It's about sharing the experience.
That's what Mary Lou Aleski, executive director of New Haven's 18th annual International Festival of Arts & Ideas that begins Saturday, June 15, has found in data of who comes — and why— to the annual two-week festival of arts, entertainment and interactive events held at indoor and outdoor venues throughout the walkable city.
Aleskie says an increasing number of people are bringing their friends and family as a group to attend the dozens of ticketed and free theater, dance, music, film and visual arts events.
"It's a very social experience," says Aleskie who is heading her eighth festival. "We love that people are so enthusiastic about the festival they want to return come to share in the experience with others."
It's also an inter-active experience, she says, with many events that provoke discussion, stimulate ideas and invite participation, especially for families, with close-up connections with the artists that range from meet-and-greets to panel discussions to master classes. She says the attractions are geared to attract multi-generations of audiences with acts with distinction from around the world . this year many oif the artists come from England, Canada, Peru, France, Italy, India, Poland and Ethiopia.
So what are acts are getting most of the pre-festival buzz?
Aleskie immediately points to "A Midsummer Night's Dream,' a show produced by England's Bristol Old Vic, and the first collaboration by the director and puppeteers of the international hit "War Horse." The show premiered in England in March and had it's U.S. bow last month at Spoleto Festival USA in South Carolina. The New Haven engagement is the only other gig in North America for the show this year.
"We like to be involved with high-profile and national and international theater projects,' she says. "New Haven is a place that is about invention and innovation and this puppetry look at 'Midsummer's Night Dream' made it seem like it belonged in our community."
Another cutting edge presentation is the East Coast premiere of "Stuck Elevator," "a comic-rap-scrap-metal musical" based on a true-life experience of a Chinese deliveryman trapped in a Bronx elevator for 81 hours.
The show, with music by Byron Au Yong and libretto by new Haven native Aaron Jafferis, was developed by Yale Institute for Music Theatre in a showcase reading during the festival in 2010.
"It was so powerful and compelling," says Aleskie "It's like most things that we look for in theater at the festival: Strong content. Strong themes. Strong ideas. This was a very timely piece that deals with immigration reform, something that resonates here in our community, too. Even if it didn't involve Aaron, it would be something we would be doing."
"Aaron [Neville], for sure," she says, referring to the Grammy-winning soul and R&B singer who opens up the series of free concerts on the New Haven Green on Saturday,
Then there's "Sequence 8," the new human-scale cirque show by Canada's Les 7 doigts de la main, which also created "Traces."(which played the Bushnell two years ago). The group is also responsible for the cirque acts in Broadway's "Pippin" which Sunday night won a Tony Award for outstanding musical revival.
Another must-see for many is the Kronos Quartet, which is presenting a landmark performance in New Haven, not only celebrating its 40th year with special guest Chinese pipa player Wu Man as well as welcoming its new member, cellist Sunny Jungin Yang.
Of course there's the appearance by filmmaker Spike Lee who will give some star appeal to the "ideas" section of the festival's lineup. Lee will present an advance screening of "Bad 25," his documentary of Michael Jackson working on his 1987 solo album, "Bad."
Also getting advance notice, says Aeskie, is jazz bassist Christian McBride coming to town with his jazz quintet Inside Straight, which includes pianist Christian Sands, a New Haven native who grew up and trained locally before launching his own career.
What also makes this year's festival even more special for that "shared experience' is the opening last December of the renovated and expanded Yale University Art Gallery, one that received national and international raves. The free gallery is sure to be a "value-added" element of any festival going, says Aleskie.
"It's phenomenal so why wouldn't we highlight such a tremendous asset," she says. The festival added curated-led tours of the gallery to accommodate the increase in arts lovers to town.
Aleskie acknowledges that because of financially tight time the festival has increased the number of ticketed events to build its revenue, as well as added "premium ticket pricing" of $250 for two passes for the free Green shows that allows special access and perks. Bleacher seats at $10 will also be available for the free green shows for better viewing. Chair rentals at $10 also is a way to add a revenue steam to the coffers.
"But we remain committed to the free programming that we do," she says. "More than 80 percent of the festival events are free and there's a low price point to many of the ticketed events."
Free On New Haven Green
Opening night of the festival on Saturday, June 15 kicks off with a free concert on the New Haven Green by Grammy-winning soul and R&B vocalist AARON NEVILLE. Prior to the7 p.m. concert at 6:30 p.m. the annual Governor's Arts Awards will be presented to three arts academics: Poet, essayist and playwright Elizabeth Alexander, chairwoman of the African-American studies department at Yale University; saxophonist, composer and bandleader Jimmy Greene, assistant professor of music and assistant coordinator of jazz studies at Western Connecticut State University; artist and academic Olu Oguibe, professor of art and art history and associate director of the Institute of African American Studies at the University of Connecticut.
For all Green concerts there are $10 chair rentals available. Premium seating at a cost is also available. All Green shows start at 7 p.m.
On Sunday, June 16 with Tucson-based country-Latin band CALEXICO and its opening act, Afro-Peruvian singer-songwriter SUSANNA BACA.
On the following weekend, the KRONOS QUARTET with special guest WU MAN will perform on Saturday, June 22. At the concert, the 40-year-old ensemble will be introducing its newest member: cellist Sunny Jungin Yang.
On Sunday, June 23, the Chicago-based FUNKADESI blending Indian music — bhangra, Bollywood and Indian folk — with Afro-Caribbean sounds, will play on the Green.
On the festival's last night, Saturday, June 29, Ethiopia's DEBO BAND with FENDIKA will perform.
There will also be a wide variety of entertainers giving free performances and family-friendly activities during day on the Green. There will also be a pizza fest on June 20, 21, 27 and 28 from noon to 2 p.m.
Theater & Opera
A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM runs Saturday, June 15 to Sunday, June 23 at the University Theatre, 222 York St. New Haven. Running time is nearly three hours, recommended for ages 12 and above. Performances are both Saturdays at 2 and 8 p.m.; both Sundays at 2 p.m.; Tuesday, June 18 at 8 p.m., Wednesday, June 19 at 2 and 8 p.m.; Thursday and Friday, June 20 and 21, at 8 p.m. Tickets are $30 to $95, reserved seating. Student, youth and senior discounts available. Reserved seating. Tickets at 203-562-5666 or 888-736-2663 (ticket fees) or in person at the Shubert Theater, 247 College St.
FREEWHEELERS runs Saturday, June 15 to Saturday, June 29 at the former Horowitz Brothers department store, 760 Chapel St. The show is "a spectacle of song, movement and storytelling" by the New Haven-based site-specific Broken Umbrella Theatre. The work centers on the 1866 New Haven patent of the bicycle and the opening that year of a corset factory. Tickets are $35 and pay-what-you-wish. The show runs 90 minutes. The show's pre-performance experience begins a half-hour before each show time. Please arrive 10 minutes before the start time. There will be no late seating.
MY FRIEND'S STORY runs Wednesday, June 19 and Thursday, June 20, both at 8 p.m., at the Iseman Theater, 1156 Chapel St. Composer Martin Bresnick, librettist and poet J.D. McClatchy and director David Chambers — New Haveners all — collaborate on a new chamber opera, based on the short story by Chekhov, "Terror." Tickets are $35 and $45. General admission.
STUCK ELEVATOR runs Thursday, June 20 to Saturday, June 29 at Long Wharf Theatre's Stage II, 222 Sargent Drive. The "comic-rap-scrap metal musical," is a co-production with the festival and Long Wharf Theatre. The show, with music by Byron Au Yong, libretto by New Haven native Aaron Jafferis and direction by Chay Yew. The show, starring Francis Jue, centers on the real-life experience of a Chinese restaurant delivery man trapped in a Bronx elevator for 81 hours. Running time is 81 minutes. June 20 and 21 at 8 p.m.; June 22 at 2 and 8 p.m.; June 23 sat 2 p.m.; June 25 at 8 p.m.; June 26 at 2 and 8 p.m.; June 27 and 28 at 8 p.m.; June 29 at 2 and 8 p.m. Tickets are $35 and $45. Reserved seating.
THE QUIET VOLUME runs is Tuesday June 18 to Friday, June 28 at the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Reading Room, 121 Wall St. Created by Ant Hampton and Tim Etchells, the event is an intimate, and highly unusual one-hour performance "about books, reading, and the communal experience of the library." Two audience members will sit side by side wearing headphones, in the Reading Room at the Beinecke. Each half hour, readers will take cues both written and whispered in their ears. Advanced reservations are required. Tickets are $25. June 18 to 20 from 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.; June 21 from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.; June 25 to 27 from 9:30 a.m. to 5;30 p.m.; June 28 from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.
YALE INSTITUTE FOR MUSIC THEATER: There will also be staged readings of two new works in progress from the Yale Institute for Music Theatre: "Mrs. Hughes" and "The Last Queen of Canaan," both on Saturday, June 15. and Sunday, June 16 , 1 and 5 p.m. both days, at the Off Broadway Theater, 41 Broadway (entrance behind Toad's Place on York Street). Running time is approximately two hours. $20 general admission.
L'HOME CIRQUE: Throughout the run of the festival David Dimitri of "L'homme Cirque" will present his one-man circus act on the New Haven Green. He kicks off the run Saturday, June 15 and Sunday, June 16 at 1 and 5 p.m. and follows it at various times throughout the festival. The show runs about one hour. Tickets are $35. General admission. (A select number of tickets for each performance will be avaiklable as a pay-what-you-wish basis, beginning one hour before the show on a first-come, first-served basis, one ticket per person.)
SEQUENCE 8 will run Thursday, June 27 and Friday, June 28 at 8 p.m. and Saturday, June 29 at 2 p.m. at the Shubert Theater, 247 College St. Canada's Les 7 Doigts de la main (7 Fingers), which presented "Traces" at Hartford's Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts in 2011 and staged the circus acts for the Tony Award-winning Broadway revival of musical "Pippin," will present the company's latest work. Running time is 90 minutes. Tickets are $20 to $55. Reserved seating.
COMPAGNIE KAFIG runs Friday, June 21 and Saturday, June 22, both days at 8 p.m., at the Shubert Theater, 247 College St. The company's 11 dancers presents two works — "Correria" and "Agwa." Running time 90 minutes. Tickets are $20 to $55. Reserved seating.
SHANTALA SHIVALINGAPPA, an Indian dancer who specializes in the traditional South Indian dance form of Kuchipudi, will present the U.S. premiere of the solo work "Akasha" at the Co-Op High School , 177 College St. Wednesday, June 26 to Friday, June 28, all at 8 p.m. (Entrance on College and Crown Streets). Running time is 90 minutes. Tickets are $35 and $45. General admission.
Jazzman Christian McBride & Inside Straight (including New Haven native Christian Sands in the acoustic quintet), plays Thursday, June 20 at 8 p.m. at Morese Recital Hall at Sprague Hall., 470 College St. Tickets are $35 and $45. General admission.
Yale Choral Artists, play Friday. June 21 at 8 p.m. at the Church of St. Mary, 5 Hillhouse Ave. Tickets are $35 and $45. Running time is one hour. General admission.
Italy's Canzoniere Grecanico Salentino, plays Monday, June 24 at 8 p.m. at University Theatre, 222 York St. Running time is 90 minutes. Tickets are $35 and $45. General admission.
The new music ensemble Le Train Bleu will perform John Luther Adams' "songbirdsongs" at the Marsh Botanical Gardens, 222 Mansfield St. on Sunday, June 23 at 5 p.m. Running time is one hour. Tickets are $35 for standing and roaming; $45 with lawn chair. General; admission.
Wroclaw Philharmonic Choir will perform "The Words of Painted Sounds" on Wednesday, June 26 at 8 p.m. at the Church of St. Mary, 5 Hillhouse Ave. Running time is 90 minutes. Tickets are $35 and $45. General admission.
Documentaries by Spike Lee and Sam Pollard will be screened free at the Yale Whitney Humanities Center, 53 Wall St. along with in person talks by Lee and Pollard. Lee's "4 Little Girls" (1997), Friday, June 14 at 7 p.m." followed by a question and answer with producer Pollard; Lee's "If God Is Willing and Da Creek Don't Rise" (2010) on Saturday, June 15 at noon, followed by a 4:15 p.m. panel discussion; and Lee's "Bad 25" (2012) on Sunday, June 16 at noon, followed by a 2:30 p.m. question and answer with Lee; and Sam Pollard's "Slavery By Another Name" (2012) on Sunday, June 16 at 3:30 p.m., followed by a question and answer at 5 p.m. by Pollard.
There is a free Children's Film Festival Saturday, June 15 from 10:30 a.m. and 2 p.m. at the Yale Center for British Art, 1080 Chapel St.
All ideas events are free.
Festival artists will be part of the iodeas side of the festival, too.: Aaron Neville will speak on the artistic home and creativity Saturday, June 15 at 3 p.m; the Governor's Arts Awards recipients at 3 p.m,. on June 15; Kronos Quartet's David Harrington and Wu Man will speak Sunday, June 23 at 1 p.m.; and a performer from a past festival, Rosanne Cash on Saturday, June 29 at 1 p.m.; all at the Yale University Art Gallery. Shantala Shivalingappa, Byron Au Yong and Danny Mekonnen speak Tuesday, June 25 at 5:30 p.m. at the Yale Center for British Art.
"Preparing for 2050: The Changing Face of Race in America" with Rev. Dr. Frederick "Jerry" Streets, Sunday, June 16 at 1 p.m. at Yale University Art Gallery.
"Richard Sennett: Together — The Rituals, Pleasures and Politics of Cooperation" with Sennett ("The Rituals, Pleasures and Politics of Cooperation"), Sunday, June 16 at 3 p.m. at the Yale University Art Gallery.
"Joshua Foer: Revisiting the Hunter-Gatherer Life" with Foer ("Moonwalking with Einstein"), on Tuesday, June 18 at 5:30 p.m. with the Yale Center for British Art.
"Reintegrate: Enhancing Collaborations in the Arts and Sciences" on Wednesday, June 19 at 5:30 p.m. at the Yale Center for British Art.
"Global Innovators: From Recession to Prosperity" on Thursday, June 20 at 5:30 p.m. at the Yale University Art Gallery.
"Simon Critchley and Jamieson Webster: Shakespeare, a Difference — Reinterpreting 'Hamlet' and Other Plays" on Saturday, June 22 at 1 p.m. at Yale University Art Gallery.
"Benjamin Barber: If Mayors Ruled the World" on Saturday, June 22 at 3 p.m. at Yale University Art Gallery.
"Demographics and the U.S. Workforce" on Wednesday, June 26 at 5:30 p.m. at the Yale Center for Brtitish Art.
"Marion Nestle: The Politics of Food" on Thursday, June 27 at 5:30 p.m. at Yale Art Gallery.
There are also free master classes by some of the festival's artists: Sunday, June 16 at 10 a.m. with Broken Umbrella; Tuesday, June 18 at 10 a.m. with David Dimitri of L'Homme Cirque; Thursday, June 20 at 10 a.m. with puppeteers with the Bristol Old Vic production of "A Midsummer Night's Dream;" Sunday, June 23 at 2 p.m. with artists of Compagnie Kafig and a performance by Guinga Brasileria; Sunday, June 23 at 6 p.m. with the Bhangra Dance Party with Funkadesi; Friday, June 29 at 10 a.m. with Shantala Shivalingappa.
There's also a "Play-In" for string musicians on June 22 at 6 p.m.; walking tours, exhibition tours and gallery talks, bike tours and food tours and experiences. See the festival's web site for more details.
INTERNATIONAL FESTIVAL OF ARTS & IDEAS: Tickets are available at www.artidea.org and through the Shubert Theater box office, 247 College St. Discounted parking for festival available on the website.Copyright © 2015, CT Now