2012 Artists of the Year

From poets and directors to comedians and dancers, the Twin Cities are teeming with creativity

By Reed Fischer • Photo by Marcellina Reis

"I guess you could say I'm like a Kanye West-type of college dropout," Jake Heinitz says with a laugh. But the 23-year-old hip-hop impresario is actually not kidding. Underneath a golden-hued flow of hair is the rapid grind of gears in Heinitz's mind as he looks to leave his stamp on the Twin Cities' next decade in music. He spits out ideas for upcoming concerts, magazines, experiences, and even what he's ordering for lunch in a hurry, but without betraying reason. For starters, Heinitz's three-year-old No Static Records has linked up with a local vet who literally wrote the book on the scene, Kanser's Big Zach (author of Headspin, Headshots & History: Growing Up in Twin Cities Hip Hop), and he has taken a decidedly organic approach to local talent, regardless of genre. He wanted a wider net than just a label roster, and his BeSceneMpls.com blog proved a worthy platform to promote all sorts of emergent artists, conduct a roundtable on the status of hip-hop journalism in the Twin Cities, and get the word out about his burgeoning rap fest, Hip Hop Harambee. This past summer, the day-long fest was held in the Nomad World Pub's parking lot on the West Bank, and one of the most respected rappers in the game, Talib Kweli, headlined a tight lineup. Next year Heinitz intends to turn Harambee into a week-long event and team with nonprofits to add community outreach to its mission. That all of this comes from a Bloomington Jefferson grad who didn't garner a degree from the U of M or Augsburg College makes a little more sense when you look into Heinitz's background, which isn't quite ordinary. Perhaps he inherited a work ethic from grandfather Orlando Jacob Heinitz, who represented Plymouth in the Minnesota House of Representatives between 1968 and 1984. And Jake's father's longtime employment at Northwest Airlines gave him the ability to travel extensively and be a student of the world. "You realize who you are," he says of his trips off the beaten paths in North America, Europe, and Africa. "You have to actualize your identity." At his south Minneapolis apartment, Heinitz says he lives simply. But he dreams extravagantly and places high value in building social capital. "I think there's a place for a lot of growth in hip hop here because there have been the same gatekeepers on it for a little while," he says. "In our generation, we have such diverse palates. You can catch me listening to Beirut, Jay-Z, and George Winston. I just like people who make good music and are humble about it."

Kate Casanova's Mushroom Chair
Kate Casanova's Mushroom Chair

Reed Fischer is City Pages' music editor.

Peter Rothstein

By Ed Huyck • Photo by Treleven Photography

Peter Rothstein isn't someone to rest on his laurels. Over the past 12 months he's had his hand in a dozen shows, from a controversial production of Oklahoma! in Seattle to a number of workshop productions for the Illusion, the Playwrights' Center, and his own Theatre Latte Da. With Latte Da, he directed a pair of the year's best productions: Spring Awakening (with the University of Minnesota Theatre Arts and Dance Department) and Company, along with the annual holiday-season remounting of All Is Calm with vocal group Cantus.

It's not just the hard work that makes Rothstein a tremendous presence on Twin Cities stages. His careful attention, from preproduction to the finished product onstage, builds a show, brick by brick, to be the best it can be. That creates an environment in which actors can thrive. The young cast of Spring Awakening, including a number of University of Minnesota students, lived every outsized emotional moment in the musical but also held enough back to give it all a deeper resonance. Dieter Bierbrauer, on the other hand, is a veteran performer who reached tremendous heights under Rothstein's guidance as Bobby in Company.

Rothstein is also a strong advocate. Also this year he directed 8, a play about Proposition 8, which was staged at the Varsity to raise money for Minnesotans United for All Families. He spoke eloquently about acceptance and the need to fight the marriage amendment when he won an Ivey Award for Spring Awakening. Rothstein even addressed the issues in the decidedly heterosexual Company, reminding us that putting bounds on love, relationships, and marriage is a loser's game.

Ed Huyck is City Pages' theater critic.

Megan McClellan

By Caroline Palmer • Photo by V. Paul Virtucio

Fearless. If ever a person embodied the word, it is Megan McClellan. In 2012 this versatile mover appeared in concerts by Black Label Movement, the Flying Foot Forum, and Shapiro & Smith Dance — plus her own lively performance venture, Sossy Mechanics, with partner Brian Sostek — and revealed a different aspect of her bold spirit each time she stepped onstage, whether it was at the Cowles Center, the Guthrie Theater, or the Walker Art Center.

Perhaps it's the way McClellan takes on her performance assignments. She never seems to be intimidated by daredevil moment. If you need someone to get tossed high into the air from one dancer to another (or cartwheel off an easy chair, take a punch to the gut, stomp with percussive intensity, etc.), she's the woman for the job.

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