MCLA Presents! Adds International Theatre to its Performances


NORTH ADAMS, MA - MCLA Presents! announces its 2010/2011 season, including the work of two internationally known theater companies. This season, the Gare St. Lazare Players from Ireland and the Classical Theatre of Harlem will perform works by Irish avant-garde writer, dramatist and poet Samuel Beckett.

Performances this season also will include a concert by a pair of classically trained violinists who mix hip hop with classical and have backed up artists such as Alicia Keys, P. Diddy and Aerosmith; vocal performances by the award-winning originator of the role of Rafiki in Broadway's "The Lion King"; an acoustic, pop-folk duo from Ontario; African dance co-presented with the '62 Center for Theatre and Dance; and the return of MCLA's Annual Blues and Funk Festival.

According to Dawn Shamburger, assistant professor of fine and performing arts, bringing theatre groups to MCLA provides a wonderful opportunity for not only her theatre students, but the entire campus, as well as members of the greater community.

"Sometimes it's hard to travel to shows of this caliber, so it's great to have them come here," Shamburger said. "An important part of doing theatre is seeing how other people do their work. Having exposure to others who are out there working in theatre and doing productions is invaluable to our students."

On Wednesday, Nov. 17, at 7:30 p.m., the Gare St. Lazare Players of Ireland will perform one of Beckett's early novellas, "First Love," a biting comedy about a middle man's first romantic relationship.  According to Jonathan Secor, director of special programs at MCLA, "First Love" showcases Beckett's distinctive black humor with a plot that is regarded by many as a comic masterpiece. Conor Lovett performs this one-man show seen by audiences around the world.

"(First Love) .... Is such a pleasing triumph because its gallows humor emerges so organically, the result of a prepared actor with a deep understanding of the text," said the New York Times. According to the Irish Times, "Lovett... is both disarming and startling, carrying a singular, ironic achievement, the character may turn his back on the living, yet this performance brings rich new life to his words."

Then, on Sunday, Feb. 13, 2011, at 5 p.m., the production of Beckett's "Waiting for Godot", originally staged and produced by the Classical Theatre of Harlem and set in the ninth ward of New Orleans will come to MCLA. In this original staging of this classic, the two lead characters are stranded post-Katrina, waiting for Godot, or possibly FEMA. Performed recently on Broadway, the play is "a mirror to those New Orleans natives who may or may not have given up on Godot by now, as they wait for the return of their faith," according to The New Yorker.

The series will kick off in the MCLA Quad on Saturday, Sept. 25, at 3 p.m. with "Black Violin in Concert." This duo of classically trained violinists combines an array of musical styles to produce "a raucous, rousing, genre-busting performance piece that dares the audience to get up and dance," wrote Time Out New York.  The outdoor event is co-presented with MCLA's Student Activities Council, the Multicultural Resource Center and many other clubs on campus.  Opening for Black Violin will be the MCLA Dance Company.

On Saturday, Oct. 23, at 8 p.m., Broadway veteran Tsidii will come to the MCLA Church Street Center to headline this year's Margaret A. Hart '35 Scholarship Concert, an annual event that helps to fund the Margaret A. Hart '35 Scholarship. Admission for this concert is at a special price of $20 for general admission, $10 for members, and, as always, is free for MCLA students.

Tsidii originated the role of Rafiki in "The Lion King" on Broadway, for which she was nominated for a Tony, and was part of the Grammy Award-winning cast. She has starred on stage, film and television, and has performed with Sting, Elton John, Madonna, Harry Belafonte, and Roberta Flack, among others.

According to Cosmopolitan, "Tsidii fills the stage with a touch of Fitzgerald throatiness, a sensuous jazz jive or two, a Chaka Kahn lilt, a note of the blues. Then it's back to an ethnic rhythm and a voice that seems to stretch forever as she sings of her roots, the magic Lesotho Mountains."

On Dec. 8, Taylor's restaurant will host a holiday concert and sing along with The Sweetback Sisters.  "I can't think of a better way to ring in the holiday season than this group of hipsters from Williamsburg Brooklyn singing for and with us with their vintage, infectious style of honky-tonk," Secor said. "We thought Taylor's was a perfect location. You can have something to drink and eat while being part of the party."

"With superb musicianship and an appreciation for times gone by, The Sweetback Sisters' members infuse their throwback sound with youthful intensity and broad influences," according to NPR Music. 

            MCLA's annual Blues and Funk Festival returns to campus on Friday, Feb. 4, 2011, with a North Adams favorite, "Papa Grows Funk." These New Orleans funk-makers will be joined by award-winning blues singer and bass player Benny Turner, described by Real Blues Magazine as "nothing short of a blues masterpiece." According to Daily Yomiuri, Papa Grows Funk is "the funkiest, most exciting band to emerge from the Crescent City in years." 

            MCLA Presents! joins the Williams College '62 Center for Theater and Dance to present "lions will roar, swans will fly, angels will wrestle heaven, rains will break: gukurahundi" on Friday, March 4, and Saturday, March 5, at 7 p.m. at Williams. The show features contemporary choreographer Nora Chipaumire performing to a live original score by  Thomas Mapfumo and The Blacks Unlimited. 

Originally from Zimbabwee, Bessie Award Winner Nora Chipaumire has performed around the word, including for many years with Urban Bush Woman.  In this work, she explores what it is like to be an African in an increasingly borderless and globalized world. While in the Berkshires, Chipaumire will work closely with MCLA and Williams students as part of a three-week residency co-presented by MCLA and Stalwart Originality: New Traditions in Black Performance 2011. 

"These brave artists make work rich with human layers that need all the facilities of music, lyrics and dance to complete the expression," said New City Stage. 

In a co-presentation with Railway Café held at MCLA Gallery 51, Dala, an acoustic-folk duo from Ontario will bring vocal harmonies and a unique brand of acoustic pop guaranteed to bring the audience chills, Secorsaid. Called "the angels of folk music" by Exclaim!, Dala is "ethereal, eloquent and downright beautiful, the music they create is faultlessly performed." 

Closing the 2010/2011 season, on Sunday, May 1, the PAM! Show will return for 2011 when, once again, MCLA performing arts management students program and produce the final concert of the MCLA Presents! season. Performers and the location will be determined during the spring semester. Updates will be available in early 2011 at presents

 "This process has been invaluable to me as an arts management student," said arts management major Kimberly Gritman '11 discussing the PAM! Show that the student's produced in the Spring of 2010 "World Street Corners". "It has felt at times like I have been thrown into the real world of performing arts presenting without a paddle; but under the guidance and encouragement of Jonathan Secor I have learned that I am more than ready and capable of applying the items I have learned inside the classroom. It just takes a little push into the deep end." 

With the exception of the Margaret A. Hart '35 Scholarship Concert, general admission for MCLA Presents! performances is $12, $8 for MCLA alumni and $5 for MCLA faculty and staff and non-MCLA students. Members and MCLA students are free. For tickets, call 413-662-5204. For information, call 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.