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Penn Live Arts Blog

Carols after a Plague

Posted December 8, 2021

Silence not Holy Black Madonna
Mother of All
Offer sacred praise to her
If not, thy tongue should silence give
Holy tone she is
Wholly listen in
- Shara Nova, from Carols after a Plague: II. Tone-policing

Like so much that has happened in the last twelve or more months, Carols after a Plague is the solution to a problem. In fact, so much of creativity, whether artistic or scientific, is the result of facing a challenge that needs solving. In this case, the challenge posed was multi-faceted: “How to record these conflicting feelings, born of isolation, fear, and social unrest? How to make a record of this time? How to better reflect the community we live in?” Read more...

5 Questions with Michelle Dorrance

Posted December 1, 2021

On December 10-11, we welcome Dorrance Dance for its Penn Live Arts debut. "Dorrance is a virtuoso, both as a dancer and choreographer," (The New York Times) and we can’t wait to have this tap superstar’s company grace our stage. But first, let’s learn a little bit more about her in just five questions.

1. What first got you into dance?
My mom was a professional ballet dancer, and she started a school in Chapel Hill, North Carolina when I was barely a year old, so I started dancing very young, but I was pretty terrible at ballet (inherited my soccer coach father's flatter feet and much less flexible legs). However, I quickly excelled at/became obsessed with tap dancing because it was a form of musical expression, and that came much more naturally to me than graceful movement as a loose-limbed kid. And I truly fell in love with the art form through the tutelage of the school's founding tap teacher, Gene Medler. Very different from most "studio" tap dance teachers of the time, Gene sought out the elders of our community, taught us a history we never would have learned elsewhere, and brought us to the early tap dance festivals to study with cutting edge young dancers like Savion Glover and the last of the jazz-era hoofers who were in their 80s and 90s at the time. I feel so incredibly lucky to have grown up with Gene as my teacher, mentor, and friend. Read more...

What to expect when you return to our theatre next month

Posted November 24, 2021

With vaccination requirements, mandatory masking, symptom screenings and more, we’re committed to keeping you safe while enjoying an amazing show. We hope this walk-through of the process for returning to our venue helps answer any questions you may have as you look forward to your upcoming performances.

Ahead of Time:
Get vaccinated and find your vaccination card. Everyone entering our building must be fully vaccinated and able to show proof. “Fully vaccinated" means the performance date is at least two weeks after your final COVID-19 vaccine dose. Those under age 12 may show proof of vaccination or negative results from a COVID-19 PCR test (saliva or nasal swab) taken within 72 hours of the performance start time.* There are no exceptions to this policy. Read more...

A visionary celebration of sound and motion

Posted November 16, 2021

Dance Penn Live Arts Debuts Philadelphia Premieres

Listen, watch and be wowed by celebrity tap star Michelle Dorrance’s sensational sounds and moves when her company explodes onto the Zellerbach Theatre stage December 10-11.

A MacArthur Fellow “Genius Grant” recipient, the first ever for a tap dancer, Dorrance is an unstoppable force of nature. She is a virtuoso tap dancer, visionary choreographer, passionate ambassador, fearless activist, relentless evangelist, supercharged innovator and devoted “edutainer” (educator/entertainer). She honors the rich, diverse history of tap while introducing new audiences to tap’s endless possibilities through her ground-breaking and imaginative approaches. Read more...

West Philly (is very) Welcome

Posted October 26, 2021

Founded over a decade ago in 2010, our West Philly Rush program has reached so many of our neighbors, offering steeply discounted tickets to enjoy amazing live performance experiences. We’ve truly loved making these connections, especially seeing some of the same beautiful faces returning time and again.

Originally a day-of rush with limited ticket availability, the program has evolved over the years but this summer, we were excited to reimagine this outreach and our approach. We wanted to create broader and easier access, ensuring everyone is able to attend and feels welcome in our theatres. So, West Philly Rush was renamed and restructured into our new West Philly Welcome program. Read more...

Student Performing Arts Groups Take Center Stage


Welcome to the vibrant world of student performing arts at Penn! Our campus is home to more than 60 extracurricular student performing arts groups, practicing disciplines from a cappella to dance, theatre to spoken word, music to comedy, and stage tech to design. Platt Student Performing Arts House is the advisory hub for extracurricular student performing arts on campus, providing students with the resources to train, collaborate, rehearse, fundraise and realize their artistic values on stage. These student performances come to life across campus, many within the Annenberg Center walls, supported by Penn Live Arts at the box office, in the tech booth, and throughout the performance process. We are grateful to Penn Live Arts for this partnership! Read more...

5 Questions with Christopher Gruits

Posted October 12, 2021

Our 5 Questions series takes us behind the scenes with artists and other personalities in the Penn Live Arts space. You may already know our Executive & Artistic Director Christopher Gruits, who appears onstage in person or virtually before shows, welcoming you and giving some insights into what you'll be seeing. Now, we turn the lens around and share about what Chris is thinking as we begin our 50th anniversary celebration. Plus, learn about some intriguing aspects of his life that you might not have guessed.

1. What does the new identity, Penn Live Arts, signify, both now and for the future?
Penn Live Arts really reflects where we are at this point in time. It honors our roots as a Penn institution, connecting us more closely to the University community. At the same time, it symbolizes our increasingly expanded programming outside the walls of the Annenberg Center. And, at its most basic, it reflects our commitment to live performance. Read more...

Video Celebration: Lila Downs

Posted September 28, 2021

September 15 to October 15 is National Hispanic American Heritage Month, an annual celebration of the cultural contributions of Hispanic and Latino Americans. To honor this special month, we are highlighting the music and artistry of one of our favorite artists, Lila Downs. This global superstar has performed on our stage many times over the years and was supposed to appear again in May 2020 as our Artist-in-Residence. While that event had to be cancelled, we cannot wait to welcome Downs back on April 21 and share her powerful music and vibrant, intoxicating stage presence with all of you. In the meantime, please enjoy some videos of her hits and special performances from the past few years. Read more...

5 Questions with Alan Pierson

Posted September 20, 2021

We are so excited to open our 21/22 season with Alarm Will Sound on September 25. Hailed as “the future of classical music” by The New York Times, the acclaimed new music ensemble makes its first return to Philadelphia in 12 years to perform John Luther Adams’ site-specific work Ten Thousand Birds at the Morris Arboretum. In our eager anticipation, we connected with Alan Pierson, Artistic Director and conductor of Alarm Will Sound, to learn more about his life as an artist and the ensemble’s recent activities in just five questions. Enjoy! Read more...

Celebrating National Dance Day

Posted September 17, 2021

Caroline Leipf, our Assistant Director for Education & Engagement, learning the 2019 National Dance Day routine at the Kennedy Center.
Celebrating dance is always important. Dance is a universal language with endless physical, mental, social and spiritual benefits. And this fall, we have even more reason to celebrate dance as it is returning to our theatres!

September 18 is National Dance Day. Join the party and dance wherever you are. I will be dancing in my living room with my children. How about you? To learn some new moves and participate in the #NationalDanceDay community across the nation, here is the official 2021 National Dance Day routine tutorial taught by Brian & Scott Nicholson. No experience is necessary so give it a try! Read more...

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