Although it’s known for comedies such as the two-man, 24-character A Tuna Christmas, Actors Theater of Minnesota also places a significant emphasis on education and corporate training. At The Creative Institute, the ensemble trains students how to work theatrical media such as improv and writing into their everyday problem-solving skills.
Named as an homage to one of the four historic theaters that once operated near what is now City Center, the New Century Theatre carries on the best of the stage. Whereas the original venue—which burned down in 1964—seated 2,000 and focused on vaudeville, the modern-day jewel creates an intimate space for theatrical performances with seating for 300. Since 2011, it has hosted local and touring performers as well as educational initiatives such as the Broadway Confidential series and an acting demonstration on how to cry your way out of a parking ticket.
Multiple Grammy winner and Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Steve Winwood has left his stamp all over the lexicon of popular music with his generation-spanning catalog of chart-toppers, including “Gimme Some Lovin’,” “The Low Spark of High Heeled Boys,” and “Higher Love.” Steve was only a lad when he led The Spencer Davis Group across the pond to help the British Invasion dethrone King Elvis, after which he continued his musical conquest in seminal bands such as Blind Faith and Traffic before settling into an incredibly successful solo career. His affable and malleable tenor burns like a night-train smoke stack but can turn to pure silk on a dime, leading him to a watershed of top-10 classics and a spot on Rolling Stone’s list of the 100 Greatest Singers of All Time.
Each week, the cast of ComedySportz Twin Cities competes in 105-minute battles in which the only weapons are quick wits. Saturdays showcase the classic, game-based ComedySportz format: as the audience shouts suggestions and a referee keeps score between two uniformed teams of actors, performers let loose rapid-fire barrages of absurdity that stay on the family-friendly side. The handicap-accessible theater serves beer and wine as the hilarity unfolds, and bars and restaurants abound in the theater's Calhoun Square neighborhood.
Amid Icehouse’s old brick walls and exposed ductwork, the energy of the men who wrangled huge blocks of ice there a century ago is almost palpable. Before the days of electric refrigerators, these blocks were plucked from frozen lakes and rivers and brought to the Cedar Fuel and Ice Company for year-round storage and sale. As the years passed and cryogenic chambers replaced most iceboxes, the storied space became Icehouse Studios, a refuge for bands and businesses to conduct video shoots and rehearsals. Today, the walls echo not with ice scraping across the floor or directors shouting, "Action!” but rather with the songs of local musicians. Rachel Hutton of Minnesota Monthly observed how the "reclaimed wood boards and C-shaped leather booths add warmth and polish to the raw, gritty—and acoustically impressive—cavern."
Between sets, guests might hear forks pinging eagerly against the small plates that hold from-scratch creations. Some dishes, though, apparently require no silverware—Hutton admits to "gleefully" licking the duck demi-glace from the plate of a burger topped with foie gras and truffle butter. Listen also for the clinking of glass: local brews and specialty cocktails, a chandelier comprised of empty bottles, or guests trying to smuggle scoops of housemade bacon ice cream home in mason jars.
Joke Joint helps those who want to help themselves stave off existential doubt and transform ennui into elated outbursts of glee in two showrooms that can comfortably accommodate up to 200 chucklers. Friday and Saturday night shows, which typically run at 8 p.m. and 10:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. and 10 p.m., respectively, spotlight an assortment of capricious comedians who assault the audience with a funny barrage and one wisecrack witty enough to coax out half-smiles, three-quarter smiles, and full smiles. A full liquor menu and some food options are available at both locations, and the Bloomington locale offers laughably delicious beer and foodstuffs to caress your laugh-wrenched belly.