Arts festival invites people to find themselves

Photo/Mike Lovett

The 62nd annual Leonard Bernstein Festival of the Creative Arts at Brandeis University, which runs Thursday, April 24 - Sunday, April 27, offers more than 50 events, performances and activities that cover a range of artistic forms and styles, from music to plays, art exhibitions to sketch comedy, video art to sidewalk drawings. The festival is open to the general public and includes events for all ages.

The great American composer and conductor Leonard Bernstein, then a Brandeis faculty member, founded the festival in 1952 to celebrate the university’s first commencement. Last year’s festival drew an estimated 7,000 people.

This year’s theme is “find yourself in art” and was inspired, in part, by “selfie,” 2013’s Oxford Dictionaries’ word of the year.

“The festival is a wonderful celebration of art’s capacity to bring about self-discovery for both artists and audiences,” said Ingrid Schorr of the Brandeis Office of the Arts and the festival’s producer.  “You’ll see performances and artwork that explore identity, and that reflect the purpose and passion that we find when making or viewing art. Our selection of unconventional guest artists represent diverse expressions of individuality, nonconformity and even eccentricity.”

Professional guest artists include the category-defying Hungry March Band, named “Best Anarchist Group of NYC” by The Village Voice. This legendary Brooklyn street band mixes musical styles of New Orleans and India with Latin flavor, jazz, punk rock noise, and hip-hop beats. Morgan Nichols ‘94 will present his independent feature film “How to Make Movies at Home,” about the new wave of do-it-yourself filmmaking. Bonnie Duncan of They Gotta Be Secret Agents will perform “Squirrel Stole My Underpants,” an original solo work with dance and puppetry.

Exhibitions on view at the Rose Art Museum feature sculptures by iconoclastic artist Chris Burden and provocative video art installations by Mika Rottenberg. These exhibitions inspired Boston Globe art critic Sebastian Smee to write: “You will find things at the Rose you are unlikely to find anywhere else.”

Brandeis has a great history of hosting singer-songwriters from Pete Seeger to Paul Simon. This year, the festival brings “An Evening with Livingston Taylor,” an intimate musical conversation spanning folk, pop, gospel, Broadway and jazz; as well as Brandeis Folk Fest, an outdoor concert featuring more than a dozen of New England’s best young musicians including Casey Abrams, Monica Rizzio and The Four Legged Faithful.

More than 300 Brandeis students will also participate in the festival, “painting portraits six feet high and giving music recitals in the museum,” according to Schorr. “We even have a one-man band and a student aerialist.” A dozen groups will unite for A CappellaFest, and more than 100 international students will celebrate their diverse cultures through the music and dance performance in “Culture X.” Ten graduate actors have created one-person shows, presented as “Ten by Ten” and described as “a little radical and a little renegade.”

In honor of Bernstein’s famed “Young People’s Concerts,” the festival will offer an afternoon of free performances and activities for families and children on Sunday, April 27. Performers include ImprovBoston, Tanglewood Marionettes, the Waltham Philharmonic, the Boston Typewriter Orchestra and The Alloy Orchestra, hailed by Roger Ebert as “the best in the world at accompanying silent films."

“New England is rich in arts and culture and home to many festivals,” said Schorr. “We hope the Leonard Bernstein Festival of the Creative Arts provides something that is as distinct and original as the multidimensional Mr. Bernstein, whose legacy we celebrate.”

For a complete schedule, visit the Leonard Bernstein Festival of the Creative Arts web site. All events are handicapped accessible and most are free.

Categories: Arts, Student Life

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