"American Spring" Celebrates American Arts April 2 and 3 at Montclair State University

MONTCLAIR, NJ -- Works by American performance icons such as Jerome Robbins, Leonard Bernstein, and Martha Graham will be presented on April 2 and 3 at American Spring, a celebration of the best of home-grown, modernist American performing arts and, at the same time, Montclair State University's Centennial. Click here to listen to a podcast preview of American Spring.

Part One: American Spring on Campus
Part One of American Spring takes place on April 2 in Montclair State's Kasser Theater from 2 -5 p.m. with excerpts from

  • "Elmer Gantry," the brand-new opera honoring an American literary classic steeped in the ever-more timely furor of evangelicalism;
  • "Machinal," the 1920's noir drama confronting hot-button issues of feminism, the woman's sphere, murder and capital punishment,
  • "Steps in the Street," the authorized restaging of a stark, modern dance classic that emerged out of the tumult of the Spanish Civil War,
  • "Fancy Free," a raucous celebration of the 90th birthday of Leonard Bernstein and his trend-setting collaboration with Jerome Robbins.

A panel of experts will be on hand to debate and discuss the historical, social, and political contexts and implications of these vibrant examples of American performing art. The roster includes:

  • Neil Baldwin, Montclair State Distinguished Visiting Professor and project director for American Spring. Baldwin, a prolific biographer and poet, is the author of the recent and critically acclaimed "The American Revelation: Ten Ideals That Shaped our Country from the Puritans to the Cold War;"
  • Robert Aldridge, "Elmer Gantry" composer,and director of the John J. Cali School of Music at Montclair State University
  • Herschel Garfein, "Elmer Gantry" librettist;
  • Jennifer Rivera, mezzo-soprano who performs the role of Sister Sharon Falconer, the character inspired by Aimee Semple McPherson;
  • Matthew Avery Sutton, author of "Aimee Semple McPherson and the Resurrection of Christian America," and professor at Oakland University;
  • Rosemary Andress, director of "Machinal,"
  • Liz Coen, dramaturg,
  • Jerry Dickey, author of the definitive :Sophie Treadwell: A Research and Production Source Book," and professor at the University of Arizona;
  • Denise Vale, senior artistic director of the Martha Graham Dance Company, who starred in "Steps in the Street;" and
  • Amanda Vaill, best-selling author of "Somewhere: The Life of Jerome Robbins," the paperback edition of which will be published March 11.

Part Two: American Spring in the Community
Part Two of American Spring takes place on April 3 when the show goes on the road to various Montclair community locations including the Montclair Art Museum, Montclair High School, the Montclair Public Library, Claridge House, and Watchung Booksellers. At each location, the excerpts performed will be followed by discussion.<

This community outreach "lifts the opera, dance, and drama out of the University setting that engendered them and into the community surrounding us" says Baldwin. "Although grounded in the context of higher education in American society, American Spring is a populist show. Our visiting scholars and authors will respond to the performances and encourage dialogue with creators and performers."

Admission to American Spring is free. Reservations for the April 2 performance can be made by contacting Kathleen Reddington in the Montclair State University Office of Education and Community Outreach, 973-655-7071, e-mail reddingtonk@mail.montclair.edu.

Participant bios and high resolution production photos are available upon request. A schedule and detailed information about Montclair community presentations is also available upon request. Photo Credit: From "Fancy Free," courtesy of the Jerome Robbins Foundation.

American Spring is made possible by a grant from the New Jersey Council for the Humanities, a state partner of the National Endowment for the Humanities. Generous support for American Spring is also provided by the Theodore H. Barth Foundation, the Albert Grokoest Fund for Nature's Cure, John T. Riordan, Kathryn Kent and Rob Patton.

Released: February 21, 2008