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Book Launch Celebration & HowlRound LiveStream Tonight for “All the Lights On: Reimagining Theater with Ten Thousand Things”

Posted byAlison Aten on 09 Mar 2015 | Tagged as: Arts, Authors, Event, Videos

“This book tells the story of one of the most vital and important theater companies of our time.”
Oskar Eustis, The Public Theater

Join us tonight for the Book Launch Celebration at Open Book in Minneapolis for:

All the Lights On: Reimagining Theater with Ten Thousand Things by Michelle Hensley

Monday, March 9, 2015
Open Book: 1011 Washington Ave. S., Minneapolis
Doors open at 6:30 pm, short program begins at 7:00 pm, followed by book signing

Also available via HowlRoundTV today at 5pm Pacific / 8pm Eastern via http://livestream.com/newplay

All the Lights On Michelle Hensley

“Ten Thousand Things brings the best possible theater, plays of Shakespeare and Aeschylus and Beckett, to audiences who have seen little of it before, those in prisons and shelters and adult education centers and rural towns and housing projects and Indian reservations and chemical dependency treatment centers, as well as to enthusiastic veteran theatergoers in consistently sold-out performances for the general public, all performed in large bare rooms, with no stage, just right on the floor inside a small circle of folding chairs, with all the fluorescent lights in the room turned on. Our budget is modest, we don’t need our own building, our set supply budget is little more than that of our very first show, but we pay our highly skilled artists on a par with the largest theater companies in town. We have even become Johnny Appleseeds of a sort, taking this unique model to other theaters around the country who are also eager to find ways to reach outside their buildings with excellent work. And all along this journey, the honest, openhearted encounters of our first-time audiences with our first-rate artists have led us to make wonderful discoveries about theater—pinpointing just what makes it thrive and flourish.” Michelle Hensley, from All the Lights On

Minnesota’s Own: Preserving Our Grand Homes

Posted byAlison Aten on 29 Oct 2014 | Tagged as: Event, Videos

In this video, architectural historian and award-winning author Larry Millett and photographer Matt Schmitt walk us through the Lawrence S. Donaldson house in Minneapolis, one of the twenty-two homes profiled in their new book, Minnesota’s Own: Preserving Our Grand Homes. The home was the recipient of a 2014 Minnesota Preservation Award.

Join us for the book launch celebration at the American Swedish Institute next Wednesday, November 5, at 6:30 pm. The event is free and open to the public, but reservations are recommended.

Also of interest: Historic Preservation Tour at the American Swedish Institute with architect Laura Faucher. This special tour begins at 5:00 pm, before the Minnesota’s Own book launch. The tour is $10 for ASI and MNHS members/$12 for nonmembers. Registration is required and space is limited.

Stolen from the Garden: The Kidnapping of Virginia Piper

Posted byAlison Aten on 23 Oct 2014 | Tagged as: Book Excerpt, True Crime, Uncategorized, Videos

On a July afternoon in 1972, two masked men waving guns abducted forty-nine-year-old Virginia Piper from the garden of her lakeside home in Orono, Minnesota. After her husband, a prominent investment banker, paid a $1 million ransom, an anonymous caller directed the FBI to a thickly wooded section of a northern Minnesota state park. There, two days after her nightmare began, Ginny Piper––chained to a tree, filthy and exhausted, but physically unharmed––awaited her rescuers.

Stolen from the Garden: The Kidnapping of Virginia Piper by William Swanson recounts the inside story of the shocking Piper kidnapping: from the abduction and recovery, through the grueling investigation and trials, and into the Pipers’ haunted final years.

Below is a clip from the press conference with Virginia Piper on July 30, 1972, just a day after her rescue. However, this is only the beginning of the story. As Swanson writes:

“But whatever the intentions of their preemptive statements, the Pipers’ nightmare is not over, nor does the story belong to them. The case is now a million-dollar whodunit driven by the US Attorney in Minneapolis and FBI personnel here and in Washington. The black-and-white patrol cars stationed at the bottom of their driveway will be gone in a few days, when the family is no longer deemed in imminent danger, but the lives of the Pipers and many of their friends, neighbors, and associates, not to mention innumerable strangers who may or, more likely, may not have had anything to do with the case, will be changed forever.”

For author events and more information, please click on the title’s hyperlink, above.

Minnesota in the ’70s Documentary Nominated for an Upper Midwest Emmy®!

Posted byAlison Aten on 19 Aug 2014 | Tagged as: Arts, Awards, History, Videos


Minnesota in the ’70s, our documentary co-produced with Twin Cities Public Television’s Minnesota Productions & Partnerships (tptMN),  is nominated for a 2014 Upper Midwest Emmy® Award by the Upper Midwest Chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences in the Historic/Cultural/Nostalgic category!

More about the project:

The 1970s were more than big hair, mirror balls, and leisure suits. These were the years that bridged the chasm between the anti-establishment tumult of the 1960s and the morning-in-America conservatism of the 1980s. In Minnesota, this evolution unfolded in ways that defied expectations. No longer was Minnesota merely a vague, snow-covered outpost in the American consciousness. It was a place of note and consequence—a state of presidential candidates, grassroots activism, civic engagement, environmental awareness, and Mary Tyler Moore. Its governor appeared on the cover of Time magazine. Its city skylines shot up with uncharacteristic immodesty. Its farmers enjoyed some of their best years ever. Minnesota forged an identity during the 1970s that would persist, rightly or wrongly, for decades to come.

This is the second nomination for an MNHS Press/tptMN co-production. Last year, our Asian Flavors documentary won an Upper Midwest Emmy® in the Cultural category!

Great Partnerships: MNHS and tpt!

Posted byAlison Aten on 15 Nov 2013 | Tagged as: Asian American, Civil War, History, Immigration, Videos

Starting at 7 pm this Sunday,  November 19th on tpt’s Minnesota Channel,
a night of great programming featuring MNHS co-productions with tpt!

tpt logo MNHS

7:00 pm Broadcast premiere of Minnesota in the ’70s

7:30 pm Special rebroadcast of Emmy-winning film, Asian Flavors

8:00 pm Broadcast premier of Minnesota & the Civil War Showcase

Where to Watch tpt MN:
Over the Air-Channel 2-2
Comcast-Channel 202 (Mpls)/Channel 243 (St. Paul)
Mediacom- Channel 102
Midcontinent Comm- Channel 15
DirectTV-Channel 17-2

Asian Flavors Documentary

Posted byAlison Aten on 13 May 2013 | Tagged as: Asian American, Cooking, History, Immigration, Videos

Asian Flavors Asian Flavors

Food, tradition, and culture make a home. Inspired by the book Asian Flavors: Changing the Tastes of Minnesota since 1875 by Phyllis Louise Harris with Raghavan Iyer, a new thirty minute documentary co-produced by the Minnesota Historical Society Press and Twin Cities Public Television’s Minnesota Productions & Partnerships (tpt MN) celebrates Asian immigrants who have left an indelible and flavorful mark on Minnesota’s culinary, cultural, and economic history.

It’s hard to believe there was a time when you couldn’t go out for Chinese food in Minnesota, but there was—until brothers and entrepreneurs Woo Yee Sing and Woo Du Sing opened their Canton restaurant (later called “John’s Place”) in Minneapolis in 1883.

Culinary educator, chef, author, consultant and co-founder with Phyllis Louise Harris of the Asian Culinary Arts Institutes, Ltd., Raghavan Iyer narrates this documentary highlighting the exciting history and array of Asian food in Minnesota.

Profiles and interviews with chefs, restaurant owners, business owners, and culinary professionals include Supenn Harrison, founder of Sawatdee; Reiko Weston of Fuji Ya; Mhonpaj Lee and her mother May Yia Lee, operators of Mhonpaj’s Garden; Ann Kim of Pizzeria Lola; Thom Pham; and Harry Singh.

Food connects homes left behind with where we live today. Asian Flavors is the story of adventurous people who made the arduous journey halfway around the world to live in Minnesota, fleeing oppression and persecution or in search of jobs and education, and who created new homes through food. Many cooks sought not only to make a living but also to preserve the memory of their homeland through the dishes set before family and patrons alike, to the great benefit of diners in the Twin Cities metro area.

Asian flavors have changed Minnesota’s tastes, just as the many, wide-ranging Asian cultural groups have reshaped the state’s history, culture, and communities.

The tpt broadcast schedule is as follows:

Premiere: Sunday May 26, 2013 at 7:00 p.m. on tpt’s Minnesota Channel (tpt MN)

Encore Broadcasts: Sunday, June 2, 2013 at 1:00 AM, 7:00 AM and 1:00 PM on tpt MN

About tpt’s Minnesota Productions & Partnerships

TPT’s Minnesota Productions & Partnerships (tpt MN) is the local production division of Twin Cities Public Television (tpt), the PBS affiliate for Minneapolis/St. Paul.  TPT MN partners with local non-profit, educational, governmental, and public service organizations to reach broader audiences throughout Minnesota. These partnership programs educate and inspire Minnesotans on important issues using tpt’s distinctive storytelling skills, television and multimedia resources.  Since its inception in 2003, tpt MN has created nearly 700 television programs and over 200 multimedia projects in partnership with over 235 non-profit and public service organizations. To view past tpt productions, visit www.mnvideovault.org.

To learn more about tpt MN, connect with them on Twitter and Facebook, or visit their website at www.tptMN.org.


Ka Vang’s “The Good Hmong Girl Eats Raw Laab”

Posted byAlison Aten on 28 Feb 2013 | Tagged as: Asian American, Authors, Immigration, Literary, Videos

Ka Vang The Good Hmong Girl Eats Raw Laab Ka Vang is a poet, spoken word artist, playwright, and community activist. We are pleased to release her provocative essay The Good Hmong Girl Eats Raw Laab, available as an e-book short for just 99 cents. The e-short is one of our new MHS Express titles.

The piece examines the social and cultural implications of “a good Hmong girl” by addressing these issues: “What does it mean to be a good Hmong girl? Who defines the good Hmong girl? Who practices it and enforces the rules? What are the rewards and consequences for the Hmong girl and her family if she is not a good Hmong girl? Would Hmong culture be diminished if there were no more good Hmong girls left?”

Ka has been busy! She was recently featured on MNOriginal, Twin Cities Public Television’s award-winning weekly arts series celebrating Minnesota’s creative community, and her new book, Shoua and the Northern Lights Dragon, produced with the Minnesota Humanities Council and the Council on Asian Pacific Minnesotans, is now available.

Tasteful Taxidermy

Posted byAlison Aten on 27 Nov 2012 | Tagged as: Interview, Nature/Enviroment, Videos

“DIY Death Rituals,” “Sing Like a Voyageur,” “Field Dress a Deer,” “Crop Art 101,” “Detasseling Corn: The Hows and Whys,” and “Tasteful Taxidermy” are just a few of the chapter titles in The Minnesota Books of Skills: Your Guide to Smoking Whitefish, Sauna Etiquette, Tick Extraction, and More by Chris Niskanen.

Chris is no stranger to the art of taxidermy. In his book he profiles Marv and Betty Gaston of Taxidermy Unlimited, but for today’s blog post he wrote up the story of Francis, below:

I was driving home from Best Buy in Woodbury when I saw a badger lying on the shoulder of a two-lane highway. It appeared to be perfectly intact after getting hit by a car. It was August.

Another SUV had stopped in front of me, and a woman with several older children were inside. About the time I pulled over to investigate, a teenage boy jumped out of the SUV, and soon the two of us were standing over the dead badger. He couldn’t believe what he was looking at. I was surprised, too, to find a badger in Woodbury. We discussed the matter with his mother, and while she was intrigued by the idea of bringing it home (they had stopped first, so had dibs), she understood that on such a warm day she needed to get it either in a freezer quickly or to the taxidermist. I volunteered to take it because I knew a taxidermist who could do the job immediately. When I brought it home, my five-year-old daughter was fascinated by the story and the face of this young badger, struck down in the prime of its life.

The taxidermist did a marvelous job, and later that winter (taxidermy takes a while to complete) the entire family went to pick it up. My daughter was now in love with the adorable young male badger mounted tastefully on a board, looking like he was peering through grass. She insisted on putting it in her room, and ever since, Francis (named after the children’s book character, also a badger) has been adorned in pearls, earrings, and doll clothes. Up close, Francis is an amazing animal, with his flat head, powerful shoulders, and long, sharp claws, but he doesn’t appear menacing.

He’s been a great way to talk about wildlife and science with our kids, plus he’s a swell conversation piece. My wife, bless her heart, has always embraced the idea of having Francis in the house, which is key if you ever plan to do something like this (warning to any spouses who see roadkill and fancy having it mounted for display in the home). The other lesson learned here is that taxidermy isn’t what is used to be. Francis is like a museum piece, and because we enjoy nature so much and have designed our home around the nature that surrounds us, he fits pretty well into our decor.


For a glimpse at more of the Niskanen taxidermy decor, watch Fox 9’s M.A. Rosko as she sharpens her Minnesota skills with Chris in his home.

Chris will be on KARE 11 Sunrise tomorrow (11/28/12) around 6 a.m., and listen for him on Minnesota Public Radio soon too. (We’ll update links here.) Please click on the book title link, above, for upcoming signings with Chris.

Anton Treuer and the Real Story of Thanksgiving

Posted byMary Poggione on 11 Oct 2012 | Tagged as: Book Excerpt, History, Interview, MHS Author in the News, Native American, Videos

Everything You Wanted to Know About Indians But Were Afraid to AskAnton Treuer, author of Everything You Wanted to Know About Indians But Were Afraid to Ask, was on NPR’s Tell Me More earlier this week, discussing the real story of Christopher Columbus.

I think there’s a growing awareness that Columbus didn’t discover America–that the place was densely inhabited by other human beings. But certainly the Columbus experience would change the entire world. But in spite of the fact that Christopher Columbus wrote lots of letters and kept many journals, and by his second voyage there were many official scribes, army officers, priests, writing about the experience, over 500 years later this piece of history gets sugarcoated a lot.

And you know, we now know as a fact of history that on Columbus’s second voyage, the Spanish instituted a gold dust tribute, whereby those who failed to bring a certain quantity of gold dust would have their hands chopped off. And we know for a fact of history that the Spanish cut the hands off of 30,000 people that year on the island of Hispaniola–what’s now Haiti and the Dominican Republic.

“And we know that within thirty years, the two million people that the Spanish estimated to be inhabiting that island before contact were completely annihilated. And that is a textbook definition of genocide. And we have so successfully sugarcoated the history that we have obfuscated some of the most important parts of that story.”

Check out Anton Treuer’s answer to “What is the real story of Thanksgiving?” from the book Everything You Wanted to Know About Indians But Were Afraid to Ask.

Treuer’s recent in-depth television interview on C-Span’s Afterwords is also now available.

Minnesota’s Bizarre Foods

Posted byAlison Aten on 31 Jan 2012 | Tagged as: Authors, Cooking, Travel, Videos

Ann Burckhardt and Andrew Zimmern

Elk and Wild Rice Hot Dish, Turtle Tots, and Raspberry Jell-O Chilled with Liquid Nitrogen are just a few of the bizarre foods found in our own backyard.

Last July, Ann Burckhardt, author of Hot Dish Heaven, was invited by Andrew Zimmern to judge a hot dish and Jell-o salad cook-off at a local VFW for his Travel Channel show, Bizarre Foods. The episode aired earlier this week, but you can view a few clips online.

Who said the Midwest was bland?

(Zimmern is known for consuming “interestingly appalling food”: click with care!)

Bizarre Jell-O Salad Contest

Tastes of Minnesota

Check out Andrew’s blog for more on bizarre Minnesota foods.

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