Holiday happenings, gifts and music 2021-22


Matthew Saldivar, (left), Lily Birkholz, and John Catron in rehearsal for
the Guthrie’s new adaptation of ‘A Christmas Carol’

The difference a pandemic makes

In contrast to last year, even though the pandemic is still very much in force, there are quite a lot of in-person events to attend to enjoy the holiday season this year – if you are so inclined, and if you are vaccinated. Because (to oversimplify) of those two “ifs,” there are also a number of virtual events still on the calendars, and probably that will continue to be the case. Also, online shopping in a big, big way is here to stay, for now if not “forever.” Note that most of the indoor, in-person events require proof of vaccination, sometimes with the option of a negative COVID test result, and all require or strongly recommend masks.
[Note – for readability, a lot of detail (times, complex schedules, etc.) is left out of these notices, and in most cases, the sponsoring organization website has the details you need if interested. Also, giving full URLs, especially in print, is not practical, so in most cases I only give the homepage URL in short form to get you started, then you may have to search. It’s a balancing act. If there is a Facebook event, I may give the full URL for that.]

Theater, puppetry, comedy

The Guthrie Theater announced a 2021-22 season back in the summer, and they are holding to it. Audience members must be masked and either vaccinated or provide proof of a negative COVID result in force on performance day. {I doubt that many will go that route.) The big – and I cannot stress this enough, BIG – news is that after a couple of decades, the signature Christmas-themed show, “A Christmas Carol,” has been updated by Lavina Jadhwani, and will be directed by the Guthrie’s artistic director Joseph Haj. Performances run from Nov. 10 to Dec. 27. Tickets at

Lavina Jadhwani

As well as “A Christmas Carol,” Twin Cities audiences missed the iconic show “Black Nativity” last year. It’s back now at the Penumbra Theatre. Penumbra has reopened for its 45th season this year and “Black Nativity,” written by Langston Hughes, directed by Lou Bellamy, and choreographed by Leslie Parker, will be showing Nov. 30 through Dec. 24. Penumbra also requires vaccination or a negative test, and masks for all patrons.
Penumbra’s executive director Sarah Bellamy is hosting a series of virtual discussions called “Let’s Talk.” There is one on Dec. 13 at 7 p.m. on climate justice. The next show in Penumbra Theatre’s season will be a new play, “Thurgood,” centered on the life and legacy of the late Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, in March. Tickets and more details found at
Open Eye Theatre has a couple of interesting events this winter. Dec. 9 through Dec. 21 will see a reprise of a popular solstice show from 2013. “The Longest Night” is co-presented by Bradley Greenwald and pianist Sonja Thompson.
“Celebrating and embracing winter, the holidays and “hell-i-days,” Seasonal Affective Disorder, friends, family, Christians, and Pagans, Greenwald brings light and levity as well as reflection and renewal to the season. Rodgers and Hart, Leonard Cohen, Purcell, J. S. Bach, Sting, Peter Mayer, Dar Williams, and more get their songs sung, with a little Margaret Atwood, Joseph Campbell, and Ogden Nash thrown in for good measure.”
Prior to that, in fact coming up soon with an opening day of Nov. 11, is a treat for those who have sorely missed In the Heart of the Beast (HOBT) in its long performance hiatus. Now a seasoned HOBT alumnus, Seth Eberle, will present a new puppetry work, “The Box King,” running from Nov. 11 to Nov. 14, with two shows on the 13th. Open Eye has the same COVID requirements as the above two theaters. (I’m going to stop saying this now. Just assume it applies everywhere.) For more details and online ticket sales, see
For some more lighthearted approaches to holiday entertainment, we found HUGE Improv (see, Stillwater’s Dark and Stormy Productions (see, and a one-off show at First Avenue. Starting with Dark and Stormy, there is “Jacuzzi,” described as: “A dark comedy for the holidays! The owners of a remote Colorado ski chalet arrive for vacation early to find a couple relaxing in their hot tub – they’re VRBO renters. Or are they the property caretakers? Nothing is what it seems …”
HUGE Improv presents shows in monthly series with audience participation, in the great tradition of comedy improvisation. Their Saturday night offering for the months of November and December is “Family Dinner,” where the audience provides each character with a secret to keep from the others as they experience a fraught family dinner get-together. It runs every Saturday except Christmas Day from Nov. 6 to Jan. 1, 2022.
And finally, produced by First Avenue in Minneapolis, but showing at the Fitzgerald Theater in St. Paul, on Dec. 8 only you can catch BenDeLaCreme and Jinkx Monsoon in “The Jinkx and DeLa Holiday Show.” “That’s right… After a year of doom, gloom, and zoom, the Queens of Christmas have risen from the rubble to unearth your favorite holiday tradition … taking the stage once again in a post-apocalypse-mas extravaganza certain to make this yuletide gayer than ever!”

Music and dance performances

Leading off with Nutcrackers, or just a very small sample of the dozen or so Nutcracker ballet options you can find, there will be a performance of “Loyce Houlton’s Nutcracker Fantasy” at the State Theatre in Minneapolis, presented by the Minnesota Dance Theatre, running from Dec. 12 to Dec.19. See for details and tickets. Another option, “The Nutcracker 2021,” is presented by the similarly named but different Minnesota Ballet Theatre and School at several venues, including at Eden Prairie Performing Arts Center, Dec. 17 – 19. There is a Facebook event for that with details and ticket sales:

‘Afterwardsness’ rehearsals

Well before Christmas inundates us in Nutcrackers, a rather more serious dance piece will be presented at Northrup Auditorium Nov. 10 – 14 (six shows) – Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Company’s “Afterwardsness.” (Tickets available at by phone at (612) 624-2345.) Here is a description of the show:
“Tony Award-winning choreographer, director, and dancer Bill T. Jones presents his hypnotic new work ‘Afterwardsness.’ Performed by Jones’ entire company for an audience of 180 situated on the Northrop stage, ‘Afterwardsness’ addresses the isolation and trauma of the twin pandemics of COVID-19 and ongoing violence against Black bodies. The poignancy of the movement is underpinned by a live musical landscape featuring a new vocal composition by Holland Andrews, a violin solo for George Floyd entitled ‘Homage’ by Pauline Kim Harris, as well as excerpts from Olivier Messaien’s harrowing war-time chamber composition ‘Quartet for the End of Time.’”

Trailer Trash’s ‘Trashy Little Xmas Show’

There are a huge number of music performances during December and beyond, but here is a small selection:
• Trailer Trash, “Trashy Little Xmas,” Parkway Theater (, Dec. 4.
• St. Lucia Celebration Concert, American Swedish Institute (, Dec. 12.
• “Joyful Echoes” with Kevin Kling and PaviElle French, Minnesota Orchestra at Orchestra Hall (, Dec. 16 – 19.
• Dan and Megan Rodriguez, “Merry Evening,” Parkway Theater, Dec. 18.
• Trans-Siberian Orchestra, “Christmas Eve and other stories,” Xcel Energy Center (, Dec. 27.

Festivals and food and drink events

Events at the American Swedish Institute

A new festival this year seeks to replicate the midsummer joy of the State Fair in the midwinter. GLOW at the Minnesota State Fairgrounds in St. Paul combines light shows, live music and wintry art installations with favorite State Fair food vendors, from Nov. 18 to Jan. 2, 2022. See the Facebook event for details.
Here are a few more in this category:
• Julbord Dinner (2), American Swedish Institute (, Dec. 18 (dinner) and Dec. 19 (lunch).
• Winter Solstice at the Castle, American Swedish Institute (, Dec. 21.
• Gingerbread Wonderland, Norway House (, Nov. 23 through Jan. 2, 2022.

Gifting ideas – online

Julie Ingebretsen at Ingebretsen’s

A lot of our favorite retailers of arts, crafts, books and specialty foods ramped up their online technology in response to the pandemic. It was a survival move then, but keeping it going after in-person shopping returns is just good business sense. Here are some suggestions:
• Flotsam + Fork – local, online only, purveyor of imported kitchen and home items from Europe and elsewhere.
• Moon Palace Books – local, books, new and used.
• Birchbark Books & Native Arts ( – local books and other items centering Native American writers and makers.
• The Book House in Dinkytown – local used and collectible books.
• Ingebretsen’s – local, Nordic arts, crafts, books, food, gifts.
• Equal Exchange – out-of-town, fair-trade food items.
• Northern Dyer ( – neighboring state online, kits and completed fabric items featuring homemade dyes plus grow-your-own-woad kits.

Gifting ideas – craft festivals and other in-person events

The number and variety of these events is still quite diminished from pre-pandemic levels. One large and notable new venue is the Minneapolis Holiday Boutique at the Convention Center, Dec. 10–12. (See A smaller but equally notable event is the Dec. 11 Handmade Holiday Market at Lakes and Legends Brewing. (Search for event.)

Miscellaneous winter activities

• The Pond Hockey tournament returns after a one-year hiatus. It will be at Lake Nokomis and takes place Jan. 21 – 30, 2022. See
• Theater Mu has an interesting event – “The Twentypho Hour Playfest” on Nov. 19 (ending on Nov. 20). This involves 30 Asian American artists from across the nation and six 10-minute plays to be written, rehearsed and performed virtually within a 24-hour period. Confused but intrigued? See
• The Holiday Music Festival returns to Mall of America after a one-year hiatus. Live music performances for free throughout the days from Nov. 29 to Dec. 26 will appear in the rotunda.
• The American Swedish Institute (ASI) has its annual Neighborhood Open House, when admission is free to all, on Dec. 30, from 5 p.m.
• The ASI is also presenting “Learn About the Hmong New Year” (partnering with the Hmong Museum) on Dec. 16. See for details.
• For a pretty good list of more things (not just in Bloomington) see:

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