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Performing Arts Department plans
year of entertainment
Oct. 22, 2014
The 2014-2015 academic year at the Community College of Rhode Island is in full swing, and for the Performing Arts Department, that means revving up for a season of varied performances and special engagements.
In addition to the usual productions and recitals, though, this year holds added significance for the department as it prepares to celebrate the rededication of the Bobby Hackett Theater as part of the college's 50th anniversary.
"It's pretty amazing," said Professor Bert Silverberg, who has been involved with the performing arts at the college for 40 of its 50 years. "We're so happy to participate in the rededication of the theater for the 50th anniversary, especially given the fact that the CCRI Players have been around almost that entire time."
The event will be held on Friday, Nov. 21, in the Bobby Hackett Theater on the Knight Campus in Warwick. Doors will open at 6:30 p.m. and the show will begin at 7. In addition to a video and a rededication of theater to Hackett, Silverberg said that the performances will include five scenes from the five decades of theater at the college, performed by current students, faculty and alumni.
Also on tap for this event is a performance by the cast and orchestra of "Hello Broadway! 2014" under the direction of Associate Professor Dr. Audrey Kaiser, who began that now-annual performance with the Music Club in 2009. "It's a huge project," said Kaiser. "It started off as a small fundraiser for the music scholarships, but it's grown and grown."
Kaiser said that part of the evolution of the musical revue has included a full orchestral arrangement to accompany the vocals, penned by Kaiser on her sabbatical last year. The Nov. 21 performance will reprise 35 minutes of last June's show, including a 10-piece orchestra of faculty, students and professionals to bring Kaiser's arrangements to life once more. "I'm thrilled to get a little more mileage out of those scores," Kaiser said.
Rhythm and blues band Steve Smith and the Nakeds – inducted into the Rhode Island Music Hall of Fame alongside Hackett in 2013 – will be the event's guest house band. Even more entertainment, dessert and refreshments to celebrate CCRI's 50th anniversary will follow the event. Tickets will cost $25 general admission and $5 for students.
Theatre program adds performances, opportunity for students
Silverberg said that this year, the department has decided to change the schedule to add matinee and evening performances to each of the department's productions in an effort to give students more experience performing as well as audiences more chances to catch their friends, peers and family on stage.
"For the amount of time these students put in rehearsal, they don't get to do the play enough times in front of an audience. When you're an actor and you're not getting paid, your reward is performing," he said.
The first show of the season, running from Oct. 23 to 26, will be "BUG" by Tracy Letts, directed by Assistant Professor Luke J. Sutherland. Silverberg said that Sutherland was most excited about the play's timely implications about political paranoia and domestic violence. During the rehearsal process, Sutherland has arranged for local specialists in those areas to come speak to the cast of the play. A claustrophobic look at the rapidly devolving psyches of a couple stuck inside a seedy motel room, "BUG" deals with some difficult themes, said Silverberg.
Switching gears, the department next will present "Circle Mirror Transformation," a play written by Annie Baker and directed by Associate Professor Theodore R. Clement from Dec. 5 to 7 and Dec. 12 to 14 at the Liston Campus in Providence. Set in a Vermont college town, the play follows a group of residents over the course of a six-week acting class they are taking at the local community center.
"It's a really good play," said Silverberg, "I think it's one of these plays that talks directly to people who have done theater, but I think it's cleverly written enough so that even if you haven't done theater, you can get into it. The characters really grow over the course of the play and you see the shift in their personalities and interactions."
A Fall Theatre Student Showcase is set for Dec. 19 at the Liston Campus, where students from the semester's Theatre classes will perform selected scenes, monologues, readings and dances. The showcase begins at 6:30 p.m. and is free of charge.
Kicking off the second half of the season on the Knight Campus is "The Language Archive," written by Julia Cho. Silverberg, who is directing the show, said that he first saw the play performed by the Roundabout Theatre Company in New York City, where he was immediately drawn to the whimsical plot.
"It's a very sweet play," he said of the fanciful narrative that follows a linguist who specializes in preserving disappearing languages while simultaneously failing to communicate with his wife and his love-smitten assistant. This play runs from Feb. 26 to March 1, 2015.
Other than the theater rededication, one of this year's special engagements is the annual Charles Sullivan Fund for the Arts and Humanities presentation, which will be a workshop and performance by Valerie Hager, who will present her autobiographical one-woman show "Naked in Alaska." The workshop and performance, both free and open to the public, are set for 7:30 p.m. on March 26 and 27, respectively.
A longtime CCRI faculty member and arts supporter, the late Charles Sullivan "wanted to make arts programs accessible to everyone, so one of the cornerstones of these activities is that we don't charge admission," said Silverberg.
Silverberg said that he first saw "Naked in Alaska" at last year's New York Fringe Festival, and that it was "phenomenal." When he spoke to actor Hager after the performance, he was struck by how approachable she was, particularly given the sensitive subject matter of the piece, which details her life, warts and all, as she moves from being a child performer, to stripping and exotic dancing, to sobriety and the straight and narrow. "She's very honest, and doesn't make any excuses for herself. From an acting and movement standpoint, her performance is really outstanding," said Silverberg.
Another performance supported by the Charles Sullivan Fund, featuring actor and educator Steve Kidd of the Gamm Theatre, is tentatively set for Friday, Feb. 13, at a location to be announced.
Finally, the annual student project will be presented at the Liston Campus in Providence from April 16 to 19.
Tickets to all shows except the Charles Sullivan performances cost $10 for general admission or $8 for students, seniors and CCRI staff.
Musical offerings range from jazz to opera
Kaiser, who is the music program coordinator, said that fans of the vocal and instrumental arts also will have much to look forward to this year. The highlight for the department is the rededication program, she said, adding that "we're thrilled to be starting and ending that program."
The calendar for both semesters is chock full of varied performances across genres, beginning with instructor Amanda Santo's faculty recital. Santo, a soprano who teaches applied music at the college, will be accompanied by pianist Scott Nicholas. Tickets cost $5 to benefit the CCRI Opera Club, and the event will take place at 7:30 p.m. on Nov. 1 in the Bobby Hackett Theater at the Knight Campus in Warwick. "We try to feature faculty recitals as often as we can," said Kaiser.
December will bring with it many student musical performances in various genres, beginning with the Chamber Ensemble performing Dec. 4 under the direction of Professor Cheri Markward at 7:30 p.m. in Warwick. Admission costs $5, and CCRI's micro-band will perform selections ranging from Ravel's "Bolero" to music from "Frozen." The Percussion Ensemble also will perform.
Instrumental recitals for music students are set for 1 p.m. on Dec. 5 and 12 in Room 0540 at the Knight Campus, and guests are invited to attend free of charge. Similarly, a jazz recital will be presented at 1 p.m. on Dec. 10 in the same room, also for students taking jazz courses for credit this semester.
The Jazz Ensemble will perform jazz standards under the direction of Professor Steve Lajoie in the interim at 7 p.m. in the same room at the Knight Campus on Dec. 9. "We'll have two ensemble bands with a variety of saxophones and flutes. We have steel pan drums in one of the bands, and we have a vocalist in each band this year; we don't always have that. Also new this year, one of the vocalists plays the vibraphone," said Kaiser. Admission to that concert is $5.
On the vocal side of the spectrum, Kaiser is looking forward to the "big variety" of performances, including a joint Chorus and Chamber Singers Concert under the direction of Professor Joseph Amante at 7 p.m. on Dec. 10 in the Bobby Hackett Theater in Warwick, as well as an opera workshop performance presented under the direction of Santo at 7 p.m. on Dec. 17 in the same theater. Tickets to both shows cost $5.
Kaiser said an "exciting collaboration" will take place on Dec. 14 as Santo conducts the West Bay Chorale in a collaborative concert with the Warwick Symphony Orchestra, the University of Rhode Island orchestra and chorus alongside CCRI voice students. The show is set for 3 p.m. in the Bobby Hackett Theater and will cost $10 to attend.
"Performing arts broaden our education," said Kaiser. "It dates back to the Greeks. It's important to keep that component of education alive. And offering these shows gives students an incentive to see what they can achieve if they keep working on it."
Auditions for the 2015 Hello Broadway performance will be held from 7 to 9 p.m. on March 30 and 31 in Room 0540 at the Knight Campus, with callbacks the same time and place on April 1.
Additional performances are also set for the spring, including a faculty recital with Santo and Kaiser at a date in April to be determined, "The Mikado," an opera by Gilbert and Sullivan in April, as well as student and faculty recitals throughout the spring semester.
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