Dwight Hobbes

Recent Articles

Keith survives round one

With Lesli’s mother Mari eyeballing him, Keith somehow summoned the nerve to stare right back. She pressed, “Aren’t you going to tell me how much you love her?” She took a tiny sip of her bourbon. “How much she means to you?”
Keith knew no matter what he said he’d be wrong. Figured what the hell, might as well go with the truth. “No. I’m not going to say any of that.”
She crossed her shapely legs, settled back on her hips. Reminding him again how closely she resembled her daughter. Her daughter resembled her. Vice versa, whatever. Mari pushed: “Why not?”
“Because, Ms. Hall, I can’t begin to say how much I love Lesli. Or explain what she means to me. Continue Reading →

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Undersea world comes to life on Chanhassen stage

Actor Andre Shoals has audience ‘in the palm of his hand’
By Dwight Hobbes

Contributing Writer


Disney has a long track record of entertaining kids and hasn’t done a bad job of holding adults’ attention either, especially with its stage versions of the corporation’s animated hit films. The Lion King, for instance, which launched its two-month world premiere here at the Orpheum Theater, went on to win a Tony Award for Best Musical. With tours now running literally all over the globe, the show became pretty much a license to mint money. There’s also been Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin and, of course, The Little Mermaid, which presently is running at Chanhassen Dinner Theaters (CDT). Granted not everyone is up on everything done by the house that Mickey Mouse built. So, for the benefit of those who don’t know the story, it’s an old Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale about Ariel, a young lady living beneath the waves in the province of her dad, King Triton. Who, with good reason, has forbidden his subjects, her included, to have contact with the world above. Continue Reading →

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Keith gets grilled by Hurricane Mari

Keith was in the backyard with Leslie getting acquainted with her father when they heard, “God damn it!” come from the kitchen. “Son of a —!” Lesli went in to see what was wrong. Hank said to Keith, conspiratorially, “Vocabulary like that, you’d never know she’s an English professor, would y’?”

“No comment.”

“Smart man.”

“What do you do, sir?”

“Okay, I can tell you’re doing your best to be polite and put a good foot forward. That’s also smart. But, no ‘Mr.’ and no ‘sir’ please.”

“Just Hank.”

“Now, y’ got it.” He walked up on the patio, waving Keith along. “Come on, treat yourself to a taste. Time you get done meetin’ my wife, you’ll need it.”

He crossed to the rolling bar, took two glasses, put them on the umbrellaed table along with an ice bucket. Reached for a bottle of Dewars. “Pick your poison. See anything you like?”

“Yes s—.” He caught himself. “Uh, yeah. Some of that jug of Jack Daniel’s’ll do just fine.” A jug it was. Bigger than the others by far, a half-gallon of Tennessee sippin’ whiskey. Otherwise known as bourbon. Hank seemed to make a mental note. Dropping rocks in their glasses, pouring, he picked back up, “Me, I quit teachin’ college. At the same place. That’s where we met — hear tell you and my little girl met under some interestin’ circumstance.”

Keith kind of squirmed. With another warm, easy smile, Hank continued: “Stony Brook University. Not that I didn’t like it — did you know Louis Peterson once taught there?”


“Wrote Take A Giant Step. Damned good play. First Black dramatist on Broadway.” He interrupted himself to hand Keith his drink and hoist his own glass. “To yours and Lesli’s happiness.”

“Thank you, sir.” And caught himself again. Hank winked. They sipped. “Anyway. I used to teach directing. To students who, most of them, figured they already knew all there was to learn. Between you and me, all but the best of ’em, I wondered how they managed to walk from one end of a stage to the other without falling off.”

Keith laughed. “After enough of that,” Hank continued, “I chaired the department a few years, then said, ’Nah.’ Had written a book that did well enough. Continue Reading →

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WANTED: Northside restaurant offering ‘real food’

Appetite For Change breaks barriers between inner-city families and healthy foods

By Dwight Hobbes
Contributing Writer


We certainly hear enough bad about North Minneapolis. How about some good once in a while? Not that there aren’t plenty positive things going on in that part of town, they just don’t make the news like some others. Consider fairly recent initiative Appetite For Change (AFC). The idea here is to help youngsters help themselves and, while they’re at it, contribute to the community’s wellbeing by involving them in providing an essential resource: food. Continue Reading →

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Keith meets Hank and Mari

Everybody laughed. The session went swimmingly. The only thing Helen had to say when they were done was, “We should’ve recorded that.” Then she snatched Keith by the collar. “Boy, come here. I wanna talk t’ you.”

They went back out to the lobby and Helen said, “Okay, whatever it is I’m paying you, you get a raise.”

“Works for me.” He pressed his luck. “Y’know what’s a good idea?”

“No, what?”

“You and the brat singing some Sam and Dave. I could pull out some of my best Steve Cropper riffs.”

Helen nodded. “Yeah, that is a good idea. Damned good. I knew I had the right man for this job. Okay, I’m outta here.” She turned and walked off, Keith watching her wear the hell out of those sweat pants every step of the way. Continue Reading →

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Helen raises hell

Helen St. James didn’t understand the maxim “If it’s working, don’t fix it.” They got started and before long he’d had to throw her out, banish the star from her from own session. Everybody loved Helen — was crazy about the woman — which was why everyone was happy as hell to sign on for this quick jaunt out to the middle of nowhere. But they also resigned themselves to her arduous method of rehearsing. Pausing to needlessly pick over every little thing. And have you play one line three different times, three different ways. Each. Continue Reading →

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Treating youth violence as a menace to public health

Can the medical model help eradicate this plague?  

By Dwight Hobbes

Contributing Writer


Dr. Deborah Prothrow-Stith, noted author of Deadly Consequences: How Violence Is Destroying Our Teenage Population and a Plan to Begin Solving the Problem, was in the Twin Cities recently to deliver the keynote address, “Violence and Public Health,” at the Women’s Advocates’ 40th Anniversary Community Conversation. The subject alone should be enough to grab your attention as a malady that continues to chronically plague communities of color, specifically African American neighborhoods. For instance, in 2011, teen violence contributed to the high rate of Black youth from as young as 10 to the age of 24 being victims of homicide. Without knowing the exact number, we know anecdotally that rate isn’t merely high, it’s tragically catastrophic. Continue Reading →

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Keith decides things could be worse

Right now, Lesli had raised something else to deal with. “Would you like,” he asked, “to tell me about this your-mother’s-not-going-to-like-me business?”

Turned out this was not something to which Lesli had looked forward. Since Mari, her mom, deliberately found something about all her boyfriends to intently dislike. You could count on it. Hence, she simply stopped introducing them to her. There wasn’t any two ways around this, though. Because she’d never been this sold on a guy. And knew there was no point delaying the inevitable. Knew it from the day she’d basically badgered Keith into proposing. That she’d finally landed that ever-elusive great catch, even if it took two years and change to reel him in. “So,” she said, “guess we better bite the bullet, hunh?’

“Well.” Keith sipped at his drink. “What about your dad?”

She shrugged. “Good old easygoing Hank Hall? He tends to stay out of it. Not that he’s whipped or anything. He just doesn’t want to hear her mouth if he doesn’t have to. Let’s say he picks his spots.”

Keith nodded. Sounds like a smart man. It might not hurt to take a page from his book. Continue Reading →

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The tragedy of LaVena Johnson 

On watching The General’s Daughter, a tragically brilliant account of a high-ranking U.S. Army officer’s complicity in silencing his own daughter, herself an army captain, about her sexual assault to further his career, I found it a monstrous, wholly plausible story I had to be grateful was a work of fiction. On learning what in reality happened to Private First Class LaVena Johnson, there wasn’t a damned thing for which to be grateful. You can find the facts in full, appalling detail in LaVena Johnson: The Silent Truth (2010 Midtown Films). This man’s army is, in this day and age, still exactly that — a place of male privilege where the more attractive and independent a woman is, the greater risk she runs that a fellow solider or fellow soldiers will rape her and, quite possibly, murder her to cover their tracks. In 2005, 19-year-old PFC Johnson’ body was discovered on a military base in Balad, Iraq. She’d sustained a broken nose, black eye, loosened teeth, chemical burns on her private parts, and a gunshot wound to the head. U.S. Army’s finding: suicide. In other words, she beat herself half to death, poured acid between her legs, and then blew her brains out. They had the gall to deliver that finding to her family with a straight face. Continue Reading →

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Aspiring educator shares penny-pinching tips

Youth, it’s understandably said, is wasted on the young. Not, though, in the person of Vanessa Young who, at 24, is an excellent exception to the proverbial rule. She’s sensibly down to earth when it comes to the fundamental nuts and bolts of dealing with a dollar, though she feels it wouldn’t hurt to get a bit better at it. Employed this summer at Freedom School in St. Paul (she’s also a professional tutor at East Side Learning Center), Young reflects, “As a servant leader intern, it is terribly hard to budget. Continue Reading →

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