It seems entirely appropriate that the publication date of City's Fall Guide this year is September 11. In this annual issue, our writers preview the season in music, theater, art, performances, exhibitions, and literature. This year, in lieu of standard previews, we've invited the directors of local companies to tell us in their own words about the seasons they've prepared.
For many of us, it's the arts that sustain us through difficult times. It's through the arts that people express their greatest joy, intelligence, and creativity.
We've compiled a seasonal calendar that's as comprehensive as possible. And we offer a sampling here of just some of the voices of our cultural community. Read on for some of the highlights of Rochester's fall arts season, beginning, most appropriately, with the Rochester Oratorio Society's participation in a worldwide staging of the Mozart Requiem on the morning of September 11. (Reporting by Chris Busby, Jack Bradigan Spula, Tim Goodwin, Susan Herman, and Ron Netsky.)
Subheadline: Rochester Oratorio Society
Text: The Rochester Oratorio Society will open its season with a highly unusual performance.
"The Oratorio Society is beginning the season with the 'Rolling Requiem,'" says Roger Wilhelm, the society's conductor and music director. "The Seattle Symphony Chorus came up with the idea. Choruses around the world will, at 8:46 a.m. on September 11, perform the Mozart Requiem. Over 24 hours you will have the Mozart Requiem continuously sung around the world. They've got over 100 choruses from almost every time zone participating in the project."
The Requiem performance will take place at the Hochstein School of Music, 50 North Plymouth Avenue. The Oratorio Society is inviting any singer who has sung the work before to participate. (Those interested should call 473-2234, leave their names, and indicate what part they sing.)
The rest of the season includes a concert featuring the Bach Magnificat on November 16, and the society's annual performance of Handel's Messiah December 13 and 14. On March 8, the society will be joined by the Bach Children's Choir in a program featuring music for brass, organ, tympany and chorus. (RN)
Text: Madrigalia gets started on December 15 with a major Christmas concert, titled "Here We Come a Caroling" at the Methodist Church in Canandaigua. The concert will be repeated December 21 at St. Anne's Church, 1600 Mt. Hope Avenue.
Next comes a joint concert with Musica Spei, an early music group, in March. The concert, dealing with English Music, includes a major piece by Ralph Vaughn Williams, the "Mass in G Minor for Double Chorus." The season concludes May 31 with a program titled "Rochester Treasures."
"We will be performing music by a variety of Rochester composers including Howard Hanson, Cary Ratcliff and Nathanial Dett, an early 20th-century composer who wrote mostly spirituals," says Roger Wilhelm, the society's conductor and music director. (RN)
Subheadline: Salman Rushdie
Text: "We're lucky to be bringing in Salman Rushdie," says Joanna Scott, assosiate professor of English at the University of Rochester. "We've wanted to bring him in for years."
Rushdie is the author of The Moor's Last Sigh,The Ground Beneath Her Feet, and the Booker Prize-winning Midnight's Children. But he's certainly most famous for his Whitbread Prize-winning comic novel, The Satanic Verses; the Ayatollah Khomeni found that book so blasphemous that he issued a death sentence for Rushdie, sending the author into hiding until 1998. (Since the fatwa was lifted, Rushdie has been traveling freely.)
Now, thanks to new endowment funds, the UR's Plutzik Series has been able to invite Rushdie to the campus.
"He's one of the most important writers, politically and stylistically, working in English now," says Scott. "He's a great mimic; he moves between different voices with great agility. He mixes words in unexpected ways, and he has great insight."
Scott, the acclaimed author of Make Believe, Various Antidotes, and The Manikin, (a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in 1997), teaches Rushdie's work to her students. Her favorite of his books is Shame, which she first discovered while working in the publishing industry in the early 1980s, when a copy of it came across her desk in manuscript form.
"I took this manuscript home, and it changed my life," says Scott. "It was bold, it was ambitious. It was unlike anything I'd ever seen."
Rushdie will read from his work and take audience questions at 3:15 p.m. on Saturday, October 12 in the University of Rochester's Strong Auditorium. Admission is free. (SH)
Subheadline: Nazareth College Arts Center
Text: The Reduced Shakespeare Company's new show is a joke: literally. The self-described "bad boys of abridgement" will tackle some of the world's best-loved books in their new production, The Reducers. In true Reduced Shakespearean style, The Reducers offers hilariously foreshortened versions of works by Thoreau, Swift, Confucius, and others.
The RSC's earlier productions (The Complete Works of William Shakespeare, Abridged, and The Complete History of America, Abridged) are officially London's longest-running comedies; they've been performed continually since 1996 at the West End's Criterion Theatre. The company was also featured in a PBS special last year.
RSC members will present the new 98-minute crash course in the classics at the Nazareth College Arts Center on November 1.
"Bringing laughter to an audience of literally dozens is a pretty good gig," says RSC performer, writer, and managing partner Reed Martin. Prepare to laugh yourself silly. (CB)
Subheadline: Memorial Art Gallery
Text: The Memorial Art Gallery is gearing up for what director Grant Holcomb calls "the most significant exhibition in the gallery's history."
"Degas: Figures in Motion," on view from October 13 to January 5, will be the first major exhibition of the master sculptor's work in western New York, and the traveling exhibit's only East Coast stop.
"This is one of the rare opportunities to see all the extant sculpture of Degas," Holcomb says. "There are only four complete sets in the world, and this is one." Among bronze figures of bathers and horses on display will be Little Dancer, Age Fourteen. Holcomb says Degas "showed Little Dancer once and the criticism was so scathing, he never showed it again." (It's now an artistic icon.)
In the context of today's racy culture, it's odd to consider Degas an edgy artist. But in late 19th-century France, his realistic renderings of everyday Parisians were considered avant-garde by a public accustomed to Romantic depictions of idealized figures.
In addition to the exhibit's 73 sculptures, the gallery will display a variety of his paintings, pastels and prints. These works reveal the impact that Japanese landscape prints (one of many genres Degas and his contemporaries absorbed) and photography were beginning to make on the Western art world.
There'll also be a series of lectures and special events to coincide with the exhibit. All told, Holcomb estimates the exhibition will bring $2.5 million in economic activity to the county. Now there's an avant-garde concept. (CB)
Subheadline: Opera Rochester
Text: Opera Rochester will kick off its season with an Opera Gala in January followed by three opera productions, all of which will be staged at the Eastman Theatre. The first will be Puccini's Tosca, performed by a Russian troupe on its first United States tour.
"I'm titling this season "From Russia Con Amore," because there's a major Russian connection here," says Glenn West, general director of Opera Rochester. The first production is the premiere tour of the Russian State Opera of Yekaterinburg.
"It's a city in Siberia which, till the Iron Curtain fell, was one of those secret cities which Westerners were never allowed to go to because it had military sites in it," he says. "It was named after Katherine the Great and has had a long opera tradition. In fact, the opera house there is considered to be one of the top three, along with the Bolshoi Opera in Moscow and the Mariinsky Theatre in St. Petersburg. They're just now getting exposure outside of Russia. This is their first tour in the Western Hemisphere. They're going to come with a fairly sizable troupe of people with, from what I've heard, magnificent singers. I think we're in for a treat with that one."
The other two operas will be performed by a group that has visitied Rochester before: the Teatro Lirico d'Europa.
"They originated in Bulgaria but they are based in Paris now," says West. "This past season they did a wonderful production of Rigoletto. They bring a lot of singers from all over the world, including Eastern Europe."
This coming season, the troupe will be performing Verdi's Il Trovatore and Mussorgski's Boris Godunov.
"To my knowledge, this is the first time Boris Godunov has actually been fully staged in Rochester, which is remarkable for a major work.
"There are no low points this season," says West. (RN)
Subheadline: Shipping Dock Theatre
Text: Shipping Dock Theatre director Barbara Biddy acknowledges that audiences are sometimes more comfortable attending the well-known plays they've seen before. But that doesn't mean that she shares a taste for the same old chestnuts.
"That stuff bores the hell out of me," says Biddy.
As Shipping Dock enters its 23rd season, Biddy says the professional non-equity company is "still the best kept secret in town." She thinks that's partly because Shipping Dock typically presents recently written works with bite.
"We tend to do more social-, political-type plays, and then some things that are absolutely stupid," she says. (Surely she's joking about that.)
This season's offerings include two full-length plays and several installments of "Come See Our Shorts" --- a series of brief, often experimental works presented in a small space down the hall from Shipping Dock's main stage at 151 St. Paul Street.
Playwright Rebecca Gilman's Spinning Into Butter (October 4 through 27) is about "the latent racism that can lurk in liberal hearts," Biddy says. When an African-American professor at a small liberal arts college starts getting hate mail, "the campus erupts with shock and recrimination and the faculty and students try to prove their own tolerance by condemning one another," she says.
The next full-length offering, David Lindsay-Abaire's Fuddy Meers (December 6 through 31), emphasizes the silly over the social, though Biddy says its lampooning of self-help books does have a point. According to Biddy's description, the play's characters include a "foul-mouthed thug with a hand puppet that talks too much," a "claustrophobic lady cop," and a "limping, lisping, half-blind, half-deaf man in a ski mask." Who needs TV? (CB)
Subheadline: Visual Studies Workshop
Text: This fall, the Visual Studies Workshop on Prince Street will present several exhibits of innovative artwork, none of which match your couch. However, if you saw your couch into several sections, you'll have a work much like one the VSW plans to present.
The current exhibition, "Are You Alone ..." (on display through October 26), is a group show by nine artists exploring a theme that can be appreciated by anyone who walks around downtown Rochester: the desolate urban environment.
In contrast to the tradition of "sublime" landscape painting and photography, the photographs in the VSW show focus on "the scary part, the terrifying apect, and the loneliness that our landscape has become today," says gallery director Scott Laird.
For example, the shopping carts in an empty parking lot photographed by Dennis Witmer seem "ominous," Laird says. "They look like they might come after you."
An exhibit of work by internationally known photographer Adam Fuss will open on September 20. Fuss creates images without a camera by exposing photographic paper to light. His color prints incorporate primarily natural imagery.
Later in the season, the VSW will present a solo show by New York City installation artist Joy Episalla. One work features the aforementioned severed sofa, coupled with video monitors showing taped images from Episalla's home. She also creates what Laird describes as "extreme close-up" photos of household objects, like pillows and curtains. Episalla's work will be shown from November 9 to January 15. (CB)
Subheadline: Downstairs Cabaret Theatre
Text: The Downstairs Cabaret Theatre's continuing production of I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change has become an immensely popular fixture on the local theater scene. Suds, the 1960s-style musical, is continuing a popular run, and the company's theater classes are growing.
The most exciting news from DCT this season, says Downstairs Cabaret's director, Christopher Kawolsky, is the national tour for the anniversary of Ain't Misbehavin,' the Fats Waller vehicle. The DCT will be travelling to more than 60 cities with this tour.
"It will raise our profile," says Kawolsky.The DCT has also opened its third location on Main Street, and Kowalsky says that success represents a coup in Rochester.
"Rochester isn't the friendliest town to small arts organizations," he says. "We're one of the bright spots. Though [we've dealt with] huge obstacles, we've become more economically viable."
The fall will include some surprises, including the return of Broadway actor Will Stutts. He will perform his own pieces, including a production based on Walt Whitman, and Eye of the Storm. Eye is the story of Judge Frank Johnson, a key player in the early days of the Civil Rights Movement.
"We continually keep surprising people and connecting with audiences," says Kowalsky. "It's exciting." (TG)
Subheadline: Blackfriars Theatre
Text: "I get so bored with plays I can get ahead of," says John Haldoupis, director of Blackfriars Theatre. "I look for a variety of things that have a balance. I'm feeling the vibes of the public, and they want to be entertained."
Blackfriars will kick off its fall season with Jean Gordon Ryon directing Noel Coward's Blithe Spirit. It's the tale of novelist Charles Condomine, who invites a medium into his house and gets more than he bargained for.
This is "witty, light entertainment," Haldoupis says. The play has had a strong track record on Broadway and in London.
Haldoupis himself will direct Claudia Shear's Dirty Blonde, and says he couldn't be happier about it.
"I've wanted to do Dirty Blonde since I saw it on Broadway a few years ago," he says. "It's not a biography of Mae West, but a love story between two unlikely people who meet at the grave site of Mae West."
Although Haldoupis generally tries to mix up a little darkness with his comedies, he's comfortable this year with a comedy-heavy fall.
"Escape is a strong aspect of theater, and it's very appropriate," he says. "Times are tough. Both plays lean toward comedy, but they are completely different. Blithe Spirit is a classic comedy and Dirty Blonde is very cutting edge." (TG)
Subheadline: Centerstage at JCC
Text: The Jewish Community Centerstage's Artistic Director, Herb Katz, sums up the first show of the fall lineup without missing a beat: "Shtik! is about an orthodox Jewish lesbian juggler," he says. "It's a one-woman performance piece with Sarah Felder, who's been in the area before. She's quite unique, but very non-threatening."
"I'm excited about Shtik! because it's a little edgy, and I like that," Katz says.
Shtik! features Felder's dual talents: acclaimed social satire and juggling. The show will run only two performances at the JCC, on October 19 and 20.
Centerstage will also feature Tony and Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Neil Simon's Laughter on the 23rd Floor. Simon, one of America's best-loved playwrights, is the author of Brighton Beach Memoirs, Lost in Yonkers, The Odd Couple, and Barefoot in the Park.
In Laughter, Simon recalls his tenure as one of the writers for Sid Caesar's popular 1950s television program, Your Show of Shows. As fans of the show will remember, Simon shared the writing credits with fellow comic geniuses Mel Brooks, Carl Reiner, and Larry Gelbart. The Philadelphia Inquirer called Laughter "screamingly funny."
"We have to be a bit more commercial here this season," Katz says, "so we can't just pick a play that no one's ever heard of." (TG)
Subheadline: Genesee Early Music Society
Text: After almost two decades of devotion to centuries-old music and historically accurate performance practices, the Genesee Early Music Society has made a history of its own. Indeed, the Society has a long record of performances at venues like the Eastman School of Music's venerable Kilbourn Hall and the Memorial Art Gallery. The tradition continues this fall.
Two examples: In late September, says spokesperson and French hornist Charles Valenza, GEMS will host a program called "Love, Violence, and Psychosis," with appropriate Renaissance thrillers performed by soprano Laurie Heimes; and another called "Sound the Trumpet," with Baroque trumpeter Niklas Eklund, a young Swede who already has an international following.
Here's some other repertoire on GEMS's fall schedule: a cantata, Médée, for strings and baroque flute by Louis-Nicolas Clérambault --- an offering "nigh on to unique for this area," says Valenza --- and a selection of keyboard works performed by double-threat harpsichordist-organist Michael Fuerst. (JBS)
Subheadline: SUNY Brockport Writers Forum
Text: "Eamon Grennan is an Irish poet who's enormously highly regarded," says Stan Rubin, director of the SUNY Brockport Writers' Forum. "He's an Irish citizen who's lived in the US for many years, he's a professsor at Villanova University, and he's written many highly praised books. We're very excited to be bringing him in." Grennan, the author of Relations, So It Goes, and As If It Matters, will visit the Brockport campus on October 30, and is one of the highlights of the Writers' Forum fall series.
"We have a mission: to bring in diverse voices of literary quality, to enrich the cultural life on campus, and also to project Brockport into the life of the greater Rochester community," says Rubin. Other guest artists include Asian American fiction writer Don Lee on October 23, and environmental essayist John Elder on November 13. (SH)
Subheadline: Geva Theatre
Text: Geva Theatre's artistic director, Mark Cuddy, says he gets lots of advice on picking plays. Friends, family, the paper boy: Everyone offers their two cents.
"It gives me an inkling as to what the community is thinking," Cuddy says. "But ultimately, we do the plays that I really like."
David Auburn's play, Proof, will come to Geva's Mainstage this season. Winner of the 2001 Pulitzer Prize in drama, it's a play that explores the mysteries of science and of relationships.
Catherine is a woman both devoted to and resentful of her father: a mathematical genius in his youth, he is dependent on her for his survival after a breakdown. She has inherited both his brilliance and, sadly, his instability.The play's title comes from a mathematical proof which Catherine will claim, after his death, to have authored herself.
"The whole play takes place on the back porch of a house. It's a relationship play," Cuddy says.
On the Nextstage will be a revival of Billy Bishop Goes to War, John Gray's musical tribute to Canada's famous World War I flying ace. Gray's play, which has been called a classic of the Canadian theater, is a "delightful and cunningly wrought work of art," according to the New Yorker. Also at Geva this fall: Cookin' at the Cookery, the true story of blues legend Alberta Hunter, who launched a successful comeback at age 82.
"My job is to create variety," Cuddy says. "Someone's probably going to like one play more than the other, but that's the nature of the art." (TG)
Subheadline: Rochester Bach Festival
Text: "I can hardly wait to do the Bach Festival each year," says Tom Folan, the festival's music director and conductor.
"It's the complexity of the music, the sheer exuberance of the music and the message of the music. And we're the only act like it in town. You have to go far and wide to hear another Bach Festival."
This year's festival is a prelude to performances of major works two years from now.
"We are building a crescendo toward the 50th anniversary of the Rochester Bach Festival in the 2005/2006 season," says Folan. "In order to prepare for that anniversary when we'll perform the big works, we're going to have our programs in 2003 and 2004 in March, around Bach's birthday. What I'm proposing for this year is a program of some of Bach's best Cantatas."
These include, says Folan, the Cantatas BWV 75, Die Elenden sollen essen; BWV 76, Die Himmel erzaehlen die Ehre Gottes; BWV 147, Herz und Mund und Tat und Leben; and BWV 80, Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott.
"We'll involve a chamber orchestra, soloists and the Bach Festival Chorus, and we are probably going to collaborate with my other ensemble, the Public Musik, a period instrument orchestra," he says. "We're also planning another instrumental concert, a return visit from a very exciting early music ensemble, Pegasus."
Folan is proud of the fact that the Rochester Bach Festival has not deviated from its mission.
"A lot of Bach festivals don't even concentrate on Bach anymore," says Folan. "One of the exciting things about this festival is we find enough substance and enough exciting projects to do that Bach is still the focus." (RN)
Subheadline: Nicholson Baker
Text: Native son and author Nicholson Baker, now a resident of Maine, will return to Rochester on November 7 for a public ceremony at the Rochester Academy of Medicine, at which he will accept Writers & Books' Sense of Place Award.
"The award is given to a writer whose work evokes a sense of a certain place or time, a mood," says W&B executive director Joe Flaherty. "Nicholson Baker has a novel coming out in January that's very much about a place, and when he's here, he'll be talking about 'place' from a writer's point of view."
Baker, the author of Vox and The Mezzanine, is also the author of Double Fold: Libraries and the Assault on Paper, and an outspoken advocate of the preservation of original newspapers and magazines in libraries.
Previous winners of the Sense of Place Award include William Least Heat-Moon and David Schickler; awards will also be given to local writers and writing teachers in recognition of their support of the literary arts. (SH)
Subheadline: Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra
Text: Since its first performance in 1923, the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra has been a local cultural anchor and the soul force of its aesthetic home, the Eastman Theatre. And though the times (and the economy) go through changes, the RPO keeps up a full schedule of regular and pops concerts and special events.
This fall, the schedule includes some tried-and-true repertoire (warhorses?) and some items a bit off the hoof-beaten path. In the first category: The season begins October 3 (repeated October 5) with an all-Tchaikovsky program, and pianist Olga Kern will perform Tchaikovsky's first piano concerto. In the second category: Trumpeter Douglas Prosser will give breath to the Hummel trumpet concerto; this program will also feature African-American composer Adolphus Hailstork's first symphony.
RPO music director Christopher Seaman says he especially is looking forward to Kern's appearance, as well as to the November 21 and 23 performance of Beethoven's third piano concerto by famed artist Misha Dichter.
Seaman is also proud of a local premiere he'll conduct this fall. "I am particularly glad to be bringing Elgar's Second Symphony to Rochester, which, although not very familiar to many, will immediately appeal, as it has all Elgar's qualities of nobility, fire, tenderness, and nostalgia," says Seaman.
On the pops side, conductor Jeff Tyzik says he's gearing up for a Halloweenish "music of the macabre" program on November 1 and 2, titled "Phantoms of the Orchestra." He also points to the Gala Holiday Pops program (December 20, 21, and 22).
"It's become one of Rochester's favorites; we always do a family thing," Tyzik says. So it's fitting that this year, a young operatic mezzo-soprano named Jami Tyzik (Jeff's daughter) will be on stage. (JBS)
Subheadline: George Eastman House
Text: Have you ever dreamed of exhibiting your photos at the George Eastman House, but figured you didn't have the artistic chops to get in the door? Well, now's your chance.
This fall, the Eastman House is presenting "Picturing What Matters," an exhibition of photographs submitted by the public representing the people, places and things that matter most to them. Conceived as a way to commemorate the anniversary of September 11, the museum will continue to solicit snapshots and add them to the exhibit until it ends next January 20.
Co-curator Rick Hock had received over 500 submissions by mid-August and expected to have at least 1,000 pictures by early September. Most of the photos are of families and pets. (One shutterbug submitted a shot of the horse still "parading" on the museum's front lawn.)
"It's amazing," Hock says. "There are some very sophisticated images."
One room of the museum will be dedicated to photos of the tragedy taken by professional media photographers. There'll also be a book on hand in which visitors can write their accounts of where they were when the attacks took place and how the tragedy has affected them.
"Picturing What Matters" is "really a portrait of the community and their concerns," Hock says. When the exhibit ends, the photos may be given to the county archives to be preserved for future generations. (CB)
Subheadline: Rochester Museum & Science Center
Text: Coming this January to the Rochester Museum & Science Center is "Cool Moves! Artistry of Motion." It's a joint exhibition created by the RMSC and the Ithaca Sciencenter as part of a collaborative effort funded by the National Science Foundation.
"Cool Moves!" will lead visitors to explore the beauty of motion through 14 hands-on science exhibits, says Debra Jacobson, the RMSC's director of marketing. Visitors will learn by observing several kinds of motion: the chaotic motion of a giant swinging pendulum, the motion of magnets, of light and water in a ripple tank (as well as about reflection and refraction), of spinning rainbow colors, and the movement of animals. "Cool Moves!" will continue at the RMSC through June, 2003.
In addition to the RMSC's exhibits, visitors can enjoy performances by the RMSC Players, a group of actors presenting theatrical vignettes in character as historical figures like Thomas Edison and Madame Curie. The original plays entertain children while educating them, inviting audience participation, and maintaining historical accuracy.
"We try to grab kids and get them excited in science," says Tim Cawley, director of the RMSC Players. "It's improv, it's interactive. If it isn't exciting to the kids, why bother doing it?"
The Players' live performances and science demonstrations are free with museum admission. (TG)
Subheadline: Eastman School of Music
Text: Originally part of Kodak founder George Eastman's personal contribution to Rochester, the Eastman School of Music has developed its own identities: a conservatory; a laboratory for studies in music history, theory, and composition; a proving ground for budding music educators; and a world-renowned repository of musical documents.
This fall's ESM schedule is characteristically packed with, for example, student recitals, concerts by student orchestras, jazz ensembles, and so forth. Throughout the schedules you'll find treasures and surprises.
How about the Brentano String Quartet (September 14) with works by Josquin des Prez, Stravinsky, Mozart, and Bartók? Or a guest recital (September 23) by the US Army Field Band Clarinet Quartet? Or an October 1 concert by the unconventional sextet "eighth blackbird," with contemporary music by the likes of Frederic Rzewski? Or an October 11 concert by the literal new music ensemble Musica Nova, with music by George Crumb, et al.? Or a November 22 concert by another new music group, Ossia, with music by Joji Yuasa?
The ESM will bring us back in time, too. Famed Eastman School lutenist Paul O'Dette says the ensemble he directs, the Collegium Musicum, is now gearing up for performances in-house and with the Rochester Early Music Festival. As with some other school ensembles, it's hard to know exactly what Collegium will present until participants have registered for classes, says O'Dette.
"I suspect we'll have a very strong string group," he says. (That's due in large part to O'Dette's partner and Collegium colleague, gamba player Christel Thielmann.) (JBS)