Penn Live Arts Blog


Posted February 12, 2024

Ukraine, a country steeped in rich artistic traditions, has a centuries-old heritage of music, dance, folk traditions and visual art. But today, Ukraine is quite literally on the front line of defending freedom, a fight representative of the hope for thriving democracies around the world. How are Ukrainian artists responding? Our weeklong focus, Ukraine: The Edge of Freedom, takes a deep dive into the culture of the country, bringing to our stages Ukrainian artists from across the globe, and from within our own city of Philadelphia. Read more...

Mapping our Philadelphia experience

Posted February 5, 2024

Photo by Mark Garvin

We all use maps to help orient ourselves in space, navigate an area, or learn more about what’s around us. But maps can also be a source of stories about a place – and, as participants at two special events learned last week, the information available on a map can suggest a story that either contradicts or complements individuals’ lived experience. In that tension lives the possibility for a creative, human-driven use of maps – the often complex, messy rejoinders to dominant narratives about a city. Read more...

The high-spirited and charismatic Ballets Jazz Montréal returns Feb 9-10 with two premieres

Posted January 31, 2024

Expect to fall in love when Quebec’s ambassador of contemporary dance, Ballets Jazz Montréal (BJM), one of the world’s most loved touring companies, returns to our stage with two premieres and a reimagined work on Feb 9-10. The company’s explosive, powerful, hauntingly beautiful and, at times, strange dances created by international choreographers have dazzled and excited audiences in 3,250 performances in 60 countries for half a century. However, its greatest asset is the dancers’ effervescent, joyful and feel-good style as they effortlessly display their virtuosity and versatility. Le Soleil Quebec City shared that "the dancers are the real strength of this company. Each of them stands out for his or her strength, flexibility, and charisma. What we were shown put the human at the center of the work ... which sets BJM apart from other companies." Read more...

5 Questions with Chris Lashua

Posted January 16, 2024

On Jan 28, the daredevil acrobats of Cirque Mechanics return to our stage with more “high-flying, free-wheeling fun” (Omaha World-Herald) in the Philadelphia premiere of Zephyr. For today’s 5 Questions feature, we connected with Cirque Mechanics’ Founder and Creative Director Chris Lashua, who shares some insight into his career, the company’s work and what audiences can expect from Zephyr. Read more...

Happy holidays

Posted December 20, 2023

Wishing you peace and joy this holiday season and throughout the New Year.

Recent Highlights: Sep – Dec 2023

Posted December 19, 2023

Each new season begins with an air of excitement over what’s to come on Penn Live Arts stages—the best in dance, jazz, classical and popular music, theatre, and more. This year, the season began with heightened anticipation as we received news that we had been awarded a grant from the Pew Center for Arts & Heritage to support the three-year residency of noted hip hop choreographer Rennie Harris. Penn Today spoke with our Executive & Artistic Director, Christopher Gruits, about what this means for PLA, Harris, and audiences. “This new, extended relationship allows us to support the vision of a globally significant Philadelphia artist and partner in the creation of new work, while elevating important and relevant issues for our community.” Make plans now to see Rennie Harris Puremovement in March! September also saw many shows “picked” in season previews of dance, jazz, popular music, new music, and theatre in The New York Times (music, dance), The Philadelphia Inquirer (dance, jazz, popular music, classical music), and WRTI radio. Read more...

poor hymnal

Posted December 6, 2023

come and rest with us

One-syllable words.
A command.
No, an invitation.
A compellingly stark appeal.

I need your kindness

I do.
We do.

This is the world of David Lang’s poor hymnal, premiering December 15 in Philadelphia. Read more...

Cappella Pratensis and Salamone Rossi educational engagements

Posted November 21, 2023

For Rutgers musicologist Rebecca Cypess, who spoke at our recent roundtable on the music of Italian-Jewish Renaissance composer Salamone Rossi, there is something strange about Psalm 137. Though the text describes the Israelites rejecting music in the face of mourning – “there on the poplars we hung our lyres” – and though that custom persists in certain Jewish communities, she noted that the psalm has been set to an astonishing variety of melodies, including Rossi’s own. It’s almost as if, she noted at her talk’s conclusion, the poem presents a challenge: to sing even in times of distress. Read more...

Celebrating Excellence: Our board members shine at Homecoming

Posted November 17, 2023

Richard D. Feintuch and Katherine Stein Sachs. Photo courtesy of Penn Alumni.
In a celebration of dedication and unwavering commitment to the University, two outstanding Penn Live Arts board members and distinguished Penn alumni were honored at the Alumni Award of Merit Gala over Homecoming Weekend.

Richard D. Feintuch, Wharton Class of 1974, received the prestigious Alumni Award of Merit, recognizing his exceptional contributions to the University community and his remarkable dedication to the performing arts. As the longest-serving member on our board, Rick Feintuch has been a pillar of support for the arts at Penn, contributing his time, expertise, and passion to advance the cultural landscape of the University. Read more...

The Negro Ensemble Company connects with students

Posted November 7, 2023

During the week of October 16, the Negro Ensemble Company (NEC), our 23/24 season artist-in-residence, prepared to perform No Policy, No Justice, an evening of world premiere one-act plays by Mona Washington (Elevator Not Necessary) and Cynthia Grace Robinson (Breathe) that addressed how mourners process deaths of loved ones lost to gun violence. Penn theatre arts, creative writing and English classes hosted NEC artists throughout the week leading up to the performances, beginning with director Ralph McCain in August Wilson and Beyond, the Academically Based Community Service course, co-taught this semester by Margit Edwards and Suzana Berger. McCain found clear connections between Wilson’s legacy of writing about Black communities and the emotional exploration of the aftermath of violence in the plays, and he exchanged stories with students about the frightening grip gun violence has on everyday American life. Read more...