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Sheldon opens with flair — and confetti

Live theater, shadows and puppets help tell the story when Manual Cinema appears on Oct. 7, 2017, at the Sheldon.1 / 6
Big Bad Voodoo Daddy’s “Wild & Swingin’ Holiday Party” is set for Dec. 9, 2017, at the Sheldon Theatre in Red Wing.2 / 6
The Suburbs, founded in 1977 and credited as helping create the "Minneapolis Sound,” will recreate that Nov. 18, 2017, at the Sheldon Theatre.3 / 6
History Theatre brings the immigrant experience to the Sheldon stage in “Sweet Land, the Musical” on Oct. 14, 2017.4 / 6
Bonnie Schock says she has an unwritten contract with the community to bring great, affordable entertainment to Red Wing’s Sheldon Theatre — including unfamiliar acts she knows are top quality. Photo courtesy of the Sheldon Theatre 5 / 6
Craig Karges, dubbed "The Extraordinist," will celebrate launch the Halloween celebration in Red Wing on Oct. 28, 2017.6 / 6

Opening weekend at the Sheldon Theatre Sept. 23-24 does more than hint at the adventures that await during the 2017-18 season.

OK Go, a Grammy and MTV Video Music Award-winning group that explores a variety of mediums, comes to the Sheldon stage on Sept. 23. Koo Koo Kanga Roo, a party band, will follow up with an evening of family fun on Sept. 24.

Sheldon Executive Director Bonnie Schock is confident that the two events will provide a memorable launch to an eclectic season.

She has a message for anyone who looked through the Sheldon's 2017-18 schedule and saw a lot of unfamiliar names.

Don't worry about it.

"The average person on the street can't possibly know who all these artists are," Schock said.

"It's our job as an arts organization to pick things that we promise you are the highest quality.

"What I am trained to do," she explained, is to go out and find entertainment that meets three criteria: the artist is great, the message is interesting, and the event is affordable within the range of what is possible at Red Wing's historic theater.

Schock considers it "a contract with the community that we are going to pick stuff you may never have heard of, but that we know is of the highest quality and has something of relevance to us here, now."

The season also includes a number of familiar shows and concerts that are favorites of local audiences, who have let it be known they have a broad range of interests.

"It's the largest, the most ambitious season that the Sheldon has undertaken in its modern history," Schock said, citing both the number of shows and the scope or size of those events.

She's done some outreach in the community this summer, inviting people to the Sheldon to encounter story and music, character and humanity. "Those are the doors we want to open for people," she explained.

"The world of live performance is special because it's relational. The shared experience is part of what makes the Sheldon a remarkable place," she noted.

Opening weekend is typical, Schock said.

In addition to bringing in innovative entertainment, the Sheldon has arranged to have an adult-size bounce house in the courtyard starting at 6 p.m. Sept. 23 for ticket holders.

There'll also be a confetti photo booth. As people enter the booth to have their photo taken, confetti will be released into the swirling air — a tribute to OK Go's prolific use of confetti in its shows.

Special concessions will be served, including root beer floats.

People can check out the weekend's entertainment and all the shows scheduled during the coming year by visiting the Website,

Each of the shows has a "teaser" online, Schock said, plus links to artists' Websites. Mini-videos were pulled together last summer for a preview event at which she announced the programs in each of the six series: Traditions, Enlighten, Family & Youth, Great Sounds, Homegrown and Holiday.

"The goal of having series is to provide guideposts for people about what to expect," she said.

Another option: Ask Schock. She has details and descriptions of all 50-plus events at the tip of her tongue.

The Sept. 30 show, for example, is "I am, He Said." In it, Matt Vee — nephew of rock 'n' roll star Bobby Vee — will sing the music of Neil Diamond.

Curious about "Mementos Mori" (Oct. 7)?

"People will be blown away," Schock said, when a group called Manual Cinema tells a love story set in a digital age by combining live theater, shadows and puppetry with live music.

The first half of the season includes a wide variety of musicians performing everything from the classic rock 'n' roll to Western swing plus the sounds of Israel, modern Minnesota, punk, instrumentals, swing and bluegrass.

There'll even be a hands-on opera program in November. Minnesota Opera has invited people 55 and older to join with the professionals and sing some operatic excerpts and other choral favorites. No auditions are required; singers sign up for a 10-week arts and aging workshop that meets Thursday afternoons.

Theater will be represented by "Sweetland, the Musical," the stage version of a short story on immigration, along with a Phoenix Theatre show, some special programming for kids and the return of "All is Calm: Christmas Truce of 1914."

Halloween will have a new look, Schock said. Craig Karges, who is billed as "The Extraordinist," promises a spellbinding performance with tables floating, metal bending and other surprises.

Also planned is a showing of "Rocky Horror Picture Show." Schock said that film and several others will be shown in the coming months although they aren't in the brochure. Announcements will be made.

A full schedule of holiday entertainment is planned in December — music, the annual "Nutcracker Ballet," "All is Calm" and a special appearance by master storyteller Kevin Kling.

Prices vary, but the range is from $5 to a high of $48 for OK Go, Schock said. In addition, there are numerous "Kids Play Free" shows that offer free admission to a child 14 and younger with the purchase of an adult ticket. The Jones Family Foundation supports that program.

Local folks also will have opportunities to participate in residencies with some groups, she added. The international Sofi and the Baladis group, for example, will offer 12 outreach activities in the schools and the community leading up to a Nov. 3 concert.

"We're in the business of creating experiences that matter to people," said Schock, who is confident the new season will do just that.

For more information, go to the Sheldon Website or pick up a brochure at the box office.