New York City, be warned! New Jersey doesn’t just have inexpensive gasoline. Peak Performances@Montclair is fast becoming the epicenter for international, contemporary, boundary-blind dance, music and theater, and at prices, $15 per ticket, that outwit its rival across the river.
Responsible for introducing some of the most challenging international performing art to American shores over the past five years, Peak Performances is now readying the Alexander Kasser Theater stage for multiple debuts and 10 premieres from San Francisco and China (a collaboration between the Margaret Jenkins Dance Company and Guangdong Modern Dance Company), France (“Looking for Josephine”), England (Wayne McGregor I Random Dance and Vincent Dance Theatre), Ireland (Crash Ensemble), as well as from the U.S. (David Gordon Pick Up Performance Co(S.). Woven through the year are revivals and classic works inflected with surprises. Jedediah Wheeler, Executive Director of Arts and Cultural Programming at Montclair State University, is the program’s mastermind.
What follows is a road map of the 2009/10 season, whose twists and turns through the centuries begin with a nod to the past just before marking the wildly original theater revue from Paris, followed by a radicalized hearing of classical sound. The nine months promise a looping trip through the past, present and future of the performing arts. So, New York, en garde!
SEASON OPENS WITH SHANGHAI QUARTET
September 12, Time: 8pm
Well-known champions of new and classical Western and Asian music, the Shanghai Quartet, Ensemble-in-Residence at Montclair State University, turns to Western classics for its September 12 performance at the Alexander Kasser Theater. Featured are Beethoven’s String Quartet No. 11 in F minor, Op. 95; Dvořák’s String Quartet No. 12 in F Major, Op. 96; and Brahms’s Sextet No. 2 in G Major, Op.36, for which they will be joined by violist Kazuhide Isomura and cellist Clive Greensmith, both members of the Tokyo String Quartet.
AMERICAN PREMIERE OF JÉRÔME SAVARY’S “LOOKING FOR JOSEPHINE” SEPTEMBER
17-20, 24-27, Times: September 17,18 at 7:30pm; September 19 at 8pm; September 20 at 3pm; September 24, 25 at 7:30pm; September 26 at 8pm; September 27 at 3pm
On one hand, “Looking for Josephine” is a wildly over-the-top, splashy revue tribute to the glamorous Afro-American song and dance goddess Josephine Baker, who fled to Paris in 1924 for the fame and fortune she could not achieve in her own country. Conceived and directed by Jérôme Savary, the hit show, which has been playing to sold-out houses throughout Europe, is also a dramatic conceit. Savary’s alter ego travels to post-Katrina New Orleans in search of a woman to play Josephine Baker, and in doing so Savary weaves the history of black American music—classic jazz, boogie-woogie and blues—before and after the devastating hurricane.
PUBLIC DISCUSSION BY DIRECTOR,
WRITER AND TEACHER ROBERT BRUSTEIN
SEPTEMBER 30, Time: 7pm
“The Four Horsemen of the Anti-Culture,” a talk by Robert Brustein takes place on September 30. In it, Brustein, founding director of both the Yale Repertory Theatre and the American Repertory Theatre at Harvard, discusses his observations on the decline of culture in American life.
MARINO FORMENTI UNITES THE PAST AND PRESENT IN “KURTÁG’S GHOSTS”
OCTOBER 3, Time: 8pm
The virtuoso Italian pianist Marino Formenti presents an evening of music entitled “Kurtág’s Ghosts,” 70 short pieces of music selected by Formenti as a musical homage to the 20th century Hungarian composer. In it, Formenti seamlessly integrates Kurtág’s “miniatures” with shorts from the composer’s musical idols including Bach, Boulez, Schumann, Stockhausen, Ligeti and Machaut. His playing locates the connections between the works so that the six centuries of music flow in an unbroken stream of sound.
MARGARET JENKINS DANCE COMPANY AND GUANGDONG MODERN DANCE COMPANY
COLLABORATE IN THE EAST COAST PREMIERE OF “OTHER SUNS (A TRILOGY)”
OCTOBER 15-18, Times: October 15, 16 at 7:30pm; October 17 at 8pm; October 18 at 3pm
Marking the first collaboration between an American and Chinese modern dance company, “Other Suns (A Trilogy),” resulted from multiple transpacific trips by San Francisco’s Margaret Jenkins Dance Company and Guangdong Modern Dance Company. The work, which explores symmetry in a world rapidly losing its sense of balance, placed unique collaborative demands on each company, most especially the Chinese dancers who are not accustomed to making creative contributions to the development of a work. Jenkins and Guangdong’s Deputy Director Liu Qi direct the choreography. Its original score by American composer Paul Dresher and additional music by Chinese composer Bun-Ching Lam will be played live by the Paul Dresher Ensemble. The design work is by Alexander V. Nichols.
FEUFOLLET AND CEDRIC WATSON & BIJOU CREOLE SHARE STAGE
OCTOBER 24, Time: 8pm
Cedric Watson & Bijou Creole and Feufollet, two Lafayette, LA-based bands known for their astonishing magnetic energy, join forces on October 24 to celebrate the vitality of Creole and Cajun music. Multi-instrumentalist and vocalist Cedric Watson, a 2009 Grammy Award-nominee who heads Cedric Watson & Bijou Creole, plays Creole fiddle and accordion, and is the band’s songwriter. Feufollet, formed in 1995 by the then eight-year-old accordionist/singer Chris Stafford and eleven-year-old fiddler Chris Segura, rapidly became one of the most sought-after Cajun bands in the Creole and Cajun area surrounding Lafayette.
LUTENIST PAUL O’DETTE PERFORMS CONCERT OF MUSIC BY RENAISSANCE COMPOSER
OCTOBER 25, Time: 3pm
Multi-Grammy Award nominee Paul O’Dette will perform an afternoon of Renaissance lute music that celebrates one of England’s greatest composers, John Dowland. Often compared to Shakespeare because of its profound range of emotional expression, Dowland’s work ranges from the dark and melancholy to the witty sparkle of music made for dancing. O’Dette’s complete command of the instrument brings new life to the music.
EAST COAST PREMIERE OF DAVID GORDON’S MUSICAL THEATER PRODUCTION
“UNCIVIL WARS: MOVING W/BRECHT & EISLER”
NOVEMBER 5-8, Times: November 5, 6 at 7:30pm; November 7 at 8pm; November 8 at 3pm
Based on Bertolt Brecht’s 1931 play “The Roundheads and the Pointheads,” (translated from the German by Village Voice theater critic Michael Feingold), under David Gordon’s direction “UNCIVIL WARS: MOVING W/BRECHT & EISLER” becomes a wildly imagined 21st century parable about war, culture, economics and immigration. The multi-tasking performers, who sing, dance and act include some of the brightest stars of the downtown stage: John Kelly, alternating as the Mother Superior and Madam; Valda Setterfield as Bertolt Brecht and Judge; Charlotte Cohn as Nana Callas/ Mrs. Calla/ Isabella De Guzman; Davis Duffield as Vice Viceroy/ Hat Knocker/ Farmer Lopez/ Nun; Norma Fire as Tobacconist/ Abbess/ Mrs. Lopez/ Lawyer; Gina Leishman as the play’s composer Hanns Eisler; David Skeist as Farmer Callas/ Hat Knocker/ Nun.
REVIVAL OF DAVID GORDON’S “SHLEMIEL THE FIRST”
JANUARY 16-17, 20-24, Times: January 16 at 8pm; January 17 at 3pm; January 20, 21 at 7:30pm; January 22 at 1pm; January 23 at 8pm; January 24 at 3pm
Brimming with wacky wit and humor that disguise its deeper message, “Shlemiel the First” moves with the speed of its klezmer music score to tell the story of a group of self-proclaimed wise men, each less wise than the other, who order Shlemiel to leave the imaginary town of Chelm to travel the world to spread their ill-informed wisdom. While celebrating the victory of women’s common sense over men’s self-promoted wisdom, Shlemiel’s gullibility and ultimate self-delusions make the musical a hilarious comment on the dangers of self-regard. “Shlemiel the First,” based on Isaac Bashevis Singer’s play of the same name, was adapted by Robert Brustein. The lyrics are by Arnold Weinstein and the music is by Hankus Netsky.
LULA WASHINGTON DANCE THEATRE
JANUARY 28-31, Times: January 28, 29 at 7:30pm; January 30 at 8pm; January 31 at 3pm
The Lula Washington Dance Theatre, whose work radiates social awareness and political consciousness, will present the world premiere of Washington’s “WWW.CONNECTIONS.2010.” The Los Angeles-based company will showcase selections from recent repertoire including Washington’s “Ode to the 60’s” (2007); “We Wore the Mask” (2006); and “Beautiful Venus and Serena” (2008), Tamica Washington-Miller’s examination of the sister tennis stars, as well as “Angelitos Negros,” an excerpt from Donald McKayle’s “Songs of the Disinherited” (1972).
ALTO SAX PLAYER/COMPOSER MIGUEL ZENÓN & ESTA PLENA PERFORM
FEBRUARY 6, Time: 8pm
The rapidly rising thirty-one year old alto sax player Miguel Zenón, a 2008 MacArthur Foundation Fellow (a.k.a. the “Genius Award”), will present his newly revised “Esta Plena,” on February 6. The work was inspired by the traditional rural Puerto Rican music style, plena, which he crosses with bebop, classical and modern jazz influences. Comprised of ten pieces, five of which are instrumental and five vocal, the work includes lyrics that range from political commentary to personal tales. “Esta Plena” will be performed by Zenón plus six musicians, three of whom will play panderos, the traditional percussion instrument of plena.
FEBRUARY 7, Time: 3pm
Never a group to second-guess, the Grammy Award-winning Kronos Quartet celebrates contemporary and traditional world music by composers from the four corners of the earth including Serbia, India, Yugoslavia, the West Bank, Mexico, Egypt, as well as the United States. Several of the works are from the tradition-challenging quartet’s most recent album, “Floodplain.”
WAYNE MCGREGOR | RANDOM DANCE PRESENTS EAST COAST PREMIERE OF “ENTITY”
FEBRUARY 11-14, Times: February 11, 12 at 7:30pm; February 13 at 8pm; February 14 at 3pm
Wayne McGregor, whose dual choreographic life as Resident Choreographer at the Royal Ballet and Artistic Director of his own internationally acclaimed troupe, creates dances as fiercely demanding of mind as they are of body. In “ENTITY,” reputedly conceived in an American university science lab, McGregor creates a work of furious speed, physical wit and emotional sensuality. The full-evening dance is set to two original scores: one by Joby Talbot and the other by Coldplay and Massive Attack collaborator Jon Hopkins.
DOUG ELKINS AND FRIENDS’ “FRÄULEIN MARIA”
MARCH 25-28, Times: March 25, 26 at 7:30pm; March 27 at 8pm; March 28 at 3pm
“Fräulein Maria,” by Doug Elkins, whispered to be one of the wickedest wits in town, is a loving and hilarious send-up of the classic American musical “The Sound of Music.” Elkins’s affectionate humor shines through his seamless merging of modern and popular dance forms including hip-hop and “vogueing”, and his unique, revolving cast drawn from the New York City downtown art scene.
VINCENT DANCE THEATRE PRESENTS AMERICAN PREMIERE OF “IF WE GO ON,” AND
REPRISE OF “BROKEN CHORDS”
APRIL 15-18, Times: April 15, 16 at 7:30pm; April 17 at 8pm; April 18 at 3pm
Vincent Dance Theatre, based in Sheffield, England, returns to American shores with the premiere of “If We Go On,” directed by Charlotte Vincent with text by Wendy Houstoun. Comprised of miniature dances, songs, manifestos and long exits, “If We Go On” looks at uncertainty, hesitancy and ignorance, each of which is explored with darkly informed humor. The underlying question asked in the piece is: “If you had one last dance in you, what shape would it take?” Alternately scheduled with “If We Go On” is “Broken Chords,” a hit of Peak’s 2007 season. The 90-minute work, although a lament for lost love, uses satire to offset its bleak tone and inspire laughter. The dancer/actor/performers, including an unaccompanied violinist playing Bach, move through a set comprised of 150 church chairs and a room-size chandelier.
SHANGHAI QUARTET COMBINES EASTERN AND WESTERN MUSIC IN PERFORMANCE
APRIL 25, Time: 3pm
The Shanghai Quartet will present an afternoon of Western classical music, plus selections from “ChinaSong,” a compilation of Chinese folksongs arranged by the Quartet’s second violinist Yi-Wen Jiang. The songs are recollected from his youth growing up in China during the Cultural Revolution. The concert will also include Haydn’s Quartet No. 1 in G Major, Op. 77 and Dvořák’s String Quintet in G Major with Double Bass, Op. 77. Guest Artist, Christian McBride, one of the world’s most renowned jazz bassists, makes a rare classical appearance on the double bass.
CRASH ENSEMBLE WITH SINGER IARLA Ó LIONÁIRD
MAY 8-9, Times: May 8 at 8pm; May 9 at 3pm
The Peak season concludes with two concerts by the fiercely energetic Irish new-music band Crash Ensemble. On May 8, the band will perform music by David Lang (“Forced March”); Terry Riley (“Loops for Ancient Giant Nude Hairy Warriors Racing Down the Slopes of Battle”); Steve Reich (“Cello Counterpoint”); and Donnacha Dennehy (“Grá agus Bás”). The next afternoon, May 9, the band plays music by Evan Ziporyn (“Kebyar Maya”); John Godfrey (“Aria 51”); John Zorn (“Paran”) and Donnacha Dennehy (“Aisling Gheal”). Featuring singer Iarla Ó Lionáird, a highlight is the world premiere of Donnacha Dennehy’s “Sean Nós Settings” written especially for the Montclair dates.
All tickets are $15, and are available at the Alexander Kasser Theater Box Office or by calling 973-655-5112 or online at www.peakperfs.org.
Van or bus service is available from New York City ($10 per person, roundtrip) from the Maritime Hotel on 9th Avenue and 16th Street to the Alexander Kasser Theater for selected performances. Bus reservations may be made by calling 973-655-5112. For train service, available only on weekdays, go online to: www.njtransit.com or call 1-973-275-5555.
For restaurants close to the Alexander Kasser Theater, visit www.destinationmontclair.com.
Montclair State University is located at 1 Normal Avenue, Montclair, New Jersey 07043.
Peak Performances acknowledges the generous support of the National Endowment for the Arts, The New Jersey State Council on the Arts, The Mid-Atlantic Arts Foundation, The New England Foundation for the Arts, The Grand Marnier Foundation, Mary Mochary and Alison and James Cirenza.
Alfred R. Fredel 973.655.3004
Released: July 13, 2009