Caf/. In turn, the caf/ will donate 10 percent of the night's earnings to the Loft in honor of the writing center's 30th anniversary.

Saturday, Oct. 16, 7 p.m., The Wilde Roast Caf/, 518 Hennepin Ave. E. Free. 331-4544.

Anna Pratt can be reached at