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Blowing in this spring will be kites like this from the Museum exhibit "Wafting on a Heavenly Breeze: Hand-Painted Kites from China"

Diverse musical offerings and a celebration of African sculpture kick off the arts season at Middlebury College

September 11, 2007

MIDDLEBURY, Vt. ? Middlebury College promises an exciting start to its arts events this fall with a lively jazz performance in Mead Chapel; the opening of an outstanding collection of African sculpture from the New Orleans Museum of Art; and a three-week residency by environmental sculptor Patrick Dougherty who weaves together local saplings and twigs to create architecturally-scaled works of art.

These events begin what is a packed and creative season featuring works by a variety of artists spanning many centuries, cultures and disciplines. The result is a calendar with literally something for every arts lover, from gallery and concert hall to stage and screen.

The Performing Arts Series musical offerings begin with the Cyrus Chestnut Trio on Sept. 15. Jazz pianist Chestnut has played a number of times at Middlebury, though this will be his first performance in Mead Chapel, where jazz greats Oscar Peterson, Abdullah Ibrahim, Marian McPartland, Dick Hyman, Jay McShann and Dave McKenna have performed in the past. Critic Lloyd Sachs has written of the "soulful thrusts, balletic flourishes, and unabashedly warm-spirited playing."

Emerson Quartet
Many artists and ensembles are returning to Middlebury for repeat performances. The Emerson String Quartet will give a free concert on Nov. 2 in Mead Chapel. The group first performed at Middlebury more than 25 years ago and has made frequent returns over the years. Other familiar faces include organist Paul Jacobs; the legendary Tallis Scholars; pianist Pei Yao Wang, who returns with the Albers Trio; the Florestan Trio; and longtime favorite pianist Paul Lewis.

New faces include Russian Pianist Polina Leschenko; classical guitarist Xuefei Yang; Pavel Haas String Quartet; and celebrated Slovenian pianist Dubravka Tomsic, whose performances convey "heroic power and Olympian vision," according to the Los Angeles Times. A protégé of legendary pianist Artur Rubinstein, who considered her "a perfect and marvelous pianist," Tomsic gave her first public recital at age five and later embarked on an international career that took her to all five continents, performing more than four thousand concerts to date.

Celebrating the history and art of theatrical design, a Theatre Design Symposium on Sept. 29 offers exhibits, workshops and discussions about costume, scene and lighting design. The day-long symposium features the work of visiting artists, students, faculty, staff and alumni.


On Oct. 8, Obie award winner and 2007 Pulitzer Prize finalist Rinde Eckert returns to Middlebury in "Horizon," a tale of one theologian's crisis of faith. Loosely based on the teachings of Reinhold Niebuhr, Eckert's character, pressured to resign by dogmatic powers within his church, works all night on his final lecture. The work for three actors also features Howard Swain and 1995 Middlebury graduate David Barlow.

On Nov. 15-17, Professor of Theatre and Women's and Gender Studies Cheryl Faraone directs "The Heidi Chronicles." In this smart and rueful Wendy Wasserstein comedy, Heidi Holland, feminist art historian and observer of the cultural scene, remembers milestones in her life, from activism to consumerism to choice. The production is the culminating event in a two-week festival of films, talks and readings celebrating the playwright's life and career.

On April 9-12, director and 1990 graduate of Middlebury College Claudio Medeiros presents Aristophanes' "Lysistrata," the story of the war between ancient Athens and Sparta, and Lysistrata's compelling solution: she rallies the women of Greece to hold a sex strike to force the politicians and soldiers to come to their senses. The antiwar comedy mixes fantasy and gender politics with plenty of bawdy jokes, double entendres, and sexual innuendoes - all to create the revolutionary idea that a small group of women can change the course of a war.

Dance enthusiasts this season will enjoy several performances, including two related features by Artist-in-Residence Leyya Tawil. Tawil, of Syrian-Palestinian descent, will perform her solo "Landmine/Map of the World" on Oct. 6. In a follow-up discussion, Tawil will address the role of contemporary dance in creating and breaking illusions about Middle Eastern women

Leyya Tawil
and culture. Later, on March 8-9, Tawil's company Dance Elixir will present "Capital Life Triptych," a powerful and insightful series that uses choreography grounded in the power, weight and speed of the human body to investigate facets of contemporary culture including mass media. Tawil's kinetic, charged, and earthy dances earned her a place among the San Francisco Bay Guardian's "Top 10 Choreographers to Watch in 2006."

On Jan. 24-25, the Dance Company of Middlebury, directed by Artist-in-Residence Tiffany Rhynard, will present "I'm Right, You're Wrong," an interdisciplinary and multi-media investigation of the complexity of conflict and the mechanics of consequence. The piece dissects intricate layers of equality, privilege and justice, while an interactive media interface created by New York-based artist Marlon Barrios Solano engages performer and audience in technological communication, encouraging the viewer to act as witness, judge and jury. After the premiere at Middlebury, the company will take the performance on tour in the San Francisco Bay area.

Opening Sept. 18 and continuing through Dec. 9, "Resonance from the Past: African Sculpture from the New Orleans Museum of Art" will intrigue museum visitors with its stunning works dating from the seventeenth through the 20th century. Drawn from one of the outstanding collections of African art in the United States, the exhibition includes figures of gods, spirits

Egungun Costume from the
"Resonance from the Past exhibit

and ancestors, as well as ceremonial masks, headdresses and ritual objects created by the peoples of West and Central Africa. The works reveal the richness of traditional African culture and also serve as potent reminders of the aesthetic influence of African art on European Modernism. This exhibition is a collaboration between the Museum for African Art and the New Orleans Museum of Art. Frank Herreman is the guest curator. Related events scheduled to complement the exhibit include slide lectures throughout the fall by leading scholars in the field; screenings of contemporary films, including "The Court (Bamako)" and "The Last King of Scotland;" a dramatic staged reading; and an African music and dance performance in November by artist-in-residence Alpha Yaya Diallo and the Bafing Riders from the West African nation of Guinea.

Also opening Sept. 18 and continuing through Dec. 9 is "Art Now" featuring an overview of the previous environmental works by sculptor Patrick Dougherty. Dougherty is widely known for weaving together saplings and twigs in site-specific, architecturally-scaled works of art. To coincide with the opening of this exhibit, Dougherty, during a three-week residency at Middlebury in September, will construct a new installation with the assistance of local volunteers. The environmentally friendly, temporary structure will be made from local materials and installed outside the Center for the Arts, facing South Main Street (Route 30).

From Jan. 24-April 20, "Eloquent Vistas: The Art of Nineteenth-Century American Landscape Photography from the George Eastman House Collection" will be on view. The 78 images in this exhibition include daguerreotypes of Niagara Falls, photographs of Civil War battlefields and spectacular views of expanding railroad lines and the vast American West. All were created in the late 19th century by artists like Timothy H. O'Sullivan, Eadweard Muybridge, William Henry Jackson and Carlton E. Watkins. The works were selected from more than 10,000 American landscape images in the collection of the George Eastman House.

On April 3, "Wafting on a Heavenly Breeze: Hand-Painted Kites from China" will bring a plethora of dragons, phoenixes, snakes, bats and mythical figures to the Center for the Arts lobbies. The exhibition of hand-crafted kites made from traditional materials of bamboo, paper and silk hails from city of Weifang, within the Shandong Province, the birthplace of kite making.

The Hirschfield Film/Video Series returns this season with its signature diverse collection of more than a dozen mostly independent films from around the world. Selections this year include such popular award-winning titles as "Apocalypto," "Pan's Labyrinth" and "Volver."


The series also features back-to-back screenings on Jan. 12 and Jan.19 of "Flags of Our Fathers" and "Letters from Iwo Jima," presenting two cultural perspectives of World War II's Pacific theatre.

Films in the series are free and shown twice on Saturdays - at 3 p.m. and at 8 p.m. - in Dana Auditorium in Sunderland Language Center on College Street (Route 125). 

Performing Arts Series tickets are $15 for regular admission and $12 for seniors. Department events are $5 for regular admission and $4 for seniors. Many events are free. Pre-performance dinners for select engagements are held at Rehearsals Cafe in the Center for the Arts.  Information; dinner reservations; tickets for all music, theatre and dance performances; a free color 2007-2008 Middlebury College arts calendar and the free quarterly newsletter, "Arts at Middlebury College," are all available through the college's box office at 802-443-6433 or The box office opens on Monday, Sept. 10, for Middlebury College students, faculty, staff, alumni and other ID card holders; and on Monday, Sept. 17, for the general public. Patrons may also sign up for Middlebury College Arts Mail - an information service that delivers e-mail updates on arts and cultural events. Museum exhibition information is available at 802-443-5007 or at Open Tuesday through Friday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday, 12-5 p.m., the museum is located in the Center for the Arts. Admission is free.