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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...

Doug Varone brings his latest masterwork, Somewhere, to Philadelphia

Posted November 1, 2023

Expect the unexpected when the award-winning Doug Varone and Dancers burst onto our stage with the Philadelphia premiere of Somewhere, an inventive plotless take on Leonard Bernstein’s memorable score for West Side Story. Founder Doug Varone’s signature style is acclaimed for its fluid athleticism, painterly musicality, speed, naturalism and emotional depth that speaks to the human spirit. “This is a company of master dancers, performing masterly choreography.” (Newsday) It is no wonder the company is an 11-time Bessie Award recipient with performances in 125 cities worldwide. Read more...

5 Questions with Ulysses Owens Jr.

Posted October 23, 2023

Grammy® Award-winning jazz trailblazer Ulysses Owens Jr. returns to our stage on Oct 29 with his high-octane big band, following his incredible Philadelphia debut performance last season. “A fiery and creative drummer,” (DownBeat) Owens connected with us for today’s 5 Questions feature, sharing insight into the guiding forces that propelled his career and current work. Read more...

Toll the Bell

Posted October 12, 2023

When we curate each annual season, we balance a range of ideas, objectives, and program goals, including our ongoing commitment to artists that address topical issues of our time. Programs at the Annenberg Center have always dealt with pressing issues of the day, whether it be through August Wilson’s plays, campus-wide artist residencies, or commissions of new work such as the 2017 world premiere of A Period of Animate Existence. Our aim each year is to provide audiences with a range of performances that delight, entertain, challenge, and inspire, and we know that so many of our artists are telling important stories that help us, as the audience, reflect and consider our world differently. Read more...

5 Questions with David T. Little

Posted October 4, 2023

“One of the most imaginative young composers,” (The New Yorker) David T. Little is known for his “knack for overturning musical conventions.” (The New York Times) His theatrical choral work, SIN-EATER, a Penn Live Arts co-commission, will see its world premiere on Oct 14-15, performed by Philadelphia’s Grammy® Award-winning new music choir, The Crossing, and the Bergamot Quartet. Little is also featured as part of our ListenHear series, showcasing significant contemporary musical voices. In today’s 5 Questions feature, we get to learn how early music memories and a wide breadth of influences have influenced Little’s work. Enjoy! Read more...

An extraordinary lineage, Havana’s Malpaso Dance Company makes its Penn Live Arts debut

Posted September 27, 2023

There’s a saying that everyone dances in Cuba. This dancing island boasts rich histories and colorful traditions from Africa, the Caribbean, the Americas, Asia and Europe. It is no wonder Cuba has spawned some of the greatest dancers of all time, including Alicia Alonso, superstar prima ballerina and founder of the National Ballet of Cuba, as well as the world’s most popular music styles such as the son (salsa), mambo, cha-cha-chá, merengue, guaguancó, bolero and Afro-Latin jazz. Hailing from this cultural hotspot, the technically gifted, versatile and strikingly gorgeous Malpaso Dance Company (MDC) makes its Penn Live Arts debut October 6-7 with the world premiere of A Dancing Island plus two Philadelphia premieres, Indomitable Waltz and La Última Canción. Read more...