Banner photo: Experimental theater group The Actors' Gang presents David Ball's adaptation of "Tartuffe," which reimagines Moliere's classic play while updating the original text.
A choir from Cuba, pioneers of Irish music and American jazz masters are just a sample of what's in store for audiences at this year's Seven Days of Opening Nights festival, which boasts an extraordinary — and eclectic — roster of artists as well as a wealth of educational opportunities for schoolchildren and university students.
Florida State University has announced its 15th annual lineup for the dazzling festival of the arts, which is traditionally held each year in February. This year, there are several performances held outside the month, with the first one kicking off the season in September. Seven Days will once again spotlight Florida State's contribution to the arts with a variety of performances that reflect the university's commitment to excellence in everything from music to literature to dance.
Festival highlights include performances by such acclaimed artists as violinist Hilary Hahn, Bernadette Peters, the Chieftains, the Marcus Roberts Octet, Wynton Marsalis and the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra, the Creole Choir of Cuba and the Second City Touring Company, as well as an encore performance by the acclaimed string band the Carolina Chocolate Drops, who drew crowds and rave reviews at last year's festival.
Seven Days also will feature an appearance by Cheryl Strayed, the best-selling author of three books, including the acclaimed "Wild," which was the first book selected in Oprah's Book Club 2.0. In addition, the new Seven Days season pays homage to the visual arts with three exhibits at Florida State's Museum of Fine Arts, including a show of the paintings of Flemish baroque master Peter Paul Rubens, on loan from Sarasota's Ringling Museum of Art.
This year's festival lineup will be overseen by a new director, Christopher J. Heacox, who has served since 2009 as executive director of the 120-year-old Friday Musicale festival in Jacksonville, Fla. Heacox, who assumed the position Aug. 1, said he was honored to oversee this year's lineup.
"Seven Days of Opening Nights has always offered a rich tapestry of the arts, and this year the festival is hosting an especially exciting and diverse group of artists," he said. "I am also very passionate about our efforts to expand the educational outreach for both schoolchildren and university students this year."
Tickets sales for Seven Days members begin on Sept. 4, depending on membership level, and continue through Oct. 1. Tickets for the general public go on sale Oct. 2. For additional ticket information, visit www.sevendaysfestival.org.
The Seven Days of Opening Nights schedule for this season is as follows:
- Sept. 21 — Emily Johnson's "Niicugni" world premiere, 8 p.m., Nancy Smith Fichter Dance Theatre: $25; $10 for students. Emily Johnson presents the world premiere of "Niicugni," a piece that the Alaska-born Johnson refined during her second stint as a fellow at Florida State's prestigious Maggie Allesee National Center for Choreography.
- Jan. 19 — Anthony Zerbe, "It's All Done with Mirrors," 8 p.m., Florida State's Richard Fallon Theatre: $25; $10 for students. Emmy Award-winning actor/teacher Anthony Zerbe offers his dazzling one-man take on poet e.e. cummings, moving the poetry from page to performance as he glides through a parade of characters.
- Jan. 23 — Richard Thompson, 7:30 p.m., Ruby Diamond Concert Hall: $50, $35 or $25; $10 for students. The uniquely gifted Thompson is a brilliant songwriter, virtuoso guitarist, riveting performer and unparalleled musical adventurer. He has carved out his own musical path from his earliest days as co-founder of Fairport Convention, through his classic duets with then-wife Linda Thompson, and on into his brilliant solo career. Thompson is a folk-rock revolutionary and a legendary live performer.
- Feb. 7 — Hilary Hahn, 7:30 p.m., Ruby Diamond Concert Hall: $60, $40 or $30; $10 for students. Although only 32 years old, violinist Hilary Hahn's international fame and recognition includes two Grammys and the 2008 Classic FM/Gramophone Artist of the Year award. A daring collaborator, a portion of her program will include several pieces from The Hilary Hahn Encores Project, for which she commissioned 27 composers to write short "encore" pieces for violin and piano.
- Feb. 8 — Museum of Fine Arts Exhibitions, 6-8 p.m., free. The FSU Museum of Fine Arts' 2012-2013 contribution to Seven Days consists of three different, highly unique exhibitions:
- "Head, Shoulders, Genes & Toes": Artists use the material world of science and art to draw fascinating psychological parallels and create installations. Curated by Judith Rushin, the exhibition reflects the interface of art, medical research and the human condition.
- "Peter Paul Rubens: Impressions of a Master," on loan from the Ringling Museum of Art, showcases prints of one of the most influential
artists of all time.
- "I Am Me: Artists & Autism" adopts the philosophy of Kurtis Frank's book "I Am Me," which addresses overcoming feelings of isolation and confronting differences. Talented young artists who meet the challenges of autism are the focus of this exhibition. Curated by Alison Leatzow and Susan Baldino, the selected works are varied and unforgettable.
- Feb. 8 — Wynton Marsalis and the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra, 7:30 p.m., Ruby Diamond Concert Hall: $75, $50 or $35; $10 for students. Trumpeter Wynton Marsalis is an iconic figure in the evolution of the art form and a tireless advocate for jazz as America's classical music. Marsalis has amassed an unrivaled number of awards and accolades, including nine Grammys, recognition as one of "America's 25 Most Influential People," and the Pulitzer Prize for Music, the first ever awarded to a jazz artist. He has helmed the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, comprising 15 of the finest jazz soloists and ensemble players today, since it became Jazz at Lincoln Center's resident orchestra in 1988.
- Feb. 9 — Saturday Matinee of the Arts, 10 a.m.-4 p.m., Tallahassee Museum, free. Saturday Matinee of the Arts presents a rich lineup of visual and performing arts and activities for children. The day's dance performances typically range from ballet to flamenco, while artists and artisans from fine painters and potters to jewelry makers display their work throughout the museum's grounds.
- Feb. 9 — PRISM, 7:30 p.m., Ruby Diamond Concert Hall: $30; $10 for students. PRISM returns for yet another magnificently conceived, beautifully played performance. Featuring top music students from Florida State's world-renowned wind and percussion programs, PRISM covers the spectrum of band activities at Florida State — Florida State Chamber Winds, the Campus Band, the University Concert Band, Seminole Sound, the University Symphonic Band, the University Wind Orchestra and, of course, the Marching Chiefs.
- Feb. 10 — Cheryl Strayed, 7:30 p.m., Ruby Diamond Concert Hall: $20; $10 for students. Strayed is the author of "Wild," a New York Times best-selling memoir and inaugural selection of Oprah's Book Club 2.0; "Tiny Beautiful Things," a selection of her "Dear Sugar" columns from TheRumpus.net; and "Torch," a novel. The winner of a Pushcart Prize as well as fellowships to the Bread Loaf Writers' Conference and the Sewanee Writers' Conference, her essays and stories have been published in The Best American Essays, The Best New American Voices and other anthologies.
- Feb. 11 — The Chieftains, 7:30 p.m., Ruby Diamond Concert Hall: $75, $50 or $35; $10 for students. The Chieftains are celebrating their 50th anniversary in 2012 (and well into 2013) with performances around the world. Led by founder Paddy Moloney, the six-time Grammy winners (with an Oscar on the shelf, as well) are musical ambassadors, cultural icons and boundary-pushers. The Chieftains' latest disc, "Voice of Ages," features collaborations with the Carolina Chocolate Drops, Punch Brothers and Low Anthem.
- Feb 12 — The Actors' Gang: "Tartuffe," 8 p.m., Turner Auditorium at Tallahassee Community College: $25; $10 for students. Juxtaposing traditional Commedia masks with strikingly modern images, The Actors' Gang presents David Ball's adaptation of "Tartuffe," which reimagines Moliere's classic play while updating the original text. The gang creates daring reinterpretations of the classics while developing new plays that address the world today through satire, popular culture and raucous stagecraft.
- Feb. 13 — American Legacies: The Preservation Hall Jazz Band and the Del McCoury Band, 7:30 p.m., Ruby Diamond Concert Hall: $60, $40 or $30; $10 for students. Preservation Hall opened its doors in 1961, showcasing the national treasures of traditional New Orleans jazz music. Its current roster boasts some of the Crescent City's finest, most exciting multi-generational musicians, who proudly carry on the traditions of great jazz heritage. Together in concert, the Preservation Hall Jazz Band and the Del McCoury Band create a seamless blend as the high, lonesome sound of the Appalachians collides with the hot jazz of New Orleans.
- Feb. 14 — Kyle Abraham: Abraham.In.Motion/World Premiere Tour, 8 p.m., Nancy Smith Fichter Dance Theatre: $25; $10 for students. Born into hip-hop culture in the late '70s and grounded in Abraham's artistic upbringing in classical cello, piano and the visual arts, the performance delves into identity in relation to a personal history. The work entwines a sensual and provocative vocabulary, with a strong emphasis on sound, human behavior and all things visual, in an effort to create an avenue for personal investigation and expose that on stage.
- Feb. 15 — Bernadette Peters, 7:30 p.m., Ruby Diamond Concert Hall: $95, $80 or $60; $40 for students. Tony Award-winning actress Bernadette Peters has dazzled audiences and critics with her performances on stage and television, in concert and on recordings. Her versatility as a performer shines through in her numerous Grammy Award-winning cast albums, six solo albums, 17 films, and appearances on TV shows such as "Grey's Anatomy," "The Carol Burnett Show," "Ugly Betty" and an Emmy-nominated performance on "The Muppet Show."
- Feb. 16-17 — Sérgio & Odair Assad, Saturday, Feb. 16, 2 p.m., Pebble Hill Plantation: $50; Sunday, Feb. 17, 2 p.m., Opperman Music Hall, $30; $10 for students. Sérgio and Odair Assad have set the benchmark for all guitarists by creating a new standard of innovation, ingenuity and expression. For their Seven Days appearances, the duo will perform "La Belle Vie!," an all-French program featuring music by Lully, Rousseau, Saint-Saëns, Fauré, Debussy and others, all arranged for two guitars by Sérgio Assad.
- Feb. 16 — Carolina Chocolate Drops, 7:30 p.m., Ruby Diamond Concert Hall: $50, $35, or $25; $10 for students. The sensations of last year's Seven Days festival return for an encore. All about innovation, tradition and serious fun, the phenomenal, Grammy Award-winning Carolina Chocolate Drops are widely credited with reviving the rich sounds of black string-band music from the Carolina Piedmont region. Upstarts in a stable of deep tradition, they are also a link between past and future, exploring generations-old songs with a modern touch and creating new material that seamlessly blends the two.
- Feb. 17 — Marcus Roberts Octet: "New Orleans Celebration: The Music of Jelly Roll Morton," 7:30 p.m., Ruby Diamond Concert Hall: $50, $35 or $25; $10 for students. Marcus Roberts has long been drawn to the immortal music of Jelly Roll Morton, recording both solo ("Alone with Three Giants") and with a trio ("New Orleans Meets Harlem"), taking on the self-proclaimed inventor of jazz. Roberts will be joined by regular bandmates Jason Marsalis (drums) and Rodney Jordan (bass), augmented by five horns, for that deep New Orleans sound.
- Feb. 18 — Geoffrey Gilmore: A Movie You Haven't Seen VI, 8 p.m., Student Life Cinema: $30. Gilmore, the chief creative officer at Tribeca Enterprises and former head of the Sundance Film Festival, sees more movies than just about anyone in the country, and he has an unerring sense for those distinctly "indie" qualities in American independent film. What's this year's movie? We won't know until the lights go down. But if Gilmore's picking the movie, and his past Seven Days presentations are any indication, it will be smart, provocative, heartfelt and brilliant.
- Feb. 25 — Creole Choir of Cuba, 7:30 p.m., Ruby Diamond Concert Hall; $35 or $25; $10 for students. Prepare to be blown away: Listen to the passionate melodies, wild harmonies and richly textured arrangements of these 10 inspiring vocalists and you will know this is the most original vocal sound to come out of the island in a long while. The Creole Choir's Cuban name, Desandann, means "descendants," and the singers tell the stories of their Haitian ancestors, who were brought to Cuba to work in near-slave conditions in the sugar and coffee plantations until the 1959 Revolution.
- March 5-6 — Second City Touring Company, 8 p.m., Florida State's Richard G. Fallon Theatre: $30; $10 for students. For Seven Days, Second City offers "Laughing Matters," a show featuring some of the best sketches, songs and improvs from its 50-plus-year history. With its roots in improvisation, Second City has developed a unique way of creating and performing comedy. The troupe's two performances at the Fallon Theatre will be filled with improvisation, creation and audience participation.
- March 23 — John Williams and John Etheridge, 8 p.m. Opperman Music Hall: $40; $10 for students. John Williams is the most celebrated classical guitarist of this generation. John Etheridge is a prodigiously gifted and creative guitarist who enjoys a glowing reputation throughout the jazz world. The two Johns deliver a dazzling display that travels from Bach to Django Reinhardt to Francis Bebey. This performance will feature solo spots from both guitarists, as well as numerous duets.
- April 10 — Maestros in Concert: Zakir Hussain and Shivkumar Sharma 7:30 p.m., Ruby Diamond Concert Hall: $50, $35 or $25; $10 for students.Tabla master and world-music superstar Zakir Hussain returns to Seven Days, and he's bringing another master of Indian classical music, santoor superstar Shivkumar Sharma. Sharma is the undisputed king of the santoor, a dulcimer-like instrument with 72 strings, struck with delicate wooden hammers. He has redefined his instrument in terms of technique, depth and popularity, transforming it from a folk device to a virtuoso instrument.
- Mural Project — ongoing throughout festival; location to be determined; participation is free. Now in its third year, in collaboration with the city of Tallahassee and Florida State's Department of Art Education, Seven Days of Opening Nights will sponsor a celebratory piece of art created by the community, for the community, during the course of the festival.
Visit www.sevendaysfestival.org for more information.
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