Saturday, April 05, 2014

Arts and Ideas festival previewed for June (more on Ideas portion to come)

New Haven Arts and Ideas Festival to include play about trauma/forgiveness

Mary Lou Aleskie, executive director of the International Festival of Arts and Ideas, announces the schedule for the festival during a gathering Thursday at The Study in New Haven. Peter Hvizdak — New Haven Register

Humberto Howard photo La Santa Cecilia will perform June 28 on the Green.
NEW HAVEN >> “Great performances, big ideas and serious fun” is the capsule description of June’s lineup for the International Festival of Arts and Ideas from Mary Lou Aleskie, its executive director.

The typically diverse lineup includes an “American Idol” winner, a female country singer raised in the shadow of Mount St. Helens, four top female African-American singer/musicians with several musical styles, a European theater piece about surviving trauma, an Irish and American folk group and a returning Montreal acrobatic troupe.

Details of the schedule were announced at a press conference Thursday evening at The Study on Chapel Street; more than 120,000 people are expected to attend events from June 14-28.

“It’s a time for people to come together with neighbors and friends, and neighbors and friends from around the world, and it gives you a chance to not leave your home (area) and journey across the world and engage with artists and thinkers ... (pause) and have some fun!” said Aleskie in an interview.

For the 19th year of the early summer festival, Aleskie said, “Our theme is transformation and tradition,” which plays out in performances and the context-lending activities before and afterward. For example: After one of the performances of a topical new play about surviving trauma, called “The Events” at Yale Rep, composer John Brown will join other artists to discuss the role of art in conflict.

Another potentially special extra? For June 21’s Dianne Reeves performance on the New Haven Green with the New Haven Symphony Orchestra, there will be a Music Haven-led all-musicians play-in with NHSO musicians about an hour before the show at the fountain on the Green.

The Green events are free, as are about 85 percent of festival events and activities that last year involved 800 performers and added $34 million to the city’s economy, according to the yearly Quinnipiac University economic impact study.

Aleskie said the process of choosing and booking acts can take years. She said officials identify and sign up certain “cornerstones” and then build out the body of the festival.

“We’re really proud to have the U.S. premiere of a very important international play called ‘The Events,’ and it’s by a Scottish playwright by the name of David Greig,” Aleskie said, noting that Greig’s earlier play, “The Strange Undoing of Prudencia Hart,” was part of an earlier festival.

The play about trauma and forgiveness will tour the U.S. after New Haven.

Another cornerstone for sheer enjoyment, said Aleskie, is Montreal-based circus/acrobatic company 7 Fingers (Les 7 doights de la main), returning after performing a different show last year, with “Traces.”

“This piece is a larger, more theatrical piece ... that’s toured all over the globe,” Aleskie said.

Opening the festival will be a concert by vocalist/pianist Lalah Hathaway (daughter of the late Donny Hathaway) with “Idol” winner Ruben Studdard on the Green June 14 at an event that will also include presentation of the Governor’s Arts Awards.

Another much-anticipated night on the Green, said Aleskie, is the somewhat-rare collaboration with the New Haven Symphony and returning jazz vocalist Reeves on June 21.

Other headline concerts on the Green:

Martha Redbone Roots Project on June 15; Redbone’s heritage is Appalachian, Native American and African American, and her music is a fusion of roots music.

• Country songwriter Brandy Clark with the group Bronze Radio Return on June 22.

La Santa Cecilia (recent Grammy winner) with Nation Beat (Brazlian/New Orleans) on June 28 at 7 p.m.

Ticketed events include the “Traces” circus show at University Theatre June 24-28; and Greig’s “The Events” June 24-28 at Yale Rep. Also:

• “Arguendo” at Yale Rep. June 18-22, the witty and dramatic staging of Supreme Court oral arguments in a nude-dancing 1st Amendment case (directed by Yale alum John Collins).

• The one man journey of self-discovery “County of Kings” with Lemon Anderson, at Yale Rep June 14-15.

• Jazz violinist Regina Carter’s “Southern Comfort,” at Morse Recital Hall at Sprague Hall June 17.

The Gloaming, an Irish and American folk group, at Morse Hall June 19.

Adele Meyers & Dancers with “Einstein’s Happiest Thought” contemporary dance show June 24-28 at Iseman Theatre.

Ile O, Compagnie Barolsolo, which involves two clowns, a pool of water and a pole on the green (free standing room).

• Cellist Erik Friedlander’s “Block Ice & Propane” June 15 at Iseman Theatre.

• Echoes: Early Music Reimagined with Yale Chorale Artists June 20 at St. Mary’s Church.

Ideas events include:
• “Jack Hitt: From Electric Car to Obsolete Highways” June 15; “On the Waterfront: Responses to Our Embattled Waterways” June 17; “Down Home: The Musical Heritage of the American South” June 17; and “Thinking About Sports” with Frank Deford, Slate’s Mike Pesca and New Haven author Nicholas Dawidoff on June 19.

As in past years, Mondays during the festival are dark; there will be a PizzaFest on the Green other weekdays at noontime; and family events will be held June 14-15. A&I folks will also assist with three “pop-up” neighborhood festivals in Fair Haven, Dixwell and the Hill.

And local artists are involved in many aspects of the festival but especially the noon and 6 p.m. outdoor stage performances, officials said.

For more details, see

Joe has been the TV editor, features writer, columnist, general assignment reporter and copy editor for some 35 years in New Haven, first with the Journal-Courier and then the New Haven Register. Follow Joe on Twitter: @joeammo.

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