Downtown Art

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October 18, 2004 // UPDATED 4:20 pm - April 25, 2007
By: Anna Pratt
Anna Pratt

A talk with Jesus

This present-day version of Andrew Lloyd Weber's infamous rock opera, "Jesus Christ Superstar" is sandal-free. Apostles look a bit like extras randomly picked off the street; meanwhile, priests resemble "The Matrix" stars with futuristic makeup and dramatic capes.

Furthermore, Jesus' beginning outfit includes cargo pants, a white linen shirt and combat boots -- a combination that Eric Kunze ("Jesus"), described as "very Banana Republic."

Later Kunze/Jesus emerges in the traditional Biblical fashion, but there are still many other contemporary elements such as the temple (a stock market) that lend a modern, urban feel to this production.

Controversial when it opened in 1971, the musical still upsets some who take issue with the dramatized summary of Jesus of Nazareth's final seven days. Picketers occasionally prop themselves outside the show. Kunze said they often bear signs that read, "Hear the real story."

Kunze said performers usually interview such disgruntled individuals about what aspect of the production offends them, "But, inevitably, they've never seen the show," he added.

Over the years, Kunze has spent a lot of time chatting with protesters -- this is his fourth "Jesus" gig.

The veteran on-stage savior is a consummate pro. He said he doesn't perform any religious or strange rituals to help him step into the iconic role. "It's a job. The main thing is you have to take care of yourself," he said.

The job requires a good deal of fitness -- physical (Jesus has to be trim) and vocal. "You really have to work on your stamina. I hadn't been singing rock operas consistently and it's like muscle. If you stop using it you have to rebuild your stamina," Kunze said.

To keep up his energy, he works out in gyms near the theaters throughout the multi-city, 20-plus-week tour. To preserve his mental fitness, he takes breaks to attend movies at nearby cinemas.

"Performing really takes a lot out of you," he said.

Especially when you're Jesus Christ Superstar.

Oct. 19-24, Tuesday-Thursday 7:30 p.m., Friday 8 p.m., Saturday 2 and 8 p.m., Sunday 1 and 6:30 p.m. Orpheum Theatre, 910 Hennepin Ave. S. $20-$68. 673-0404.

Outside the lines

Conventional wisdom teaches kindergarteners to "stay in the lines" of their coloring book page. It's meant to develop hand-eye coordination, as well as convey a taste for tidiness.

But where does this lesson place the kids who stray outside the lines?

There are always irreverent youngsters who favor messy squiggles. What do their meandering scratches say about them? Are these deviant young artists just unwilling to follow directions? Is this disparity a physical, mental or social problem? Or is it possible that some kids actually admire the aesthetic of jumbled marks more than the orderly ones?

When these scribblers grow up, do they become the "outsiders"? Eschewing art school for alternative means of "training"?

The Warehouse District's Interact Center for the Performing Arts will pose such questions in a panel discussion, "Quality Outside the Lines: Creativity and Standards in Nontraditional Arts Instruction," as part of their ongoing series about outsiders.

Panelists will examine philosophies and techniques surrounding off-the-beaten-track art instruction for adults, a.k.a. "self-taught" or "Outsider" art. While contemplating alternative training, they pose questions about how to evaluate standards (how do you define "success"?), creative influence/control and the validity of expression over technique.

Additionally, arts organizers will talk about their work that involves artists with disabilities and/or mental illness. The conversation runs parallel to the gallery's "After Hours" exhibit of works by Interact visual arts instructors at the center's gallery.

Panel Discussions: Thursday, Oct. 21, 6:30 p.m. Exhibit: Monday-Saturday thru Oct. 22, noon-4 p.m. Interact Center, 212 3rd Ave. N., Ste. 140. Free. 339-5145, Ext. 13.

Anna Pratt can be reached at