MCLA Presents! Announces 2011-12 Season will Feature Diverse Performers from Around the World


NORTH ADAMS, MA - From some of the most remote islands in the South Pacific to Africa, Ireland, the Dominican Republic, the stages of Broadway in New York City and beyond, the 2011-12 season of MCLA Presents! will feature artists from around the world who will bring their music, poetry, dance, video, comedy, drama and much more to Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts (MCLA).

"We truly have a great line up this year. MCLA Presents! continues to grow in such wonderful ways, with a broad range of artists and artistry. Our audiences continue to grow and expand, with more students than ever before seeing the work, and working with the artists. And, more community members are seeing the work, be it part of DownStreet or on the campus," said Jonathan Secor, director of special programs at MCLA. 

An initiative of MCLA's Berkshire Cultural Resource Center (BCRC), the season will open on Saturday, Sept. 24, at 3 p.m. in the MCLA Academic Quad with Latin Legend, Joan Soriano and his Band, in partnership with MCLA's Latin American student Society to honor of Hispanic Heritage Month.

Know as the "Duke of Bachata" this artist from the Dominican Republic's recordings and live performances showcase a down-to-earth, rootsy style of shantytown bachata that has garnered him considerable acclaim throughout Latin America and beyond.

According to East Bay Express, "Joan Soriano is a bachatero with a royal touch. He plays guitar with a passion and finesse that will leave you speechless." Deborah Pacini Hernandez, author of "Bachata: A Social History," said, "Soriano's music is gorgeous. He displays a powerful voice, versatility with bachata's style of guitar playing, and compelling, original compositions about love and loss."

On Thursday and Friday, Sept. 29-30 at 6 and 8 p.m., the back room of the DownStreet Art gallery MAYA IV will be transformed by "DRAWING FROM THE BODY," an installation performance by choreographer Polly Motley, video artist Molly Davies and composer Paul Geluso. The performances, co-presented with the Williams College Dance Department as part of DownStreet Art, will include two works - "Autopsy" and "Dressing."

"Autopsy" features live video feed mixed by Davies with a performance by Motley. "Dressing" is an interactive, three-monitor installation of a four-minute, three synchronous work.

Then, on Saturday, Oct. 1, at 2 p.m., "Video Portraits," a three-part video by Motley and Davies, will invite the audience to become an active participant in the creation of new work.  

According to Ballet International, "Polly Motley is a beautiful fluid dance.  The simplicity of her movements was all the more beautiful after the technological wizardry displayed by Davies. These marvelous artists should not be missed."

On Saturday, Oct. 22, at 8 p.m., Tony Award-winning musical writer STEW, of the Broadway hit jazz-rock musical "Passing Strange," and his partner Heidi Rodewald of "Stew and The Negro Problem," will headline this year's Margaret A. Hart '35 Scholarship Concert in the MCLA Church Street Center Auditorium.

Stew and Rodewald will perform hits from their Broadway Musical "Passing Strange," which combines jazz, rock and rap in a coming-of-age tale of a young, African-American man, as well as some of the seminal work of Kurt Weill/Bertolt Brecht.

According to NPR's Bob Lord, "Stew's concert performances are coveted for their literate precision, sly humor and deep emotional resonance, hovering between the divergent world of rock and theater."

On Saturday, Oct. 29, at 7:30 p.m., the Gare St. Lazare Players of Ireland and internationally renowned Beckett actor Conor Lovett will return to the MCLA Church Street Center Auditorium with "The End," a companion piece to last year's performance of "First Love."

Both heartbreaking and hilarious, the production features a man near the end of this life who is expelled from an institution of care and left to fend for himself. According to the Los Angeles Times, "One could hardly come up with a better human instrument to intone the sonorous waves of Beckett's blasphemous comic prose than Conor Lovett." The Sunday Times wrote, "His control is exquisite. Comedians would kill for such timing where every nuance is in focus and every word a gem."

On Tuesday, Nov. 15, at 7:30 p.m. in the MCLA Church Street Center Auditorium, MCLA Presents! and the MCLA Environmental Studies Department will co-present "Water is Rising: Music and Dance Amid Climate Change."

According to Secor, "Water is Rising" harnesses the power of performance art in an impassioned plea for global awareness and social change.  Produced by UCLA's Center for Intercultural Performance, in collaboration with the Foundation for World Arts and the Earthways Foundation, this performance is part of a national tour using traditional art and culture to highlight the effects of global warming."

The performance illustrates the plight of the Pacific Islands as the coral islands of Kiribati, Tokelau and Tuvala as they experience rising sea levels as a result of global warming. Thirty-six performers express their deep connection to their ancestral past through multi-part harmonies, poetry and movement that inspire viewers to be better stewards of the planet.

In another collaboration with DownStreet Art and co-presented with the MCLA Art Department, artist C. Ryder Cooley of the XMALIA gallery will bring a tragedy about extinction. Performed with taxidermy animals, aerial movement, video and song, Cooley's performance will take place in the MCLA Venable Gymnasium on Wednesday, Jan. 25, 2012, at 7:30 p.m.  "Be ready to expect the unexpected, with artists performing on the singing saw 20 feet up in the air, singing ballads of passenger pigeons while wearing taxidermy deer heads and feathered shoes," Secor said.

Nippertown described the performance as "a wonderfully strange and utterly captivating evening to be sure. Describing it, however, is more than a bit challenging... A musical episode of Twilight Zone? An animal opera by the Incredible String Band? A surreal mash-up of Charlie Chaplin and Cirque du Soleil?"

On Friday and Saturday, Feb. 3-4, 2012, the Seventh Annual MCLA Blues and Funk Festival will bring two great nights of soul pumping music, featuring the Berkshires' own Misty Blues and rising international star Blitz the Ambassador, according to Secor.

Taking place in the intimate setting of the newly opened Publick Restaurant on Holden Street in North Adams, Misty Blues will pay homage to the great female jazz singers of yesteryears on Friday.

On Saturday night, the celebration will continue with Ghanaian-born, New York-based master of ceremonies, composer and producer Blitz the Ambassador, who will unleash psychedelic Afrobeat colors and triple-time rhymes.

"He is truly an amazing performer," said Secor. "With a lightning-fast mind, the political boldness of Chuck D and the sixth groove sense of Fela Kuti, Blitz the Ambassador calls on old school hip hop and shifts between English, West African and Ethiopian jazz, never stumbling over his words and messages. You don't want to miss this party."

This event will take place in the MCLA Venable Gymnasium.

MCLA Presents!, the Williams College Stalwart Originality: New Traditions in Black Performance and the MCLA English Department will co-present the Third Annual Sekou Sundiata Evening of Spoken Word and Poetry on Friday, Feb. 24, 2012, at 6 p.m. in MCLA Gallery 51.

Dedicated to the life and work of the great poet Sekou Sundiata, this evening will feature the poetry of students from MCLA and Williams College. It will be hosted by Stalwart artist in residence, Shalijia Patel, an award-winning poet, playwright and theatre artist who was born and raised in Kenya.

CNN said, "Patel is an artist who exemplifies globalization as a people-centered phenomenon of migration and exchange."

"Living in Exile," an American Vicarious production that's co-presented with Williams College's Off Center Series, will be presented on April 13 and 14, 2012, at 8 p.m., and on April 15, 2012 at 5 p.m., in the MCLA Amsler Campus Center's Sullivan Lounge. Actors and audiences will experience this play in the intimate setting of an American living room. Seating will be extremely limited.

Returning to MCLA, "Waiting for Godot"  director Chris McElroen and "Krapp's Last Tape" actor T. Ryder Smith will bring John Lipsky's anti-war play, "Living in Exile" to life.  Taking the story of the Illiad, the story of the 10 years of war between Troy and Greece, Lipsky's work draws the parallels and comparisons between America's 10 years of war in Afghanistan and Iraq.  Purposely taking place in a setting that most feel comfortable in, the living room, the play explores the horrors of war, past and present.

"Powerful, intimate and thought provoking... it makes the connection between the past and present to reveal how little has changed and to challenge us, finally, to learn from our history and try to take action," said Andy Horwitz of Culture Bot.

The season will conclude with the Third Annual PAM! Show on May 5, 2012, at a time and place to be announced. This show will be fully programmed and produced by the students of MCLA's spring 2012 performing arts management class, under the guidance of Secor, their instructor.

"Performing Arts Management was by far one of the most valuable courses I have taken so far at MCLA," said Karolyne Symonds '12. "The whole class worked with Jonathan Secor as a team to plan, program and present MCLA's biggest event yet... I am proud to have been a part of such an experience and I will carry it with me for the rest of my life."

Tickets for this season are offered at a new, lower rate.

"In recognition of a struggling economy, we have done the unthinkable - reduced are tickets to an average of only $10 a person," Secor said.

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