Samford University’s Leslie S. Wright Fine Arts Center has announced the 2013-14 programming for the newly named “Signature Series.” University officials describe this series as “an exciting blend of performing arts.”
The year’s schedule is highlighted by performances featuring Tony Award winning dancer and choreographer Savion Glover, Grammy Award winning musician Bèla Fleck and an Off-Broadway touring production of “Ring of Fire.”
According to Sean Wright, Samford’s director of venue management, the change in names is reflective of the vision of the Fine Arts Center. “We have begun to establish the Wright Center as a true home for the arts in Birmingham. As the only location in the city where you can see professional companies doing world-class theatre, ballet, opera, modern dance, jazz and classical music, we have become the home for the performing arts, “ Wright said. “Our ‘signature’ has become providing high quality work in a convenient and comfortable environment. That is reflected in our ‘Signature Series’. “This year, we are trying to encourage people to ‘Try it out.’ The programs have been divided into three ‘genre’ series of three shows each, as well as our ‘Experience’ genre which defy categorization. Within each genre we have well-known artists as well as artists who are exceptionally talented but are maybe not household names yet. We have tried to program and price in such a way as to make it easy for people to take a chance on an artist they may not know but that they will come to love.”
The series begins with the two “Experience” performances. Each of these groups blend dancers, musicians, actors, athletes into a creative expression that crosses all genres, Wright said.
Diavolo Dance Theatre will open the series on Oc. 1. This modern acrobatic dance company utilizes oversized surrealistic sets and everyday structures to create innovative movement that combines the best of dance, theater and daring acrobatics.
Movement Workshop Group, performing on Oct. 28, focuses on telling stories through live music, movement, and theatre. The Brooklyn-based company will be premiering a new work called “Racine D’Or”, which includes live music and local dancers to tell a story inspired by the Louisiana Gulf Coast.
On Nov. 5, the Wright Center presents “Ring of Fire,” one of the most successful jukebox musicals of all time. This Off-Broadway touring production guides the audience on a journey through the storied life and iconic music of Johnny Cash, featuring more than 35 of his hit songs.
Perhaps the greatest, and certainly the best-known, modern tap dancer, Savion Glover seamlessly weaves together percussion, tap, and funk into an infectious rhythm. Savion Glover’s STePz, which comes to the Wright Center on Nov. 12, is a celebration of tap dance to sound and sound to dance. The production features Glover and his ensemble of dancers fusing traditional music selections of the past with his self-proclaimed tap style and energy of the future.
Bèla Fleck with Brooklyn Rider, taking place Nov. 18, features the noted banjo player combining forces with the Brooklyn based string quartet in an exploration of multiple genres of music. Fleck has been nominated in more Grammy categories than anyone in history and is widely acknowledged as one of the most innovative and technically proficient banjo players, Wright noted. Brooklyn Rider has made a name for themselves though their extensive collaborations within and outside of the classical world.
Civil War Voices will be presented Nov. 22. The play tells the true stories of five individuals who lived through the war, using the actual words the characters left behind in diaries, letters, and other writings. Inspired by the discovery of the diary of Joe Harris, a cotton planter from Alabama with a conflicted conscience about the war, the show takes a more humanistic view of the American Civil War. By focusing on the individuals, the struggles, hardships and sacrifices of Americans become understandable and real.
Koresh Dance Company will be presented in conjunction with the Alabama Dance Festival Jan.17. Founded in 1991 by Israeli-born choreographer and artistic director Ronen (Roni) Koresh, the Koresh Dance Company is known for its engaging performance and technically superb dancers. Over the years,. Koresh has developed a vast repertoire of work that ranges from explosive and passionate, to intimate and restrained.
For the first time, the Wright Center will present two shows in the adjacent Brock Recital Hall. The first will feature jazz pianist Jon Batiste Feb. 23. Batiste has a unique voice that transcends music genres, Wright said. He is a "Movado Future Legend" award recipient and has collaborated with musicians from across the spectrum – Prince, Lenny Kravitz, Wynton Marsalis, Jimmy Buffett, Harry Connick Jr., Roy Hargrove, Cassandra Wilson, Mark O’Connnor and Asher Roth among them.
Vocalist Haile Loren will perform March 7 in Brock Recital Hall. Loren has established herself as a fast rising star in the jazz world. Following in the tradition of artists such as Billie Holiday and Diana Krall, she has released six well-received albums and has played to sold-out audiences around the world.
An Evening with CS Lewis, on April 1, is an acclaimed one-man show starring British actor David Payne. After years of extensive research, Payne has sought to depict the noted author with all his trademark humor and insight. Set in the year 1963, Lewis hosts a contingent of American writers at his home just outside of Oxford, telling them the stories of his associations, his writing, his family, his faith, and his great love.
The series concludes with one of New York’s premier dance companies, David Dorfman Dance, on April 17. Dorfman produces dance that is fluid and powerful. Since its founding in 1985, the company has performed extensively in New York City and throughout the world. David Dorfman and the company’s dancers and artistic collaborators have been honored with eight New York Dance and Performance ("Bessie") Awards. This performance is funded in part by a grant from South Arts in partnership with the National Endowment for the Arts and the Alabama State Council on the Arts.
Season Tickets are now on sale for the 2013-2014 Signature Series. Audiences may purchase full season packages of all 11 shows for $150-$225.
There are also genre specific season tickets that include three tickets to either the music (Fleck/Brooklyn Rider, Batiste, Loren), dance (Glover, Koresh, Dorfman), or theatre (Ring of Fire, Civil War, CS Lewis) productions as well as one complimentary ticket to either Diavolo or Movement Workshop Group. Music series tickets are $60-$72. Dance series tickets are $72-$84. Theatre series tickets are $62-$72.
Audiences can also purchase packages of three or more shows of their choosing. These packages come with a 15% discount on single ticket prices.
Tickets can be purchased at the Leslie S. Wright Fine Arts Center on the campus of Samford University. Box office hours are Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The box office can be reached by calling (205) 726-2853. More information and order forms can be found online at www.samford.edu/wrightcenter.
Season at a Glance
(all seating reserved unless otherwise noted)
Oct. 1 7:30 p.m Diavolo $20-$35
Oct. 28 8:00 p.m. Movement Workshop Group $15 GA, $25 reserved
Nov. 5 7:30 p.m. Ring of Fire $20-$35
Nov. 12 7:30 p.m. Savion Glover’s STePz $30-$55
Nov. 18 7:30 p.m. Bèla Fleck with Brooklyn Rider $25-$50
Nov. 22 7:30 p.m. Civil War Voices $15 GA, $25 reserved
Jan. 17 8:00 p.m. Koresh Dance Company $15 GA, $25 reserved
Feb. 23 4:00 p.m. Jon Batiste (in Brock Recital Hall) $20
Mar. 7 7:00 p.m. Haile Loren (in Brock Recital Hall) $20
Apr. 1 7:30 p.m. An Evening with CS Lewis $20-$30
Apr. 17 8:00 p.m. David Dorfman Dance $15-$25