MCLA Presents! Season to Include Groundbreaking Works, 'Creating Equality Series' Performances, Inaugural Puppet Fest


NORTH ADAMS, MASS. - For the first time ever, MCLA Presents! will explore the world of serious adult puppetry through the MCLA Puppet Fest, as professional puppeteers offer eight tales from around the world. In addition, this season will include five performances in conjunction with Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts' (MCLA) "Creating Equality" programming that looks at civil rights issues, to take place throughout this academic year.

"What continues to amaze me about the MCLA Presents! series is the depth of creativity and diversity that each year brings," said Jennifer Crowell, coordinator of the Berkshire Cultural Resource Center (BCRC).

"Not only do we feature so many mediums of the arts, but we are also innovating new themes for ourselves - whether it's the inaugural Puppet Fest or collaborations between students and famousmusicians. This series is constantly bringing new and exciting things here," Crowell said.

In partnership with MCLA's Latin American Student organization, MCLA Presents! will kick off the 2013-14 season with New York City-based band Orquestra Salsa con Conciencia, "SCC,"  on Saturday, Sept. 14, at 2 p.m. Formerly known as "La Excelencia," this 11-piece, salsa dura band will perform in the College's academic quad.

According to BCRC Director Jonathan Secor, one of the season's most exciting events will be "50 Years after the Fire," this year's Margaret A. Hart '35 Scholarship Concert. Harlem-based composer/trombonist Craig Harris unveils new musical compositions that he has been commissioned to create, which revolve around civil rights activities that happened 50 years ago.

For "50 Years after the Fire," the MCLA Allegrettos and other MCLA music students will join Harris' band, Nation of Imagination, to perform these new compositions, to include those centered on events such as the March on Washington, the Vietnam War protests, and the assassinations of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X and President John F. Kennedy.

From MCLA, Harris will go on to take the new compositions on tour throughout the world over the next decade.

This event, co-presented with MCLA's Allegrettos, the MCLA Music Department and MCLA's "Creating Equality" series, will take place on Sunday, Nov. 10, at 6 p.m. in the MCLA Church Street Center's Eleanor Furst Roberts Auditorium.

Tickets to this event will be specially priced, with all proceeds to go directly to benefit the Margaret A. Hart '35 Scholarship Fund.

"We are excited to partner with the MCLA campus as a whole through the 'Creating Equality' series, where we will look at civil rights and civil rights issues, including some of the more obvious ones, such as race and gender. But also, MCLA Presents! will examine some of the less obvious ones, such as class and food insecurity," Secor said.

MCLA's "Creating Equality" series will kick off on Thursday, Sept. 26, at the Eleanor Furst Roberts Auditorium in the MCLA Church Street Center at 7:30 p.m., when author and musician James McBride returns to the College for an evening of music and the spoken word.

McBride will read excerpts from his latest book, "The Good Lord Bird," which follows the life of the legendary abolitionist, John Brown. McBride considers Brown, one of the catalysts of the Civil War, to be one of America's unsung heroes. In addition to discussing Brown, he will perform with four gospel singers.

The event is free and open to the public; however, seating will be very limited. Please call (413) 662-5391 for more information.

MCLA Presents! will look at race issues, and in particular, what it means to be a young black man in America today, with "Word Becomes Flesh." A centerpiece of the "Creating Equality" series, and co-presented with the Williams College Davis Center, "Word Becomes Flesh" is a series of performed letters by a young, single father to his unborn son.

The show uses spoken word, dance and live music to document nine months of pregnancy. Presented by poet-performers, the play gives voice to the complexities and contradictions that surround race and gender in America.

 "Word Becomes Flesh" will take place on Saturday, Oct. 5, at 8 p.m., with a pre-performance discussion, "Trayvon, Race and being a Black Man in America," at 6:30 p.m. in the MCLA Church Street Center's Eleanor Furst Roberts Auditorium.

Rounding out the Creating Equality Series is "A Marriage: I (Suburbia)" an exhibition/performance work by newly married Nick Vaughan and Jake Margolin. Performances will take place in their gallery installation at MCLA Gallery 51. They will look at what it means to be a young, same-sex, married couple. 

Performances include Vaughan and Margolin completely spray painting each other, Saturday Sept. 21, at 4 p.m., and the complete reading of the famed Supreme Court case on gay marriage, "Perry versus Schwarzeneger," by 25 students. This performance will take place on Sunday, Sept. 22, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.  Both of these performances are free and open to the public.

New this year to MCLA Presents! will be its inaugural MCLA Puppet Fest.

"We're very, very excited about our Puppet Fest. All year long, we will explore the world of serious, adult puppetry, from great fun like 'Pigeoning' to 'Dorme,' where we will explore the dark side of our dreams in our sleep," Secor said.

The MCLA Puppet Fest will begin on Thursday, Oct. 24, with the first of five serial dramas by David Lane, "The Chronicles of Rose." Lane will be joined with fellow puppeteers Shawna Reiter and Jonathan Davis of Toronto, Canada, in this series, about the Nazi occupation of Paris, France, during World War II.

"The Chronicles of Rose" will continue on Nov. 14, and also on Jan. 23, Feb. 13 and April 30, 2014 - all in the Branch Gallery, 18 Holden St.

The Puppet Fest also will include "Dorme," conceived by Italian puppeteer Laura Barolomei, on Dec. 2 in the Branch Gallery. For this show, Barolomei will explore the darker side of sleep as she follows the dreams of a little girl - the nightmares, beauty and the fears. "Dorme" was among 225 shows selected for competition at the Subotica 20th International Festival of Children's Theatre, to take place in Serbia next spring.

On March 29, 2014, puppeteers Dan Froot and Dan Hurlin will perform "Who's Hungry" in the Venable Gym. Presented in conjunction with MCLA's "Creating Equality" series, a cast of actors, dancers and puppeteers will collaborate for this work, which centers on the lives of five hungry Californians.

For this 55-minute theatrical presentation, the audience will sit before a 24-foot dinner table, which will be transformed into a runway-style puppet stage.

Lastly, "The Pigeoning," an original comedic puppet piece by Robin Frohardt, centers on obsessive compulsion, pigeons and the end of the world. "The Pigeoning" has no dialogue, but uses music and precise puppetry to convey its dark and humorous story. 

The final puppet show of MCLA's Puppet Fest, "The Pigeoning" will take place on April 10, 2014, in the MCLA Church Street Center's Eleanor Furst Roberts Auditorium.

On Sunday, Oct. 6, playwright Liz Swados will step on the Eleanor Furst Roberts Auditorium stage at 6 p.m. to present an evening of newly created theater works - the culmination of a weekend-long happening at the Rowe Center "Play in a Day" event in Rowe, Mass. Along with the new works, Swados - the winner of five Tony Awards and three Obbies - will talk about her career and the writing process.

Then, on Thursday, Oct. 31, Ryder Cooley will return to MCLA Presents! with "Rewilderment: Passing through the Veil Between Worlds," in the Branch Gallery, 18 Holden St., at 8:30 p.m., as she caps off the final DownStreet Art Thursday of the year.

The audience - which is invited to come in their darkest apparel - will be serenaded with sinister accordion, gothic ukulele, chilling singing saw and disembodied voices, Secor said.

Also returning to MCLA Presents! and the Eleanor Furst Roberts Auditorium will be the Sweetback Sisters on Thursday, Dec. 12, with a "Honky Tonk Holiday Sing Along." This annual event harkens back to the "Golden Era" of the Silver Screen cowgirl and the ersatz cowboy stars of televised kiddy shows.

On Friday, Feb. 7, 2014, up-and-coming blues performer Jesse Dee of Boston, Mass., will bring his warm and honest sound to MCLA's Venable Gym, according to Secor, as he performs updated soul music for contemporary audiences on the first night of the College's Annual Blues and Funk Fest.

Night two of the Blues and Funk Fest will feature New Orleans music icon Walter "Wolfman" Washington on Saturday, Feb. 8, 2014, also in the Venable Gym. A part of the New Orleans music scene for decades, Washington's searing guitar work and soulful vocals define the Crescent City's unique musical hybrid of R and B, funk and the blues since he formed his first band in the 1970s, Secor said.

The season will conclude on May 4, 2014, with the Fifth Annual PAM! Show, at a time and location to be announced. This annual show has become the highlight of MCLA arts management students' scholastic careers.

Entirely programmed and produced by the spring 2014 Performing Arts Management (PAM) class, under guidance of Secor, their instructor, the "what," "where," "when," "how," "who" and "why" all are decided during a semester-long class that culminates in The PAM! Show.

"It's almost indescribable; the feeling you get when you see thousands of people actively enjoying something you put blood, sweat, and tears into," said Juwonni Cottle '13, one of the students who put on the "Rock the Block" 2012 PAM! Show.  "What was just an idea in a classroom became a day that touched people's lives."

Admission to the Ninth Annual MCLA Blues and Funk Festival are specially priced at $15 for both nights.

Tickets for "50 Years after the Fire" also will be specially priced at $15 for all tickets, with the exception of MCLA students, who may attend for free. All of the proceeds from this concert will go directly to benefit the Margaret A. Hart '35 Scholarship Fund.

All other ticket prices to MCLA Presents! performances are $10 for general admission. Tickets for MCLA alumni are $8, $5 for staff and faculty and non-MCLA students, and members and students are free.

Tickets may be reserved by calling MCLA Presents! at (413) 662-5204.~For more information, (413) 664-8718, or go to presents.

MCLA Presents! is a program of MCLA's Berkshire Cultural Resource Center (BCRC), a collaborative project with Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art (MASS MoCA) and the City of North Adams. The BCRC provides professional development training, resources and support to the artists, art managers and creative workers of Berkshire County. Through its multiple programs and presentations, BCRC brings the best of performance and art to the Berkshires and showcases the best of the Berkshires to the world.

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