Peak Performances @ Montclair takes its mission to create “Acts of Engagement” even further in its bold new season with a spectacular and diverse lineup of artists inhabiting The Alexander Kasser Theater on the campus of Montclair State University. The fertile soil of the Garden State and the liveliness and intellectual rigor of its academic setting is yielding some of the most exotic blooms in the arts today. The Peak Performances message, as evidenced by the $15 ticket price for all performances is essential and radically populist: great work should be seen by as many people as possible. As Executive Director Jedediah Wheeler states, “Our goal is to give audiences a tantalizing and provocative opportunity to experience the creative themes of the day. In this major university laboratory, artists explore ideas not commonly held by the mainstream. When adventurous artists take the opportunity to expand horizons, audiences should step outside their comfort zones and join them for the ride. With this special price, Peak Performances @ Montclair proves its commitment to making top tier arts programming accessible to all.”
The season starts with a bang when the legendary Bill T. Jones sets the tone and echoes the Peak Performances mandate, with Spoken Steps: A Performance Address. For the entire fall, the dance focus will be on this electrifying trailblazer. Fresh from his Tony win for Spring Awakening, and recently inducted into the Dance Hall of Fame, Jones addresses the student body and all other interested parties on September 19th. With his usual force and candor, Jones talks about creating work that confounds expectations and defies categorization. This call to arms from one of our boldest artists begins Jones’ extended residency at Peak Performances through December. This includes a rare performance of As I Was Saying, the return of the politically charged, Blind Date and the World Premiere of A Quarrelling Pair, a new work based on a puppet play by Jane Bowles.
Dance continues in March when the heralded Irish company, Cois Ceim, will perform Knots, a new work created by Liam Steel that is based on texts by psychoanalyst R.D. Laing (hey you boomers, remember him?). Liz Lerman Dance Exchange rounds out the dance lineup in April with Ferocious Beauty: Genome, a new work developed with the input of 34 genetic scientists.
The esteemed Orchestra of St. Lukes steps out of its comfort zone with In The Grace Of The World, on October 6th. This unique evening features the work of Latvian composer Peteris Vasks and state of the art videography, by Wes Skiles. The film showcases spectacular underwater footage. In The Grace Of The World, interweaves the thrilling visuals with musical tableaux to explore man’s interaction with nature in this extremely volatile time. Xian Zhang, of the New York Philharmonic will conduct this premiere performance.
If you like music, National
Geographic and NPR, then First Person:
Stories From The Edge Of The World on October 14th is for you.
The predominantly Celtic music is a blend of Scottish fiddle, medieval dances
with a sprinkling of Bach and is performed by Ensemble Galilei. National
Geographic provides the breathtaking projected stills of climbing Mount
Everest, probing the ocean floor with Jacques Cousteau and sailing aboard The Beagle with Charles Darwin. NPR’s
Neal Conan, the popular host of the Talk of the Town and Liane Hanson, host of
Weekend Edition: Sunday, tells the stories.
The music shifts further east of the Baltic on October 27th with a visit from the Russian Patriarchate Choir. Based in Moscow, this all-male chorus led the way to the rediscovery of the sacred and haunting music the Russian Orthodox Church, lost during the Soviet regime.
Opera kicks off the music programming in 2008 with Elmer Gantry, a new American opera by Robert Aldridge and Herschel Garfein, based on the novel by Sinclair Lewis. Peak Performances’ university setting is used in this production, where a student chorus and selected student musicians support prominent professional singers. In April, vocalist Lura brings the spice-scented trade winds of the Cape Verde Islands to Montclair. Lura, born in Portugal, mixes the morna style made popular by Cape Verde’s legendary Cesaria Evora with the upbeat rhythms of the lesser known funana and batuque of her lovely island—and she dances too!. Fred Hersch graces the stage of the Kasser on May 8th with Full-Evening Suite for Jazz Trio. This consummate musician rounds out the season with an evening of pure musical pleasure.
Adventurous theater lovers know that Peak Performances has presented the most exciting companies from around the world: Last season saw an extended visit by the fearless Jan Fabre. Romeo Castelucci’s Tragedia Endogonida in 2005 was one of the most talked-about productions on either side of the Hudson. Well, Romeo’s back and Peak’s got him.
However, the international theatrics begin in October with Trojan Women—An Asia Story. This take on Euripides’ classic was conceived and directed by the Bosnian, Aida Karic. Ms. Karic tells the tale through the true stories of the exploitation of the Korean “comfort women” during World War II. Karic uses the narrative form of the Pansori Opera, Korea’s native opera in which one singer and one drummer join onstage to tell epic stories. This enduring tale, blended with the tears of several cultures, remains powerful and relevant.
February marks the much-anticipated return of Romeo Castellucci and his company Societas Raffaello Sanzio with Hey Girl! The genesis of this piece was the glimpse of a group of young girls waiting for a bus. In Castellucci’s masterful hands, nuance is everything and simple gestures change landscapes. Castellucci’s spellbinding theatrical wizardry is not to be missed and Hey Girl! will be one of the season’s most buzz-worthy events.
On the opposite end of the spectrum and just to make things more interesting is December’s Holiday Hootenanny! Dan Zanes and Friends. This thinking kid’s Pied Piper brings his best friends from around the world to celebrate the holidays by embracing the traditions of many cultures.
Bill T. Jones, Romeo Castellucci, Fred Hersch, Orchestra of St. Lukes. world-class theater, dance and opera. Fifteen dollars is the price of admission to each of these. Yes, Virginia, $15. At Peak Performances @ Montclair, there are no barriers to experiencing the finest artists working today.
Alfred R. Fredel 973.655.3004
Released: August 14, 2007