GMU's Arts Lineup Has Range

By C. Woodrow Irvin
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, April 10, 2008

Avaried roster of well-regarded solo artists and performing arts ensembles is featured in the upcoming season at George Mason University's Center for the Arts, announced at its annual luncheon last week.

"I'm particularly pleased with the variety of the programming that we have for 2008-2009. We've got an amazing variety of events that will provide stimulating opportunities for people," said Tom Reynolds, director of external affairs for the university's College of Visual and Performing Arts.

More than 30 artists and groups from around the world will present more than 50 performances during the season. Some of the artists are faculty members, others are from as far away as China. Many of the performers are return engagements from previous seasons.

The season, sponsored by PNC Bank, begins in September with the first of four of pianist Jeffrey Siegel's "Keyboard Conversations" on Sept. 1. Siegel, who often appears at the center, will be back Nov. 2, Jan. 25 and April 19.

Broadway star Brian Stokes Mitchell headlines the university's "Arts By George!" scholarship benefit Sept. 27 with a concert of show tunes, ballads and love songs. Other soloists slated to appear include Portuguese contralto Mariza on March 6 and Canadian fiddler Natalie MacMaster on March 7.

The works of Shakespeare are at the center of the season's theater programming, with one each of the Bard's tragedies, comedies and histories. Massachusetts-based Shakespeare & Company presents "Hamlet" on Oct. 4; the Aquila Theatre Company of New York offers "The Comedy of Errors" on Nov. 7; and fellow Gothamites of the Acting Company bring "Henry V" to the stage April 25.

L.A Theatre Works' production of "The Great Tennessee Monkey Trial" is set for Feb. 20, and the Acting Company's "The Spy" will be presented April 26.

The Song and Dance Ensemble of West Africa inaugurates the season' s dance performances Oct. 10 and 11; Ballet Flamenco José Porcel returns to the center on Oct. 31 and Nov. 1. Dance performances to follow include Hubbard Street Dance Chicago on Nov. 8; Philadelphian dance company Philadanco on Jan. 31; the Quebec-based Cirque Eloize on Feb. 8; New York's Parsons Dance on Feb. 28; the Illinois and Wisconsin-based Trinity Academy of Irish Dance on March 15; the Russian National Ballet Theatre, presenting "Cinderella" on March 20 and "Sleeping Beauty" on March 21; New York's Complexions Contemporary Ballet on April 11; and the National Acrobats of China on April 17 and 18.

The Virginia Opera will perform "Il Trovatore" on Oct. 17 and 19; "The Elixir of Love" on Dec. 5 and 6; "Tosca" on Feb. 13 and 15; and "The Barber of Seville" on April 3 and 5.

Holiday music offerings will include San Francisco choral group Chanticleer, with "A Chanticleer Christmas" on Nov. 29 and 30; the New Orleans Jazz Orchestra, with "Home for the Holidays" on Dec. 12; the Canadian sibling octet Leahy, with "A Celtic Christmas" on Dec. 13; the Vienna Boys Choir on Dec. 19; and singer Jubilant Sykes and guitarist Christopher Parkening interpreting holiday classics Dec. 20.

Music ensembles are at the core of each season at the center, and the eclectic mix for 2008-2009 includes the Turtle Island Quartet of San Francisco teaming with Brazilian guitar virtuosos Sérgio and Odair Assad for a concert Oct. 18. Russia's Kirov Orchestra performs Nov. 14. Doc Severinsen and friends perform jazz-inflected classical Spanish music in "El Ritmo de la Vida" on Nov. 15; and esteemed pianists Emanuel Ax and Yefim Bronfman join forces for a concert Nov. 23.

The Dublin Philharmonic Orchestra dives into a program of Brahms, Mozart, Mahler, Tchaikovsky and Beethoven on Feb. 6. The Metropolitan Jazz Orchestra, led by Jim Carroll, director of jazz studies at the university, performs Feb. 21. DRUMLine Live, a historically black college marching band performance interpreted for the stage, hits the center's concert hall on Feb. 22.

The United Kingdom's Academy of Ancient Music presents all six of Bach's Brandenburg Concertos at 4 p.m. March 22, and the Cherryholmes family bluegrass band plays April 4. The National Philharmonic of Russia closes the musical aspect of the season April 24.

Rick Davis, artistic director of the Center for the Arts, used the unveiling as an opportunity to express his thoughts about the staff's efforts to create a rich arts environment and likened the function of the arts in society to that of campfires in earlier times.

"A campfire is a focal point . . . for a community to come together," he said. Like a fire, Davis said, the center is a place for storytelling and reaching a deeper understanding of shared experiences. "That is something the arts have a profound possibility of doing."

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