The stars were bright, the work was hot and the seats were full in the fall at Peak Performances. The season started with a bang with the unprecedented season-length residency of Tony-Award winner, Bill T. Jones, beginning with Spoken Steps, his stirring address to the student body, followed by the reprise of Blind Date (which had its World Premiere at Peak Performances), a performance of the rarely seen As I Was Saying and culminating in the World Premiere of A Quarreling Pair, (commissioned by Peak Performances) for which the New York Times said “Mr. Jones…percolated in an occasional workshop but did not finally tackle it until his company’s residency in Montclair. A Quarreling Pair has the feel of a work that has lived and grown with Mr. Jones. It is a wonder.”
Music lovers had a feast at Peak Performances this fall. The Russian Patriarchate Choir, The Shanghai Quartet enhanced the acoustic splendor of the Alexander Kasser Theater. First Person: Stories From The Edge Of The World, combined the haunting music of Ensemble Galilei, spectacular photography from National Geographic and stirring stories compiled by NPR’s Neal Conan, assisted by NPR’s Liane Hanson. In the Peak Performance tradition the esteemed Orchestra of St. Lukes presented a new kind of work, In The Grace Of The World that featured the work of Peteris Vasks, Arvo Pärt, Tore Takemitsu and Charles Ives, played against a backdrop of video images.
The bold theater piece this fall was The Trojan Women: An Asian Story, which told Euripides story through the eyes of Korean comfort women and through the powerful medium of Pansori, Korea’s native opera. Here’s what The Star-Ledger said: “A play in Korean, based on a Greek tragedy and co-produced by a couple of Austrian cultural organizations? When such an event happens in New Jersey it has to be at Peak Performances at Montclair State University. Once again, Executive Director Jedediah Wheeler cast his global net and pulled in a fascinating evening in the theater, thanks to solid acting and direction.”
Coming in 2008
In 2008, the season begins with Elmer Gantry, a new opera with music by Robert Aldridge and llibretto by Herschel Garfein, January 23rd through January 27th. The opera is based on the scorching 1927 novel by Sinclair Lewis. With fundamentalism of every stripe on the global rise, Elmer Gantry remains relevant. Aldridge and Garfein have created a new opera that walks the line between satire and tragedy. Elmer Gantry is a co-production between Montclair State University and the Nashville Opera.
February belongs to Romeo Castellucci and his new work, Hey Girl! 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. Romeo is back and Peak Performances has him. Hey Girl! was inspired by a moment at an intersection when Castellucci saw a group of girls waiting for a bus. In Castellucci’s masterful hands, a look, a gesture, a raised eyebrow speak volumes.
Dance returns in March with Ireland’s heralded CoisCéim Dance Company’s exciting work, Knots. Using high-octane choreography and the insightful writings of psychoanalyst R.D. Laing, Knots takes us through a series of passionate physical and verbal confrontations as it tries to unravel the twists and turns of life with someone else. The dynamic crooks and convolutions in our relationships are played out in dialog scenarios, which the company uses as their starting point to create a piece that skillfully fuses text and movement.
March also features Pay Up! Pig Iron Theater Company brings you a real world lesson in economics. Part circus, part shopping experience, and part sociology experiment; this site-specific interactive performance installation challenges audiences to make difficult decisions while putting them in awkward moral positions through the power of money. Unsettling equations arise as money changes hands among friends, siblings, lovers and strangers. Based on the experiments of Yale economist Keith Chen, Pay Up! gives you your money’s worth in a hilarious yet thought provoking physical theater experience.
In April, you have both music and dance. The music is provided by Lura, who bring some spice to Montclair. Born in Portugal to parents from the Cape Verde Islands off the coast of West Africa, Lura is part of a new generation rediscovering the hidden traditions of their ancestral homeland. Mixing the morna style made famous by Cesaria Evora with the lesser-known rhythms of funana and batuque, Lura, backed by her five-piece band, uses her sensuous voice and evocative dancing to transport audiences to that volcanic archipelago.
Liz Lerman Dance Exchange provides the April dance with Ferocious Beauty: Genome. Ferocious Beauty: Genome investigates the realities of how knowledge of the genome will change the way we think about aging, perfection, and evolution. Under the direction of Liz Lerman, this subject is approached through a plurality of viewpoints that mirror a dialog among multiple voices that are artistic, scientific and scholarly. The company developed this piece in collaboration with thirty-four genetic scientists from leading universities and government agencies across the country.
May belongs to the great Fred Hersch. Hersch offers a full-evening suite focusing on tonal color where diverse rhythms mix with the exciting interplay of three world-class musicians in stimulating new compositions. Pianist and composer Fred Hersch has earned his place among the foremost jazz artists and creative musicians in the world today. Widely recognized for his ability to steadfastly create a unique body of work while reinventing standard jazz repertoire, he has infused time-tested classics with his keen insight, fresh ideas and superb technique. Finding his comfort zone in a trio setting, he has recorded seven trio albums that have left the critics raving, three of which have earned him Grammy nominations. In this World Premiere, Hersh offers a full-evening piece called Preludes and Tunes where the “Preludes” are short solo piano pieces and the “Tunes” will be performed with his trio.
“Hersch has a track record for staying true to himself and making records that are worth listening to and owning.”
- David Zych, Jazz Times
To order your tickets call the Box Office at 973-655-5112 or order online at peakperfs.org. Peak Performances @ Montclair: Every Performance, every seat $15.
WNYC is a media sponsor for the 2007/2008 Season of Peak Performances @ Montclair. Peak Performances also acknowledges the generous support of the National Endowment for the Arts and the New Jersey State Council on the Arts.
R. Fredel 973.655.3004
Released: December 17, 2007