Penn Live Arts Blog / December 2020

Happy holidays

Posted December 23, 2020

From rehearsal rooms to Zooms—Penn performing arts student groups innovate during COVID-19

Posted December 18, 2020

West Philly Swingers performing "Burn the House Down"
“As student (arts) leaders, we had to improvise— there was no precedent. It speaks to the power of the arts community at Penn that every single person has made it a commitment to stay connected to their groups and continue making art despite a lot of limitations.” – Henry Platt, C’21

During a typical academic year, the performing arts at Penn buzz with activity. Student groups ranging from dance to jazz to musical theatre come together to rehearse in spaces throughout campus, forming tight social bonds that are key to the Penn experience. Ensembles frequently perform at the Annenberg Center where they learn how to produce in a professional venue and pack the theatres with audiences from across the University. With over 2,000 undergraduate students involved in performing arts groups, there is no doubt that this creative community is thriving among Penn students. Read more...

Our digital season continues in 2021

Posted December 17, 2020

As we approach the New Year, we are excited to announce our spring 2021 digital season, bringing the best dance and music artists from our stage to your home! Designed specifically for the virtual stage and captured live by four HD cameras, our original livestream performances feature legendary musicians, beloved dance artists and rising stars performing numerous world premieres, Philadelphia debuts and more. Our independent film series continues as well and will be announced in early 2021. Read more...

ListenUp: Pianist Sullivan Fortner

Posted December 11, 2020

Jazz ListenUp

Sullivan Fortner got his start on the piano when he was just four years old. His mother, a big fan of the gameshow Jeopardy!, had given young Sullivan a Fischer-Price piano for Christmas. After hearing the theme song a couple times, Sullivan plunked out the tune knowing just where the half steps were in the melody. From there, he began studying more formally at age seven, following a storied lineage of improvisers and blues-masters to whom he grew up listening. Check out this playlist to hear how this child prodigy has matured into one of today’s leading jazz pianists. It kicks off with the hippest version of the Wheel of Fortune theme song you’ll probably ever hear.

A Lifetime of Service: Celebrating Usher Milestones

Posted December 9, 2020

With the holiday season in full swing, thoughts often turn to gratitude and giving. While this year has certainly been unlike any other, there are still many reasons to celebrate. For our Front of House department, 2020 marks two employee milestone anniversaries worth celebrating: Lueree Scott’s 25th year and Gerry Shambaugh’s 30th year at the Annenberg Center.

I knew I was in the presence of front of house (FOH) royalty when I met Lueree and Gerry over five years ago. Working alongside these two over the last few years, I have learned so much. Gerry, a confident and quick lead usher/theatre usher, is there with sage advice and guidance at every turn. He is always the first to jump in when extra hands are needed and can come up with creative solutions to any problem. Lueree, our ticket-taking pro theatre usher, arrives extra early for every shift, and greets incoming ushers with her kind smile and incredible zest for life. At 91 years of age, Lueree keeps up with our children’s matinee audiences and Penn student workers alike. She always tells us this work “keeps her young!” Read more...

Story Time with Stim Returns

Posted December 2, 2020


Penn’s student-led Stimulus Children’s Theatre Company, or Stim, for short, is known for taking their theatrical productions into schools and hospitals to inspire youth through the performing arts. When the pandemic hit, and all in-person events ceased, we partnered with Stim to help bring stories to life in a virtual format. That summer-time series of read-aloud videos was a hit, and we’re happy to kick off a new set of four books read by members of Stim! Check back each week for a story time video featuring the following children’s books:

11/11: Tiara's Hat Parade by Kelly Starling Lyons and Nicole Tadgell
11/18: Leila in Saffron by Rukhsanna Guidroz and Dinara Mirtalipova
11/25: Be Kind by Pat Zietlow Miller and Jen Hill
12/2: Not All Princesses Dress in Pink by Jane Yolen, Heidi Y. Stemple and Anne-Sophie Lanquetin


5 Questions with Janet Eilber

Posted December 1, 2020


We continue our series asking five questions to discover more about Annenberg Center artists and others whom we find interesting. Today, we learn about Janet Eilber, the Artistic Director of Martha Graham Dance Company which returns to our stage on December 10. A former principal dancer with the company who worked closely with Graham, Eilber has been its Artistic Director since 2005 focusing on creating new ways of access to Graham masterworks for today’s audiences. Read on to learn more about Janet Eilber.

1. What first got you into dance? 

At the age of six, I was entranced by the Treasure House Ballerina on Captain Kangaroo – one of the first programs for children on black-and-white TV in the 1950s. I told my mother that I wanted to do that, and she enrolled my sister and me in ballet classes in Detroit. Read more...