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Until we meet again (in person), Philadelphia Children’s Festival

Posted April 29, 2021

Photo from our 2019 Philadelphia Children's Festival
Regrettably, for the second year in a row, the COVID-19 pandemic will prevent us from holding the Philadelphia Children’s Festival. We eagerly look forward to spring 2022 when we can welcome your families for the Festival again. In lieu of the Festival, which would have been this week, we will offer children and their grown-ups the magic of The Amazing Max through Zoom. What I love about Max and his Virtual Magic Academy is his ability to connect with children. This virtual experience is so much more than watching Max do tricks, it’s doing them along with him. And, in my own personal experience, this one hour on the screen results in many hours, even days, of being an audience to your child’s magic practice OFF the screen.

In this blog post, I am happy to shine a spotlight on our amazing PlazaMania partners, who normally fill our lobby and Outdoor Plaza with fun, interactive arts activities. Read more...

5 Questions with Ayodele Casel

Posted April 22, 2021

Philadelphia Debuts Dance Penn Live Arts Debuts

Ayodele Casel’s accolades continue to roll in. The New York Times hails her as “a tap dancer of unquestionable radiance,” and she was named one of the publication’s “Biggest Breakout Stars of 2019." She will even be featured on a postage stamp soon, as part of a celebration of tap! Casel has become an inspiring and powerful voice for the art form, and we can’t wait for her to make her Philadelphia debut on our stage on May 6. But first, let’s discover more about Casel in just f̶i̶v̶e̶ six questions (we couldn’t turn down the chance to learn a bit more!)

What first got you into dance?

Seeing Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers in Swing Time while taking a “History of the Movies” course in high school is what peaked my tap dancing curiosity. I thought they were magic. I wanted to teach myself how to move like them and I would check out their films at the library, go home, and lock myself in the room to revel in what they were doing. My sophomore year in college presented my first opportunity to take a tap class and I was in all my glory living the dream of being a little closer to feeling like I was in 1930’s Hollywood. Read more...

Feintuch Family Lobby Dedication

Posted April 20, 2021

You may have heard that we recently celebrated an exciting milestone – the 50th anniversary of the Annenberg Center’s dedication! The Center was the first multidisciplinary performing arts center in the region, and in 1971, brought a new wave of creativity and innovation to Penn and West Philadelphia. Though much has transpired in the last half century, for those close to the Annenberg Center from the beginning it feels like just yesterday that Penn committed to the performing arts with the establishment of a professional venue here on campus.

Among those who fondly remember our early days are Rick Feintuch, a member of the Annenberg Center Board, and his wife Merry, both graduates of the Wharton School Class of 1974. Together with their sons Jason and Jonathan (both proud Penn grads as well) and their families, they made a generous gift to name a central space here at the Annenberg Center: the Feintuch Family Lobby. We were thrilled to be able to host a virtual dedication ceremony for the Feintuch Family Lobby on the Annenberg Center’s 50th anniversary, April 8, 2021. Read more...

5 Questions with Kun-Yang Lin

Posted April 15, 2021

Dance

In five questions, we aim to discover more about Annenberg Center artists and others whom we find interesting. This time, we feature dancer/choreographer Kun-Yang Lin whose company returns to our stage on April 22 with a world premiere and more. “Lin’s dances, simultaneously abstract and specific, create and inhabit worlds of their own.” (The New York Times) Let’s learn more about Lin’s background and choreographic inspiration! 

1. What first got you into dance? 

I view dance as my first language. I was raised in a home where my parents never spoke the same language (Mandarin and Taiwanese), so I learned to communicate through body language, gesture and action. I also noticed that in my community, the small village of Hsinchu in Taiwan in the 70's, there were no opportunities for boys to pursue dance and performance, which inspired me to explore new possibilities with dance and community building. I started a small group of male dancers when I was around 12 years old. That group was the first "seed" – planting the idea of developing a company of dancers as part of my life's calling. Read more...

Celebrating our 50th anniversary

Posted April 8, 2021

Today, we commemorate the 50th anniversary of the dedication of the Annenberg Center. The gala event, held on April 8, 1971, was a proud milestone in the history of the University of Pennsylvania, and a momentous occasion for the entire Philadelphia region. As the first multi-disciplinary theatre in the city, we have, since our founding, served as a cultural destination that has connected audiences and the University through a range of innovative programs across music, dance, theatre and film.

Addressing the audience on what The New York Times called a “huge ochre-carpeted lobby” of the brand new $5.7 million theatre, Nancy Hanks, head of the National Endowment for the Arts said, “The Center is designed to benefit the community, the campus and especially the students and faculty by surrounding dramatic experience with the intellectual, research and scientific resources of the University.” George Gerbner, Dean of the Annenberg School for Communication, added, “It will be a place where students, professionals, artists and scholars join campus and community in the exploration of the living and electronic arts as they participate in the conduct of inquiry into its forms and nature, and into its role in our lives." More memories of the ceremony can be found on page six of the Penn Almanac’s archival issue. Read more...

Recent Highlights: Jan – Mar 2021

Posted March 30, 2021

World Premieres Virtual Stage Special Features Philadelphia Debuts Music Film Early Music Dance Penn Live Arts Debuts

Photo courtesy of HopeBoykinDance
Powerful. Stunning. Inspiring. These are just a few of the words our audiences have shared with us since the spring digital season began in early February. It’s always great to hear such praise for the artists who have given a superlative performance. But in the past year, as we transitioned to livestreamed performances, it is particularly meaningful. And when we read that “the production team stars along with the dancers,” we get excited at the thought that perhaps that invisible barrier, across the virtual divide, just might be dissolving, bringing our virtual audiences so much closer. As one of only a couple of venues in the Philadelphia area to stream live performances in real time, this is a wonderful affirmation of the artists and their art and our staff learning to work in completely new ways. Here are a few highlights from the first weeks of our spring season.

Preserving the live experience has been our overriding goal for our 20/21 season. For debut artists, the dramatic tension of the live experience lends an extra level of energy, even in a virtual setting. For the audience, hearing new artists such as rising jazz stars Samara Joy and Pasquale Grasso gives a peek into the future of the art form. These fresh voices and musicians were a great kickoff to the spring season. You can read more about Samara Joy and her connection to Philadelphia in The Philadelphia Tribune and hear from both artists on our blog in our 5 Questions series. Read more...

5 Questions with Rennie Harris

Posted March 23, 2021

Hip-Hop Dance

He’s called “the most brilliant hip-hop choreographer in America,” (The New Yorker) and we know his upcoming performance will live up to such lofty acclaim. Rennie Harris Puremovement returns April 1 with a program of works including some that directly reflect on the current tragedies facing our nation. So, we were very eager to learn more about this beloved Philadelphian and discover all he’s working on right now in just 5 Questions.

1. What role does the dancer have in today's world?

Dancers are what I call physical historians. Dancers hold the information of choreographers past and the present. It is their job to tell the story of the choreographer and to do so by manifesting the choreographer’s ideas and thoughts into a physical reality (on stage) for all to see. Without the dancer, the ideas of a choreographer will remain an idea or theory. Read more...

One Year On

Posted March 18, 2021

Virtual Stage Special Features

Pictured: Angélique Kidjo in one of our final performances before closing our doors, February 2020
It’s hard to believe that we are now one year on from the total shutdown of our economy and the world as we knew it. Saying that sounds dramatic, but it's true. Recently, we have begun to regain some of our regular economic activity, and with the coming of spring and the advent of the vaccine rollout there is hope on the horizon. Yet, for the performing arts industry globally, this year has meant a total reevaluation of our business model while at the same time presenting an urgent need to maintain our venues, staff and programs, not to mention supporting the artists that grace our stages. It is hardly hyperbolic to state that our industry has never faced a greater challenge. Even during the Spanish flu pandemic, theatres, including Broadway, stayed open. During the Great Depression, the government invested in the Federal Theatre Project (1935-39) and during WWII, theatre and movie-going was a revered national pastime, an important source of information and a welcome distraction from the realities of rationing and war.

One year into our own generation’s challenge, we can begin to reflect on this tumultuous time and consider the many struggles but also the opportunities that have been realized because of this unprecedented situation. In a year when our nation grappled with the twin pandemics of COVID-19 and systematic racism, we were given an opportunity to ponder our role as arts providers and respond to national circumstances by delivering these programs in innovative and truly inclusive ways. Read more...

Find wonder and fun with Flip Fabrique’s Blizzard

Posted March 12, 2021

Family Circus

Photo by Sébastien Durocher
Families, this is just for you—an hour of free-spirited fun and wonder in a performance for kids and their adults of all ages. Our contemporary circus friends Flip Fabrique are sharing their current production Blizzard for one night only, Saturday, March 20 at 7 PM. You can watch for free via YouTube here.

This piece is special in its own right, but its timing feels apropos. As we reflect on our last “normal” week one year ago, I realize that Blizzard was the last performance I attended in person, outside of the Annenberg Center. It was wonderful to see Blizzard at TOHU in Montréal in the winter snow of December 2019. There is nostalgia in this piece for the Annenberg Center too. We were planning to present Blizzard live on our stage in April 2021. It was set to be announced when the world and all performing arts shut down in March 2020. We were not able to share that announcement with you, nor able to share the show with you in person. But now, through the generosity of the company’s special virtual presentation, we may share this performance with all of you in some form! Read more...

Celebrating Early Music Month

Posted March 10, 2021

Early Music

Photo from our November 15, 2020 performance by Meg Bragle, Mezzo-soprano & Richard Stone, Lute
Early music enthusiasts would know that the month of March is also Early Music Month, an awareness campaign created five years ago by Early Music America. Here at the Annenberg Center, we are joining the Early Music Month celebration by spotlighting our recent early music livestreams. At the end of February, we welcomed Gwyn Roberts and Richard Stone, co-founders of Philadelphia’s Tempesta di Mare, for a program that explored the works of baroque composers who stayed close to home. Stone also performed in the fall alongside mezzo-soprano Meg Bragle in an intimate meditation on the meaning of solitude. See below for photo highlights from these marvelous performances. Read more...

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