5 Questions with Wang Lu
New Music World Premieres
We are thrilled to be partnering with The Crossing for The Month of Moderns 2021, offering three outdoor music programs performed outdoors across the Philadelphia area. This annual summertime festival features numerous world and U.S. premieres, including the At which point by composer Wang Lu. Based on Forrest Gander’s raw, brutally honest poem Beckoning, the score is described by The Crossing’s conductor Donald Nally as an “ongoing, florid recitative – a musical language bursting with potential song yet intent on the concentrated delivery of words. Transparent and fragile, each phrase from one singer to another, across the rolling meadow of Awbury Arboretum.” Let’s get to know Lu in five questions!
What first got you into music?
I grew up in a musical family. I saw how much my parents, aunts, uncles and grandparents enjoyed singing Chinese opera, folk songs and playing accordion together with their friends. I always associated music-making with the people I love and our community.
ListenUp: World Music
Penn Live Arts Recommends Music World Music
We revisit the vibrant sounds and rhythms of musicians from around the globe in our updated world music playlist. The playlist features musical gems from several Annenberg Center favorites: the queen of Afro-pop, Angélique Kidjo, Indian tabla virtuoso Zakir Hussain, Zimbabwean a cappella group Nobuntu, the traditional Irish band Danú, and the electrifying Mexican-American singer Lila Downs.
The Month of Moderns 2021
New Music U.S. Premiere World Premieres
The Crossing is grateful to be presented by Annenberg Center, our frequent partner.
Entering our second summer of a global pandemic, it could be easy to feel things are quickly returning to “normal,” due to the amazing efficiency of scientists, a surprisingly responsible government (we’d come to expect the opposite), and vigilance on the part of our singers. Yet, the wounds are deep, and the virus lingers nearby, worse than ever in parts of the world that are not able to invest the extraordinary resources available to us in the United States.
I say this because our festival this summer - while being a full Month of Moderns, with three different programs in three weeks – is anything but “normal.” Entirely outside, designed for distance and safety during the pandemic, and capturing this moment in time – a moment when we are confused in balancing hope and caution, fear and defiance, all couched in humility. So, the works we sing this summer address these emotions head on, and that makes me more excited than ever for a Month of Moderns because not only will we be together, but we’ll be mining every bit of what we’ve been through. Read more...
5 Questions with Matthew Neenan
Dance World Premieres
A former principal dancer and Choreographer in Residence at Pennsylvania Ballet as well as the co-founder of Philadelphia’s beloved BalletX, Matthew Neenan has been called “fresh, touching, musical, original” with choreography that makes “dancers look vulnerable, openhearted and, above all, marvelously free.” (The New York Times
) We can’t wait for Neenan to come to the Annenberg Center to explore intimacy in isolation in a site-specific world premiere on May 27
. But first, let’s get to know more about him through just five questions. Enjoy!
What first got you into dance?
I was the stereotypical story for a young boy. My two older sisters danced at Boston Ballet School, therefore I was dragged to their ballet class almost every afternoon. I did not mind though, I was obsessed. I loved it so much and couldn’t wait to start classes once I was old enough. Read more...
Behind the Lens
Did you know that our Bruce Montgomery Theatre was originally designed for film screening? Or that the Harold Prince Theatre, which is now our popular black box theatre space, was built as a TV studio? Film and media has a long history here at the Annenberg Center, and we are proud to be part of a University with a dynamic cinema and media studies program, not to mention many well-established alumni who have succeeded in the film industry!
If you have ever been curious to know more about what it was like for film students during the pandemic, we are pleased to share Sunday Night at the Movies: Behind the Lens with Penn Student Film Festival Winners. Featuring the top three student winners, Penn Cinema and Media Studies faculty members and alumni who worked on projects ranging from TV’s Reading Rainbow to films like Cruel Intentions, The Fast and The Furious and 13 Going on 30, it is a lively discussion of filmmaking during unusual times.
Checking in on #MyAnnenbergStory
On April 8th, the 50th anniversary of the dedication of the Annenberg Center, we kicked off #MyAnnenbergStory, a multi-year celebration of 50 years of innovative artists and performances, our diverse, loyal audiences, and our Penn and greater Philadelphia community. We asked you to share what you love or remember about the Annenberg Center and we have greatly enjoyed seeing everything you’ve sent our way.
Chaz fondly remembers his time singing on our stage with Penn student a cappella group The Inspiration, while avid dance fan Linda is still amazed to have seen Twyla Tharp sitting three rows back, taking in her own company’s performance. Michael Novak, Artistic Director of the Paul Taylor Dance Company, remarked that since the company’s debut on our stage in 1984, Philadelphia audiences have experienced 35 beloved Taylor works, including two world premieres. Pamela feels like part of the family here, having sought the comfort of live music in difficult times and always leaving with smiles of joy. PHILADANCO’s esteemed founder, Joan Myers Brown shared of the company’s long history here and the pleasure of our continued partnership. Read more...
Until we meet again (in person), Philadelphia Children’s Festival
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
Penn Live Arts Debuts Dance Philadelphia 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
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
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...
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