From rehearsal rooms to Zooms—Penn performing arts student groups innovate during COVID-19
“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
West Philly Swingers performing "Burn the House Down"
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
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
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
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
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
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...
Dance, Romance, and Gender Fluidity: Aviva Film Discussion
“Sometimes you’re interested in a film because it’s trying to do something, even if it doesn’t quite work.” This was Maori Holmes’ rationale for selecting Aviva
, an experimental dance film directed by Boaz Yakin (2020) for the Annenberg Center’s Homecoming @ Home programming. Holmes, Artistic Director and CEO of BlackStar Film Festival, is the newly appointed Curator-at-Large for Film at the Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts and the Mediamaker-in-Residence at the Annenberg School for Communication. Aviva
chronicles the long-distance romance between Eden (a New Yorker) and Aviva (a Parisian videographer), as they attempt to merge their lives in New York City. The pair ultimately marry, then split, all the while confronting the ghosts of relationships past and charting new futures, professionally and romantically. Read more...
Our 2019-20 Impact Report
This is precisely the time when artists go to work. There is no time for despair, no place for self-pity, no need for silence, no room for fear. We speak; we write; we do language. That is how civilizations heal.” – Toni Morrison
Last season, the Annenberg Center connected our audiences with visionary artists from across the globe, presenting groundbreaking work and sustaining a thriving performing arts community in Philadelphia. We championed performance at Penn, collaborating throughout the University and providing students with meaningful exposure to the professional performing arts. We served as a bridge between Penn and our surrounding community, welcoming our youngest neighbors to professional dance, music and theatre performances. And amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, we built on the resilience and adaptability of the arts, pivoting to a digital platform to uphold and uplift music, dance and theatre during extraordinary times. Please join us in reflecting on this exceptional year of programming as detailed in our 2019-20 Impact Report. Designed as an academic year calendar, we invite you to explore our impact from last season, whether you read the report in one sitting, come back to it over time, or even print a copy to hang on the wall as a source of inspiration throughout the months ahead. Read more...
5 Questions with Veronica Swift
Penn Live Arts Debuts Penn Live Arts Recommends Jazz
With expansive musical influences, a commanding stage presence and a renowned jazz lineage, vocalist Veronica Swift is carving out her own identity in the world of jazz and beyond, and she’s just getting started. She’s making her Annenberg Center debut on November 12
but let’s get to know her a bit better through our 5 Questions series.
1. Talk about your background.
As many of your subscribers may know, I grew up in a touring jazz musician family. This means I grew up on the road, sleeping in the back seat of a car with my head propped up against a JBL speaker, stopping at drive-thrus, sitting at the bar or in the green room with my sketchbook while my parents gigged with some of the great jazz legends. You know those old MGM movies about the vaudeville family on the road together? Well, once I turned nine years old and started to sing, that was my life. Learning this music and also the way of the road from the greatest of examples in jazz. Read more...
Discussion: Medieval Poet Dante Alighieri
Florentine Dante Alighieri is the author of the immortal poem Divine Comedy
, a spiritual journey from hell - through purgatory - to paradise, in which religion, politics, and love intertwine. Arguably the greatest and most famous Italian poet, Dante died in exile in Ravenna in 1321. Now, 700 years later, Ravenna's Teatro delle Albe
, one of the most important experimental theatre companies in the world, celebrates Dante in its show fedeli d’Amore
(Love’s Faithful). The show is one of the numerous projects generated by the Teatro delle Albe’s Cantiere Dante (Dante Workshop), which includes the performance of the entire Divine Comedy
in Ravenna with the participatory support of its citizens: Inferno
were presented in 2017 and 2019, Paradiso is expected to be performed in summer 2021. The Teatro delle Albe brought the Dante project in various geographical locations (such as Matera), organized workshops (Timisoara), and produced a film
about their experience of staging Dante with school children and teenagers in Kibera (Kenya). Read more...
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